Happy Sunday, friends! Since you are my very best friends on the internet I figured I’d share a few thoughts. I think I want to write a book. Okay, I KNOW I want to write a book. It’s been in my very mind and heart for a long time, and it feels like it’s time. Now, here’s my hesitation – where does one start? My brain starts to spin thinking about agents and editors and publishers, and that’s why I have not explored this very scary thing. But we always press on anyway, don’t we? We do the thing that scares us. As someone who has lived most of her life afraid of even casting a shadow, I’m now in the business of jumping first and finding a solution before I land. And I’m taking you all with me, if you want, of course. I have extra parachutes.
So, it’s March, which means the year is basically over, and I’m so sorry to have missed all of 2023 like this. We are deep in the “Chicago gray” part of winter mixed in with some unseasonably warm days, which is trickery I do not like. I almost put away my winter coat! Anyway, as we get into these links I hope you are doing well this fine day. Let’s do this!
• As your unofficial Trader Joe’s Snack Lady™ I must update you on my current faves. Their Garlicky Cabbage is a quick side that is a hit every time (especially paired with Joy’s smothered chicken thighs). Their shortbread with raspberry filling makes you feel like you’re back in your grandma’s house eating those shortbread cookies with the red centers. Except they’re so much better. Honorable mention goes to finding Toasted Brown Sugar Pop Tart creamer at the grocery store and screaming about it. (Joy the Baker, Walmart)
• In terms of writing, it turns out that vulnerability is my writing brand. I’m coming around to that fact. I got the extreme privilege writing my most vulnerable piece to date, about my first love – I somehow punched myself in the gut (figuratively) in the process. (Cup of Jo)
• This weekend you need to make Joy’s Classic Blondie’s – I can promise it’s the right and perfect thing for you. (Joy the Baker)
• Y’all know my fashion dilemma lately, but I found the perfect pair of jeans at Old Navy and had to tell you about them. They’re not low rise, and they’re.not.low.rise.
• I have never been a huge fan of the race car world, but it is trending so hard lately, which is beyond my understanding. Well, the Formula 1 fangirls are here and making their presence known, okay?! (The Cut)
• Here’s what I’m reading right now. I would describe it as Black girl magic meets medieval magic. If you are okay with angsty teen feelings, it’s a genuinely great read. Start with the first book, Legendborn. (Bookshop.org)
• It’s me. Hi. I’m the goblin, it’s me. (Instagram)
• Please, tell me you’re caught up on Abbott Elementary?? Why is it the best show ever?! That’s it, that’s all I wanted to say. (Hulu)
• The news around the country this week is incredibly disheartening. Laws being passed are honestly downright scary, and it’s easy to feel helpless. There’s a few places you can donate to – the fight, however long and arduous, is worth fighting. Donations can be made at Tennessee Equality Project, Inclusion Tennessee, and Southern Equality Project, which reaches many states.
All my love to you this week.
WIshing you EVERYTHING you need for this book. Your voice is needed and beautiful, Abby.
Jaclyn D Levy
Yes, write the book! And as a Tennessean and thank you for the shout out supporting the Tennessee Equality Project. They do great work. It is scary but I am proud to fight alongside some amazing people. We will get through this.
You write it, and I’ll read it! Just do it!
Already impatiently waiting to pre-order your book. Get it, Abby!
PS high/higher rise jeans, amen.
wendy reid crisp lestina
I’ve been a writer and a magazine editor and a book publisher for a total of 58.5 years. I am writing this instead of meeting a deadline I missed Friday. And I’m nearly 80. So here’s my advice: first, buy a couple of books on writing that are always, always encouraging, and I still read them over and over when I get stuck: Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing by Anne Lamott; and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Really, you may not need any other help. These two women have been in the same trench you’re facing. And it never goes away, so you might as well start now just where the rest of us started: at the bottom of a soured-laundry basket. “Everyone’s better than I am,” “I don’t have any connections,” “Who cares what I have to say?”
Just remember: story is everything. Everything. I just found a stash of Valentines I received in second grade (class party), and made it a compelling story our readers loved. Don’t worry about Big Ideas. And second, ask yourself, often, the two questions: What is this about? What is this about, REALLY?” The first is your focus: e.g., that year our Christmas tree fell over and caught fire; and the second is the theme, e.g., the day I realized I was a wise and competent human being.
Thank you for this advice! I get stuck and tend to back down from writing when I’m feeling insecure. This is incredibly helpful.
Joy the Baker
This is such wonderful advice, Wendy! Thank you!
My brain started steaming when I read it on the Garlicky Cabbage page: ” If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, try our Stir Fried Garlicky Cabbage as an easy filling for homemade dumplings.”
Hmmm… buy a package of those wonton wrappers and…. I am so doing that.
Write the book, you have a story to share. And yes, I will take the jump with you, thanks for the parachute. I, too, love Abbott Elementary, it is so funny, human and humane. Truly a wonder to behold.
Thank you for the links regarding Tennessee, we are facing some dark, troubling times and it is becoming increasingly difficult not to give into despair. Alas, there is no time like the present to “fight the good fight.”
If you want to write a novel, I with Suzy (previous comment). Just get on with it – worry about the other stuff after you have something to show them. Life’s short, get writing!!
Abby, your book comment is kismet! I read your GORGEOUS Cup of Jo essay this week (I also occasionally write for them and got my very first book deal thanks to my first essay there). I knew nothing when it happened and had to navigate that whole wild world alone. Anyway, I wanted to reach out to you to tell you how much I loved your essay but couldn’t find a good email address for you. If you want to email me directly I would be so thrilled and honored to answer any questions. I’m not an expert by any means but I literally just went through this process, so it’s all fresh!
Absolutely! I will email you today!!
Joy the Baker
This is IT you two!
Do it, Abby! You are brave to share your dream with us and I wish you the best. Writing a book is my big dream too, so please keep us updated.
My dearest Abby,
One does not worry about the color to paint a house before it’s built; such is the same with writing. If you want to “write a book,” you must first write a story; please understand I am assuming you mean you want to write a novel, a story, a tale… then write it. I assure you when you allow the creative voice in your mind freedom to be heard, it will not disappoint.
When I write my fiction stories, I will sit at the computer, and my critic voice starts to take over; that’s ok because pretty soon, the creative voice shouts out what it wants to say, and you’re off to the races. I will write for hours filling the pages with dialogue, scenes, characters, and information I had no idea I knew. When the story develops, you will recognize it and come to protect it from your critic voice the next time you begin to write. Give this new adventure the necessary time to develop; the confidence and wisdom you gain will be priceless tools in many aspects of your life. The agents and editors will be there in time. I say jump in with both feet; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain! JUMP!!!
I live in Oregon, and the crazy weather has been the same. As far as the book, I know nothing about writing or publishing, but I say write it! Get it started, get as far as you can, then go looking for publishers. If the drive and joy to write is in you, do it! Hopefully the rest will follow. Good luck with everything! Now I’m going to check out those jeans!
As a former inner city Kindergarten teacher , I can totally identify with Abbott Elementary. I was hooked after watching the pilot episode. I find the best moments are not necessarily the humorous ones but those that ever so briefly touch upon real scenarios…a parent complaining about a white male teacher tackling black history without actually observing how well it was being taught, a teacher misjudging a parent based on some inappropriate clothing, a couple who did not want to acknowledge their child had a reading issue,
Quinta Brunson and her staff if writers have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to the challenges many inner city public schools face these days.
This article makes me reflect on the famous chef by the name of Julia Child who started cooking later in life. She was considered an overnight success after airing many television shows. People were taken by her unique personality, charisma and of course use of wine to food and drink. She spun off many cookbooks after that which took her even further in her career which took time. to evolve.
Do it. Write the book. You have a gift!
Okay, so here are my two cents about writing a book. It may well be one of the most satisfying things you will ever do, and a great source of pride. The reality is that most books are not big money makers (sorry!). But it is still worth doing. I have six books on Amazon, so…a bit of experience!
For me, the real starting point was not agents or publishers or any of that – it was finding three other writers and forming a writing group. We read each other’s work and offered kind and supportive feedback. I began with one scene I’d been thinking about for years, but had no idea what happened next. My writing buddies helped brainstorm every time we met, and I’d go home and figure out the next part. One day I got to type “The End”…yay!…but believe me, you’re still just beginning. You spit out a first draft, and then you rewrite it into a good book. (That one scene became my cozy mystery Sleeping Dogs Lie – and it’s still the first scene.)
Traditional publishing (agents etc.) is only one option, and not for everyone. But that’s for another day. Find your writing group, sit down, and get it on the page!
I totally feel you about the weather. I live across the lake (you know, The Lake) from you, and when I see something budding this yearly, I want to scream, “go back or you’ll die when we get that freak blizzard in May!”
Another Chicago dweller and this made me lol. Reorganized my scarves and hats this weekend, because I know I can’t put them away until May.