Episode 214 Learning to Be #GenreFlexible with Catherine Newman

Episode 214 Learning to Be #GenreFlexible with Catherine Newman

Why stick to any one genre? Our guest this week is Catherine Newman: memoirist, middle grade novelist, etiquette columnist and now the author of How to Be a Person: 65 Highly Useful, Super-Important Things to Learn Before You’re Grown-Up. While she’s at it, she writes a cooking blog, co-authored a book on crafts for kids and edits ChopChop, a kids cooking magazine. And she pens frequent funny essays for everything from O to the New York Times to the Cup of Jo website. In other words, she’s putting a pastiche of writing together and making it work with an insouciant disregard for any and all advice about self-branding or owning an niche or sticking to one topic or identity.

In fact, I’d argue that “insouciant disregard” might just BE her brand.

This episode also includes the immortal words “I’ve never had to kill anything during the podcast before,” uttered by Jess—so that’s a reason to listen right there. But there are plenty of others—this is a real nitty gritty episode on building a career and getting things done.


KJ: Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Recipes for a Beautiful Life by Rebecca Barry

Jess: Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Missing You by Harlan Coben

Catherine: Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia

Thanks to everyone who supports the podcast financially. To join that team, click the button below:

Upgrade to Supporter

But it’s all good. The pod is free as it always has and always will be. This shownotes email is free, too, so please—forward it to a friend, and if you haven’t already, join our email list and be on top of it every time there’s a new episode.

Get New Episode Emails

Find more about Jess hereSarina here and about KJ here.

KJ Dell'Antonia 0:00

Hey writers KJ here. Usually I write down what I'm going to tell you in our pre episode, promotional blurb, whatever you want to call this, and I will say right away that of course we are, as always sponsored by our friends at Author Accelerator, who we love. This week, instead of writing down some great reasons why we love them I just wanted to take a minute to read to you from the email that I got from Jenny Nash this week. This is her weekly email that goes out to anyone who's on the Author Accelerator list, or read every single one of those and I cannot say that about almost any other weekly email I get, there a couple. Anyway, Jenny writes, "I was speaking with a writer this week who could see the light at the end of the tunnel on her novel. She was almost done and she was terrified. She could feel herself panicking and turning to other shiny new ideas. Anything that wasn't this almost done idea. Being done would mean that her work could be rejected. Being done would mean that her work could be judged. Being done would mean that her limitations and weaknesses as a writer would be on display for everyone to see. Being done would mean that whatever she had on the page was as good as she was able to do. Even if it wasn't anywhere close to the perfect story in her mind. Being done would mean that she would be exposed." I could really, really relate to that. And I think I'm not the only one. A lot of us start to let things go the minute we get anywhere close to the finish line, because the finish line is scary. And if that's the place where you are maybe now is the moment when you want to reach out and see about working with a writing coach. You might not need much a few weeks, a little bit of a push, a little bit of help, just to take that thing that you're working on, and get it through to not the almost best you can do (which you know allows a lot of room for imagining other things) but the actual best you could do and then make a real decision about what it is you'd like to do with it. If you're game for that, you should head over to authoraccelerator.com and click your way through to all the great places because we love them and there's also a lot of other good stuff there. While I'm here I also want to say that this episode includes a couple of small swear words here and there and also some weird commentary on vaginas. Because this is one of our dearest friends we're interviewing this week and we got a little bit weird. So letting you know that so if you have tiny ears around that you are concerned about? Honestly, it's no big on this one. I don't think that it will bother you, but I wanted to give you a heads up. Alright. Enjoy it. This is a great episode. Is it recording?

Jess Lahey 2:51

Now it's recording.

KJ Dell'Antonia 2:53

This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone trying to remember what I'm supposed to be doing.

Jess Lahey 2:57

Alright, let's start over.

KJ Dell'Antonia 2:58

Awkward pause. I'm gonna rustle some papers. Okay, now one, two, three.

Hey, I'm KJ Dell'Antonia. And this is #AmWriting. The podcast about writing all things, from fiction, to nonfiction, pitches, proposals, emails, essays. This is the podcast about sitting down and getting your writing work done.

Jess Lahey 3:27

I'm Jess Lahey, I'm the author of The Gift of Failure and the forthcoming book The Addiction Inoculation, Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence, who the subtitles are always so tricky, and you can find my work on the old interwebs at The Atlantic and the New York Times and The Washington Post and lots of other places.

KJ Dell'Antonia 3:58

I am KJ Dell'Antonia, the author of the novel The Chicken Sisters coming out on July 1 of this year, which is 2020. For those of you listening in the future, when I hope things are not what they are now, but that is not what we are going to talk about today. We have a guest, our guest is Catherine Newman, who we've actually been trying to record with Catherine since like since like our 10th episode. But wait, I want to tell you about Catherine, she is a memoirist, a middle grade novelist, and etiquette columnist and now the author of How to Be a Person: 66 Highly Useful, Super Important Things to Learn Before You're Grown Up.

Jess Lahey 4:57

It's actually 65, but I think that we should invent a 66 while we're here.

KJ Dell'Antonia 5:22

Okay, no, I wasn't done. I wasn't done - because while she's at it, Catherine writes a cooking blog, she co-authored a book on crafts for kids, and she edits Chop Chop, a kid's cooking magazine, which I didn't even know till I just recently read her bio because I never read the bios of my friends because I'm supposed to know all this stuff, but I didn't. And she pens frequent funny essays for everything from O to The New York Times to The Cup of Joe website. In other words, she's putting a pastiche of writing together and making it work with an insouciance disregard for any and all advice about self branding, or owning a niche, or sticking to one topic or an identity, and in fact, I would argue that insouciance disregard might just be Catherine Newman's brand.

Catherine Newman 6:10

Oh, my God, that's it. I just feel like that's the mic drop. I'm so happy. I also feel like you just fully explained all the problems I have. It's my insouciance disregard.

Well, I loved your intro. My intro really would have been you know, this is Catherine Newman for me is the writer that, not only a person I adore and know personally, but as a writer she's the one who always figures out the new way to say the thing I have been feeling and yet felt so cliched that I never wrote it down. She always has some new amazing way to state it and then I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, how has no one ever said it that way before?' and it's so true and perfect and beautiful. And you know, for a lot of writers that write about parenting and this whole racket that we call life, often if they have a favorite piece, I often will say let me guess was it by Catherine Newman because her pieces just rank as people's favorites.

Jess Lahey 8:00

We love your stuff. But you guys, you and KJ have a much longer relationship than you and I do, Catherine. So KJ, tell them where you guys met.

KJ Dell'Antonia 8:09

I don't know where we met. I know that Catherine wrote for me at Motherlode but it must have been Wonder Time. The late great that says that it's not the greatest like the more I say the name now that it's gone, the dumber it sounds, but it really was. Yeah, okay. Soft sigh of regret. And while we're having soft sighs of regret for demises of magazines, I hear Family Circle just tanked. I mean, I know that was like in the fall, but...

Catherine Newman 8:49

I know I always feel like I'm there on that tiny little island of sinking magazines.

Jess Lahey 8:57

I'm just about to send out an email today saying Hi, want me to write anything? Anything you got - I'll write that thing.

KJ Dell'Antonia 9:40

Great. Okay, so here we are, finally, at last.

So okay. 65 (not 66) Highly Useful, Super Important Things to Learn Before You're Grown Up. Why that after a resume that includes two parenting memoirs, one crafting book, and one middle grade novel that was my middle grader at the time absolute total favorite, he even reviewed it for Parenting magazine.

Yeah, he still looks back on that with fondness because he has a hard time finding books that he likes. Anyway. And so from there you thought I know, the best thing and the easiest thing for me to market next would clearly be a book of useful things to learn before you're grown up. I don't think that's really how you did it.

Catherine Newman 10:37

Yeah, no, no, I know. Isn't that crazy? Really, the dirty truth is that I pitched it as a much worse book. I wanted a book, I went to the library to look for a book, I don't know if you ever end up writing this way where it's like, oh, this thing doesn't exist that I assumed existed. But I went to the library to get a book for Bertie, because I wanted her to do more helpful stuff in the house, but she didn't know how to do it. And she didn't want to be taught how to do it by anybody. So this is, second child has been wanting to do it by herself since she was two. And it's really hard with a person like that, who doesn't want to be shown how to do something and then you ask them like, 'Hey, can you clean the bathroom?' And she's like, 'I don't know how to do that.' But then if you try to show her she's pissed. So for Bertie it worked, so I went to the library to get I assumed like DK had made one of those like photo illustrated guides to chores, you know...

KJ Dell'Antonia 11:52

I might need that, there are things I don't really know how to do. Truth.

Catherine Newman 11:57

So I went to get that book from the library, like I walked in confidently, talked to the librarian and they were like, 'Yeah, we don't have a book like that.' So I was working with Story at the time (the publisher)and who I love and my editor there is an old person from Family Fun who I used to write all this fun stuff with.

KJ Dell'Antonia 12:22

That was also a fun place to write.

Catherine Newman 12:25

Oh my God, so fun. So she and I had worked on a piece that I think killed me called Chores Fun. So I pitched her the book Chores Fun and I wanted it to be photo illustrated, step by step, DK style. And she was interested, but needless to say that got higher up over there and they were like, 'No...'

KJ Dell'Antonia 12:50

And me, I want that book. I would buy 500 copies of that book.

Catherine Newman 12:58

So they then said, you know, can you expand it so it's not just that? And so the other thing I really had wanted to write was, I want to say etiquette, but I don't mean in the like uptight, sort of like how to talk to the Queen of England sons, just the like how to communicate sense of etiquette, like how to be a person who needs to communicate with other people. I had wanted to write a book about that, too. And so we sort of merged those. And the book for me is primarily that but then we broke it down a little so it seems like it's many more topics than communicating and like cleaning a bathroom. So there's some stuff about cooking, and some stuff about money, and some stuff about just general skills like you know, changing batteries and that's how it came to be. And so I have found both of my kids with galleys of the book open to learn whatever it is they need to do. Bernie has used the book to tie a necktie and swears it works. And when I had asked them to clean all the bathrooms at Thanksgiving, I went in and the book was like, propped up on the counter in the bathroom.

Jess Lahey 14:16

Oh my gosh, that's so brilliant.

KJ Dell'Antonia 14:17

I had not thought of that. We've been cleaning bathrooms like crazy around here and yeah, I discovered that one child claimed to have been taught to wipe the toilet with a Clorox wipe and then flush it. And when I tell you that we're on septic I can also tell you that that ended extremely badly with men in the basement and saws. Oh, God, yeah, that's not how to clean a toilet. And I really didn't tell her that either.

Catherine Newman 14:47

No, I can imagine.

KJ Dell'Antonia 14:49

Anyway, I have now taught this skill, but I feel that it needs refreshing so I'm gonna prop that up.

Jess Lahey 14:57

I'm gonna do the same thing. There's that forgetting of things that technically they should know. And as we've talked about a bajillion times for me - that one was laundry and we solved that with the dry erase markers on the washer and dryer with all of the instructions and the bathroom one seems to be the next frontier that we have to handle around here.

KJ Dell'Antonia 15:22

Well, the truth is that in this moment, any of us who did have someone who sometimes cleaned for us whether that was frequent or infrequent, don't have that. Anyway, most of us are, even if there's stuff that maybe we didn't have to do before, or we were teaching our kids to do it but they didn't necessarily have to do it I could kind of poke at it and that was fine because the person who really could do it was gonna be there in two weeks. So now it's like yeah, this is how you clean the toilet.

Jess Lahey 16:17

Here's the nice thing about this book also is that there are so many times when you show a kid how to do it and you're being a little overly controlling or they're like no one else does that, no one cleans behind the toilet seat, Mom, you can show them a book and say, 'Look, this is how an arbiter of how these things should be done is actually doing things.

KJ Dell'Antonia 16:55

So what has it been, like getting out there to share this book that is, in many ways, so different than from what you've done before?

Catherine Newman 17:18

I could ask you the same. You know, it's funny. The funny thing for me is that my first two books were so intimate that actually, it was really like trial by fire in terms of publishing. So when people would blur together sort of criticizing the book with criticizing me as a parent or even just me as a person, because the memoir genre kind of invites that and it was really little nerve racking, honestly. And so then after that there was fiction, which is so delightful because it's fiction. And there was a book I did with my friend Nicole, that craft book, which is so delightful, because a) it's a craft book, so no one's gonna, like take my character apart over it and b) it was with a friend. So you know, it's like how I used to love co-teaching when I was teaching, like it's so dreamy to have a partner in something because you're not stranded. So this is none of those. This is not a memoir. It's not fiction. I don't have a partner in it, but it doesn't feel dangerous to me. It just feels like oh, kids need to know how to do stuff. And I feel pretty good about it being useful. So I don't have like weird shame, you know the memoirs for me, I promoted them with shame. I mean, I had blathered on and on about all my deepest fears about parenting and my kids and then I had to go sell it and it was so humiliating and I just am feeling a delightful absence of shame around this book. So I don't know if that's what you asked or how I ended up there. So I'm feeling pretty happy. I feel like it's coming out. I actually weirdly feel like the timing for my book is good because lots of kids are home.

Jess Lahey 19:46

I'm in total agreement with you on that one.

Catherine Newman 19:50

And I feel like lots of parents genuinely need help. So it doesn't even feel artificial. You know, sometimes you have to teach your kids stuff even though it'd be much easier just to do it. I know you both know that because You both have talked to me about that, but I feel like this moment where I can say hey, I am well to welcome someone make dinner you know it doesn't feel like a learning avenue it's just real life and the kids are in it with us and they're old enough to see it, it doesn't feel contentious and so I guess I feel like this is actually not a bad moment for a book like that. You know, I'm so glad I don't have some book coming out about I don't even know. I think we're lucky like KJ I weirdly feel like this about your book too, that your book even though it's fiction, and it's like this total romance, it's so perfect because it offers something that people need in this moment, like I needed to read about these feuding fried chicken places. And it was like this ace in the hole for me that I knew I could just relax and read it and it was so that it was like the most incredibly pleasurable comforting diversion. So anyway, I feel like it would just be terrible to be coming out with a book that was like entering the workforce or you know, something that was like so not the moment for it...

KJ Dell'Antonia 22:06

Thank you for saying lovely things about The Chicken Sisters, I'm super excited to share it. And I am kind of with you, I had a lot of angst around How To Be a Happier Parent because I kept going, it's happier, and not better, either. I felt like, you know, who was I to talk and to say those things and so I felt a lot of stress around that, that I don't feel. You know, it's a fun novel. That's what it's supposed to be. And it is that and it's got pretty yellow cover, and I am looking forward to everyone being able to buy it.

Catherine Newman 22:54

No one's hoping to solve a problem with it, except maybe just wanting to be diverted. You won't fail, you know...

KJ Dell'Antonia 23:17

Did you find people pushing you to do something else that was more in line with what you've done before? You know does your agent say like 'Well, could you just write another memoir? Or a collection of essays perhaps.'

Catherine Newman 23:51

The funny thing is I'm a terrible pitcher. Like I really like for people to come to me and be like, 'You know what we need?' And I'm like, 'Sure, you know, because I am, as I have said for 20 years, I'm just a writing tramp. I will write whatever, as long as it doesn't like conflict with my politics, you know, but I've written you know, whatever copy to say that the tampons not gonna fall out of your body without ever using the word tampon or body. I mean, give me whatever and I will write it. Like I even like being assigned weird stuff because then it's like doing a crossword puzzle. You know, it doesn't ask that much of you emotionally. But, all of that is to say that I am not dying to publish another book of essays or another memoir and maybe at some point, I will. I mean, I have a lot of interest in all of us doing an anthology about like menopause. That would be really, really funny. But, I feel like something collaborative that was like more a collaborative essay project. And I feel the same way about writing about older kids. I would love to do it collaboratively. But I definitely don't want to write a whole book about it. My guess is if I do another book after this, it'll be an adult novel. Adult novel always sounds like it's porn... I have an adult novel I want to write that I've been sort of writing and it's that thing where now I don't know how to write it because I'm starting to lose track of the world before the pandemic, even though I lived in it for 50 years. So I don't know, that's always lingering around as a thing I want to write and then, you know, I want to write another book in this genre for Story for sure. And I wouldn't be surprised if that something happened, I don't know if it would be a follow up, or we would have to see, I guess.

Jess Lahey 27:25

So for writers that are wishing they can cobble together this Higgledy Piggledy, a little writing here, a little writing there a little of this genre. How I mean, I know it's impossible to say, I'm assuming you're not going to say, Oh, yes, I had this all written out. 10 years ago. This is exactly the path I have designed for myself.

Catherine Newman 27:44

You mean when I was getting a PhD for 10 years, but I then went on to not use? Yeah, that really wasn't the plan.

Jess Lahey 27:52

Yeah, that was while I was at law school, learning how to be a juvenile attorney. So you know, for those writers who look to us to have some sort of takeaway about how to create a life around writing for themselves? I mean, do you have anything you could share for us in terms of how you've managed to cobble together this really interesting career?

Catherine Newman 28:15

Well, thank you for calling it both Higgledy Piggledy and interesting because I think of it really as both of those. Yeah, I guess so. I mean, nothing that you haven't heard on this podcast before. I feel like the old improv yes and advice I do think about, I say no to nothing. Again, only if it conflicts with my politics. So I've never been proud and I continue not to be, I will write most things and I will work on most projects and I will give it away if it's a worthy cause. I'm more than happy to write something for someone doing something that's important. So I ended up with tons of relationships and I know you're both the same that for both of you that sort of one of the treasures of your writing and publishing life is these ongoing really well nurtured relationships and I don't I do it as well as you guys, truly. But that said, I do maintain relationships with everyone I've ever written for and they end up who knows where like, you write the shitty Kotex copy and then that person goes to O Magazine, I just feel all the time like people move around so much. And as long as I make myself easy to work with, and available, then I feel like I get a lot of assignments just because those two things turn out to be, I think marketable skills weirdly.

Jess Lahey 30:10

I find it shocking that you say you're not as good at it because we had never met, I admired your writing so much, and you agreed to have coffee with me never having met me before when I happened to be in your town. So I disagree that you are not very good at cultivating these relationships and you know, whenever I talk about your writing, people talk about the fact that they really admire you as a writer, so I think that you do a really good job of that.

Catherine Newman 30:42

Well, thank you. I loved the idea too, that you like called me out of the blue. I totally was already stalking you.

KJ Dell'Antonia 30:58

Catherine, I think you have a gig right now that a lot of writers would both kill for and also feel like well hey I could do that, I could weigh in on etiquette issue real simple and getting a column is kind of the gold standard of what people want that's hard to achieve and I get a lot of questions about it and I'm not at all helpful. So I would like to give you the opportunity to be not at all helpful - like how did it happen?

Catherine Newman 31:36

Oh my god, it was so like a one thing and another and it was exactly the thing of an editor I'd worked with somewhere unglamorous ended up at Real Simple. And then I wrote something for her there and their etiquette columnist was leaving, they asked me to audition which was so nerve racking. so I The question was something like my cousin without talking to us named her twins after my twins like what would you do?

So I it was just luck but a lot of my luckiest things (seemingly luckiest things) come from having said yes to really outrageous things either low paying things or things that I wrote for a good cause. I would just say for me, I think almost everything good in my career has come from a certain openness and willingness. You know, it's like when my kids were little and they were writing thank you notes for shitty presents, you know that they didn't like and weren't happy to get and I would say there's always something true you can say that's gonna be real, like someone gave you a gift that in and of itself is something to be thankful for and you can express that. That sounds so corny, but whatever. That's how I am. And I think like almost any opportunity I'm given to write I do feel like there's an opportunity to make some kind of meaning out of it, if that makes sense. Either to take pleasure in the writing or to say something funny or to get a little philosophy into it or a little politics into it. And so I guess I think of even the weirdest stuff as an opportunity, which I think is a head game I play with myself because I'm never going to be successful enough to not need to keep writing all this stuff all the time. You know, I am just constantly writing and that feeling I have of everything being a little bit of an opportunity, you know, we're all writers, because we're curious about the world, I feel like at bottom, that's probably the main thing we all have in common. And you can always express that, you know what I mean? Even if it's something that feels sort of random. So that's a long way to say that I think every writing gig is an opportunity. I mean, unless somewhere wealthy is grossly under paying you then don't do that. Like they can't do that. That's wrong. But I just mean, you know, some of the stuff that isn't like a perfect fit or isn't high profiler isn't very glamorous, those things have always led to other things for me, almost, almost inevitably, in a way that I feel like is karmic in the true sense of what you put out into the world comes back to you.

KJ Dell'Antonia 34:51

We talk about things in that category a lot because we make a practice of getting annoyed with each other whenever we say I got lucky because yes, we have been lucky but yeah, fortune favors the well prepared. You know, Dax Shepard can't ask you on his podcast and Kristen Bell can't share your book unless you have written it and perhaps presented it to her. Yes, some things land and some things don't. But if you don't throw any paper airplanes up ain't nothing gonna hit.

Catherine Newman 36:05

I feel like it's partly luck and partly this other gendered thing, which is I am a pleaser and I have really mixed feelings about that because on the one hand like I have raised Bertie to not be a pleaser...

KJ Dell'Antonia 36:25

You wrote about that for me at Motherlode and it's such a hysterical piece and it made people so delighted and so angry at the same time.

Catherine Newman 36:32

Yeah, but I am such a pleaser and that has served me really well in my career. And I never as a feminist, I always have really mixed feelings about it because some of it feels really gendered to me that I'm friendly. Let me say as a side note to my own comment that I was just making. I think one of the beauties of freelancing is that you can't take any of your relationships for granted and you shouldn't anyway, I mean, I really feel that right. If you're in a workplace, you should always be nurturing your relationships and taking care of everybody in that way. But freelancing, no one ever has to hire you again. It reminds me a little bit, if you will, of waiting tables, which I was excellent at. Where you're always gonna do best if you were your sort of best self if what you put out is the best version of yourself it's gonna bring you the best work and connect you to the best people. And the truth is, it actually makes my life good because I mostly have positive interactions and that's so much better for me than getting into bed at night and be like Oh God, I had the worst interaction with somebody. So if something's kind of weird I'll like die about it. And I just feel like freelancing I mostly have to be somebody that people would want to hire. You know, I know I keep sounding like such a whore. But there it is.

KJ Dell'Antonia 38:21

That's kind of how it works some of the time. So Catherine, what have you been reading?

Catherine Newman 39:59

So truly The Chicken Sisters was my segue back into reading but I wanted to mention a book that actually I was reading right before that, which was (I don't know if you've talked about it on the podcast), but the Chanel Miller book, Know My Name. I admired it so much. I just love her and I love her as an illustrator and I just love everything about her. And as a memoir, I thought the gift of being able to write about something so terrible, with so much love and optimism just blew me away. Like, it's everything I ever sort of wanted to be as a writer. And that book just killed me. I thought it was so incredibly good. I almost wanted to read it again to study it.

Jess Lahey 41:32

I didn't know she was a writer, so I was a little nervous. And then I was so blown away, especially towards the second half. I found there were a few moments in the first half where I wasn't totally with her, but then it just picked up steam in terms of it felt to me almost that she got to be a better writer during the process of writing it and at the end of it I went off for a walk in the woods by myself because I had to sort of just process that book. It was exquisite. It was so well done

Catherine Newman 41:59

I had honestly just the exact same. I read it because I felt like this kind of moral obligation as a feminist not to turn away from the story, was so I felt like I should read this book. I picked it up with a dread of obligation. And then it's just sang, it was so beautiful. So that book and Bertie read it after and was crazy about it. And so that book, I have other books, but I want to hear what you're reading, too.

Jess Lahey 42:47

KJ, you want to go next?

KJ Dell'Antonia 42:57

I've started some books. Okay. I'm going to tell you that I'm rereading a book, because I can tell you with confidence that I love this book and I have enjoyed it. I think this is a multiple read. I've read this many times because it's just soothing and kind of wonderful. And I think I've talked about it on the podcast.

Catherine Newman 43:15

Can I guess? Is it I Capture the Castle?

KJ Dell'Antonia 43:19

No, but I do like that. No, not at all. It's a memoir, and it's called Recipes for a Beautiful Life by Rebecca Berry. She wrote it in like 2008 or it takes place in like 2008 so it's got a lot of the the economy crash in there as she and her family are moving. We all know I'll read anything in which a family moves to a small town in a rural place and makes a new life for themselves. Anyway, I have really enjoyed that. So that is what I can guarantee for you. I have started The Henna Artist and I really like it so far. I'm gonna mangle her name so I'm going to look it up for the show notes. At chapter three I'm really liking it, but we all know how that could go, but I don't think it will.

Jess Lahey 44:22

Well I have to start with I listened to the audio of Sarina Bowen's newest book Sure Shot and I got to talk about it with her because she did some really interesting things in there and we were talking a little bit. We were talking about authors who are gardeners and they plant seeds for new things and Sarina just did an exquisite job in this book. I love her books from just a listening to the story perspective but I also love watching her go and sort of planting the seeds for the books that will follow in the series because she writes books in a series and this is one of the Brooklyn Bruisers hockey books and I just from a technical perspective adored listening to Sure Shot her new hockey romance. But it's funny KJ that you said the thing about small town and comfort and making a life in a small town thing because my comfort listen this past couple of weeks on and off has been Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver because I've been prepping my gardens, I've spent so much time not writing as much but doing a ton of gardening and so listening to Barbara Kingsolver while I do that has been has been just wonderful. And the last thing I just finished last night was another Harlan Coben, this one was called Missing You and it was really clever. And we have to try to get Harlan Coben on the show because he does this thing that Sarina had told me about that he's known for, which is the the climax at the end of the book, except it's got two peaks, not one. Like you think you've hit the climax and you have the answers and then he hits you again, with a second sort of twist climax. And it's so it's his thing. He does it over and over and over again. And he's so good at it. The guy plots a book like nobody's business, so I'm dying to talk to him. So if anyone out there knows Harlan Coben, I would love to talk to him about how he plots his books. But anyway, so that's been what I've been listening to and it's been all listening. A little bit of reading books in hand but mostly listening because I've been out in the garden.

Catherine Newman 47:25

Can I mention one other book? I just so what I just read is my friend Amity Gage's book, Sea Wife. And it's not at all comforting at all takes place on a sailboat. And it's a young family, a married couple and kids on this sailboat and it's a kind of a thriller and kind of a mystery. And I feel like it's one of the best books I've ever read about parenting even though it's a novel, and I tore through it but it's very breathless and like terrifying so...

KJ Dell'Antonia 48:10

Well that has its place at the moment, too. Because then you forget where you are.

Catherine Newman 48:15

I was really caught up in it and it's also just incredibly lyrical. Like some of the sentences I would read twice just because it was so gorgeous. So I'm recommending that as a total escape-like thriller.

Jess Lahey 48:54

I went yesterday, I have to say I went yesterday to pick up a book from the Vermont Bookshop in Middlebury, Vermont, and there was no one at the shop but they had this beautiful cart outside the door with everyone's orders labeled and covered with some plastic and it was just the most delightful way to get out and and go 'shopping' even though I couldn't shop it worked really nicely. Booksellers are working so hard to make that work. Catherine, thank you for being so patient with us while we worked out the details of how we were going to have you on the show. It shouldn't have taken us this long, but we're very happy that you were patient with us.

Catherine Newman 49:48

Oh my gosh, my pleasure. Talking to you is a highlight of my week and life.

Jess Lahey 49:55

Well, and I'm going to recommend that people go ahead and preorder How to Be a Person...

KJ Dell'Antonia 50:03

They won't have to preorder it will be out by the time this is out.

Jess Lahey 50:07

It's just such a delightful book. It's such a fun read, I'm going to be giving it as like part of a baby gift. I'm going to have copies around to give to people constantly. I have a neighbor I'm giving it to as a gift. So I'm so excited to have just multiple copies around the house.

Catherine Newman 50:26

You guys are so supportive I could cry.

Jess Lahey 50:33

Oh Catherine, where can people find you if they want to find out more about your higgledy piggledy career?

Catherine Newman 51:06

CatherineNewman writer.com I think.

Jess Lahey 51:44

Until next week, everyone, keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game. 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.

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.