# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
Hi! I’m Jennifer Lieberman, from Maple, Ontario, Canada. I’m a multi-hyphenate writer-actor-producer and have appeared in over thirty stage productions in Toronto, New York City, Los Angeles, Europe and Australia; including my Award-Winning Solo Show Year of the Slut, which was adapted into my novel Year of the What?
In addition to my performance career I’ve penned a number of screen and stage plays including the wacky web-series Dumpwater Divas as well as the short films Leash and Details which both screened at the Festival De Cannes’ Court Métrage among other international film festivals.
I also have a weekly vlog I Never Thought I Would… where I interview fellow authors about doing things they never thought they would and the amazing places it led them.
As for my books, I’ve written one chick lit novel Year of the What? adapted from my solo show Year of the Slut, one erotic poetry book Aural Sex: Naughty Notes for Lovers and two ‘how to’ books Make Your Own Break: How To Master Your Virtual Meeting in Seven Simple Steps and Make Your Own Break: How To Record & Publish Your Audiobook In Seven Simple Steps.
# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
My latest book and first novel is called Year of the What?, adapted from my award-winning solo show Year of the Slut. It’s a racy coming of age comedy.
So first there is the story of why I wrote the play. When I first moved to LA a friend suggested I write a showcase piece to let people know I exist, so I created a funny, sexy and heartfelt show to showcase both my writing and acting ability and range. I played 10 characters, and like in the movie “La La Land” no one really came…but I stuck with developing the show and went on to win an award for it in New York City. After the show’s success in New York I was encouraged to adapt it into a book and from there the story took on a life of its own.
The story for both the show and the book began based on my life moving to New York City as a naive 20 year old from small town Canada and the best friend character as my roommate. However, once the world of the show and it’s specific goals and motives took over…and then those of the book, the story continued to get reincarnated evolving in different ways every time so now it is only loosely based on my life.
# What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Everything that triggers an emotional response inspires me; I guess the desire to share emotional experiences, a desire to reflect and process emotions. Isn’t that why we all tune into each other’s stories, to feel something? Of course I want to be engaging and entertaining but my work always has some emotional undercurrent I’m trying to make sense of in my own life.
# How do you deal with creative block?
Although I’ve been stuck many times in the past, I’ve never had writer’s block, at least I refuse to call it that. What I refer to as writer’s block is when one is stuck and chooses to have a battle of wits with one’s imagination to bleed a stone. I simply refuse to do that. I don’t see the point of fighting with myself, that only fuels my doubt and discouragement. I know that one day or one week of inspired writing or being in the zone will yield a better product than weeks or months of forced writing. So, during these times of feeling blocked I choose to take a much kinder and gentler approach. I walk away. I walk away from the screen, from my desk, from the story and I let it breathe. Let me be clear, I’m talking specifically about the process of creating new ideas, not about being lazy during editing.
# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make writing a book is not taking advantage of free resources like family or friends to join your ‘support squad.’ I don’t mean all of them and I don’t mean all at once. Making it to the finish line with your book is gonna take stamina, it’s going to take perseverance, it’s going to take throwing pages out (or deleting them) and giving up on the whole thing at least five times (sometimes that many in one night). Inviting a few special people to be ‘in’ on the journey with you can be really cool for them and the secret spice that gets you to ‘the end.’
What am I talking about? Ok, let’s say you have a chapter written, or two or five (or the whole book), this could be a great time to have a few trusted friends over who all enjoy reading and read regularly (that part is important), they don’t all have to know each other, they don’t all have to be close friends, but the book thing should be a common jumping off point. Have a small group over and have them read a chapter or two with you each taking turns every few pages. It’s amazing what a few hours can do for your process. First of all everyone will be so excited #1 that you are writing a fabulous book, #2 that they got included in the inner circle and #3 that they get to help encourage you to do something so cool.
I had a squad of five friends who were with me on my journey, they read many different versions of the book over many years, they encouraged me along the way, pointed out when I was getting off track with the story, and were the ones who made me feel like I had a shot. So I’d say if you are not getting support from the people around you that would be a big mistake.
# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
My advice here would be to lean on your support group, brainstorm titles, try them out, google them to see if they’ve already been used. As much as being a writer is a solo sport, this process still needs collaboration, it takes a village.
I would also advise beta testing some titles and rough mock-up images prior to your launch on social media and social media ads. I had the unfortunate situation of getting censored due to my original title Year of the Slut although I could sell the book on amazon I couldn’t get approved for any ads due to their community standards. I had the same issues with Facebook and Instagram. I was even turned down by 3 publicists because of the word slut. So after a year and a half of being ‘dead in the water’ I decided to rebrand and relaunch as Year Of The What?
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
It never feels good to get negative feedback or reviews but it’s all part of the process. As a creative it’s important to have conviction for what we are doing and it’s also important to understand not everyone is gonna like it, and that’s ok, there’s lots of stuff I don’t like either. Negative feedback can be a taste issue, however, if you keep getting the same negative feedback about the same areas in your work, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate and learn how to improve, or maybe your style is just ahead of the time…
One of the ways I deal with negative feedback is to try to get enough credible eyes on my work before it goes public, that’s one way to flesh out the writing.
How I deal with it: my go to when I get negative feedback is to call one of my champions, (sometimes a friend, sometimes a mentor) and tell them I’m bummed about the negative feedback and because they’re on my team they inevitably will reassure me but also help me process what part of the feedback is useful and encourage me to learn and improve from the experience.
# How has your creation process improved over time?
My creative process has definitely evolved over the years. When I was younger I was impatient and impulsive and less concerned with process so simply completing something that was good, was ‘good enough’. I didn’t realize how many drafts and eyes and feedback it takes to make something great.
About ten years ago I was at a screening for the Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey Jr. He was asked how long in advance he begins to learn his lines. He explained to the audience that he doesn’t learn the lines in advance because the script is ever evolving even once the production is shooting because “great pieces are not written, they are rewritten and rewritten and rewritten.” This comment always stuck with me and has definitely informed my process.
# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best thing about writing Year of the What? was the extent to which I kept surprising myself with the depths of my imagination; there is no better feeling as an artist than surprising myself with my own ability, going further and doing better than I believed I was capable of.
The worst thing was a lot of rejection and one editor in particular who just didn’t get it and wasn’t into my work, because of her harsh feedback and my own insecurity I shelved the book for over two years and was going to abandon it all together.
There were so many surprising things about the process starting with the number of friends and family who kept on me, encouraging me to get to the finish line. One friend drove me to Las Vegas and put me up in the Barbie suite at the Palms Hotel so I could get to an author conference to pitch my book to publishers. A stranger at a coffee shop connected me with an editor who is also a #1 New York Times Best Selling author after a random chat over her cool nail polish. Finally the person responsible for the final push I needed to get the book out there after many years of rejection and discouragement was my boyfriend; not only did he read the manuscript but he really enjoyed it and was behind me 100% to get it out into the world. The reason this was the most surprising is because when I originally wrote the play version and started performing the show my old boyfriend at that time was very uncomfortable with the piece and didn’t encourage or support it. I guess the lesson here was to move forward with your passion even if the path isn’t clear because with each step you take you will be connecting with people who are meant to get you closer to your goal. Or in other words “if you build it, they will come.”
# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
It’s definitely a tricky balancing act harmonizing the personal satisfaction in my work versus serving the audience. I do have to be passionate and emotionally attached to my work, however if I can’t connect with my audience the work is self serving. I learned a great lesson about this balance while doing stand up comedy. I’m not the type of comedian to go for a cheap laugh, I want to talk about things that matter to me. The audience is there and paying good money for tickets and a two drink minimum for one reason, to laugh and have a good time. As long as I make them laugh and have fun I can talk about whatever I want, but they didn’t come to listen to my problems, those of society, or the world at large. So I see it as an unwritten contract between artist and audience – I can only get what I want in my work if I present it in a way where my audience gets what they want, then everyone is happy.
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
All of my creativity is fueled by emotion; that is the purpose of art, to move and inspire and rattle people’s emotions. If I don’t feel anything for my work or in my work how will I inspire my audience to feel anything?
# Do you have any creativity tricks?
My creative tricks are to stay immersed in the art world and to stay inspired. I am an avid patron of the arts, be it live music, dance, theatre, performance art, film, paintings, sculpture, installations, etc. I consider it part of my job to see and experience art all the time. I also let life affect me, I don’t run from my emotions when they come up, I let them flow onto the page.
# What are your plans for future books?
I have so many plans for future books. I’m currently working on book #2 of the Year of the What? series, Year of the Bitch.
I also have a series of ‘how to books’ I’m chipping away at for my film and theatre production consulting business Make Your Own Break. So far I have two of them published: Make Your Own Break: How to Record and Publish Your Audiobook in 7 Simple Steps and Make Your Own Break: How To Master Your Virtual Meeting In 7 Simple Steps. These two books came up because they were pandemic relevant, however the focus for the next ones will be independent film and theatre production to accompany my workshops producing workshops.
# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
Some quirky facts about me: I’m an African Canadian Ginger Jew. I think it’s funny to say all those words together. My mom immigrated to Canada from Tunisia, North Africa which catches most people by surprise because I don’t fit the typical North African description (if there is such a thing).
I’m also a nature girl, my favorite place to be is on a mountain top at moonrise. I’m a yoga-holic and practice almost every day because it just feels good and after over a decade of competitive gymnastics (beating up my body on a regular basis) it’s a lifesaver. I’m a vegan and I try to live as sustainably as possible. The year 2019 was a no plastic challenge for me, I was so proud of what I achieved that year in terms of changing my mindset but once the pandemic hit, the safety precautions kind of forced me to revert to less sustainable practices – like for example buying sealed groceries in packaging instead of bulk groceries and bringing my own containers. I’m also a total nerd and Buffy-a-holic. Yes, I’m obsessed with the Buffy The Vampire Slayer series, I own the entire series (on DVD from back in the day) and have binged it more times than I’d like to admit. My dream in life is to be Buffy when I grow up…because, well, how cool would that be? She does backflips and sleeps with vampires #goals.
Year of the What? Links
FB & IG @yearofthewhatnovel
Jennifer Lieberman Links
FB, IG & Twitter @iamjenlieberman