Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Daft Idea

Yesterday I was informed that my single course has been reassigned.  I don't think this was due to being an inadequate teacher.  Times are tough and senior/full time staff have first dibs.  My course leader wants to keep me "active" in the sense that if courses are available this summer, he will hire me.

Still, I'm in a desperate situation, made more desperate after a very frank cards-on-the-table talk with my brother last night.  His advice, which is intensely sensible, is to find as high-paying a job as I can and stick it out for two years to pay off all debt and then resume my writing career.  This would include voiding the contract for my current book, the manuscript of which requires me to write three pages a day in order to turn it in by its due date of June 15th.  The first thing I would have to do is pay back the advance.

This is a problem.  I need that third book, Sex and the Pity, which will be more PG than R-rated, because Angry Fat Girls (soon to be released in paperback under the title Eating Ice Cream with My Dog) did not do well.  I must redeem myself as quickly as possible in the cut-throat world of publishing.  That's a reality I don't expect someone outside the business to understand.

And besides, what would I do?  My computer skills have always been limited and I'm afraid they are positively outdated at this point. 

So I began to consider my skills.

  1. Pam Peeke recently wrote, "Your words are so amazing Frances.  I know no one who can capture feelings the way you do."  And I have to say I'd along with that insofar as I do a really good job of writing about feelings.
  2. I'm a good writer in general.
  3. I bake great cookies.
  4. I speak Dog.
  5. I can relapse like nobody's business.
  6. I can lose weight.
  7. I can hang on through nightmare depressions.
  8. I have the ability and willingness to be an open book.
  9. I'm a good teacher.
  10. I'm a good editor, from line-editing (thanks to 20 years of teaching composition) to rearranging the parts of a book to finding the idea for a book in the first place.
  11. I have a certain amount of wisdom, humor, intelligence, imagination, compassion, empathy.  I spin back what people tell me in ways that they appreciate and can use.
  12. I buy nearly perfect gifts.
  13. I have good taste in clothes.
  14. I take good photos.
  15. I'm a good researcher.
  16. I've read a lot.
That's an incomplete but decent and random list of what I can do.

I placed a Craig's List ad this morning offering tutorial services.  I'm reopening shop as a writing coach, which I'm very good at.

I'll pick up more dog gigs.

I'll put up signs around the neighborhood for tutoring and dog-walking (on different tear sheets, of course).

But Pam's words and my balls-to-the-wind confessionals began circling in my head as I was dashed out to pick up dog food.

What if...

What if I attack relapse, weight loss, depression, job hunting, the writing process and the odd dog in a closed media.  What if I get abstinent and write about it in a way that will help readers feel what I have always wanted to say: you're not crazy and you're not the only one

I am not dogmatic about how anyone should lose weight unless it's clearly insane.  I understand as well as anyone that weight loss is not simple -- I have to combine it with all of the above and other women have yet more complications in their lives.

I have read a lot on the subject and know a number of experts.  I could interview people.

I could create a closed blog in which, with the newsletter subscription, readers can ask me questions, criticize my lack of exercise and gloomy outlook, request more attention paid to whatever topic or aspect they want, and talk to each other.

I would do this as an email newsletter -- daily? three times a week? -- by paid subscription.  If someone wants to receive the newsletter and can't pay, she can refer one? two? subscribers and receive a free subscription/password.

Hell, I'll even try to figure out a way to give readers 10% off either Ice Cream or Sex and the Pity.

So what do you think?  Really: is this a good idea?  If so, how often would readers want such a newsletter and how much should I charge?  Is there anything else missing from what I could write about that would be of use to people (women, really) trying to lose weight or lose weight again?

Please, please: respond!

I think it would be fun.


Anonymous said...

I think it's a good idea, but I dont think it would work. you know why? I already have a google reader full of me-specific blogs I love that I don't have time to read.

Finish the book. Your brother is wrong. There is no high-paying job out there for you (or me). You're a writer. You have a book due in 2 and a half months. That's your best bet. Write.

If the situation is that desperate, and your ego can take it, try to find a babysitting job. I live where you live. That job pays 18/hr. Get a weekly "date out" gig. Kids are asleep or just about and you'll have 4 hours to work in a distraction-free zone and get $75 a pop. THat's about 300 tax-free a month to put towards the debt. 2 nights a week and that's $600. Not bad money.

Book. Book. Focus on the book. THEN rethink your options

Unknown said...


I would read it and subscribe. I love your writing, your honesty, your insight. I think your idea about doing a subscription blog is a good one. It would allow you to use your very real gifts.

And I would like all the subject matter... dogs and job hunts included. I think when we address the fullness of our lives as a part of our weightloss journey it helps.

That's my two cents.


Valerie S. said...

I am notoriously bad at knowing what will sell - hence my chronically unpublished status - but I can definitively state that I will subscribe. I very strongly suspect that most of your other followers will, as well. You have a lot of dedicated fans who care a lot about not only your writing but you personally - because you write in a way that lets us feel we really know YOU as a person - and I'd be willing to bet most, if not all, will show up for the party.

There's my two cents. If I had more money, I'd hire you as a writing coach as well. :-)

Atlantya said...

Is it a good idea. Yes. I say that only because you'd be the one doing it though, so I know it would be done intelligently. I'm 120 pounds into my weight loss and I read a few other weight loss blogs and when I read them I spend a lot of the time saying "really? who's life is that perky, people?" and more time hating myself for not being that awesome myself (when I'm not posting things like "PLEASE do not say things like "eat ciabatta bread - it's the healthiest bread because it's full of holes!"). I would welcome a subscription newsletter or website from you.

M.M. Sheehan said...

Ya gotta write! Two & a half months, three pages a day, along with finding an income stream – crammed, but do-able. Put off heeding your brother’s advice until June 16th.
But still, why “Car On the Hill”?

Vickie said...

Honestly, my best suggestion is to apply for one job a day. Turn in one application, somewhere, for something, once a day. It doesn't have to be the perfect job. Just start applying and see what happens.

Nan said...

Do you take PayPal? Never mind. If you do this, I'll give you my bank account number.

Unknown said...

I tried to post a comment before and it didn't work. Your brother's suggestion would kill your writing career -- breaking a contract would make it hard to pick up later. Postponing your real dreams until everything is perfect is a bad strategy. Most people have some debt. As long as you can pay the bills it is OK.

It looked like you had a lot of untapped interest in the writing coach/editing. What if you promoted your services more? You have all the insider info that aspiring writers want to know, thanks to your former life as an agent.

The newsletter idea could be an OK supplement if it wouldn't interfere with your "real" writing.

Carrie said...

I would subscribe if the price is annual and not too dear. I love the interactive aspect and to have a group of like-minded women.

I, too, run out of time to read all the weight loss blogs to which I subscribe, but most of them are "Mommy Blogs" and not directed at women my age or at dealing with the depression issue. Having a "newsletter" format would mean I can read on my lunch break.

Lauren said...

I'd happily subscribe! Your prose is addictive and your insights are compelling.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Frances, do it! I would definitely subscribe.

E. Jane said...

I would certainly read your publication, and I'm sure there are many others who would too. But breaking your current book contract would be too damaging. It is your best bet for substantially increasing your income.

Also, are there any other part-time teaching gigs out there--community colleges, etc.? How about getting back into editing again, on a part-time basis. Taking on such a job would allow you to bring in extra income and continue your writing. Don't give up your writing, Frances. Two years is such a long time, and you need to keep your creative edge.

JS said...

I really think your brother is mistaken. Breaking contracts carries such a stigma in the publishing world that I don't think "resuming your writing career" would be much of an option, particularly after a book that didn't do so well.

Something to think about might be the possibility of teaching online writing courses for institutions like University of Phoenix and Empire State and so on.

Another way you might capitalize on your unique set of experiences is to give seminars about how to get an agent and how to get published--there aren't really that many people who have experience as both agent and author to offer.

JS said...

Also in the "emergency income" department--if this doesn't feel like it would be too emotionally draining, and I understand how it could be--there's the possibility of being a paid companion to an elderly person. A lot of quite wealthy elderly folks in NY who are experiencing disability have personal care aides to help them with things like showering and dressing and housework, but nobody to sit around and talk with them, go to the library or bookstore for them or read to them, etc.

Anonymous said...

Frances -- don't listen to your brother. Breaking your contract would not be the best thing to do for all the reasons that were already stated. Did anyone mention you might get more depressed if you break your contract? Your fans have given a load of good advice. You can finish your book and look for jobs on the side. You can do both, because you NEED to.
There are so many free, helpful blogs around -- too many to read! I doubt you'd make money on a blog. That said, if you can make at least enough money to make it worthwhile, go for it. It could be an encouragement.

I don't know you except through your books, but I still have no doubt that you will land on your feet with this!

God's Blessings!

Unknown said...

Ah, crap. I wish I could tell you what comes next, but unlike your brother I have no idea. I do know that last year was a 30% decline in income (there are two of us, both freelance). Thing is, people who don't write don't have a clue what it takes. It isn't a tap you can turn on and off at will--and I'm not talking about "creativity"-- I'm talking about the market. It isn't easy to just find a $ job and then slide right back into publishing a book.

Anonymous said...

I bought 2 of your books, and you didn't even publish my comment yesterday!

Thanks a lot!

I still wish you the best.