Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Girl Power (aka Gushing Over the Girlfriends Book Club)

by Susan McBride

Writing is such a weird business. I always think of my friends who don’t write as “civilians,” because—while I love them dearly—they don’t always get me like my author pals do. When it comes to dealing with the insanity of the publishing world, there’s nothing like having people around you who’ve experienced that insanity, too.

That’s why I adore the idea behind the Girlfriends Book Club. I’m all for girl power and women supporting each other. Maybe because I moved around so often as a kid (my dad worked for IBM = I’ve Been Moved), I deeply value the friendships I’ve made in my adulthood. In fact, I wouldn’t be on this blog without a little help from a fab friend named Marilyn Brant.

When I think of how Marilyn and I met, it’s so fluky, as some of the best things in life often are. Late last year, I ran a contest on my web site. Marilyn entered, and I thought her name seemed familiar. (Cue light bulb.) I quickly realized she was the author of ACCORDING TO JANE (which I read and loved). I promptly begged her to donate a signed copy for a fundraiser I was doing for the local chapter of Susan G. Komen. She generously replied, “Of course!” Emails about the fundraiser led to more emails about everything under the sun, including Tales of Glee and Woe from the Publishing Front.

Even after a decade as a published author, I still experience Pub Date Panic. I would’ve been a basket case (okay, even more of a basket case) without Marilyn and my trusted writer pals when THE COUGAR CLUB debuted earlier this year, particularly when I realized not everyone finds the C-word as amusing as I do (FYI, I married a younger guy who chased me; so when folks call me “Cougar,” I laugh and tell them I’m an ‘accidental’ Cougar”). Marilyn talked me down on several occasions, like when I stumbled upon a Tweet by the fiction editor of a major publishing trade journal stating: Do I really have to assign a book called THE COUGAR CLUB? (Well, apparently she didn’t, because nothing ever ran despite them giving my publisher a review date. I guess I should've been relieved.)

And when I found rabid online rants about COUGAR on my city paper’s web site a week before the book came out, I freaked. It was clear the ranters were reacting to the title without knowing the contents, but it still got my goat seeing my baby called—among other things—“filth” and “trash.” At its heart, THE COUGAR CLUB is about three 45-year-old lifelong chums supporting each other as they deal with mid-life crises in their work and relationships. But the trash-talkers would have to crack the spine to find that out, so they probably never will.

Besides dissuading me from going back on the newspaper web site to comment “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK,” Marilyn did me the favor of playing fairy godmother and introducing me to the Girlfriends Book Club. I did a happy dance the day Karin emailed to say, “Welcome!” I feel like I’m a part of an incredible sorority that's way funnier and more interesting than the one I joined in college.

It's because of the GBC that I came face to face with yet another cool chick, Judy Merrill Larsen, who serendipitously lives in my neck of the woods. I had a laughter-filled lunch with Judy not long ago, and I instantly felt like I’d known her forever. We talked families and books and growing up, and I often found myself nodding and saying, “Yep, I know just what you mean!”

There’s just something magical about connecting with other women who write. There’s an instant empathy and understanding, like we’re all sisters from another mother. And the support goes far beyond our books.  I've had my hands held by my publishing pals and civilian pals alike during some rough stuff.  True friends are very much like human life preservers.  They keep us afloat.

Every morning when I get up and head to the computer to begin my day, I make sure to check out the newest post on the GBC. It’s so much fun learning about each woman in her own voice and seeing what topics are being broached. Inevitably, I find myself nodding and thinking—as I did at lunch with Judy—“Yep, I know just what you mean!” It feels good to be with a group of literary ladies who celebrate the quirkiness of life and who understand the ups and downs of this writing thing I’m so passionate about.

So thanks to my fellow Girlfriends on this blog and everywhere!  We're like a merry band of modern-day Musketeers...all for one and one for all!  Well, you know what I mean.  :-) 

P.S.  My latest reading addiction: Australian author Kate Morton’s books, including THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN and THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON. I’m looking very much forward to her next one, THE DISTANT HOURS, which comes out in November.

Susan McBride is the author of THE COUGAR CLUB (HarperCollins, 02/10), her debut in women’s fiction about three friends who learn you’re never too old to follow your heart. COUGAR was named a Bookmarked Breakout Title by Target stores, was a Midwest Booksellers Association Midwest Connections Pick, and made MORE Magazine’s list of “February Books We’re Buzzing About.” Susan has also penned five award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries for HarperCollins/Avon, including BLUE BLOOD and TOO PRETTY TO DIE, as well as three young adult DEBS novels for Random House. She is currently at work on another women’s fic title about two sisters, a daughter, and a magical LITTLE BLACK DRESS that changes the course of their lives (HarperCollins, fall of 2011), and she’s signed for another after that. She’ll also be writing a young adult thriller for Random House in 2011. Susan is a breast cancer survivor and frequently speaks on the subject of "books and boobs." For more scoop, visit http://susanmcbride.com/.


  1. Susan -- great to see you! I know just what you mean--the sisterhood! Don't listen to naysayers--they don't know what fun they're missing.

    I'm loving this girlfriend blog. Writer girlfriends are absolutely the best! Who understands what we go through like another writer girlfriend? I heard Susan Elizabeth Phillips say once -- you can't please everyone--don't try. It was so freeing.

    Three cheers for the sisterhood.

  2. Susan, I love this. You nailed it when you said, "we’re all sisters from another mother"--that's it exactly. (And without all the wacky family dynamics that can put the "fun" in dysfunctional!) I've said it before and I'll say it again, I had no idea what a fantastic friendship network I'd luck into when I became an author. It's way more fun than my college sorority too (but then my best friend and I kept trying to get the social chairman to have Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville parties rather than the ice cream socials she favored).

    So, in sisterhood, I'll add to the chorus to ignore the naysayers and just enjoy the ride. It rocks.

    So do you.

    See you Sunday.

  3. I can't believe that editor's tweet, Susan. So unprofessional. Thanks to Marilyn for bringing you on board. So thrilled to have you.

    P.S. I LOVE Kate Morton too

  4. Susan,

    You have totally captured my feelings exactly about my female writer friends. I started a 'support group of sorts' for professional writers in my neighborhood. We're a group of nine women writers -- fiction, non-fiction, poets -- who really get each other. They are my life line in this business.

    Having the GBC as my onlne 'support group' is icing on the cake!

  5. Hi, Marian! Great to see you, too! I love that Susan Elizabeth Phillips quote. It's what my mom's been trying to drill into my head for a long while, and I think I'm finally about ready to listen. ;-) Yay for the sisterhood! What would we do without it? (Um, probably cry a lot more and laugh a lot less.)

    Hey, Judy! I feel like I really did just see you. (Hee hee.) Looking very much forward to Sunday, and I'm so glad you're a part of things after all. Yay! Girl, you rock more!

    Karin, I know! It was kind of shocking to find something like that on the Internet for anyone to see. But so many good things happened to counter any bad (like being invited to join this group!) that it seems kind of funny when I think of it now. Glad to find out you're a Kate Morton fan, too. So good!

  6. LT, we're so very happy you're here! It really is wonderful to have friends who understand what you do and why you do it. That's so cool that you started a neighborhood support group for artsy folks! I love that!

  7. Awww, Susan!!!! You are such a true and generous friend -- and you KNOW how many times in the past year I was the one who was leaning on you, needing to talk out some wacky situation or other. You were always there... I feel SO lucky to have met you, which -- by the way -- was not nearly so fluky as you make it out to be ;). How could I have possibly resisted entering a contest that featured The Cougar Club??! SUCH a terrific story. (That tweeting editor was a dolt.) I'm so glad you're here and very grateful for all the blessings and kindness you bring to the world, as both a friend and a fellow writer. xo

  8. Marilyn, I am SO glad you entered my contest, for whatever reason! (I think Fate had a hand in things somehow!). It's going to be great to give you a hug for real this weekend! I still can't believe you're coming down. Hooray! :-)

  9. Susan, people were literally judging your book by its cover!! How ridiculous. And I agree with you: Mean people really do suck!

    It's so much fun being here with such a group of funny, smart women. You inspire me each morning as I sit down to write!

  10. I like this post :-) I agree that finding a community of writers to connect with is extremely helpful. I feel fortunate that I've 'met' writers online that help me through the crazy days.

  11. I know, Brenda! I like to think people in this business are open-minded, but that Tweet made me realize that even editors of publishing trade journals DO judge books by their covers and titles. Ah, well, we live and learn!

    Melissa, it is so great to connect with other writers throughout your career. It really is amazing how much we share, isn't it?

  12. Hi Susan! I haven't met Marilyn (yet!) but I agree that you've got a gem in Judy. It's a joy to connect with like-minded women, especially those who know our struggles and insecurities (which, in this biz, never go away).

    A wise, experienced, and powerful woman in publishing had a succinct response to one of my early-career trade-journal woes: "F--k 'em." Success is the best revenge. :-)

  13. Hey Therese, Maybe we should market that phrase on a bumper sticker . . . or t-shirt.

    You and Susan are making me feel all warm and fuzzy today--how'd you know I needed that?

    : ))

  14. If it makes you feel better, the first time I saw the title The Cougar Club (and it was before I realized you were a contributed here), I laughed and thought, "I bet that would be a fun read!"

    Those who start with the "filth" and trash-talking mentality would never read a romance novel, no matter what you titled it. Anything that hints at sex (or possibility of sex) is dirty and "I'd never read that."

    At book club last night (of which was my first time), one member said she sometimes skips the sex scenes in books. To which I said, "Not me. Sometimes I read them twice if they're good." Which fortunately made everyone laugh.

  15. Therese, I'm with Judy! I want that on a bumper sticker! ;-) It is so wonderful having understanding women around us. I like to think I'm tough, but I'm kind of a marshmallow on the inside!

    Judy, I agree with Therese...you are a gem! (And a very funny gem at that.) :-)

    MsHellion, you're exactly the kind of person I'd want in my book club!

  16. Hi Susan,

    I love the title. But you're right, some women absolutely hate the word "cougar". In fact, one day at my office there was a discussion about it. How older women get labeled with this name if they have a younger guy while we don't assign any names to older men who have younger women. I corrected her, I told them the word is "rich". :)

    Debra S

  17. Debra, I love that! You know, I've had that discussion, too. There's just such a double standard when it comes to men and women and relationships. I think of Hugh Hefner. What do people call him? (Except "cheesy" or "icky," I mean.) I bring that up in the book, as Kat, Carla, and Elise--the ladies in The Cougar Club--don't much care for the word either. I think the only one who's a real Cougar is Carla. Anyway, it makes for interesting conversation!

  18. Okay, I'm going to have to jump on the Marilyn wagon:) She's the best, and also the reason I'm part of this fantastic group of women. Thanks again, Marilyn!

    Grrrr.... to that person who dissed your book, Susan. This business is so frustrating! Editors want a catchy/marketable title (and I think yours is!)

    My first book "Bunco Babes Tell All" was originally titled "The Church of Bunco" but no on in Manhattan "got it" and the title was changed. I actually had a couple of reviewers proclaim my title "silly." Another reviewer listed it as one of the 10 "catchiest" titles of 2009. Go figure!

  19. Maria, I must confess that Marilyn says some awfully nice things about you behind your back. Just be aware of that, okay? ;-) Oh, baby, it can definitely be frustrating. I'm trying to get a thicker skin because book-dissing is a national pastime for some. But it's easy to say and hard to do when it's yours! I love THE CHURCH OF BUNCO (but then, I'm from the Midwest!). But I think BUNCO BABES TELL ALL is very cute, too. I'm with the reviewer who voted it "catchy!" A pox on the other one!

  20. LOVED your post. I so agree with you -- having supportive girlfriends in the business is invaluable! My BFF totally "gets it" but my other friends are pretty much clueless.

  21. Beth, thanks...and hooray for girlfriends who "get it." What would we do without them? (Probably melt into big puddles of goo or something.) ;-)

  22. Love your post, Susan! Do you remember the original chick lit group from way back when? When I was moving from NYC to Maine (and didn't know a soul in Maine) I asked on that loop if anyone lived in Maine, and it turned out that a writer lived in the very town I moved to. We're now such close friends and can meet for coffee and venting and cheering and commiserating at a moment's notice. I would go nuts without her.

    I love the supportive community of writers online. So necessary.

  23. I seem to have forgotten to type the rest of my name above--I'm just an "m!"


  24. I do remember that group, Melissa (aka, the mysterious "m" ;->). That was a lot of fun! It's so cool you're still great buddies with someone from that loop. I love stories like that. Sometimes good friends are just meant to be. :-)