The Write Life


"The Write Life: Local author is flying high with first novel" I was interviewed by a reporter from a local newspaper last week and the article came out today. I'm excited. Won't lie. It's a newspaper that reaches about half the state of Rhode Island, the smallest state in the Union, roughly the size of the city of Dallas. Which means the article reaches about half of one American city. I don't care. It may as well be the cover of the New York Times. I made the cover of the East Bay Life section (our equivalent to the cover of People Magazine) and I look pretty good. I also don't sound like a bumbling idiot, which is equally important! Reading through the article, a few things stood out to me.

"Conway tried to go the traditional route to publishing nirvana--for about a week...but quickly realized the follow-through was more important to her than the promise of a big payday." I said those words, and they're true to a degree. Traditional is not a word anyone would associate with me. But who doesn't want a big payday? Of course I'd love a publisher to swoop in and take over all of the marketing nonsense, publicity, scheduling signings, etc... I'm very open to a large book advance and all that entails. I think a more accurate phrase would be, "Conway didn't have the patience to wait for the traditional publishing route to bear fruit." That's an honest and true statement. Patience is also not a word I'd use to describe me. Not traditional. Not patient.

"I self-published with zero expectations." Also true, to a degree. There was that little niggling hope that something would come of this new found passion. But if it didn't? I could live with it. Opening the package that contained my novel and feeling its weight in my hands, flipping through its pages was one of the most satisfying moments of my life. I want people to love my book, buy my book, turn my book into a bestseller and eventually a movie. I want to make buckets of money and spend my days writing in my new cottage on the water. Preferably in Nantucket...but Rhode Island has a lot to offer! I'm not picky.

"Writing feeds my soul and working with kids means a lot to me." I hope I didn't actually say 'means a lot to me' but I guess I did, because everything else in the article is dead on. Working with kids means the world to me. I love teaching. Our country is failing its children with standardization and testing and core math I can't help my third grader with. But there's a whole movement out there, people who are shaking things up and trying to fix this broken-down system. I've met a group of innovators in this master's program and I want to be one of the people who helps fix it. For my kids. For your kids. For my grandkids one day (I hope that day is a long ways away!)

"I read an article that said writing my autobiography would be therapeutic...I was about an hour into it and I thought 'Dear God, this is boring! I already know what happens." True, true statement, though my life has been anything but boring. But reliving it by writing it all down is boring for me. And painful to a degree. That's what journals and therapists are for! I enjoy getting lost in another world, writing alternatives to the path I've taken. Escapism? Yes, it is. But much healthier than other methods of escaping. Like drinking or drugs. 

And lastly...the title. "The Write Life". Ms. Nadalin...I couldn't have said it any better myself. For the first time in a very long time, I finally feel like I'm on the right path. Hallelujah.

The Juggling Act


We all juggle many roles. Mother, friend, sister, daughter, writer, student, teacher, housekeeper, publicity hound, artist, negotiator, cook. We do the best we can with what we have, but as I get older I realize the importance of slowing down, taking a little time to smell the proverbial roses.

There's always going to be something that needs to be done, errands to run, clothes to be washed, homework to be checked. It's so easy to get caught up in ticking off the boxes on the 'to do' list, getting from point A to point B. And the goal? Too many times it's to simply get through the day, the reward being...sleep, the closest we come to death while our hearts beat in our chests.

But is that living? Or just existing?

To quote Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!" It's all going by too fast! My life is half over yet it's just beginning in so many ways. Will there be enough time to enjoy the fruits of my labor? To stop and smell the roses? Only if I make the time. Those are the memories we leave with our family and friends, the ones we take with us to our graves. On my deathbed I'm pretty sure I won't say 'I wish I'd taken the time to vacuum more, or work longer hours, or fold that last batch of laundry!' Neither will you.

In the past I've been a horrible juggler, trying to keep too many balls in the air at the same time. Inevitably, I drop them all and have to start all over again.  But I've been working on my juggling act this year, trying to take things at a moderate pace which enables me to keep a few balls in the air at a time, slowing down to alternate, without dropping them all. I've gotten pretty good at it, but I'll admit, it's gotten a bit hairy lately.

My latest 'act' involves publicizing my first book, writing my second book, attending graduate school, raising my three children, and stopping to smell the roses (in no particular order). It's a lot. The ball I'm close to dropping is the publicity for my first book, and I don't want that happen. I've poured too much of myself into it to just drop it at this point. Which leaves the roses. But I can't drop the roses. They're what makes the difference between living and existing.

I guess I'm going to have to keep practicing my act.


The Negative Review


I was bound to receive a negative review eventually, and I did. And I'm sure there are more to come. Not everyone is going to like my story and that's okay. But I won't lie, reading my first really awful review was gut wrenching! So of course I reached out to my close friends and whined, told them how this woman shredded my book. And one of my friends replied, "Was it constructive feedback?" Hmmm... Constructive? I read through the painful review again.

The answer was no. Not it the least.

This reader just didn't like the story, and went on about how she didn't understand why everyone else is giving it five star reviews. So my friend said, "Then who cares?" And she's right. If the woman had ranted about my writing style being awful, thought I couldn't string together a coherent sentence, or felt I was in any way like my least favorite author (she who shall remain nameless), then I would take offense. But not liking my story? Okay, I can deal with that.

My fear, when I released this book, was that people would attack my writing. I didn't know if I was 'good enough' but something kept driving me forward, forcing me to face my fears and put it out there. The worst review I could ever receive is I have no business writing! And while my story may not be to some peoples liking, no one is challenging my right to write! Some have even praised my style. I have to remember that when negative reviews rear their ugly heads.

Something I've discovered is that writing is far less about talent than it is about practice, perseverance and patience. That's all it takes to write a book. A valuable piece of advice from Stephen King, "You can only learn by doing." He's absolutely right.

I wrote my editor a note the other day, thanking him for teaching me how to write a book. I said "anyone can write a bunch of words but without structure and focus, that's all they are." Handing him my manuscript was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I opened myself up to criticism, and that's not something I...enjoy. Who does? I wrote a romance for women, and here I was giving it to a man, an Ivy League grad no less! And he did rip it apart (in a constructive way), and I took what he said and made it better. And with each draft I learned a little bit more.

Yeah, it totally sucks to read nasty comments about something I poured my heart into, but I can't let it bother me. If someone wants to offer me constructive feedback, I'm open to it. Hell! I welcome it! But not liking my story? Eh. There are much worse things in life. Like regret.

Three Weeks


I didn't know what to expect when I sat down to write my first novel last summer. I thought maybe it was another one of my many whims. Something to occupy my time while I twiddled my thumbs at work. I didn't realize writing would come so naturally, the words flowing effortlessly from the visions in my head to the computer screen in front of me. I didn't know I could sit at the kitchen table, or the couch, sometimes in bed, and write for fifteen hours straight, or that I would look forward to doing it!

I didn't know whether anyone other than me would ever read it. Well, me and my good friend Becky who eagerly read the pages as fast as I wrote them. And eventually, my editor, Stuart, who taught me to be ruthless with my work, to get rid of any passage, no matter how much I loved the scene, if it didn't drive the story forward. I didn't know I had the guts to take whatever criticism was thrown my way, and grow from it.

A lot can happen in three weeks.

I didn't know people, a lot of people, would love my work. I didn't know the most common phrases I'd come to hear are "I loved it! I couldn't put it down! I read it in two days!" And "I never wanted it to end!" I didn't expect people to thank me for writing this book. Thank me?! No! Thank YOU for reading it! Really!

I thought I wrote a little romance novel that might appeal to women, probably housewives, aged 25-55, who live in Rhode Island. It was a pretty specific demographic. I didn't expect a 77 year old man, a total stranger from California, to enjoy it. Or any man for that matter! But many have, and many do!

I didn't expect the woman at my favorite bookshop who deals with self-published authors, to say my novel "is the best to cross her path in years," or to tell me she gave a copy to her book rep because "it's just that good." I didn't expect the young man behind the counter at another bookstore to light up when I told him my name, or tell me he's "never seen anything like it!" My books "are flying off the shelf!"

I never believed someone would ask if they could feature my book on a local morning show. Television? Really?

I never thought I'd receive messages and reviews like these:

"Just finished the book - I cried in so many parts - so beautifully written! I was constantly right there with the characters. Jayne - you've outdone yourself! I highly recommend it to all to read! Thank you for writing it!"

"Normally I have some difficulty being captured by a book. This book grabbed me from the beginning and held me hostage until I finished. Love that it takes place in Rhode Island. Great character development, felt as if I really knew them and connected with their "Roller Coaster" ride through life. Great read, highly recommended!!!"

"I do not read romance novels, ever. I picked this up largely because of the Rhode Island setting... Too few books are set there, despite all it has to offer. I'm really glad I did. Ms. Conway has crafted a very effective, modern-day spin on "Romeo & Juliet," tinged with some of the class-consciousness of "Jane Eyre" and insights into small-town America à la "Our Town." The characters are well-drawn and realistic, as are their struggles -- both visible (a wedding reception gone very wrong) and internal (tough decisions and ethical quandaries). I also really enjoyed the fluidity with which the author moved back and forth through time, which can be tough to follow if done badly but here was flawlessly executed. Definitely worth your time."

"Jayne I finished your book. I am so proud of you, it was great. Very well written, had my attention & I didn't want to put it down. GREAT JOB!"

"Oh Jayne! Loving the book. Been a long time since I've read a book I don't want to end. Trying to not rush through it, yet captivated."

"I just wanted to let you know that I truly LOVED your book! So much! I spent 2 days allllll day reading it. The first day I think I read for 8 hours! It was so good! I loved the humor and gasped when I read the words (DELETED SPOILER!)  I got teary at a few parts and now I really want to come to RI for the 4th of July! I will read anything you write!!"

Three weeks ago, I pressed the submit button on the Amazon website and held my breath, then spent the next week in a constant state of panic, hardly sleeping at night, as I spread the word throughout my social network that I'd <gulp> written a book. Who does that? No one I know! Am I completely insane? Doubts crowded my every waking thought. What if I become a local laughingstock? What if everyone hates it? What if I've been deluding myself? What if I totally suck? I hate what ifs.

Today? I feel a lot better about taking this leap into the unknown. Phew! And I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to not only read What if I Fly? but also reach out and reassure me that I don't suck, and share how I've touched their lives in some small way. It means a lot.

Now, the pressure's on for book two and I have to admit, I'm a little nervous. I don't want to disappoint anyone! But then I sit in front of my computer...and everything else fades away. I'm transported to another world, lost in the lives of my characters. The words flow effortlessly and I lose track of time.

Exactly what happened the first time I sat down to write a book.