Getting Your Book to Come Together
Author and editor Rachel Feltman on practical creative process
“Send me the hottest garbage you can send me.” —Rachel Feltman’s editor
Preview: Episode 68 Rachel Feltman on how a book comes together
When Rachel Feltman went on a 500-mile tandem bike ride, she didn’t know it would be one of the most important moments in helping her book come together. In this Thursday’s episode, we talk with Rachel about the moments, people and habits that helped her write Been There, Done That: A Rousing History of Sex and take it from its unlikely inklings all the way to its publication. Practical, funny and encouraging, Rachel offers great advice that would apply to almost any long-term creative project.
Rachel Feltman’s first gig was organizing a bookshelf full of textbooks on vulvar disease at the age of seven, and she never looked back. She’s the Executive Editor of Popular Science and hosts PopSci’s podcast The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week. In 2014, Feltman founded the Washington Post’s Speaking of Science blog, known for headlines such as “You probably have herpes, but that’s really okay,” and “Uranus might be full of surprises.” Feltman studied environmental science at Simon’s Rock and has a master’s in science reporting from NYU. She’s a musician, an actress, and the stepmom of a very spry 14-year-old cat.
What We’re Reading and Listening to:
What a joy to find a James Crews book I didn’t know about! From 2020. James was our guest on episode 34 on mindfulness and creative practice, and the book I found, Every Waking Moment, is rich with insight, humility, curiosity, attention, compassion and poems that make me resonant with aliveness. As he writes, “you must put yourself in the path of joy to find it.”
The Guaradian says Ada Limón is a “poet of ecstatic revelation,” and her newest collection, The Hurting Kind, feels like proof. Full of questions and openings, drama and simplicity, humanness and the more than human.
I finally read Tara Westover’s lauded memoir, Educated, and it was every bit as good as everyone says. Westover’s story of growing up in a physically and emotionally abusive family is heart-breaking and infuriating at times, but it is also uplifting to watch her find herself and discover her own voice.
I loved the way that Jennifer Eagan’s new novel, The Candy House, tells the story through multiple characters over multiple time points. The book explores the meaning of authenticity, the workings of memory and the allure of technology and all that it promises. In the near future that Eagan imagines, it has become possible to download and share your unconscious and if this sounds like an episode of Black Mirror, you’re not wrong.
Top Ten Ways to Keep Your Butt in Your Chair
Bribe yourself with a reward after an hour (or two hours, or five hours)
Remind yourself why this creative project matters to you
Make a pact with a friend—a commitment to sit in your chairs in separate rooms together?
Turn off your email, your social media, your phone ringer
Give yourself a goal that you can barely reach so you feel urgency in the writing time
Get a really comfy cushion
Fall in love with your reader
Create a schedule and write it on your calendar
Make a list of your excuses and make fun of them, or just forgive them, and get your butt in your chair
A Note About Paid Subscriptions:
First, we want to thank ALL our subscribers! We are so grateful you join us in this conversation about what it is to engage with yourself, the world and others in a creative way. And a BIG thank you to our paid subscribers. You make this podcast possible. Starting this month, only our paid subscribers will receive our bonus episodes as a thank you for their financial support.
This week we feature Rachel Feltman musing on why walking in a forward direction helps, how assuming your work will be bad might produce the best work, and the importance of pep talks and daily routines. If you are not yet a paid subscriber, you can go now to our website, EmergingForm.substack.com or by clicking the button below. Thank you!
(share your answers with us here on Substack or in our FB group)
How do you organize your research?
What advice from an editor has been most helpful?