Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grab a white flag and get ready to surrender!

That doesn’t mean give up on that novel. It means give into it. Nancy Woodruff, a dear friend and an incredibly talented novelist who teaches writing part time at NYU, emailed me today with some excellent advice that I’d like to share. Maybe I can call these insights Excerpts from Experts.

Nancy has been such an encouragement to me through my many rounds of rejections. Nancy’s new novel, My Wife’s Affair will be released on April 15, 2010 by Amy Einhorn Books, a Penguin imprint. This is the same publisher that launched The Help– a fabulous book. When I asked Nancy how she applies what she teaches to her students at NYU to her own writing, she answered:

“Although I write mostly fiction and my students write mostly nonfiction (including personal essays and memoir), I always tell them that the writing process is the same for both. You always need to surrender to the material as it comes to you, to "write it out" first without worrying about the final product. You have to acknowledge that much of what you write on a first draft is not going to be very good or perhaps not useable at all. The important thing is to get a first draft! Then you can go through cutting and adding and changing and shaping for as long as you need to until the piece pleases you.”

What great advice. Surrender to the material. I have often battled my thoughts and my words – fearful to click the computer keys - knowing that the dialogue and the details will not be perfect. Instead, I should just battle my fears and “surrender to the material.” Have you faced the same dilemma in your writing? What holds you back?

I also asked Nancy about her biggest challenge in writing her newest novel. Here is what she said:

“My biggest challenge in writing My Wife's Affair was the long path I had to follow before publication. The book took less than two years to write initially, but with feedback from friends and potential agents and editors, I rewrote it for years. Very often it seemed the book would never see the light of day, but the truth was, once someone believed in it and sent it out, it was accepted almost immediately. What I have learned from all this is that you have to trust your material and stick with it as long as it takes. Don't give up!”

Amen to that! Believe in yourself and the story that is in you. And as Nancy says, “Don’t give up!”

Take Away Tidbit

My assistant Amy is a total foodie (and former caterer). She's offered to share a few time saving tips with me because she knows that being a writer is just one of the many things I do. My writing comes after my responsibilities as a wife and mother. One way she suggested I carve out a few extra moments in my day is to plan each weeks meals in advance. That way I'm prepared each day and know exactly what I need to do. Far too often I find myself staring at the empty fridge at 5:00 and asking myself, "what could I possibly through together for dinner"? I love that planning my meals in advance takes the stress out of dinner time. I just look at my list and it tells me what to do.

Amy also suggests buying a few prepared foods, "While I would LOVE to make our dinners from scratch every night, I've learned how time saving it is to just pick up a roast chicken to serve with my Quinoa salad and asparagus, rather than to make everything myself." Another idea Amy suggests for family night is picking up a pizza or two and serving it with a homemade Cesar Salad. Another quick dinner idea her family loves is flank steak (on the grill, 8 minutes a side - done!) with a selection of deli salads from a quality market.

What about you? What are your time saving tips for mealtime?

Oh, and enjoy this scrumptious Quinoa Salad recipe Amy gave me!

Quinoa, Black Bean and Corn Salad

1 Cup Quinoa
1 1/2 cups black beans
1 1/2 Tbl red-wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked corn
1 medium sized green pepper
2 pickled jalapeños, seeded/minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 Cup Quinoa prepared with 2 cups chicken stock (follow directions on Quinoa box)

While Quinoa is cooking toss beans with vinegar and salt & pepper to taste.

Transfer cooked Quinoa to bowl to cool. Add beans, corn, bell pepper, jalapenos and cilantro - toss well.

Make dressing:
Whisk together lime juice, salt, cumin and add oil in a stream while whisking.

Pour dressing over Quinoa mixture and stir well. Adding salt/pepper to taste.

Serve room temp.

(recipe adapted from

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