Posts tagged “publishing

Keeping the Faith

Posted on February 19, 2017

The other day a writer friend of mine asked me how I kept the faith and managed my nerves as I had a project out for submission and then, thanks to Jane Dystel, a manuscript to complete for a publisher.

Here’s one of my secrets: During the eight-month period in which I crafted the proposal for The General’s Niece and revised it, I bought a fortune in self-help books. I’m not being smug or silly here. This is the honest-to-goodness truth.

The reason why I did this is because I had been through the submission process before and I saw how it, let’s just say, amplified my shortcomings. This time, I wanted to do better not only because I wanted to write this book, but because I wanted to do better in general.

As David Brooks writes in The Road to Character:

“…the inner struggle against one’s own weaknesses is the central drama of life. As the popular minister Harry Emerson Fosdick put it in his 1943 book On Being a Real Person, ‘The beginning of worthwhile living is thus the confrontation with ourselves.’

Truly humble people are engaged in a great effort to magnify what is best in themselves and defeat what is worst, to become strong in the weak places.”

Here’s a peek into my mindset via some (but not all) of the titles I purchased during this period:

Yes, I have a tendency to worry. I know this. My family knows this. My dearest friends know this. My agent, God love her, knows this too. I was on a call with her once and I remember telling her that I was worried about something. I don’t even remember what it was anymore, but she told me in her own inimitable way, “Worry accomplishes nothing.”

Then, as always, she was right. What good does it do to worry about things that either haven’t happened or are out of your control? What purpose does worry serve? Worry doesn’t write or revise or complete manuscripts. Worry doesn’t meet deadlines or answer your editor’s or agent’s questions. Worry doesn’t do anything but waste a bunch of energy that could be better spent doing something productive and enriching.

Like looking for another book idea.

Or road-tripping with your daughter to visit friends in South Florida.

Or working on your website.

Or learning something new.

Or taking a nice long walk (which I do at least four times a week) to clear your head and give you a break from your inbox.

Now I’m not saying I never worry, but I do make a concerted effort to stay busy, especially at times when I know my worst tendencies might rear their ugly heads if left unchecked. As author Marjorie Brimer says, “Publishing is all about waiting. And, waiting, I’ve found, is like that slow drag up to the peak of the [roller]coaster. For some of us, this portion of the journey is longer than others. And the longer it is, the more anticipation and anxiety that builds.”

Then you hit the peak.

I got the first hints of good news about The General’s Niece one July afternoon in 2015 when I was sitting at the pool, dripping wet, reading a book while my daughter and one of her friends swam. My cell phone dinged, so I checked my email. It was Jane, and she said there was interest in my proposal, but she needed me to answer a couple of questions.

I asked her to give me a half-hour. I don’t remember whether I told her I had to bribe two girls to get out of the pool so I could get back to my desk to find the answers she needed. But that’s exactly what I did.

“Can we have a sleepover?” they asked me as they bobbed in the water with big grins on their faces.

“You can have anything you want if you get out and dry off now,” I told them.

I’m generally not a rollercoaster person. I will confess to screaming “Oh my God, no” and various other things that I will not type now that I know my daughter knows that I have a blog. But as I drove two soggy girls back to my house that day, my heart began to pound with excitement instead of fear. I was not thinking “Oh my God, no.” but “Oh my God, yes! Bring it!”

The ride toward publication has been wild, but it isn’t over yet. For me, it has helped to work on better ways to manage the ups, downs, waiting and uncertainty that are so common in the publishing process. Resiliency is so important, and I hope this post has helped you in some way, whether you’re a writer or not.

Tell me: What are the things you do to help you weather uncertain times? What are the best lessons you’ve learned about resiliency? How do you keep the faith when the going gets tough? Please share your thoughts in comments.


Posted on October 8, 2015



That stack of papers on the top of this file? Half of a first draft. Yes, I need to double the size of this stack in the next month or so. But the most important thing right now is to get it down. When it’s down, you can go back in and cut and paste and rearrange and tighten and that sort of thing.

Anyway, this is my current situation in paper form. Pretty exciting! But there’s still a lot to do.

Things The French Do Right: Part One

Posted on April 10, 2014

Photo: The Guardian via Sipa Press/Rex Features

Photo: The Guardian via Sipa Press/Rex Features

I’m as guilty as the next person of sending work emails after hours so I can get one thing off of the following day’s to-do list. To wit: The email I sent LSU about the class I’d like to teach in Fall 2014 left my inbox at 9:20 p.m. Monday night. Yes, it probably could have waited until Tuesday morning, but I console myself thinking about how my husband was up far later than I was sending emails that probably could have waited too.

This sets up my latest argument for why our family needs to pack up and move to France.

Yesterday, French employers’ federations and labor unions signed a new, legally binding agreement that requires staffers to turn off their work phones after 6 p.m. The deal affects one million workers in the technology and consultancy sectors, and aims to keep workers from feeling pressured to look at or respond to job-related requests after hours. When I saw this story, I thought “Well, how about that? That’s more proof that the French have some shred of good sense about work-life balance. Vive la France! Let’s move!”

So I took this tale to the mister who said that it sounded really nice (in an exhausted sort of “Oh boy, here we go again. Another argument for moving to France.” way). But he added that he actually didn’t feel the pressure to respond to after-hours emails. He only felt the pressure to send the missives that happen to be the root of the problem. And before I could exclaim, “but we could move to France and reform ourselves (after we bang our heads on the wall sorting through all the requisite residency paperwork),” he actually found a way of tying up all his work-related loose ends by 6 p.m.

Husband: 1, Paige: 0

But the battle rages on…


Blogger, cookbook author and former Chez Panisse pastry chef David Lebovitz has a new book of stories and recipes out called My Paris KitchenWhat I love about the book is that it puts a culinary twist on this centuries-old question the French like to ask themselves: What does it mean to be French? Lebovitz answers this in his own inimitable way, illustrating how global influences from India to North Africa and even his native United States have shaped classic French cuisine. Plus, you get a tantalizing taste of what he might serve with cocktails or for dinner on a given day.

And that’s what makes it so difficult to decide what to cook first. It all looks so good and, better yet, accessible for the average home cook.

Last night I chose to make his chicken with mustard sauce recipe, the dish featured on the cover. It was a tricky choice because my husband and daughter are not big fans of mustard and if I ever want to use it in a dish, I have to sneak it in and refuse to answer them if they ask me what’s in the chicken. When my daughter asked me what I was making last night, I replied “Chicken in Awesome Sauce” because by then I had dipped my spoon into the skillet enough to know that the sauce was, indeed, beyond awesome.

Sometimes I feel like this is my theme song when it comes to tricking those two into eating things that I like:

Anyway, yeah.

Here’s what you need to make this:

1/2 cup and 3 TBS of Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. of smoked paprika

4 chicken legs and 4 chicken thighs

1 cup diced bacon

1 diced small onion

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 cup of white wine

1 TBS mustard seeds

2-3 TBS heavy cream

chopped fresh parsley to finish


1. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the mustard with paprika, pepper and salt. Put the chicken pieces in the mixture and cover them with it, rubbing some of the sauce underneath the skin.

2. Heat a skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the bacon, cooking it until brown. Remove the bacon and drain it.



3. Leave 1 TBS bacon fat in the pan, then add onion and cook for five minutes until translucent. Stir in thyme, cook for another few minutes and scrape into a bowl big enough to fit the chicken.

4. Put chicken in the pan (adding olive oil, if necessary) and brown it well on both sides on medium-high heat. As Lebovitz advises, good brown color makes for a great tasting sauce.



Here’s the chicken when it first went into the pan. Please don’t deduct points because I used leg/thigh pieces.

5. When the chicken is well-browned, remove it from the pan and put it in the bowl with the onions. Then add wine to the hot pan and scrape up the fond (a.k.a. really tasty bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan).


Scraping up the fond. Loving the smell. Mmm…sauce.

6. Put the chicken, bacon and onions back into the pan, cover and cook on low to medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. This should take about 15 minutes.

7. Then, remove the pan from the stove, stir in the remaining Dijon mustard, mustard seeds and cream. Top with parsley and serve with linguine noodles (you gotta sop up that awesome sauce with something) and haricots verts.finalplatechickenmustardsauce

Et voila!

The husband usually hates mustard, but liked this tremendously. The child was a little less convinced (but she is a work in progress; I tend to take a Karen Le Billon approach to her eating habits, anyway…trying, trying, trying again). Me? I loved this and will absolutely make it again.

And so, the new score:

Husband: 1, Paige: 1

We shall see what the next inning brings…


Lebovitz had a great behind-the-scenes post this week about what went into making his recent book. Aside from all the gorgeous photography and anecdotes about rose wine consumed, I really appreciated the look at the often-agonizing process of seeing a book into print. Few people know that the proposal stage alone can take almost a year in some cases, sometimes requiring total overhauls and reshapings along the way. He writes:

Writing a book is an all-consuming process, at least for me. My Paris Kitchen started out as a non-cookbook proposal that took me nearly eight months to write. People who want to write a book are always astonished when I tell them that it takes that long (at least it takes me that long), to write a proposal. But it’s the most important part of the cookbook process. It’s where you clarify and distill your ideas, and create your vision of the book. And in turn, it allows the publisher to grasp your idea of your book, who you are, and the intended audience…

After I sent the publisher at Ten Speed Press the proposal I had slaved over, he sent me a message: “You should do a book of recipes about how you cook. What is your Paris cooking?”

Grrr, eight months down the drain. But as a writer, sometimes you write and write and write for hours, thinking you came up with something brilliant. Then you go back and reread it the next day, and delete the whole thing. And start all over again.

But the point is, he persevered and has a really gorgeous book to show for it. His account is inspiring to me at a time when I’ve just finished a total overhaul of my own book proposal. So he gave me faith…and great chicken. And sometimes that’s all a girl can ask for.

Merci, Daveed.


New Year, New Goal

Posted on January 10, 2014

A dose of sweetness at Pierre Herme.

A dose of sweetness at Pierre Herme.

This time last year I was returning from a research trip in Paris. I spent two weeks there by myself, both sifting through archival material about an architect who captured my imagination and indulging in goodies like the ones pictured above. In my waning moments in the City of Light, I told myself that if I did one thing in 2013, it would be to turn this research interest of mine into a book proposal that would capture a literary agent’s imagination too. By September 11 of last year, I did just that and I am beyond grateful to be represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. I spent the latter part of last year refining my book proposal to her and her fabulous business partner Miriam Goderich’s standards. Now that I’ve completed that milestone, I have a new goal: If I do one thing in 2014, it’s to become a published author.

Yes, I did say “goal” and not “resolution.”  Jane wrote about resolution-setting this week on DGLM’s blog, and like her I tend to set goals, rather than resolutions that seem made to be broken. It’s because I prefer to work toward something in my own little imperfect way, rather than resolve to do something, fall short of my resolve and then feel like I’ve bungled everything in my efforts to get from point A to point B.

All the same, it’s the beginning of the year, and beginnings are a good time to reflect on what you’ve done before and tweak where necessary. This article that Jane shared has a great list of things worth working towards, for better or for worse. Better sleep and less smartphone are my favorites on this list, along with supporting local businesses and donating to charity (my pick: The National Multiple Sclerosis Society because my sister was diagnosed with this a year ago).

I’d like to add the following to my own personal list:

1. Reacquainting myself with my yoga practice. My mat spent more time in the closet than under my feet at the end of 2013 and I need to change that for my own sake. Shame on me.

2. Improving my public speaking skills. I probably won’t be the first (or last) writer to say that I get a little nervous speaking in front of people. But I’m steadily working toward changing that. Last fall I spoke to an elementary school class about writing, and this spring I’ll teach my first class at LSU. Other speaking engagements are on the horizon and it is my hope that after each one I’ll get better and more confident in front of crowds.

3. Cultivating patience. I have a history of not waiting well, but I’m working on that. Although I made some strides in 2013, we can always stand to improve ourselves, non?

4. Sharing more here about writing, publishing, entrepreneurship and the latest and greatest reads. Plus, keeping up the eclectic and random stuff. Blogs and social media always seem to be a work in progress, something that shifts shape depending on a writer’s interests. This year, I’d like to open things up to readers who have questions about writing or publishing, share interviews with interesting folks and bring activity from my Goodreads feed into longer, more thought-out posts. If there’s something you’d like to see covered here, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line via my contact page, or shoot me a tweet on Twitter. You can follow me @paigebowers.

What goals have you set for 2014? Please share them in comments and let me know how you’re doing with those goals. And, if you’re not setting goals or resolutions, let me know why you don’t.

Here’s to a fruitful 2014!