Sep 13, 2019 • 48M

Episode 176 #FallProductivity

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Entertaining, actionable advice on craft, productivity and creativity for writers and journalists in all genres, with hosts Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell'Antonia and Sarina Bowen.
Episode details

Fresh fall starts or pressing fall deadlines? Here's how to make the most of that new season, sharpened pencils, back-to-school mojo.

Even when a pressing deadline means you’re not starting anything new, fall still manages to feel like a time for fresh starts and renewed productivity—and setting goals for what can get done by the end of the year now, when it still feels like so much is possible. We’re talking planning software, balancing reality with what we think our tomorrow selves might be capable of, and grabbing any momentum the annual back-to-school season offers with both hands.

Episode links and a transcript follow—but first, a preview of the #WritersTopFive that will be dropping into #AmWriting supporter inboxes on Monday, September 16, 2019: Top 5 Mistakes Writer Websites Make. Not joined that club yet? You’ll want to get on that. Support the podcast you love AND get weekly #WriterTopFives with actionable advice you can use for just $7 a month.

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#AmReading (Watching, Listening)

Jess: Holding, Graham Norton

KJ: Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, Laura Vanderkam

Sarina: Take Off Your Pants: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing


Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.

Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

The image in our podcast illustration is by Bernd Schulz on Unsplash.

Transcript (We use an AI service for transcription, and while we do clean it up a bit, some errors are the price of admission here. We hope it’s still helpful.)

KJ:                                00:01                Hey writers, are you whispering to yourself that this might just be your year to make NaNoWriMo happen? Or maybe planning to do it again? Then, do yourself a favor and invest in Author Accelerator's Inside Outline coaching now so that you've got a structure to free you up to use those 30 days in November to write something that really works. It is no fun to "win" NaNoWriMo with 56,000 words and then realize 35,000 of them don't serve your story at all. Trust me, I speak from experience. The Inside Outline really works. Find out more at Is it recording?

Jess:                             00:44                Now it's recording.

KJ:                                00:44                Yay.

Jess:                             00:45                Go ahead.

KJ:                                00:46                This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone like I don't remember what I was supposed to be doing.

Jess:                             00:50                Alright, let's start over.

KJ:                                00:51                Awkward pause. I'm going to rustle some papers. Now one, two, three. Hey, I am KJ Dell'Antonia, and this is #AmWriting. #AmWriting is the podcast about writing all the things, short things, long things, fictional things, nonfictional things, but please not nonfictional. Not, not nonfictional things pretending to be fictional. Well anyway, just don't get that wrong people. Right? We need to clarify. Some things are fiction, some things are nonfiction, short, long. We write them, all except for the ones that you're not supposed to write. Oh, I know the ones where you say they're nonfiction, but they're really fiction. That's bad. Alright. They can be short, they can be long, they can be proposals, they can be pitches, they can be essays, all the things. But most of all, #AmWriting is the podcast about sitting down and getting the work done.

Jess:                             01:54                I'm Jess Lahey and I am the author of the Gift of Failure and a forthcoming book about preventing substance abuse in kids and you can find my writing all over the place, the New York Times and the Washington Post. And actually as this airs, over at a new publication called Air Mail.

Sarina:                          02:11                And I'm Sarina Bowen, the author of 30-ish contemporary romance novels. You can find me at

KJ:                                02:19                I am KJ Dell'Antonia, author of How to Be a Happier Parent, and of the novel The Chicken Sisters, which will be available next summer. I'm also the former lead editor and writer for the Motherlode blog at the New York Times, where I still write occasionally, and you can find my work (a little bit of it) at The New Yorker.

Jess:                             02:36                That's funny and still really cool. I still can't get over it, it's just so cool.

KJ:                                02:42                Just as a shout out to everyone who's ever written once for something. There are no gatekeepers of what you say you do. You can say, "You can find my work in the New York Times if you have written for the New York Times online, that counts.

KJ:                                03:02                There are not rules, there is no one checking, and if you don't grab it and take hold of it somebody will. Other people are, so take it and rock it people.

Jess:                             03:13                The nice thing is when something like that's on your SIG file, or your bio, or your resume, or your CV, no one can ever take it away from you. So what are we talking about today?

KJ:                                03:28                Today's topic is fresh fall starts, productivity, the real new year, September, all the school supplies.

Jess:                             03:38                Okay. Well, you and Sarina get to take the lead today because frankly, fall stinks, fall is horrible. Fall is my nemesis this year because my book deadline is October 10th. So every single time someone mentions fall, I want to just go into a hole and disappear. So fall is bad this year.

KJ:                                04:04                You don't have a sense like you've got some renewed energy? You know, your house is empty?

Jess:                             04:12                No, no. I feel like my deadline's getting here really fast.

Sarina:                          04:18                Somebody needs a nap and a hug because fall is awesome.

Jess:                             04:23                No, I know it is. I love fall. I mean, I live in New England, I live in the epicenter of beautiful fallness. But as I was mentioning earlier, for our listeners that have been listening for a while, we have these wonderful calendars that we love to keep and we have this sticker system and I love my stickers. This month they came from Robbie Bear and Matthew Swanson, some authors that I love. I got some beautiful stickers from them and I have at the top of my calendar the words, 'the final stretch' and on every single day I have days left to my deadline and today (or the day we are recording) I have 38 days left until my deadline. And so I'm in crazy countdown mode, and tomorrow I leave for a road trip for two days. So yeah, you people can be excited about fall all you want, but I'm just gonna live in my state of dread and oppression. I will say as a progress report, I did hand in the first five chapters of my book to my editor this past weekend and I was so deliriously happy I thought I could just do cartwheels. It was pretty great. So that was a big milestone for me, so I'm feeling really good.

Sarina:                          05:35                Awesome.

KJ:                                05:35                We were really excited.

Jess:                             05:36                Yeah, I know, I know. Alright, you people talk about your fresh fall starts and I'm going to sit here and mope.

KJ:                                05:42                Well I handed in my big revision, which was due theoretically September 1st, but I took a look at the calendar and went, 'Okay, I'll just ask my editor', she probably doesn't really want this on Sunday of Labor Day weekend and indeed she did not.

Speaker 1:                    05:58                So I had a couple extra days which I used. I didn't work that much over Labor Day, but I definitely worked some. Well, it was due Tuesday. So Monday, end of day, I waved bye-bye to my revisions. And my editor reports (I love this) that she read it all in one sitting!

Jess:                             06:18                Oh that's fantastic.

KJ:                                06:20                So she said she loves it and it's all good and it's all exciting. I will have small revisions at some point during this month, but the real priority for me this month is going back to my next project. Code name - Project Guru. So off I go.

Jess:                             06:37                It has a code name, I love that.

KJ:                                06:39                It does, all my projects have code names. Of course, my next novel is called The Chicken Sisters and the code name was chicken. They might not be super secrety.

Jess:                             06:51                The code is easy to break is what you're saying?

KJ:                                06:53                I think so. Sarina, what's your priority this fall?

Sarina:                          06:57                Well, I'm neck deep in deadlines as well, but I still feel that fall is absolutely a turning point in publishing for so many reasons. And it's not just us and our love of the discount pen at Staples and the new markers. Really, publishing keeps a calendar that supports this whole 'Fall is glorious'. But for example, my European publishers have been nowhere to be found all summer. So now I'm starting to see new covers and to hear new publication dates and there's just more happening.

KJ:                                07:35                Yeah, there is no point in submitting anything to anyone in August, for the most part. I think my agent, when we were submitting my How to Be a Happier Parent, I feel like we actually targeted kind of the middle of August on the theory that people would be coming back and everyone else was going to submit in September. And I could be wrong, we might've just talked about that. I don't remember the details, but basically - nobody does anything in August. And what they do is kind of like trying to get ahead cause they know September's gonna be crazy.

Sarina:                          08:09                Right. And from the writer's perspective, this is really the last push before the holidays. So you get this time when everybody's at their desk, and you can get your questions answered, and you can also take a peek back at your goals for the current year from a moment where it's not over yet.

KJ:                                08:34                Yeah, you have some time to grab those goals, and see if their make-able, or revise them into something make-able, or see what you could do towards them so that next year you don't feel quite so like I didn't do that. I'm all good. There is data (and I'm just going to get it wrong) that I think either October or March is the most productive month of the year because there's nothing in either of those months that gets in our way.

Jess:                             09:08                That makes sense. One of the interesting things about coming back from the summer for me, is I submitted a couple of things over the summer with the understanding that the people were on hiatus. One was for a television show, actually. It was a pitch I sent for a television show, knowing full well that those producers were not going to be back until after the Labor Day weekend. But I put it in their boxes and said, 'Here it is, I know you're not back to work yet, but it'll just be waiting for you when you get back. So there's been this lull and now all of a sudden I'm also like, 'Oh wait a second. At any time I could get some emails about these things I sent in over the summer. It's kind of exciting.

KJ:                                09:46                Well, it's kind of an interesting question - whether we should or shouldn't do that. Because on the one hand, the thing that's been sitting in your inbox since August 20th is less appealing than the thing that drops into your inbox on September 5th, maybe. Or maybe you feel like you need to get to it, I don't know.

Jess:                             10:06                My thinking on this was there was some momentum behind my getting the ideas in and I didn't want it to get lost in the hustle. I wasn't sure exactly what time this person was going to be going back to pitch meetings and stuff, so I didn't want my ideas to not be there when those happened. And so for me, we had a little jocular email back and forth going and I wanted to keep the momentum of that, rather than let it get stale. That was my thinking anyway. Who knows? We never know how this is all gonna work.

KJ:                                10:40                Sarina, do you lose your voice artists, and your cover art designers, and your editors and stuff like that in August? The same way that publishing goes on hiatus?

Sarina:                          10:52                No, I would say that the digital crazy people like me work 24/7 without any predictable breaks, honestly. It's really only the traditional world that seems to disappear. Like magazines are still having their summer Fridays in August, that part of it is all predictable. But no, the people who hustle for themselves do not seem to be as seasonal.

KJ:                                11:22                Right. Well, it would make sense not to. I mean, if other people were going to take a break in August, you'd be good to be the person who wasn't.

Sarina:                          11:31                Yeah. The other thing about what I do specifically is that there are some big summer events and some elbow rubbing and deal making gets done surrounding those things. So I'm more likely to meet vendors and people who can affect my sales platform in the summertime. But, that's just a weirdness of the way my little corner of the world works.

KJ:                                11:59                Right. Well, I feel like some of this is also, just like you were saying, it's mental. I think we're all conditioned - we're back to school whether you have kids or not, and certainly whether you go back to school or not. It feels like a good time for hunkering down, and learning new things, and putting words on the page. It feels like there's a good block here. We go from September 1st to November 20th or something before your personal life starts, which is kind of sad. It just feels like I've got lots of time without surprise obligations.

Sarina:                          12:51                Well, those of us with children, it's really true. I mean, the whole shape of my day changes once everybody goes back to school.

KJ:                                12:59                Yeah. And Jess gets out of that because she's got one child left at home and he is pretty darn independent. I have (well I had) four, one's in Spain now. But actually he's perhaps more demanding in Spain than he was while he was here because he's kind of lonely.

Jess:                             13:34                Alright, so when you talk about fresh fall starts, what exactly are you thinking? Do you guys do more goal setting when you go into the fall? We were just talking about this in our home, actually. Because we do goal setting sort of once a season and so we were just actually planning our family dinner because my oldest son's college is just about to start and right now is a really good time for us to sort of talk about what we all have in mind for the next three months and we like to talk about things we'd like to achieve, that sort of stuff. Do you do the same thing with your writing going into this new season?

Sarina:                          14:08                Yeah, I definitely do. And honestly, I've been trying to find a better way. I spent part of the weekend looking at project management tools on the web, which of course sounds like a giant time sink and it was, but I am having trouble planning longterm because there are so many interconnected deadlines with the way that I produce material and I'm trying to find a tool to help me overcome this.

KJ:                                14:39                Like an Asana like thing, only just for you.

Sarina:                          14:41                Yeah, kind of like that. I'm always having to count backwards. So if I look at next year and I'm like, you know, May is a good month to publish. Because all the primaries are over and we haven't hit the summer doldrums yet. So I definitely want to have a book coming out in May. And then this is where it gets fun. So six weeks before I want that book to come out, I have to hand it off to an editor. So, I have to hire that person and I have to hire that person at least six weeks before that moment. So then I'm like, okay, six and six is 12. So all the math begins. And then I have to hand it to audio narrators, edited, four weeks before it comes out, but I have to hire those audio narrators 60 days before that. So it's all these interconnected deadlines that I'm having trouble tracking in my life. And that's a big challenge going forward.

KJ:                                15:37                Right. And I am definitely re-looking at deadlines and goals. And some of that is the sort of renewed fall energy and some of it is renewed fall time. So I also have a book coming out in May or June. I don't actually know the exact date yet, but I'm going to guess like the very first week of June. Plus my paperback is gonna come out.

Jess:                             16:01                That's right, I totally forgot about paperback.

KJ:                                16:04                Right. So I was just looking at my website, and my follow KJ links, and my Twitter, and the headers on everything. And thinking, well, I'm gonna have to change those. They should reflect the new book, but there's also the paperback and they're pretty different readership, anyway. So yeah, it's another one of those things. I'm not going to be able to look at that in May and go, 'Oh, I think I'll just fix all of it.' So yeah, I was doing some counting backwards, too. So some of it is what do I want to have done when, counting backwards. And some of it is what do I want to achieve now? And sort of setting a goal to go forward. Because my goal is to have my new project fully drafted by the end of October.

Sarina:                          16:55                That is, that is a big goal. Wow.

Jess:                             16:57                How are you doing on that?

KJ:                                16:58                Well, it's about half drafted, honestly. So it's a highly doable, I don't plan to have it polished. But I'd actually kinda of like to have it agent worthy by then, but I don't know. Yeah, I can do it.

Jess:                             17:19                You can do it. You can do it.

Sarina:                          17:28                And then when you have a project at a publishing house, that becomes a little bit of a whack-a-mole game because one of these days someone is going to turn up with copy edits for you.

Jess:                             17:39                That's the thing about this fall that I was thinking about. So my editor happens to be really fast. In fact, so much so that when my agent and I were talking about deadlines for the book, I said, 'Look, every six months I do a presentation at Canyon Ranch and so I'll be there actually for a whole week starting the day after my book deadline. And originally we had put a cushion in between my book deadline and going off to Canyon Ranch. And our agent said, 'You know, Gail is so fast with edits that you may wanna literally make it the next day so there's no possibility you have edits back from her so you can actually enjoy that week. But I'm figuring that after the deadline, pretty much right away, I'm going to start getting edits. I'm protecting that week and I also know starting the day after what next thing I want to start writing. So I will go off to Canyon Ranch having some pleasure writing in mind. So I may not do it, I might write, I don't know, we'll see. But I'm definitely taking lots of books because, oh my gosh, I have a stack of books that I haven't been able to read because I've been working so much., So I'm excited for that. But edit, edit, edit. The other thing that was kind of cool is I realized when I sent those chapters off to my editor that suddenly now she's going to have thoughts about possible cover designs even though the pub date is still way away, but obviously all of a sudden I'm like, 'Oh wait, I get to start thinking about some of the really fun parts of this process, which is going to be really fun.'

KJ:                                19:22                That is very nice.

Jess:                             19:23                I can't even imagine what the cover is going to look like for this book. It's kind of exciting to think about, though. Oh, speaking of covers Sarina, you sent us some covers the other day and it was interesting to me just to see in different countries how differently people think about your work. It's always been interesting to me because for example, your German covers are absolutely gorgeous for your Ivy Years books. And then for another series they go in a whole other direction. Then you look at a whole other country and you realize, well, they have a very different sort of aesthetic about your books. It's fascinating to me to see your covers in different countries. And mine too. I mean, some of mine make no sense. My Korean cover has deer all over it. I don't know what that's about, but apparently it appeals to some aesthetic. It's very pretty, I just don't know what it has to do with failure, but I'm happy it's pretty. But I don't know what it's appealing to on some sort of cultural level.

Sarina:                          20:19                Right. Well first of all, there is nothing more fun than looking at foreign cover art, because the work is already done, right? You wrote that book like three years ago and now you just get to see somebody else interpret it. The German romance market has no bare chests at all, which means all their cover art is super classy and really cool. So, yeah, that's a really good time.

Jess:                             20:51                So you're saying, just as an aesthetic, no romance covers in Germany do that? So the whole Fabio on the cover just isn't a thing they do?

Sarina:                          21:03                Well, not currently. I mean, there could be some past moment in German romance that look different. But it's lots of flowers and pastels. So in this country I would never publish a romance that didn't have some human element on it. Like even if it was a hand, or the corner of a smile, or something. To me, you need a person somewhere represented on there or people are not going to know what that book is about. But in Germany they don't have that restraint. And so it's really hard for me to look at German cover art and make sense of it because I just have to trust that they know what they're doing. And that's how I ended up with flowers all over the Ivy Years. And I thought, well where's the Ivy? And it turns out not to matter because they did amazing things with those covers. And I'm still seeing them on Instagram, a year and a half later.

Jess:                             21:59                That's the thing that also has been so cool about seeing what romance authors and readers do with Instagram and covers. I had no idea. It's this whole culture of set design to honor books that you love or series that you love. It's amazing to me what shows up on your Instagram feed from readers and other authors.

Sarina:                          22:24                It's pretty cool.

Jess:                             22:25                Yeah, I kind of wish that was happening in nonfiction and literary fiction, it would be so cool. Although I will say, some people have done some very cool things with Gift of Failure. But never to the level that I see with the romance.

KJ:                                22:41                It's not quite the same thing. Let us know when someone tattoos a line from it on them. It could happen, it totally could. I mean, it actually kind of makes sense.

Jess:                             22:57                What's really cute is I get videos from people of their kids doing things and being proud of themselves. I get those all the time. I love them so much.

KJ:                                23:10                My stickers for fall look like little typewriters because you gave them to me, Sarina. I've been looking forward to using them. And then the day I made my September chart and I was all ready to go and I was like, 'Wait, where are my typewriter stickers? And there ensued a flurry of wild searching.

Jess:                             23:48                Sarina, when is your next release date? Are you gearing up for any release dates?

Sarina:                          23:53                October 29, I believe.

Jess:                             23:56                It's so crazy. It happens so fast that, you know, I was realizing when you introduced yourself as the author of over 30 novels or whatever, you know just you were on recently and talking about two dozen. So it just goes fast, it's so impressive, it's so amazing.

Sarina:                          24:21                I don't keep track all that carefully. Do you know the Romance Writers of America keep track of this stuff? They will have a milestone for you. Like if I submit that that was my 30th book or whatever, they'll send me a little pin.

Jess:                             24:52                Does anyone have any actual tips? Can we give some actual practical tips? Anyone have any actual, wonderful tips aside from starting a new page on the calendar, which is always exciting, and doing all the picking of the stickers, and picking a new page. But do you guys have any sort of ideas for ways to think about fall as a fresh new start to give yourself a break? Maybe if the last thing you submitted didn't go very well, how you wrap your brains around a fresh start.

Sarina:                          25:19                I really like to look at this as the last lap and so it's fun to look back at my 2019 goals and also start to pencil in the 2020 goals because it's not so scary to do that right now. So, while I'm trying to finish up this year on a strong note, I have definitely started in the margins, just doodling the goals for next year. Because it's not here yet and I feel like I have room in my brain to think about that from a place of less pressure. So I start every morning with my planner open to look at what I'm doing for the day before I look in that dreadful email inbox to see what might be there for me and I just try to get a grip on the new day before it takes over.

KJ:                                26:11                And I'm looking at every day and finding the block for words. Which also kind of looks like assigning blocks. So for various reasons, I brilliantly looked at this the first week with people back at school and decided to put a lot of appointments in it. Like the people coming to pick up the furniture that's getting donated to Habitat for Humanity and the this and the that. And I very stupidly broke up my own days in ways that were a little hard to manage. On Friday, I try to look at the week ahead, mark off the blocks that I have sucked away for other things, and also make a mental note to myself to stop doing that. And then make sure that the days have a space that is dedicated to doing the thing that I most want to do. And then a space that is dedicated to doing the things that I have to do. And sort of trying to make those realistic, so that I don't start this great time of year feeling like I need to beat myself up because, as we all agreed, this is not the week for me to make 1200 words a day. Maybe next week, but not this week. This week, I kept the writing goals a little smaller cause I've got a couple of days where I really had just smashed myself down into teeny, tiny little pockets. So I think looking at the time you have and making choices about how you're going to use it instead of going, 'Oh, it's one, this is my two hours, what am I going to do?' is really key.

Jess:                             27:59                Well, this might be a good time to mention that all of a sudden the three of us - but mostly you - have been working on a new project. There is a new time allocation thing that is coming into play for the three of us. KJ, would you like to talk about our new project?

KJ:                                28:16                Oh yeah. I'm so excited about this. So, members of our Facebook group already know that we've launched the #AmWriting weekly shownotes email and the #AmWriting supporters, top writers, and top five emails.

Jess:                             28:35                What do you mean by that?

KJ:                                28:36                I'm really excited about this, so I'm going to lay it out. So you can go to and you can sign up to just every week when we drop a new episode, you can get the show notes, you can get the transcript, you can get the audio of the episode in your inbox. So every time we have a new episode, you'll know what it is, you'll know what it's about, it's right there if you want to play it from there. Now that doesn't change anything in terms of us popping up in iTunes, or Outcast, or Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. We are still there. But this way, you can get a little notification, you can get the links, you can get any images. For example, last week we did our burn chart episode. So the show notes had pictures. And those pictures were in the show notes email.

Jess:                             29:37                It's also been super fun to watch people's reaction to getting that stuff, too.

KJ:                                29:46                So the other thing that we have done is we know that a ton of listeners want to support the podcast. And if you go to and poke around a little, you'll find a lovely video of just Jess and I talking about how much we have invested in the podcast so far. And we've mentioned it a couple of times.

Jess:                             30:10                Do you want to say the number no matter how painful?

KJ:                                30:14                It's so painful. So before we got our sponsor, it didn't feel like it was this much at the time, but somehow or another we managed to spend $10,000 between us.

Jess:                             30:26                That doesn't even count buying microphones, or our time, and all that stuff. That's just what we've spent on our producer.

KJ:                                30:38                Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. People have mentioned that they would love to support the podcast financially, but we didn't want to just do that. We didn't want to be like, 'Okay, well fine, send us, send us a check or however you want to do it. We wanted to give something to people that want to support the podcast. So Sarina and I sat down and came up with the idea of the Writers Top Five. So what we're doing is every week we are sending out (to our supporters) a top five. So, for example, right now you can find top five questions you should ask your novel's main character. You can find top five reasons you should have a burn chart. They come out on Monday. So next Monday is going to be top five steps to burn chart success. So that's the how to, and that's going to be supporter only and I don't know what comes next, but I know we've got top five things you can do on Good Reads coming up, top five things you need for your Instagram tool kit, top five ways to prep for NaNoWriMo, all kinds of stuff. Sarina, do you remember some good ones?

Sarina:                          31:54                Well they're all super prescriptive, which was really important to me. Because when I listen to the amazing interviews you guys do, I'm always taken somewhere on a writer's journey that's not my journey, which is always really illustrative. And I love to sit back and listen to the amazing guests that you find to take me somewhere where I'm not going myself. So that's why the top five things are meant to be things that many (if not all) of our listeners can put into action immediately. So it's the 'This is for you to act on right now.' And that's what we're going to deliver.

Jess:                             32:33                The stuff I've been working on lately has been (I have a couple in progress) on top five organizational strategies before you ever start researching that nonfiction book or top five tips for keeping your research organized while you're working on the project. A lot of sort of mistakes I've made and have come up with solutions that work for me. I'm in this position right now of having already made the mistakes and fixing them on this second book and that's been really fun to see. I'm like, 'Oh, that's a place at which I would have lost this altogether if I hadn't come up with a way to fix it.' this time around. So yeah, mine have all been very practical around organization and nonfiction writing.

KJ:                                33:19                And most of them are both fun and actionable. But we will be letting Jess do top five things you can do to prep for taxes.

Jess:                             33:27                Actually now that we have Sarina on board all the time, Sarina's got perspectives on self-publishing and we had talked at one point about top five things to do if you're going to take on a pseudonym, top five things to do before you hit publish on that self-published novel, that kind of thing.

KJ:                                33:48                So we could basically riff all day on top fives and basically we will. So we're excited. So the thing to do, if you want to either get the weekly show notes email or sign up to support us is to go to and this is all via the people at Sub Stack. So if you happen to remember the listen the episode with Lyz Lenz about how she supports herself on Sub Stack, we're now using Sub Stack both to produce the podcast, to send out our show notes, and to create our top fives. And starting in November, we're gonna do some supporter only bonus audio episodes of some kind. And the cool thing that Sub Stack has brought off that I haven't found anywhere else, is that if you're a supporter and we start doing the audio thing, we send you one email, you click that link, that link opens your podcast app no matter what it is. And I have tried this on Outcast (which is not one of the most popular podcast apps by any means) and it just popped up and there I was. I was subscribed to this supporter only podcast and then it just fed. I never had to do anything else. Whereas there are some other platforms where every time one of the people that I love puts out a supporter only audio episode, I can only listen to it on my phone, which is frustrating because where we live it's great for about the first half mile. So if you want to support the podcast, you can sign up to support us for $7 a month or $80 a year. And you can also always get the show notes, the transcript, the links for free like they've always been. And the audio of the #AmWriting podcast every week. Gonna stay free, we started it this way, we're keeping it this way. We love doing it, but we would also love to have anybody's support that's game to join the team.

Jess:                             35:51                Do we want to talk about what we've been reading?

KJ:                                35:57                What I have been reading is relevant to our topic. Can I start? Cause I haven't talked enough. I decided to reread Laura Vanderkam's Off the Clock. Laura's writing (and Laura was a guest on the podcast at some point and I'll look that up and pop it into the show notes) about time (she would say time management, but it's really about time) has changed my life in many ways and Off the Clock is one of my favorites and I decided to reread it. And as a result of sitting down and rereading Off the Clock, I did a couple of things. I started blocking off time to make sure that I was spending it with friends because one of my favorite quotes from Laura is "People are a good use of time." I say that to myself all the time. People are the best use of time. When I talked earlier about making sure that I plan the way that I'm gonna use my blocks of time, instead of just getting to them and figuring out what I want to do. That is also down to Laura and as I read through, there are just all kinds of moments when I'm reminded that the way that I talk to myself about my time and the way that I choose to use my time is going to affect how I feel at the end of the day so much that...anyway, it's a great book. It's always a good read and highly, highly recommended.

Jess:                             37:29                She's always a good reread, too, cause I get different things depending on where I am in my headspace every time I reread her stuff. For me lately, the equivalent of that is every single morning, no matter how stressed I feel about this deadline, I wake up and I try to remind myself that, 'Oh my gosh, I cannot believe I get to do this for my work.' I just feel so lucky. And so that helps me sort of make the most of what I get to do for my, for a living. It's really good. So Sarina, what have you been reading?

Sarina:                          37:57                The only thing I've been reading right now is a book called Take Off Your Pants. And that refers to being a pantser versus being a plotter in fiction.

Jess:                             38:11                Alright. You're going to have to do a recap. I know we talked about at one time on another episode, but we definitely need to know more about that.

Sarina:                          38:17                Okay. Plotting versus seat of the pants. And her title Take Off Your Pants is tongue in cheek to turn people into plotters. So the book is by Libby Hawker and she approaches plotting a book before you write it from a character perspective, instead of exactly like the beats or the three act, five act structure that the plot gurus talk about. And I just liked her approach a lot because it feels like something that can apply to what I do a little better. Often when I read books about how to plot a novel, they are all assuming that I'm writing some kind of epic Star Wars thing with life and death.

KJ:                                39:08                They do tend to have a really masculine gestalt and I don't mean that like Star star Wars as anything but for men. The whole sort of spreadsheet plotting and hero's journey plotting tends to lean towards the action driven story.

Sarina:                          39:37                Yes. Like if you're trying to write a sweeping epic fantasy, those books are usually more applicable. And I've found that this character based plot structure that she starts with speaks to me in a way that some other books have not.

Jess:                             39:55                Does this mean you're going to change? Are you going from being a pantser to a plotter?

KJ:                                40:00                Oh, Serena is so not a pantser.

Sarina:                          40:15                And that's the thing, I used to think of myself as a plotter until I worked with some people who really plot in a serious way. And then I started to see all of this squishiness in my approach. And not that it's terrible, it's just that it's lovely when you can learn the vocabulary for the things that you're doing, because it gives you a way to think about them a little more deeply. And so that's what I'm trying to do.

KJ:                                40:42                I like overlaying some of that on top of what I have already. So when I did the revision of The Chicken Sisters, I put a beat sheet over it. I had never done a beat sheet for it. Which is the Save the Cat, writes a novel thing. I have done the Inside Outline, which is very similar and I redid my Inside Outline and I created a beat sheet, which I had never done and that really helped me because I was trying to trim. And when you have the beat sheet you are forced to recognize what the priorities are and sort of give those more space. So I like putting the stuff over what I've already written as well as using it to write new stuff.

Sarina:                          41:30                Yeah. That tends to just stress me out.

Jess:                             41:32                I held this back from you. I was going to email you about it and I decided to hold it for the podcast because I thought you might think it's delightful. So this was on chirp and is like audio books on sale. So I get an email once a week or so, maybe more often than that, saying what's on sale for audio books. And so this one sounded cute and I downloaded it and the voice sounded really familiar of the narrator. I didn't know anything about this book, I decided to just go blind. And the book is called Holding. And I don't even remember why I picked it, which is why I thought it would be kind of fun to just go into a blind. Turns out this novel is written by Graham Norton. Graham Norton is very famous in the UK for the Graham Norton Show, which is delightful. But I had no idea he ever wrote a book and it turns out he's written a bunch of them. So this was completely new to me and it is something you would really like, KJ. It is a little village oriented mystery with really quirky Irish characters, and what Graham Norton does really well is a really funny depictions of very quaint Irish village characters. Everyone has their own little backstory and their own little quirks. And yes, there is the overlay of a mystery, but more than anything, it's sort of that thing you love - that small village. You're going to love it. And actually, I was listening to some of it just to relax before I went to bed and I giggled a whole bunch of times and Tim was like, 'Okay, you gotta listen to something else.' Who wants to do our bookstore?

KJ:                                44:05                You do the bookstore.

Jess:                             44:08                I get to do the bookstore! Well this bookstore was a scene of an interesting crime for me. So we are going to shout out a bookstore that all three of us really love called Bare Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont. I went to this bookstore the day that the Gift of Failure came out and it's what put the nail in the coffin of impressing my son because they didn't have my book, and we hadn't been able to find it a couple of other places, and my son said to me, 'Are you sure that this book comes out today?' And it turns out that there had been a supply issue and blah, blah blah, and it was still in some boxes and dah, dah, dah. But Bare Pond Books is this great bookstore in Montpelier. It's one of those really classic, you know, squeaky wood floor bookstores that's well curated, really approachable. It's right at the main intersection in Montpelier, really easy to find. And I believe you sent me a picture of my book in the window there with your kids waving from outside the window. I think we are done for the day cause we ran long.

KJ:                                45:57                Before we sign off. I just want to remind everybody that if you'd like to support the podcast, you can go to and another way to support us (and getting our email is great, we would love to send you the email with the show notes and the transcript cause we're making it, it'd be great if people make use of it) by leaving us a review on iTunes, or Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And can review it or just by telling one friend that this is a podcast that they would love.

KJ:                                46:29                That's a great idea.

Jess:                             46:30                And you also mentioned that the people in our #AmWriting Facebook group are some of the first people to find out about our Sub Stack project. And so if you're interested in joining that group on Facebook, please do, because we talk about topics we might want to come up with on the podcast, we talk about things that are happening in our lives, and it's just a really great place for writers to support each other and there are no meanies there because we can filter the comments. So thank you so much everyone for listening and again, until next week, keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game.

Jess:                             47:11                This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid.