Author Q&A: Karen Burns, "The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl"
Today, Write On! speaks with Karen Burns, author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. The book, just released, is an illustrated career-advice book for young women, based on the 59 jobs Burns worked over a period of 40 years in 22 cities and four countries. The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl is Burns’ first book. And her 60th job.
When did you start writing?
When I was a tiny little girl. It’s all I ever wanted to do.
How did The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl come about?
More or less accidentally (despite my answer to the first question). I was taking a writing class and wrote about some of my jobs for an assignment. The teacher became intrigued with my vast work experience and encouraged me to write about it more. Once I calculated I’d indeed had 59 jobs the teacher said, “This could be a book.” The rest, as they say, is history.
How did you go about getting it published?
It took me two years to develop a marketable concept. My first idea was just little job anecdotes. Then I tried a full-fledged memoir. Finally I hit upon the anecdote/advice/illustration format; at that point it didn’t take too very long to find an agent (I had been researching agents all along). Once I had an agent she was able to find a publisher in around six weeks. It was a total of four and a half years from initial idea to published book.
What was your favorite part of the process? The greatest challenge?
Oh, my favorite part was writing it! I sold a proposal and sample chapters to the publisher; once I had a contract, I had to write the rest of the book. But it was wonderful. I learned that it is very different to write something that you know is going to be published (as opposed to writing and submitting). I look back at the year of writing as a sort of heaven. The greatest challenge? It’s now, promoting the book. Like many writers I am basically a shy person. It’s a stretch to put myself out there and sell my book. But I am giving it my darndest.
Did you find it easy or difficult to write something so personal? Please explain.
Heh heh. The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl is written from the point-of-view of Working Girl, a persona I created to tell the stories and hand out the advice. Writing the book became easy when it was Working Girl doing the talking, not me. Working Girl is sassier and bossier than I am and, I’m beginning to suspect, has a lot more fun.
What advice to you have for job seekers in this economy?
Finding a job is by and large a numbers game. The more networking you do, interviews you set up, cold calls you make, resumes you send out, and research you conduct, the more likely it is you will find a job. But that probably makes it sound too easy, and I don’t want to do that. It is HARD to keep on looking when you are having no success. So do what you need to do to strengthen and comfort yourself during the process. Most of all, seek the support of friends! We can’t do anything in this world without friends.
Any advice for writers?
Do it every day. Seek feedback. Read good writing. Constantly strive to improve your work. Oh, and it’s very helpful to join a good writers’ group.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
Hmmm. Wouldn’t that be cheating? Besides, everything I know now I had to learn in its time. And, while some of it was painful, I don’t think I would have wanted to miss a single step. It was all necessary.