My book is called Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs (Seal Press October 2009)
Tell us something about yourself.
I grew up in a small town in Louisiana called Brusly. It’s near Baton Rouge. I love my adopted state of Oregon, and I like that I can be at the mountains or the coast in just over an hour from my house in Portland. I became hooked on writing when I won a Beta Club convention short story contest in high school. I was given a photo and created a story based on what was in it, which was a photo of the earth as seen from the moon.
After graduating from Louisiana State University with a degree in Journalism, I worked in the corporate world during the first part of my career, writing brochures, ad copy, newsletters and ghost writing stories for executives. When my daughters were born, I wanted more flexibility in my schedule so I began to work as a freelancer. I love working from home and keeping a schedule that’s flexible enough to allow me to lead my daughters’ Girl Scout troops and volunteer in their schools.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had been in two mother-daughter book clubs for several years, one with each of my daughters, when I realized how few resources I could find to help moms and daughters in mother-daughter book clubs. I knew from my experience and those of the other moms that we were frequently looking for book suggestions, meeting ideas, ways to solve problems and ideas for transitioning to more mature subject matter. Since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to create it.
How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?
I wrote a nonfiction book proposal, and I queried agents who I thought may be interested in the kind of book I had in mind. When it was time for the agent to pitch the book to editors, I recommended she contact Seal Press, because Brooke Warner there had previously shown an interest in the book idea. I was so glad when we signed the contract with Seal, because their emphasis on books for and about women fit perfectly with a mother-daughter book club guidebook.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
As I mentioned earlier I’ve been writing since high school and before, but deciding to become a freelance writer wasn’t easy. There was no salary attached to the work, no set hours, no health benefits and no company-matched retirement plan. But I loved the flexibility of working for myself, and I wanted to spend time with my daughters too, so it really worked out great for me. I started by working for my old company, which was a financial services firm, writing financial newsletters for people in retirement plans. Eventually I transitioned out of the corporate work and into the writing I do today, which is for the book, magazines and newspapers.
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
For me, it’s easy to write if I’m clear what I’m writing about. If I sit down at my computer and my fingers can’t seem to start typing, it’s usually because I’m not sure what idea I want to get across to my readers.
How do you do research for your books?
A lot of the advice in Book by Book comes from my personal experience being in two mother-daughter book clubs, one for nine years now. I also interviewed authors, other moms in other book clubs and parenting experts so I could present well rounded advice.
Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?
For the first time I had to maintain a story thread through more than 60,000 words. Even though this was nonfiction, I constantly had to think about how each chapter connected with all the others so it could keep readers moving through the book.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville for the book club I’m in with my husband. Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelance is what we’re reading and planning to discuss in my next mother-daughter book club meeting. I’m reading Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie for fun and Aries Rising by Bonnie Hearn Hill to review at motherdaughterbookclub.com.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
One of the nice things about being in a book club and having people with different tastes from mine choose the books is that I read things I wouldn’t normally pick up. My favorites may always be historical fiction, and that’s what I usually gravitate to. But I also have come to appreciate fantasy, science fiction, memoir, literary nonfiction and graphic novels as well. My favorite writer of all time is Gore Vidal. I love his wit and the mischief he writes into his characters. And of course much of what he writes is historical fiction. The authors I have loved reading in my mother-daughter book clubs are Roald Dahl, Richard Peck, and Frank Cottrell Boyce, who all make me laugh a lot as well as think about what I’m reading. And I really like to read the books of Heather Vogel Frederick, Shannon Hale, and Sharon Creech, who can weave great realistic as well as fantasy tales.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I haven’t finalized an idea for my next book yet, although I am testing out a few concepts. Stay tuned.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Don’t be afraid to sell yourself and your ideas. I find that writers may not be the best people to sing their own praises, and so they don’t sell themselves as being good enough to write what they’re asking someone to publish.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
I’ve been presenting workshops at libraries on how to create mother-daughter book clubs, and I write about mother-daughter topics as often as I can for magazines and online.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
My website has lots more helpful information: http://www.motherdaughterbookclub.com.