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Clients Crushin’ It: Elizabeth de Veer

Madison Utley speaks to Elizabeth de Veer ahead of the release of her first published novel, The Ocean in Winter, about the power of persistence and —perhaps, more importantly— how she refused to let the tumult of finding an agent or publisher put a dent in her love of writing.


Q: When did writing start to become a more significant part of your life?

A: In 2003, I decided to start taking writing seriously. Until then, I had jobs that weren’t just full-time jobs, but were all-the-time jobs. I’d be in the office until 9 or 10 o’clock five days a week, and come in on the weekends as well. I knew I needed a job with less responsibility, where they respected that I’d get the job done, but also that I had this other role in my life as a writer. I ended up in a great situation where I worked full-time a few days a week, and then had a few days I could just write. That’s how I got through my first novel, which is about the Dust Bowl. That’s where the journey began.

Q: Tell me about that journey. 

A: By the time I finished my second novel, I had been looking for an agent for years. Many agents were interested and wanted to see the full manuscript, but nobody was ready to go forward. At some point during that period, I had posted my first novel in its entirety on this website where other writers could read it and leave feedback and many left really encouraging comments. My husband saw them and he was amazed at how many people liked my book. He took to the Internet and ended up finding a new agent who agreed to read my manuscript. One thing led to another and I ended up signing with him, which was really exciting.

Q: Did that feel like a turning point?

A: Absolutely. It was great having someone in my life who believed in me as a writer. Unfortunately, though, we didn’t find a publisher for my first and second novels. Then, I went back to a project I had been working on before my daughter was born. I looked at the first couple of pages and realized I needed to start over. It takes courage to say, “Don’t try to fix this. Think about what you love here, and take those pieces and use them to plant a new garden.” So, I started afresh. My daughter was in preschool twice a week then, so I’d go to a cafe to write those two days. But so much time passed between those writing sessions, I’d spend most of my time flipping through what I had written before. I’d end up spending these incredibly precious, brief periods of time trying to remember basic things like my character’s names. After a while, I realized writing every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes, helps you remember what your ideas were yesterday and then when you do have more time, you know what your intention is. That way, you get to sink your teeth into the questions that mean more.

Q: When did Stuart enter into this process?

A: I finally got that third manuscript done and I gave it to my agent; he shopped it around but it still wasn’t quite there. That’s when I worked with Stuart. He got me thinking about things on such a different level. It’s incredible, the power of having somebody smart read something, somebody who gets what you’re trying to do and understands the impact you’re trying to have. The feedback he gave was so helpful. He was able to explain things to me and bring certain ideas forward in my consciousness.

Q: From there, how did things come together with Blackstone Publishing?

A: Someone said yes! I have been really thrilled to work with the great team at Blackstone. And now I am very excited that my book will be coming out this summer.

Q: What pushed you to keep writing through the years, even when you weren’t finding the traction you were looking for with your completed manuscripts?

A: I truly love writing. My advice? Even if you do get published, it still has to be about love. You have to be ready to write your truth, whatever form that comes in. Even if it doesn’t make sense to anybody else, you have to be willing to put yourself and your writing out there. You have to be brave about being creative and brave about being self-critical. And to know when one is needed and when the other should take a back seat. I felt a tremendous amount of freedom, and still do, with having a day job so my writing doesn’t have the responsibility of paying the mortgage. My writing can be whatever I need it to be. Sometimes it’s frustrating because time is an issue. But writing is the thing that makes me feel like I am the person I am. If you find the thing that makes you feel that way, it only makes sense to organize your life around it.

Q: What is your main takeaway from having been writing in earnest for nearly 20 years now?

A: Writing in any form, even if you’re not focusing on one project, should make you feel like you’re five years old, playing in the sandbox. You know how you could spend hours pouring the sand through your fingers, sitting in the moment and daydreaming about the world? It’s magical that when the sand is dry it’s one way and when it’s wet you can build castles out of it. And then you can smoosh those castles and start over. That’s how you should feel when you’re writing. Of course, it isn’t always like that. Sometimes it can be so discouraging after you’ve had another rejection, but creativity should bring you joy. I want everybody to find a way to feel that way: climb into the sandbox, play with the sand, have fun, and find that joy. Isn’t that what it’s all about? 

Clients Crushin’ It: Dominique Mielle

Madison Utley interviews Dominique Mielle financial phenom, self-identified daredevil, proud Franco-American ahead of the release of her first book Damsel in Distressed: My Life in the Golden Age of Hedge Funds


Speaking to me now, in March 2021, just months before her memoir is set to be published by Simon & Schuster, debut author Dominique Mielle admits: “Was I confident we were going to pull this thing off? No. I certainly had my doubts.” 

Long pause.

“But not in myself.”

This. This is Dominique Mielle: a woman with a straightforward commitment to hard work, to staying true to herself, to surrounding herself with excellence. It’s not a matter of conceit, it’s a matter of fact. 



The confidence is certainly warranted when you consider who Dominique is; she joined a little-known hedge fund in the ‘90s, and stood decades later as the only female partner and senior portfolio manager running what had swelled to become one of the largest hedge funds in the U.S. 

At the end of this impressive career in the “golden age of hedge funds,” Dominique retired; but, rather than coast (if it’s not yet clear, this isn’t a woman we should ever expect to coast), she circled back to her early aspirations of becoming a journalist. She thought of her recurring column for Forbes. She thought of her contributions spanning just about every publication in the financial sphere. She thought of writing a book; and so, that’s what she set out to do. 

Dominique was sure that her voice – breezy but intense, bright but unapologetic – would add much-needed depth to the male-driven narrative dominating the hedge fund industry; she describes her tone as being loosely-inspired by Sex and The City and has been known to quote Samantha Jones on occasion (“I love you, but I love me more”). 

“I knew I had developed a distinct voice,” Dominique explains. “I knew I could nail a 1,000-word piece, but I didn’t know how to carry that into a 60,000-word book. It was clear to me the first step was finding excellent help.”

True to form, Dominique would accept nothing but top-shelf guidance in making her book a reality. She found it in the second writer she reached out to. Enter: Stuart. 

“Contacting just two writers is really not a lot. But with Stuart, we connected from the beginning. And that was it,” Dominique says. 

“This is a relationship that matters. You’re spending a lot of time with and energy on this person. I even just remember thinking, ‘This is someone who will laugh at the same jokes as me.’  Building trust matters. This is a person you’re entrusting with your story.” 

The wisp of a reservation Dominique harbored upon partnering with Stuart at the start of the project what she describes as her “natural skepticism” sure to arise when allowing an unknown quantity into her process was dashed in the earliest stages of working together. The moment of certainty came in receiving the first draft of the manuscript; then and there, Dominique remembers realizing, “Stuart is someone excellent.” 

Rather than the external help tainting or suppressing the integrity of her story, each stage of the Book Architecture method was crafted to capture the best of what Dominique had to say, helping her voice carry true and strong throughout the manuscript a dynamic clearly exhibited in one of my favorite excerpts from the upcoming book:

Lehman filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008 and was eventually liquidated. Christine Lagarde, who was Finance Minister of France at the time (the first woman to hold such a position in a G-7 country), and went on to become the Chairman of the International Monetary Fund (the first woman head) said the following…. 

And I am not citing her because I admire her sense of fashion, although I do, or because she is French, although she is, or even because she was a synchronized swimmer as a child, and I have a weak spot for incongruous amusements. 

I quote her because she might be right: ‘If it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers, the world might well look different today.’”

While Dominique initially considered the writing process to likely be the primary takeaway from her book project, the refinement achieved through each draft made getting her manuscript published feel increasingly achievable. And, here we are. 

Damsel in Distressed is the first hedge fund memoir written by a woman. In it, Dominique’s inimitable blend of intelligence and humor is used not only to provide insight about what it’s like being a female hedge fund manager in a business dominated by men, but to make clear she is “unwilling to be minimized by genderism.”


Pre-order Dominique’s book here, ahead of its August 24th release.

Clients Crushin’ It: Emily English Medley


Madison Utley interviews Emily English Medley, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, debut author (read: a woman of many talents) about her inaugural novel, From the Moon I Watched Her.

Published by Greenleaf Book Group in January 2021, Medley presents a rich and layered coming-of-age tale about “the skeletons that lurk under church pews and the little girl who goes looking for and finds them”.


Q: I hear this book was originally written as a memoir. What did the move to fiction allow you to do? 

A: In anybody’s life, there are things that don’t make sense and questions they will always have. When I was approaching this as a memoir, there were scenarios where these gaps were so wide, the only way I could fill them was to effectively play God. This was a story that was begging to be out of me, and turning it into fiction allowed me a better way to do that. I answered a lot of my own questions, and made the things that didn’t make sense make sense. Also, I never wanted to expose my family or hurt them in any way. This is not a revenge book, so switching to fiction catered to my strong urge to protect.

Q: When you reached out to Stuart after seeing him speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference, what were you hoping he could help you with? 

A: I had a really clear vision for what I wanted this book to be, and I had already gone through two edits before I realized it just wasn’t working as a memoir. My book is as dark as humanly possible; the content matter is heavy, and it is personal to me. We’re talking about pedophilia, sexual abuse, death, mental illness. I needed somebody who could meet me there, at that depth, and I sensed that from Stuart.  When I listened to his panel discussions, I knew right away: this guy is going to be serious with me. I also needed someone who could meet my high expectations. I’m a perfectionist and I needed someone who could go there with me. 

Q: Talk to me about the process of working with Stuart; was it what you expected? 

A: The Book Architecture process met me where I needed it to, and was absolutely what I was hoping for. It was long and arduous, and worth every damn penny. We worked on my book together for nearly a year and a half. It was incredibly helpful, because it allowed me to really understand what I was trying to say in this book and what I was aiming for. Like I knew my characters have this top level of something they want, but that there was another level beneath that. I wanted to write about that second level and get deep into their motivations. The Book Architecture method helped me to do that. I don’t feel like the story would have been able to emerge like it did without going through that process. 

Q: What would you say to an author searching for the right editor for their project? 

A: Be picky. Be picky. Be picky. I was so glad to have found Stuart because I met some bad guys along the way. When it’s your story, your baby, your art, you can’t let just anybody into your space. When I partnered with Stuart, I said, “This is a chandelier. We’re going to polish every single solitary crystal of it. It’s heavy, it’s dirty, but we got to get it right.” I needed somebody who was going to be honest with me, and I got that vibe from Stuart; throughout the process, I never felt like he was telling me what I wanted to hear, but that he was telling me what was going to make the book better. From go, I liked the way Stuart communicated and I liked that he was somebody I wanted to be around. It’s so important to have good rapport. 

Q: I heard you queried around 120 agents before you got one. What did you tell yourself during that process? 

A: In the first round of querying, those who received my book had a very visceral reaction to the darkness of the material. Then, when Trump won the presidency, it became, “We do not care about white southerners and their moral dilemmas right now.” I decided I was going to put the book away for four full years, and that’s what I did. 

Before, I had gone to publishers in New York and San Francisco, but I had never gone through any Texan presses. This year, I decided to keep it in the family. The book is about Texas, so why not do that? I sent it off to Greenleaf and a couple days later got a call, “This is a very easy yes for us.” My takeaway is that every story has a time. I had to wait until the climate was right and the book became more timely. I had to trust in the story, and trust in the timing. When it was meant to be, I didn’t even have to try. 

Q: Tell me about some of the buzz your book has gotten since being published. 

A: It’s appeared on a few Buzzfeed lists of the most anticipated books of 2021 and it’s been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, some podcasts, and 500 Barnes and Nobles stores bought it for their shelves. That specifically felt like a big deal to me as a debut author! But I don’t know much about the buzz, really. What I do know are the impactful moments I’ve had with readers who grew up in an environment where mental illness or abuse or any of the things in my book went on, readers who have reached out to me to say I touched their lives or made them feel something they hadn’t felt before, to say that my book was healing, that it changed them. That is so meaningful. That is every author’s dream. 

Q: What would you say to someone considering recruiting help to finish their project?

A: If you have a story you’re burning to tell, don’t give up on it. But also don’t force it. You have to let the story come and you have to trust the journey of that story so it can emerge in its best version. Trust it’s going to find its way into the right hands at the right time. 


This interview had been edited for length and clarity.

Let My People Vote… (and You Should, Too)

When we first started working with Desmond Meade, he told us, “I might be the only homeless crack addict who ever ended up on the cover of TIME magazine.” He is, of course, so much more than that, and his memoir, Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Civil Rights of Returning Citizens, went on sale last week, to huge acclaim.



Let My People Vote tells the story of Desmond’s life, from his tough childhood to ending up in homeless shelters with a felony conviction on his record. Finding the strength to pull his life together, he graduated summa cum laude from college, graduated from law school, and married. But because of his conviction, he was not even allowed to sit for the bar exam in Florida. And when his wife ran for state office, he was filled with pride—but not permitted to vote for her because there are still four states where one felony conviction means you can never vote again. “You may think the right to vote is a small matter,” he told us, “and if you do, I would bet you have never had it taken away from you.”

Desmond became politically active and spearheaded a movement to restore voting rights to 1.4 million “returning citizens,” a term of dignity he accords to ex-felons who have served their sentence and should be granted full rights to rejoin society. Explaining the core rationale of his ballot initiative to voters up and down the state of Florida, he asked them one simple question: “Has anyone you love ever made a mistake?”

Let My People Vote ends on the exhilarating, joyful night in November 2018 when Desmond’s initiative, Amendment 4, passes with 65 percent of the vote, an event that enfranchised the most people at any single time since women’s suffrage. Publishers Weekly says, “This poignant account soars.” And it’s just in time for the election. . . .