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Amy's Blog: 'One Author's Life'

How to Talk to Your Editor

I heard something terrible recently: A top editor admitted to me that he isn't signing up debut authors because they take up too much of his time. Now, before you hate this guy's guts, consider that his job responsibilities have multiplied in the last few years at the same time that thousands of new people want his attention. He can't go to the men's room without someone handing him a manuscript or pitching an idea. During the last twenty years I have been published by Random House, Doubleday, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster, among others, and all of my editors have been hard-working and thoughtful people who truly love books.  Read More 
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Advice for College Students

The following are excerpts from a speech I made to students at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information on Nov. 14, 2013, New Brunswick, New Jersey:
"I am on my third career – newspapers, nonfiction books, and now novels. I’ve adapted. I’ve always been independent and that has worked in my favor. But  Read More 
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On a Plane, Being Misjudged

"You do WHAT?" asked the businessman sitting next to me on a flight to Florida. This was twenty-plus years ago, a short time before I made the transition from journalism to nonfiction book author, and long before I became a novelist. I had endured this fellow flirting relentlessly with me for two hours. He  Read More 
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Inspiration from Sculpture

Writers find inspiration from other art forms. Visiting art museums, attending live theater and musical performances, watching a classic movie - all provide nourishment (and a healthy diversion) for the creative mind. At this point in my new book project I am especially intrigued by sculpture. So far I've written about 24,000 words - about  Read More 

Sequel to DREAMSVILLE Will Continue Storyline in 1960s Florida

The magical word "sequel" was first mentioned by an editor at Simon & Schuster last fall, a mere three weeks after Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society arrived at book stores. This was a good sign because it meant the pre-sales and early sales figures were very strong. I was just starting my book tour, however, and trying to cope with a tragic death in my family. I didn't even want to hear the word "sequel." Read More 
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Miss Dreamsville: An American Novel?

Literary, Historical, Women's, and Southern Fiction: My novel, Miss Dreamsville, has been described as all of the above. I don't mind what it's called as long as people read it, yet looking at how reviewers and readers categorize fiction is intriguing.  Read More 

Are Writers Superstitious?

Who me, superstitious? Just because I sign all of my book contracts on my "good luck" clipboard? I prefer to think of it as a tradition but, yes, it is in fact a superstition. The story behind my special clipboard is this: I signed my first book contract on it, as did the Delany Sisters, and look how that turned out! More than two years on the New York Times bestseller list. You don't want to mess with that kind of karma, so ever since, I sign contracts on it. Not that it's the prettiest clipboard around - it's made of wood, with no metal parts, which, my dad says, means it was probably made during World War Two. It was one of several clipboards my dad had hanging around his home office, and when I was in junior high and for some reason needed one, the humble clipboard with the scuffed edges was assigned to me. A more common superstition among writers is that many (myself included) will not talk about a pending deal, no matter how juicy. My friend Audrey and I are in absolute agreement that we must speak only in hushed voices, if at all, about something great that may or may not happen, lest we jinx it. And then there's my friend Kaya: for good luck, she writes her novels while wearing a pair of wool socks knitted by a librarian. I admit that I am somewhat relieved to hear of other writers' superstitions. Makes my magical clipboard seem a little less peculiar!  Read More 

Advice on Book Signings for Debut Authors

I've done book signings at Native American powwows, and I've done them at venues such as Borders Park Avenue in Manhattan. I've had great book signings and disastrous ones (like the time that a Borders in North Carolina forgot I was coming). Not all book signings are created equal. Much rests on the store (or other venue) that is hosting the event. If the organizers fail to let their customers know, or forget to send out a press release, the author is in a terrible position. Unfortunately, you don't always find out until it's too late, no matter how pro-active you are. You arrive and discover all is not well. In twenty years as an author, I have concluded that the best approach is to be open-minded and keep my expectations in check. Sometimes, events are spectacular; sometimes they're not. My philosophy is to go and make the best of it. I will be gracious regardless of being upstaged by a goat (yes, this happened to me). Sometimes, the book signings that seem the least promising are the ones that turn out the best. About five years ago, for example, I agreed to a book signing in a tiny, historic town in New Jersey on the Delaware Bay. When I arrived, there didn't seem to be a soul in the entire town. Finally, I spotted a volunteer fire house with an actual person walking around outside. I pulled up and asked where I could find the "community center." He smiled (South Jersey people being very friendly) and said, "You're looking at it." I smiled back but my heart sank. I didn't even understand where I was supposed to speak. (On top of the fire truck?) Well, prior to my talk, the volunteer firefighters moved their equipment (one fire truck and one ambulance) outdoors, thereby creating indoor space for my event. They set up rows of chairs, a podium, and a table for my books. I filled every one of those seats, sold about forty hard cover books (not bad for hard cover), and had a great time. To all of you debut authors out there: You will have lousy book signings, and you will have splendid ones. It's all part of the journey. Just keep smiling.  Read More 

A Southern Accent Does Not Mean You're Stupid

Ladies and gentlemen, newsflash from this here rare bird who is just as comfortable living in the South as the North: Having a Southern accent does not mean you're stupid. I don't know why it's necessary for Southerners, and friends of Southerners, to have to explain this all the time, but it's very painful. I lived in South Carolina during my formative years, age six to 12, during the 1960s. I went to college and began my career as a newspaper reporter in Florida, covering alligator festivals and the like, and learning that Florida is almost as "rebby" as South Carolina. A pivotal moment for me, however, was earlier, when I was 12 and my family moved back north from South Carolina. I lost my accent (learned to hide it) by lunchtime on the first day of school.  Read More 

Finding a Balance with Social Media

I took a break from social media last week. There are three occasions when this seems necessary for me: When I'm writing fiction; when I'm taking a day off for no reason at all except to clear my mind (in order to write fiction); and when I'm visiting my elderly parents. I love social  Read More 
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