Where do you write? When at home, I either write at the kitchen table or, if it is warm/cool enough, on the screened-in porch. I generally have music playing (Tom Waits, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan are all conducive to word flow for me:) and a pug or two curled up next to me, on top of me, or on the kitchen table (I know–ewww:) behind my computer screen. Cafes and dark bars also work for me, when I can’t find a quiet place in the cacophonous activity of my house. When I was a student at UC Berkeley, completing school work, etc. in the glut of cafes around the campus was part of the culture, so I very much enjoy reliving that experience. Finally, I have been known to lock myself in the bathroom when I am desperate to complete something, but I am required to be supervising others at home…
Tell us about your book. Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage can be described as an unflinching gaze through the keyhole of a mercurial middle class suburban marriage. Whether bartering her body for chore completion duties or surreptitiously finding satisfaction in the many innuendo laden “relationships” she cultivates with the men with whom she comes into contact, the protagonist, Lauren, through a series of linked essays—some of which are laugh-out-loud funny and some of which are heartbreaking—explores her current reality in the context of the countless sublimated desires that marriage, by its very definition, demands. Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage (originally titled The Adulterer’s Notebook), was a 2011 short-list finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Awards program. Also, the book has been a best selling eBook in Romania (four months in the top ten) for most of the time since its Romanian translation.
What was your publishing experience like? My publishing experience could not have been better! I decided early on that the query letter process was just too daunting and time consuming, so I targeted a few contests that had book publication as a prize. Assuming that this was also somewhat of a shot in the dark, I put the entire process out of my mind after the manuscripts had been sent. Imagine my surprise (not to mention delight) when I remembered that the notification time frame had passed for the first contest I had entered and, after logging onto the site for the Santa Fe Literary Awards 2011, I saw my name listed on the long list of finalists. Following the link to the short list, I saw my name there as well. I was one of 20 out of something like 750 entries, so I was quite psyched. While I didn’t win, that experience afforded me the confidence to think that my book had at least some merit. A short time later, my family was vacationing in Vermont, and my husband and I met two young men from Romania who were just getting their book publishing venture off the ground. They were smart and knowledgeable about the publishing process, book marketing, etc. As luck would have it, I had my manuscript with me in my computer bag. After reading it, they offered to publish it as both an ebook and paperback. Meeting them just seemed to be a sign of sorts that this was the right path for my book. Both men, Constantin and Raul, worked with me through the editing, cover designing, printing, and marketing processes, making the realization of my book the very best experience it could be! When they returned to Romania for several months, they had the book translated into Romanian, marketed it, and enjoyed watching it become a top ten ebook in Romania, right along with the wildly popular Fifty Shades and Hunger Games trilogies. They continue to support my efforts almost one year later, and I hope they will consider my next book, once I finish writing it:)
How have you balanced your online author platform with writing? “Balance” is definitely the operative word here! Not being particularly adept on the computer has certainly made the balancing more difficult. Initially, and somewhat still, I relied/rely on my publishers to help me out with this, and they have been great! In addition to managing my book’s Facebook page, they set up a WordPress blog for me and continue to look for and suggest online opportunities to help readers find my book. I have found one of the most satisfying aspects of my online platform is maintaining my blog, as I thoroughly enjoy completing the pieces I post there. But I do find that a day spent completing and posting a post is a day that I don’t get to complete any work on the project on which I am currently working…balance, yes! Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that one fabulous byproduct of being online as a writer is discovering other writers, other sites, and awesome blogs like Tipsy Lit:)
Do you work with a writing partner? Like running and drinking, writing is very much a solitary activity for me (OK, I am joking about the drinking but not about the running and writing:). Of course, if the project were right for me, I would consider whatever terms were offered/recommended. Also, when I had completed the manuscript which would ultimately become Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage, I relied on my best friend and editor, W, for her invaluable input, insight, and suggestions.
What have you found to be the best places to promote your work online? Because I can easily get overwhelmed managing online promotion, I try to limit what I do to a few sites where I feel most comfortable. Facebook, Twitter, and my WordPress blog are the main places where I post information and updates regarding my book and my writing life. Also, the guest blogging opportunities I have had have proven to be both fun and rewarding!
Tell us about your writing process: I begin in a notebook, and when I have enough notes or ideas down, I move to the computer to see where the actual writing will go…One thing I always do: stop a writing session with a direction in mind for where I will go the next time I write, as I find my mind continues to sort things out and develop ideas during my non-writing activities (supervising homework, running, making dinner, etc.). Doing this makes the process of returning to the writing project on which I am working a lot less daunting! I know I am finished a given piece, when I read it over and experience an amorphous sense of completeness…then the editing begins!
What online sites/resources do you use when writing? Not many. Although, I definitely rely on Wikipedia for fact checking and various dictionary sites for definitions, if I want to double check the exact meaning of a word I want to use.
Did you go to school for writing or learn along the way? As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I was very involved in poetry writing and took all the classes I could, especially those taught by Thom Gunn who I considered both a mentor and an all around awesome human being. For graduate school, I continued my focus on poetry and followed Robert Pinsky–who was leaving Berkeley to run the graduate poetry writing program at Boston University–to Boston, where I was lucky enough to be offered a teaching fellowship. My prose writing started much later and really was a result of hearing reactions from friends to my protracted email communications telling me I “really should write…your stories are hysterical,” etc. Honestly, it took quite a bit of distance from the formal academic setting of college and graduate school to find a voice I consider authentic. Along with the uncovering of that voice came a kind of confidence and resolve that I really think was/is only possible–for me at least–with age:)
Any advice for our readers? Read a lot (I know, the usual…but super important!); write as much as you can, even when you don’t feel like it; and BE FLEXIBLE AND OPEN, meaning don’t get stuck on one idea of how you will reach your writing goal; what you least expect may be the very thing that allows you to realize the vision you have of yourself as a writer…>
Leanne Tankel studied poetry writing as a UC Berkeley undergraduate and was fortunate enough to work with the inimitable Thom Gunn. She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing at Boston University, where she held a teaching fellowship. Currently, she is writing prose, and her manuscript, Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage (originally titled, The Adulterer’s Notebook), was a 2011 short-list finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Awards program. Leanne lives with her husband, three sons, and two pugs in Northern Virginia.
You can learn more about Leanne at the following websites:
Virgo eBooks: http://virgoebooks.com/broken-hallelujah.html