Many of you are already familiar with Sally’s novels, but today, in anticipation of the release of her first non-fiction book, Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest, she is visiting us to talk about some of the differences between writing fiction and non-fiction.
But first, a bit about her upcoming release:
Why are so many carefully nurtured wunderkinds now slouching s-l-o-w-l-y toward adulthood? That’s what inspired Sally Koslow, successful journalist, novelist, and mother of two. Panicked after reading a study that declared 28 as the new 19, she went in search of answers and spent a year trying to get a better understanding of what’s going on with Americans aged 22 to 35. Part hard-hitting investigations and part hilarious memoir, Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest captures the confusion, angst, and happily, the adaptability of both parents and young adults as they cope with the familiar tremors caused by a bad economy, parents who can’t or won’t let go and “adultescenets” reared on the mantra, “You’re special.”
Sally has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of her new book to one lucky commenter–and she will even ship internationally! Thank you, Sally!
Fact or Fiction: Unique Challenges
After three novels (Little Pink Slips, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx and With Friends like These) on June 18 my first non-fiction book will appear, Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest, a hybrid of reporting and memoir where I explore the wandering lives of 22-to-35-year old “adultescents.” Such a book, I’ve discovered, presents entirely different challenges than fiction.
When I wrote my debut novel, I had to complete a full manuscript before my agent pitched it to editors. Then I…waited. I could have had three heads and pink hair; it wouldn’t have mattered, since novelists remain largely invisible beyond the occasional bookstore reading. I was my words. No editor wanted to meet me. Not so for non-fiction, especially on a timely topic. Several editors requested a meeting where I was unofficially auditioned for my ability to represent my book on national television. Can you say “manicure and blow-dry?”
When I sold my first novel it was largely finished. For non-fiction the book I signed a contract based on a 70-page proposal. Only then did the big work begin.
With fiction it was up to me to craft interesting characters, lively dialogue and narrative flow. I felt comfortable with all that, but worried plenty about plotting and writer’s block. With non-fiction the book’s structure had been resolved because the proposal included a full outline. The headache was finding real people who would talk to me and express sharp insights in quotable bytes. I couldn’t, after all, make them up, which is the gift of fiction. Sometimes after two minutes I knew an interview was a dud, but would spend a half-hour continuing for courtesy’s sake. While writer’s block is a smaller concern with non-fiction, the lesser control you have over your content causes its own freak-out.
With fiction, a lawyer gave my book a quick check for libel. Slouching Toward Adulthood required signed releases from every person I included in the book. This was a dull chore, requiring hounding. You’d be surprised how difficult it seems to be for people to get their hands on an envelope and stamp. But talk about motivation: without such documentation my publisher refused to release my payment. I nagged until those forms arrived.
Sadly, the days of excerpting fiction are, for the most part, over. But to my delight, when Slouching was finished, my publisher sold an excerpt (to the Wall Street Journal.) A further happy surprise has been that I am now considered to be an expert on my subject, which has yielded interview opportunities with major newspapers. My fingers are crossed that this exposure will amp up book sales.
Just as cross-training strengthens an athlete, I’ve decided that alternating between fiction and non-fiction builds a better writer. I’m now working on my fourth a novel. After that, non-fiction. Now if I only had an idea.
Sally Koslow’s first non-fiction book, Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest will be published on June 18. She is the author of three novels. She invites you to visit her website , and follow her on Twitter: @sallykoslow or on Facebook.
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Thank you for stopping by the Ball today, Sally! (And dear friends, remember to leave a comment to be entered to win a signed copy of Sally’s upcoming release!)
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