Posts Tagged ‘The Best Life List’

Doing Something: This American Life

Me and the Cakesters

I feel like this blog is turning rapidly from a blog about “naming things” to a blog about NPR shows on which I hope to someday be. In that spirit, I’d like to tell you a story:

I finished my newest book in July. It came out last month. (Remember The Best Life List? Now you will be very very sleepy and now you will go order it on Amazon and now you will wake in 3…2…1…) Hey there! What? No, we were just talking about NPR…

Any time I have ever finished a book I have gone into a mild depression. Nothing with cutting, but you know, a sort of downtime involving a live streaming Felicity marathon or carbo-loading. I have been really fortunate in that a new project had a way of coming up fairly quickly. Or maybe it’s just that human animals tend to forget pain. I don’t really know how long I went between projects. But I don’t recall turning to my limited stockpiles of gumption, pulling up my bootstraps (or, whatever) and trying to rustle myself up some work.

So as I’m lamenting my lack of a career over coffee with my incredibly go-getting author friend Abby Sher (Amen, Amen, Amen is the title of her amazingly powerful memoir featured on the Tyra Show and in Elle Magazine. Now you will be very very sleepy and now you will go order it on Amazon and now you will wake in 3…2…1…) What? Nothing.

…Abby says, “You need to pull up your boot straps,” or else she quotes the actual cliche, and she points me to the NPR program This American Life because she’s awesome and go-getting and knows about things and she says, “Even you must have at least one story that fits into one of these upcoming show themes.”

But that isn’t what gets me to do it. What gets me to do it is that pitching This American Life doesn’t involve donating a kidney or writing a lot. Rather, they only need you to jot down a few paragraphs about the story you want them to feature. It’s pitching for the lazy. You can carbo-load AND pitch them in between Felicity episodes. It’s a wondrous thing.

So I pitched a story to them. Then heard nothing. Now this is generally how me pitching things goes: I pitch and then just kind of hang out. Again, totally good for people who spend a lot of time chewing. But what happened at the Cavs game at my friend Mike Lashutka’s house last Wednesday is what changed the course of these events for the better.

First of all, I don’t watch sports but the event was Tivo’ed so it was definitely more fun when you get to watch the thing in fast forward. Also, the Cavs won which made all those Brooklyn Transplanted Northern Ohioans happy. But the best thing was that a girl came to the party with whom I got to talking. (She’s a social worker and you know how I gravitate to people who will listen to me.)

So she mentions that she used to work at NPR. I reply, “No way! I just submitted my first pitch to This American Life.” So she’s all, “Really? I used to work at This American Life!” And I’m like, “Nuh uh!” and we do that for a minute.

Long story shortened: The powers-that-be are subsequently contacted to dig up my pitch and the next day I get a confirmation email that my pitch has been received and read. It was automated. Everyone gets it. But I’d like to think I got mine a little more quickly and maybe even a little more thoughtfully because I got networked. And in this business that’s huge.

Now I am waiting again but I bought a box of Oreo snack cakes. (You heard that correctly. Not cookies. Snack Cakes. Cakesters, if you will. You can thank me later.) I don’t mind the wait because at least it’s an indication that I did something productive and that there is momentum behind my career.

Or at least that I did something productive…

The Opposite of My Porn Name: My Chaste Name

Dee Dee, sleeping on the job.

The Best Life List, my newest book, dropped officially this week. That’s what they call it when a published book is released to the public – “dropped.” I didn’t know that until maybe my forth book so it’s okay if you didn’t know that either. A book drops. Now you know.

This word seems sort of appropriate, at least where my books are concerned. They seem to drop and then just sort of free fall. People ask, “How are your books doing?” and my frank answer every time is to shrug my shoulders and sing “Mm-uh-umm,” (which sounds like “I don’t know” without words). This is because, sincerely, I don’t know. Genuinely. And I don’t know how to find out. At all. This is seven books later.

My grandmother asks, “How is your new book doing?” and I can say, “Great!” because, shoot, maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s selling like hot cakes in Baltimore. Maybe they can’t get enough ten item lists in Omaha and they are waiting for the sequel (The Second Best Life List). But most importantly, I can say that the book is doing great, perhaps even doing exceptionally because if I can’t find out the truth, how can she?

There is a rumor that Amazon ranks you with a number (Amazon’s Best Seller Rank) that indicates your sales numbers compared to every other book being sold on Amazon. I have studied this number, but have no idea if it’s true. I’ve also heard the number just represents how many people have looked at your book page, how many people have looked at any of your book pages, or how many people have thought about your book either in passing or in earnest.

Barnes and Noble is simpler. Your sales numbers are based on how many books physically get returned to the publisher. So if they order five copies of your book to every store in the country and only sell two, after a few weeks they will return the remaining three to the publisher. But the publishers don’t call you to tell you. Instead they mail your agent a really crazy looking bi-annual report that I swear I have stared at blankly for twenty minute intervals hoping to glean some spiritual, if not publishing-world-related insight.

So how is The Best Life List doing? Mm-uh-umm.

What I do know however, is that some other book I wrote for Adams Media didn’t do so good. And there is one really clear, non-spread-sheet answer as to how I know this: Dee Dee Clermont.

When I was asked to write The Stoned Family Robinson last year I had a little squabble with the editor over the by-line. I wanted it to read “By Johann David Wyss and Joselin Linder,” because I used (and by used I mean tragically bastardized) a version of Wyss’ manuscript of The Swiss Family Robinson. But I was told the publisher thought it would be jazzier to go with J.D. Wyss and J.P. Linder, since the book was sort of “jazzy.” However, I wanted fans of The Swiss Family Robinson to be able to find the book easily, which I used as my counter-argument. After a few back-n-forths, I was finally reassured that the seven remaining fans of The Swiss Family Robinson still living, wouldn’t want to find my book and conceded.

But as we negotiated the book contract for The Best Life List they were decidedly less polite. It turned out I wasn’t going to get to use my name, not because they were going for “jazzy” (oh…) but because one of my books had not sold well and the powers that be would be less likely to stock a book by “Joselin Linder” than a book by “Someone No One Has Ever Heard Of.”

“Write it under Joselin Fannin!” my agent suggested. I was about to get married and my married name was a nice one. But for some reason I didn’t want to use it. At first I wasn’t sure why. Then it hit me: I hadn’t considered before that my name might ever be at stake in this way. I didn’t know that I could sell, or fail to sell a book and end up having to change my name! It felt a bit like my identity was at stake. Since legally I was going to become Joselin Fannin or at least Joselin Fannin-Linder, I decided, it had to be saved, preserved, cared-for until I was sure I wasn’t going to F-it-up.

So I went to the place I turn to for answers to my most important concerns and questions including health issues, world news and naming things: The facebook.

“Use your porn name!” Jen Banks, my wise friend suggested (she lives in Vermont which is a really healthy state, so I listen to her advice a lot). Your porn name is the street you grew up on and your first pet. In my case that name would be Rafi Eastmoor. I almost went with it. It was both exotic and sort of sexy. But then it hit me: Isn’t using your porn name a little disrespectful? I mean, I was being paid to write a book. Writing is my favorite thing in the world to do. Should I really be an asshole about it?

After some deliberation, one pack of Little Debbies and an episode of The View, I chose the opposite of my porn name. My non-porn name. My chaste name. My current street and my current dog: Dee Dee Clermont. After all, it sounded like a good name for a writer, smart, a little bit hip (since Dee Dee is named for the bass player in The Ramones) and respectful (since my dog is pretty much my favorite person and I live on what is arguably the best street in America).

But most of all, it isn’t my name, it isn’t a name I am afraid of having banned in public. It is a name I am going to be okay answering to when NPR calls and wants to interview me on All Things Considered.

That is until the moment I realize that suddenly, in public, for the rest of my life, the dog and I basically have to share a name…That day’s going to be awesome.

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).