Charity, November 05, 2012 at 7:11 PM
One of the strange things about writing a book is that while you’re writing it, at least if you’re me, you spend a great deal of time fantasizing about the rave reviews that will someday come your way. (I guess some people have fantasies centered on chains and leather. Mine all center on applause). But then as the publication date nears, your feelings begin to morph, because, it turns out, reviews aren’t imaginary anymore, they’re inevitable. And in the real world, reviews aren’t always rave.
Ten Girls to Watch has been out for a couple of months now, which means the reviews have mostly come and gone. And I’m happy to report that I made it through alive and well and in fine enough spirits to give you a review summary. Without further ado, here are the highlights and the lowlights.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Some people really hated my book. Yep! The word “meh” made a tiny appearance on Goodreads. I read the word “meh” and gave it a “meh” and a shrug back, and we’re all okay.
The good news is that a lot of people really liked my book. But they didn’t just like it, they were super surprised that they liked it. This makes me laugh.
Let’s start with my grandpa. He’s 94. He emailed me (I didn’t even know he had email) to tell me what he thought of the book.
“I think the story would be more for women than an old tradition-entrenched guy like me, but I did like it. Along in the middle I began to wonder how you would end it, and I was quite pleased how you handled it.”
See, he’s a man, but surprise! He liked it anyway!
Then there was my Aunt Margaret’s email:
“I loved that the book is actually much more complicated than it seems.”
That word ‘actually’ seems to come up a lot. “I actually really liked it.” “It’s actually really good.” I have come to the conclusion that everyone just assumes that a book about a 23-year-old woman will center on shopping, and it’s a real shock to the system when it turns out there’s more to it than that. In fact, Kirkus Reviews just came out and said it.
“Though countless novels have offered the same conceit—lives in New York, works in media, searches for Mr. Right—Shumway’s Dawn is a young woman of substance, and her trials are of more consequence than the search for the perfect Little Black Dress.”
(That same review called Dawn a “modern-day Mary Tyler Moore” which means I’ll love Kirkus forever).
A blog called Comp Lit and Mediphilia had even more to say about this surprise:
“Ten Girls to Watch is actually a really good read [note the word ‘actually’]….The premise of this book, that Dawn keeps calling all of these women who from 1957 on have been achievers and trailblazers and gets to interview them, is so insufferably obvious and yet somehow it’s not cliche or obnoxious but really interesting! ….Basically, this book baffles me, because it should be awful but instead it’s really great.”
Bafflement, my friends! Bafflement!
In my mind, the ultimate review is of David Mitchell’s book Cloud Atlas, from the New York Times Book Review a few years back: “Mitchell is, clearly, a genius,” the review begins. Not just Mitchell is a genius. No, he’s clearly! a genius. I’ve been waiting for someone to say that about me! Alas. I think genius is a ways off, and if I’m getting an adverb it’s going to be “surprisingly.” Shumway is, surprisingly, competent. Ha.
I’ve never been good with surprises. The first thing I do is go directly to the person and say “Hey, I have a secret plan.” And then they try to guess for about four minutes until I just break down and tell them everything.
Maybe that’s why I’m so pleased by these responses. Finally, I’ve done it. Surprise!
Charity, September 04, 2012 at 2:09 PM
Here’s where you can find me in October. Come say hi!
Friday, October 12th, 2 p.m.
Southern Festival of Books
Legislative Plaza, Room 16
Thursday, October 25th, 7 p.m.
Montgomery Village Shopping Center
775 Village Court
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
Friday, October 26, 7 p.m,
51 Tamal Vista Boulevard
Corte Madera, CA 94925
Sunday, October 28, 3 p.m.
Eagle Harbor Books
157 Winslow Way East
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
Monday, October 29, 7 p.m.
Grass Roots Books & Music
227 Southwest 2nd Street
Corvallis, OR 97333
Charity, August 12, 2012 at 5:08 PM
Cute babies! Intrepid goat milkers! Guys in suits! And oh, the ladies…
Don’t you just want to snap a meta shot of your own? It’s not too late to get in on the action. Tweet me your photo (@CharityShumway) or tag me in instagram (@charityshumway) and you’re in the drawing for a signed copy, sent right to your mailbox. (In addition to the whole “chance to win” thing, you’ll get my outlandish gratitude and goofy cheer).
Charity, August 10, 2012 at 4:08 PM
Ten Girls to Watch is a novel, as in fiction, as in a book I made up, but it’s also inspired by an experience I had in real life, working on Glamour Magazine’s “Top Ten College Women” contest. Rhonda Adams Medina was one of the winners of that real life, non-fictional contest — Glamour Top Ten, 1987.
She was so smart and funny and warm when I interviewed her back in 2007 that she’s stayed in my head for years (and some of the smart things she said back then just may have seeped into the book). Lucky for me, we were able to talk again a few weeks ago. Nowadays, she’s a mother of four(!) and a Senior Vice President for Business and Legal Affairs at MTV Networks. (She’s also a terrific writer — check out this lovely piece of hers from the Huffington Post this May). Here, a little bit about how she got where she is today (near-firing and Spike Lee were both involved!), and a few words of wonderfully wise advice.
What did you think you wanted to be when you were in college?
I wanted to be the Tokyo Bureau Chief for the Far Eastern Economic Review. I studied Japanese and spent some time there in college and loved the country. I loved to write and had done an internship at the New York Times and at a small newspaper in Texas, and I thought it would be perfect to combine my love of Japan with my love of writing.
I even got an internship with them in Hong Kong, but then I got an offer in investment banking in New York. It seemed very sexy — it was the late 80s! A lot of my friends were doing it, and also, I thought I’d have a more fertile dating scene if I stayed in New York instead of Hong Kong. So I decided I wanted to try my hand at that kind of work.
How did those first years out of school actually go?
I worked like a dog around the clock. I wasn’t good at it at all — I almost got fired — but it ended up being a fabulous experience. I made all my best friends in those years, people I’m still really close to. I did a two-year analyst program, but after that you’re released, and all my friends were going to Harvard Business School. I couldn’t add, but I really wanted to go where they were going, so I thought “I’ll go to HLS.” It was a pretty immature decision, and I’m really lucky it worked out.
When did you figure out you wanted to do entertainment law?
I had been a Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, studying domestic and international policy, and at Harvard I was on the Law Review. Most people go on to clerk after that, but I had a very frivolous side to me. I read People Magazine! In law school I had a professor whose wife was an entertainment lawyer. I was in Switzerland at the Montrose Jazz Festival, and she was there too, for work. I thought “what kind of job pays you to go to the Montrose Jazz Festival?”
When I was in law school I also had the opportunity to meet Spike Lee. He was teaching an undergraduate class. They had a big meeting in a theater on campus. There were something like 30 spots in the class, and in order to be eligible to apply, you had to be a visual and environmental studies or an Afro-Am major. I was neither, I was a law school student. I was sitting way up in the balcony with a friend, but as soon as Spike Lee was done talking I said “See ya!” and went running downstairs and pushed my way up to him and said “you really want to have me in your class.” He said I didn’t meet the requirements, but I told him all the reasons I should be in the class, and what do you know? He let me in.
He was an incredible mentor to me. Really encouraging. I took full advantage of being in the class. The next year he asked me to be his Teaching Fellow, which was an extraordinary experience. After graduation, he gave me a job in the development office of 40 Acres and a Mule, reading scripts. I was a total gofer. I then went to work in a corporate law firm for a little less than a year before I was tapped by Spike’s law firm, a small boutique entertainment firm.
Did anybody give you any great advice along the way?
When I worked at 40 Acres and a Mule I reported to the head of development. She made me do all these humiliating things. I had just graduated from law school, and she would send me out to get her tea. She was not approachable. She was not even remotely kind, but I asked her to lunch after it was all over, and she said, “If I can’t trust you to get my tea, what can I trust you to do?” I always remembered that. You can’t have any ego. You have to attack every job.
If you could say a few words to your just-graduated self, what would they be?
Keep working out! I do miss my 22-year-old body. Other than that, everything worked out the way it should. I can say “I should have broken up with him a few months earlier,” and things like that, but I’m afraid I would screw everything up if I changed things. One thing I was aware of at an earlier age than most people — especially when you get to college, the people who you’re going to school with are going to be your colleagues in life. I’m really proud of myself and the way I conducted my life and things with people. So that’s something I’d say to other people. Don’t act like an idiot in school! Treat other people with respect. If you don’t do it because it’s the right moral thing to do, at least do it out of self-interest.
Thanks so much, Rhonda!
Charity, August 07, 2012 at 6:08 PM
Ah, the layers. A few dear friends sent me these shots, and I love them SO MUCH. If you’ve picked up the book, indulge me! Snap a photo of yourself with the cover and tweet it to me (@CharityShumway) or tag me in Instagram (@charityshumway). I’m going to post ALL OF THEM. And I’ve got three signed copies up for grabs. Send me a photo, and your name goes in the hat!
Charity, August 07, 2012 at 2:08 PM
I love trade magazines. Most of them sound like fake magazines from 30 Rock — as in Jack Donaghy to Liz Lemon: “Lemon, I am supposed to represent NBC in a negotiation that Rex Belcher, of the American Journal of Meetings, rated ‘Four Chairs.’ Four!” Yeah, there’s actually a magazine called Meetings and Conventions (shout out to my friend Jonathan who used to write for them!) And there are so many more marvelously amusing trade publications. Accountancy Age, Modern Tramway, the Inspectioneering Journal…
Well, publishing’s big trade magazine is called Publisher’s Weekly, and an article by YOURS TRULY ran on the back page of the June 30th issue. I give it four chairs, at least! If you’re a subscriber, here it is on the PW website. If you’re more of a Modern Tramway type, here’s a pdf for your squinting pleasure (sorry about that!) If you don’t have your glasses handy, the summary is: I’m working on another novel. I’m really excited about it and also kind 0f scared.