With Friends Like These

The New York Times
The Opinionator
June 17, 2013

Writing Fiction and Nonfiction
by Sally Koslow

When I wrote my second novel, I biked in New York City’s Riverside Park and plopped myself down where my character died in order to take in what she saw as her life ebbed. When I wrote my first nonfiction book, in one of more than 200 interviews, I grilled a woman about why she quit a sought-after job in Washington to live in Paris.

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Dear Friends,

This year my top resolution after eat five veggies a day is finish novel. Since 2007, I’ve written four novels and one work of non-fiction, each taking about two years to complete. My pace was allegro. Book #6, however, is advancing at adagio.

I’d been beating myself up about this until I stumbled upon a quote from Israel’s most prominent author. Writing a novel, Amos Oz explains, “is like reconstructing the whole of Paris from Lego bricks. It’s not about who will live and who will die and who will go to bed with whom. Those (decisions) are the easy ones. It’s about choosing adjectives and adverbs and punctuation. These are molecular decisions that…nobody will appreciate, for the same reason that nobody ever pays attention to a single note in a symphony…except when the note is false. So you have to work very hard in order for your readers not to note a single false note. That is the business of three-quarters-of-a-million decisions.”

Please understand: by no means do I compare myself to the great Oz. I’m not reconstructing Paris. West Fargo, if I’m lucky. But after reading about Mr. Oz’s habits I feel better about my pace, which is slow partly because I’ve become a writer who deliberates between words as if she were selecting diamonds for a tiara. Another reason is that I’ve started more than one book.

May the best book win, ideally before we ring in 2016.

Lest you think I’m a complete sloth, I’ve also been writing essays (which, btw, are as close to a memoir as I intend to get). One shares advice that I, who've been married for a freaking long time, have gleaned from second wives. In another, you can learn how and why I resisted Christmas in my childhood home of North Dakota. In a third I reveal my sex life. Really.

The third string in my bow is teaching creative writing. In addition to pro bono classes at libraries, I have a class coming up, “How to Polish your First Drafts,” at the Writing Institute of Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, as well as a “Start Your First Novel” workshop in Manhattan.

Whether you hoof along at a power walk or a plod, I wish you well. Life isn’t a race.


Sally Koslow
P.S. Please follow me on Twitter: @sallykoslow and email me at spkoslow@gmail.com.

Sally on her favorite blogs

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far - Writer's Digest

The Influence of Female Friendships - Book-alicious Mama

Meet the fabulous author Sally Koslow - Fiction Dreams

Author Sally Koslow Says Men Appreciate Her Novels, But She Doesn't Spit On The Concept Of Women's Fiction - Women's Fiction Writers

My Book, the Movie -- Sally Koslow's "The Widow Waltz" - My Book, the Movie

The Debutante Ball Welcomes Sally Koslow - The Debutante Ball

Mustering Your Super Powers - ThirdAge

Sally Koslow & Percy - Coffee with a Canine

Sally Koslow’s 5 Firsts and Lasts - Chick Lit Is Not Dead

Books by Sally Koslow’s Bed - We Wanted To Be Writers

Hey, baby boomer parents, back off! - CNN

A Conversation with Sally Koslow - Lilith

Did we spoil our adult children? - Mothering 21

Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest: Interview with Sally Koslow and Book Giveaway - Grown & Flown

Sally Koslow, author of Slouching Toward Adulthood, Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest, speaks to Grown and Flown - Grown & Flown

Honk If You're Afraid To Drive - Huffington Post

Author Interview with Sally Koslow - Read the interview at Reading Is Fashionable

The Joy of Deadlines - Sally guest blogs at Great Thoughts

Sexy Feminists Read: Sally Koslow’s “With Friends Like These” - read the interview at Sexy Femenist

Gettin’ Cheesy with Sally Koslow - Chick Lit Chit Chat

Interview: Sally Koslow - read the interview at Working Writers

Five Questions for...Sally Koslow - read the interview at She Writes.

13 Rules to Care and Feed a Friendship and “With Friends Like These—When Do You Forgive and Forget?” - Huffington Post

In Praise of Dusty Little Bookstores - Sally guest blogs at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs

9 Wicked Beach Reads about Friend-Fatales

With Friends Like These: An Interview with Sally Koslow Ladies Home Journal: Ladies Lounge

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"Sally lent me her expertise, talent and insider knowledge of the publishing world." – Lisa Baron, author of My Burning Bush: How one woman's career in Christian Politics Went Up in Flames (2011).