Friday, May 14, 2010

Are We There Yet?

Contemporary Fiction writer, Ellen Meister, is my guest today Over Coffee. She has a ready smile and an irreverent sense of humor, which has cause some strange looks to be cast my way in places like the doctor’s office. More than once. What makes me laugh? A clever turn of phrase, no wait, it’s her acerbic wit and deadpan delivery, or...the way she portrays sibling relationships so accurately. Okay, it’s all the above. :-)

Ellen’s book, The Smart one, was chosen as one of the top 10 beach reads by Woman’s Day. Her third novel, The Other Life will be released 2011.

Ellen's topic also receives her trademark dry humor she speaks about something writers know a lot about--waiting.

Back when I was a tender unpublished thing of say, 42 , I was naive enough to think the writing life was about Art. Art and prestige. Maybe Art and prestige with a little fame and glamour thrown in. But now that I have two published books under my belt and two more in the pipeline, I know better.

Writing is about waiting.

Indeed, as any published or aspiring author knows, most days all you do is wait.

And as the claw marks on my desk will attest, patience doesn't come naturally to me. I don't think it comes naturally to you, either. Or anyone. Not anyone we like, at any rate. Oh sure, there are people walking around on this planet who claim to be patient—people who look just like the rest of us—but we know the truth. These are people whose homes are always clean. They read instructions. They never forget to bring all their coupons to the supermarket, neatly organized in little accordion folders they finger their way through only after the last item has been rung. They pay with exact change. And they are always in front of us in line.

There is something I wish on these people. Something so cruel I'm ashamed to even think it, but here goes ...

I wish they would become writers.

Evil, I know. But I'd love to see those folks spend two years bleeding sweat into their beloved manuscripts only to have to endure the following ...

• Waiting to hear from the 100-200 agents they queried, including those who believe the appropriate way to reject a query is to ignore it, thus increasing the wait time to infinity.

• Waiting three months to email the agent who promised she would read the manuscript in two weeks, only to learn that she plans to read it as soon as she returns from sabbatical.

• Waiting another three months before following up yet again, only to learn that the agent has lost the manuscript, but promises to read it within the next six months if you resend it right away ... and promise her an exclusive.

• Waiting to hear from the agent who had telephoned to say she was reading the manuscript and would call back in 24 hours to say whether she wanted to offer representation.

• Waiting for your writer friends to reassure you it's okay to contact the agent after a month has gone by with no word from her.

• Waiting for your non-writer friends to understand that getting an agent is actually a very big deal and worthy of some kind of small celebration, like maybe a surprise party at Le Cirque.

• Waiting eight months while your new agent submits the manuscript to every editor in New York City and beyond before getting a book deal.

• Waiting four months for the contract that was supposed to
arrive in four weeks.

• Waiting for your advance, which, according to your contract, will be divided into eight equal installments paid annually beginning in the decade after the book's release.

• Waiting a year-and-a-half for pub date only to be told your book was moved to the schedule for the following year.

• Waiting to finish your next book, so you can start all over again ...

On second thought, maybe I don't wish this on anyone. Maybe the pain-to-pleasure ratio of the writer's life is so skewed toward torture I don't even wish it on the guy in front of me on the highway, who’s driving fifty miles an hour in the left lane when I'm late for an appointment with my therapist.

But as for me? I'll keep doing it as long as they'll let me.

  • How about you?

  • Do you plan to keep writing? And are you getting any better at waiting?


The Smart One Blurb

Bev is the Smart One, who finally leaves her artistic ambitions in chalk dust (and her humor-impaired husband in the arms—and legs—of his nubile protégée) to become a schoolteacher. Clare is the Pretty One, who married well and seems to be living a designer version of the suburban dream. Joey is the Wild One, struggling to stay clean and sober now that she's used up her fifteen minutes of fame as a one-hit-wonder rock star.

They love each other but mix like oil, water, and hundred-proof gin . . . a combination that threatens to combust over family tensions, suspected infidelities, a devastating accident, a stunning confession, and the sudden reappearance of their handsome, now all-grown-up former neighbor, Kenny Waxman, who's back in town making his mark as a TV comedy writer.

It seems they'll never understand where their differences begin and their own destructive tendencies end. Then it happens: the sisters discover a decades-old body stuffed inside an industrial drum and begin a bold, heartbreaking, and sometimes hilarious journey that will either bring them together . . . or tear them apart for good.

Browse the book

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Ellen Meister is the author of two novels, THE SMART ONE (HarperCollins/Avon) and SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA (Morrow/Avon). Her third novel, THE OTHER LIFE will be published by Putnam in early 2011.

A former advertising copywriter, Ellen left the business world to raise a family and chase her fiction-writing dreams. In addition to her novels, she has published numerous short stories and was the editor of an online literary magazine. She currently curates for a literary radio program, mentors aspiring authors and does public speaking about her books and other writing-related issues.

Ellen lives in New York with her husband and three children, and is at work on her fourth novel, FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER.

For more information, visit her website at

You can also find Ellen on Facebook


~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Ellen! Welcome to Over Coffee. There are plenty of goodies and coffee.

Ellen said...

Pass me a bagel, please!

Thanks so much for having me, Sia. Great to be here ...

LGHatton said...

LOL!! Thanks, Ellen. That is just what I needed to "hear" today. For some weird reason, it was encouraging to me. I've been doing a lot of this ... waiting ... lately. ((sigh))

Ellen said...

It always helps to know we're not alone, Linda! Good luck ... hope the waiting ends soon with good news.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Ellen, I so enjoyed this article. I did want to tell you that in between the ups and downs of the internet, due to the storms.

You've been so patient with the technical glitches of a writer stuck out back beyond the back 40 has to provide a pony for the techs to get T-tower.

I'm so looking forward to your next book. :-)

Olivia Cunning said...

Okay, this is funny because it's so true. Well, maybe slightly exaggerated, but only slightly.

I love your wit, Ellen, I'll have to check out your book. Or maybe buy it. Depends on when that next advance check arrives. Will your book still be available in 2015?

Do I plan to keep writing? Yep.

Am I getting any better at waiting? No. But I'm better at pretending I'm not waiting.

Dana Fredsti said...

Snort! Okay, I'm gonna be reading your books just based on this article. And hell yes, I DO wish becoming a writer on some of the people I've met who a; think it's easy and b: casually say they think they might just try their hand at writing a book and getting published 'cause how hard could it be?

Let them suffer.

Judi Fennell said...

*waves hi to a fellow Girlfriend

Hope and Wait - the ugly stepsisters of publishing. And then there's their sh*tty little cousin, Faith.

yep, all friends of mine. So much so that I named them.

Ellen said...

Sia ... hugs! Glad your internet is back on. :)

Olivia ... ha! Good luck with that 2015 advance check! And thank you.

Dana ... heehee! I know, people have this romantic notion that the sentences will flow from their fingers and a year later they'll be on Oprah's couch. *sigh*

Judi ... You're utterly adorable! Say hi to your "friends" for me. xx

Kat Sheridan said...

OMG, the book sounds wonderful! And I'm sorry, but I laughed my head off at the descriptions of the waiting! I haven't started the query-go-round yet, but I have friends in that boat. Friends of writers should always keep a handy supply of wine, tissues, chocolate, and jelly beans!

Other Lisa said...

Heh. Yes. How well I know all of this...

But yeah, I'm not stopping either.

Great post!

Ellen said...

Kat ... don't be sorry! We either laugh or we cry. Laughing is better. Now, may I please have some of that chocolate?

Other Lisa ... thanks ... and glad to know you're not stopping!

Marilyn Brant said...

*waving enthusiastically to Sia and my fellow 'Girlfriend' Ellen*

Hi, Ladies!!
Ellen, you're so right (unfortunately!) about all that waiting... I truly had NO idea this profession would involve THAT much of it. There are months of hair-pulling frustration at being told to "be patient" followed by a week of insane work in order to, let's just say, turn in the page proofs on time. Sigh. Yet we do it anyway--maybe because it's a kind of magical experience on the days when it's not crazy-making ;).

tonya kappes said...

Wow! Ellen I totally needed that. I've been in the waiting line for a time now and I'm about to throw in the towel with tears and tantrum!!
But in the end, it'll all be worth it for me!!

Dawn said...

That was great Ellen! Very witty and insightful! Great look into the writer's world.

LitPark said...

Love how you can turn something so exasperating and ego-breaking into such a laugh. You're a wonderful writer, Ellen. Can't wait for this third book to come out!

James said...

Hi Ellen. Great article. I've been submitting my work for a few years now and can really relate. Of course, while you're waiting, you can always do more writing and it sure looks like you've been keeping up with that.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Susan, I think that's the cool thing about humor, doncha think? Puts things ito perspective and changes the attitude in tough situations.

Congrats on your book, btw. :-)

Ellen said...

Marilyn ... yes! In the end, it's worth waiting for. Thanks for stopping in!

Tonya ... good news may be just around the corner! Fingers crossed for you.

Dawn ... many thanks! Glad you liked it.

Sue ... thanks, me too! And speaking of waiting, I'm counting the days until I can read UP FROM THE BLUE.

James ... yes, it's the only thing that keeps me sane. Good luck with your writing. :)

Sia ... I read an early version of Sue's book and I KNOW it's going to blow everyone away.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I read the premise and it sounds good. Hmm, I'm thinking we're gonna have to get Sue and her book here, Over Coffee. I think it's so cool she will be able to sign her books at BEA even though it's not released until September.

Hey marilyn good to see you!

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Sia - great interview!

Ellen - ROTFLOL - you have me laughing like crazy...I'm one of those people you love to hate with the clean house and I am an author (published articles BUT not a book yet) I've written four books and I'm doing the waiting, just like you...I can say my rejections have all been very nice and encouraging so the waiting isn't too bad but I will admit...I don't like "The wait" any more than you do! LOL
So don't hate the house it my only outlet to the frustration of waiting. LOL

Hugs to you both
Hawk (Houston A.W. Knight)