The trifecta of family gatherings has begun! Thanksgiving is barely finished…there are still leftovers
in my fridge…and I'm already looking forward to the daunting prospect of Christmas and then New Year's. If you're like me, you gather together with family to eat, exchange gifts or just visit. And we all love that, don't we? Don't we?!
Family is a wonderful thing for writers. They're that supportive community that encourages us, understands us and inspires us. After all, that's what every author writes about on their Acknowledgements page. Of course maybe those authors weren't telling the whole truth. So, as you look forward to countless social events with family members and friends my best advice is to prepare your answers beforehand. To help you, here's a cheat sheet for those fun questions writers are often asked.
When are you going to get a “real job”?
For years I faced this question from a favorite relative. And for years I took it very personally since to me writing is a real job. Now I realize that the whole concept of freelance writing is foreign to him. He (and most people) work a certain number of hours a day and get paid every two weeks, even if it's a slow week at the office, store, classroom, construction site. Once they get hired, the search for work is over. They don't spend their days doing their job and constantly looking for another job…and another job, and another job.
KISS this one (Keep it super simple). “Writing is a real job.” But know your audience. If they're the type who will want to start a debate about how writing isn't a “real job” just deliver your five word answer and then go help Aunt Martha in the kitchen for ten minutes before joining another conversation.
What are you writing?
If you haven't prepared for this question it can catch you like a deer in headlights. After all the phrase “more than one iron in the fire” was practically created with writers in mind. So, before any holiday gathering take a quick mental look at your career and pick a few “irons” that your family will enjoy or find interesting.
The rule of three works for this question. “I'm working on several things, including…1, 2 and 3.”
When will it be published?
If you've had a few glasses of wine you may be tempted to reply, “Let me get out my crystal ball and I'll tell you.” Resist this urge. Instead remind yourself that the world of writing and publishing is even more confusing for non-writers than it is for writers. Explain but be vague so your words don't come back to haunt you at some future gathering.
“After I complete it I can start shopping it around to agents and publishers.” or “My deadline is coming up but after that it's really up to my editor.”
What happened to….?
This is why I love vague answers. Because someone always remembers the WIP you started, bragged about at Thanksgiving last year and eventually abandoned or transformed into something completely different.
“I've set that aside to focus on Project B/teaching/finding an agent/meeting this deadline.”
Why don't you just write…?
A vampire book. A book with lots of sex. A novel about Aunt Mary's drama-filled divorce. A children's book. A movie. I have heard it all. The key here is to silently tell yourself: They love me. They are trying to be helpful. Because they are. They're suggesting something that's on the bestseller list or something that seems easy/profitable.
This is another KISS. “That does sound interesting but I have a few things I'm working on already.”
How much money do you make?
OK, they never actually come out and say that. Instead they hint around the edges, often by removing you from the question: How much do magazines pay for articles? Children's books are so short, do they make less money than books for adults? I read that Author X is also a teacher/editor/longshoreman.
Do not take the bait and get caught up in an attempt to prove that you can make a living as a writer. Because unless you are James Patterson (is he a billionaire yet?) you will not convince them. The non-answer will serve you well here.
“That depends/How interesting/I should find out at my next writer's conference.” And my favorite, “Is that Aunt Martha calling me from the kitchen?”
Enjoy the holidays!
Jodi M. Webb is writer living in Pennsylvania who also is a WOW blog tour manager. Her family includes two parents, one brother, a dozen aunts and uncles and more cousins than she can count (math never was her strongest subject). You can find her blogging about books at Building Bookshelves.
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