Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life

Liz Alterman – writing after redundancies

September 24, 2023 Claire Waite Brown/Liz Alterman Episode 83
Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life
Liz Alterman – writing after redundancies
Creativity Found listener support
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Support
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers
Imagine turning a challenging life event into an empowering and cathartic creative outlet. That's exactly what Liz Alterman achieved when she channelled her emotions during a period of unemployment into a blog, and later, a published memoir. As she bravely tackled the stigma and emotional turbulence of job loss, Liz discovered a profound connection with a wider audience.
Liz attributes her love for the written word to her mother's vibrant storytelling, which sparked a creative flame within her, leading to her pursuing an English degree and writing for her college newspaper.
Liz went on to have a career in financial services and energy reporting, but when she and her husband were both laid off at the same time, Liz used writing to help her cope with the fears and worries of that difficult situation.
Since then Liz has been employed and unemployed, and employed again, all while writing fiction for teenagers and a thriller for adults.

You can buy Liz's thriller, The Perfect Neighborhood, from the Creativity Found bookshop at Bookshop.org.

If you found value in this episode and would like to show your appreciation, consider supporting the podcast through the Support the Show link, or by sending a boostagram , for example in the Fountain app.

CreativityFound.co.uk
Instagram: @creativityfoundpodcast
Facebook: @creativityfoundpodcast and Creativity Found group
YouTube @creativityfoundpodcast
Pinterest: @creativityfound
Twitter: @creativityfoun

Researched, edited and produced by Claire Waite Brown
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
Photo: Ella Pallet


Buy arts and crafts techniques books, plus books by some of my podcast guests, from the Creativity Found bookshop 

Support the Show.

Support the show here
Subscribe to the Creativity Found mailing list here
Join the Creativity Found Collective here

Claire Waite Brown:

But I wasn't finding anything out there about the way unemployment impacts your self-esteem or your dignity, or how to cope when you're wide awake at 3 am wondering how am I going to keep the roof over my head? I'm faced with a dilemma. Writing has really provided almost like a therapeutic way to process or to figure out my feelings. I kept plugging away and then I was very fortunate to find an agent who was willing to represent it, which is not easy with memoir if you are not famous and you don't have a giant platform from writing about energy, futures and kind of not a lot of opportunity for creativity to be able to create a whole world and have a reader reach out and say you know, hey, I read that in one sitting and are you writing anything else? That's kind of the biggest compliment I think a writer can receive.

Liz Alterman:

Hi, I'm Claire, founder of Creativity Found, a community for creative learners and educators, connecting adults who want to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them do so with workshops, courses, online events and kids. For this podcast, I chat with people who have found or refound their creativity as adults. We'll explore their childhood experiences of the arts, discuss how they came to the artistic practices they now love and consider the barriers they may have experienced between the two. We'll also explore what it is that people value and gain from their newfound artistic pursuits and how their creative lives enrich their practical, necessary everyday lives. For this episode, I'm speaking with Liz Alterman, who started writing a blog when her and her husband were both no redundant and Liz felt alone in her struggles to cope with the worries and stresses of that difficult situation. Thankfully, the writing didn't stop when Liz got back to work. In fact, she developed her repertoire, as you'll hear. Hi, Liz, how are you?

Claire Waite Brown:

I'm good. Thank you so much for having me, Claire.

Liz Alterman:

You're very welcome. Can you start by telling me about how you tap into your creativity?

Claire Waite Brown:

Sure, I'd love to share about it. I think for me, writing has always been a channel that has helped me express not only my creativity but also thoughts in general. I feel like if I'm having an issue or just something's bothering me, that I don't quite know either how I feel about it or how to work my way through it. I think writing has provided an outlet for me, whether it's a serious topic or a humorous topic, even not necessarily to craft a full essay or a list, but just to sit down and jot down thoughts. I think has always helped me tap into that creativity, see where I want to go next with an idea or a problem. I feel lucky to have that as something I can return to in good and bad times.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, I resonate with that. I have a lot of notebooks around and about the place.

Claire Waite Brown:

I've started actually just drafting emails to myself when I can't find a pen or a piece of paper, or I've gotten in a terrible habit of writing things down on paper and then misplacing the paper.

Liz Alterman:

Yes, I could understand that one as well. So were you encouraged in creativity when you were younger, at home, at school?

Claire Waite Brown:

Some of my earliest memories are of my mom reading to me, and my mom is a great storyteller herself. She's not a writer, but in spoken words she's very funny and she really hones in on details that make something memorable or she's creating a metaphor or a simile or something that really brings the story to life. And also she's a very curious person. So she asks a ton of questions, kind of getting that story out of friends, family, everyone. So I think that is probably where I got my love of storytelling. And then in school. I would say I was very fortunate in grade school, high school and college to have wonderful English teachers and professors who I think fostered a love of reading and of writing.

Liz Alterman:

And you majored in English at college. Was there a plan behind that, for example, a career you were hoping to pursue?

Claire Waite Brown:

Well, I think I always wanted to be a writer, but it seemed almost unreachable because I think we're always told how competitive it is and that there are these gatekeepers.

Claire Waite Brown:

You know, you need an agent to get to a publisher. And I love the writer, the author Camille Pagan, and she'll say you know, 80% of people want to write a book and 1% of people actually do it, or like go on to see it through. So I have to say I did debate, majoring in accounting or economics or something that seemed very practical and then at the last minute I thought you know what, if I'm going to spend four years doing this, I want it to be something I really love, and so I was lucky that my parents were supportive. I do think they did question kind of along the way what are, what are you going to do with this English degree? But I think I was fortunate that they both felt if you're a clear communicator, that's a skill that transcends industries. You can kind of take that with you wherever you go. So that's what led me to pursue that, with always the hope of writing a longer work someday.

Liz Alterman:

And were you able to do any kind of extracurricular writing and stuff while at college?

Claire Waite Brown:

I did. I wrote for the newspaper there, which was fun and challenging at the same time, because you never really knew what you were going to be assigned. So I had some interesting pieces. They had a composer come to the school I will confess this is a bit of embarrassing, but a college age story they sent me to interview this composer who had been commissioned to write a piece for the university and there was a free champagne reception beforehand.

Claire Waite Brown:

And so you know I'm talking and chatting with people and you know people are handing you these plastic flutes of champagne and at the end a friend says to me listen, you got to pull it together. How many glasses of champagne have you had? You have to interview that composer now. Fortunately it went fine. But I think you know, when you're young, maybe not you're not as professional as you should be, but it's good to kind of get that out of your system there, and not when you're in a paid position. But I also wrote a short story for the literary magazine and that was a nice opportunity and a surprise to have it accepted. So that was great.

Liz Alterman:

Oh, brilliant. So then, to assuage your parents' concerns, did you? Did you find some kind of literary writing, maybe publishing profession to go into after college? What happens then?

Claire Waite Brown:

I will say not right away, unfortunately. You know this was back in the early 90s and so I was handwriting every envelope or typing, you know, mailing resumes, the old fashioned way and not getting much response in terms of publishing or magazines or journalism. And of course that was really before. I guess we had so many digital there weren't the digital options that there are today, which maybe would have opened it up, although I know, unfortunately, media we read more about layoffs, I think, than we read about hiring today, and I certainly experienced my share of that.

Claire Waite Brown:

But I guess I wasn't finding much in that field and so I ended up going into financial services for a few years and I just I didn't love it, it wasn't my dream career, and so, fortunately, I found an ad, for I guess it was a place looking for someone with a financial background and a love of writing, and I applied and I got the position and I became an energy reporter and again, you know, I felt like I was. I was moving in the right direction in that I was writing. But the subject matter? I always joke. You know, if you tell someone you write about natural gas and crude oil for a living, you watch their eyes glaze over pretty quickly. You know, when you say writer, they think of you know, stephen King or Mary Higgins Clark. They don't necessarily think that you're writing about electricity futures.

Liz Alterman:

So yeah, and I think that's something generally that a lot of guests say about. You don't really understand all the careers that are out there that connect to, maybe, what you want to do. So you may only think that a writer means you have to be a best-selling novelist, but there are other ways to do it. But go back for a moment, please. How did you get into financial sector and what did that involve?

Claire Waite Brown:

Right. Well, I have to say, in my desperation, when nothing was really working out in publishing or writing, I had minored in business almost as a backup plan, and so I started sending out resumes to anyone looking for help in the financial sector. And so I ended up in a customer service role helping participants with their 401k, their retirement plans. So I would wear a headset all day and there were just calls. I mean, kind of like the mantra of our boss was calls are holding, get back on the phone. And we always had these calls.

Claire Waite Brown:

And so you were kind of repeating the same information all day long, helping people whether they wanted to take a loan against their 401k or take a withdrawal, or, let's say, they were coming toward retirement age and they wanted to know what their options were if they had to take that minimum required distribution.

Claire Waite Brown:

And so we were doing it for a few major corporations. And one nice thing was that everybody was because this was not something that you would want to do long term. Everybody was fresh out of school, so we were kind of all in the same boat. So it was shift work. Some days you would work 7 AM to 3 or 8 to 4, or sometimes longer stretches, or noon to 8 PM, because we were serving clients in different parts of the country and we had to be available on different time zones, but pretty much whenever your lunch if you were able to take lunch that day you knew that whoever you were going to have lunch with was probably in the same boat that you were. They had graduated school, they were hoping to move out of their parents' house, pay off some loans, maybe get a car. So there was the camaraderie in it which I think made it bearable.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, so when you then did go over to being able to do some writing within your work, how did that pan out? How did it logistically and physically look like on a day to day basis?

Claire Waite Brown:

You know well, I guess this was before remote work. So I would go into an office and what I was tasked with doing was putting out three to four market stories a day. So there would be one before the opening of the market. Then there would be a midday where you kind of talked about where prices were going, and a lot of it. Unfortunately there was not a lot of room for creativity here, because a lot depends on supply and demand and of course when you're dealing with energy, the weather comes into play. So for example, when it's hurricane season and supplies are threatened, you know prices are going to go up. So it sort of became almost like a Groundhog Day situation. And it was funny.

Claire Waite Brown:

I had come from this very hectic pace in the financial world and when I entered this new reporter job the gentleman who trained me was lovely. But once we did the first story I would say to him OK, now what do we do? What do we do next, what happens next? And he would say we get a cup of coffee, we scroll around and we wait a couple of hours till our next story is due. And I thought, you know, on one hand it was refreshing because there wasn't this terrible pressure of you know calls are holding, get back on the phone. But then there was also the like, wow, what do I do now? And it was definitely a big shift for me there.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, so it's very reactive then.

Claire Waite Brown:

Exactly right. You make a few calls and you see who you can get you know from people who are actually, you know, sort of boots on the ground doing that trading and they'll tell you what they're seeing and what they're expecting going forward. But not much room for creative Maybe you could use. I worked with a woman who really went out of her way to try to use powerful verbs. You know she would say prices are plummeting or surging and that was about the extent of what we could do there.

Liz Alterman:

Oh, how funny Did things change when you had children.

Claire Waite Brown:

They did. Yes, thanks for asking. So that's why I bring up unfortunately there was really no remote work at the time, and so when I had my first son, I wanted to still kind of keep a hand in and work and it just it wasn't possible. You know, I was told if you worked part time or if you worked from home, we would have to extend that to everyone. And we're not going to do that.

Claire Waite Brown:

And so I thought about it and I just I guess I was working like 11 to 12 hour days if you added the commute and the pickup and drop off of my baby. So I decided to stay home and it was a scary decision, I think, because I think, definitely as a woman, when you leave the workforce you wonder how's that going to go, how am I going to explain the gap in my resume and what am I going to do next? So it was a little frightening, but I still I wanted to do it and I wanted to see what else was out there. And so from there I started trying my hand at freelancing. I wrote some parenting essays and then eventually I got into writing pieces for a local paper and then that led to writing for more national publications. So I felt like it was a bit of a gradual move toward what I really wanted to do.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, I see what you mean. It's little and it's going in the right direction, and still writing smaller pieces, but presumably building up a bit. Something also changed when you started writing your blog.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah. So what happened was I moved from freelancing. I ended up freelancing a lot for this local online news service, and then I was hired in a full-time capacity, and so initially, when I started out, it was great. I had freelancers working for me, I had a bit of a budget so that I could send them out to cover interesting pieces, and then, over time, that budget got slashed and I sort of became a one-man band and it was rough and we knew the handwriting was on the wall in terms of where this company was headed. So I was laid off, and this was in 2014.

Claire Waite Brown:

And, as if that wasn't frightening enough, what made it worse was my husband had been let go six weeks earlier, and so here we were with a mortgage and three children and no paychecks coming in, and so I decided to start a blog, because I just felt like how could this really be happening and how were we going to catapult ourselves out of it? And for me, when I'm faced with a dilemma, writing has really provided almost like a therapeutic way to process or to figure out my feelings. And very much. If you are hungry.

Claire Waite Brown:

This blog, I felt like, was you know, and I always am paraphrasing Tony Morrison, who says if you can't find a book you want to read, write it. And so I felt like this blog was what I wanted to read, because my husband and I, while we're job hunting, we could find all of these articles about tips to improve your resume or strategies for writing the perfect cover letter that will get the hiring manager to sit up and take notice, but I wasn't finding anything out there about the way unemployment impacts your self-esteem or your dignity, or how to cope when you're wide awake at 3 am wondering how am I going to keep the roof over my head or get my kids new sneakers, or what about that orthodontist bill that I know is coming? And so I thought maybe I could start this blog and talk about unemployment in the way I wanted to read Something brutally honest that wasn't going to, you know, sugarcoat oh just the right resume is going to get you back out there and fix everything.

Claire Waite Brown:

I wanted to talk about the nitty-gritty of what it feels like when you're between jobs, and so I did that.

Claire Waite Brown:

And then, as I was scrolling around for career advice, I found a website that was really focused on career and but also the personal side, and so I pitched them the lessons I learned from being unemployed and the editor was lovely and she said you know we can't pay you, but we'd like to run your piece and there's an opportunity that a larger outlet will pick it up from there.

Claire Waite Brown:

And she said in your byline you're welcome to link to your blog. And I thought you know what a great way to kind of expose it to new readers, maybe gain a larger audience. And so I did that. It was just great feedback to know that this editor felt like there was a market for this also, that I wasn't alone. And then, little by little, people would reach out to me, whether it was through LinkedIn or just an email, and say you know, I was just laid off and I feel everything that you're describing and it really resonates with me, and so that led me to decide maybe there was a larger story here, and maybe it was time for me to tackle something bigger, and that's when I decided to try my hand at writing a memoir.

Liz Alterman:

Wow. So how did it feel, though, to be, this time, writing for yourself, rather than writing something that you're being told by other people to write because other people want to hear it? How did you get around that kind of right? I'm just going to write what comes from inside. Did you find that easy or difficult?

Claire Waite Brown:

You know, I think a little bit of both. I think on one hand it was easy, especially because at first I really thought I'm almost writing this as a diary. I would joke this was going to chronicle my descent into madness. If we got, if we didn't get, any jobs and we had no money coming in, and what were we going to do next? And I would joke like maybe later someday my children would find it and say, okay, mom tried, she was trying during this time to do something. But I felt on one hand it was good because I didn't know if anyone would ever read it or find it. So there was that freedom and I could just jot down whatever I felt. And then also it was a little scary in that, okay, I'm kind of sharing very personal information.

Claire Waite Brown:

And unfortunately, with unemployment and I hope we're moving away from the stigma you know, with the pandemic so many people were laid off. But I think initially, when it happened to us, there's this feeling of I'm not good enough or what's wrong with me, and both my husband and I were let go in larger rounds. We weren't the only people who were let go. He was let go in a round of about 50 people and I was let go in a round of about 250. I don't want to say there's comfort in those numbers, but it wasn't like you were singled out and you did something terrible. There should not have been any shame in what happened to us.

Claire Waite Brown:

But it still feels like when you tell people I'm not working or you know I was laid off, it hurts, to kind of say unfortunately, and so I felt like it was a little scary to just be putting these thoughts out there and I certainly didn't want to make light of it, because it is, it's a scary time. I also felt like once I was doing it, I wanted to post on a regular basis, so and not let it just slip away, you know be one of those things that you start but don't keep up with. So I feel like there was a little bit of pressure, but I was glad that I did it, because then when I started writing my memoir, I had those blogs to look back to to think, oh yes, I remember there was that one crazy interview I went on where the interviewer forgot that I was even showing up, and here's how I felt in those moments.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, yeah, I think you're absolutely right. There's so many situations where people feel that they're on their own feeling this way and it is lovely to be able to know that other people are going through the same things. But when you say, when you say your husband was in a oh no, you sorry, we're in a round of 250. I mean, that's such a lot, isn't it?

Claire Waite Brown:

It is, it really is. It's so difficult and then you know so. For example, right after about a month later I went on a job interview and the interviewer said you're about the eighth person from that company that we've interviewed. So it's kind of like on one hand you feel not alone, but on the other, now you know you're competing against these people who are just as qualified as you are for one slot. So that's very hard too.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, no, I don't envy you. Good for you. Creativityfoundcouk is the place to go to find workshops, courses, supplies, kits and books to help you get creative. So if you're looking for your own Creativity Found experience, go have a browse to see what's on offer so far, and if you can help adults to find their new creative passion, please get in touch on social media or through the contact details on the website. So tell me a bit more about the memoir. How does this become a memoir and have you had, do you have any help?

Claire Waite Brown:

with writing that. Oh well, thanks for asking. So what happened was in my freelancing during this period I interviewed the founder of a local writing school and at the end as almost a throwaway, you know last final question I said to her what's your most popular class? And she said memoir writing. We have a workshop and it's very popular. Everyone believes they have a story to tell, and so that I kind of sat with that idea and I thought that's so interesting.

Claire Waite Brown:

And at the time I was other than the blog. I didn't really have very many creative outlets because of course we were trying to conserve money, not knowing when we might work again. It was winter, it was just sort of a very bleak time. I was considering canceling cable and Netflix also to cut costs. So I thought, all right, maybe I'll take this class and just see if I can turn this blog into something bigger and maybe it'll help someone and find a larger audience. And so I wrote it for about two years and I took two workshops and I have to say that was so helpful because I was getting feedback in real time. I would write a chapter or so, bring it to the course and then I would find out from my peers you know what was working, what wasn't working and the instructor you know she both I had two different instructors and they each really guided it in such a nice way, you know, rather than being harsh or going home feeling, oh man, I've got so much work to do. They really did it in such a constructive and encouraging way that I felt I never felt like, okay, I need to quit this project or give up.

Claire Waite Brown:

So I kept plugging away and then I was very fortunate to find an agent who was willing to represent it, which is not easy with memoir. If you are not famous and you don't have a giant platform, that's difficult. But so I found an agent and she was lovely and she sent it out and unfortunately, we again bumped up against those things. You know, liz isn't famous, liz doesn't have a giant platform, she's not, you know, a New York Times columnist. There were all of these things and also the other thing we kept hearing was this was around 2018. Editors would say this is interesting, but unemployment's not an issue. Everybody who wants a job could find a job, and I always think back that if someone had purchased it at that time, it would have come out and it would have been perfectly timed, I think, to the pandemic and to everyone losing their job, and hopefully it could have found, you know, a bigger audience than. But it didn't happen that way and so, unfortunately, I kind of let it languish a little bit on my iCloud for a bit.

Claire Waite Brown:

And then a friend of mine had written a thriller and she was working with an agent and she said to me one day have you tried Audible's pitch portal? And Audible, for anyone who doesn't know, is the audio book arm of Amazon. And she said you can just submit it yourself right through that. So I figured you know, okay, why not? It's just going to take me maybe 10 minutes to a half an hour to complete this form. I might as well give it a shot.

Claire Waite Brown:

So I did and about a month later I heard from them saying we have an editor who's interested.

Claire Waite Brown:

Is this still available and would you meet with her and chat with her?

Claire Waite Brown:

And I said I joke, I had to reread that email probably a dozen times, thinking this has to be one of my kids pranking me, trying to first of my spirit, don't give up, mom. But so we had a lovely chat and I think what helped is I know I feel like in publishing and for writing in general, so much is luck and timing and I think the fact that I sent it and it landed on this editor's desk or inbox she and her husband had experienced that same fear of being let go. That threat was always kind of hanging over their heads, having worked in media for decades, and so she could understand what we were going through, and I think it spoke to her in a way that maybe it didn't reach these other editors, and so I feel like it was probably just meant to be. You know, I found the one person who would really get it and be a champion for it, and so so Audible acquired it and then it came out in November of 2021.

Liz Alterman:

Yay, that's so exciting. What's it called?

Claire Waite Brown:

It's called Sad Sacked my blog is called On the Balls of Our Assets because I was kind of thinking, you know, we're running out of money we're running out of how are we going to stay afloat? And that was how I submitted it. And then the editor came back to me and said you know, we don't love balls or assets in the title. So we went back and forth we, you know, and it was funny because I felt like I had spent so many years on this book. And when they came to me and said, can you send us a list of like five to eight alternative titles, I felt as if I should have had that ready at my fingertips and I just I was scrambling. You know, I would ask anyone. I knew, okay, what do you think about? Do you have anything for me? But so I was happy that we landed on Sad Sacked.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, I think that's hilarious. You've also written some thrillers quite different from a memoir. Tell me about those and why or how you came to choose that genre.

Claire Waite Brown:

Oh sure, thanks for asking. Well, after the memoir, that was kind of, as I said, just kind of sitting in my cloud not going anywhere, and I had an idea for a young adult thriller. And my children unfortunately it kills me, but they are reluctant readers and if they find something they love, they will devour it and they want it to be a series and they'll fly through every book in the series. But if it's, if I'm bringing in a new, something new, or they haven't heard of it, or it hasn't been vetted by a friend, they're very reluctant to try it. And so I said to them you know what, if I wrote something, would you read it? I want to say I had two, two purposes for it. Number one, I wanted them reading, and number two, I wanted to make sure I was getting the vocabulary right and the dialogue right. And they are not shy about telling me what I'm doing wrong. So I figured they would be good critics. So I started writing this idea that I had and my middle son, who is probably my most reluctant reader, when he would finish a chapter he would say Okay, do you have another? What's next? I want to see what happens next. And so I thought, Okay, if I can keep this guy reading, maybe I have something here.

Claire Waite Brown:

And so, around the same time, I had applied for a workshop in Italy. It's called the Leo Party Writers Conference or Retreat, in Reconotti, italy, and what you could do is send 50 pages and a synopsis ahead of time, and then you would workshop it when you were there, and also as part of it, you got a one-on-one meeting with an editor, and so the workshop was very helpful, but I really feel it was the 30 minutes working one-on-one with this editor that really inspired me. He read the synopsis and in just a short amount of time he said to me well, what about this? Well, what about the ending? Well, what's gonna happen with this? And what about the father? Does he have a backstory? What's going on with him? And he just opened my mind to all these different pathways that I had not thought about on my own, and so I went home really with renewed energy and kind of new directions to take the novel, and I was fortunate to find a home for it, and that was released in April of 2021. And that's called He'll Be Waving.

Liz Alterman:

Brilliant and the grown-up thriller.

Claire Waite Brown:

The grown-up thriller is called the Perfect Neighborhood and that just came out last July. That has been fun to see it find its way into libraries and book clubs and really a dream come true to think from writing about energy, futures and kind of not a lot of opportunity for creativity to be able to create a whole world and have a reader reach out and say, hey, I read that in one sitting and are you writing anything else? That's kind of the biggest compliment I think a writer can receive.

Liz Alterman:

I bet, yeah, and that's on my audible at the moment Perfect Neighborhood, I was really enjoying it. You, after being laid off, you did go back to work full-time, until recently, I believe. So how are you managing to fit everything in? And was the writing, do you think, somehow making everything else better or beneficial?

Claire Waite Brown:

I think. So, you know, I will say I was presented with an opportunity to work for a FinTech firm in their corporate communications department, and it sort of came my way just out of the blue through LinkedIn. I had been freelancing before that, but it was almost one of those, you know, an offer too good to refuse. It was great benefits, good compensation, so I accepted it and then, unfortunately, within about six months, there was a reorganization which, I joke, I feel like reorganization is kind of the kiss of death for, at least for my career. So I ended up in a team where it just it wasn't really working out. Most other members were in Europe and I'm in New Jersey, and so I joke that every day I felt as if I were walking in to a foreign film and being asked to summarize the plot, you know, because they had already been working for five to six hours. So I felt like I was always in this catch-up position.

Claire Waite Brown:

Again, I felt like I had been hired to do one thing which was more creative and more what I really wanted to do. I was going to build this customer facing blog and I was excited about it, and then that was kind of taken away. Unfortunately, I was laid off in February of 2022. I felt like once you've been laid off before the sting I mean, it's still stings, but you recover a lot more quickly because you know you've survived it once, you'll survive it again. But I think, as that job was kind of taking a downturn I think my creative writing kind of buoyed me that I was able to not really feel down about my career because I felt like I had this side project that was kind of keeping me going and keeping my spirits up. I would recommend that for everybody. If you're feeling stuck in a rut in your career, if you can kind of tap into your passion project or something that sparks that for you and kind of takes you out of the mundane of the day to day, it's so helpful.

Liz Alterman:

Brilliant. I think that's very good advice, and well done for taking your own advice. And it's good that second bitton was therefore a bit easier than the first time I've spoken to authors who are self-published and traditionally published. I say, in quotation marks so you have a publisher, you've had an agent, you have a publisher. Does that mean you get to do all the fun stuff? You just get to do the writing and the publisher does all the promotion and the marketing.

Claire Waite Brown:

You know, I wish that were the case, but I feel like they have been very helpful in finding. You know, when, before the Perfect Neighborhood came out, they ran a few giveaways on Goodreads and I was very fortunate. They were able to get me on a panel in Bryant Park as part of the New York Public Library's reading room. So I got to sit beside these wonderful debut authors and we were interviewed by a lovely podcaster and it was this gorgeous summer day, it was so much fun. But then I will say you know, I have a lot of people who are very supportive but they'll say to me like, why aren't you in this bookstore? Have you gotten to this bookstore? Why aren't you doing a reading here? Why aren't you doing a signing here?

Claire Waite Brown:

And I have one friend and I don't think she realizes it, but she texts me once a week to show me where another author is and then say why isn't this? You and I was telling another friend and she says, okay, you have to block her or you have to just tell her stop. But if you're not like a household name for example, if I were Anne Patchett, I'm sure I could book this local bookstore, and there have been very many who are lovely and gracious and will say you know, of course, come in, we'd love to host you. But there are others who'll say, well, can you bring 10 to 12 people with you? And I'll say, you know, I've kind of already put the hit on many people to come and they've been supportive. I can't keep dragging the same people out to see me over and over again.

Claire Waite Brown:

But the marketing piece is hard and I feel like now and I think that's true for many people, many authors, I see that Publishers are kind of working with smaller crews and so a lot falls back on the author and I think having a social media presence is another thing that that is asked of authors, that for many authors and other creative people there's kind of that introvert where you're kind of in your own private world or you are maybe you want to devote your free time To your craft as opposed to having this outward-facing persona, and so I think there's like a little bit of that push and pull To how much are you, how much time are you devoting to your work versus Marketing. It's an interesting time.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, again, you've touched on a number of themes there that come up a lot, which is the, the reluctance, maybe, of Really going On social media, and also the balance of, like you say, you doing your craft as opposed to Selling your craft and your products, so to speak. So there are lots of people Feeling the same way.

Claire Waite Brown:

I think so too, and I feel, like when you so that I think is sort of the blessing and curse of social media, that While I might be sometimes reluctant, I'll see other people who feel exactly the same way and then I think, okay, it's not, it's not just me, that everybody is in the same boat and we're all trying. And when I see an author, for example, I'm going to see an author this evening and if I hadn't seen him promoting it, I wouldn't have known about it. So I think, you know, many times there's the tendency to want to be shy or to think, oh god, I just did something last week. These people are gonna hate me, but I think the audience doesn't feel that way, or if they do, they'll just drop off and stop following you. But for the most part, you know, I'm always happy to see where somebody is speaking or reading or hosting a giveaway. So I think we maybe we have to just kind of shelve that reluctance and embrace it.

Liz Alterman:

Absolutely. I'm going to use that as a soundbite to play to people who I come across very often. Who's that could say this is what, this is what Liz says and this is the truth. That's absolutely brilliant. What are your plans for the future, both short and long term?

Claire Waite Brown:

Oh, thank you for asking. I'm in the middle of another thriller. I've just was outlining it and I, you know, I know there's always that kind of debate Are you a plotter or are you a pancer? You know, someone just kind of winging it, and I think that has. That's the way I've always been operating, just kind of writing and seeing where it takes me.

Claire Waite Brown:

But I'm trying to be more of a plotter and so I spent most of yesterday morning trying to create an outline of the end of this novel and Unfortunately there's still a lot that's just alluding me that I am hoping is going to come clear in the writing.

Claire Waite Brown:

So I think it's one of those where maybe you can't, you can't change your nature as much as you may want to. But I'm trying to set a deadline for myself to maybe finish by mid-summer and then turn it into my agent. So she has time. I know summer is also kind of slow in publishing, or can be, so I'm hoping she'll have a chance to read it, maybe provide feedback and then maybe I can work on it in the fall and and get it in the best shape possible. But I think there's this tendency to want to to rush, and you see authors turning out a book a year and I just I'm envious and I don't know how they keep that pace. Maybe if If you have an author who shares that secret, please let me tune into that, because I need it.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, I will do. I was at a crime fiction conference on that the weekend with my daughter, and one of the things that a couple of the authors said was that they have Either whether they've planned it that way or or they've written it through and they've got to a certain point and it suddenly become clear to them that in fact the murderer should be somebody else. Completely, that's exciting. So it happens to the best of authors. Whether you plan to the nth degree or not, things can always jiggle around and move around a bit. The story and the characters. Even though they're coming from your heads, they kind of come alive on their own as well.

Claire Waite Brown:

They do, they absolutely do. They take on a life of their own and they sort of tell you know, I wouldn't do that, don't don't try that, I wouldn't do that.

Liz Alterman:

Yeah, brilliant, that's been really, really super, liz. So how can people connect with you? Oh?

Claire Waite Brown:

thank you, claire.

Claire Waite Brown:

Well, my website is Liz alterman, calm, and there's a contact area on that website, and so what I like to offer readers if they choose to read sats act, he'll be waiting or the perfect neighborhood. I'm happy to zoom in to a book club, for I joke for as little or as long as you'll have me For no charge, and I do have discussion questions on my website For my works of fiction if anybody wants to look at those. So I'm happy to come to a book club or to a school, whatever readers are open to. I'm also on social media, at Instagram and Twitter, at Liz Alterman so easy to find me, and I love to connect with readers. I think that's been one of the most fun aspects of writing because it can be such a solitary business. You're kind of alone, wrestling these words onto a document and you know to just find out that someone else has read them or enjoyed them, or you know somebody who'll kind of play along and pretend your characters are real with you is Such a great reward at the end of it all.

Liz Alterman:

I have a similar relationship with listeners, because sometimes you can, while you see that there are numbers there, that people are downloading the podcast, you don't actually see the listeners or know who they are, and sometimes someone will say oh, I love your podcast, oh, there's a real person. It's super connected, isn't it brilliant? That has been absolutely super, liz. Thank you so much for talking to me today.

Claire Waite Brown:

Thank you, this was so much fun.

Liz Alterman:

Thanks so much for listening to creativity found. If your podcast app has the facility, please leave a rating and review to help other people find us on. On Instagram and Facebook, follow at creativity found podcast and on Pinterest, look for at creativity found and Finally, don't forget to check out creativity found dot code UK, the website connecting adults who want to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them tap into their creativity.

Exploring Creativity and Writing as Therapy
Finance to Writing and Blogging Transition
Writing and Publishing My Memoir
Career Challenges and Marketing for Authors
Gratitude and Promotion for Creativity Found

Podcasts we love