Jodi Picoult on Chick Lit, Advice to Writers, and Writing with Her Daughter

Jodi and SamanthaLast week, international bestselling author of over 20 books, Jodi Picoult came to the Amherst campus to talk about writing, her book BETWEEN THE LINES, which she wrote with her daughter, and to get questions from the campers.

Jodi’s approach to writing is as a job that requires an 8 hour a day.  She starts her stories knowing the end of the book, knowing what the resolution will be, then works to find solutions to get to that end.  At the beginning of her process, she often has no plan for the beginning and middle and views the writing process as a puzzle or maze of sorts that takes her from point A to B, as she looks for logical solutions to problems that occur in the story.  She also develops her characters with her readers in mind, seeking to create characters who are compassionate and readers will love. (Although she did admit that you can’t necessarily love ALL your characters since her stories have  characters who do terrible things.)

Jodi and her daughter Samantha (Sammy) Van Leer each read from the novel they co-authored BETWEEN THE LINES and talked about their writing partnership.  Jodi instilled the discipline of a 5 day work week, writing 8 hours a day and Sammy kept her inspired with bright, fresh young ideas.   They spent the first summer writing the book and put it down for the rest of the year then edited it the following summer.

When asked about the state of publishing, Jodi admitted that it is a time of transition and enormous change and the industry needs to reinvent itself.   She prefers to leave the business of publishing to the publishers but did confess that for the first time  she is selling more books in the ebook than print format, and  her income has been down because of it.

In the Q&A portion of the evening, Jodi lit up when given the opportunity to answer a question by one of the PAs who asked her whether she considered herself a writer of chick lit.  She talked about how female writers are being treated differently than their male counterparts.  By way of example, they are being reviewed less. She sees herself as a literary writer who takes on serious subjects.  A survey of her fan base, showed that her books appeal to people of all genders and ages.

Her advice to fledgling writers is to be persistent.  She submitted her first novel to over 100 agents before one of them took her on.  She resolved not to be deterred and remained steadfast in her belief of herself.   She says as a new writer take advantage of any opportunity and stay flexible.

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