Ever turn to a glossy mag for the answers to all life’s questions?
I’m gonna have to say I have fall victim to this plenty o’ times. Sad, I know, but alas… must I pick myself up from all my life mistakes, or can someone else give me a hint once in a while? Below is my summary about Alter’s visit to the Herg auditorium in Newhouse 3… read on my fellow advice seekers :)
A freelance journalist and non-fiction author from Washington DC talks about the genesis of her second book “Up For Renewal” as a precursor for the excerpt she picked out. During the time when Alter was going through a divorce, she had turn into someone less than desirable in terms of lifestyle choices. She had been eating out of vending machines, sleeping with co-workers and hanging around with a “fast” crowd. It had to take a good friend of hers demanding she pull it together or the relationship would have to end. Alter had already written a book about different women’s “existential” experiences throughout their lives, and she loved listening to women talk about life-changing circumstances. Since Alter had hit an all time low in her personal life, she decided with the encouraging nudge of her publicist, that she would write a memoir about her year long struggle to get her life back in order.
Alter decided to turn to all the big women’s magazines, even some she had written for, seeking advice on a healthier lifestyle, romantic relationships, maternal relationships, friendships and anything else she could possibly consume involving self-help, how-to style articles. She had decided to read these advice articles and turn it into a positive, learning experience. Through documenting her thoughts and keeping a journal of all her quirky stories she created a structure in her life that was missing. Alter forced herself out of her comfort zone by going camping with an unusual group of people, and used the dreaded, gag reflex-inducing porta-john.
Since Alter was used to, and in fact enjoyed writing profile articles about other people, she found writing in the first person about her life experiences quite uncomfortable. She would ask herself why this would matter to anyone else, but explained that a fan base had developed from her first book and her publicist assured her this was what her readers wanted. It was a journey in which Alter dedicated herself to achieving small goals through reading Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Real Simple etc. and understanding the greatness of small victories. Alter humbly explained her first mission was how to wrap a sandwich in saran wrap because she lacked healthy eating habits.
Alter gave some advice to the women in the audience regarding writing for magazines and being able to persevere in the business after many tried and failed attempts. The most valuable advice she told the audience was that finding your own voice through writing takes time, but when you write about something you love it will be that much more pleasant. Alter expressed that she truly enjoys reading the lengthier profile articles, but the shorter, quick fix type articles are the real sellers. And finally, Alter advised her audience to read where they aspired to write so the material is like common knowledge in your head. Magazines really appreciate writers who take the time to research what topics have just been covered in last month’s issue and the writing style for that publication.