The team at the GCLS Writing Academy was super lucky to sit down today with Laney Webber. Not only is Laney a Writing Academy graduate and a debut author with Bold Strokes Books, but she is also a librarian. And, as we all know, writers love librarians.
Laney’s first book, A Chapter on Love was just released and is available for purchase at Bold Strokes Books here or at Amazon here. (And generally, anywhere else you usually buy books.)
Of course, we are psyched whenever a WA graduate releases a book. Is A Chapter on Love the book you worked on during the Writing Academy?
Yes. I started the book during NaNoWriMo one year and never got past page 20. I just kept re-writing and re-writing, then I put it away.
Did you say at that point that you were just not going to write a book at all, or did you start working on something else?
I kept thinking about writing a book. I did a lot of thinking about it. I write poetry also, so I worked on that. I was also helping a 95-year-old woman put together and edit her memoir about all the birds she had known. She wanted to self-publish the book and she did. When we were all finished, she said to me that she had started thinking about writing a book when she was 50, but she was afraid. And once she did it—she wrote her book—she wished she had been courageous enough to do it when she was 50. She knew she had more books in her but knew she wouldn’t write another one. She told me to stop waiting and to be courageous. That’s when I decided to get serious about my writing.
I love that. Sometimes we just need someone to give us a push. So, you joined the academy, you wrote a book, and then you got a mentor. Who did you mentor with again?
I hit the jackpot with my mentors. Lee Lynch and Ann McMan!
Oh yeah. What was that process like? Were you scared to send them the work?
I would have been afraid to send them my work before I was in the Writing Academy. I gained so much self-confidence during the program and was given the environment to engage with others in a professional way around writing so it didn’t seem scary. I felt deeply honored that they would be reading and commenting on my work. But that was after I calmed down after the “I can’t believe Lee Lynch and Ann McMan are going to be my mentors – how lucky am I?” dance.
I would feel like that if they were MY mentors. There should be perks with this job! Speaking of perks, can you tell me about submitting to Bold Strokes Books? What made you decide to do so? How did you go about it?
I’m a librarian who loves research. So, I researched LGBTQ publishing houses to find out how long they have been in business, what are their distribution channels, where are their books reviewed, and what their marketing looks like. I also wrote to authors from my top three choices and asked them some general questions about their experience with their publisher. The winner was Bold Strokes Books. I was thrilled that they accepted my submission and I’m very happy to be a Bold Strokes author.
I’m so glad you mentioned being a librarian because, as you know, writers adore librarians. Does your day job influence your writing? (Other than your fastidious research) Are there any sexy librarians in this book?
A Chapter on Love has a sexy, used book store manager named Jannika who is a book matchmaker of sorts. My third book will feature a sexy librarian who doesn’t know just how sexy she is. My work as a librarian has given me a sense of freedom in my writing. I know my books aren’t going to be for everyone and that’s okay. But I also know that my books will be loved by some people. I’ve had library patrons bring a book back and ask me why we carry “that trash” in the library. And two weeks later another patron will come in and hug the book to her chest and tell me she loved the book. It’s like lima beans – some people think they are disgusting (me) and some people love them (my sister). I tell folks the library is like the grocery store – there’s enough room on the shelves for all kinds of tastes.
That’s such a great life lesson. I saw a post about The Handmaid’s Tale one day and several people said, “This is the worst book I’ve ever read” – it was such a reminder that even the greats, the classics are unappealing to some people. Along those lines, what’s next? Are you working on another book?
Yes, I am, thanks for asking. My second book is titled The Real Thing and it’s about a woman who has moved to rural Vermont and is having a hard time meeting women. She joins an online dating service and is catfished by someone using a photo of a very hot lesbian web series actress. Romantic hi-jinks ensue.
That sounds awesome. Is there any real life experience inspiring that one or is it all the writer’s imagination?
Well I do live in rural Vermont…
You can keep your secrets about the rest of it. But I am going to ask a tough one. Is there anything about you that you think most people don’t know?
Most people don’t know that when I was a teenager and rode my horse out in the woods alone, I would make up stories and tell them to the horse. It was like a serial. I’d end on a cliff hanger and get back to it the next time we went in the woods. If that horse could have talked – he knew a lot of stories and secrets.
That’s adorable. I mean, if they ever made a movie of your life, it could be called Laney Webber, the girl who talked to horses. I think it would be a huge hit. I’m going to ask you two questions I ask everyone, and I think it’s because people want to know what writers are reading.
<Gritting teeth> Okay.
First. If you could have written any book in existence, what would it be?
Oh man, really?
I know, right?
Really? You are such a librarian.
Yes, I am. But you can do everything with a dictionary!
True. Would it be a giant, desk version? The kind that people keep on a stand?
Yes. A huge stand and you would need a special page-turning instrument to turn the huge pages.
I’m picturing you as Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader turning the pages of the magician’s giant book
Yes! Because it IS a magical book!
Okay. So, writer. What book or books are currently taking up place on your nightstand?
The Library Book by Susan Orlean, Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron, A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, and I’m re-reading some of my older les-fic lately – Girls With Hammers by cynn chadwick, and Touchwood by Karen Kallmaker. But that’s just a few of them.
Excellent. That’s a great selection. I love the book Story Genius, I recommend it to everyone coming through the academy. It has great advice for writers. What would you say is the best piece of advice you have ever received about writing? And what is the worst?
The best piece of advice I ever received was from someone in the Writing Academy who told me to just keep writing my rough draft and be like a train – just keep going forward. That cracked upon my writing process. I would know a sentence or paragraph needed work right after I wrote it and that would tie me up. It’s one of the big reasons I never got beyond that twenty pages of my novel. Every time I would want to turn back, that image of the train would come to me and as uncomfortable as it was at first, it became less and less uncomfortable to just move forward. Everyone’s process is different, but that advice was exactly what I needed.
The worst advice. “You are too old to start now.”
Yikes! That’s not even advice – that’s just someone being mean and spiteful. You are never too old to start doing something that calls to your soul. Since you mentioned the Writing Academy, I’m going to ask about your time there. What were a couple of the biggest takeaways from your time in the academy?
*See above best advice. The top two things for me are -The other writing students in my group who became my writing buddies. We read for each other, cheer each other on, celebrate our successes, and even when we aren’t in touch, we know that we are out there writing. And this was a place where my writing was taken as seriously as I took it, for the first time in my life. When other people mirror that back to you, it is powerful stuff. I can say that the Writing Academy gave me a path with solid footing to move forward on this part of my writing journey.
I’m so glad. And we were lucky to have you, too. One last thing before I let you go. Is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like people to know?
Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve always wanted to fly a falcon like Sam did in My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.
Your secrets are safe with us, Laney. Thank you so much for this wonderful, and slightly weird talk, Laney. We hope to see you back on the blog with your next book. In the meantime, anyone who wants to know more about Laney can find her in any number of dark and nefarious places—or—at the links below.