3 Things Never to Say to a Writer


I don’t know about you but, when I meet someone new, I tend to be very reluctant to say that I’m a writer. This is both silly and self-protective. It’s silly because that’s what I am. It’s self-protective because there are certain responses to that admission that can make my jaw clench.

Folks seem to love and loathe writers in equal measure. Some see writing as a form of wizardry that only a special few are capable of (nope). Others see it as an affliction brought on by an abundance of spare time (nope). A few want to introduce you to other writer friends. And there are those who want to yank you down a peg or two by asking, “Have you written anything I’d have heard of?” Because, clearly, you’re not Stephen King or Gillian Flynn. I get it. Admitting that you are a ‘writer’ can sound a little arrogant. No matter what the reaction might be, I’d rather avoid it altogether. There are other things to talk about, right? Yet, even if I keep my trap shut, someone else might mention it, and the conversation will inevitably be dragged to the topic I was hoping to avoid. Writers just can’t win.

There several responses that writers hear again and again. Some of them are kind. Others are cutting. I’ve taken the liberty to make a short list of my personal favorites. Here are 3 things to never, ever say to a writer (or three ways to know you’re not one):

“I wish I had time to write.”

Guess what? So does every writer on the planet. Kids, we don’t have time; we make time.  We squeeze it out of the day. We wake up early, stay up late, give up weekends and vacations and holidays to get it on the page. Writers sacrifice. That’s the only way to get it done, because there’s never enough time.

The version of this I most enjoy is when it’s delivered with an emphasis on the second I, making it sound as if writing were a vacation on the Isle of Capri with all expenses paid. If only. Writing is work. Excruciating labor that eats personal time and pleasure for fuel. And I wish I had more time to do it.

“I have a great story idea; I just need someone to write it for me.”

Here’s the thing: I believe everyone has at least one great story in them. Everyone. It’s a gift given at birth by the gods of words. The rub is that you have to get that story from deep within you onto the page. Writers spend years working on that skill. Sometimes it’s shockingly fast and easy. Other times, it takes ages and drives you to the brink of insanity. That’s the thing about the story; you never know how it’s going to come.

Buyer beware: This gem may come with the dreaded hint-drop — the lingering stare given as they wait for you to say, “Sure, I’ll write it for you! I have nothing but spare time!” A fun fact that seems to go overlooked is that writers and typists are two totally different animals. If you need someone to write it for you as in “type”, there’s an app for that (many, in fact). Treat yourself to a Dragon and dictate away! But what is usually implied is, “I have the kernel of an idea that I have no idea how to flesh out and it would be great if you would do that hard work for me…because you have all that spare time.”

There is a myth that should be busted wherein writers are always suffering writer’s block and need a story idea to come to them, thus this offer to serve as typist/ghostwriter is really a blessing. Nope. Writers have an endless supply of story ideas and the “block” is usually a cluster of ideas that have bottlenecked as they vie to get out. Writers don’t have time for all the stories we want to give life to. Write your own!

Another fun fact is that the person who actually writes the story owns the copyright. If you want someone to write for you — ghostwriter or typist — you really need to pay them…and a lawyer to be sure that everything is clear.

“So, anyone could do what you do [self-publish].”

Absoflippinglutely! In theory, anyway. Anyone, who — as Hemingway put it — sits down at a blank page/screen and opens a vein, can. But that brings us back to Things Never to Say to a Writer #1 and #2. Only a few people are willing and able to carve out the time to sit down and write, and pry that story idea from your brain then assemble it onto the page. So, if you’re that brand of “Anyone”, we independent authors will champion you along the way, giving you our advice on what to do and avoid, and wish you the very best/huge success. We know there is plenty of room for everyone at the table. Just be prepared for the toil involved. Because, once you get it onto the page, your real job begins. You have to format it, get it covered, have it proofed, put it up on each and every platform available to reach the widest audience, market it, market yourself, research the market and all of its changes, interact with readers and other writers, make friends with bookstores and do all this while working on your next book because you are a writer and writers write.


No writer thinks they are special (unless they are an arrogant asshat, but those exist in all aspects of life and we just have to deal with them). We are geeks and dweebs and introverted recluses with vitamin D deficiencies. Writers know the only thing that makes us different is the driving urge to get words on a page. When I meet another writer (usually by someone else introducing us as that), I shake their hand and say, “So, you have the curse, too.” This gets me a knowing smile because I can see, like me, there’s a story running in the back of their brain, and they can’t wait to get those words out. We want to go home as soon as possible and start typing. But, instead, we participate in polite conversation all the while wondering how much longer we have to stay, because there’s a story pushing its way out and we need to birth it. That’s why writers can appear arrogant, distant or disinterested. We don’t mean to seem rude; there’s just a bunch of people in our heads talking to us, nagging us to give them our undivided attention. But we want to appear normal, so we get another glass of wine and a bit of nosh and do our best to be sociable because that’s the polite thing to do. More often than not, we are rewarded for that with the opportunity to craft future characters from those we meet. And that’s something to keep in mind when you interact with writers. There’s a saying (or is it a caveat?) that, put in a more decorous manner, goes:

Be kind to writers…or we’ll describe you.

What’s So Wrong With Chick Lit?!?

bridget-jones-diaryBack in the late 1990s, women readers were flooded with waves of flawed heroines on the quest for success in career and relationships. And a lot of them liked to shop or had other such shallow obsessions. It was “empowerment light”, a feminine feminism that invited women to feel strong in high heels and fitted clothes, lipstick and long hair, say YES to wanting it all and OK if we didn’t get it but got close enough. It was post-feminist in that you could be a feminist without admitting that you were. [Side note: Just admit it. You’ll feel better.]

The books that came from that time spoke in a voice that had been missing or quiet and needed to be heard. They let the protagonists be messy and quirky; the underdog who would rise to great heights, get the job and the guy. It was the literary equivalent of a hot fudge sundae that was calorie-free — it was the golden age of Chick Lit.

Almost immediately after the genre was coined, Chick Lit was derided, never taken seriously by critics despite (or in light of) its sales. Women writers who wanted to be taken seriously felt the need to separate themselves from *that* writing, which was seen a step above the pulpy romance of the Harlequin set. [Side note: The Romance genre is killing it right now with a strong sisterhood of support amongst their authors. Well done, ladies.] While some tried to stay away from a Chick Lit label, others waded in and made a nice living. Some had the good fortune of their books getting optioned for and/or made into feature films or a particular television series. But a few of those lucky ducks still complained that they weren’t taken seriously enough because they wrote Chick Lit. [Side note: Boo hoo.]

Come on, ladies, let’s face it: Chick Lit is the pop music of women’s literature and there’s nothing wrong with that. Yes, classical snobs may turn up their noses to it, but that’s the way the world works. Embrace it. Get over it. Whatever it takes. But let’s be honest enough to admit that, as lovely as “Madame Butterfly” is, sometimes, you just want to listen to “Beauty and the Beat”. [Side note: And you should.]

I have no issue with my first two novels being in the Chick Lit bucket. But some seem to. A few friends were surprised that I didn’t write something more “literary” when I finally published a novel. You see, they just don’t read *those* kinds of books. Fine by me. To each his/her/their own. As I’ve said before, I will never ask a friend if they’ve read my books or what they thought of them if they have. But I do wonder if *those* friends read Zoe Heller. Because I think NOTES ON A SCANDAL is Chick Lit on steroids. Did they enjoy BIG LITTLE LIES? Completely Chicky Litty. GONE GIRL? You betcha, even with Nick Dunne. And it’s not because those books were written by chicks or that chicks are the protagonists. To me, it’s because the characters are women whose darkest, dearest, most darling and dangerous parts are relatable or recognizable — whether we want to admit that or not — and that’s what makes them chicks. They are people we know or would like to or hope we never do, and we are drawn to them. Relatability is the core of Chick Lit. [Side note: I bet *those* friends read FIFTY SHADES, though.]

It’s too easy to get caught up in the words used to describe the genre as an excuse to eschew it. We could call it Contemporary Literature with a Strong Female Protagonist but Chick Lit is easier to say. The writing can be whip-smart, twisting your brain into a frenzy or a delightfully light and just right to take your mind off the harshness of life. It’s not one-size-fits-all, and I admit that some of the genre’s best-sellers were my least favorites. [Side note: I will always have a soft spot for BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY.]

Chick Lit is now old enough to drink. It’s lost some of its shine. Its fanbase is somewhat fragmented. The genre itself is evolving — it has to — but the stigma seems to remain, like gum stuck to one’s shoe. Yet, for all it was, has been and will be, Chick Lit shouldn’t be one more thing that divides or derides women. It’s a genre written by women, for women; supporting it supports women. [Side note: See? Chick Lit is feminist after all.] Maybe give it a chance again, because there’s really nothing wrong with it outside of what it’s been called. And I think women can relate to that.

[Side note: Men are not to be excluded from this conversation, as I know more than a few who do read Chick Lit. Some see it as “research”, peering into the world of women. Others just get a kick out of it. A few more are kind enough to champion a friend. So, gentlemen, welcome to the club! There’s nosh and wine, and a bit of whiskey in the corner. Make yourself at home.]

Me vs. Amazon KDP

Dear Friends:

Due to Amazon’s refusal to print the cover as intended (with the letters spilling off the edges), I have had to remove the paperback from their store. It makes me sad because I want readers to have a choice in where and how they make their purchase and Amazon is a favorite for many (plus, I wanted to offer the ebook free with paperback purchase, which Amazon offers). You can order the paperback through any bookseller via the ISBN number (978-0-9997625-1-6), and I’ll be setting up a retail shop on my website soon wherein you would be purchasing from the IngramSpark Aerio distribution (drop-shipped directly to you).

I have been trying to work with Amazon to get them to see the silliness in this matter (all because the letters go off the edge). I believe as an independent author/publisher, I have a right to such a design choice. As IngramSpark, the company who does the POD for all the major publishing houses, did approve the cover should rather prove the point with Amazon, but they will not budge. That left me with little choice than to remove the paperback from Amazon. It will be available in a few weeks when IngramSparks takes over the distribution on Amazon.

I do apologize for this inconvenience if you were planning on purchasing the paperback from Amazon, and appreciate your patience and support. I’ll let you know when the shop on my site is ready.

SAM xo

P.S. ~ Below is a photo of the paperback. The book on the left is the proof copy from Amazon KDP. The right is the book from IngramSpark. I still think it’s a striking cover and can’t quite see why Amazon won’t approve it. Can you?