Today we welcome Joni B. Cole and her new personal essay collection, "Another Bad-Dog Book" (reviewed here), just published in October. (According to her, this is NOT a dog book. It’s a person book—with stories that will make you laugh and think.) Joni attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania and majored in journalism. She received a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Dartmouth College. A professor told her that she talks a lot better than she writes. This obviously did not stop her from becoming a writer, but it did lead her to become a public speaker. In addition to speaking, some of Joni's previous jobs include advertising copy writer, bartender, publicist, meat market clerk, and a farm machinery expeditor. Joni currently resides in White River Junction, Vermont with her husband, two daughters, one cat and [not such] a bad dog.
She's visiting us today to answer some of our most pressing questions and giving away TWO copies of her book to some lucky readers in the US.
You can visit Joni at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
MP: What is your usual writing routine?
JBC: With a deadline, I protect big blocks of time to write, and I work whenever and wherever I have fifteen minutes to write. Without a deadline, my routine is to obsessively check email, Facebook, and Twitter, procrastinate in any way possible (even if that means vacuuming), gnaw on my knuckles, and doubt my abilities. Often when I’m easing back into a writing routine, I choose to write in cafes, where I can’t wander aimlessly, as is my wont.
MP: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
JBC: Give up. Get mad at myself. Get madder, and madder. And then I get to work, trying to apply some of the advice I tell the writers in my workshops. Don’t think about writing a story or an essay or a memoir. Don’t think about writing toward big themes like love, or the meaning of family, or loss. Just focus on writing something small and concrete—a meaningful moment, an interaction, one scene, one specific memory. That’s the way “in,” through these little acts of writing that, chances are, will eventually accumulate into a whole that is greater than the sum of these tiny parts.
MA: What did you do to celebrate when first published?
JBC: Given the “roaming” pub date of the book (the last official one being October 11), I’ve had multiple celebrations, mostly in the form of quiet moments of personal satisfaction. As much as I love parties, I feel a bit self conscious at the idea of a celebration specifically related to my book’s release. That said, I’m always up for a good party, whether it’s for a book launch or because it’s a Tuesday.
MP: What was most challenging about writing "Another Bad Dog Book?"
JBC: I find it interesting and gratifying that readers almost always remark first on the humor in "Another Bad-Dog Book." (Apparently I’m someone who makes you pee your pants and snort whatever you happen to be drinking while reading my book.) But the funny parts came naturally during the writing process. What was really challenging was focusing on the subject material—much of it related to loss, professional insecurity, and growing up as an adult in mid-life. To tell a good personal story you have to get the details right, which means immersing yourself in that experience, however difficult, again and again with every rewrite.
MA: What advice do you have for future writers?
JBC: Never, never, never, never (never!) let any naysayers—including the ones between your own ears—stop you from writing. Get involved in a writing community (a workshop, a friendly critique group, etc.) to get deadlines, feedback, and support. And never forget writing is a means unto its own end—it matters. For more advice (and humor), check out my book Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive. Encouraging writers in a productive way is my profession and passion.
MA: If "Another Bad Dog Book" were made into a movie, who would you cast as yourself?
JBC: Hugh Grant.
MP: Favorite food of autumn?
JBC: It never changes. Lox and bagel.
MA: Funniest thing your dog did recently?
JBC: Threw up vanilla ice cream on the kitchen floor during my daughter’s field hockey team dinner. (I’m sorry, but it really was kind of funny.)
MP: Where would you like to travel and why?
JBC: Minneapolis to see old friends. Miami to see new friends. The Grand Canyon to see such a big, gaping hole. Nashville for the music. Huntington Beach to see the Pacific Ocean. Montana for the big skies. Las Vegas, baybee! I love the United States in all its diversity.
MA: What are you most thankful for this year?
JBC: A bazillion things, large and small. At this moment, I’m thankful for the pleasure of hearing my daughters (and one of their friends) downstairs, doing their thing. I’m also thankful for my hubby who lets me be me. I’m thankful that I have so many good and interesting people in my life. I’m thankful for my work as a writer and writing teacher, and the fact that I can go out dancing, and that I live in Vermont, and that you chose to interview me and asked me this question, which has reminded me of all the reasons I have to be thankful. So thank you!
And we're thankful to Joni for sharing her thoughts with us and her book with our readers!
How to win "Another Bad Dog Book":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
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Bonus entries (can be listed all in one post):
1. Please tell us: What is your favorite autumn food?
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5. Add a friend to our Facebook group. (Tell us who you added.) Be sure to remind them to edit their settings.
US only. Giveaway ends November 7th at midnight EST.