Monday, April 4, 2011

Guest Post - Laurie Notaro

Yes friends, you read that correctly!

Today's guest post is from best-selling author, Laurie Notaro.

Laurie is the hilarious talent behind The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, Autobiography of a Fat Bride, I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies), We Thought You Would Be Prettier, An Idiot Girl's Christmas, There's A (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going To Hell, The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death, and Spooky Little Girl.

Not only is Laurie full-on funny, but she writes both fiction and nonfiction, making her the perfect fit for The Red Dress Club.

Ok, ok...I will stop TELLING you about her and let her speak for herself.

Laurie Notaro: The Interview

How long did you try to find a publisher for "Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club" before you opted to self publish? In hindsight, would you change anything about that process?

I didn't take the decision to self-publish lightly, and thought about it for quite some time. I studied the contract and really made sure I knew what I was getting into. But in the end, I decided that having a product that I could sell in the physical sense was more important that whatever stigma self-publishing had at the time. I had been trying to get the book published for seven years with clearly no success.

I didn't see any other option, and at that point, on-demand self-publishing was much less expensive than it is now. I think it was $100. I figured I really didn't have much to lose, so I took a shot. I was able to advertise on fairly cheaply, and it was those ads that caught the eye of a literary agent, who then contacted me.

In hindsight, I wouldn't have changed anything, but I do realize that luck had an enormous role to play in all of this. My ad popped up to the right person at the right time, and had my agent not seen that one-inch by one-inch cover of my book, who know what would or would not have happened. I might still be trying to get Idiot Girls published after all of these years.

What books are on your nightstand?

Right now I'm reading "Wicked" because we're going to see the play soon and I thought it would be fun to know the story beforehand. I'm enjoying it very much, although everyone keeps telling me that I will be angry because the ending is different in the musical. I thought I already knew the ending--doesn't she melt like a grilled cheese sandwich? If she becomes Miss America though, people are right; I will be pissed.

Paper or ebook?

Oh. Paper. Paper. Paper. Although to tell the truth, I look at the mass amount of books I have and think, "Oh, I certainly don't want to move those cross country AGAIN." I see the benefits and convenience of the ebook, but I love book covers. And when someone comes to a book reading with a copy that's beat up, dog-eared, might have fallen in the bathtub or is all scruffed up, I know that's a book that had been read, loved, used.

I don't have an ebook reader, and I love having a book in my purse; it's much more tactile than pulling out my iphone and trying to read those tiny little words. But I may feel differently the next time a moving van pulls up to my house. I have a feeling there's going to be a big book garage sale at my house very soon.

How difficult is it to do humor? Funny seems hard to do in print—it doesn’t always transfer well to the page, yet you totally pull it off. Your secrets?

Humor can be difficult because it's so subjective, and if you try to make someone laugh and fail, there are times when people can get rather hostile. It's pretty interesting and it's a dynamic you really don't see that much in other genres. I think they key is to know who your audience is, and to keep the material as honest as possible.

So much of the "funny" in writing anything humorous works because it is real and the reader relates to it on some level--either they share the same viewpoint, something similar has happened to them, or they can see it happening to themselves.

If you start getting too crazy with the narrative, you can lose that relatability, particularly in non-fiction, and all of a sudden, you have readers throwing metaphorical tomatoes at you.

I think another vital point in writing humor is timing--the push and pull of the rhythm, sentence structure and delivering your punchline. That takes some practice, but it's fun practice. I like to write as conversationally as possible, like we're both sitting in a bar and I'm telling you a story. That's the way I've found it works the best for me, but every writer has a different perspective or method. You have to find the voice within yourself and determine how good the fit is with your material.

Is it tough to go back and forth between fiction and non? Do you feel like one is more difficult than the other to write?

I do love both. I love non-fiction because I like doing joke after joke--there aren't any characters to set up necessarily, a very limited narrative and the payoff is fast. The plotting can be just as complicated as a piece of fiction, but I can draw more readily on actual events and people, which I love. I really enjoy setting up a scene.

Fiction is so much fun, though. It's like a 1000 piece puzzle you need to fit together perfectly, and sometimes, you don't know how things are going to conclude at all. Fiction is full of surprises and revelations that non-fiction doesn't have--I already know how the non-fiction is going to end. But with a novel or short story, the characters develop, have nuances, and sometimes do their own thing.

I remember that when I was finishing "Spooky Little Girl," the relationship between Alice and Martin suddenly took an unexpected turn and I just found myself writing a pivotal plot point that I didn't know was there. Moments like that are exhilarating and very exciting. But in the end, overall I really just want to deliver a good, solid story and make people laugh. That's my main goal with fiction and non-fiction; I want a nice payoff for anyone who picks up my books or work.

It's not generally tough to go back and forth in between the two genres, because a part of me is always thinking about the next book as I'm writing the last book. It's always fun to start a new project, to do the research and figure out the puzzles--big and small--of both. I like changing back and forth, and I hope I get another shot at fiction. I have a great story idea!

Any other advice for our readers/writers?

Tenacity. Writing is a deeply personal experience and at the same time, a very public one, so I think that dealing with criticisms and responses to your work can hit a little closer to home than, say, if you were writing a marketing report.

I think that's true of anything creative. You put a chunk of yourself out there and are pretty vulnerable; sometimes you have to be pretty brave to put yourself on the line like that. It's important to believe in your work, and believe in yourself as a writer. If you are producing what you believe to be good stuff, that's really what matters because your name is on it. Bottom line.

Getting published is very difficult, and it's getting even harder as the industry changes. But if writing is something you really love to do, you have to keep going and trying and pitching. Sometimes, all it takes is being in the right place at the right time and things start to click. It can be an instance of luck, opportunity, or the right person seeing your work. So that means that you have to be out there as much as you can be. You have to believe in yourself and use that as your power to continue going forward, even if you think you're treading water.

Thank you so much to Laurie Notaro for doing this interview with me. And for calling me a "doll".


So what do you all think?

Don't forget to visit Laurie's website, "like" her on facebook, and follower her on twitter.

And you really should read her work too, if you haven't already. But be ready for the funny. 'Cause she brings it. Hard.

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