Meet Magazine Writer and Published Author, Sarah Jio
I first blogged about magazine writer and novelist Sarah Jiolast year during this post when she inspired me to write about Love Our Bodies Week (see the post on Glamour.com here). Since then I have thought to myself countless times, "She's such an inspiring person. Wouldn't she be an incredible person to interview?" And then she wrote a book and was kind enough to send me an early copy. I read it and fell in love with her all over again.
Today is a very special day for her because her long anticipated novel, The Violets of March, debuts to the public. She was kind enough to answer some questions about her writing career, how she cracked into the publishing business, and how she balances her hectic schedule (she recently did a telephone interview with THE Gwyneth Paltrow while breast feeding her newborn son.)
Dancing Branflake: Your life seems surreal. You are married with three beautiful children, you are the Health and Fitness blogger for Glamour.com, you just published your first novel, and you already wrote your second. Do you ever wake up in the mornings and think "Is this really my life?"
Sarah Jio: I feel so grateful for this life, and yet, your question reminded me that I’m not grateful enough, sometimes. I get to do what I love and raise my boys, which is all I can ask for in life, really. But, I’ll be honest, I grumble a lot. Whether it’s about fussy kids, work deadlines, the messy house, or a dog who attempted to chew up the 2-year-old’s teddy bear—again—it’s easy to forget how lovely things are and focus on the negative stuff. So, thank you for reminding me of that. I’ve just hit the reset button on my attitude!
DB: There are many bloggers aspiring to be published authors but it's a hard industry to crack into. You often hear stories of writers submitting their works to publishers, only to be rejected time and again. What was your experience submitting your novel to publishers?
SJ: I am fortunate to have an amazing literary agent who did all the heavy lifting for me. Well, I still had to write the book, but she submitted to publishers, handled the auction of the book, and continues to have my back. As tough as the industry is to break into, I still think that editors and publishers are still hungry for good stories, and if you have a dream of being published, don’t give up on it. I wrote my books while pregnant or tending to new babies. It wasn’t ideal, but I got my butt in my chair each night and worked hard, and eventually, I had a novel, then two, and now, almost, three!
SJ: I had written for the print magazine for several years when an editor there called me to say they were looking for a health blogger for their newly revamped Web site. She asked me to submit a few sample posts and I did, nervously awaiting her response. I desperately wanted the gig, but I was worried too—if I got it, it would mean a daily, rain-or-shine, sick-or-not, deadline of 5 to 7 posts per day. Yep, I got the job, and three years later, I can say it was one of the best things I ever signed on to do. I get to write about topics that energize and excite me (I love health and fitness news!), and get to interact with women all around the world who are actively striving, like me, to live healthier lives. And, my editors at Glamour (both print and online) are just amazing. Kind. Understanding. Supportive. Not an ounce of diva-dom.
DB: What sacrifices did you have to make to get to where you are now and were they worth it?
SJ: A great question, because you are so right: It takes work! I have joked for the past few years that I don’t have a life. That’s partially true. I don’t go out a lot (which is mostly due to the fact that I have small children), but even before that, I’d often opt for a quiet night in working on a magazine article or a book project than meet the girls out for dinner. I’ve also made it my thing to avoid TV (though I do get sucked in by “The Bachelor” when it’s on, and I’ve developed a scary fascination with the “Real Housewives” shows on Bravo—eeks).
DB: What three books have influenced you the most?
A: Such a tough one to answer, but here’s the list of the moment: 1.) The Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which really were the first chapter books I began reading as a youngster—these cemented my love of reading, 2.) Tara Road and a million other titles by Maeve Binchy—when reading her books, I hoped to be a writer with an ounce of the same story-telling talent that she has, 3.) Sarah’s Key—this newish book grabbed me so intensely I actually had to set it down for a while and take a break for a few nights. This book reminded me of how important it is, for an author, to grab a reader emotionally.
DB: What book are you reading right now?
SJ: My friend Katie over at Being Five actually dropped off Caroline Kennedy’s new book, She Walks in Beauty, for me (she knew I couldn’t make the reading so she brought me a signed copy. How amazing is that?!), and I’ve just cracked the spine.
(The German cover for The Violets of March)
DB: To write a novel you have to have an incredible amount of self discipline. What is your writing schedule? Any tips on how to stay on task?
SJ: I am very strict about writing every night, even if it’s just a little bit. I do much of my magazine and blog work during the day, and I save fiction for the night, when the kids are in bed and when there is peace in the house. (Even better if it’s rainy outside and I can crack my window open and listen to the rain falling outside!). It’s really amazing what you can get done in the evenings if you set your mind to it and avoid the couch/remote control (which I do fall victim to now and again!).
DB: Your novel reveals an intricate web of secrets and heartache yet you seem so carefree and mellow. Is this novel a reflection of your life in any way?
SJ: I wish my life was that interesting! I think I made up this story to entertain myself because my family life is so vanilla! Well, that’s not entirely true—every family has their stories! But the truth is that I just had a lot of fun creating the mystery in my novel. I didn’t set out to write a book that had a mysterious element or even darker sub-plots, but the story just came to me so vividly. It sounds so weird, but sometimes I think about the characters in VIOLETS as if they are real people. I spent so much time with them in my head, it seems only natural to wonder about them now and then. I’d love to meet Bee, in particular.
DB: What is your personal motto?
SJ: I really love the little saying, “keep calm and carry on.” It’s not really my motto, per se, but I come back to this statement a lot, especially when life is so hectic. AND, I recently saw the most lovely tweet on twitter. It said something like, “In everything you do, try to do it with just a little bit more kindness.” Loved that!
DB. What three words would you use to describe your life right now?
SJ: Caffeinated. Creative. Hopeful.
DB What three words do you hope to describe your life in ten years?