Episode 32—Kevin Wilson on the Comfort of the Uncomfortable, the Power of No Backup Plan, and the Five Minutes That Changed His Life Forever

Kevin Wilson
Kevin Wilson, one of the good guys.

By Brendan O’Meara

“I just went after it, man, what’s the worst thing that can happen? I strike out? I don’t get a hit?” —Kevin Wilson

“You can’t compare yourself to anyone else.” —Kevin Wilson

“I’m big on teaching the person first and the player second.” —Kevin Wilson

Kevin Wilson (@KWBaseball), president of Kevin Wilson Baseball, LLC and a former switch-hitting professional baseball player, wrote The #Goodbatting Book, a slim volume that is about way more than hitting.

That’s why he’s on the show. Plus, during my playing days, hitting was everything. I mean, everything. Don’t worry, we don’t nerd out on hitting, but rather the principles behind what makes his approach to teaching and coaching so effective. 

As always, give the podcast a subscribe and throw down your email if you want my monthly book recommendations. Thanks for listening!

Books Mentioned

Relentless by Tim Grover 
Give and Take by Adam Grant

People Mentioned

Joe Ferarro (@FerarroOnAir)

 

Episode 31—Jen Miller on Freelancing, Tenacity, Running, and Swinging Her “Where’s My Money Bat” (It’s a Thing)

Jen Miller
Jen Miller sits down and talks to me about her freelancing career and her memoir “Running: A Love Story”.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“Good ideas still find homes.”Jen Miller

“When it gets too easy, I need to challenge myself and make it harder again.” —Jen Miller

What’s this? Three weeks in a row? It’s happening, folks, and thanks for hanging in while I get my feet back under me after the big, cross-country move.

What better way to follow up that sentence than by talking about Jen Miller (@ByJenAMiller), a runner who wrote the engaging, funny, and raw memoir Running: A Love Story (Seal Press, 2016). It’s about running, love, and control and we talk about that and much more.

We also chat about freelancing and some of the more granular details of the business that I think will benefit any freelancer, novice or expert.

Lots of good stuff here. Please go and subscribe to the podcast. Share it with a friend or two or three. I’m trying my hardest to keep it consistent and hopefully it can keep growing.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 27—Paul Lisicky on Writing in Unlikely Places, Simultaneous Projects, and Preserving Play

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Photo by Star Black
Photo by Star Black

“If you put too much focus on one thing you can kill it.”Paul Lisicky.

“What would it be like to be an amateur again?” —Paul Lisicky

When I get away from doing the podcast I forget how fun and uplifting the experience can be. Here, for Episode 27 (!), we have Paul Lisicky (@Paul_Lisicky), author of The Narrow Door (Graywolf Press, 2016).

Paul talked a lot about his own process and how that has changed over the years. He also talked about some of the best advice he can give an aspiring writer: cultivating fandom.

Why don’t you just listen to him?

Go ahead and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. If you think you know someone who would benefit from this interview, share it with them. Also, subscribe to my monthly newsletter. You can preview it here to see what it’s about. Dig it? Then put in your info along the right sidebar.

Thanks!

People Mentioned

Greg Hanlon
Bronwen Dickey
Maggie Messitt
Thomas Pynchon
Jane Bowles
John Hawkes
Flannery O’Connor
Joy Williams
Elizabeth Bishop

Other Books by Paul Lisicky

Unbuilt Projects
The Burning House
Famous Builder
Lawnboy

 

Episode 22—Jeff Krulik on “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” “Led Zeppelin Played Here,” and His Kinship with Oddities

Written by Brendan O’Meara

This is a special episode of #CNF, the podcast where I speak with writers, authors, reporters and now filmmakers, in the genre of creative nonfiction.

Yes, Episode 22 features Jeff Krulik, a documentary filmmaker [link for those who can’t see the embed player below] who has the parking-lot genre nailed. He made Heavy Metal Parking Lot (see above) among other wonderful documentaries.

I worked with Jeff on an exciting project called Kentucky Confidential, headed up by John Scheinman (Episode 9 of the #CNF Podcast, go listen). You’ll find Jeff’s videos as well as my Bourbon Underworld stories.

In this episode, Jeff talks about the origins of HMPL as well as his latest movie Led Zeppelin Played here. We talk about freelancing and the financial realities of the biz, as well as his kinship with Maryland and oddities, those people on the fringe.

Here are some selected links from the episode to further educate yourself on all things Krulik. Follow him on Twitter @jeffkrulik and visit his website jeffkrulik.com.

Here’s the Deadspin article that has become the definitive history of HMPL.

One last call to action: Please subscribe to my newsletter. I try and send out a monthly dispatch of five cool things I’ve read, heard, or consumed.

And subscribe to the podcast. It’s a wing of my “brand,” and getting people on board will only help me churn out bigger and better work.

Thanks!

Love,

Brendan

A new calling?

By Brendan O’Meara

I’ve been bad. Haven’t shared anything here. I don’t think anything I’m saying falls on any ears, but that’s a “me” problem for not being interesting enough, not offering enough value.

That’s merely the truth. I’m not complaining. I’ll keep working.

Speaking of the work

During my lunch break at work (9 p.m.) and grinded out 20 minutes of narrative, two hand-written pages with my No. 2 pencil and yellow notepad.

Those 20 minutes felt so fun. I sat outside in the parking lot against two big planters under the stars, a full moon way the fuck up there.

That’s what I’m finding I love so much about fiction. It’s so fun to play around with these characters and have them say whatever I want them to, trip over roots, get the wind knocked out of them, do nasty things, do wonderful things.

Maybe I’ve found a new calling.

I’ve been knocking my head against the nonfiction wall for over 10 years and nothing has come together. At least with fiction there isn’t quite the degree of reporting needed. There’s some, but nothing like the fact-based stuff.

I’ll probably do the occasional magazine piece or essay if the mood strikes, but at some point you have to come to the realization that you’re not that good and maybe you never were.

When Backstory Feels ‘Deliberate’

Day 4: about 20% through the book. Will it be worth keeping? Should it be chucked? We’ll see. #writing

A photo posted by Brendan O’Meara (@brendanomeara) on

By Brendan O’Meara

In yet another bout of mapping vs. outlining (mapping is just reverse outlining. The terrain of the book is in place and you set out like Magellan and map the world. Very clever, I know.) I’m hitting the notecards pretty hard. See pic.

I’m at this point in the this book where I just backed up the dump truck and unloaded a chapter of backstory about my central character. Reading it feels laborious. I haven’t touched this manuscript in four years.

I’m thinking of gutting the entire backstory thus leaving my main guy a little mysterious, a little cloudy around the edges, like Gatsby. He is my Gatsby and I’m Nick, an unreliable insider-outsider who greatly admires his Gatsby.

I love seeing giant limbs of text come tumbling down. I prefer the chainsaw to the pruning sheers.

In Maureen Corrigan’s great book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, she meets with Scott Shepherd toward the end. Shepherd reads the entire novel once a day for the broadway production Gatz. He actually has the text memorized. That’s not hyperbole.

Corrigan speaks with Shepherd about Gatsby’s (the character) backstory. Shepherd says of the four-and-a-half-page section that fills in Gatsby’s early backstory:

The beginning of chapter six was sometimes tough. That’s when the audience [for Gatz] would just be back from the dinner break and the’d be logy with food. There’s something about that section that feels deliberate.

Max Perkins, the famous editor to Fitzgerald and others, pushed for Fitzgerald for more biography. Shepherd continues:

In my mind, I see Fitzgerald inventing more specifics in the backstory because Perkins told him to, while at the same time dealing with his strong impulse to leave most of the questions unanswered. The result is, to my ear, a slightly obligatory and vaguely evasive quality that’s artificial in comparison to the rest of the book.

Indeed.

In nonfiction (and all writing for that matter), there’s this tendency to fill backstory, backstory, backstory to round out the character. It’s how most reporters write a 1,000-word take out. It’s basically ALL backstory with some quotes. These past events are why you care about this story about me today.

When we’re dealing with narrative, every word is an oar that must row the boat forward. If you’re going to pause for backstory, that backstory needs to inform the foreground. If we’re going to tell you something that happened way back when, there needs to be some sort of payoff or at least a connection to the foreground.

In my mapping of this first book I wrote, I find this backstory chunk merely background with very little of real substance. Of the 5,000-8,000 words, I bet there’s a 1,000 words worth keeping to pepper throughout the rest of the story.

It feels, to echo the above statement, deliberate. Deliberate feels labored and, worst of all, boring.

Yes, we need to know where our characters came from to have a better understanding of why we care about where they’re going. But too much and we’re too anchored to the past and all forward momentum is lost.

Hey, folks, if you made this far, I’d love your email address. I send out a weekly newsletter with the week’s posts every Tuesday morning. Also, for your loyalty and permission, whenever I have freebies you’ll be the first to know. If I’m selling a book, I’ll make sure you get a discount somehow. You’ve given me your time. I give you story, and maybe a few extra dollars in your pocket. Thanks! 

Love, 

Brendan

Marketing, marketing, marketing

By Brendan O’Meara

I’ve been reading a lot about marketing lately, books, blogs, and trust me when I say this, it’s more complicated than it sounds, more complicated than it looks, and I guarantee—strike that, Guarantee with a capital G—you’re not doing enough for your book.

Is your book already out? Go back in time at least six months and reevaluate your plan because you didn’t do enough. How do I know? I did a LOT, and when I look back on it, I didn’t do half what I should have done.

Prior to the release of Six Weeks in Saratoga, I contacted all the bookstores I could and set up events. I booked around 30. I had several galleys sent out to newspapers (but only got one review). I did radio and TV, but I didn’t do enough radio and TV.

Know Thy Target: So what can be done to ensure you’re reaching your target audience? The key is target. In the summer of 2011, when the book launched, I thought bookstores would be the best avenue to sell books. The backdrop of my book is horse racing. That’s my audience. If I were smarter in Summer 1, I would have taken heed of this trend:

Barnes and Noble: 2 books

The Book House (Indy Store): 6 books

Monmouth Park (horse track): 62 books

Saratoga Race Course (horse track): 88 books

Perhaps it was because it was my first book and I wanted to be, you know, in bookstores. Bookstores can’t be ignored. I’m glad I did them, but based on the potential to reach the readers who would be interested in my book, my energies would have been better spent at racetracks. Naturally, this summer I went exclusively to racetracks.

Befriend Bloggers: My other mistake? Not taking advantage of bloggers. Bloggers who have 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 followers are your generals in command of an army of like-minded readers. If a blogger gives you an endorsement, a chunk of their followers will buy up your book. It takes one galley. I only got 10 copies in my contract. I have since purchased 400 books (many I have sold by hand, many I have donated to silent auctions [karma], many I have given to reviewers). If $14 can translate into 100 book sales, I think that’s a worthy investment.

What else? Well, I’m voraciously reading marketing books and marketing blogs (I’m a big fan of Tim Ferriss’s 4hourblog. He’s a marketing guru and a wizard of self-promotion.)

I’ll be sharing more as I learn and test out stuff. And you’ll get on TV just like I did.

What are you doing to market your book prior to publication? After publication? Do you find it overwhelming? Let me know!