How I Got That Story: Corbin Lewars, memoir

In this special issue, How I Got That Story presents, un-edited and unstoppable, the ‘zinster, blogger, writing mentor, and now memoirist, Seattle’s own … Corbin Lewars!!!

Ms. Lewars reads Tuesday, May 5, 7:00pm at Richard Hugo House as part of  David Schamder’s She Said: Women’s Lives in Poetry and Prose. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Corbin:

  • Authored Creating a Life: The Memoir of a Writer and Mom in the Making;
  • Blogs at Reality Mom;
  • Four times a year, publishes a ‘zine of the same name.
  • Other work published in Hip Mama, Midwifery Today, and Mamaphonic

What did you learn most, in the process of building toward then publishing your first book?

Writing books and/or articles is usually the easy part for me. I rarely suffer from writer’s block, so the main barrier to writing has always been time. So once I have something complete, it is agonizing for me to have to wait to hear from other people. And becoming published has been years of me waiting to feel validated as a writer by finding an agent and having articles published. And even once I had an agent and an editor for my book and several pieces published, I thought I could relax and finally stop waiting because I had “made it.” But then I started another memoir and the waiting process started all over again. Becoming a writer has taught me more about patience than years of meditation ever could.

The other big lesson occurred when I agreed to publish my book with a small press rather than hold out for a larger press. Again, this probably has a lot to do with I was tired of waiting, but Ariel Gore, my mentor at the time, told me that her experiences with small presses were usually far better and less riddled with bullshit that with larger presses. She also said that as a new author, the hand-holding and attention I would receive with a small press would be more worthwhile than the advance a larger press could offer. So I let go of the dream of the 6 figure advance and signed a contract with Catalyst Book Press.


Given your current success, what would you say was your tipping point?

Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed about being a writer. But dreaming about writing is relatively easy compared to taking the leap of faith to actually being one. Several tipping points occurred along the way. In 2001, I quit my steady, benefits and vacations paid, yet extremely boring job and started freelancing as an editor and writer. I taught writing, was the editor of Verve (folded a year later, but was fabulous while it lasted), and basically took any paying job that involved writing so I could have the time and energy for my own writing. Two years later, I hired Waverly Fitzgerald as my coach to help me complete a book proposal. Every time I met Waverly at Victrola she called me a writer and I started to believe it myself.

In October of 2005, on the day my daughter was born, I  signed a contract with my agent and thought, “Ahh, now I can relax because my book will be on the shelves of Barnes and Noble any day now.”

Three years later and two books later, I am still nowhere near the shelves of Barnes and Noble. Ariel, once again offered her sage advice and said, “You’ve fulfilled your side of the contract by writing the books, your agent didn’t fulfill her side by selling them, you need to find a new agent.” I followed her advice, but rather than looking for another agent, I started submitting my memoir to various small presses. Catalyst responded immediately and I signed a contract with them a couple of weeks later.

A  week later I arranged a literary event with 11 other writers at Hugo House and performed my first reading to a large audience without barfing. The following week I was interviewed on the radio and am finally able to relax into the knowledge that yes, this will continue to be difficult, but yes I will survive as a writer and no, I won’t have to ever sling cocktails again.

How many pieces do you have out for consideration at any given time?

While querying agents, I tend to do them in batches of 5 or so. Articles I only submit to one place at a time. When submitting my books to large presses, my agent would submit 5 or so at a time; but I would only query one small press at a time.

When you started writing, what were your top three DREAM PUBLICATIONS?

I always imagined that Creating a Life would be published by Seal Press. (Brooke emailed me they are out of the momoir business, so that didn’t happen)
My fiction, Swings, and current memoir, My Year of Pleasures, I want to be published by any large press because I guess I never did give up the dream of the big advance and a publicist to help with promotion. For my essays I wanted to be published in Hip Mama and Mothering (which I have been) and the ultimate, The Sun.

List your current DREAM PUBS.

Anyone who pays. :)

Tell me about your writing life, and where applicable, your life-life.

For six years, I was forced to be a naptime writer. I have two young children and I’ve written three books and many essays all during those blissful, but short moments. Or I write on Sundays, while they chase each other with scissors, or every once in a while late at night, but it’s hard to come down from that.

Last year, my daughter entered preschool and I separated from my husband, so I was able to luxuriate in weekends to myself to write (and play), and a couple of six hour intervals of uninterrupted time to work, which has helped my writing improve and be less scattered.

The biggest hurdle I hear my clients complain about is, “I don’t have time to write” Being a stay at home mom and trying to run my own editing business while also trying to publish books allows me the authority to say, “B*##$%!+.” Make the time.


Author: allehall

I am a writer. I write to explore childhood: literary essays and short fiction, journalism, and three haiku. My published work expresses my belief that everything which did or did not happen to me as a child is manifesting in everything that is or is not happening to me today. More importantly, it is also manifesting for my children. I believe funny is the new navel-gazing, and that the best funny keeps a penny's worth of serious in an accessible pocket. Little-known fact: I have a completed novel decorating the inside of a desk drawer. Perhaps it is not funny enough.

4 thoughts on “How I Got That Story: Corbin Lewars, memoir”

  1. Alle, thanks for this post. It’s great.
    And Camille, I do write about my kids. My latest blog post is about the vagina song my 4 year old made up for herself, so there you have it. Recently I have been self-absorbed and mostly have been writing about myself, but my kids make their appearances.
    And Alle is right, I do tend to swear a lot and talk about sex, so so far, my kids have not accompanied me to any of my readings. But some day this summer I’ll clean up the potty mouth and bring them 🙂
    As for the She Said reading with 6 other Seattle women authors, it is actually tomorrow, May 5, 7:00 at Hugo house. It’s free, so come join us if you can

    1. Thanks Corbin for that clarification. I write about my kids too. I swear a lot too, but that’s come out of the closet. They do too – at home. Alle and I are having this discussion about writing about one’s children and one of my “contentions” is that if you write, and you’re a mom, you almost can’t help it. I’ve been a mom for close to 20 years so its even harder for me to ban anything about my kids from my writing. I would have to ban part of my mind from use. I can always see the correlations between parenting and my “other” life. My kids are often very honest mirrors for my issues as well as my strengths and when I write about parenting adventures, sometimes I see what those moments might have to offer me for my personal growth – when I might not have seen them otherwise.
      Thanks for letting me know about the reading tonight. I think I’m “on duty” but if things are under control I’ll try and dash up there.

    1. Excellent point, Camille. She told me she does not. Nor does she bring them to her readings. “Because I swear.”

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