Just Another Day Hanging with Khaled and Terry

If Terry McMillan and Khaled Hosseini are only few feet away from me–that counts as hanging out with them right?

I volunteered with the National Book Festival last weekend! Imagine rows and rows of fans waiting in line–sometimes for hours–to see their favorite authors. I was smack in the middle of it all manning the book lines of children’s author Katherine Paterson and then illustrator Suzy Lee (who designed the festival poster below).  My job required a lot of, “only one book person, ma’am” or “do you need a rubber band for your poster?” but it was still nice to be involved.

NBF

A few rows to the right of my assigned post I saw a line 90% composed of black women—I followed it with my eyes until I saw, you guessed it, Terry McMillan! Her fans seemed to be having a ball down there and I was jealous! She definitely engaged with people.

Khaled Hosseini’s line was to my left–I heard he started signing early, finished late and still didn’t get to everyone.  He was probably the most popular author at the Festival on Sunday, with the exception of maybe Tamora Pierce. Don’t worry, I didn’t know who she was either—apparently she writes fantasy fiction for teenagers, many—many—of whom showed up to see her. Anyway, after my shift, I caught the tail end of Hosseini’s talk, when he was discussing how his medical background influenced his writing. Apparently he never intended it to–medical themes or professionals just always seem to turn up in his books. To be honest, I didn’t even know he was a doctor (however, I do know he’s not the only doctor turned novelist out there).  Khaled was pretty funny and engaging for someone who writes such depressing (but good) books.

Tomorrow I’m going to a Nicholas Sparks reading —can’t wait!!  Want to go?

Finally, I made progress with my editing!! I finished going through my manuscript on the computer—making the tense and points of views consistent, and other major changes. I printed it out and next weekend I will begin reading/editing in hard copy. Exciting!!
Have a good weekend peeps!

manuscript

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On Book Trailers: Publishing a Novel Today Requires Some Serious Movie-Making Skills

This industry never ceases to surprise me. Recently I discovered a little something called book trailers. A book trailer is exactly what it sounds like—a short video meant to entice audiences into purchasing your novel. So basically, to become a novelist today you not only have to be a writer and a marketer, you also have to be a movie producer!

Before I proceed, here’s the trailer for Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,”–the book I’m reading now:


After procrastinating for a while by watching various trailers on the Internet, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • Thrillers make the best trailers. Put on scary music, show a knife and blood and you’ve captured the readers attention. Easy peasy.
  • Trailers also make a lot sense for memoirs. When you publish a memoir, you’re trying to get a stranger to want to read all about your life—a trailer is a good way to introduce yourself to the world and get people to like you.
  • Women’s Fiction may be the hardest genre to produce a good trailer. Most that I’ve seen come across as really, really cheesy—like it’s going to be a terrible movie book.
  • Trailers are high risk/high reward—while the good ones can definitely draw in a new crop of readers and create excitement about the book, a bad one can undercut all an author’s hard work. For movies, it makes sense that great trailer probably = great movie, but not necessarily so for novels. A wonderful writer may turn out to be (and probably will be) a horrible producer.
  • There are millions of ways to produce a trailer all by yourself!  You can use Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, ScreenFlow and some other programs. This probably explains why there are so many bad ones are out there.

A couple of more examples:

Below is the first trailer I found under “women’s fiction trailers” in Goodreads.  I actually think it’s pretty decent compared to others I’ve seen.  She keeps it simple–that’s all you can do.

Famous authors usually just sit and talk about the book because they can do that.  Their faces and voices are enough to entice you!  Colson Whitehead’s trailer for Sag Harbor was one of the first I ever saw:

And here is the trailer for Terry McMillan’s new book “Who Asked You?”

My Evening with “Waiting to Exhale” Author Terry McMillan SUPER UPDATE AT THE END!

TM1I remember when I first learned about Terry McMillan. I must have been 8 or 9 years old, and my Mom was so excited about this book called “Waiting to Exhale.” It was summer, and apparently all the “mothers” were reading it.  It truly felt like a must-read–I mean like, you better read this book or you can’t come to my party type of the thing.  Anyway, years later, I picked it up and read it myself.  Then I found another Terry McMillan book my mom’s shelf, so I read that. Then I found another one and another one–my mom must have just bought all of them! After that, every time I heard Terry had a book coming out I just bought it. Most recently that was “Getting to Happy” the sequel to “Waiting to Exhale.”  Given my initial introduction to Terry’s books, the book signing I attended on Saturday at Sixth & I felt very different the ones I attended for Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin. It had a familial vibe even though I didn’t actually know anyone. Many of the audience members reminded me of my Mom and her friends and I can’t help but think that if the event had been in New York I would have, at the very least, run into a couple of them.

TM3

But back to the signing. I have to say Terry McMillan was an interesting character. She had a huge red fro and thick white glasses, and didn’t just read from her upcoming book—she basically acted it out. Afterwards, this GW professor sat and asked her some questions. Terry was funny and frank, although not the best speaker I’ve heard (Jennifer Weiner still wins that contest). Terry seemed like someone who preferred to express herself on paper, which I liked because I get that. It was like whenever someone asked a question, she had so much to say but had trouble getting it all out correctly. But she didn’t try to placate us, she gave authentic, genuine, funny answers.

I, of course, asked a question. Terry had said her latest book had 15 points of view, including one from an 8 year old boy, so I asked her how she got in the minds of people so unlike herself.  She basically said that it requires a certain degree of compassion and empathy. You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. To further make her point she said, “I’ve never been a crackhead, but now I know what it’s like to be one” (because she’s written about one and presumably put herself in one’s shoes) and “I’ve never been in jail, but I know what it’s like now.” Basically you have to listen to how people talk around you and then just imagine. It’s important to get lost when you write. Words of wisdom from Terry Mcmillan people. Awesome.

Other interesting tidbits: Terry knows everything about her characters before she starts writing– their birthdays, their views on abortion, whether they pay their bills on time–and most of it never makes it the story. She also discussed her views on the publishing world.  She thinks it’s pretty messed up right now because of the economy, sexism and racism. Still, she told us writers not to be discouraged, but not to quit our day jobs. Word.

In the end, Terry McMillan signed my book. She remembered that I was the “girl with the low voice” (I just wasn’t speaking into the microphone!) and seemed to enjoy being around her fans. Overall, I would describe it as an inspiring night with one of my favorite authors. Time to get back to writing (and my day job!)

TM2

UPDATE: I tweeted this blog post to Terry McMillan and she replied!!!  She said “Thank you. Very thoughtful. I’ll try to be more eloquent. Not really! I call it the way it comes out. Best to you & your Mom!”  Lol.  I said “No, don’t be. I loved it! Thanks for coming to D.C.!” 🙂  Omg, I love Twitter!!