A Writer’s Guide to Surviving The Holiday Party

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Today, we have a holiday treat. My friend Liz Crowe (A.K.A. The Beer Wench) is here to help us make it through the holidays with our egos in tact. Liz is cool…like that zany cousin who let you watch Jaws when you were 5 and scarred you for life but then also taught you the proper was to  apply eyeliner (more always better), how to make a temporary tattoo last…and look real enough to freak out your parents.

She’s the friend who will dare then double dare you and might get you in trouble but who will also give you the best memories and help you learn to love you for YOU and feel good about telling haters to get bent.

Take it away, LIZ!

***

We’ve all been there. The highly anticipated dreaded Holiday Office Party. Or—even better—the Holiday Family Gathering.

We love ‘em. We hate ‘em. Kinda like jogging or ironing. No matter your chosen career path, they can be an exercise in one-upmanship that rivals any Kardashian backyard barbeque. Because try as we all might to deny or quash it, the innate human need to one-up each other will not be denied, especially if there are in-laws and booze in the same general vicinity.

Never fear, Grasshoppers. Liz is here to help you.

So settle down, take some notes and prepare to Be Awesome.

CAVEAT EMPTOR Moment: Because this is a Liz Crowe/Beer Wench advice post you can be assured that virtual alcohol and grossly overblown familial stereotyping is involved—for literary bloggy effect, you see. For anyone sensitive to this particular vice and sarcasm, you might just go ahead and hit the “next blog” button instead of lecturing Kristen for allowing her space to be corrupted in such a manner.

The first thing we have to accept as a pre- or eve post-published author is this: “Nobody gets what we are doing or (in the case of parents) why.”

Period. Full Stop.

During The Holidays there is a lot of dead conversational space to fill, thanks to the fact that a bunch of people are shoved together for hours at a time with nothing in common but a bit of DNA (or the fact of their marriage into said DNA string). And sometimes, these folks try to understand it by asking you questions.

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Be ready. These questions may force you to grind your teeth, grip your rocks glass so hard you break it or even…attempt to answer them.

Sure, while your body is in the overly warm room with a bunch of folks you are related to whether you want to be or not, your mind is back with your work. You’re grinning around the rim of your third glass of cheap box wine and mentally altering a Major Plot Point.

You’re sipping your over-poured, badly mixed gin drink and counting up all the word repetitions your recent editing torture session conjured. You are slamming crappy beers and quietly reliving your latest critique session—you know, the one where you cried and accused everyone of being against your future success?

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In short, you are “working,” kind of like you always are, whether you’re physically wandering the grocery aisle, at a PTA meeting full of helicopter parents, or now, at a Holiday Party—and your skinny, over-achieving sister-in-law is headed your way with a bit of a wobble in her gait and a half empty Cosmo.

“So,” she says, coming too close and breathing booze in your ear. “That book of yours…I went ahead and checked it out of the library.” She winks, guzzles the pink liquid in her glass then tucks her arm into your elbow companionably.

“Thanks,” you whisper, wondering how much closer to the bar you can stand and not be lying on top of it.

“I don’t really…you know… read all that much but thought I’d try and support the fam. Hey, hon, get over here and congratulate the Big Time Author with me!” She screeches across the room but given the general level of drunken loudness, her spouse, your super successful ER physician brother with a PhD in engineering and a Juris Doctorate on top doesn’t hear her…at first.

But finally, he leaves the group of kids enthralled by his balloon bending and banjo skills and makes his sober way over to you, still trapped by his social X-ray wife.

“Hey there,” he booms, smacking you so hard on the back you stumble and recall how much he teased you when you were kids. “So tell me about this…’job’ of yours. Writing, is it? You know, I love those Jack Reacher books, right hon? You know that guy, that Lee person? That’s one creative guy. Hey, when can I get your book at the bookstore anyway?”

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“Well,” you begin, mistakenly honestly believing you can explain the intricacies of the ‘indie publishing life’ to these people. “You see…”

“But your book was in the library,” sister-in-law slurs, hanging off her husband, your brother who is giving you that horrific, “Please explain it to me in ten words or less, I’m busy,” patient stare.

“Yes, well, I begged the libraries to take a copy. But the bookstores…”

“Hey, sweetie,” your brother says to his wife. “What about that book club you host at the club? Why don’t you offer up…um…what was the title of that book?”

“Oh, we still have to get through the Fifty Shades Trilogy and let me tell you we are having some fun with those! Grab me another, love bug,” she screams as your brother turns to the bar. “Why don’t you write books like those?” she asks, before you can escape. “Now that is some good writing…hot stuff…whew!”

 

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She fans her face before getting distracted by one of the many family spawn milling around your ankles. “Let me know when that happens!” She waves her fingers and moves away toward the sister-in-law cabal in the opposite corner, her be-supportive mission obviously concluded.

You wait a few beats, count backwards from a hundred, then get a refill and resume your mental counting of your Facebook likes and twitter followers, pondering how you’ll be so dry and amusing, recounting this little ego-smushing episode on your blog in a few hours. Just a few…more…hours…

By the time the excruciating day/evening/weekend is over, you’ve started no fewer than a dozen conversations with various family members attempting to explain why it takes “so long” to write, get edited, get cover art, get promoted for a single novel. Or how come you keep submitting to agents and publishing houses despite the growing mound of rejections.

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Or why you can’t write “like” (fill in the blank with the latest serial-flash-in-the-pan writer). Or how come they can’t get your book “for real” (read: in print form, at the local Barnes and Noble store when they buy their giant latte and grab their copy of People or Car & Driver on their lunch hour).

You’ve had to stop too many times before getting to the, “Well, Amazon’s algorithm changes mean I have to re-release every two weeks to get noticed,” bit, noting the general eye-clouding-over nature of whichever relative is attempting to make you feel successful over your little writing projects.

Why bother?

But wait! Before you run to the back bedroom and slam the door, think about it this way: No one is asking your brother to explain much about his job, or your sister-in-law(s) to relate her/their latest adventure in child rearing and crock pot meals after a long day of wage-slaving. What they do is pretty clear.

What you do…is mysterious.

And kinda cool.

Ok…VERY cool.

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Authors get to be GOD….

 

My advice is to OWN that. Crush your cool mysteriousness to your chest and do what you do best as a story-teller: make some sh*t up.

I tried this at a party once. Challenged myself to come up with two-three quick sentence descriptions of the general awesomeness of my life as “Author” – or “Novelist” which is an even more esoteric term.

It sure beats getting into long, dreary, inside-baseball discussions of “rankings,” and “formatting issues,” “crit partners,” and “blogging,” especially with your sister’s drunk boyfriend who hears you say “Amazon” and blurts out something like “I love amazons….they’re so hot!”

People who don’t work with these things every day like you will never, ever understand them. Stop trying to make them, especially at a holiday party.

So leaving out the fact that many days I don’t make it out of my sweats or brush my teeth but have written four books this year and have the entire cast chosen for the (as yet un-optioned) Netflix series, I have had some luck convincing family members that I Am An Author. 

And I Am Cool.

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You are too, be you pre-almost-post published. And even if you are one of the dreaded mid-listers at a “real publishing house,” you know of what I speak here. What you do is creative, internal, and mostly unexplainable to your average brother or sister-in-law. So grab your next cheap, badly mixed cocktail and own it, fellow scribbler!

You can get real sympathy on Facebook later.

Make it a great Holiday season, all no matter what or why you celebrate. I leave you with this, hard-learned lesson: Don’t mix red and white wines and never (ever) start with brown liquor and end with wine unless you want to celebrate a whole day completely out of commission.

You’re welcome.

*************************

Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench

Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench

Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

Check out her first self-published series, coming in January 2015: The Love Brothers. Already garnering raves on Goodreads, book one (Love Garage) is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Click here for free chapters from all the books and to enter during the final days of a huge, multi-author giveaway (including some goodies from Kristen Lamb!)

Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.

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  1. #1 by Tony Lavely (@tlavely) on November 27, 2014 - 7:39 pm

    ^^This!^^
    Way up on ‘Things I Give Thanks For!’

  2. #3 by Catherine Johnson on November 27, 2014 - 7:42 pm

    Brilliant!

    • #4 by Liz Crowe on November 27, 2014 - 8:03 pm

      Thanks Catherine. Hope it helps. “Keeping it real” is one thing I do best. And trust me when I tell you it is NOT something that “always works.” But it’s how I roll.
      Liz

  3. #5 by Lanette Kauten on November 27, 2014 - 7:58 pm

    Thanks, Liz and Kristen.

    Right after a small press asked me to re-write one of my novels into a series of novellas, my parents came in from out of town. I told my mom this awesome news, for which she seemed happy. Somehow, the conversation quickly turned to the Deep Ellum book I finished earlier this year and what I’m working on now. I told her I’m shopping for an agent, but until a publisher had contacted me about an earlier book, I hadn’t written anything in a few months. I explained to her that the Deep Ellum book was my favorite, that I had poured my soul into that novel, and the rejections have crushed me. It’s been hard to get motivated to write another book.

    Her response, “A real writer has to write. A real writer can never be discouraged to the point of quitting because nothing can stop them.”

    Now, I’m not sure what’s more maddening: that my mother actually said that to me, or the fact that she is a musical prodigy who has been able to hear a tune once and play it with proficiency since the age of four and never became a professional musician because “it’s not practical.”

    Double face palm.

    However, Awesome Hubby stepped in and praised that novel as a work of literary genius and went on to explain what I had just said with a lot more eloquence than I could muster under my mother’s judgement. He also reminded her that I haven’t quit as evidenced by the fact that I’m working hard to meet the terms given to me by my publisher.

    • #6 by Liz Crowe on November 27, 2014 - 8:05 pm

      Hang in Lanette,
      My favorite (and best selling) series Stewart Realty, an 8.5 book story arc collected a sh*t ton of rejections and “suggestions” to make it better before it landed where it needed to be. And while it’s not A Big Publisher by any stretch, the experience I’ve had with it has taught me a lot–some of it via bad choices. So I say, take what you can from every experience, learn and move on.
      Take care.
      Liz

  4. #7 by andfreed on November 27, 2014 - 8:02 pm

    This was great! This advice can also be applied to get-togethers with friends and acquaintances as well. I am sure this post will come in handy for me in the not too distant future. Thanks!

    • #8 by Liz Crowe on November 27, 2014 - 8:06 pm

      Yes you can certainly remove “sister-in-law,” “uber successful brother,” and any other family references and replace them with pretty much any human being who’s never slogged through the mire of pre-, post- or currently published author.
      Take Care,
      Liz

  5. #9 by Liz Crowe on November 27, 2014 - 8:02 pm

    Good Lord Woman what in the heck possessed you to let me say all this utter nonsense? Well, anyways, regardless of why, I appreciate it! And I wish you all the very best of shopping mania or whatever y’all do the 3 days post feast.

  6. #10 by D'Ann on November 27, 2014 - 8:48 pm

    Great post! I’m sitting her with my husband, who is a great supporter, but doesn’t really *get* what I do but is super supportive and I’m so thankful I don’t have to explain all this to a crowd!

    • #11 by ET (Liz) Crowe (@beerwencha2) on November 28, 2014 - 8:23 am

      that’s lovely D’Ann!
      Mine is too but likes to ask “how are sales going this month” too many times for my “this isn’t ABOUT that!” taste.
      But of course, it is….
      Have a great weekend.
      Liz

  7. #12 by melissakeir on November 27, 2014 - 8:49 pm

    Wonderful Liz! Always great to get a reality check and see how awesome we are after a brunch with the fam… “I read your first one, is this the same book?” “Nope.. different one.” *sigh* At least the drive home was filled with lovely music to work by!

    • #13 by ET (Liz) Crowe (@beerwencha2) on November 28, 2014 - 8:22 am

      “So how is your book coming?” –them
      “fine.”–me
      “super. When will it be out?”–them
      “At this rate, never.”–me
      “Great! Pass me those green beans willya?”–them

  8. #14 by Deborah Makarios on November 27, 2014 - 11:49 pm

    “Weren’t you writing that one last year? You haven’t finished it yet? I thought you were going to finish that one last year.” Yeah. Turns out we can’t all write our first novel in 30 days. (“Rewriting? What do you mean, rewriting? Why didn’t you just write it like that the first time?”)
    As you say, we can always hang out with the characters in our heads – but they aren’t talking to me after what I just put them through😀

    Of course, the ultimate revenge on those charming interlocutors who think I don’t really *do* anything is to point out that I get to spend my days doing it, instead of some crappy “proper” job which pays minimum wage in return for slowly digesting the worker’s soul.

    Weirdly, there are people who think it’s irresponsible not to have a day job, even if you can manage without one. Which is ironic, given that’s about the only responsible thing I’ve done this year: leaving the job for someone who actually needed it!

    • #15 by ET (Liz) Crowe (@beerwencha2) on November 28, 2014 - 8:20 am

      thanks for sharing your experience Deborah! And yeah, when I’m really grooving on my writing job I feel that way too but sometimes I think “hmmmm that Target greeter job is looking pretty great right about now!” Have a super weekend.
      Liz

  9. #16 by Author Mandy White on November 28, 2014 - 12:41 am

    Reblogged this on Mandy White and commented:
    The dreaded holiday gathering…one of the things that fuels my social anxiety.

    • #17 by ET (Liz) Crowe (@beerwencha2) on November 28, 2014 - 8:19 am

      thanks so much for the comment and the reblog Mandy! I’ll admit that social anxiety isn’t an issue for me…probably because I drink too much, which is a different problem! thanks again
      Liz

  10. #18 by Lucinda E Clarke on November 28, 2014 - 7:19 am

    That is all SO true Kirsten! thank you, I’m not alone, or rather I would prefer to be then in a room full of people. I’d rather be writing somewhere, anywhere else.🙂 Lucinda

    • #19 by ET (Liz) Crowe (@beerwencha2) on November 28, 2014 - 8:18 am

      Thanks for the comment Lucinda I’m glad you found some reality in my post! I find that being around people many times fuels my muse because I use situations, comments and other elements IN My books but when I’m “in the zone” I am not in the mood to be told what I’m doing is “cute.” have a lovely weekend! Liz

  11. #20 by Erica on November 28, 2014 - 11:27 am

    I’m a creative writer by night and a copywriter by day. I gave up this fight when my father-in-law asked if I make my living by “copying what other people write.”

    This coming holiday will be spent in my pajamas, with my husband and our cat. And a bottle of wine.

    Excellent post!

  12. #22 by annerallen on November 28, 2014 - 5:15 pm

    ROTFL, Liz! This is spot on. We’ve all been there.

  13. #24 by kleungsf on November 30, 2014 - 10:24 am

    Reblogged this on Kenneth Leung, Thinking, Eating, Seeing and commented:
    Happy holidays to all the writers

  14. #25 by Liz Crowe on December 9, 2014 - 10:17 pm

    thanks Kenneth!

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