I recently attended a meeting of the O.C. Chapter of the Sisters in Crime. Alexandra Sokoloff, best-selling thriller writer, was the guest speaker. I felt a duty to respond to her talk.
It is obvious that, although Ms. Sokoloff is brilliant in many ways, pity party planning is NOT her forte, and in fact her discussion was actually damaging to the discipline.
So here goes, Alexandra. If you’re reading, I’d like to rebut some of your positions while I instruct the pitiable victims of the publishing industry, or any other industry for that matter.
Home entertainment is a dying art. Even the words “home entertainment” make us think of a shelf full of electronic media devices. Throwing a good party takes more that a Roku remote, pizza delivery, and a bottle of cheap wine. A well-executed event, whether in the home or out, requires planning and creativity.
Step 1: Invitations
Alexandra was very candid about the challenges she’s faced as an author. Transparency engenders pathos in others. If you have theirs, why do you need your own?
The wonderful thing about a pity party is it’s an event for one. There’s no need to sign up for an Evite account or buy expensive stationary. The more secretive you keep things the better. If any of your friends or relatives hear about it they might crash, try to be helpful, and ruin your evening.
Tip: Be opaque.
Step 2: Theme
The best way to select a theme for your party if one isn’t immediately presenting itself is to brainstorm. I highly suggest sitting down with pencil and paper and listing all your failures and disappointments. (Agent rejections are perfect for authors.)
Go back as far as you like. I find if I start with high school it primes the angst pump beautifully. Make sure to list all your job layoffs or firings, relationship implosions, most embarrassing moments, low bank balances, the death of your favorite pet, even horrible outfits you were forced to wear. (I once had to wear an old bridesmaid dress to a prom. Not kidding.)
Whatever you do DO NOT think of lessons learned or silver linings or listen to anything Alexandra Sokoloff has to say.
Every damn time life threw her a lemon she made lemon aid, which is not only cliché, it’s annoying.
- When acting didn’t pan out, she turned to script writing.
- When the movie industry tilted North, she tilted South and wrote a novel.
- When traditional publishing began to crack, she independently published.
- When audio got hot, she created audio books.
Her debut novel, The Harrowing, has even been optioned for television.
All this flexibility and positivism will ruin a pity party.
Tip: Milk the misery.
Step 3: Preparations
The best way to prepare for a pity party is to do nothing. If there are things others say would improve your lot in life, don’t do them! You can sit on your hands and complain about your circumstances, but whatever you do take no action.
This was another bone I had to pick with Alexandra Sokoloff. When she saw problems ahead, she not only changed course, she studied, learned, improved herself and then taught others to do the same. Her book, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, is so helpful it’s nauseating.
If you want to maintain the correct ambiance for a pity party you must never, ever help yourself or others get ahead.
Tip: Stay stuck and self-absorbed.
Step 4: Grooming
Wondering what to wear? The lovely thing about pity parties is the worse you look the better.
I recommend the following:
- Fore-go exercise (all those nasty endorphins might cheer you up)
- Eat nothing but “comfort” high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods
- Drink copious amounts of inexpensive liquor
Follow this regimen for at least a week before the event. If you’re lucky you might not be able to zip your jeans—always good for extra wretchedness—when the day arrives.
Not only was Alexandra adorable and well-dressed, she advocated putting-your-best-foot-forward and “sparkling” since you never knew who you might need to impress.
Special Note: She also took responsibility for her own marketing efforts. This is sacrilege in most author circles, as well it should be. If we can’t sit, swill, and wallow in our underwear and still have our books and products sell, what is the world coming to?
Tip: Less is more.
I’m sure Ms. Sokoloff is a very nice person, but her tips for authors and her general outlook on life are destructive to those who enjoy victim-hood. After hearing her speak, I felt I had to step in and present some sane instruction to anyone who may have been swayed from their miserable ways. Follow the four simple steps outlined above and your pity party is sure to be a success.