Friday, April 10, 2009

life, the universe, and everything

I love blogging because I can subject everyone to my long, boring, pointless stories. :) This one is about Corelle. Corelle is a kind of unbreakable dishware. If your mother ever bought a set of dishes at Kroeger, chances are it was Corelle. I would say there is less demand for Corelle these days, but that may be because I live in New York, and people can be a little snobby in New York. If you are a New Yorker you can't be mad at me for saying that, because of course I don't mean you.

Anyway, some time ago I decided I had a desperate need for Corelle. The why of it does not matter but it was not entirely frivolous and kind of benevolent. But I needed it a whole lot. And I couldn't figure out where in Brooklyn or Manhattan I could buy it. Flash forward a week. We are driving home from Vermont. We need to pull over rather urgently and we stop at the discount mall called Woodbury Commons. The first thing I see as I walk into the mall? A Corelle outlet! I kid you not. Who knew?

So I needed Corelle and a week later the Corelle was mine. I know this is sounding kind of silly. But you know that it's happened to you before, right? And for bigger needs than just some silly Corelle (although I did have a good purpose for it). You say it, you think about it, and somehow you get it, whether it's the universe at work, or a higher power, or the power of positive thinking, or the secret, or whatever you want it to be.

So, if you are a writer, what is your Corelle? I think it's really important to articulate it. Figure out your end goal. The NYT list, the quitting of the day job, the Edgar Award, the Oscar, whatever it is. And then work backwards from that to figure out the steps you need to take. I'm not saying that it will be handed to you in some sort of bizarre writing award outlet at an insanely busy outlet mall off the Jersey turnpike. But I do believe that you'll never get it unless you figure out exactly what it is that you want.

Now back to me. Here's my latest Corelle: I need some interns who like to read commercial fiction. So if you are one, or know one, e-mail me at with a resume and a cover letter with reading interests listed. Oh, and New York area is a plus but not essential.

And I need some good suspense/crime submissions. I like Lee Child, I like Elmore Leonard, I like Jonathan Kellerman, I like Ruth Rendell, Tony Hillerman, early James Lee Burke, C. J. Box, Tana French, Robert Ellis, just to name a few. I like clean, clear writing with very little embellishment. I like scary and I like dark. Email me at and put "suspense/crime" in the subject line. Don't forget to include the first ten pages in the body of the e-mail.

Just a little boring anecdote/pep talk/selfish listing of my needs on a Friday of a holiday weekend.


  1. Do these interns have to be in your geographical area or can it be a telecommute type thing?

  2. Jenny said: So, if you are a writer, what is your Corelle?

    Sherry Austin (Trixie) says:

    Jenny, I'd like to know more what you mean.

    Just for the sake of argument, let's say I, or anyone reading this blog, have the talent and the desire to write in many genres and styles.

    But we have to choose one.

    Some things are pretty clear: I know if I want to be Karen Armstrong (HISTORY OF GOD, etc.), I better have some major credentials. If I want to write a diet book and have it published in NYC I better be a doctor with a TV spot on a national network. If I want to win the National Book Award, or I want to be known as a literary writer, then I read literary work and I hone my prose, among other things.

    But I bet every single one of us, whether we admit it or not, wants to make it BIG. At least we want to do what we have to do to have that chance, knowing full well we can do all the right things but not make it big unless lightning strikes.

    Of course, BIG can mean many things.

    BIG can mean winning a Pulitzer or writing a MOBY DICK, but to most of us BIG means being Stephen King, or having written HARRY POTTER or TWILIGHT.

    That's the one result none of us would turn down. But that happens to so few, and who knows what it takes? Who knows what the zeitgeist of the time will be?

    Am I giving you a headache?!

    But there are several tiers of big below BIG, I guess. Jodi Picoult, perhaps. Big can be an entire library shelf filled with your books. Big can be a book in every category of the Dewey Decimal system, like Isaac Assimov.

    To me, big is your book is in Sam's Club! BIG is one of your books is there all the time.

    So, unless you have huge platform, you don't write diet or how-to books. You don't write about spirituality unless you're Deepak Chopra or are working toward becoming him.

    So if you want the CHANCE to be BIG, your best bet is to write fiction with strong narrative (to overimplify). You wouldn't write, say, humorous essays (although you, Jenny, have clients who have made it big doing just that, but my guess is they had big platform first?. This thing of all? nonfiction requiring platform amazes me). You wouldn't do food/culture type writing, maybe. You wouldn't do memoir unless you had a very big, very unusual story.

    Need some Tylenol? I'm sorry! But I'd really like to hear what you and others have to say about this.

  3. Corelle has an outlet? Who knew.

    I had the Corelle urge for months and finally gave in last fall - it's stocked and easily available on shelves in backwoods Oregon City.

    Since Corelle has gone square, I could justify, it was cool. It's very lightweight, takes up little space, and my daughters, who didn't have a previous incarnation where Corelle was THE THING, are really impressed with my new dishes.

  4. Trixie, the short answer to your question is that you shouldn't pick a genre based on what you think will be big. This isn't me jumping on my moral high horse, it's for the simple reason that what-is-big changes all the time and no one can predict it. Write whatever feels right to you and then start to strategize about how to make it work. A good tip is to find someone who writes what you do who has reached a very high level of success and research what they did to achieve it.

  5. Thanks, Jenny. That's what I hoped you'd say. --Sherry Austin.

  6. Well, I'm not in the New York area. Not even close, but I am interested...need I even bother writing though?


  7. OK, am I too literal? Or did I totally miss the point because I grew up hand-washing Corelle dishes and 20+ years later, now have new Corelle dishes I put in my dishwasher. LOL!

    Jenny - Mine are white square style with the black arcs design. What do yours look like?

    From Trixie's post I guess "Corelle" is a metaphor for dream/goal or objective/intent, in regards to why we write, the books we write, and what we hope to achieve.

    I write light contemporary romances because I have four daughters (with lots of friends) and love imagining amazing romantic adventures for all of them.

    I've paused my fiction focus, to write a memoir (and return to college) because I know it's a story that shows, a lot of what is told, in self-help advice, in action, in a real family. Once I have a team helping me polish my memoir for print and distribution, I expect I'll be doing a lot of work and speeches, getting my memoir into high schools.

    My romance fiction nourishes my soul, and lets me play god with story and characters. My intent is readers who find my memoir, will be able to see how my novels, support the same themes through story, I presented in my memoir, and are a lot of fun. Memoir is a one-shot thing in most cases. Story is ever evolving and dynamic.

    So I guess my "Corelle" as a writer, with a history of Corelle dishes in my life, is continuing to do what I love to do, while I also do what work I'm inspired to do. Paying off my mortgage and setting up college funds for my grandchildren would be awesome.

    However, for me, traveling to give talks in high schools about my version of what makes a happy family, and living the life I've chosen, would be more amazing. I can always come home, to writing romance novels. My girls will always bring new friends into my life because I'm a good cook and make frosted brownies.

  8. My Corelle...well, if I shoot for the rare, hard to come by piece, it would be a best-selling novel. If I'm going to stock my shelves with it, I'll go for successful midlister who can make a decent living writing novels.

    Also, I queried you recently with my crime/suspense novel. I don't embellish, but "dark" is a fairly subjective matter, so I'm not sure I could speak to it meeting your particular tastes. Hopefully, you are intrigued enough with the query to request more.

  9. To be able to work part-time as a novelist. I wouldn't do so well as a full-time writer. I fear I'd be the type of writer to become "ODD" in a matter of months.


    1. Beat my grammar and punctuation into submission. You know, actually read the books I have regarding the subject instead of having them as paper weights.

    2. Spend more time upfront on the novel work so that when I sit down I know the story I'm going to write. Doing this I could spend less time having a staring contest with my cursor and more words written.

    3. Establish a good core group of Beta Readers and Critique Partners. Priceless.

    4. Finally, subscribe to Publisher's Market to see what's selling and who is selling. The only way to know the market is to watch it.

    *Not that I'd gear my books toward what's hot, but really, the cycle is that what I'm writing will be hot once again.

    5. The most important... "one word in front of the other." Can't be a part-time novelist if you don't have novels to peddle.

  10. How about romantic suspense? Do you like that too?

  11. sure, romantic suspense is great.

  12. Jenny is talking about the application of the law of attraction, (or Corelle). The point is to know your destination. You may do that by going to the store you'd like to see your book selling at, standing in front of the shelf, finding where your book would be alphabetically, and closing your eyes to treasure up the image of your name, your book, on that shelf. To know what you want and internalize it on a base level is the beginning and the end. The trick after that is not fretting the how. We would never pretend to tell Omnipotence how to do anything. It knows better than we do. The inspiration will come. We need not seek it, only wait. Little by little we will know what to do. Success, like happiness, is a choice we make, moment by moment, thought by thought. It is as elusive as a butterfly if we chase it and as certain as a sunrise if we chose it.

  13. I'd actually like to own a couple sets of Corelle, if I may, dear Universe. Or more, a set of pratical/everyday Corelle, a funky set for occasional company, and a sweet set of antique Lenox just like my grandmother had. Now that would be great. A girl can't have enough dishes, and dreams, if you ask me.

  14. Jenny - Watch out for Corelle - while it's cool (and my mom owned does rock) if you drop it just the right way it will shatter into thousands and thousands of itty bitty pieces. :)

    As for an intern, my niece needs a gig. She has a degree in literature from Kent State. Thing is, she'd need a home, too, since I'm no longer in NYC. :-\

  15. I would love to be an intern, but I don't have any fancy credentials and I'm not in NY. Oh well.

    My Corelle? Making at least enough money writing what I love that I could support myself and my kids if anything (heavens forbid) happened to my husband. I don't have to make millions, but I'd like to be able to make a living. Does that make me pathetic that I'm not shooting higher? Or just realistic enough to know that it is the very few who make more than that?

  16. Too funny. I just bought my first set of Corelle last month at Wal Mart and yes the new designs are cute--I have white with a green and brown pattern.

    My Corelle is full time writer. I don't care how nutty I end up ;-)

  17. Too funny. I just bought my first set of Corelle last month at Wal Mart and yes the new designs are cute--I have white with a green and brown pattern.

    My Corelle is full time writer. I don't care how nutty I end up ;-)

  18. Years ago, I too, thought that Corelle was unbreakable, having dropped more than one Corelle dish with no adverse effect. To demonstrate that advantage to my girlfriend, I dropped a Corelle plate onto the kitchen floor. The plate shattered. I learned that chip proof does not mean unbreakable. Not one shard had a chip on it.

    My girlfriend married me anyway. She said it was the expression on my face when the plate exploded that turned the trick.

    Ron Ferguson

  19. Years ago, I too believed that Corelle was unbreakable, having dropped my share of dishes without adverse effect. To demonstrate the Corelle advantage to my girlfriend I dropped a dinner plate from shoulder height. The plate shattered. I learned the distinction between chip-proof and unbreakable: Not one of the shards had a chip on it.

    My girlfriend married me anyway. She said the expression on my face when the plate hit the floor was unforgettable.

    Yep, we bought a new set of Corelle with a fruit pattern from the Corning Outlet.

  20. Hi

    I like your voice and shall be following this blog. I've had a rather bad Corelle and it's authonomy. I've found that I've had little time for writing as this site had me sucked in for months. But I did appreciate the feedback I've received from other writers there on my thriller as I had too much back story/characterisation in my first chapter. The balance of keeping in just enough characterisation but not too much is hard. I hope I've corrected that problem now.
    I'm now stepping back and letting the muse take me back to creating stories again. I plan to wait 2 weeks (as you say you are snowed under with submissions) and then send you mine.
    Cheers Olga:)

  21. I feel it is important to correct you. I grew up with Corelle. I broke a Corelle plate. It slipped from my hand and fell on a rug. - Does that say anything about me?