From Writer to Publicist: An Unexpected Pivot

March 15, 2023 § 18 Comments

By Jennifer Lang

Last summer, a year before my book release, I reached out to a poet who’d posted her lineup of author events on Facebook, asking how far in advance she began planning them. Her answer: you can never start too early.

With Labor Day looming, I began to brainstorm. I Googled San Francisco Bay Area, where I was born and bred, in search of synagogues, yoga studios, and bookstores. I zoomed with an old camp friend who’d stayed put and planted deep roots in the Jewish world, taking notes of names of movers and shakers in various organizations, both local and national. I followed up with emails, dropping his name and introducing myself and my story—about moving back and forth from the U.S. to Israel, my French Jewish husband and I each in search of home.

As the High Holidays neared, emails either went unanswered or came to an abrupt halt. During the downtime, while in California visiting my parents, I popped into bookstores, introduced myself and asked about readings, collecting details about when to reach out, whom to contact. With my mother at my side, I thought about her go-to mottos that guided me: there’s nothing to lose and what’s the worst that could happen?

Upon my return to Tel Aviv, I input all my newly-acquired information into a spreadsheet. Free-associated every possible avenue to pursue: writing podcasts, book clubs, college alumni association. Zoomed with a fellow alum involved in the Reform Jewish movement in Florida. Her email introduced me to someone at the 92st Street Y, the biggest Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, who introduced me to someone else. I tracked every conversation. During a fast walk with a friend visiting from New York, I told her about my personal outreach program and she said to email her husband. After receiving my pitch, he made eight e-introductions to leaders in the Jewish community of Westchester, where we raised children before returning to Israel. I thanked him and asked each of his contacts if we could continue the conversation. My days were spent in front of my screen: emails, zooms, emails, phone calls, spreadsheets, more zooms.  

While my resourcefulness flourished, my writing floundered.

As January dawned, I hunkered down. Read book reviews, reached out to reviewers. Read interviews, reached out to interviewers. Approached writers through social media or their websites, asking if they would be open to reviewing my book or interviewing me. My mother’s words echoed in my ears.

I did the same for blurbs. Made a list of writers whose books shaped me and my work. Reached out to them or their agent: Dani Shapiro (I went to a memoir writing retreat at Kripalu with her), Mary Karr (whom I had the privilege of teaching a semi-private yoga class to in August 2011 weeks before we left White Plains), Anne Lamott (lives in the Bay Area), Kelly Corrigan (lived in the small city where I grew up), Claire Dederer (wrote Poser), Elizabeth Gilbert (zero connection), and a few others. Some answered; others evaporated into cyberspace.

I drafted and honed and personalized my pitch. Emailed everyone from my past—camp, childhood, college, colleagues—using a mixed sports metaphor, asking if they wanted to be on my team and if so, what position they were willing to play, everything from write a review on Amazon to write a book review for a literary journal. Most people answered, offering to cheer me on in some capacity, while others kept quiet, perhaps thinking I’d overstepped.

It is now March, and so far, I have a dozen events lined up for the fall and more zooms in the upcoming days.

Recently, a friend asked if I like this part of the process, and I told her that being a publicist—if that’s what this is—suits me. I’m organized, detail oriented, and bold. Because honestly, there’s nothing to lose. Really, what’s the worst that could happen?

Jennifer Lang was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, lives in Tel Aviv, and runs Israel Writers Studio. Her essays have appeared in the Baltimore Review, Crab Orchard Review, Under the Sun, Ascent, Consequence, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize and Best American Essays nominee, she holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and serve as Assistant Editor for Brevity. Places We Left Behind: a memoir-in-miniature and Landed: a yogi’s memoir in pieces & poses will both be published by Vine Leaves Press (September 2023 and October 2024). You can learn more about Jennifer Lang and her books at or find her on her yoga mat: practicing since 1995, teaching since 2003.

Brevity’s January 2020 Issue Launched Today

January 20, 2020 § 2 Comments

IMG-2476Our newest issue, Issue 63, is out this morning, featuring crisp, provocative essays from Maggie Smith, Lara Lillibridge, Joanna Brichetto, Natalie Rose, B.J. Hollars, Kelly Shire, Marcia Aldrich, Robert Julius, Natalia Rachel Singer, Amie Whittemore, Margo Steines, Matt Donovan, Mary Zelinka, Doug Lawson, and Jill Kolongowski and her Spring 2019 creative writing class. All of these, along with stunning photos by Mike McKniff.

Also new today, in our Craft Section, Jen Corrigan, Jennifer McGaha, Mary Ann McSweeny, and Sonja Livingston discuss impatience and restlessness in writing, the art of discovery, the role of compassion in nonfiction, and how to bring Nancy Drew into your essaying.

Meanwhile, we are still accepting submissions for Brevity’s upcoming special issue, “Experiences of Disability,” to be published in September 2020. We are also still actively seeking some financial support to make this issue possible, and even small amounts go a long way.  Thanks to those of you who have already contributed, and to anyone who can help as we go forward.

Happy reading!




On Trust’s Shore

September 11, 2018 § 9 Comments

By Christine Corrigan

When my family arrived at the beach this year, my two teenage boys ran to the surf. They didn’t hesitate as they dove through the curling waves. I wasn’t so bold. I meandered to the shoreline and let the waves lap my feet. I waded in further. I watched the kids beyond the break. At some point, they tried to pull me in. I resisted. They laughed, rolled their eyes, and told me to dive in. I moved out deeper until the waves broke against my waist. After too much agony, I finally dove.

“It’s about time,” the boys called. “What took you so long?”

Why did I do this to myself? Why didn’t I dive in like they did? I knew how. But I got stuck. What if a wave knocked me over? What if I stepped on a broken shell?

I find myself hesitating on the shore when I’m writing too, questioning my story rather than letting it flow. Learning to trust I have a story to tell has challenged me as a novice non-fiction writer. It didn’t help that I spent part of my beach vacation reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser, which sent me into an existential spiral of self-doubt. I wanted to edit every sentence I’d written. Not a bad thing, but I was on vacation. I hadn’t even realized I had a trust problem until my mentor focused on a couple of sentences I’d dropped into my memoir about three drafts ago. She returned the draft to me with a note telling me to “DIG DEEP HERE.” It was a “very important moment in the narrative.”

I couldn’t ignore her comment. She was the third person to make it. Why didn’t I trust the others’ feedback? But I wasn’t ready to jump in. Instead, I played with sentences, changing a word here or there, hoping that would fix it. It didn’t, any more than watching the waves would get me into the surf. Yet I knew by now I had to address it, not play around with it, however uncomfortable I was. I had to wrestle with my past, with my rocky relationship with my mom. I had to tell the truth about a lie I told to my daughter and why I told it.

Yet, there I was again, standing at the water’s edge. Stuck. I thought about what I needed to write as I walked my dog each morning. I brought my pages to therapy and talked to about what I needed to write and why it was so hard. When I commented I thought I could cover the material in a paragraph, my therapist laughed.

“Oh, it’ll be more than a paragraph.”

After days of inching toward the deep water, I remembered what I learned from Allison K Williams at a memoir workshop earlier this summer. She emphasized how important it was to “deal honestly” with our own behavior, including our bad behavior. While we could be heroes in our stories, “even heroes mess up,” Williams wrote in a recent blog, Heroes and Villains.

I had to dive into my inner villain. I wrote and rewrote. I re-read the paragraphs. I liked them, particularly the simplicity of how I ended the section. I put it down and came back to it a day or two later. Then the doubt crashed over me. I wrote a few more sentences to make my point, forgetting that once was enough. I sent the revised section to my mentor. She loved it. Except she said, I over-explained. I began moralizing. I should have trusted my original ending. My kids would have rolled their eyes at me.

I told my mentor, I needed to trust myself more.

It’s not easy.

“Trust your material,” Zinsser wrote. “It seems hard advice to follow.”

It is.

The more I trust my writing, the better it becomes. I see the weaknesses on the page, particularly my desire to tie everything up neatly. To keep the trust, I’ve given myself a new editing tool. I read my work aloud and ask myself whether my teens would roll their eyes at me. If they would, I know I did it again. I let those sentences go, scattered like broken shells on the shore, and dive.


Christine Corrigan is a writer. Her essays have appeared in Dreamer’s Creative Writing, Grown & Flown, Purple Clover,, Wildfire Magazine, and elsewhere. At 51, she’s working on her first book, a memoir about surviving cancer twice. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, three children, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Find her on Twitter @CPCorrigan2.

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