Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A 1/2 Dozen for Rebecca Rasmussen

Here is a 1/2 Dozen with novelist

Rebecca Rasmussen

who gives advice on maxing your glutes to Lady Gaga,

on finding a partner willing to play banjo on the streets,


who even sings for us a little.

1. Current obsessions?

I am completely obsessed with the new treadmills at my gym. I mean, how cool!, the treadmills have a built-in radio and a thirty-minute program called “Glute Max” that I choose once a week, and once a week my glutes are indeed maxed out with Lady Gaga inevitably chanting, “I don’t want to be friends” at some point along the way. Yes, I am a big dork. Huge. But then, according to my logic, so is my local radio station.

I am also obsessed with the 72% dark chocolate bars at Trader Joe’s; they come in packs of three for under two dollars, which is truly dangerous and may be the reason I chose “Glute Max” in the first place.

(I am also a nail biter. Shhh. Don’t tell.)

2. What's your advice to a writer who's looking for a lifelong partner? Any particularly useful traits to suggest in said partner? (Do you want to tell us a brief love story here?)

Before I met my husband, when I was in college, I was looking for a man who would be willing to live on the streets not only for my dreams but for his, too. Someone who would be willing to give up comfort for artistic freedom. At several points in our twenties, my husband and I were one step away from him playing the banjo for money on a sidewalk and me counting shiny copper coins next to him, so my advice is to pick someone who believes in the value of art over money, dreams over practicality…that way when you get the warning about the gas being shut off, you’ll hand each other a sweater instead of a noose.

(Kidding. Just kidding.)

3. Writing Tip #17 for Aspiring Writers – or #47 or #2.

You are the only one who can make your dreams come true. Fight for them every step of the way. You’re worth it.

4. Tell us a tale from the publishing world – something, ANYthing about that process from your perspective.

Publishers are very large these days, and because of this, sometimes authors can feel a little forgotten and even a little disappointed in the attention or lack of attention their books are getting in-house. But instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and playing the blame game, which is destructive to everyone, I always tell my fellow newbie authors to play a more proactive one. Who knew Kennedy’s inaugural speech would come in so handy? My advice is this: ask not what your publisher can do for you, but what you can do for your publisher. Just because your publisher isn’t making your book the lead title for fall doesn’t mean you can’t stir up some buzz about your book yourself. Get moving. Get online. Spread your Facebook and Twitter wings. Devote yourself to this part of the process with the same guts and grit you devoted yourself to writing your book. At the very least, you will meet many lovely and amazing people who will become very good friends. (That’s a very least that’s pretty wonderful to live with!) And you know what? Your publisher will notice and love you for your hard work, for your strength of heart, your will to lift your book above the fray. They may even change their minds about how “little” your book really is!

5.What other jobs have you had -- other than writing or teaching writing? Did one of these help shape you as a writer?

I have been a camp counselor in northern Wisconsin, a hotel receptionist in southern Wisconsin, a cook at a ski resort in Colorado, a babysitter in Illinois, a copywriter in advertising land, and a waitress in Massachusetts—to name just a few jobs. Some, namely the uniform-less ones, were better than others. The camp counselor job is the one I remember the most fondly and is the one that helped shape me as a writer. Before I was a counselor, I went to a wonderful summer camp in Eagle River, Wisconsin as a camper for six summers. Learning how to sail; ride horses; swim; bead with dried penne pasta!; live with twelve other girls in a rustic cabin; make moldy towels smell better with Lysol; salt leeches and pull them off of my body, and sing songs with sixty other girls in a dining room changed my life. It gave me a kind of confidence and a sense of belonging that has helped me tremendously in my writing life, especially when I am saying yes, but my characters are saying no. Each year, my mother scraped and saved and waved goodbye to me for seven weeks because Camp Woodland gave me something that she couldn’t. (Thank you, Momma.)

I still think a lot about camp. About Sand Lake and Vespers Hill, about Treetops and Sunnyside and all the old cabins. I think about the land. I don’t know if my daughter will ever want to go to Woodland or not, but I sing this camp song to her every night (hoping) anyway:

May you sleep well tonight

Friends so good and true

Woodland Girls say goodnight and send sweetest dreams to you.

6. What’s your take on touring?

Well, I’m going on one in April and May, so here’s hoping they are worth it!

Rebecca Rasmussen is the author of the novel The Bird Sisters, forthcoming from Crown Publishers on April 12th, 2011. She lives in St. Louis with her husband and daughter and loves to bake pies. The Bird Sisters is now available for pre-order. Visit her at for more information.