Setting Ourselves Up To Eat Well

I don’t know about you, but when I’m writing, I find it damn near impossible to answer the question: what should I eat? For that matter, I’m not a big fan of salads, but I know they’re good for me. For years I would just eat what was convenient when my stomach started rumbling. It was usually leftovers, or crackers, or whatever would allow me to get back to work ASAP.

Then, a couple of years ago, I followed a link online to a short video about this health nut who pre-packed salads for herself every Sunday. At first it looked like a lot of work and I thought I’d never be able to make it a habit, but as I started to put on weight and feel sluggish all the time, I thought I’d give it a try. (Apologies to the health nut – I wish I could remember who she was so I could share the link.)

Right away I loved how I didn’t have to think about lunch. Back when I was working the day job I just grabbed one from the fridge on my way out the door (saving time and money every day), and now that I’m writing full time I love that I eat well without having to think about it. When my stomach gets to nagging me, I just wander into the kitchen and grab one. My head can stay in the clouds and I can get right back to writing. In fact, I usually eat it in front of the computer.

Eating a salad every day has changed my life. Truly. So much so that if I get lazy and don’t prep my salads on Sunday night, I start to feel yucky from eating junk food all week. And like I said, I don’t even particularly like salads. So I feel a special victory in getting myself to eat one every day.

So this week on the blog, I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned over the years that make prepping salads easier. The first time I did it, it took two hours. Ug. Now I’ve got it down to thirty minutes (for 10 salads – I make them for my husband too), and they last a full week before they start to get soggy.

(Please forgive my crude kitchen photography – after writing this post I have a whole new appreciation for food bloggers.)

Step 1:
Buy yourself a collection of salad-sized plastic tubs with lids. I have found the Ziplock tubs to be really durable. Then, buy the pre-washed lettuce and pack it in. You’ll need a lot of it.

Step 2:
Prep the veggies you want to include. One thing I have learned is that you can’t include anything with too much water. I even go so far as to scrape the seeds out of my cucumbers. The more moisture you seal in with your salad, the faster it will go bad. Here’s what I use:
Cherry tomatoes (chopped tomatoes have too much moisture)
1 Can Chick Peas
Carrots
Celery
Cucumbers
Cabage
Cilantro
(Bell peppers would also work well, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

The tomatoes and chick peas I rinse separately and put in a big mixing bowl, usually with a paper towel underneath them to soak up some of the water while they wait. Everything else (except the cilantro) get’s trimmed and rinsed and put through the Cuisinart with the slicing blade in it.

Then I mix it all together in the big mixing bowl.

I chop the cilantro separately. It gives the salad a nice fresh taste and it’s so good for you. To save time, I slice the bushy top off a rinsed bunch and then just pick out the thickest stems before chopping.

Step 3:
Once it’s all stirred together I load it by handfuls (I actually use my hands here – it’s faster) into the bins of salad. They will start to feel full, but trust me, you can cram a lot of salad in there.

Step 4:
Fill small plastic containers with your favorite dressing and tuck them into the salads. I like olive oil and vinegar, but you can mix it up.

And for a little protein, I like to add an egg and a half to each salad. I also like how it looks, so inviting.

Step 5:
Make some room in the fridge and stack ’em up. (I’ll be honest, sometimes this is the trickiest part).

And there you have it. Healthy lunches for the whole week.

Sometimes I’ll toss some nuts on top when I eat them, or slice up an avocado, but if you add the nuts when you make the salads they get all rubbery and weird and avocado just turns brown after a couple of hours. So those have to be last minute additions.

I’m telling you, having good healthy food at the ready will change your life.

Do you have any ways you set yourself up to make good choices while you’re writing? I would love to hear them. Being a writer is so sedentary. It’s hard to stay healthy.

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Novels Are Marathons, Short Stories Are Sprints

When I was a kid, I HATED running. Hated it. Here in California, in middle school, we were forced to run with the goal of a ten-minute mile (which I never hit – not once) and every time I was pushed onto that hot, bleak track, I would spend the agonizing minutes imagining myself passing out so that the gym teacher would feel sorry. It never happened, but man, if thoughts could manifest…

Flash forward to me deciding to take up running after my son was born. I’m not sure why I thought I should run. Maybe because it was something I could do any time, right out the front door, pushing the stroller. Anyway, it took months for me to work up to a 5K, and I felt pretty good about that because it was hard. Then a friend of mine convinced me to do a Tough Mudder with her, so I started training for longer runs.

And here’s the weird thing – I started noticing that, without fail, running got easier after the third mile.

If you had told my chubby 12-year-old self that running actually felt good once you’d been at it for forty minutes or so, I probably would have thrown up at your feet. I mean, who knew? Right around mile four I am flying. I’m floating. I’m in the zone. I feel like I could go forever.

And it struck me the other day that this is an awesome metaphor for my writing.

When I was in grad school there was this myth that we all bought into that we would publish a few short stories, then write our novel. Like short stories are all so easy to write. Like they are nothing more than warmups for novels.

I just want to say for the record: they are not.

Short stories are hard. They are an art form all their own, not to be confused with novels. Having written both, I feel like short stories are harder. They are like those first few miles of a run.

To extend the metaphor even further, I can acknowledge that sprints certainly do have their place. Even though I sometimes run shorter runs, and sometimes write short stories, I know enough now to say that these will never be the things at which I excel.

I need a nice long story to find my groove and I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to master the art of short stories before jumping in to write a novel.

So if you want to write a novel but feel like you have to prove yourself by publishing some short stories first, allow me to be the one to tell you – it’s just not true.

Write what you love. Because otherwise, what’s the point?
There are no cardiovascular benefits to writing.

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Scrivener Drafts

Today we’re going to talk about saving whole drafts of your WIP (work in progress) using Scrivener. This post assumes you’re working with Scrivener 3.0. If you haven’t yet upgraded to 3.0, check out this post for a basic overview of the software update. 

Small Changes

In a previous post, I talked about how to track line edits using the Scrivener Snapshot function. In short, it’s an easy way to save a copy of the section you’re working on, before you start messing around with it, so that you can revert back to what you had if things go terribly awry.

This is a handy little trick, but when you’re doing massive overhauls, it can feel a bit piecemeal.

The Challenge of a Second Draft

If you follow along with the blog, you know I’m working on Novel 2, and that I’m just embarking on some massive edits. Basically, I’ve been typing away at this baby for years, and now it’s time to transform it from a collection of pages into a real story.

While I don’t want to start editing without saving what I have, it feels a little tedious to do a snapshot of each chapter. Also, I tend to forget to do things like backing up my work once I get rolling creatively.

So I devised a super simple way to keep my first draft, in the same file as the second, so that it stays as it is and I can always come back to it. It’s really pretty simple.

Saving Drafts in Scrivener

Step 1. To start, click on “Manuscript” at the top of your binder. Then click the little dropdown icon next to the plus sign in the top menu bar and select “New Folder”.

Scrivener Drafts

Step 2. Name that new folder “Draft 1.”

Scrivener Drafts

Step 3. Select/highlight the folders of your first draft and move them to the new folder.

Scrivener Drafts

Step 4. While they are still selected/highlighted, copy them by going to Documents -> Duplicate -> with Subdocuments and Unique Title.

Scrivener Drafts

Step 5. Repeat steps 1 and 2, but name the new folder “Draft 2” then move the copies you created in step 4 into that new folder.

Scrivener Drafts

Notice how, under “Manuscript” I now have all my folders organized in the Draft 2 folder, but at the bottom, I also have the Draft 1 folder. It will just sit there, out of the way, in case I ever need to go back to it.

I could even move it down into the research folder if I wanted to get it out of the way.

Now I can hack away at my draft without any fear of not being able to find something from an earlier version and without cluttering up my files on my computer.

This, once again, is the brilliance of Scrivener. Everything to do with this project, stays in this one file, no matter how big and sprawling it gets.

Give it a try. Let me know what you think.

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Five Good Sentences – The Key To Getting Unstuck

I’ve been struggling with my new story. I just can’t seem to find my way into it. I have an instinct that having some kind of structure to work into might help, but I can’ seem to crack that nut. Yesterday, I spent two and half hours of precious writing time just staring at my computer.

This has never happened to me before.

Stuck

If you follow along, you know I have been working on this project, I’m calling it Novel 2, for a long time. Whenever I would get frustrated with Novel 1, I would stick it in a drawer and work on Novel 2. Then, in 2016, I took a month-long break from Novel 1 and did NaNoWriMo, so that was another 50,000 words there. Over the years, I have amassed a lot of pages. One might even say a first draft, but then… but then…

First drafts can only go so far. Then it’s time to start rewriting and I was effing stuck. I don’t believe in writers block, but getting stuck is real as a mo-fo. To try and get unstuck I had a little gripe session with my bestie, then took a step back. How can I be so stuck when I have so many pages of writing? I told myself (without considering if it was really true) that somewhere in those pages, there must be SOMETHING I can work with.

Getting Unstuck

And then I remembered something I heard Tom Barbash say while I was at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. He said something about a writer who would read his first drafts hoping to find five good sentences he could work with.

As luck would have it, as I was googling Tom so I could share a link to his bio, I came across this video of discussing this very topic. Check it out:

I thought to myself: five good sentences is a pretty low bar.

Five Good Sentences

So I put aside all judgements and all worries about how and the hell I’m going to structure this story, what the POV will be or how our narrator knows what she knows, and I just read it.

And you know what? It’s not all bad. I mean, it’s pretty bad. It’s a crappy first draft, but there are way more than five sentences that I can work with. And that is really encouraging.

Just like that, I’m unstuck. I still don’t have answers to all those questions I mentioned, but I’m just going to keep writing and trust that the answers will come. Because writing is kind of magical like that. Our job, as writers, is just to show up, put our fingers on the keyboard, and make space for the magic.

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The Squaw Valley Community of Writers

Squaw Valley Community of Writers

Four writers I fell in love with (left to right): Kirstin Valdez Quade, Tom Barbash, Peter Orner and Elizabeth Tallent, with Zzyva editor Oscar Villalon

I am exhausted. In the past month I’ve slept at home, in my own bed for only four days. It’s my own fault. I planned this summer’s schedule, but honestly, when I did, I didn’t expect to get into the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. I had applied before and not been invited, so I didn’t bother planning my summer around it. So when I did get in (high five!) I had to rearrange my plans and things got a little hectic. I regret nothing.

In case you’re unfamiliar, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers is a conference. Every day starts with writing workshops. After a lunch break, participants come together for craft talks, panels, and readings. Basically, as a participant, you start with your workshop group at 8:30am, eat, then get back to learning and absorbing until well after dark when the authors do readings under the stars. Then you race home to read and make notes for the next morning’s workshop. It’s a marathon of a week. Not for the faint at heart.

Squaw Valley Community of Writers

Edan Lepucki reading early in the week.

I learned so much, and met some amazing writers, but since I usually try to keep things focused on the practical here, I thought I would share a few things I learned (or learned again) about workshopping. These ideas apply to anyone giving or receiving feedback on their work, so don’t feel like you have to go to a conference to use them. Just grab a writing buddy and start helping each other out.

Here they are:

1. Before giving feedback, read the work at least twice. The first time through, just read. Don’t even hold your pen. If you can, take a break after the first read, then come back with your pen and set to work.

2. Aim for four comments/notes per page. I like to put check marks next to things that work for me, and sometimes that’s all I have on a page, but it can be hard to get feedback, so hearing about what works is just as important as hearing about what doesn’t.

3. Don’t push your own expectations onto the story. Pretend you’re reading the New Yorker. If you don’t understand it, consider that maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re not getting what the author is going for. Maybe they are jumping POVs on purpose, or slipping around in time to represent a character’s state of mind. Don’t be too quick to judge.

4. If you get conflicting feedback from readers, see it as a sign that something isn’t landing on the page. The analogy, given by (the incisively thoughtful) Charmaine Craig, was that of a fever – it is just a symptom of infection. You have to be the doctor and get in there to diagnose and then cure.

5. Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t figured something out (like theme or who the murder victim is). Your confusion will be your reader’s delight because the story won’t be telegraphed. As you discover the answers, so will your readers. Your story will be better for it.

Those are some of the highlights.

And with that I will simply close by encouraging everyone out there to apply to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. And if you don’t get in, keep trying. It was such a great experience.

And one more photo from a little hike I took mid-week. So pretty:
Squaw Valley Community of Writers

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I Want to Be A Badass

I married into soccer the way other people marry into Catholicism. World Cup is like Lent – we don’t mess around. But in all seriousness, I’ve really come to appreciate the sport. It is a beautiful game, and I enjoy watching, but the thing I love most of all, the reason I keep coming back to sit next to my husband on the couch is this moment:

The moment right after a hard-won goal is scored and the striker loses his damn mind is absolutely captivating to me. I can almost feel that adrenaline pumping in my own veins, feel the exaltation so good it hurts. Almost.

As writers, we don’t really get that moment. When things are going really well we can slip into that magical zone where it doesn’t feel like work, but never have I ever been so overcome with my prose that I’ve slid across the floor on my knees, fists balled, screaming to the heavens.

Writing is like a sloth playing soccer. Though I’ve never actually played a game, and I’ve never (literally) been a sloth, it seems to me an apt metaphor. It’s not that we don’t struggle, or get tired, or sometimes put the ball right where we want it, it’s just that all the emotions of a ninety minute game are stretched out over years (sometimes a lot of years).

I crave that feeling. I wish I could cram the experience of writing a book into ninety minutes. I want to be a fucking badass, sliding across the grass knowing that, hell yes, that just happened. But it’s never going to happen at my laptop, and I don’t know how to manage my disappointment at that.

Am I alone in this? Any other writers out there get that craving for adrenaline and pressure and putting it all on the line? If so, how do you blow off steam? Have you found a way to bring that intensity to your writing? How can we balance the fact that our job is to sit quietly, alone, at a screen all day, when sometimes we want to run and yell and be a total badass? I’m not being rhetorical here, I really want to know…

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Taking a Vacation From Writing

Happy 4th of July everyone! My family and I are celebrating the country by being back in it. Yep, home sweet home. We just spent two weeks on vacation in South America doing a 10-day guided tour of Machu Picchu and the surrounding areas, and then a stopover in Quito, Ecuador to visit my husband’s family for a few days.

It was an epic trip. We’ve been planning it for months. And one of the things I always wrestle with when we go on vacation is whether or not to bring my writing. The decision was made harder this year by the fact that the deadline to submit my pages for the Squaw Valley Community of Writers was about a week after we were scheduled to leave. So my choices were to bust my ass and get the work done before we left, or bring my lap top and work up until the last possible minute.

Well, there was no way I was going to be sitting in the hotel room in Cusco working while the family went exploring. I busted my ass. I carved out as much time as I could to polish up those pages and put as bright a shine on them as I could. Then, the day before we left, I sent the pages in, closed my laptop, and got to packing.

Then the anxiety set it. Partly it was anxiety about the pages I submitted. Imposter Syndrome is real, people. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could have made those pages better. But there was nothing to be done at that point. Except stress about it. Because, you know, that’s fun.

Also, I’ve realized over the years that I get anxious when I don’t write for more than a day or two. In the past I’ve devised little writing exercises to take on vacation and keep my writer brain engaged while I’m away from a story, but this time I didn’t want to bring busy work. I wanted to relax and enjoy my vacation. I wanted to not work.

I compromised by journaling. I brought the notebook I use for morning pages and took the time to write about our experiences. Decidedly NOT work, but it was enough writing to keep the anxiety at bay. (Some day I’ll reflect on why I’m a mess when I don’t write, but for now, I’ll embrace it as motivation.)

Here are a few more photos from the trip.

How do you manage writing on vacation? Do you bring the laptop? Always or just sometimes? Do you enjoy stepping away from your work, or does it make you nervous like me? Do you have any advice for dealing with the nervous rash I get when I don’t write (wait, let me guess – therapy)?

 

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First Idea, Best Idea?

Back when I was in grad school studying all things writing, I had a professor who insisted that when you’re writing you should trust your instincts and always go with your first idea. He was really emphatic about it.

Well, I thought about that long and hard. Then I dropped his class.

Back then I couldn’t really articulate why I thought this was such bad advice. I only knew that my first ideas are, more often than not, my worst ideas. Cliché, predictable, boring.

But since then, I’ve had some time to think about it. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Instincts Have Their Place

As humans, we are pattern seeking animals. We are quick to categorize. This has served us well over the course of our evolution. For instance, if you see a red glob of color with little black dots all over it and a green leafy top, you think “strawberry” and eat it. If you see a bug buzzing around in black and yellow, you think “bee” and leave it alone.

But as writers, we have to dig deeper than those first instincts, those base impulses that have kept our species alive for so long.

As an example, lets say I want to show that my character is happy at receiving some very good news. I could show him smiling. Yes. Smiling. Everyone knows that smiling means happy. But it’s boring.

Dig Deeper

To create a more interesting character, and tell a more interesting story, I need to explore what happy is to this particular character. Does he sing when he’s happy? Whistle? Does he tuck his chin, like he’s afraid to show his happiness? Is he more likely to buy something or give money to a homeless person on the streets? That’s five more ideas.

Five isn’t a bad start, but really I’m just sorting through more of the placeholder images in my head for “happy.” The reason people usually stop there is that it’s a lot of work to come up with unique ideas.

If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It

Another teacher I had in grad school (one whose class I didn’t drop) suggested making a list of at least thirty possibilities. You’ll find your best (most literary) options at the end of the list.

So here goes… Things my character might do after receiving good news:
6. push his hair back from his head
7. go outside
8. jump up and down
9. call a family member
10. run
11. write a note
12. drink alcohol
13. drink something else
14. smoke pot
15. dance around the room
16. lay down on his back and lace his fingers over his chest
17. jump up and dangle from a tree branch
18. cinnamon toast
19. make his bed
20. clap
21. talk to his cat
22. throw a rock
23. tell a stranger on the street the news
24. post it to social media
25. make a sign for the window of the house
26. sit back in his chair and just soak it up
27. polish his shoes
28. play an old favorite song
29. kiss his wife
30. handstand

You can probably tell I got a little stuck there around 19. Who makes their bed when they get good news? Nobody I know. And actually, it’s hard to say which of these is the right choice, since this is not a character I actually know, but I do think those last three are interesting. In fact, I really like 28. In my mind he’s putting on an old record of some Ramones song and rocking out, letting the excited energy fly. That could be a fun scene.

What do you think? Do you usually go with your first idea? If so, do you find it changes as you write it? Or do you, like me, have to dig to find the little gems that make a story fun?

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How to Open a Quick Reference Window in Scrivener in One Step

This post assumes you’re working with Scrivener 3.0. If you haven’t yet upgraded to 3.0, check out this post for a basic overview of the software update. 


One of the things I like best about Scrivener is the flexibility. There’s rarely just one way to do something. But when it comes to quick reference windows, I sometimes feel like there’s so many options on how to view them that the options overwhelm my distracted brain and I end up not being able to remember any of them.

Well, in my current project, I have a lot of reference material – things I’ve pulled from the Internet, timelines, photos – and out of necessity I’ve finally found the quickest, easiest way to pull things up when I just want a quick look and don’t want to lose my place in my writing.

Back Up

What’s a quick reference window, you ask? It’s a small window that floats above the window you’re working in so that you can see your research (or another section of your writing) while you’re writing.

It looks like this:

Sweet. Show Me How

It’s so simple. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out. Just drag and drop the thing you want to see in the pop-up window to the little icon at the top that looks like a pad of paper with a pencil.

To really use this trick like a pro, don’t click on the thing you want to show in the pop-up window. Doing that will jump you away from what you’re working on. Just drag and drop. Bam.

Like a Boss

That’s pretty much it for today, but as a parting shot, here are a few more tricks you can do with the quick reference window function:

If you think better with all your material spread out for you to see, take heart, you can open as many windows as you want. There’s probably a limit, but I haven’t found it. Just keep dragging and dropping and windows will keep popping up:

If you’re curious how I got a whole webpage to show up in my research section, you probably missed this post on how to embed a website.

If you like to minimize distractions, check out this post on how to view your research in composition mode.

Do you have any unusual ways to use the quick reference windows in your writing? Share them in the comments below. It’s always fun to hear how other writers are making the most of their software.

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Amy Meyerson and “The Bookshop of Yesterdays”

Bookshop of YesterdaysYesterday was the official launch date for my friend Amy Meyerson’s debut novel The Bookshop of Yesterdays. It’s always a big day when someone in your writing community launches a book. This photo doesn’t even do justice to how packed Skylight Books was last night.

The book tells the story of a young woman who inherits her uncle’s bookshop in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles and quickly comes to realize that, before his death, he set up a scavenger hunt for her that leads her from book to book. As she follows the clues, she learns the truth about the falling out her uncle had with her mother years before.

The story is a book-nerd’s dream. It totally made me want to own a bookstore. And it got me thinking about how we, as writers, choose what titles to use when our stories reference other books. So today we’re going to pick Amy’s brain a little bit about her experiences writing The Bookshop of Yesterdays.

Here goes…

April: I love the setting of your story. And it’s such fun to read about a character discovering clues in the books her uncle left her. When choosing the books to use, how did you balance what was right for your characters with what you needed to move the story along?

Amy: When I had the initial idea for this book, I knew right away that the novels I selected for the scavenger hunt would make or break it. I wanted to celebrate books I love, books other readers love, too, but they also had to work for the story I was trying to tell. The novels Billy uses in his scavenger hunt have a dual function: within their pages, Billy has highlighted a section of the text and left a corresponding clue that leads Miranda to talk to someone from his past. The highlighted sections help Miranda interpret her interactions with the people she meets from her uncle’s life. For this to work, the selected novels couldn’t feel arbitrary or inconsequential. They needed to resonate with my novel, either narratively or thematically. The only way I could achieve this was by starting with my story, so I plotted out what happened in the past and worked it into a series of stories that people who knew Billy could share with Miranda. Then, I made lists of possible titles that could work as clues, whittling them down to what I thought were the perfect choices for each section. If this sounds challenging, it was!

April: It’s one thing to write a story and another to publish it. What kind of changes did Park Row suggest? Did you have to change any of the titles you originally used?

Amy: The biggest thing I’ve learned through this process is that it’s different for every writer (and probably for every book, too. I’ll let you know once I’ve finished writing the next one!). I’m sure some writers do very little rewriting, but I did a ton of revisions at every step of the process: getting the manuscript ready to send out to agents, reworking with my agent, then revising with Park Row. When I went through my first round of edits with Park Row, I ended up making several shifts in the plot. The challenge of reimagining the plot was that I also had to change the corresponding novels and clues. Many of the books I initially selected didn’t work anymore, so I had to choose new titles. Ultimately, the batch I ended up with worked a lot better, not just for the story but for a book about books. In earlier drafts, I chose books that I loved but that many readers might not have read.

April: The pacing of the scavenger hunt really keeps the story moving. Did you know, before you started writing, how many clues the scavenger hunt would have, or did you just kind of feel it out as you went along?

Amy: I knew that I wanted to have a bunch of clues, but I didn’t have a preset number. So, I really let the story guide the clues. That said, the clues were instrumental in helping me find my way through the novel. This was my first attempt at writing a novel, and writing something so long can quickly become overwhelming. When I write short stories, I like to lay the printed pages out on the floor and look at them all at once. It allows me see the structure of the story. You can’t do that with a 300+ page novel. So, I needed a way to think of the novel in smaller, more digestible chunks. I suppose chapter breaks can accomplish this, but for me, I needed something woven into the fabric of the story. The clues were a really useful device in giving the novel a clear structure.

April: I hear your publisher is doing a real-life scavenger hunt to promote the book. How do we get in on that?

Amy: Yes! I’m so excited about it. Since the novel is set in an indie bookshop, we really wanted to show a little love to independent bookstores when marketing this book. Local bookstores are an essential part of today’s literary community. They are where readers connect and discover new books. My publicist had the awesome idea of running a sweepstakes to celebrate the publication of The Bookshop of Yesterdays, where participants could participate in a virtual scavenger hunt, then enter to win a gift certificate to the independent bookstore of their choice as well as lovely hardback editions of five classic novels mentioned in The Bookshop of Yesterdays.

To enter the sweepstakes scavenger hunt, just go to: www.bookclubbish.com/ScavengerHuntSweeps (see below for more details*)

April: What does your writing routine look like? Do you write every day? Mornings or night?

Amy: As a professor, I’m very fortunate to have the summer and winter breaks to write. When I’m not teaching, I try to write in both the mornings and afternoons. During the semester, I try to get into a schedule where I write every morning, but it can be tough to find time on teaching days or during grading cycles. Some writers institute a daily word count, but I prefer to focus on a time goal. I try to write for 2-3 hours a day, longer in the summer. Sometimes, I can produce 10 pages in that timeframe. Other days, I struggle to get out a page. Because of this fluctuation, I think it’s best to commit to sitting down for a predetermined period of time. This keeps me focused on the process rather than the product.

April: Do you have any superstitions around your writing? Any little rituals you do to get your brain in the space to write?

Amy: No superstitions, but I always like to read before I write. I find reading a great novel really inspires me to sit down and get some work done.

April: What are you working on now?

Amy: I’ve been working on a new novel for the last few months. After several years of living and breathing the characters in The Bookshop of Yesterdays, it’s so fun and refreshing to build a new world. I’m still in the early stages, but it’s another family mystery, this time centered on a historic diamond. So far, it’s a lot of fun to write.

Lightning Round

April: Coffee or tea?
Amy: Coffee in the mornings, herbal tea at night.

April: Whiskey or vodka?
Amy: Whiskey. Only brown liquors for me!

April: Hemsworth or Gosling?
Amy: Gosling, definitely.

April: “Sneaked” or “snuck”?
Amy: It’s awkward, but sneaked.

April: Wetsuit or bathrobe?
Amy: Can I add a third option and say bathing suit? I’m a lap swimmer. I find the public pool is the best place to work through story ideas.

More about the real-life scavenger hunt: *NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER. Purchase or acceptance of a product offer does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes opens 06/12/2018 at 12:01 PM EDT and closes 07/03/2018 at 11:59 PM EDT. Enter online at BookClubbish.com/ScavengerHuntSweeps. Open to legal residents of the U.S. and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are over the age of 13. Void where prohibited by law. One (1) prize will be awarded, ARV $218.00 USD. Full details on prize and official rules available at BookClubbish.com/Bookshop-of-yesterdays-sweepstakes. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.


A big thanks to Amy for taking the time. Get your copy of The Bookshop of Yesterdays today.

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