This month, I hosted a pre-launch party for The Bucket List for bookish types at a lush penthouse in Soho. The purpose of a pre-launch party is to get media and influencer-types excited about the book's release (August 7th), and give them a little taste of the story, and its inspiration. It was a joy to share the book with about 50 members of the NY literati, topped off with a performance of one of the book's pivotal scenes (the moment captured in the first picture by photographer Kait Ebinger is of all three female characters, Lacey, Steph and Vivian, feeling their boobs). I do love putting on show...
Last month I was able to share the super exciting news that we sold The Regulars to E! This month, we had to put the rosé down, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.
The first thing we needed to hand in is an outline. The execs didn’t have a hard-and-fast rule for the format, or even how many acts the show should have, leaving this up to Gail (the showrunner/my co-creator) and I. The first thing I put together was a “beat sheet”, which is a breakdown of the episode by scene (or “beat”). My first beat sheet was waaaayyy too long (I’m a novelist! I like long!), so after a lot of back and forth, Gail and I got it down to 17 scenes for Evie, the main character, and half a dozen each for Krista and Willow. We also orientated the scenes more clearly around these two questions for each character: What does she want? What’s stopping her from getting it? This helped keep us on story, as the lingo goes.
We fleshed out each beat into a scene description, with sample dialogue. After notes from our producer Jenn, we submitted a detailed, fun-to-read 17-page outline to our awesome studio exec, Kate, for more notes, then it goes to the network for approval. Fingers crossed everyone loves it as much as we do.
I’ve learned a lot this month about adapting a novel for TV. My advice?
1. Be open to better ideas. It's tempting to protect your writing as it appears in one format, but be humble enough to accept other people will have better ideas than you. One such change Gail suggested for the pilot was that Evie, who is our “eyes in” to the story, receive and take the Pretty first. In the book, Krista receives the Pretty and Willow takes it first, but this makes a lot more sense.
2. Stay on story. I’m a plot-driven writer who admires succinct storytelling, but compared to our pilot, my novel is a free-flowing boho mess who doesn’t wear shoes. There is so much more room to dream in a novel; maybe because readers will stick with you longer than viewers, perhaps because our attention span for visual storytelling is shorter and shorter. Our storytelling is so much tighter and less expansive than the book, and revolves heavily around answering the two questions above: what does she want? What’s stopping her from getting it? All our scenes invoke, complicate, or answer those questions.
3. Be a writer, not a producer. A pilot costs a lot of money to shoot, and the more speaking parts, locations, night shoots, exteriors, stunts, extras (etc) you have, the more it costs. It can be tempting to act as producer in the writing phase to make the project more feasible. But it’s the producer's job to balance the budget. My job right now is to write a kickass pilot. So, while I have resisted the urge to add in a helicopter fight sequence, I haven’t been editing the scope of it too much, at this early stage.
PRO-TIP: Gail is in LA, and I’m obviously in NY, so we’ve been using the messaging program Slack to work on this together. I also use Slack for Generation Women. If you haven’t tried is, it’s a helpful way for a team to communicate if you’re drowning in a million email threads.
This month, I'm working on marketing and publicity for The Bucket List. My second novel isn't out till August 7th, but in order for it be a big, exciting launch with fun events, great press, and excellent buzz, that groundwork starts now. Right now I'm rounding up author blurbs: the words of praise from other writers often featured on the book's jacket or elsewhere online. For a debut novel, the publisher will push hard for blurbs but from book two and onwards, this mostly falls on the author's shoulders. So far, I have three great blurbs from authors Amy Poeppel, Andrea Dunlop, and Corinne Sullivan. How did I get these? By actively and enthusiastically fostering a bookish community. No one goes it alone: everyone needs a community. Here's how you can create yours.
1. Rethink "competition". We're often mistakenly led to believe our community is our competition. I'm not saying there's zero truth in this, but you have more to gain by befriending your "competitors" than ignoring them. There is power in numbers, and your "competition" will be the source of great advice, powerful connections, and invaluable friendships.
2. Be kind online. Support members of your community online! It's free, easy and effective. Likes are fine, but go one step further and leave a comment, or retweet/repost something. I definitely feel closer to people I've met once or twice through a kind and supportive online relationship.
3. Meet IRL. It's essential you connect with your community offline. I host a monthly author salon for novelists, where I've made so many great friends. I also go to events and am always up for a drink with a fellow novelist. Why not start a weekly or monthly happy hour for members of your tribe, be it figurative painters or project managers? Don't worry if you're the one always doing the organizing: if you can get your community together, it's worth it.
4. Put your money where your mouth is. For me, that means I buy books. As regular readers of this newsletter are aware, I am always broke, and for a long time I resisted buying books at launches, because I'm such a fan of the ol' local library. But I couldn't ask my friends to buy my book if I didn't buy their's. Ultimately, it's a business expense, and one I'm happy to pay for. Support your community with not just your time and energy, but your wallet.
5. Show up. It's really that simple. To events, to conferences, be present, be interested. I believe it is impossible to thrive in your field or industry without being part of the social culture. Be pro-active and create those relationships.
I can finally share my TV news... Drumroll please... We sold The Regulars to E! That's right folks, after three trips to LA and over a dozen pitches, we accepted E!'s offer to begin development of my first novel as a show. It. Is. So. Exciting. I'm so very grateful to everyone who helped make this happen: my producer Jennifer Graziano of Just Jenn Productions, show runner Gail Gilchriest, everyone at CBS Studios, our agents at UTA, and of course E! Now, if you want to know when you should set your DVR (if anyone still does that?), hold your horses. The deal isn't a guarantee the show will be on the air, but what it does mean is Gail and I will write a pilot for E! over the coming months. So now, I'm digging into how to turn this book into a TV show. I'm open to hearing what you guys loved about the book and what you'd hope to see in a show on a network like E! Email me your thoughts!
The Bucket List galleys are finally in my hot little hands! Galleys are "advance reader copies" (aka ARCs), and are printed versions of an early manuscript, specifically for media, influencers, publishing folk: anyone who benefits from an early read. I'm currently sending my author ARCs out to a select list, including fellow authors for author blurbs (the praise you see on a book's jacket). I'm told author blurbs aren't as as essential for a second book, but they're still good to have. I have my first blurb in from my angel Amy Poeppel (Small Admissions and the forthcoming Limelight), and it's a cracker:
“Original, thought-provoking, and witty: life and death meets S&M. Feisty and smart Lacey Whitman approaches her high stakes dilemma bravely but also wildly, with a bold bucket list of sexual fantasies she's determined to try. Combining the heat of Sally Thorne and the wit of Maria Semple, The Bucket List is poignant, super sexy, and hilarious.”
Want to win an advance copy? Goodreads is giving away 30 copies! Competition closes April 2nd!
If you're in the biz and you'd like an ARC, email my publicists Stephanie.Mendoza@simonandschuster.com or Alison.Hinchcliffe@simonandschuster.com. On-sale 8/7/18
THE THEME IS "MY SLIDING DOOR MOMENT"
Decisions: we make a bunch of 'em every day (gym or nap? seltzer or wine?). Most are small. Some are bigger. And over the course of a lifetime, some are quite literally life-changing. This month, we're exploring the one decision that changed our lives, forever.
Generation Women is a cross-generational storytelling night in NYC, created and hosted by yours truly. Each month, six women of note read an original piece on a theme. Of those women, one is in her 20s, her 30s, her 40s, her 50s, her 60s, and her 70s+. Generation Women celebrates and amplifies women's voices and creativity. We're a unique, intimate female literary salon that brings together women of all ages.
Team 20: Alyssa Coscarelli is Refinery29’s Senior Fashion Market Editor and is a style influencer in her own right. Constantly keeping the pulse on the market, Alyssa will try any trend at least once, covering fashion brands, styling tips, and overall industry happenings for Refinery29. She also shares her city-inspired outfits, inspirations, and adventures daily with her enthusiastic Instagram following.
Team 30: Azita Ardakani is a Canadian Iranian immigrant and a five year transplant to New York City. She founded Love Social, an award winning digital impact agency, and is now a partner at Honeycomb Portfolio, a female founded impact investment fund.
Team 40: Leyla Martinez is a senior at Columbia University, studying Human Rights. She is also the President/Founder of Beyond the Box Initiative, which is an organization that seeks to eliminate structural barriers to higher education, housing, employment and civic participation for people who have criminal convictions.
Team 50: Julie Klam has published several books, including The Stars in Our Eyes and You Had Me At Woof, and wrote for the VH1 television show Pop-up Video, where she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Class Writing. Currently, she writes for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the magazines that haven’t folded.
Team 60: Marcia Butler was a professional oboist for twenty-eight years until her retirement in 2008. She is the author of the nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, which was listed in “35 OVER 35” as a notable debut author. Her first novel will be published in 2019.
Team 70: Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is the author of Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) and indie Finalist, Kaylee’s Ghost. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, and more. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry, and she teaches writing at UCLA Extension.