My latest book is Come On, Mom, which is activities for mothers and daughters. But I prefer to talk about a quartet of books on the subject of divorce. After Your Divorce is for women contemplating divorce or recently divorced. The Divorce Helpbook for Kids is just what its name says—for kids whose parents are going through divorce or recently did. The Divorce Helpbook for Teens conveys much of the same info, but slanted to a somewhat older reader. And Jigsaw Puzzle Family is for kids one or both of whose parents have remarried.
My 54 published books: The Everything Get Your Baby to Sleep Book (Adams Media), Raising a Creative Child (Carol/Citadel), Family Customs and Traditions (Fairview), Why Do We Need Another Baby? (Carol/Lyle Stuart), Mommy, There’s Nothing To Do (Berkley), 365 After-School Activities (Adams Media), Mommy, I’m Bored (Carol/Citadel), Free Family Fun (Berkley), Everybody Wins (Adams Media), Totally Terrific Family Games (Berkley), Why Do We Have To Move? (Carol/Lyle Stuart), Why Do People Die? (Carol/Lyle Stuart), One Heart’s Opinion (Rubenesque Romances), An Appetite for Passion (Rubenesque Romances), Creative Family Projects, Games, and Activities (Carol/Citadel), Kids in the Age of Exploration (Power Kids/Rosen), The Abduction Prevention Library (Power Kids/Rosen), The Martial Arts Library (Power Kids/Rosen-pseudonymous), Mommy’s Little Helper: Christmas Crafts (Meadowbrook), Octopus Pie (Maval), Mom, Inc. (Taylor Trade), Fun Family Traditions (Meadowbrook), What Do You Know About Manners? (Meadowbrook), Moon Love (Rubenesque Romances), Night-Night (Conari), When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Writer (Lobster Press), Divorce Helpbook for Kids (Impact), Divorce Helpbook for Teens (Impact), Good Clean Fun (Robins Lane), I’m at a Loss for Words (Adams), Thanks, Aunt Zelda (Lobster), The Cook-Ahead Cookbook (Bristol/Nitty-Gritty), The Naptime Book (Conari), Think for Yourself (Lobster), Little Indulgences (Conari), The I Love You Book (Conari), Jigsaw Puzzle Family (Impact), Betsy Ross’s Refrigerator (Seedling), Come on, Mom (Lobster), and After Your Divorce (Impact).
Freelance writing: Obviously books, including ghostwriting (not included in the list above), plus most anything else that will sell, from business-oriented stuff to…well, just about anything except grant proposals or super-technical stuff.
I also edit (again as a freelancer).
I live in South Florida, in a little village called Palm Springs, just outside West Palm Beach. Though I’m a native New Yorker, I’ve been down here long enough to have put down long roots and feel like a true Floridian.
1. Tell us about your latest book.
I’d rather tell you about the four I mentioned above. They were all pubbed by Impact Publishers, a lovely house to work with. AYD was co-authored by Bob Alberti, PhD, though in truth I wrote most of it. I wrote the other three solo. As a divorced woman myself, I know about a lot of stuff in the book firsthand. Likewise the info in DHK and DHT, since I have a (now grown) daughter who was two yrs old when I divorced. In a case of history repeating itself, she divorced her first husband after having her first two kids (she’s since had four more with husband # 2), and I got to go thru it all again with her and her kids. I have many divorced friends as well, and bits and pieces of their lives made their way into the books as well.
2. How did you get started as a writer?
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t write. I was probably only seven or eight when I co-opted my mom’s old typewriter and set it up on a bridge table in my room so I could write on it. A play I wrote at age nine was produced in summer camp. As a teenager I had poems and other writing published in the local weekly (in a suburb of NYC where I grew up) even before I became an unpaid writer for the paper—what today would be called an intern, though I don’t recall the term “intern” being used for anything but doctors back then.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
Up at 5, sometimes earlier. Dressed and teeth brushed and all that stuff and put up a pot of coffee and right to my computer. Read/answer email and try to be done with it by 6. Read newspaper and try to be done with it by 7. Revise my to-do list and prioritize my day. Start working. Call my best friend some time after 8 and see how she is. Lunch around 10:45. A half-hour nap at some point. Wrap up in time to cook dinner and hopefully have it on the table at 6—though I don’t always succeed in that. What I work on throughout the day? There is no “typical” in answer to that question. Writing, editing, sending out manuscripts to editors, doing the scut work (e.g. bookkeeping, other non-creative stuff), maybe some of all of the above…it varies. Depends on whether I’m currently working on a book, whether I currently have a project in-house from one of my clients (for writing or editing) (or several projects from multiple clients) , whether I’m currently in the midst of a huge manuscript-marketing project, or what.
Saturdays and Sundays the routine is similar but not identical. Saturdays from 10 to around 11 you’ll find me at the rehearsal of my theatre group, and Sundays you’ll find me leading worship services for the residents of an Assisted Living Facility from 10:30 to around 11, as I am also an ordained minister and at present my ministry is to the residents of Heron’s Run ALF. Otherwise, my Saturdays and Sundays are alike to the other days.
4. Describe your desk/workspace.
In a word: cluttered. And I HATE clutter. But since moving five years ago from a house to a condo, I am dealing with a much smaller workspace and have little choice in the matter. My computer (a Mac G5), monitor, scanner, UPS, cable modem, Airport (wireless setup), and printer take up most of the room on my desk. Behind my chair is another desk, which houses my postage meter, scale, some reference books (plenty more in the closet, where you will also find copies of all my published books), envelopes, index cards, and other stuff. Back to back with that desk is my Significant Other’s desk. Though he does a little writing too, primarily he is an eBay seller (and, like me, an ordained minister, though he currently does not have a ministry). Along one wall are six filing cabinets that house everything from manuscripts to contracts to royalty statements to paid bills and other financial stuff to copies of some of the magazines I’ve edited. Also my stereo. I am a total show tune freak, although I often play classical as I cannot write or edit against background music with words, so if the work I am currently involved in is writing or editing (as opposed to manuscipt marketing or some other non-creative work) I will likely have classical music playing.
5. Favorite books (especially for writers)
Ironically, my two all-time favorite books are novels: A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN and THE HUMAN COMEDY. I say “ironically” because I read little fiction, overwhelmingly preferring nonfiction and especially humor (e.g. Dave Barry, the late Lewis Grizzard, and others of that ilk). My tastes in nonfiction apart from humorous are all over the map. I sub to PUBLISHERS WEEKLY to keep up on industry news and am forever being tempted by book reviews in it, then succumb to temptation and go online to Amazon.com to order whatever looks good. No willpower! I just finished reading DEWEY (about a library cat) and started reading MOP MEN (about men who clean up after messy suicides, homicides, and accidents), and have the latest Dave Barry book on my nighttable, ready for me to delve into it next.
6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you
1 – I am an inveterate punster (wordplay), and mid-May of most years finds me in Austin TX, participating in the O. Henry World Championship Pun-Off, either as a contestant or a judge. I won second place one year—the best I’ve been able to do as a contestant. Last year I had too much work to get away, and this year I may have too little money. It’s been tight lately.
2 – I write for a hobby as well as for a living. The Palm Springs Players, my theatre group, produces plays I write—about four of them a year on average. We do not charge admission, do not make any money from the performances…if anything it COSTS us money…for costumes, scenery, props. The Village of Palm Springs Leisure Services Department provides us the auditorium—we don’t pay them and they don’t pay us—publicizes us, gives us rehearsal space, but it’s strictly a labor of love. We aren’t allowed to charge money for admission and that’s OK. We’re doing it for the love of acting, writing, designing sets (that would be Christy—we couldn’t do it without her). Our current production (in rehearsal currently with a production date set for the end of March and two other tentative performances at other local venues—also for no money—under discussion) is our first drama; previous productions have all been either comedies or kiddie shows.
3 – My other main hobby is cooking. I LOVE to cook…and to entertain. Mostly NOT big dinner parties but rather one or two people at a time. HOWEVER, three times a year—my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas—I invite a huge number of people (35 or so may not sound “huge” to you, but you just try to cram them all in this little condo!) and cook up a storm! I am utterly exhausted by the time I serve dinner, but I LOVE doing it.
7. Favorite quote
“There is no one in the world I’d want to trade lives with” – Me
8. Best and worst part of being a writer
You mean there’s a bad part?
Well, besides the money being so dicey. But really…a bad part? I mean, doing what you love—writing–what you HAVE to do, what you need to do as much as people need to breathe or eat—and getting paid for it? There’s a BAD part?
9. Advice for other writers
Don’t give up! Don’t let the rejection slip blues get you down. I’ve had 54 books published but have more than twice that number of books still looking for homes. I get manuscripts back in the mail more days than not. But I NEVER give up. Here’s what to do: Have an assortment of things out there looking for homes. It might be five copies of your only book, or one copy each of five different articles, but don’t just have ONE ms circulating. That way if you get a ms back, you can tell yourself that even now some editor may be considering making an offer on ANOTHER copy of your book or ANOTHER article.
And here’s another tip: Plan ahead to where ELSE you’re going to send that ms. Don’t just send it out with no thought to where you’re going to send it next. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll send it out, get it back, think, “I need to look for another suitable publisher to send it to,” put it aside…and you might never send it out again. Have a plan. Have a target market list…even four pages long if you want. And when the book/story/article/proposal/pitch/query comes back, send it right back out again to the next editor on your list. Don’t give yourself a chance to give up on yourself. Inertia is a powerful force. Don’t give it a chance to take over your professional life.
And yes, writing IS your profession, even if you’re a lawyer, a secretary, a doctor, or a store cashier for your daily dollar and only writing evenings and/or weekends. Take yourself seriously…or don’t bother.
10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.
I once took an editor out to lunch while on a biz trip to NY. She had pubbed my first two books, and in my naivete I thought I could now reap an assignment that she would suggest: “I need such-and-such written.” She thought I had a pitch to offer. I didn’t. We sat there and stared at each other.
Another time, later on, having learned my lesson, I invited a publisher (hands-on guy, small house) to dinner after learning he would be in my area. I took pains to find out his fave liquor, fave wine, food likes/dislikes. I served a perfect meal, preceded by just his kind of cocktails, followed it up with a pitch for several book ideas. Only to find that he is very uncomfortable discussing such matters in person and prefers to get pitches by mail or email, saving social occasions for purely social. Struck out again.
Where can people buy your books?
My books are all available on amazon.com as well as thru my website (www.cynthiamacgregor.com) and some are available in most B&Ns and some other bookstores.