Special Purrsgiving Intermew with Laurie Scheer, author of “The Writer’s Advantage”

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HAPPY PURRSGIVING, EVERYPAWDY!!!

Today I am thrilled and honored and ever so purrful to welcome my special Purrsgiving guest, Laurie Scheer! Author of The Writer’s Advantage, by Laurie Scheer. Buy it on Amazon, like her Facebook page, follower her on Twitter and while you’re at it, like and follow me too!

I really loved reading/napping with this book. As a development executive, writing mentor, and Media Goddess, Laurie crisply and effectively assembles a toolkit for writers in terms of understanding their place in an established, yet ever-changing marketplace. You do that by learning about and fitting within a genre.

Hazel: Hi Laurie! Thanks so much for being here, and happy Purrsgiving!! First question, you wrote a book! Yay!! How do you feel about it?

Laurie: Haha well, Hazel, thanks for asking! I feel great about it, because it’s really wonderful to finally write a lot of things down in one place that I had been teaching for over the last decade or so. So it feels good to be able to share that information.

Hazel: I really enjoyed the book! I also enjoy eating! What are you most excited to eat this Purrsgiving?

Laurie: Well, Purrsgiving brings stuffing haha I think that’s my favorite, the turkey and the stuffing, because it’s so filling within the cold weather. I like things like mac & cheese, hardy soups and things, but for me that special turkey stuffing is my favorite.

Hazel: That sounds nummy, I’ve never had stuffing before!

Laurie: Really?

Hazel: They don’t make Fancy Feast stuffing.

Laurie: Oh, they should. We have to talk to them.

Hazel: I had a spinach Fancy Feast once. That was pretty nummy.

Laurie: Oh, well I think you would really like it, especially if it had some sage in it, and maybe some bits of, well it has lots of milk in it, so I think you’d like it.

Hazel: *drools* so what advice would you give to bright young kittens thinking of pursuing a career in writing?

Laurie: I would say to all the bright young kittens, including Hazel, that knowing about your genre is a really good place to start no matter if you’re writing purretry, or fiction, or nonfiction, or maybe you’re writing about your journeys in the house during the day and all the fun stuff that happens, but knowing what your genre is, knowing what other people have written within those particular genres, that’s a really good place to start. My advice would be to know what has been done in that genre previously.

Hazel: Does that include what has been written by other writer kitties or does that include human writers as well?

Laurie: I think we can look at cat and human writers, yeah, absolutely. All of them can use this information.

Hazel: Great, you know Ernest Hemingway wrote with a cat on his shoulder, I think they did a lot of the work for him.

Laurie: Huh, really?

Hazel: Oh yeah, I mean sometimes you just have to be a cat to know this, but I remember reading some of his stuff, and I was like “a cat wrote that.”

Laurie: Wow, you see I’d like to know more about that from you, Hazel, because that sounds like those would be passages of wonderment, and I talk about wonderment in my book as being these special moments. So it sounds like the cats may have helped Hemingway with certain little passages or certain ways to say things.

Hazel: Oh yeah.

Laurie: And that, I would be very interested to know what they helped him with, because that’s probably what added to making his writing really good.

Hazel: Wonderment is definitely something that cats have down.

Laurie: They love it.

Hazel: Master your genres, humans and kitties, great advice. Speaking of genres, how do you feel about the pumpkin genre in the medium of flavor?

Laurie: I love pumpkin spice lattes! Yeah, I have to say I’m really guilty of drinking a lot of them. Especially as soon as they come out. It’s been in August now that suddenly they’re around. They’re around right now, but that’s my favorite. I also like Trader Joe’s pumpkin biscotti. Yeah, which I think you would really like. Maybe there’s pumpkin spice little treats?

Hazel: Ooh, with tuna chunks?

Laurie: Yeah! I had a little cat friend once. Her name was Abby, and she lived downstairs from where I lived and she would come and visit. We would feed her little cat treats and it was so sweet the way she would take it with her little paw and then throw it in her mouth and she always loved them. I don’t know how any cats live without them.

Hazel: I like to swipe some of my crunchies onto the floor.

Laurie: Really?

Hazel: Then it feels like I found them, so there’s a sense of accomplishment.

Laurie: So it’s like a surprise too, right?

Hazel: Oh yeah, I’m looking for snacks all the time. As a cat, I’m a solitary hunter, so I’m always looking for snacks. So you talk about genre mixing in your book. For example, for my two favorite shows, I would love to see a SpongeBob/Breaking Bad crossover episode, but I just don’t see how they would go together.  Why do you think some genres mix so well, and then others just don’t? What’s going on there?

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Laurie: Wow, do you think that we could try the SpongeBob/Breaking Bad crossover? I don’t know, that’s a stretch, you’re right. Why do some go together? I think like steampunk where you take a historical time period and mix it with technology or sci-fi, it tends to blend a little easier. I don’t know, now SpongeBob, that’s a really tough one, I’d have to think about that. I think some mix better like paranormal romance, there’s also lots of graphic novels that include, well look at a lot of movies like Toy Story or Shrek, even Lego Movie, where this is a little bit of a mixture, they’re talking about certain jokes that some adults get and some children get it, and some cats might get it, but not everybody gets it, sort of like The Simpsons.

Hazel: I’m obsessed with The Simpsons!

Laurie: You know, there’s a joke that happens or somebody says something, and it’s only going to hit by only certain generations are going to understand it, and I imagine kitties would completely understand some of the things that none of the humans understand. So mixing genres, you have to also look at generations, and you have to look at how much cats are going to understand, and how much people are going to understand. Or even things like Ren & Stimpy, isn’t one of them a cat?

Hazel: Stimpy is a cat.

Laurie: Think about all the stuff that happened in that cartoon.

Hazel: Right! You watch some parts and think “whoa, that’s not for kitties.”

Laurie: Right, but it is, and it lends itself to, within the genre, you can start to mix things up and that’s a place to begin to mix genres to see how far you can go. So I didn’t answer you know exactly. It really comes about by just experimenting.

Hazel: So maybe a SpongeBob/Breaking Bad crossover is possible.

Laurie: Yeah, why not?

Hazel: Interesting, I’ll have to try that. Hazel: If you could be a float in the Purrsgiving day parade, what would you be and how come?

Laurie: Hmm, that’s one I’d really like to think about. Hmm, a float, oh I know. I think for the Purrsgiving day, because it pertains to cats, right?

Hazel: Indeed.

Laurie: I would like to be a cat café, because cat cafes are really big right now in Japan where you actually go to a café like a Starbucks, but there’s just cats everywhere and you can get coffee or tea and the cats are just there and you can play with them and you can pet them or whatever, so I think a float that showed all these cats in a cat café environment, that would be fun.

Hazel: Have you been to one?

Laurie: I have not, I think there’s one in Brooklyn too, but they’re very big in Japan, where cats are honored and adored like gods and goddesses. I mean cats are just, they really are, and it’s just a wonderful thing to see.

Hazel: My travel correspondent, Hydrated Tourist Penguin, went to a cat café in Madrid. Do you think there are going to be more in the United States?

Laurie: I think they should. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to take a moment and pet a cat, and wouldn’t the cat love that? I think in the U.S. it would be a little bit, maybe safety things involved, allergies, that the department of health might not approve, but I think if it works well in the other countries, they should consider it.

Hazel: It’s a great way of giving a cat a home and some coffee. Then if you really like the cat, you can adopt them!

Laurie: Right, I think there’s caretakers there that stay at the café obviously, make sure all of the cats are okay. I’m not sure how that’s handled. Are they there for a long time? Are they just there between homes? Maybe they just hang out. Maybe they want to get away with their regular family for a bit, meet some cats, you know, networking. I’m sure you would love that. I’m not sure, but I think it’s in an interesting concept, and I would love to go to one.

Hazel: That’s just great. On page 93 of your book, when discussing top 10 lists, you point out that “the general public has a fascination with categorizing pieces of media,” which I think not only applies to top 10 lists, but to genres themselves. Why do you think humans do that?

Laurie Scheer

Laurie: Humans do that because, well there’s a number of reasons. One of the big reasons is because there’s just so much media, so we have to narrow it down, we have to bring it down to a niche. There’s a website called io9.com and they’ll do the top 10 Star Trek episodes from the original series, they’ll do the top 10 Superman comics, the top 10, you name it. The top 10 Dawson’s Creek episodes or something like that. And it’s really fascinating to watch, and I think not only is it a way to narrow things down, but it’s a way to relate, so if I’m a fan of that show, Dawson’s Creek, and I love it, and I go in and I look at it, I can think “oh I remember that,” or “I disagree, that episode was better, that one should be #1 and not #1,” or whatever. I think it helps us engage with how we consume culture.

Hazel: Interesting, so it makes it more accessible.

Laurie: Right, and you see that’s another place to go when doing research, because if you were going to start a new cat meme or cat gif or cat website, you could look at all the other famous cats and if they might be friends or what you could do differently or what you could do the same, that’s all part of studying this genre, and that’s why top 10 is a good place to start.

Hazel: I see, that especially makes sense for an emerging field like Feline Literature. It helps make everything more digestible.

Laurie: Right, right.

Hazel: Speaking of digestible, who would you love to have dinner with? What would you eat and where?

Laurie: Oh, I can answer what I would eat and where first. My favorite, there are many, hmm, this is a toss-up.

Hazel: If it helps, you can have two dinners.

Laurie: Okay, my favorite is chicken, which I think you would agree.

Hazel: Chicken!!

Laurie: Chicken Thai curry it’s called at a place called Teaism in Dupont Circle in Washington DC.

Hazel: Oh that sounds pawmazing.

Laurie: If you are ever there, they have to get a little plate for you to try, it’s delicious. Another place would be, it’s also chicken.

Hazel: Chicken!? Meow! Meow! Sorry, I recognize the word “chicken” and then I think it is dinner time for me. Go ahead.

Laurie: It’s Chinese chicken salad, and it’s at a place called Chin Chin in Los Angeles, and it’s the most delicious Chinese chicken salad, so one is hot and one is cold. And who would I like to have dinner with? That’s tough, can it be a cat, or a person?

Hazel: You can have a party if you want.

Laurie: Can they be dead or alive?

Hazel: Sure, it’s your chicken.

Laurie: Oh, well that’s pretty easy. I think I would like to have one of those meals with Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye.

Hazel: He was also part-cat.

Laurie: Really!

Hazel: Not a lot of people know that. His mom was a cat.

Laurie: Interesting. The other dinner would be with Anais Nin, a writer from early 20th-Century. She’s written a number of diaries, and she is just this amazing author. I think she had many cats. So I think you’d like her, Hazel.

Hazel; Can I come??

Laurie: Absolutely! She’s just a great writer who influenced me a lot in my young writing career.

Hazel: Pawesome, I’m hungry. So you spend some time in The Writer’s Advantage talking about media fragmentation, and how the entertainment environment is changing so rapidly in the face of the internet, personalized media diets and so forth. What kind of new jobs do you anticipate emerging in the face of such changes, and how does one prepare to work in such a new creative landscape?

Laurie: Oh there’s so many new jobs. There’s just so many new jobs. As I tell all of my students, if you can’t find work, it’s you, because there’s hundreds of digital networks that are starting during the 20 minutes that we’re having this interview, so I think it’s just a wonderful playground out there. It’s a sandbox where if you do have an interest in a particular subject, you could seek out that digital network that’s specializing in that subject and write for it, or produce, or edit, or even do marketing for it or whatever. There’s just so many outlets within this fragmentation. There’s also what we like to call fan-fiction, so if you like something that’s already established and you do really well, continuing to write about it or like it that can sometimes help to kick off your career, so people can become familiar with your writing. Because you’re honoring this particular type of writing so much, because you’re a fan, sometimes it helps you to get some writing samples. So I think that’s another way to prepare to work in this new creative landscape.

Hazel: Wow, it’s new and scary, but also exciting then.

Laurie: Right, it’s new, but there’s so much out there. I have an example of a job that’s open at VICE media, and if you go to VICE’s website, it’s a wonderful website that has a lot of stuff about pop culture. If Hazel wanted to write about a particular topic, it’s the kind of place you can pitch and get started. That kind of opportunity wasn’t there before. Now it’s not a lot of money, but it’s exposure, and people can see how well you write, and it’s something that’s there as a credit then. You can put it on your resume, and that kind of opportunity was never there before.

Hazel: So how has that changed the experience of finding, applying for, and getting a job, either through netpurrking or otherwise?

Laurie: I think if we just look at YouTube stars, I mean like people who have had their careers launched on YouTube. I’m talking about those in front of the camera, yes, but even those who have produced other stuff behind the camera, just because they’ve done a video that did well, that propels them into another career, or into something that they want to pursue. And that opportunity, that landscape, hasn’t been there before. You don’t necessarily need to network, although that’s very good. You need to know what your brand is, you need to know what you want to say, you need to know what you want to do, just get out there and do it.

Hazel: So if I want to grow up and be a Writer Kitty, or maybe even a Showrunner Kitty someday, there’s nothing in the way.

Laurie: There’s absolutely nothing in the way.

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Hazel: Wow, to be a cat in this world. I am so purrful to be alive in a time when a farm kitty like me can go from parasites and infections to blogging and intermewing pawesome kitties and authors like yourself! What are you purrful for this Purrsgiving?

Laurie: Purrful, oh my. I am purrful for good health really. That really is the main thing. For opportunity, for being able to share information and be present to help other people and cats with their writing and with any other questions they might have. I’m thankful that I’m able to have the opportunity to be in a place where I can do that. So that really is a main thing. I also like being mentors to writer kitties and other people writers, that’s really fun. I’m really thankful for all the people writers and hopefully writer kitties, kitty writers, is there a difference?

Hazel: I say Writer Kitty, but I am open to both.

Laurie: I’m grateful and thankful for all of them that have been successful or have found some success, and by success I mean yes, that’s great if you sell a script, or you have a book published. I’m also happy and thankful when the success is completing that manuscript, or completing that script or completing that blog, or whatever it is. That’s success also. So I’m really happy when I get an e-mail or a text, or a message that says “Hey I was able to do this,” or a posting on Facebook. It depends where you’re at. Just finishing a manuscript is huge. I’ve worked with a lot of writers who never do that. And they’re working, they’re working really hard. I’m not criticizing them, I’m not judging, I’m just saying that’s a big, a major success. So it depends on where you’re at. Now getting that sold, that’s another major success. Selling your fifth novel, super major success. So it just depends on where you’re at. Or maybe you posted something and you received 868 likes or followers, that’s success also because now you have a forum where people are watching and listening and reading, and it’s great.

Hazel: That kind of encouragement is so helpful, thank you for that. Well this has been fun, Laurie, I really appreciate you being here. So to conclude: if you could say only one thing to a potential new or existing follower, what would you like them to know?

Laurie: I’d like them to know that they should not have a fear of success.

Hazel: Fear of success? Don’t you mean fear of failure? (At this part of the intermew I was winking to indicate I know which part of the book she is referring to, the one that talks about fear of success).

Laurie: No, no I mean fear of success. I found most people have a fear of success because they get really close to finishing that manuscript, or that script, or that blog, then they drag their heels, they drag their paws on it and they just kind of mope around and they don’t do much, and I might say come on, it’s like an afternoon. Finish it, finish it, and they don’t finish it because they know when they finish it, it might actually sell.

Hazel: That is kinda scary.

Laurie: Yeah! Or it will be published, and once that happens, your life changes. So there’s this inner fear of success that I see a lot of writers have, and they shouldn’t. They should finish it, they should get it out there, because otherwise why are you writing?

Hazel: True. How do you suggest one negotiates that fear of something so exciting, yet so intimidating at the same time?

Laurie: Negotiated by thinking it out. Alright I hear back from the agent, I hear back from the publisher, I hear back from the production company, whatever it is that you’re selling, and then you continue with that negotiation with them. No one is going to do anything for you or to you that you don’t have some say in. It’s not like oh, suddenly you’re thrown into this and you know, you don’t know what to do. Cats always land on their feet, right?

Hazel: Right!

Laurie: Yeah, so if you feel that way, no matter what, you might be thrown into a situation, but you’re going to know what to do.

Hazel: And you’re going to land on your feet.

Laurie: And you’re going to land on your feet. So no fear of success. At all.

Hazel: I love that. Well, thanks so much for being here, Laurie, I really appreciate that. I hope you have a great Purrsgiving!

Laurie: You too!

Thank YOU reader for reading!

Gobble Gobble!

Hazel

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