a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

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GIVEAWAY: Get a free copy of Entertaining Welsey Shaw for entertaining the rest of us with your story

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Here’s the deal: I’m giving away a free copy of Entertaining Welsey Shaw to the reader who sends me the best story of a celebrity encounter they’ve had. Which celebrity or celebrities have you met and how did it go? Give me a great meeting and I’ll send you a copy of the book, in handsome hardback, 300 pages. Just submit your story in the comments below, and have fun with it!

Entertaining Welsey Shaw goes on sale March 28th.

Entertaining Welsey Shaw goes on sale on March 28th

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The usual outlets–Amazon, B&N, your indie bookstore (though you may have to request it).

Other editions, including the ever-popular ebook, are coming at a later date.

And I thought I’d take this moment to announce, there will be a sequel.

I’m generally not a fan of anything with a “2,” explicit or implied, after the title. (Actually the working title for this opus is Ravishing Welsey Shaw), but honestly this idea occurred to me one night when I just couldn’t get to sleep and I grew so excited thinking about it I got out of bed right there and started making notes.

I think it will turn out better than the original, but you do have to read the original first to get the full extent of it, sort of the way you can see The Empire Strikes Back without having seen Star Wars but it’s a much better experience if you have. Ravishing takes place five years later, both are older and wiser (but with many of the same foibles, of course) and they bump into each other again, in Amsterdam. Some characters

But back to the current book. It was a long birthing process and I can honestly say I learned more writing it than I have doing any other single thing in my whole life.

But as hard as writing the novel was, there was something even harder to write, and it’s the hardest thing to write for any book, so if you’ve never written anything for publication, or you are in the process of finishing up a work now, you should pay attention here: The hardest aspect of the whole production is writing the blurb, the thing that goes on the flap, on the back, on the retailer and etailer pages.

I can tell you exactly how many drafts of Entertaining Welsey Shaw I wrote: eight. But I can’t tell you how many times I revised the blurb copy. I may revise it still. I may be revising it right now, while you’re reading this. Somehow the summary, even more than the book itself, never feels like it’s good enough. Think about it: You have to sell your book, and sell it amidst the noise of all the other blurbs, ads, and assorted commercial copy that an average person sees on an average day. You have to tempt with surprises, but not give too much away. Most of all you have to (try to) avoid the cliches that are in most of the other book blurbs out there—I mean, seriously, read most blurbs out there. “…That’s when Jenny learns a secret that changes her life forever!” Stuff like that never makes me want to pick up a book. In fact, the best books out there, the best writers out there, can’t really be summed up.

So instead those authors get a very basic blurb on the flap, one that sells them by name or reputation. The back is adorned with review excerpts from Big Boys like The New York Times and The Economist.

But I’m not a big boy, so I can’t plaster praise from Michiko Kakutani on the back of Entertaining Welsey Shaw.

But how do you sum up Netherland, Joseph O’Neill’s astonishingly lithe and rich portrait of New York denizens unmoored and adrift in the aftermath of September 11th? (And if you thought you’d never read another post-September 11th novel, I highly, highly recommend this one; it’s not what you think, I can assure you.) The same is true of his follow up, The Dog, which a number of the critics didn’t like but I did. How do you sum up the complex stories of Alice Munro or Deborah Eisenberg?

That’s the paradox of book jackets: They’re so vitally important, but they tell very little about what’s really inside. Sort of like movie trailers. Yet, face it, we so often decide to plunk down $15, whether for a movie or a book, based on the advertisement.

So many ways to approach the blurb. Do I give an objective, overseeing view to the novel? Approach it by placing the reader inside the action (“Imagine that you met…” that sort of thing.) Tell lots of detail? Entertaining Welsey Shaw, like most upmarket novels, has lots of themes. Do I just pick one and highlight it or try to give an indication of the breadth? If I do the former, I may miss people who would be interested in many of the other aspects; if I do the latter, the resulting copy is sprawling and often confusing. When writing your novel you can take infinite length, but you only have about 100 words to sell it.

They have to be the right 100 words.

Are they? I’m still not sure.

I learned a lot about writing fiction from Entertaining Welsey Shaw. I don’t know if I learned anything about the difficult art of blurb writing.

Anyway, March 28th. Don’t go to Amazon and order it before that time even if you are able to, or you will get the wrong item. I’ve tried to tell them and they haven’t listened. Don’t blame me.

Barnes and Nobel has it right, bully for them.

 

 

Replay Guest post: From the Front Porch – Interview with John Grabowski

John GrabowskiThis week’s guest for From the Front Porch: Creativity Interviews is John Grabowski. John has been following my blog since the early years (I started it in 2008!), and has been a frequent commenter. We developed an email friendship as he worked on his forthcoming novel, Entertaining Welsey Shaw. On his blog he has some really interesting things to say about the phenomenon of celebrity culture, which he addresses in his novel. John is one of the smartest and well-read people I know. Please welcome him to our Creativity Interviews.

Tell us a little about yourself. Perhaps what do you do for a living and where you live?

I live in Northern California and I’ve been a copywriter, a newswriter, and a novel writer. Right now I’m on the Marketing and Development Committees of the Peninsula Symphony as we are working to attract a broader and more affluent audience to this truly excellent orchestra.

When are you the most creative? (Who are you with? Where are you? What are you doing?)

I’m a night owl. That’s when I generally get most of my ideas and do my best writing. Doesn’t matter where, really, as long as I can get my fingers to a keyboard. I tend to like the “white noise” of coffee shops, however.

When are you the least creative? (Who are you with? Where are you? What are you doing?)

Mornings. I am not a morning person and never have been. Doesn’t matter how much sleep I get or when I go to bed.

What inspires you and why does it inspire you?

Other great art. Great ideas, different ways of looking at common things.

I don’t write fantasy or escapism. Everything I write is deeply-rooted in reality—often the most mundane reality that most people don’t pay attention to. So when someone can see that reality in a fresh and new way, I am inspired and want to do the same.

Share a favorite quote:

The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. —Emerson

 What creative project are you working on now or do you hope to work on?

Getting dressed. Seriously, it’s 11am and I haven’t gotten away from the computer yet today.

 Share a photo of something you find beautiful:

My wifeJohn Grabowski's wife

Name one of more of your favorite books. What do you love about them? If they changed your life in any way tell us why.

Of course knowing me as you do you’d expect to see a title by Deborah Eisenberg here. But she writes short stories, though they’ve been collected into books, so we can just assume at least one of these would be one of her titles, probably one of her last two, All Around Atlantis or Twilight of the Superheroes. I think she is the most important fiction writer working today because she is doing things no one else is but at the same time she’s doing it with a vocabulary that wouldn’t stump a high school student and she has probed the fringes of consciousness without resorting to any trendy new writing styles. She shows that direct simplicity can also be complex.

I also enjoy many of Alice Munro’s stories, though I do think Eisenberg should have won the Nobel for her greater breadth and insight. And you, Susan Gabriel, have turned me on to Francine Prose!

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill is probably the best novel I’ve read that’s been written in the last ten years. I also enjoyed his follow-up The Dog, though the critics were pretty luke-warm on that one, for some reason

To The Lighthouse just blew my mind the first time I read it in the way it dealt with the most ordinary events with tremendous depth.

Richard Ford’s Bascombe Trilogy impressed me in similar ways. Or the first two novels did. I thought the third sputtered. There’s now a fourth Frank Bascombe book but I’m not sure if I’m going to read it. I think I’m sort of done with Frank.

Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road is an understated tour-de-force. And I love Milan Kundera, especially The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and José Saramago, especially The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis.

Name one or more of your favorite films and tell us what you love about it/them.

In literature I am drawn to realism—you might almost say mundane realism. Robert Altman’s films, or many of them, are of a similar nature. So are Ernst Lubitsch if you want to go really far back, especially the pre-Code ones.

Yet I also love the outsized aspects of Fellini, and 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita are two of my favorite films. They use fantasy to make a bigger point about realism.

So fantasy at the service of realism is fine. Fantasy for fantasy’s sake not so much, even if there’s a “moral” to the story. It’s usually a very simple moral.

Name one or more of your favorite pieces of art (painting, sculpture) and tell us what you love about it/them.

The Milk Maid by Vermeer, though to understand why you’d have to see it in person. The best prints don’t capture the impact. That’s true of any Vermeer.

Rembrandt’s self-portraits, especially the late ones. Same story. They seem to have a history that began before you entered the room to look at them and continue after you leave.

What were you like as a child?

God knows.

Tell us about something you’re proud of having created, participated in, etc. (not your offspring, please! 😉

This is going to seem ridiculously esoteric, but I intuitively figured out the “Circle of Fifths” in music without ever having it explained to me. I also distrusted a scholarly discovery that claimed a section of Beethoven’s music had been edited incorrectly all these years and had to be revised. Turns out I was right—the copyist made the “corrections” and Beethoven considered them wrong—they are!—and put back his original. But for several years some Beethoven scholars thought the “wrong” way was right and it was even recorded this way. I was never fooled, because that’s not how Beethoven thinks; it has nothing to do with taste.

What are you grateful for? (Today or in general.)

My health. A number of friends have had brushes with cancer or other disease and I have nothing to complain about. I am in good shape overall.

From JL’s Uncle Jessie Meme:

A song/band/type of music you’d risk wreck & injury to turn off when it comes on the radio?  

Hip hop. But really most pop.

A favorite show on television?    

Don’t really have one.

If you could have anything put on a t-shirt what would it be?

The formula for the Unified Field Theory. I’d then win a Nobel in physics and be famous.

A favorite meal?

Sushi.

A talent you wish you had? 

Concert pianist.

What’s on your nightstand? 

Isn’t this a family blog?

What’s something about you that would surprise us?

Same answer.

Check out John’s blog here.

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Please take a moment to let John know what you appreciated about this interview. Be sure and check out the link to his blog, too. If you’re feeling too shy to comment, consider sharing this post with your friends on your favorite social media platform. Thanks! xo

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P.S. A quick note about the title of this series, From the Front Porch:

Here in the South, we love our front porches. They are where we get to know our neighbors and take a load off with our friends. Ideally, I would invite John here to my house, we’d sit with a glass of iced tea, and I’d interview him while a cool breeze moved through the oaks, accompanied by the sound of two rocking chairs squeaking on the floorboards. Instead, I’ll ask you to use your imaginations. I hope you enjoy the breeze!

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Susan Gabriel is the acclaimed southern author of The Secret Sense of Wildflower (named a Best Book of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews) and other southern novels, including Temple Secrets, Grace, Grits and Ghosts: Southern Short Stories and others. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina.

Moms

Brooke Shields. Jennifer Aniston. Lindsay Lohan. Eminem. Tori Spelling. Miranda Kerr. Drew Barrymore. Ariel Winter. What they all have in common with Welsey Shaw is mother issues. Severe mother issues. Despite making it in an incredibly difficult business where managing people is a key skill, they can’t manage their mothers. Most won’t talk about it, as in the above where Ellen DeGenerous tries awkwardly to get some “good TV” out Modern Family’s Ariel Winter. The young actress won’t bite. Moms can have a devastating effect on us.

Welsey Shaw’s mother is a conglomerate of stage moms (just as Welsey is a conglomerate of actresses) plus some original stuff (just as Welsey is some original stuff). Like many real celebrity moms, Lynne lives Welsey’s fame vicariously, enjoying the spotlight—the parties, the perks, the money—in many ways more than her daughter. It causes a rift between them, as daughter grows up faster than mother. When the novel begins, Lynne has access to Welsey solely though a phone number she’s allowed to call no more than once a day.

Some relationships are tricky. Lindsay Lohan seems both close to and antagonistic with her mom. Jennifer Aniston supposedly “made good” with her mom a couple years ago, after decades of estrangement. For Tori Spelling, mom Candy is still not a bestie, especially since withholding money because, claims the latter, “[Tori] would close a store and drop $50,000 to $60,000.” Tori doesn’t deny it: “‘It’s not my fault I’m an uptown girl stuck in a midtown life. I was raised in opulence. My standards are ridiculously high. We can’t afford that lifestyle, but when you grow up silver spoon it’s hard to go plastic…I grew up rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. I never knew anything else. Even when I try to embrace a simpler lifestyle, I can’t seem to let go of my expensive tastes.” This is sort of the inverse situation of Welsey and her mom.

More often than not, we don’t have the transparency into the mom-daughter dynamic that we do in Tori Spelling’s case. Ariel Winter has not talked about her rocky relationship with her mom, but back in 2012, when Winter was only fourteen, her older sister filed to become her guardian. She was officially emancipated from her mom at age seventeen, meaning she became an adult in the eyes of the law. While her mother has released a statement saying “the family has moved beyond the conflict,” Ariel doesn’t seem to agree.

I must say I really admire and respect these celebrities. Their professional lives are already uber-stressful, but to have parents on top of that who are non-supportive (with the exception, it seems, of Candy Spelling, who seems to be doing what’s good for her daughter)  must make it all that much harder. Family support is key to success in every endeavor, and my heart goes out to those who, for whatever reason, do not have it.

Welsey Shaw’s relationship with her mother is rocky, and gets worse. But there will be a reconciliation—and a sad one—if I ever get around to write the sequel, which I’ve tentatively titled Ravishing Welsey Shaw. As for the release date of Entertaining Welsey Shaw, well…stay tuned.

 

“One minute she’s surrounded by friends, the next she’s all on her own jetting across the world!”

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I thought I was reading an interview with Welsey Shaw.

But I wasn’t. She’s Cara Delevingne, and I’m amazed I’d never heard of her before.

She’s a fashion model, and she belies all the stereotypes about such models: she’s smart, funny, curious, and a terribly articulate and searching.

And one of the things she keeps articulating is how lonely her life is, and that being famous and in the spotlight constantly doesn’t make you less alone. Just the opposite, in fact. Ms. Delevingne often says she feels terribly alone.

Like Welsey she’s had some explosive outbursts. Welsey goes off on everyone inside a Manhattan Starbucks. For Ms. Delevingne, a security search at a train station in Paris caused her to erupt and call the agents names. After being detained an hour she apologized, and was sent on her way.

No explanation why she went off. But people like her are under lots of pressure (not that that’s an excuse, but…) and often it’s the small things that do it, something Daniel Ferreira learns when he gets deeper and deeper into Welsey’s life. A casual brush could bruise a career, a slip on a late night talk show could end it. Friends become foes in the blink of an eye, people use you for who you are, and if you fail to please them you are labeled a “biiytch.” And through all this, you’re supposed to always, unfailingly smile.

Delevingne’s said she battled with depression during her school years but managed to turn her life around with the help of writing and yoga. But it hasn’t worked as well as she’d hoped, apparently. After a devastating breakup recently, she has told her family that she might end up walking away from fame. And friends say she is now depressed worse than they have ever seen before. As her mother observed, “One minute she’s surrounded by friends, the next she’s all on her own jetting across the world!”

I confess I once considered an ending for Entertaining Welsey Shaw where Welsey, miserable in her alone-ness, took her life. Just writing left an incredibly bad taste in my mouth. But a number of celebrities in the spotlight—particularly, for some reason, young women—have made this decision. I truly hope Ms. Delevingne finds her way out of her darkness, and rediscovers happiness soon. Perhaps a break from fame might have a therapeutic affect. It does for Welsey, in the ending I finally opted for for the novel.