jennifer weiner
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Brilliant author of Good in Bed and In her Shoes takes time out from her increasingly hectic schedule to talk about her writing.

What inspires you to write?
I've always written. Practically ever since I learned how to read I was trying to make up my own stories. And I think that these days most of my inspiration comes from real life, and the big questions of real life. With my first two books, I'd say the questions they answered were the ones that preoccupied me in my twenties - who am I going to be when I grow up, and Who will I love? With my third book, I'm trying to deal with questions of
ambition - how it can help you, how it can hurt you - in addition to having another female heroine deal with questions of romance and family history. I think that in a purely selfish sense, I write because it lets me puzzle out my own answers to the big questions..and I love entertaining people!

How long does it take you to write a novel?
How long Twelve to eighteen months for a rough draft - no matter what! GOOD IN BED took about eighteen months to write, and I was working full-time when I wrote it. IN HER SHOES took about a year, and I'd become a full-time novelist at that point. The book I'm writing now has taken about eighteen months.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
I generally write in the afternoons, on my laptop, at a coffee shop down the street from where I live. Even though I'm technically a stay-at-home writer, I don't actually stay at home. Too many distractions. I work anywhere from three to four hours, but even when I'm not actually sitting in front of the computer, I'm thinking about characters and plot.

Is it harder to start or finish a novel?
For me, finishing is harder..because that's when I have to make the hard choices about which scenes and characters stay, and which ones go. I really like rewriting, and think sometimes I could do it forever, but stopping - now that's a challenge!

How did you go about finding an agent and do you think it's necessary to have an agent?
I talk about this a lot on my website. Basically, I finished GOOD IN BED, my first novel, and got myself one of the many guides to finding literary agents - specifically, John Baker's "A Writer's Guide to Literary Agents." I
went through the book and then I went through my books, making a list of the agents who'd represented the books I'd loved the best. Then I wrote a funny, incisive, short query letter talking about who I was and what I'd written and where I'd been published before, and sent it to about twenty-five agencies. I got twenty-three turn-downs right away - "Sorry, we're not taking new clients. Or new fiction. Or new women's fiction." The other two
asked to see the manuscript, and one of them wanted to represent me. She wound up not being my agent in the end - and you can read all about that on my website - but one of the women I'd met in her office was able to recommend another, younger, just-starting-out agent. That was the brilliant Joanna Pulcini, and she's been my agent ever since. I think it's definitely necessary to have an agent when you've finished your first novel and want to sell it, but in terms of just getting articles, commentary and short stories published, I don't think you need an agent at all, and I'd advise against spending too much time searching for one until you've actually got a book to sell.

How do you cure writer's block?
Well, after ten years as a journalist for daily newspapers, I've gotten into the habit of writing every day and meeting deadlines, because you just don't have the luxury of ignoring them. So I've been lucky not to have ever been plagued with writer's block. I think that to a large extent the difference between actual writers and people who just talk about writing books someday is physical discipline and dogged persistence - the ability to just put yourself in front of that blank screen or blank page every day and write something, even if it turns out being not so terrific. And if I ever got stuck, I'd probably put aside whatever I was working on and spend a day or two doing something else - an essay, a poem, a journal entry.

What is your all-time desert island book?
Susan Isaac's ALMOST PARADISE. A big, juicy treat of a book with a great story and a wonderful heroine. I re-read it at least once a year.

What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
I think Anne Lamott spells it out best when she talks about the dream of being published, and how once your books are in the bookstores all of your problems will be solved, your life will be perfect, there will never again
be dirty dishes or traffic jams, you'll be magically cured of envy and jealousy, and the world will finally treat you with the respect that you deserve. Of course, that's not what happens. You'll still be the same insecure, neurotic person you were at the start of the process, only now you'll have bad reviews and jealous relatives to plague you. But all that being said, walking into a bookstore and seeing your books there - or hearing from people who were touched by the characters you've created - is a pretty phenomenal feeling.

What advice would you give budding authors?
Write every day and don't wait for anyone to give you permission. You don't need an agent or a publishing deal or a fancy degree, you just need time, and dis
cipline, and a story to tell.

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