What's It Really Like to Live In North Korea? Author Travis Jeppesen Tells All

20160810_135408.jpg

Meet Travis Jeppesen, the first American to study in North Korea.

He's been to the hermit kingdom five times, and I hope they'll let him back in after listening to this podcast. 

Jeppesen has a fascinating new book out called See You Again in Pyongyang, which is part travelogue, part history lesson, and all crazy interesting.

Some things I learned from reading his book:

  • The North Korean zoo has separate houses for cats and dogs. 
  • Each morning, the residents of Pyongyang wake up to the same creepy morning anthem piped through the city corridors. 
  • Children are taught that the correct way to refer to an American citizen is "American bastard."
  • North Korea has its own time zone.
  • It is unknowable how many still believe the state propaganda. Probably not many. Even outside of Pyongyang, people have learned that you have to play the capitalism game in order to survive.

If you're as curious and confused as I am about what the hell is going on in North Korea, and why Kim Jong Un is suddenly besties with Trump, you'll want to hear Jeppesen's interview.

SeeYouAgainInPyongyang HC.jpg

Romance Novelist Jasmine Guillory's Journey from Law to Love

Photo Jasmine.jpg

When a friend suggested I interview romance writer Jasmine Guillory on the show, I'll admit I was a little skeptical. Romance novels? Not really my jam.

Then I binge-listened her book, The Wedding Date, and I was hooked. Seriously. there were days when I would wait in the driveway just to find out if Drew would end up with Alexa. Damn it, Drew. She's perfect for you. Why can't you see that??

My reaction to her writing was all the more amazing, considering this is a woman who never imagined she'd be a writer. 

"My vision of a writer was someone quiet, someone introverted, and—especially—someone white," she says.

A high-powered Bay Area lawyer, she knew how to write legal briefs, not about lovers in briefs. But she also knew she needed a creative outlet or else she'd burn out.

Guillory loved reading romance novels, so why not try to write one?

Eeking out time early in the morning and late at night, she methodically taught herself how to write a novel.

After a few devastating fails, she landed an agent, sold her romance novel The Wedding Date to Penguin Books, and secured a deal to do a whole series.  

Related: 5 Things Literary Agents Wish You Knew

This is Jasmine's story. Hope you find it as fun and inspiring as I did.

True Crime Journalist Billy Jensen on Capturing the Golden State Killer

golden-state-killer.jpg

 

Billy Jensen is the acclaimed true crime investigative journalist and producer, who helped finish his friend Michele McNamara's haunting book, "I'll Be Gone in the Dark," after her death. The book tells the tale of The Golden State Killer, a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized Californians for over a decade.

Related: This Father-Daughter Duo Solved a Century-Old Murder Mystery

bzxZeJAL_400x400.jpg

 

Just months after the book was released, police announced they had a suspect in the case. On this podcast, Jensen talks to me about this horrifying story, the process of writing the book, and his path to becoming a journalist specializing in unsolved crimes.

Related: 10 Ways to Be A Better Writer Right Now

Jensen's stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Magazine, Boston Magazine, and the New York Times. He is also a  supervising producer and special investigator for the Warner Bros. program "Crime Watch Daily," where he runs all digital operations for the program.

Special thanks to Dan Piscina for engineering this episode.

To hear a special extended version of this podcast, subscribe to my mailing list @ writeaboutnowmedia.com/subscribe. 

Novelist Blanche Boyd: The Best Writing Professor I Ever Had

blanche photo.jpg

Novelist Blanche McCrary Boyd is one of the main reasons I’m a writer today.

As an undergrad at Connecticut College, I took classes with her that changed the way I viewed journalism and storytelling. She introduced me and my classmates to a whole new world of writers such as the late great Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Hunter Thompson, and Norman Mailer. She showed us how long-form journalism could read just like a novel.

And Boyd didn’t just talk the talk, she walked the walk. Her writing was just as daring, creative, and funny as the authors to whom she introduced us. And her life story was something out of a movie. Born in the deep south, she was an alcoholic who wrote for the Village Voice in a hippie commune before turning her life around, teaching at a college, and writing great novels, short stories, and essays.

Related: 10 Ways To Be A Better Writer Right Now

Her latest work, "Tomb of the Unknown Racist," was named by the BBC as one of the 10 best books in May. It’s her first book in two decades and the third of a trilogy that includes "The Revolution of Little Girls" and "Terminal Velocity.” She also the author of a collection of autobiographical essays, "The Redneck Way of Knowledge." Her short story “The Black Hand Girl” was included in Best American Short Stories 1989.

In our interview, Boyd weaves together tragic and funny tales from her life with invaluable teaching points for writers. For those who didn’t have the privilege of studying with her at Conn College, think of this as your very own Master Class.

Joanna Coles on Dating in the Digital Age

JcolesHeadshot.jpg

Relationships and sex have gone through a seismic shift in just the past few years. The old rules of dating no longer apply.

With the advent of dating apps, #MeToo, and hookup culture, women and men are looking for help understanding, navigating, and staying safe in a world where people have sex to get to know each other rather than the other way around.

Enter Joanna Coles. If anyone has their pulse on what's happening with Millenials, it's her. Joanna is chief content officer at Hearst Magazines, the first to hold that position at the company. She's also the former editor-in-chief of Marie Claire and Cosmo, and sits on the board of directors of Snapchat.

In her new book, "Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World,” Joanna offers a plan for finding love while loving yourself. She also goes under the covers to expose what's really happening in the relationship frontlines. Filled with fascinating stories from the people she talked to while writing the book, her observations are sharp, illuminating, and a bit shocking. Sex might not be dead—but a whole generation of people seem to be enjoying it a lot less. 

How SiriusXM's Lori Majewski Turned Her Passion for Music Into a Writing and Radio Career

IMG_5774.jpeg

When Lori Majewski was 16-years-old, she camped out in front of Manhattan hotels just to get an autograph from her idols, Duran Duran. Now she's on frontman Simon Le Bon's speed dial.

As a host on SiriusXM's Volume and First Wave channels and the co-author of the book Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Music and Artists That Defined the 1980s, Lori's parlayed her childhood obsession with New Wave music into a successful media career.

Related: 5 Things Literary Agents Wish You Knew

Lori has also held top spots at US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, YM, and Teen People, the latter of which she served as editor-in-chief. She's written for such publications as Women's Health, Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Good Housekeeping.

On this episode of "Write About Now with Jonathan Small," Lori talks about her journey from running a Duran Duran fanzine in high school to running a major magazine for Time Inc, and how she pivoted later in her career so that she could focus full-time on her lifetime passion for music.

Plus, we totally go behind the big hair and Member's Only jackets to geek out about the music of the 80s. Whether your hungry like the wolf or dancing in the sand, sit back and enjoy this oral origin story back to the future. 

Confessions of Erotica Writer Joanna Angel

Joanna Signs.jpg

Joanna Angel is not what you might expect an erotica writer, adult actress, and porn business mogul to be. But then again she's defied expectations all her life. Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish household in northern New Jersey, Joanna broke with her kosher household, replacing Purim with punk rock, the kabbalah with Kerouac, and the Talamud with tattoos. While attending Rutgers University, she launched a porno company from her dorm room, which would eventually become a thriving business with movies, toys, and magazines. 

On this episode of Write About Now, Joanna talks about her first foray into erotic fiction. Her new book, Night Shift, is a choose-your-adventure sex fantasy novel that mirrors parts of her own life. Joanna also gets candid about how she found her way into the porn industry and her views on the state of sex in 2018.

Our conversation is lively and fun—but definitely not suitable for kids. So you've been warned. 

Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

 

David Hochman Is the Freelance Whisperer

David Hochman.jpg

David Hochman's success as a freelance writer, editor, and storyteller is as enviable as it is expansive. He has written about everything from flying around the world in a private jet to potty training his son, visiting the vanishing tribes of Ethiopia's Omo Valley to helicopter parenting his dog, with his byline appearing regularly in The New York Times, Forbes, GQ, and Food and Wine.

He's also the founder of Upod (Under Promise Over Deliver), an invaluable online resource for freelancers, writers and editors, and Upod Academy, which offers in-person workshops, webinars, retreats, and private coaching sessions.

On this episode of the podcast, David offers 10 valuable lessons he's learned over his 20-plus year career, sage wisdom that's rightly earned him the nickname "The Freelance Whisperer." From keeping "Diddy hours" to "thumbslamming", these are the tips and tricks you need to know.

Let me know what you think of the interview in the comments below!

 

This Father-Daughter Duo Solved a Century-Old Murder Mystery

 Photo credit: Kansas City Star

Photo credit: Kansas City Star

On this chilling episode of Write About Now, Bill James and his daughter, Rachel McCarthy James, tell the fascinating and tragic story behind The Man from the Train, their true crime thriller that ties together a series of horrific murders that occurred across America from 1898 to 1912.

Through extensive research and some good old-fashioned detective work, the father-daughter writing team makes the compelling case that the murders were all the handiwork of one of the most prolific serial killers ever.

Journey back in a time machine to rural America—before the FBI, before serial killers were even a thing—when a small, ugly man would arrive in a town on a train, find a house near the tracks, slaughter an entire family with the blunt side of an axe, and disappear back onto the train without a trace. Co-author

Bill James is a famed sportswriter and baseball stats guru, whose work has been widely influential. He even appeared as himself on an episode of The Simpson. After getting the idea to write The Man from the Train, he tapped his daughter, Rachel, to research the book. It was Rachel who eventually cracked the case, identifying the man from the train by name.  

Stacey Glick on How to Land a Literary Agent

Stacey Glick.jpg

Ah, the coveted book deal. It's a writer's holy grail—even in the golden age of self-publishing. But can you get a book deal without a literary agent?

Chances are slim to none‚—unless you're crazy famous (and even that's hard). Agents are the gatekeepers between you and the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Think of them as the Night's Watch of the publishing wall.

Stacey Glick is one of the best literary agents in the business. And in this episode of Write About Now, she gives honest and actionable advice on how to get noticed by an agent, what publishers are buying (and not buying), and the one untapped market you might now know about.

As Vice President of the New York City agency Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret, Stacey represents an impressive and eclectic list of authors.

On the adult side, she covers such topics as memoirs, cooking and food, psychology, science, health and wellness, lifestyle, current events, pop culture, and select adult contemporary fiction.

On the children's side: YA, middle grade, nonfiction, and picture books. For more about her agency and their submission guidelines, check out https://www.dystel.com/

The Habits of Highly-Effective Health Writers

LisaPhoto.jpg

Lisa Lombardi is a writer/editor and co-author of What the Yuck?! The Freaky & Fabulous Truth About Your Body. On this episode of Write About Now, she talks to me about her dynamic career, which has included top editorial jobs at YM, TwistRedbook, and, Health.

 It was at the latter where she realized her true passion for health and wellness journalism. Lisa also gives advice to aspiring health writers about how to break into the market, the health stories editors just can't get enough of, and the truth about blotting your pizza slice with napkins.

Lisa also shares some crazy tales from the editorial front lines, including one memorable, #metoo moment with Sugar Ray frontman, Mark McGrath. You won't want to miss it!

Check out Lisa's latest story in The Washington Post here

Jamison Bachman: The Roommate from Hell

jamison-bachman.w245.h368.2x.jpg

Investigative journalist, William Brennan, discusses his haunting story for New York Magazine. "Worst Roommate Ever." When the story appeared in the Feb 21st issue, it was an immediate viral sensation, tapping into the hidden fears and morbid fascination of millions. It's the tale of Jamison Bachman, a failed lawyer and troubled tutor, who duped dozens of tenants into agreeing to let him live with them. Each relationship starts off cordial but eventually disintegrates into psychological and ultimately physical abuse. After spending time in prison, Bachman finally snapped, murdering the person closest to him. Brennan shares the story behind the story—how he stumbled upon it, how his dogged reporting uncovered patterns unknown even to the police, and what it was like to work on a true crime story happening in real time. Hat tip to Kenny Wassus for allowing me to use interview segments from the terrific video that accompanies the story online. 

 

How to Earn Six-Figures Self-Publishing

Joanna Photo.jpg

Joanna Penn is living the dream. As an "indie author," entrepreneur, podcaster, and self-publishing guru. She's written 27 books, selling over 500,000 in 84 countries and 5 languages.

Joanna didn't begin her career as a writer. As a frustrated IT consultant, she was completely miserable in her job. Desperation drove her to the pen. She knew she wanted to make a living being creative, but she also knew math: If she wanted to earn the same salary writing books, she'd need to make a scalable business out of it.

That was 10 years ago. Now Joanna is making multiple six-figures as a prolific author and marketer. On the podcast, she reveals her secret sauce, offering a blueprint for success in self-publishing that extends well beyond simply writing.

Joanna is part of a new movement of writers who are leveraging advances in e-publishing and digital marketing to build business empires with multiple streams of revenue. Like indie musicians and indie directors before them, indie authors are on the rise and here to stay.

To find out more about Joanna, visit her website thecreativepenn.com

The Insane Story Behind the Making of Unsane

Claire Foy.jpeg

This week's episode of Write About Now introduces you to Jonathan Bernstein, a Scottish scribe, who has made is career by being able to pivot to different genres and mediums.  His latest pivot came in the fast-and-furious form of a Steven Soderbergh thriller. One minute Jonathan was writing young adult novels, and the next thing he knows Soderbergh wants to make his movie, Unsane.

Starring Claire Foy, the film, which opens March 23, was shot entirely on iPhones. This isn't how Bernstein imagined it, but he also didn't imagine he'd be writing movies again. If you ever felt like giving up on your writing dreams, listen to this interview first. It's proof that if you're willing to adapt and reinvent yourself, good things can come your way.

Cosmo Editor Michele Promaulayko Reveals All

IMG_3790.jpeg

Michele Promaulayko knows what women want. She has to. As editor-in-chief of Cosmo, and editorial director of both Seventeen and Women’s Health, she both reflects and influences many of their passions and aspirations. Michele is also the bestselling author of two books with great titles: Look Better Naked and 20 Pounds Younger.

On a recent trip to New York, I visited Michele in her offices atop Hearst Tower to get the skinny on her impressive career. Starting as an intern at Sassy, she worked her way up the publishing ladder with stops at Teen People, Women's Health, Yahoo, and two tours at Cosmo—as an executive editor for 8 years then the top spot.  

We covered a ton of stuff, and I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say we talked about what it's like to head up a traditionally boy-crazy bible in a time when many women aren’t crazy about boy’s antics. Also, how women’s take on sexuality has changed since the time she started in the biz, and how she comes up with those classic coverlines.

Thank you so much for listening! If you have a few minutes, I’d so appreciate it if you could take a short SURVEY on my website to help me better understand what you want in the podcast.

 

 

How To Market Yourself Like a Boss

IMG_8270.jpg

I first met Jaclyn Mullen when I took her General Assembly class "Digital Marketing" in downtown LA. Although I had no idea what to expect, I knew I had to up my marketing game if I wanted to stay competitive in the marketplace. Best decision ever. 

Being a good writer isn't good enough anymore. You need to be savvy about how you get your name and your work out there. Even if you have no money, few credentials, and even fewer clips, you can still do a bunch of things to get strangers to be friends.

On this episode of Write About Now with Jonathan Small, marketing expert Jaclyn Mullen of Jaclyn Mullen Media takes us through a crash course on how to sell yourself without selling your soul, being annoying, or spending a fortune.

We cover such topics as building a website, a blog, an email list, and social media following. Jaclyn herself is also a writer, so she comes to the topic of marketing with a refreshing creativity. This is not some wonky lesson on SEO and Google Analytics, but rather an actionable game plan for how to market yourself without being annoying.  

Ep. 23—The Hollywood Reporter's Alison Brower on...How To Be a Hollywood Reporter

alison_brower_hollywood_reporter.jpg

With the 2018 Oscars around the corner, literally, from where I live,  I figured it was a good time to invite Alison Brower, the Deputy Editorial Director of the Hollywood Reporter, over to Write About Now studios to talk shop.

Alison takes me through her impressive origin story, which consists of a solid opening as an editorial assistant for Helen Gurley Brown's Cosmo, then working her way up to run magazines for two of mighiest O's on the planet—Oprah and Dr. Oz.

We talk about the seismic shift in post-Harvey Hollywood and THR's role in giving wronged women a platform to tell their powerful stories. Alison also breaks down the kind of stories she looks for and offers do's and don'ts for aspiring writers looking to pitch the magazine.

Lastly, we indulge in a little Oscar night prediction for best picture of the year. Spoiler alert: It's not The Emoji Movie.

Ep. 22 — Writer/Director Joshua Michael Stern on The Secret to Landing Hollywood's Biggest Talent

Joshua-Michael-Stern.jpg

On the pod this week, I talk to triple threat Joshua Michael Stern, who writes, directs, and produces films and TV series.

Joshua was the creator and showrunner of the Epix series Graves. He's also directed Jobs with Ashton Kutcher, and written and directed Swing Vote starring Kevin Costner and Neverwas with Nick Nolte.

The guy has a knack for casting some of the biggest talent in the business, even when his budgets aren't the biggest in the business. Case in point: The people I named above and Ian McCellen, Jessica Lange, Dennis Hopper, Vera Farmiga, Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammar, Josh Ladd, and the list goes on.

In our interview, Joshua talks to me about how he got into writing films, transitioned to directing, then returned to doing all three. I hope you find it inspiring!

Meet the Bourdain of Death

IMG_8307 2.jpg

Caitlin Doughty is obsessed with death—but in a good way.

She’s turned her fascination with funerals and corpses into a successful career as a mortician, activist, YouTube star, and bestselling author.

As founder of The Order of the Good Death, she’s spearheaded a movement called Death Positive, which give people various outlets to deal with their fears of death. Her funeral home, Undertaking LA, aims to treat the dead with dignity.

Caitlin’s books are must-reads for anyone interested in what becomes of your body after you become not living anymore. Her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, is a funny and morbid memoir about her life as a crematory operator and mortician. In in her new book, From Here to Eternity, Caitlin plays the role of the Bourdain of Death, reporting on the bizarre and sometimes beautiful death rituals in countries such as Indonesia, Japan, and right here in the U.S. of A.

In the podcast, we talk about the event that lead to her fascination with death, what it was like working at a crematory, how and why American culture is so weirded about death--and what we can do about it.