Author: Stuart Horwitz

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Clients Crushin’ It: Windy Lynn Harris

Madison Utley speaks to author, editor, and Stuart’s “critique partner for life” Windy Lynn Harris upon the fourth anniversary of the publication of her book Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published

 

Q: Talk to me about the conception of this project. 

A: The idea actually came from my friendship with Stuart—which, believe it or not, began on LinkedIn. I had read a copy of Blueprint Your Bestseller, his first book, and thought: “Wow, this is really useful.” So when his name popped up as a suggested connection on LinkedIn, I sent him a note that said: “Hey, I just read your book and it was great.” He wrote me back saying, “That’s very nice for you to say. Would you be willing to fill out a survey about it? I’m actually working on book two now and I’d appreciate your insight.” Little did I know that Stuart and I would go on to become critique partners for life. 

But at some point in there, Stuart said to me, “You help people get published all the time. You’ve done so many talks on this. It feels like a big enough idea to be a book.” I wasn’t sure, but he pushed me to write down a table of contents to see if I had enough material. I came up with an outline that was 30 pages long. When I sent it over, he was like, “So yeah, this is a book.” Stuart said he would help me figure it out, and that my next assignment was to actually write some chapters. 

Q: Once you decided to go for it, what did the writing and publishing process look like?

Stuart essentially walked me through the entire process I had read about in Blueprint Your Bestseller to figure out what I was really talking about and what order it should go in. When I was finished with the material, Stuart told me he had a relationship with a certain publisher and asked if I wanted him to make a connection for me. I was like, “Of course!” He did that, and I sold the book. I didn’t have to show it to anyone else. I didn’t have to get an agent. So I think part of success can just be that you’ve got to be in the room. Be a literary citizen. Make connections. When you have a question, ask it. 

As writers, I think we need to be able to recognize when we meet somebody we click with and say, “I understand you’re looking at the world of writing or stories in the same way as me. I think we have something in common. I could use your help and you could use mine.” You have to find your tribe in that way. You need trusted readers to give you the honest feedback that you need to hear. 

Q: Did you think about giving up at any point during this time? 

A: Absolutelyand that came out of fear. It wasn’t because I didn’t have enough material. I worried, “There’s not a lot of value to this. Anybody could figure out how to do it if they took 20 hours of research time. Why would they pay me to consolidate it?” I had to come around and say, “Because they don’t want to take that time. They want to go to one resource and find out exactly how you do this.” It took a while to realize I had a new package to offer that wasn’t somewhere else on the shelf out there, and that it was going to save writers’ time. 

Q: What kinds of responses have you gotten over the past four years? 

A: The response has largely been, “I didn’t realize how easy it was to get my work out there.” It’s really surprising how quickly writers get published once they have the path opened to them. Truly, we can all find the right place for our work. Getting a book published can be like a salmon swimming upstream, yes, but the world of writing short stories and poems and personal essays is completely different. With shorter works, we handle our own projects. And if you market your polished work, you can get it published. It’s just that simple. 

 

Q: What has the publication of this book done for your career?

A: Immediately, it gave me a fantastic platform to meet more people. The credibility of having a published book beside me made it easier to market myself and suddenly doors opened without me even having to ask. It was a complete 180 from me raising my hand above my head to having to turn opportunities down because I was all booked up. 

Q: How do you see your business evolving into the future?

A: My business model is currently changing a bit; I’m doing less traveling and more editing, which is exactly what I eventually wanted to happen. I’m making less time for speaking engagements because my favorite thing to do is the editing work with short story and essay writers, and I have a waitlist of those clients. It seems there are enough of my books out there in the world that people are finding me organically and through word of mouth. 

I’ve also partnered with my author friend Susan Pohlman to host an annual writing retreat. We did our very first last month and it was absolutely wonderful; that’s going to become a focus in the future. We had 14 short story, essay, memoir, and novel writers all together at a lakehouse in Pennsylvania. The retreat provides a getaway for writers to have some relaxation and writing time, but it also facilitates extensive craft discussion and practice, like an MFA course crammed into a long weekend. With our combined experience, Susan and I feel sure we can figure out how to get any project published no matter what it is. And if we don’t know an answer, we’re confident we know somebody who does. And finally, the retreat is a chance to connect with other writers. Like I’ve said from the start of our talk, cultivating community and finding appropriate critique partners is just so important.

The BA Band: Lisa Tener

We’re excited to share that friend of Book Architecture and industry stalwart, Lisa Tener, has launched her new book, The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day.

When the Covid pandemic hit, Lisa’s personal journaling practice expanded as she threw herself into the pursuit with renewed vigor. Her daily writings infused the otherwise largely challenging time with beauty as she experienced rich inner growth and tapped into a new source of free-flowing creativity.

Having rediscovered the power of journaling for herself, both as a healthy processing mechanism in hard times as well as a gateway to previously inaccessible creativity, Lisa felt compelled to spread the wealth. Today, September 22, the fruit of that labor is being presented to the world; a resource created to uplift, spark creativity, and help guide readers towards fulfillment.

The Joy of Writing Journal contains creative and multifaceted prompts to helps users’ get their thoughts onto the page, whether in the form of a blog post, short story, poem, essay, book, or simply as a means to have fun and learn more about themselves. Better yet, the journal is interactive, containing QR codes which, when scanned, link to video and audio-based guidance and inspiration from other writers.

It has been a pleasure to witness Lisa pour her heart into this book, driven by a clear passion to equip others looking to access joy through their creativity with the tools to do so. The journal captures some of Lisa’s most valuable writing advice in a concise, innovative, and fun format. Sound up your alley? Ours too! Grab yourself a copy of The Joy of Writing Journal here

Clients Crushin’ It: Beth Monaghan & InkHouse

Madison Utley speaks to InkHouse PR founder & CEO Beth Monaghan following the release of Aren’t We Lucky? — the company’s second collection of employee-authored stories, and fourth content project supported by Book Architecture. 

Q: How did you arrive at the idea of creating a company book, and why did it seem like the most fitting way to deepen the culture you’ve been cultivating at InkHouse?

A: The books evolved out of the Inkies, a Moth or TED Talk style event we used to do with Book Architecture. We wanted to design a creative outlet for our people to hone their skills in storytelling, writing, and presenting — things we do for a living. But at the first Inkies at the Old South Church in Boston, something magical happened: we all felt so much more deeply connected, including the people who didn’t present. 

My sole regret was that we only got to hear five or so people’s stories. A live event naturally constrains the number of participants. Plus, there’s that heart-stopping fear of spilling your guts in front of coworkers with no notes to guide you. So the first book of essays was hatched. I was expecting ten to fifteen essay submissions, but we got 44! 

Q: What about the experience of creating the first collection of essays, Hindsight 2020, encouraged you to produce Aren’t We Lucky?

I watched Hindsight 2020 change our people, and it also changed me. Who doesn’t want to do that again? In the fall of 2019, I set aside three days to read all of the Hindsight 2020 submissions. Candidly, I was expecting to have to haul myself through them, but as I read, I was swept up. 

Those essays shed my previously unconscious belief that the best stories are at the library or at the bookstore. They’re not. You just need to ask the person sitting next to you, but we rarely do. And I thought — this is how we get to understand each other and draw nearer. This is how community forms. It also helped that so many InkHouse people told me it was their favorite event of the year.

Q: On the employee side, writing a personal essay knowing it will be disseminated to your coworkers and beyond requires emotional vulnerability and, frankly, a specific kind of hard work. Yet it seems that the InkHouse team has been thrilled to embrace the challenge many times over. Why do you think that is?

I believe that each of us have a few stories we’ve been burning to tell. The telling gives us a chance to be seen in an environment that’s rooting for you. But it’s freaking terrifying. I can feel the presenters’ nerves each time. Hell, I’m nervous! Then I see them become their whole selves as they read their work. And then their co-workers are crying or laughing and clapping. The look of pride on their faces is something I will always carry with me.

Q: From the leadership side, it seems that significant company resources must go into large-scale culture building initiatives such as these books. Why is that worth it?

A: When people ask me what I like most about my job, I always say it’s these projects. I feel slightly embarrassed every time—I should say PR because that’s what pays the bills. But these efforts are part of how we build understanding and community. Without both of those things, the PR work doesn’t get done well. 

We have more than 130 people who work here and it’s so hard for me to get to know each one individually. Projects such as these allow me to get to know so many of our people in a way no work assignment can. It helps me understand them as human beings, which helps me better know what our workplace needs. 

Q: Beyond the baseline benefit of making employees’ day to day lives tolerable, why does investing in a workplace culture that allows people to be their best and truest selves matter? And what is the value of capturing that in book form? 

A: I’ve spent many years fighting for social justice around gender and race. The problems are so big that it can feel like nothing we do is enough to solve them. And it’s not. However, if we do the thing that’s right in front of us, and then the next thing, and then the next, we can collectively begin to make change.

As I see it, part of my responsibility to that change is creating a workplace that values differences in the creative process at work. This requires us to welcome employees as they are. We can’t do that if we don’t understand each other. We have to actually talk. Our books are the most important way we do that at InkHouse. 

Know What Draft You’re In

This post originally appeared on the San Francisco Writers Conference site.

 

Instinctively, we know that every draft is different. In the first draft, we can’t really be held responsible for the exact quality of what we produce; we just got here, ourselves. We are just trying to cover the ground. In the second draft, we might be learning the ropes a bit more. We can say what the better stuff is that we are trying to bring up another level. By the third draft, we are ready to polish, decide, and hopefully finish something.

 

On that we can likely agree. We can also likely agree that writing is more complex than 1, 2, 3. In this paragraph, for example, there are—at this moment—sentences that were written in the first, second, and third drafts of this blog coexisting next to each other. The ones in third draft form I should likely leave alone. The ones in first draft form need the most attention. Revision is about knowing what you want to work on, in part by knowing what you don’t need to work on.

Let’s say that you are writing a memoir. Your beta readers demand a new through-line, one that will really explain why you are so fucked up. No more trying to save anyone, including yourself. And you agree—but everything else is so…done. What then?

Asking for a friend. That was me, obviously, planting new seeds in a forest where the entire canopy felt taken. How to grow these seedlings up first, and then transplant from cup to pot, and finally to the memoir text itself when they were well developed enough to take care of themselves? I started by writing out the new scenes in longhand in a journal. Nothing could escape from there unless it had explicit permission, in the form of passages being photocopied and cut up, to then be typed in their own word documents.

Know what draft you’re in. That’s the simple message. And be fair to the earlier drafts. I have two children, aged 15 and 22. Just because I can’t expect the same things from my 15 year-old — like driving, or always remembering to Venmo request me for the money I owe her — doesn’t mean her essence isn’t as wonderful. Or that she won’t get there. She will, through encouragement, and patience, and time.

You can’t rush a good idea. But you can know where present material falls in your overall process. If it is first draft material, you can try it out, get the feel, make a start, and find your stride. If it is second draft material, you can take some new opportunities, go where the work needs your attention, and go further, break through. And if it is third draft material, you can come from the strength of what has worked, culminate matters, and trust yourself enough to let it go.

Because now you have the wisdom to know the difference.