Guinevere de la Mare is a renaissance woman, with books.

I met Guinevere because I stumbled upon a meeting of the Silent Book Club at the XO conference last September in Portland. I was delighted to see a whole group of people quietly reading together, out in public. Finally, the perfect social outing for introverts!

Upon connecting with Guinevere to learn more about this reading haven, I was fascinated to hear about her career at Chronicle Books prior to creating the SBC. Even better- she has a book coming out this August and was excited to talk about that. So… if you’re into discussing the perils of calling yourself a writer, the early days of online media for publishers, how to start your own chapter of the Silent Book Club so you, too can read peacefully out in the world, this is going to be a very happy episode for you.

Listen up on iTunes | Guinevere’s Website | Guinevere’s Books | The Silent Book Club | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Discussed in Episode 46 with Guinevere de la Mare:

  • The slow and circuitous path to calling herself a writer
  • The social rules around reading in public
  • How family baggage and expectations can change what you expect out of your career
  • Art History as the alternate degree if Creative Writing is too scary as a major?
  • What being a “Writer” means
  • The early days at Chronicle Books
  • The beginnings of social media in publishing
  • Creating the Silent Book Club as a way to escape the screen
  • Contributing as a writer to anthologies
  • Creating her own book Mentioned: I’d Rather Be Reading
  • Gathering collaborators for an anthology
  • How she got a book deal

This episode sponsored by Scrivener

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Katie Dalebout | Dream Book Deal |Secret Library Podcast

After winning a contract with the publisher of her dreams, Katie Dalebout sat down to write her first book.

She submitted the proposal in the 11th hour before the deadline and won, an amazing story that makes up the introduction of her book, Let it Out: A Journey Into Journaling. Instead of re-telling that story, we discussed the nitty gritty details of sitting down and writing and editing the book after she had gotten the proposal approved and received her book advance. Listen up to learn how Katie created her writing schedule, why having an advance motivated her, her decision to use part of her advance to hire a copyeditor, and the experience of doing the re-writes.

I love this conversation because we get into the process of writing, what it feels like to sit down and do it in the midst of a busy life. Katie is quite self-aware and talks opening about writing this book in her early twenties and how now, in her late twenties, she already sees that she’s quite a different person who hopes to write very different books in the future. If you’re looking for tips to structure your writing sessions and context on how to get the book done along with the rest of your life, this episode will serve you well.

Listen up on iTunes | Katie’s website | Let it Out | Let it Out podcast | Facebook |  Twitter

Show notes for Episode 45 with Katie Dalebout:

  • The joy of being a guest on a podcast when you’ve been a host (2:00)
  • The odd experience of time warp when a book came out (3:00)
  • Journaling and writing for yourself vs. writing a book for others (3:40)
  • Becoming a journaler (4:00)
  • Deciding to write a book about journaling (6:45)
  • Learning to be with yourself through writing (8:00)
  • The tension of being present (10:30)
  • Writing as an activity that doesn’t allow multitasking (11:45)
  • The fitness class and mental strengthening connection (13:20)
  • Meditation as a source of presence (13:45)
  • The impact of personal practices on the writing of the book (14:40)
  • Capturing ideas for the book when out in the world (15:20)
  • The beauty of a long deadline (15:40)
  • Writing the book once the proposal was set (16:30)
  • Strategies for writing while working a full-time job (17:00)
  • Setting yourself up for success for the next day at the end of a writing session (17:30)
  • The beauty of focusing on one thing at a time (18:40)
  • Knowing when in the day you’re productive and how much time to spend on writing (20:45)
  • The constant negotiation for writing time (21:45) Mentioned: Eat that Frog
  • The influence of the podcast on the book (23:40)
  • The tension of taking in and putting out (26:00)
  • 60,000 thoughts a day and the impact on life (26:30) Mentioned: Josh Radnor’s episode on Katie’s podcast
  • How Katie went through the editing process (29:30) Mentioned: Hay House publisher
  • The editor’s letter and the re-writing process (32:00)
  • The editing timeline (35:00)
  • On setting projects aside until the right time (36:40)
  • Looking at writing ideas and how they change as we change (37:40)
  • The final edit round (37:45)
  • Moving into the marketing phase (38:40)
  • On writing a book vs blogging and podcasting (39:00)
  • Trying out the journaling prompts and what they are inspired by (42:00)
  • Preparing and protecting against a vulnerability hangover (44:00)
  • The night before the book came out (44:45)
  • The reality of what family reads when your book comes out (45:15)
  • Defining her role as the author of the book (46:00)
  • What you know in your 20s & what you don’t (46:30)

This episode sponsored by Scrivener


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Susan Orlean | Secret Library Podcast | Photo by Kelly Davidson

I knew I loved Susan Orlean the moment she mentioned the Vikings.

Ok, I loved her writing already. Of course. And not many people get to say they’ve been played by Meryl Streep. But when I saw her speak on a panel as one of the contributors in Manjula Martin’s book Scratch and she said something to the effect of “Everything I needed to know about writing I learned from the Vikings,” she had my complete attention. In the ways that no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects the Vikings. I got her to tell this story on the episode and did a lot of listening to so many important things she shared. As smart as you think Susan Orlean is, I assure you that she’s even smarter than that.

Getting to discuss the reality of being a writer in a time of such change and transformation in the world of media and publishing was invaluable. The story of how Susan ended up at the New Yorker as a staff writer is absolutely worth the price of admission and anyone, I mean anyone, who has dreamed of being a writer as their job must listen to what she has to say about writing as a profession. Period. I haven’t been the same since. You won’t be either. See you on the other side… happy listening.

author photo: Kelly Davidson

Listen up on iTunes | Susan’s Skillshare Course | Website | Twitter

Show notes for Episode 44 with Susan Orlean:

  • Writing as a small business (3:40) Mentioned: Manjula Martin’s Scratch
  • The internet, getting published, and getting paid (4:15)
  • Being an artist and thinking about money (6:20)
  • The evolution from employee to independent contractor (7:15)
  • Life inspiration from the Vikings (7:40)
  • How to decide if it’s ok to publish something for free (11:45)
  • Growing into the label of Writer (15:00)
  • The path to the New Yorker (17:30)
  • On finding the right place for you (22:00)
  • How much the publication you write for can influence your voice and vice versa (23:15)
  • Getting the clips for the jobs you want and the Catch-22 of needing experience (25:15)
  • Knowing an idea is a book idea (29:10)
  • The experience of writing a book vs. an article (31:30)
  • The research process and note-taking (34:40) Mentioned: My Kind of Place
  • On working with fact-checkers (37:00)
  • What being a writer is & where meaning comes from (38:10)
  • The joy of writing about ordinary things (41:00)
  • The timeline of researching a piece & how to tighten it if needed (43:45)
  • Challenges of travel for writing (47:30)
  • The importance of writers supporting each other (48:30)

This episode sponsored by Scrivener and The Coffeeshop Writers Group


  • April 23, 2017 - 06:58

    Melissa Fu - Such a great episode – fascinating to hear about the process and timing of the grocery store piece. Now I’m curious to read it! Thank you both.ReplyCancel

    • May 2, 2017 - 21:08

      Caroline - I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Melissa! It was such a treat having Susan on. She’s an inspiration.ReplyCancel

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Ben Winters Tackles Trump in Fiction | Secret Library podcast

The day after the election, Ben Winters decided it was time to get writing.

As we move ahead in unprecedented times here in the US, I knew I wanted to talk to Ben Winters. Not only did he launch an anthology project in the wake of the election in collaboration with numerous authors and Slate, he’s also the author of Underground Airlines, an alternative history novel that explores what might have happened if Lincoln was assassinated before he took office.

As Ben says in the episode, “Writing is always a political act,” and he and I discuss the role that fiction can play in starting important conversations, making people more aware of important issues, and how writing is an incredible way to manage what’s happening in the world at the moment. Even beyond this, we get into questions of how to write responsibly outside of your direct lived experience, the importance of not being an asshole when doing so, and all kinds of juicy stuff.  As writers, we get to decide what topics we dive into, but given how much rich material is presenting itself right now, I wanted to make sure we talked about writing in a crazy time as soon as we could. I hope you leave this conversation as fired up as I did.

Listen up on iTunes | The Trump Story Project | Underground Airlines | WebsiteFacebook

Show notes for Episode 43 with Ben Winters:

  • The tension between “alternative facts” and alternative reality fiction (2:30)
  • Fiction that’s meant to feel real vs. fiction that’s meant to be a metaphor (3:00)
  • Being in a political and cultural moment when truth is relative (3:45)
  • The Trump Story Project (4:30) Mentioned: Lauren Beukes – Patriot Points
  • Dealing with the world that we’re currently living in and its absurdity (5:45)
  • The timeline for creating and executing the series (6:10)
  • The morning after the election (6:45)
  • Creation coming out of politics (7:10)
  • Collaborating with Slate and authors (7:50)
  • Writing in historic moments (8:35)
  • Bringing the political and fiction together with Underground Airlines (10:00)
  • Using mystery and sci-fi to address racial violence and inequality in America (10:45)
  • Alternate history novels and their relationship to explore aspects turning points in history (12:00)
  • The trajectory of Ben’s writing life (14:30) Mentioned: Sense and Sensibility & Sea Monsters
  • On being a NY Times bestseller with an asterisk (16:00)
  • Using fiction to contemplate the larger issues of being human (18:00) Mentioned: The Last Policeman Series | Der Spiegel meteor Trump cover
  • Dealing with the history of white authors writing black characters in ways that are gross and attempting to do a better job (19:35) Mentioned: Octavia Butler | Paul Beatty – The Sellout | Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case for Reparations | Toni Morrison | Ralph Ellison – Invisible Man | Trayvon Martin | Michael Brown | Sandra Bland
  • Getting to the point where the character and the world take on a life of their own (21:20)
  • The responsibility writers have to get outside their own experience and confront larger questions (21:50)
  • The tension between appropriation and addressing larger experience to expand empathy (22:30) Mentioned: Zadie Smith on appropriation | Lionel Shriver speech
  • Writing characters from outside our own experience responsibly (23:15)
  • What is the purpose of fiction? (25:20)
  • Race, writing, and diversity (26:15)
  • Critical responses to Underground Airlines & The Trump Story Project (29:00)  Mentioned: Octavia Butler – Kindred | Leslie Jones’ treatment on twitter
  • Ben Winters’ story in the Trump Story Project (33:15) Mentioned: Fifth Avenue | Edan Lepucki – Chorus | Jeff VanderMeere – Trump Land | Nisi Shawl – Slippernet 
  • Trying to publish fiction in real time when current events keep changing (37:15)
  • Realizations in the children’s section of the bookstore (38:20)
  • Surrealism in newspaper headlines (40:00)
  • Working on his next novel (40:20)
  • Writing and its connection to politics (41:30)

This episode sponsored by Scrivener

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Ezzie Spencer | Secret Library Podcast | Writing the Wisdom of the Moon

I really just love me some Ezzie Spencer.

Dr. Ezzie Spencer didn’t begin writing and teaching about the impact the Moon can have on our lives. Quite the opposite- she began in a law career which travelled through social justice work and academia before she began teaching about how tracking our lives through the phases of the moon can be life altering. This episode gets a little meta: not only has Ezzie written about a process that she has taught for years, the process itself was incorporated into the way she wrote the book. If that made your head explode a little bit, don’t worry – we spell it all out in the conversation.

This episode is an excellent myth buster as well. Here are just a few off the top of my head: you don’t have to have been a writer your whole life to publish a book. Nor do you need to have a torturous experience writing it. Ezzie and I spend a lot of time talking about how she consciously planned to write her book nearly a year after she wrote the outline so she could do so under conditions that worked for her. If you are afraid writing a book is an experience you have to suffer through, let this episode dispel that notion. Finally, the myth that publishers will misunderstand your project and turn it into something else is one that we find doesn’t have to be true either. I hope you feel as bubbly and light and hopeful after listening to this episode as I did after recording.

Listen up on iTunes | Lunar Abundance site | An Abundant Life  | Instagram

Show notes for Episode 42 with Ezzie Spencer:

  • How Ezzie went from lawyer to creating Lunar Abundance (2:30)
  • Feeling something elemental was missing (3:15)
  • How journaling helped her process of discovery (3:45)
  • Finding correlations between her world and the moon phase (4:45)
  • Beginning to share her discoveries (5:45)
  • When it started to feel like it might become a book (6:20)
  • How the lunar abundance practice helped with the book (8:20)
  • Yin vs. yang moon phases and the principles of abundance (9:20)
  • Differentiating intentions vs. goals (10:20)
  • Intentions about how she wanted to feel when writing the book (12:10)
  • How she wanted the reader to feel while reading (13:00)
  • Taking the concepts off the page and into their own lives (15:00)
  • Planning and building a writing routine filled with ease (15:20)
  • Getting into the drafts and putting the ideas down (16:30)
  • Knowing when to write during the day (17:50)
  • Fitting the lunar intention into the writing process (18:20)
  • The benefit of having taught the material for a number of years (18:45)
  • Holding publication in the back of her mind while writing (21:40)
  • Working with an editor (23:30) Mentioned: Esmé Wang
  • The entrance of the publisher & receiving in yin phases (24:20)
  • Working with a dream publisher and selling just the Australia/New Zealand rights (25:30)
  • The visual elements of the design incorporated in the published book (26:45)
  • The importance of the contract for the author (28:30)
  • Compromising when working with a publisher (30:00)
  • The magical writer/lawyer combination (31:00)
  • The desire to write a book that was both spiritual and practical (32:10)
  • How Ezzie is feeling about the book coming out in the world (33:15)
  • Plans to get the book distributed internationally (35:30)
  • Trusting as the process moves forward (37:00)
  • The dream of her little girl self coming true with this book and the desire to write more (38:00)
  • Balancing between the cocooning of writing and engaging with community (39:00)
  • The yin and yang phases (40:00)

This episode sponsored by Scrivener

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