Friday, August 8, 2014

Johanna Stein

Johanna Stein is the author of How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane: And Other Lessons in Parenting from a Highly Questionable Source.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

This book came from a Motherlode essay. What made you want to expand it into a book, and how terrifying a process was it?

First off – thanks so much for all those nice things you said. Like most (all?) writers, I live in fear of being exposed as a no-talent fraud. So thanks for those words that I will use as ammo the next time those thoughts come a-calling and take root in my brainfolds.

It wasn’t all that terrifying of a process – not initially, anyway. In fact, it wasn’t until that essay came out in the New York Times and a few agents had approached me that it occurred to me to consider writing a book. (I hope to cripes that doesn’t sound obnoxious -- “oh, look at this opportunity that just fell at my little feetsies!” –- but if it does, know that I’ve been hustling my writerly wares in other mediums for years, and this was just the first time I’d thought to set my hustling sights on a book-type thing. Okay, enough disclaiming, now back to it…)

One of the agents who contacted me was Doug Abrams of Idea Architects. Doug has worked with people like Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Richard Branson, so when he wrote to me asking if I’d be interested in working on a book project with him, I was pretty sure I was being Punk’d. But no, turns out he meant it.

Putting the book together took a lot of work (because I write a lot of phenomenally shitty first drafts), but it still wasn’t particularly terrifying. That part came after – once I’d turned the book in and realized there was no turning back. I’d wake up at two o’clock in the morning, then enjoy an all-night anxiety attack.

As a comedian, I’m used to getting feedback relatively quickly. You stand backstage for a few minutes getting sweaty and diarrhea-y, wondering/hoping/praying that the audience is going to laugh… then you step onstage, and whether you succeed or fail, at least the waiting part is over. But with this book, that feeling of backstage anticipation lasted for months. During that time I’d ask my husband and a couple of my closest, trusted writer friends (the few folks who’d read it before I turned it in) to “just tell me that I won’t be embarrassed by how terrible it is”.

Would you have done anything differently, besides not putting you hand inside an already used vomit bag?

Regrets? Not so much with the actual book… my “do-overs” have more to do with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue