Good Day Dear Reader,

On this rainy day before the official launch party for Tracing the Bones, I want to share my 10 Tips For Writing Chick-Lit (or Really Bad Poetry). I’ve wanted to share it for a while now because it offers to you a tidy and convenient snapshot of how I got to this point as a writer, and it also gives you an example of what you’ll find between the covers of my novels. I get the sense that it was too sad and raw for any bubbly media outlet to publish, so I offer it to you here.

  1. Have a shitty childhood. Your mother should be largely absent, emotionally and/or physically. You definitely want daddy issues. Your father is hypercritical and withholds love. Develop crushes on pop stars and actors. Spend hours daydreaming about being rescued from your boring, shitty life in ways that include airports, limousines and an adoring crowd who love you for reasons you have yet to invent. Marinate in a toxic stew of love-starved neediness. Abandon your arithmetic. Glaze over when reading textbook passages about polar bears and Native Americans. Confuse attention with love. Kiss posters. Make a scrapbook of celebrity hunks.
  2. Suffer an early loss of virginity, preferably while on vacation with Issue Daddy, post-divorce. After a fumbling and painful coitus with an older townie whose surname you’ve already taken in your mind, return to your hotel room. This should be after midnight. Your ass burns with a blossoming rash from the sand, or the concrete deck by the pool. Your braces gleam with a misplaced sense of accomplishment. Your lavender training bra is twisted and possibly inside out. You likely receive your father in his underwear, fuming and ready to murder you. Spend this momentous time running from him and locking yourself in the bathroom. While he screams at you for being a whore, regard yourself in the mirror. Watch as tears roll down your sunburnt cheeks and promise that one day you’ll SHOW HIM.
  3. Major in art, theatre or poetry at college. Make sure you choose a concentration that will assure you absolutely zero money-making potential upon graduation. After all, even if you don’t know it consciously, you are here to nab a husband. Stay old-fashioned but pose as a feminist. Cut your hair short. Wear black lipstick. Get a tattoo of something benign but pretty on your ankle, like grapes. Speak out of turn in class and get passed-out drunk on Midori sours at least three nights a week. During your bedridden hangovers, doodle in your sketchbook portraits of your future anarchist husband. Overeat. Hate yourself. Have unprotected sex with at least two guys in the same week. Maybe one of them is a bartender. You do it in his hot tub. The other guy is on the university football team. He has a bed shaped like a race car and one morning he steals your bicycle.
  4. Have an affair with a republican grad student who, through his cunnilingual prowess, delivers you to such a heightened state of arousal and orgasm that you can’t help but forgive his saggy ass and onion breath. His medium-sized penis is magical, even if his hair resembles an old scouring pad. At first you don’t care that he’s engaged to be married. You just want him for the sex. But when his fiancee visits campus and you see how tall and thin she is you are JEALOUS. Now you threaten to tell her everything. During a party that the three of you attend, Sponge Head Saggy Pants grips your upper arm and hisses at you that he doesn’t care. She won’t believe you anyway. You’re nothing but a silly desperate slut. After this exchange you realize you’re in love.
  5. Graduate by the skin of your teeth. Have an identity crisis as you slowly realize that none of your education amounts to anything in the real world. Free-fall through a cyclone of dead-end jobs—craft service, editing company receptionist, art gallery receptionist, assistant kindergarten teacher, financial company temp, part-time librarian, law firm temp…
  6. Fall in and out of depression. Develop mind-altering crushes on unattainable men, both living and dead, famous and civilian. Sabotage your self-esteem and confidence at every turn. Blame the world for doing this to you. Hate your parents. Try to love Tolstoy, Sylvia Plath and Sartre.
  7. Go to therapy for twelve years. Insist on a sliding scale payment option.
  8. Decide to become an actress. Have a brief affair with the director of an independent short. Admire his tattoos as he has you do one more take of “the urination scene,” which he insists you do for real. As you crouch over a mound of dirt in a public city park with your leather miniskirt hiked up to your nipples, chuckle to yourself about how jealous your grade school friends would be if they could see you now.
  9. In your twelfth year of therapy, wake from a typical afternoon nap as if waking from a twenty-year nightmare. Have an epiphany that no man can ever make you happy—or unhappy for that matter. Weepily scribble the details of your profound enlightenment as another realization slowly dawns on you. Your period is a week late.
  10. Recover from your first and hopefully only abortion in a hotel room at Niagara Falls. Your mother has driven you here. There is nothing left of your romantic dreams. You are alone, bereft, and it is time to rebuild. Open your laptop and begin.