Book promo season, through the eyes of memoirist Vicki Forman

This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood, by Vicki FormanWe’re honored to welcome Vicki Forman to The Debutante Ball. This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood recounts the drastic disabilities of Vicki’s extremely premature child and poses challenging questions about parenthood and human compassion. Publishers Weekly gave This Lovely Life, published in July, a starred review, and called it “enormously affecting.” And Kirkus wrote: “A searing tale of heartache and impressive depth of character. Forman is a warrior.” The memoir won the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference Bakeless Prize.

Vicki teaches creative writing to undergraduates at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Be sure to visit her regular blog. Thanks and welcome, Vicki.

Seas of Change

It’s fall, and for me as a writer the season had always meant productive days, drafting a new project, or revising old work. After my daughter finally entered school full time, fall immediately became a time when a new routine—so welcome after a lack of routine during the summer months—also presented me with the kind of long, unstructured hours every writer needs in order to produce. My academic colleagues without children bemoan the arrival of September, with classes and students demanding their attention, taking them away from their work. But for me the opposite has always been true: fall offers me my most prolific time.

Last fall I was deep into revisions of my first book, This Lovely Life, savoring the routine of days full of hard work: sentences to fix, characterization to improve, pacing to modulate. The kind of work I do best as the light changes and Thanksgiving approaches.

This fall my days look so different I can hardly remember what it was like to have my pen on the page. Instead of drafting new work, or revising old, I’m hard at work promoting that same book. These days, much of my day is spent reaching out, planning, connecting with readers via book clubs, interviews and Q&As.

Of course I’m profoundly grateful, since for a long while I never thought I’d find myself with such a dilemma—a book to promote—nor did I think I’d ever become a deb, or even fit into the dress. My path to publication was challenging and unorthodox. My book was turned down at many houses. I parted ways with my agent. Then I entered a contest and the book won a prize. With that prize came publication.

And with publication, a whole new job: learning how to promote a book. In fall, when my writing life is usually gearing up. I have a big fat draft of new work on my desk awaiting my attention, and yet no focused time with which to grow and tend that work. I yearn to be in bed with that draft, shaping it and finding out its inner life, teasing it into the longer piece I think it wants to be. I curse myself for not having gotten that work farther along before I had to turn so much of my attention to helping my existing book make its way into the world.

Of course, if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that the regular routines we established as writers will almost always vanish as soon as we become attached. If fall is always my most productive time, I might just have to find a way to get better as a writer in winter. If very early mornings were usually best for me, I am learning that late at night, when all the day’s details have been sorted through, could also work, if only for a while. It’s not ideal, but it is possible.

Vicki Forman, author of This Lovely LifeAnd then, there is always spring. Maybe instead of changing colors and waning light, I’ll find that new shoots and soft, dewy mornings will bring me my inspiration. A writer can only hope. –Vicki Forman

9 Replies to “Book promo season, through the eyes of memoirist Vicki Forman”

  1. Thanks, Vicki, for letting us know what’s ahead, and for the reminder that we need to be flexible with our expectations and writing schedules. With a new baby, I’m trying to find a new writing rhythm as well – and I like your idea of trying new times, like late at night.

  2. Sarah,
    A new baby presents challenges on a million fronts! Congratulations, and know that you can and will be able to settle in for the long haul. You’ll find a new routine and a new rhythm.

  3. “… the regular routines we established as writers will almost always vanish as soon as we become attached.” Well put. I find this is true for my routines in general. Maybe it’s life’s way of making sure I don’t get too comfortable.

    It’s been years since I’ve been a student in a classroom, and yet I still associate fall with new pencils and notebooks, and new subject matter to master. Learning how to promote a book is indeed new subject matter to master. Good luck making those connections, and thank you for the inspiration.

  4. i was about to say exactly what alicia said .. i was struck by the concept that

    “if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that the regular routines we established as writers will almost always vanish as soon as we become attached.”

    rings just as true for me without “as writers”

    i have found that life demands a malleability that i never would have thought i had in me. but season after season, as the changes become necessary, i evolve into an ever more flexible creature. because i HAVE to.

    as always, you’ve given a beautiful voice to what was in my head.

  5. I find myself trying so hard to replicate the routine I was using when I wrote my first book, but my life has changed. I just don’t have the option of that schedule anymore. In a way it’s just superstitious, like thinking I can only write well if I wear a certain shirt or pair of slippers.
    Thanks for the reminder to move on and try something new!

  6. Okay…I’m panicking now! Thanks! I liked your whole post, but the part about promoting one book while writing another kind of freaked me out. I’ve already been spending so much time promoting Restoring Harmony and it doesn’t come out until May. And my next novel is only about half way done! Gah! I better get right on that so I can finish it before the real promotion work begins! Thanks for stopping by The Debs. I have to go to work now.

  7. I can attest to the fact that once you’ve written and sold the first book ( written, most likely with NO expectations) – writing the second book while gearing up to promote the first can be overwhelming. My agent gave me a piece of advice that I repeat like a mantra some days when I’m stuck with a case of promotion jitters. If doable: Take one day a week and designate it your marketing day. Surf the net, write e-mails, make contacts, answer mail etc. I’ve got to say – while some things that pop up do demand immediate attention – most things can be put off until that magical one day a week rolls around. As far as the next manuscript which, as Vicki described it as the…”big fat draft of new work on my desk awaiting my attention” well, I try and block out days for that as well. It doesn’t feel as organic as the first time around – which did take some getting used to – but it’s all about adapting – and when the work flows – it flows regardless of time or place.

  8. I love this analysis, Robin. I’ve also been trying to compartmentalize the new writing with the promotional work, but when I’m traveling (as I’ve been this fall) the routine really falls apart! Even so, that’s the idea, and that’s the plan. And as we all know, the best we can do is try to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    Joelle, don’t panic! I have a friend who finished a draft of her second book when her first was in production. She was out promoting her first book while her agent read her second. Now she’s done revising and has a different kind of “lost” at hand. We can’t plan it out at all. (Wait, didn’t I just say we can make a plan?) The most important thing I keep telling myself is that my writing life will always be there for me, whenever I need it.

    Alicia and Jess–I wish I could say I’m not “attached” but boy am I. It’s something I work on in every aspect of my life.

    And Emily, I agree 100% I think a new rhythm and new routine also gives us the chance to grow and shape our new writing in exciting (if scary) ways.

    Thanks everyone for such great comments and responses!

  9. Coming to this late, but I wanted to say that so much of this resonates. Publication has changed my rhythm as well, and it’s disconcerting, but not necessarily unwelcome. I get asked a lot whether I outline books before I write and the answer always used to be “No, definitely not” but the expectations of a published author are different, and now I must put more thought into the shape and plot of the manuscript before I dive in. People tend to look sad for me when I say this, and I’m quick to say that it’s fine. It’s not bad, just different. Simply another adjustment and if that’s what I need to do to be a professional, so be it.

    Joelle, in the spirit of Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC. Just keep your towel with you. (Which makes no sense if you don’t know the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

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