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The Secret Library Podcast

The truth about writing books. By speaking to authors and other book lovers, I'm diving into the mystery that is the book world today. From writing to editing to publishing and all that goes into the creation of a book – all of it is open for discussion on the show.
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Now displaying: Page 4
Nov 2, 2017

Steven Tagle wants every writer to know about the Fulbright. 

A few episodes ago, when Patricia Park was on the show, she mentioned something that made my ears perk up: that she had researched the portion of her book that took place in Korea by applying for and receiving a Fulbright Scholarship. For my listeners abroad: You DON'T have to be a US citizen to apply.     

In this episode we explore the practical steps to applying for a Fulbright, how Steven researched which country he chose to apply to, and how the year away impacted him as a person and as a writer. To say I was ready to leap into the application process after this conversation is a massive understatement. I hope you explore these options as well and I can't wait to hear about the books inspired by travel and explorations abroad.    

Show notes with links

Oct 26, 2017

It's almost November and you know what that means...

No- not Thanksgiving- NaNoWriMo! What does that mean, you might ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it is a crazy 30 days where writers all over the world try to write a 50,000 work draft in one month. 

Just last week, I was in New Orleans with a bunch of amazing people, including Episode #33 Kate Newburg and Episode #39 Tasha Harrison, and it was too exciting not to record an episode together right there in our Air Bnb. We have all done NaNoWriMo numerous times and have worked out what made it successful for each of us (and in some cases, not so successful). If you have been curious about this crazy method of getting a draft done, this episode will take you through all the details, tips, tricks and tools we could think of to help you slam dunk your NaNoWriMo experience. 

Full show notes with links

Oct 19, 2017

Victor LaValle writes good stories.

My husband has been devouring his catalogue of novels with a singular force. 

"This is so good," he announces from his side of the bed. The last few months, when he makes this kind of statement, it has been from inside the world of Victor LaValle. Not only has his fiction seduced Barry, but LaValle has also created a series of comics. The man crush was inevitable at that point. 

It was an interesting challenge to interview Victor and talk about his latest book, as it's one he has edited rather than one he has written. The Best of Richard Matheson is an anthology of stories that shaped Victor at a critical point in his young life when he first started to become a writer. 

This interview goes into the different modes of writing, how editing an anthology happens, but it also touches on practical topics like how to keep writing when a couple has a baby and they're both writers. 

Full show notes with links

Oct 12, 2017

Yes, you read that right. On Tuesdays, Scott O'Connor shows up at my house along with a band of students. 

 

It really is the most incredible good fortune. When I was offered the chance to host a novel writing workshop this summer, of course I said yes. Get to talk about writing with a bunch of fellow writing nerds in my own house every week? Yes please. And, even beyond that, to learn with a teacher who is the perfect blend of encouraging and practical. I'm so so glad he succumbed to my persistent requests to come on the show so I could share all that encouragement with you. 

Show notes with links

Oct 5, 2017

Patricia Park is one of the few writers I know up to taking on Jane Eyre.

I'm not talking about talent. As well you know, there has been no end of that among the guests on the show. I am talking about the kind of willpower that lead her to spend ten years exploring every nook and cranny of the world of her novel, Re Jane. To give you a preview, this exploration involved winning a Fulbright to go and study in Korea for the middle portion of her novel. Beyond that, she thought she needed to take a detour into another novel that had her learning Spanish at Middlebury and deeply immersed in the Korean community in Argentina only to find the character she was writing about hidden in the pages of Re Jane. So inspiring, you'll love Patricia.

Show notes with links 

Sep 28, 2017

I wish I had been smart enough to come up with Joe Fassler's book idea.

As a fellow interview lover, Joe has been writing the column By Heart for the Atlantic long enough to amass a who's who of interview subjects. You know, people like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Elizabeth Strout, Michael Chabon, Emma Donoghue, Mary Gaitskill... the list goes on. His topic? What piece of writing inspired you enough that you read it over and over and practically memorized it because it had such an impact on your life. Writers + book talk? Total heaven. And his new book, Light the Dark, assembles his favorite interviews on this topic. 

Not only do I recommend that you listen, I think that anyone wanting to write will adore this book. So many wise words on the process of writing and what makes a piece of writing meaningful. I can't wait for all of you to listen to this one, and to check out Light the Dark. 

Show notes with Links

Sep 21, 2017

Paul McVeigh wrote a story in an afternoon that took twenty years.

How is that possible? We gather images over time, trying to figure out how they fit together. Paul had pieces of a story that didn't quite fit until suddenly, they did. And then the story came out almost all at once in a single sitting. How do you know when it's time to write a story? And how do you know when to give up on an idea? These are questions that have plagued so many writers and my clients. Paul was the perfect person to discuss them with. Having written fiction, theater, comedy, and a writing teacher himself, Paul has a breadth of experience and a sensitivity to this topic that will blow you away. His debut novel, The Good Son won countless awards and becomes a favorite of everyone who reads it.

This conversation was both deep and funny, an incredible dive into the places where writing comes from and how to know when you've got a story that won't let you go. This promises to be one you'll listen to more than once. I have been waiting and waiting to share this one! I'm so glad it's time for you to hear it.

Full show notes post with links

Sep 14, 2017

Gabriela Pereira doesn't think you NEED to get an MFA.

 

However, need and want are two different things. An MFA grad herself, Gabriela realized that many writers struggled with the dilemma of whether to MFA or not to MFA and took her own grad school experience and created a template so others could get all the benefit of the degree with none of the loans, debt and stress that can come along with going back to school. Gabriela is a wealth of information and was incredible generous in sharing that with us on this episode.

If you've ever wanted to take your writing seriously and pursue it with great focus, but believed you don't need to go back to school to become a "real" writer, this episode is going to feel like one giant permission slip. Happy listening and happy writing, for those of you who finish listening and realize you can start writing right now, degree or no degree.

 

Show notes with links | This episode sponsored by the Central Coast Writers Counference

Sep 7, 2017

Scott Stabile has earned the right to share advice.

There are many books out there that share life advice. There are whole sections in bookstores dedicated to this sort of book. But I have not encountered many where I am so willing to trust the advice of the author. It's often hard to imagine that a writer would relate to my life, or understand the particular thing I have been through and that we could connect. 

Scott is an excellent antidote to this belief. His life experience, which includes his parents' murder, his brother's death from overdose, and belonging to a spiritual cult, has more than prepared him to share about the human experience. I loved reading Scott's book and talking to him because his insights on finding happiness felt so generous, given what he's had to overcome in order to find happiness in his life. We talk about how getting vulnerable and raw and specific about your life experience makes you more connected to the reader because the specific opens up to the universal. I love this as it is a lovely shift away from the fear many of us have: that if we write on one obscure topic no one else will understand. Scott is here to tell you that people will relate, and it's worth sharing the dark parts of your story as well as the warm fuzzy ones. I've been waiting to share this episode. I hope you enjoy listening.

Show notes post with links

Aug 31, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over. Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in. I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Aug 24, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over. Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in. I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Aug 17, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over. Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in. I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Aug 13, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over. Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in. I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Aug 3, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over.

Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in.

I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Jul 27, 2017

Kameron Hurley is a marvel.

 

The first thing I noticed about Kameron Hurley is how incredible her laugh is. She has a laugh that dares you not to join in, to enjoy the conversation and what she has to say. I hope you enjoy it, because I did- I absolutely adored it. Kameron is a two-time Hugo award winning writer and yet, she still holds a solid day job. This is the truth of a writing career, even one as well-awarded and Kameron Hurley's.

I so enjoyed talking about what it was like to dive into the underpinnings of geek culture and write an essay about it, as well as what it does to your awareness to write about a society whose rules you have created entirely yourself, only to discover that you're still playing into tropes and social expectations of your own world. Kameron and I dig deep into what being a feminist writer means and what the process of breaking down your writing does when you try to subvert convention. It was so fun to explore with such a self-aware guest. I know you'll learn a ton from her. Happy listening!

Full Show Notes with Links

Jul 20, 2017

Megan Hannum is about to help you face your first draft without fear.

 

Have you ever been writing away, actually building some momentum in your writing only to have these sorts of fears creep in: "Is there enough detail? I'm only writing plot, how is anyone going to know what anything looks like??" Or perhaps yours is "I need to do a LOT more research before I write this. I have no idea what the dating customs of medieval Mongolia actually are. Guess it's back to the drawing board for the next six months."

I have suffered from these fears, as have the members of the Coffeeshop Writer's Group and when Megan joined us recently as a guest expert, we all started to feel a lot less freaked out by simply getting on with a draft knowing that everything will not be answered the first time around. 

I had Megan on to talk about what you should worry about in the first, second, and final drafts of a project, and what you can set to the side for each of these drafts until the next time around. Finally, we talk about when it's time to get an editor involved and what you should look for when seeking one. 

This promises to be an episode you can return to again and again as you progress through your projects. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. And... woohoo for 60 episodes! I cannot believe we've gotten to such a big number. Thank you all for listening and supporting the show. It means so much that this project makes you as happy as it makes me. 

 

Full show notes here

Jul 13, 2017

J. Ryan Stradal's hit novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest came out in 2015.

Most often, we hear from writers right when their book has just come out. They go on book tours and radio shows and NPR, if they are well-connected. I have been thrilled to talk to writers in this stage of the process, but the longer I work on this show, the more curious I am about the other parts of the writing journey- before the book is finished, or after it has gone out in the world and taken on a life of its own or, as in this case, when one book has sailed and the next has not yet fully formed. 

J. Ryan and I talk about the impact of Kitchens and what it's been like writing a new book. He's still in the middle and making big decisions about structure and isn't at the point of sending a finished manuscript off to the publisher. This next book is still becoming, and so the conversation is looser, more organic. I like that about this episode- we can't talk in easy platitudes when the book is still a possibility and things could still change. For those of you mucking around in the messy middle, this episode will be right for you. It's not an easy thing to write a book. What I learned from this talk was that, even if you've completed one book and done extremely well by it, the next book will still be an entirely new experience. I find this hopeful, since it's easy to walk away from things that become predictable. After talking to J. Ryan, I'm even more confident that writing never will. 

 

Show Notes | This episode brought to you by the Story Intensive

Jul 6, 2017

Dal Kular didn't plan on becoming a novelist.

 

After recording nearly sixty episodes of The Secret Library, I realized I had a full catalogue of interviews with experts. People who were at the end of the writing journey, in some way. They had either published books as the writer, publisher, or had engaged in the process already and were looking back in order to discuss it. 

This began to feel like a disconnect between the guests and the listeners I knew were out there taking the show in. So many people write in talking about the story they are working on now, the one they aren't sure they'll be able to figure out how to finish. I knew there was a different conversation that needed to happen on the show. 

Dal Kular has been my noveling winglady for quite some time. She has been a social worker, a laughter yoga instructor, and an amazing blogger before a novel snuck up on her and has been pushing her to write it every since. We check in and talk about our writing regularly and share how it's going as we inch our way along through our books. Recently, I managed to talk Dal into coming on the show so we could talk about this stage of the process- the one at the very beginning when you don't know if that story you're working hard on will ever turn out to be a real book. This conversation was such a relief to have, and I think many of you will relate to it. Enjoy listening. I felt such relief talking about the scary aspects of writing from inside the process. Here's hoping it is of use to you. Plus, you get to listen to Dal's lovely accent- a major perk this episode, I must say. 

Show notes with links | This episode brought to you by The Story Intensive

Jun 29, 2017

I had never thought about how dialogue was like jazz until I spoke with Wesley Brown.

Wesley Brown knows dialogue and he knows jazz. His latest collection of stories, Dance of the Infidels, brings the two together and I learned so much from talking about music and writing with him. In addition, Wesley is Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University and teaches literature and creative writing at Bard College. He is the author of plays, fiction, and nonfiction so there is something here for every genre of writer.

As someone who has long struggled with bringing scenes to life with dialogue, that topic was of particular interest to me. If this is a tricky point for you, or if you struggle with hearing a character's voice come to life, this episode will help. We also hear about Wesley's current collection of stories and its fascinating concept. I am happy to be the new owner of a copy and I know everyone listening will want to read it as well.

Full show notes with links and playlists | Sponsored by the Story Intensive

Jun 22, 2017

Doree Shafrir knows Startup culture. 

 

This is immediately obvious when reading her first novel, Startup, out now and gracing more and more must-read lists every week. It's laugh out loud funny as well as a well-observed critique of the tech culture we follow as closely as celebrity news these days. Doree and I spoke about Startup on the show, as well as her experience in the tech world, her surprise at realizing she wanted to write a novel instead of a non-fiction book and much more. She's a smart cookie and I was thrilled to learn that she's already dreaming up more books so those who fall in love with Startup hopefully wont' have long to wait before we read more from her. 

We also got into character, the ways it feels different to write fiction than journalism, writing a story from multiple character perspectives, and the blow by blow process of writing and selling Startup to a publisher. If you want to know what it's really like to sit down with an idea and turn it into a book, this is your episode. 

Show notes with links | This episode sponsored by the Story Intensive

Jun 15, 2017

Once you sell a book, you're going to have to sign a book contract.

 

Thanks to Autumn coming on the show, this doesn't have to be a terrifying process. Every writer who has come on the show has emphasized book contracts as something you need to understand before you sign. I don't know about you, but despite the fact that the majority of my friends are lawyers, I wouldn't feel comfortable reading and signing a contract without some help. Autumn speaks in simple language in this episode and clarifies all the areas you'd need to understand and the areas you need to consider before signing a contract. 

In this day and age of eCourses, eBooks, and spin-off options for books, there is a lot more to a contract than just royalties and hardbacks and paperbacks. This is the beginning of a conversation you'll want to have with a lawyer yourself when it comes time to publish your book. This can apply as well if you're self-publishing as it's possible you will get picked up from there for print rights or if there is a movie in the offing, a la The Martian. I promise this episode is just as fun to listen to, even if the content is more practical. Autumn is delightful and very passionate about supporting authors. Get ready to feel a whole lot more confident when you sell that book one day. Hopefully, you can feel that day getting closer already. 

Jun 8, 2017

Manjula Martin is fearless.

She gets to the heart of the matter: why don't writers get paid like other professions? Why does everyone expect to read content for free or very little money these days? Why don't we value writing the same way we value other work? And why is making a decent living considered "selling out" in some arenas. Manjula has been exploring the topic of money and writing in numerous forums, from her blog "Who Pays Writers?" a collection of rates that writers can submit anonymously about writing jobs they have worked, to her anthology "Scratch" that collects thoughts from a who's who of today's writers on the topic.

This has been a taboo conversation for ages. People were expected to feel grateful to get their work published at all, whether or not they got money for it. But why is writing a career that is so undervalued? Manjula and I dive in to some of these topics and hopefully get you excited to read her book, which collects essays and pieces from both prominent and new writers on the topic of making money from the written word. It's a must-read and this episode is a must-listen if you want writing to be a career, rather than just a fun hobby.

Full episode with Show Notes

Jun 1, 2017

Jade Chang looked at the economic crash of 2008 and saw a novel.

 

This is just one of the many miraculous things about her. While the rest of us were running around like maniacs and freaking out, Jade started to see an idea come into form. What if a family lost everything in that crash? What would that look like? What if this character she had in her head was a self-made man who was crushed under the weight of what happened at that time? The answers to these and many other questions became The Wangs vs. The World, out in paperback this week and one of the most noteworthy books of last year. 

I knew I had to speak to Jade after reading the book and laughing, feeling touched, amused, and heartbroken throughout reading it. It is a very special book for certain. So when I was lucky enough to meet her at a book event she led the q+a for, I grabbed the chance to invite her. I know I say all the episodes of the show are my favorite, but this one is absolutely my favorite as I share it with you. I had been dreaming about a discussion on character, and this one got so deeply into all of the aspects of character I find fascinating. I hope you all love Jade as much as I did. She's a wonder. 

Show Notes | This episode brought to you by The Story Intensive

May 25, 2017

Bari Tessler is all about shining the light on money, and books are no exception.

But first, a moment to celebrate! As we reach episode 52, we come back to the very first guest who ever came on the show, Bari Tessler. One year ago, I launched the Secret Library Podcast as Bari was preparing for the publication of her book, The Art of Money. Now, a year later, we've come back around and are talking to Bari again.

This time, we talk about what it takes financially to publish a book. Most would-be authors dream of making money right away from big book deals, but the reality is often different. With her usual generosity and candor, Bari shared the ins and outs of the book deal, the agreement she had with her co-writer, and what it took to get this book out in the world. This one is a must-listen.

Complete show notes with links

May 18, 2017

Ruby Warrington is the force behind the Numinous.

I adored Ruby Warrington even before we spoke. I knew we would be kindred spirits because she admitted in her book that her power lipstick was MAC Lady Danger. So, of course I had to put my own Lady Danger on for our Skype call to record the session. And thus, magic ensued. I love Ruby because she comes from a journalist background, yet is pulled to topics that traditional journalism generally avoids, like astrology, spiritual topics, and Burning Man. I doubly knew I would love her when she admitted that Burning Man wasn't the easiest sell for her when she attended. 

For anyone who has ever made a huge transition in life and wanted to write about it, you will have something to learn from Ruby. Not only did she leave journalism as a full-time career to explore writing and living in the more spiritual arena, she also moved from London to NYC along the way. Ruby is the perfect spokeserson for those who want to explore topics like tarot, astrology, sound baths, yoga, and crystals while still dressing to kill (and wearing Lady Danger lipstick). I found Ruby's book to be an excellent primer for the spiritual-curious, as it explores a wide array of topics under that umbrella with honesty and humor. I know you're going to love this conversation just as much as I did. 

Show notes with links

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