Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In Lieu of a Christmas Letter...

...Here's a quick, last-chance summary of the year.  Which can't help but be a tad self-indulgent.  But a lot of friends are contacting me through Facebook.  This will help bring them up to speed.

The year didn't start well:  In mid-January I got fired from my crossword editing job.  It wasn't a sure thing at first--I had just really screwed up and knew I was in trouble--but my friend Tracy said, "I hope they fire you.  Your job is the only thing you ever complain about.  It could be the best thing that ever happened to you."  

Turns out she was right.  By very great luck I was able to stay rent-free in Brooklyn for three months while I collected unemployment and tried out Plan B.  (The friend, Jocelyn, was doing an extended stint with Habitat for Humanity.)  I spent January and February working on my book proposal for How to Love God Without Being a Jerk, and adjusting to the life of a writer:  I began working out every day on my bike.  I began to cook, and to eat heathily and carefully.  (I also stopped drinking; turns out I'm slightly allergic.)  [Side note: I also decided, thanks to Netflix, to watch every major film noir there was, at a rate of roughly one a day.  I am now pretty much an expert on the genre.]

On March 18th I sent out my proposal, and immediately got a response from an agent who said, "I can't sell this, but I like your writing.  What else have you got?"  I then sent him the proposal for my Kansas City memoir, and he bit.  On March 21st (Easter!) I got my agent, Adam Chromy, who has been absolutely amazing.  How amazing was proved in only a few weeks.

On April 1st, I made the rounds to several different publishers, and on Monday of the following week, the book had gone to auction.  By April 6th, I had a book deal for enough money to actually live on for a while.  (At least temporarily.  I'm returning to work once I'm done with the writing and touring part.)   My life changed instantly.  It still makes me dizzy to think of it.

So I spent April actually writing the book and waiting for the contract.  In April I stayed with my stalwart friend Tracy, who was away with Habitat for Humanity.  (If you ever need to couch-surf, go to the Habitat for Humanity chat rooms.  I have references now!)

In May I moved to my amazingly generous friend Sherry's country house way out in the Hudson Valley, still waiting for the contract, still writing and exercising and eating well.  I lost weight.  I had to buy new clothes, and Tracy helped me buy clothes that actually fit.  (Part of this weight loss may have been nervousness: I only had unemployment money through mid-July.)  So I spent all summer in the Hudson Valley, writing and waiting around, and FINALLY, at the end of June, I got the contract.  In July, I got the first part of my money.  Thank god for unemployment insurance.  It lasted exactly as long as I needed it.  

In August I took my current apartment in the East Village, but I couldn't move in because I was finishing the book and a move would have thrown me off.  I finished the rough draft at the end of August, and spent September moving in.

It was weird, moving, because it turns out that, after years of being other peoples' roommate, I didn't really own anything for living on my own.  I actually had to buy plates, and cups, and salt, and a bed and a desk and so on.  And I made a number of impulsive errors that I will improve on next time I move.  Moving is surprisingly exhausting, and I wasn't able to return to the manuscript (draft 2) until the end of the month, when I fixed it up and turned it in.

So I am now finally living the life I've always wanted: a self-supporting writer (for now, at least) living in Manhattan.  I've also lost 25 pounds and three inches off my waist, which puts me in the best shape of my life--equal, roughly, to my freshman year of college.  I dress well, I smell nice, and I'm basically happier than I've ever been.  Also, Obama got elected, which is not only good for the country but it won me a long-standing bet.  So it's been a really, really, really good year.  

I just want to thank my agent, Adam Chromy, and my friends Jocelyn, Tracy, and Sherry, who saved my life when I really needed saving.  Thanks also to the Moth and the New York storytelling community, without whom I would never have met all the friends who sustained me this past year.  (This also means big thanks to the amazing Cyndi Freeman, who introduced me to the storytelling scene in the first place.)  And of course, huge enormous thanks to Ira Glass and everyone at This American Life, who are a total delight to work with.  It's been crazy busy, but I'll get something in this year; I promise.

In 2009, I'm eying a move (in August) to someplace in Brooklyn with a little more room.  (i.e., something large enough to have office space I can deduct from my taxes...and small enough that the tax savings are comparatively impressive.)  And I'll have finished my book and begun starting on the next one.  Aside from that, I'm actually daring to hope that 2009 might even be better than 2008.  And that, just possibly, things keep improving from here.  

Happy New Year, y'all!



Blogger The Dating Guru said...

Awesome! Congratulations on a banner year!! :-D

1/12/2009 11:28 PM  
Blogger Siobhan Neile said...

This is all very good news. Way to go - you rock!!! All my best - Siobhan

1/16/2009 5:16 PM  
Blogger HawaiianBrian said...

This blog sez, "Forget about me?"

1/28/2009 12:06 AM  
Blogger Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Jeff is right. You're a genius.

2/10/2009 1:25 AM  

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