My Letter to Fear
by Patricia Steffy
Over the course of two years, Steffy conducted interviews with the fabulous women around her and their equally fantastic friends. She put no restrictions on age, or ethnicity. They just needed to be willing to answer some questions. The questions covered a variety of topics, including aging, body image, abuse, rape, addiction, confidence, loss, beauty myths, and fear. Steffy asked them about the expectations they had for their lives when they were very young versus their current realities as adults. She asked them to tell her the best things about themselves (a question which was surprisingly difficult for people to answer) and the worst things. Those answers—the funny, the heartbreaking, and the hysterical—and her own experiences became the basis for these essays.
From Beautiful Women
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to get a woman to admit that she is beautiful? Seriously. Give it a try. Ask five of your friends right now if they are beautiful. You might get their best two minute stand-up routine on why they are “FINE,” but a quiet moment of admission is rare—even from women who are held up by society as being examples of physical perfection.
Do we demur because we’re afraid that an admission of beauty makes us shallow, vain or arrogant? Or do we deny so that we can beat others to it? Ask a woman what she loves about her looks, and you’ll see her searching for an answer. Is she looking for an acceptable answer, or is she genuinely searching for something that she wouldn’t change?
Now ask a woman what she hates about her looks. Watch her not even pause …
Patricia Steffy: Things I Wish I Knew About Being an Author I Didn’t Know Before
There are so many things I wish I had known about becoming an author before I became one – and oddly enough only a couple of them have to do with the actual writing process.
“My Letter to Fear” is a collection of essays based on interviews with women covering topics like dating, starting over at a “certain age,” abuse, addiction, rape, unmet life expectations, beauty myths and other issues. I very much allowed the interviews to shape follow-up questions, as well as shape the direction of the next round of interviews and writings. While I love how open women were with me, and I think there are some powerful and very funny things in the book, the order and flow certainly changed because of the approach. Taken as isolated essays, I think that’s a huge benefit. You can pick the book up and read one or two, or skip ahead to ones that cover topics that speak to you at that moment. But to sit down and read it cover to cover, it may end up feeling disjointed because it doesn’t follow the original division of “body, mind, soul” that I had planned.
I did not anticipate how hard it would be to create a unified voice. While most of the experiences in the book are not my own, they are written from my perspective on the stories told to me. It may have been interesting to keep the pieces in the original voices, and essentially create “characters” for different experiences. Maybe next time!
I wish I had known how important putting a Forward into a collection like this would be. I opted to provide the background on the process and the collection on the back cover (and in the blurbs for the sales channels). Because I read all of those things when I am choosing a book, I made the assumption that most other people would. That turned out not to be true. Lesson learned!
I wish I had known exactly how important having a platform before trying to publish would be. Writers embarking on your first books – it is incredibly important! It’s not just about eventual sales figures (though that helps), it’s about getting published in the first place. People are risk adverse, and they are looking for any way they can to hedge their bets on a new author. If you give them an already engaged audience, you are a step up on everyone else. I did not have a strong platform going into it, and that didn’t help – particularly when dealing with something that is essentially non-fiction and multi-person memoir.
Along the promotion lines, I wish I had known that I had to start promoting the release of the book six months ahead of doing it. Honestly, I was still writing the book six months ahead of publishing it, so my brain was definitely not yet in the promotion space. I so wish I had paid more attention. I had a very naive thought that the work would just pull people to it. There are simply too many other people, particularly in indie publishing, who are also producing interesting work not to prepare for the eventual launch. I also found out the hard way how few people are interested in writing press pieces about a book that has already been “on the shelf” for a couple of months. Another lesson learned!
There were some positives lessons, of course. I had no idea how connected I would feel to the women who were telling me their stories. I had no idea how emotionally connected I would get to the writing process. When I was really engaged in the writing, I would laugh or cry (and sometimes both) as I was typing. I learned pretty quickly that I only really wanted to write in private spaces – not just for concentration but because I’m sure other coffee shop patrons would be fairly alarmed to witness that kind of emotionally cathartic process while trying to eat their morning muffins.
I have emerged from this process smarter. The overall response to the book has been so positive, and I love how many people have urged me to continue to write and to take my humorous and wryly observational style into fiction. In fact, I plan to do just that in 2017.
Thank you for reading!!
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Patricia Steffy attended Kenyon College and American University. She is a recent refugee from the corporate world where she worked as an analyst for a law firm for more than 16 years. An escape plan started to develop as she pursued her interests as a writer and producer through Circe’s World Films. She has been involved in co- and exec-producing a number of feature and short films ranging from broad comedy to psychological drama, including the award-winning short Touch. She is currently developing Dating in LA and Other Urban Myths as a web series. The series is based on her long-running blog of the same name.
Pieces from My Letter to Fear were featured in a one-night only special showcase event. The showcase was directed by Danielle Turchiano and featured readings from Nikki DeLoach (Awkward.), Lesley Fera (Pretty Little Liars), Stevie Lynn Jones (Crisis), Jen Lilley (Days of Our Lives), Roma Maffia (Pretty Little Liars), Dennisha Pratt (The Sunny Side Up Show), and Carla Renata (Hart of Dixie). You can see excerpts from the readings here.
Book Buy Links
Patricia Steffy will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.