Posts Tagged ‘gamification’

Memoirs are For the Constipated and Dostoyevsky

The photo I keep using as a “headshot.”

I love to write. In case it isn’t obvious by looking at some of the books to which I’ve attached my name, I will write anything. The simple fact that someone will pay me to write “Have you ever tossed a dwarf?” (The Purity Test, 2008) fills me with the same humble honor as the fat kid that isn’t chosen last on the playground. I can’t believe my luck. I still can’t believe it.

So what is it about this blogging business that I find so difficult? The answer is simple: I do not think I am very interesting. Before you do the, “Oh Jos, sure you are!” chin buck, I should be clear. This does not in any way stop me from dominating any conversation at a dinner party or chatting endlessly with my sister, husband, friends or telemarketers about the minutia of my daily interactions.

But when it comes to writing, I haven’t really been in the memoir game since my teens when I was also very into singing showtunes with jazz hands (see this blog entry for additional information).

I sold another book recently. It came a little bit out of nowhere because my writing partner on Game-Based Marketing, Gabe Zichermann, is truly an incredibly brilliant and well-respected star to whom I have unapologetically hitched my wagon. He was approached by an editor at McGraw Hill to write the quintessential book on gamification. A few weeks and a twenty page book proposal later, the deal was signed.

Getting this book deal is awesome on many levels, the first of which being that it means I can continue to “work from home” which let’s face it, is code for getting to drink on weeknights. But even better than that (no, you’re right, drinking on weeknights = best thing ever) is the fact that it is not memoir. Before this deal came along I was working on a book proposal about the death of my father and the terrifying gene with which he left my sister and I.

Angie Jordan liked my gene story. Or at least, was polite about listening to it.

The story, I’ve been told repeatedly, is an interesting one. People seem to love to hear about it. I feel fairly certain they are not just being polite. The other day when I met Sherri Shepherd with my family after a live taping of The View, the awesome comedian who plays Angie Jordan on 30 Rock stood there asking question after question after my mom casually mentioned the fact that my sister had undergone in vitro to weed out the gene in her amazing twins. (Did I mention that my mother is the best publicist ever?) Sherri Shepherd gave me her email address. Provided it isn’t a fake, I believe this indicates she found it interesting. It may have also been a ploy to wrap up the conversation. Don’t think I haven’t considered this possibility.

But, on a similar note, NPR’s This American Life bought the story two months ago.

And I know it’s compelling. I’m sure it must be. But there remains this internal shrug that weighs me down, this feeling that, “It’s just my life, you know?” You wake up, you get dressed, you eat, you work, you kiss your husband and go to sleep.

I have at various times worn the pain that comprised most of my 20’s like a collection of medals around my neck. I was happy to blurt out at the most festive of Sunday brunches anecdotes about loss, physical and emotional agony, infection, suicide, pain and death.

By 30 I understood better than most the notion that, “And then you die,” and thought it after nearly every major “crisis” I encountered. Ripped dresses, rain storms, lost jobs, and lost loves had a different weight for me than for most of my peers. I knew it. I felt it. There was genius in living a life so entirely present. Because, “And then you die” is the most liberating thing you can imagine. But also the most depressing. Finding meaning takes effort. Hope and belief are fleeting and tough to pin down.

I remember at 22, running late to meet friends from my graduating college class at a bar in Davis Square in Boston. I ran in breathless, took my seat in the booth and blurted out, “Sorry-I’m-late-my-dad-slipped-into-a-coma-can-I-get-a-beer?”

Someone looks like he could use a little time on the crapper, eh, Fyodor?

No one moved. I shrugged. What could I say? It was just my life.

I read once that Dostoyevesky wrote a lot of bad memoir in the years before he was finally able to write the work that would ultimately define his career. In a particularly pretentious discussion likely in a coffee shop in the 1990’s when I wore hoop earrings everyday and thrifted sailor jeans, someone suggested that memoir was a lot like shitting. It cleared you out so that you could try again to fill yourself with something meaningful. It was suggested that the great Russian writer had to write shitty memoir (pardon the pun), get it out, so that he could eventually write The Idiot, Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.

So maybe I have to write these blogs, write this book about the gene to make room for my inner The Idiot to pour forth.

Writing about myself isn’t as boring as I imagine the act of reading about me must be — but there is something about the story of my life, my family and our gene that makes me feel like it could get me on The View with Sherri Shepherd. And with or without an inner-The Idiot, that’s enough motivation for me.

The Best Life List

                This is my new book. It’s less blurry in person.

I can’t lie – I am finding it really hard to remember the title of my new book, The Best Life List, or Best Life’s List or Dances With Wolves…I didn’t title it. In fact, to date, I haven’t named a single of one of my books. They came to me already named and often conceptualized. In the case of Game-Based Marketing, Gabe Zichermann, my friend, gamification guru and co-author extraordinaire brought the concept and most of the content. And while we liked All the World’s a Game or Funware by Design, the “creatives” at Wiley thought business people like to know in advance about the book they are picking up. And with the rest of them, some editor in Publishing-Land (like Candy-Land but with sexy librarian hair) had a book idea, a title for it but no writer to carry it out.

Once I was chosen to author a book, however, all the content was mine (which is something I maybe shouldn’t brag about…) – or mine and a co-authors’ depending on the project. At one point Have Sex Like You Just Met…No Matter How Long You’ve Been Together (breath), was titled The Good Girl’s Guide to Sex – but there were a lot of books that were starting with “The Good Girl’s Guide” at that time and it turned out that book stores wouldn’t shelve it unless we changed the name. I was working with relationship genius, Elena Donovan-Mauer, and suddenly we weren’t just expected to provide the content of a book, but we had to title the damn thing too!! Insanity ensued as did suggestions such as Spice Up Your Sex Life, Have Good Sex Now, Sex Doesn’t Have to Suck and Neither Does This Title, etc.

What the editor finally chose (see the 9,000 word phrase in the previous paragraph) was not, I’m pleased to say, attributable to either Elena or myself. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The Best Life List (or whatever) was never my title. I was merely enlisted to write 300 ten-item lists for cool women during any phase of her life that were each light, engaging and informative. (Oh yeah, and I had three weeks to do it…)

Since this blog is about “Naming Things” (did you just spit out your milk in stupefied amazement- either positive stupefied amazement or negative?) I will bore…I mean captivate you with the reason the book was written by someone named “Dee Dee Clermont” instead of someone named “Joselin Linder” or “J.P. Linder” or even “Joselin K. Rowling”  in the next blog entry.

And then I will follow it up with the reason the names of each of the 300 ten-item lists almost killed me, two editors at Adams Media and one nameless woman simply referred to as “The Publisher” (a blog entry unto herself).