Friday, April 1, 2016

Nancy Lee Badger Interviews Writer Linda Formichelli

Linda Formichelli stopped by to share her  book How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes out with a Sharpie. Yes, this is her latest self-help book and is to be released on April 18, 2016. Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.  

Linda- On New Year’s eve 2015, I was journaling about the year and decided to make a list of everything I had done in the past 12 months. There were over 40 items on the list! For example, I traveled to five foreign countries with my family; ran two businesses; hosted three exchange students; read 32 books; and wrote a book, 40 blog posts, and two feature articles.

Once I saw the whole list written out, I had the brainstorm to write a book detailing the process. Women are always asking me how I get do much done, especially since we’re a middle-class family with two wage-earners and a kid. We are not rolling in money or free time!

After having written for the women’s magazines for so many years -- like Family Circle and Woman’s Day -- I especially wanted to address the cultural narrative, which is perpetuated by the women’s media, that women are trying to do it all and burning themselves out in the process, and that they need to just relax and stop trying to be superwoman. Some of us enjoy doing a lot! Sure, sometimes I get stressed out, but if you want to create a fun, meaningful life, that requires some effort.

That was the basis of How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out with a Sharpie. It is a self-help book; it’s my second one. I’ve also written many book for writers, a couple of Idiot’s Guides, a Dummies book, and two Chicken Soup for the Soul books (where I wrote the intro chapters and tips, and selected and edited the essays).

Nancy- Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?

Linda- This is a self-published book, but I DID have several manuscripts! I printed out all 200 pages to edit the manuscript four times. I also had my business partner take a look...and my writer husband...and my 20 beta readers...and a professional proofreader. So the manuscript went through many, many versions.

I think a lot of writers feel that if they’re self-publishing, they can just whip out a book and stick it on Amazon -- but not so. Having an editor, and an outside perspective from other readers, is very important.

Nancy- Do you have any rejection stories to share?

Linda- Do I ever! My co-author and I sent a proposal for The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success to maybe a dozen different publishers and it was rejected by each we shelved the idea. Then, a few years later, I was approached by an old trade magazine editor of mine. He had started a company that published books for writers, and did I have any book ideas? That’s how The Renegade Writer was born, and it launched my career as a book author and writing coach. I guess the moral of the story is to do your best work for every client, even the ones that don’t pay much, because you never know where they’ll end up in the future.

I also have a rejection story that’s not book related. I was a magazine writer for almost two decades, and I’ve racked up well over 500 rejections. And yet I managed to make a great living from magazine writing for a long time! Also, it really helped with the process of writing a book because after being rejected so many times, and edited by so many editors, I have pretty much no ego left when it comes to my writing. If an editor or the readers don’t like something, I change it without thinking twice. For example, when a few beta readers told me that my Fight Club, Lego Movie, and Wayne’s World jokes were falling flat (because, um, not all women have seen these movies), I just took them out. The proofreader mentioned I had over 150 asides in my book, and I deleted almost all of them. I “killed my darlings,” as the writer saying goes, and my book ended up being a lot stronger.

Nancy- What is your writing routine like?

Linda- Routine? What’s a routine? Seriously, when I really want to write something I can’t stop myself from doing it. I work during my son’s school hours of 8:30 am until 2:30 pm, and in those hours I bang out as much as I can on a manuscript.

One of the time-management tips I talk about in How to Do It All is the Admin Day -- a day you set aside every week to take care of those tasks that don’t further your big goals, but have to be done nonetheless. That way, the other days of the week you can focus on your goals without having that nagging feeling that you really should be paying the bills or scheduling dentist appointments.

My Admin Day is Friday and it’s been a godsend. Monday through Thursday I can just work on my projects, plan trips, and so on, and on Friday I do things like return non-essential emails, schedule appointments, pay bills, and get the car inspected.

Nancy- Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract? 

Linda- Make rejection your friend...because you’ll experience a lot of it. One thing the biggest names in writing have going for them is that they’re persistent. For example, both JK Rowling and Stephen King suffered many rejections before their first books were accepted. A rejection isn’t’s not about you. It’s a completely subjective business decision by a publisher or agent.

Nancy- Please share three fun facts about you that most people don’t know. 
1) I’ve studied French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Middle-High German, Old Church Slavic, and Bulgarian.
2) Even though I look like a typical middle-class mom, I’m kind of a nerd: I love military sci-fi, 80s arcade games, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and manga! My favorite manga series have been Death Note, Maison Ikkoku, After-School Nightmare, Bakuman, and Hikaru No Go.
3) I had 26 jobs before becoming a freelance writer at the age of 27, from retail to waitressing to freelance translation.

Nancy- What’s next for you?

Linda- I have a new book idea! It’s Do It Anyway: Your Top 50 Excuses for Not Doing What You Really Want—Busted. Also, my business partner and I are working on The Renegade Writer’s Tiny Guides To... This is a series of books where we offer short and sweet tips on interviewing, marketing, and more.

You want to do, see, and experience everything you can to create a rich, memorable life. Travel. Volunteer work. Athletic events. Entertaining. Reading, learning, and trying new things. And you want to look and feel great while you do it. In fact, your favorite saying just might be “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”
BUT: Read any blog, magazine, or book aimed at women and the common refrain is: “You have so much to do! You need to simplify your life and say ‘No’ to things you really don’t want to do. And ask your husband to clean the bathroom, you poor thing, so you can have 15 minutes to yourself. Now, take out your gratitude journal and write about how grateful you are that you can walk and breathe.”

I call BS. In How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out with a Sharpie, you’ll learn:

*Why stress should be welcomed, not avoided.
*The importance of living a do-it-all life.
*Why you shouldn’t expect support from your family…and where to get it instead.
*Why you should shower less, sleep less, talk to yourself, and be inconsistent — and how this can help you live a more memorable life.
*How you can get it all done even when right now you have no time, no money, and no motivation.
*The revolutionary plan to accomplish everything you dream of doing in your life (includes free worksheets!).

Let’s do this thing!

Excerpt: Chapter 4: Say Yes to Stress
In the opening to this book you read about my 2015 and all the crazy and stressful, but fun and memorable things I planned and accomplished.

My desire to do it all it goes back much further than 2015. In high school, I studied so many languages that I didn’t have a lunch period or a study hall, and was already submitting short stories to literary journals. In college and graduate school, I took almost double the normal course load while also working and volunteering, and maintained an A- grade point average. And it goes on from there.

I could cut down on my activities and spend my days reading light novels, soaking in lavender-infused baths, and om-ing away on a yoga mat. And the people and things in my life would get along just fine. After all, no one’s family died because their window shades were dusty. The world won’t stop spinning if I don’t read voraciously, start social clubs, volunteer, adopt special-needs pets, host teenage exchange students, or run multiple businesses.

And yet I’ve constantly put myself in situations where I knew I’d be exhausted before it was all over. I’ve teamed up with a friend to sew 80 cat beds for the local shelter. And planned multi-country trips with a 6-year-old. And started clubs and organizations where I ended up managing 100 or more members or volunteers. And agreed to write 13 magazine articles in a month. And attempted to run two businesses while homeschooling our son. And had two bathrooms renovated during the Christmas holiday, while hosting three additional holiday dinners for people who couldn’t be there for the main one. Of course, while I did all this, it was important that my teeth were flossed daily, my hair was highlighted every six weeks, and all my bras were hand-washed on a regular basis.

But Should We Flee Stress?

So yes, I’ve always experienced that major, scary problem women’s magazines and books and blogs try so kindly to help us avoid—stress. I journal, take hot baths, and get frequent massages, and I’m very involved in yoga and meditation. But when you get up from savasana and jump back into 20 crazy projects at once, the pressure is sure to come back before you can say Namaste.

Stress can feel like crap. But is it really something to be avoided at all costs?

As I was writing this chapter, I received a newsletter from author Laura Vanderkam titled The Good Life Is Not Always the Easy Life, and it perfectly encapsulates my thoughts on the subject. Laura gave me permission to quote from it here:

[…]no one is entitled to a stress-free life, and shying from stress can cut off much happiness.

Here’s what I mean. In life, there’s effortless fun and effortful fun. Cracking open a beer and turning on the TV after the kids go to bed falls in the first category. Planning a dinner party falls in the second. Both have their place, but it’s always easy to underinvest in the latter because, well, it’s work. The idea that fun should take work is incongruous enough that we resist it. Most of us are busy enough with professional work and family work that turning leisure time into work just sounds ridiculous. Better not to make a fuss.

That’s fine except that watching TV for the bulk of one’s leisure time does not make for a particularly meaningful or memorable life. When I think about the things that I would mention as highlights of my leisure time over the last year, they’re almost all effortful. Running 3 half-marathons was great in retrospect, but there were many not-fun moments of finding parking and waiting in the heat or cold for the start. Baking with my 4-year-old is marvelous in many ways, but it is never easy with her toddler brother underfoot. I loved bringing my daughter to eat with the princesses at Epcot’s Akershus in September. Hauling the kids around hot, crowded Disney World, on the other hand, which was necessary in order to eat with those princesses, was at times horrific enough to be comical.

[…]I think that being able to “hold paradox” can be useful in all realms of life. Rather than say “I want to have fun and this is not fun,” those who can hold paradox think this: Often fun takes work. This is simply its nature, much as the human body must eat and sleep to function. There is no such thing as a stress-free life, and there is no point wishing that fun will just come to you. If you want joyful communities, marvelous vacations, and fun family activities, you can create them. You can know that there will be a lot of bother and some horrible moments. You can also know that there will be good moments, memorable moments, and most importantly, moments that would not have happened had you chosen to save your energy, skip the bother, and do nothing instead.

Who looks back with pride at the end of the year (or at the end of their lives) on how much TV they watched, or how many Facebook posts they commented on? Most likely, every moment in your life you remember with fondness and pride took effort…and effort often means stress.

Not All Stress is Bad...
...and more. Buy the book!

BONUS: I wrote a whole blog post on exactly how much this book has cost so far to produce -- but I consider it an experiment to see if it’s worth it to hire marketing help instead of doing it myself. (You can find the post HERE)

Nancy- How can my readers buy your book?

Linda- The book will be available on in Kindle and print formats.  Please join the early notification list here to learn more about the book launch and get an invite to the secret Facebook group HERE

Linda Formichelli is a freelance writer living in the Raleigh area with her writer husband, ballet-dancing son, three rescue cats, and frequently an exchange student as well. She’s written for over 150 magazines, from Pizza Today to Woman’s Day; authored and co-authored over a dozen books, including The Renegade Writer and Becoming a Personal Trainer for Dummies (which she always thought made it sound like the reader was training dummies); and guest posted at top blogs like Copyblogger, Tiny Buddha, and Write to Done.

Linda is also the co-founder of Renegade Writer Press, which publishes books for writers and other smart people. 

You can find more information about Linda Formichelli
 here: WEBSITE  
I’m not on any social media, 
except for my closed Facebook group!

Linda Formichelli will be presenting a workshop 
April 30, 2016 during the 
WRITE NOW 2016 Writer's Conference
presented by the Triangle Association of freelancers
in Raleigh, NC. 

You can find out more 
and register HERE

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