What Does An Author Assistant Do? (besides wear yoga pants)

Hi, guys! Amy here.

You may have seen my name floating around here for the past couple of years. I know I seem like the Phantom of the Opera, creeping around the rafters while J.T. shines brilliantly on the stage. Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering, Who is this Amy person, and what does she even do?

That’s a fair question, dear reader. 

Simply put, I’m J.T.’s assistant/business manager/right-hand/co-publisher.

See. I told you it was simple.

Long story short, my job is to make sure J.T. has as writing much time as possible, so she can continue to flood our bookshelves with thick, fat novels. I think it’s a noble calling, don’t you?

Okay, Amy, so how do you make sure J.T. writes all the books we love to devour? What does that look like?

I could make this metaphor with yoga pants, because I love them. And I wear them all the time. But for ease of visualization, let’s stick with hats, shall we?

Honestly, my job looks like a closetful of hats. Throughout my day, I wear about three or four of them, just take one off and put another on, for whatever the day entails.

Ever owned a small business? Are you a mom? You know what I’m talking about.

Here are a few of my most Frequently Worn Hats:

  1. Website Builder/Maintenance/I.T. Support
    In college, I majored in English. I minored in French. Nothing really prepared me to be in web design or maintenance, but here I am, captain of J.T.’s web properties! When J.T. asked me to build web pages for Two Tales Press and The Wine Vixen, I said, “Sure!” And then I sat at my computer and got my master’s degree in Google Searching, which I still use to this day. Thank goodness for Squarespace, savior of non-techies who need websites. If I can use Squarespace, anybody can use Squarespace.

  2. Social Media Scheduler/Meme Maker
    J.T. and I like you people a lot. And we enjoy talking to you! A big chunk of my job is to take the cool stuff we find online and make a home for it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Pretty pictures, funny pictures, inspirational quotes, nerdy book articles, Q&As on Wednesday: we talk about our favorite things, then I put them online for you to enjoy along with us.

  3. Idea Bouncer Off-er/Editor/Proofreader
    This is one of the most fun parts of my job. I get to be one of J.T.’s first readers on just about everything: books, blog posts, fun little pieces she writes around book launches. When I was four years old, I used to climb into my box of books and sit there and read for hours, dreaming of my favorite characters and wondering how I could read books for a living. Four-year-old Amy? She loves this part of the job. It’s as fun as it sounds.

  4. Co-Publisher
    In a past life, I was an editor for a Big 5 Publisher, and I still enjoy putting books together. Thankfully, I still get to do that in my current job. While I worked in a variety of roles at said-publisher, nothing could’ve prepared me for playing all of a publisher’s roles at the same time: acquiring editor, numbers-cruncher, content editor, production coordinator, salesperson, and marketer. There are unique skills to each of a publisher’s jobs, so it’s been fun to try my hand at everything.

  5. Media/Events/Marketing Coordinator
    If someone wants to book J.T. for an event, their first stop is yours truly. And as the resident Rain Man when it comes to dates, I make sure all of our five calendars (yes, five) are up to date, and that we’re on track to hit our target goals and deadlines (a consummate professional, J.T. needs no help with staying on deadline—that one’s for me).

  6. Frequent Post Office Visitor
    Oh, if you only knew how much mail book people send. I’m serious. When I was a publicist for said-Big 5 Publisher, I had at least one huge mailing (I’m talking 100+ books at a time) a week. While (thankfully) J.T. and I don’t send that kind of volume at once, I’m still at the P.O. a couple times a week. I wish they had punch cards; I could’ve had a dozen free sandwiches by now. 

  7. New Gadgets Tester
    There are a few personality traits I’m glad J.T. and I share: we both keep honing the way we work, we’re never completely satisfied with our status quo, and we enjoy being early adopters. This leads to us testing a new program or gadget at least a couple times a month, something we think may help us do our work better. Most of what we try gets rejected, but every once in a while we come across a diamond in the rough that makes our lives easier. I still think the best one we ever found was Vellum. What used to take days now only takes ten (!) minutes.

  8. Fellow Wine Enthusiast
    I owe my burgeoning wine obsession to J.T. Before I met her, I could point to a Moscato and say, “I like that because it tastes like Kool-Aid,” but that was about the extent of my wine knowledge. My boss has opened my eyes to all kinds of varietals and vintages, and how wonderfully wine can pair with food and company.

  9. Cat Wrangler
    I only wore this hat one time, over Christmas 2015, when Jameson the Silver Mackerel Tabby decided to eat, what is to this day, a mystery piece of green plastic. J.T. the Mama Cat was traveling and much to Jameson’s chagrin, I had to catch her, put her into cat carrier (which she despises more than anything), and take her to the vet. She didn’t speak to me for a while, but we’re okay now.

  10. It’s a Secret
    Sorry, I’m sworn not to talk about this one just yet . . . but it’s pretty freaking cool.

Thus ends my tour of the hat closet. And before you say it, I know: I hit the job lottery. 

I’m going to start shedding my Phantom persona, and you may see me a bit more often around here, talking about life behind the scenes (shelves?) as an author assistant, my favorite tools, and maybe even TV (because, y’all, I love TV—I love it so much). If you’ve got something you want to ask, feel free! Leave me a comment below, and I’ll take a blog post and answer it sometime.

See you later!
Amy/The Kerr

Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 1.29.17


Hello, dear readers. How's your Sunday? I hope you're getting some well-deserved R&R, or at least reading a good book or two.

This week? Not such a good writing week, y'all. I'm not really sure why, other than feeling very distracted, and all those little things added up to a lack of deep work. I'm still coming off last week's EMMY high, I suppose, and had a few things to take care of in the house. A few technical business issues to address, too (You'll notice a new system for getting this blog through email toward the end of today's Smatterings, for example.)

Que sera, sera, some weeks are just like this. I did get back in the groove Friday, thank heavens. The upcoming week will be calmer, more settled, and I'm looking forward to taking a deep breath and kicking it back into high gear.

Now that I've got that off my chest...

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Despite the changes happening in our country as of late, I think we book people can agree on a few things: we love our books, and we're passionate about supporting the people who dedicate their lives to their craft. Which is why you may be particularly interested in this piece from Book Riot on why the NEA and NEH should not be defunded

I was so sad to hear we lost an icon in Mary Tyler Moore. The New York Times did a particularly poignant piece on her groundbreaking career, a new kind of strong, capable, funny, and complex female character she made normal on the social landscape. She was a pioneer who will most certainly be missed.

Interested in winning a copy of Taylor #7, WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE, and 40 other paranormal romances? I bet you are.

Trying to find something to write about, but feeling uninspired? These 11 writing prompts from famous authors might get the wheels moving again.

A quiz for serious book nerds only: can you identify the author by just reading one paragraph?

Last but not least, Chapter 16 gathered the details of all the lovely awards and honors for Tennessee book folks last week. And there were quite a few. Nashville represents!


And closer to home:

If you've been locked in a closet or hibernating this past week, you may have missed that yours truly won an EMMY last week!!!!! 🎉😭 I'm still speechless about it, but I managed to say a few things about it on the Tao.*

Speaking of the Tao, did you know that you can get it delivered straight into your inbox? It's true! If you never want to miss a blog post from me, sign up to receive them via email, now in beautiful mobile form!

A few years ago, I co-wrote two novellas with my friends Erica Spindler and Alex Kava. They're three-part stories, each one featuring our landmark characters (i.e. mine have Taylor in them—BLOOD SUGAR BABY and WHITEOUT). I'm so pleased to announce that for the first time these novellas are available in PRINT! Click each cover to learn more (and don't worry, Kindle lovers: they're still available via ebook, too). 


That's it from me, chickens! Enjoy your week, watch some football (who are you pulling for, Patriots or Falcons? Or are you only watching for the commercials?) and we'll talk again soon.


*PS: We had a wee snafu sending the blog by email on Thursday. Apologies! The email gremlins have been summarily punished and vow not to screw things up again. 

I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

I rarely find myself at a loss for words. I am a writer, for heaven’s sake, words are my business. 

But since Saturday, I’ve been utterly speechless. 

I’m sure you’ve seen the posts on my social media feeds that A WORD ON WORDS won an EMMY Saturday night. Yes, a real EMMY, the gorgeous golden statue kind. It’s heavy. I choked up. Everyone involved was thrilled and excited and we all went for tacos afterward. Because #blacktietacos needs to be a thing. 

Truth is, I’m having trouble putting in to words the scope of this honor. My brilliant cohost, Mary Laura Philpott, had no such issue: 

ML's post said it all. My producer, Linda Wei, was eloquent in her acceptance. Our station’s president and CEO, the indomitable Beth Curley, who has more of these than we can count, made my night complete with tales of her past. Matt Emigh and Will Pedigo were more excited for us than themselves. Randy and Amy giggled and took pictures and otherwise made the table merry.

It was, in a word, perfect.

And I nearly missed it, because I almost said no when they asked me to host the show. I had a thousand reasons why—deadlines and commitments at the forefront, but in truth, it was because I was scared. Of the camera. Of the idea of being on television. Of putting myself out there in such a permanent way.

And if I had let my fear get the better of me, if I had stupidly declined, I wouldn’t have had this incredible experience Saturday night.

I think the reason I’m having trouble talking about it is because it’s made me sit back and reevaluate how I approach the world. How I want to interact with the people around me, and the issues we’re all facing.

Saturday, there was a little march you might have heard of. Many, many women that I know and love and respect got out there, and the pictures made me smile. Instead of braving the crowds, I spent the day developing a new character: a super strong, super capable woman who doubts herself, but ultimately becomes the hero we all need. 

You’ll hear about her soon, I hope, but trust me when I say she kicks serious ass, and is a lady whilst doing it. I wrote 4000 words Saturday. I felt her come to life under my fingers and in my mind.

And then I put on a gorgeous dress, did my hair, and went to an awards ceremony. (Yes, this is my life. I am overly blessed, and don’t think I don’t know it.) 

It isn’t lost on me that the Emmy statuette is female. I admit to doing a bit of research Sunday, and was fascinated by its provenance. From the EMMY website:

The statuette of a winged woman holding an atom has since become the symbol of the Television Academy's goal of supporting and uplifting the arts and science of television: The wings represent the muse of art; the atom the electron of science. 

Note the words: The muse of art.

You know how much I believe in the muse. I honor mine in as many ways as I can so she and I can work together regularly, not get on each other’s nerves, and find a lot of common ground even when we don’t agree. Love, and nagging, and nurturing, that’s how we keep each other happy and focused. Supporting, and uplifting.

Interesting, when you think of it. This is very much how my female friends and I interact. 

We all get access to and respect our muse in different ways. Whether through feet and signs, or through words printed on the page, or through a visual medium like television. 

A Word on Words is, to me, the ultimate celebration of the muse. Mary Laura and I are both authors, charged with interviewing incredible authors. To give you some perspective, five of our guests are on this year’s NBCC list. That’s a pretty high caliber of talent. 

But it’s more than that. This show has been on the air in Nashville for more than forty years. John Seigenthaler was its original host, and over the years that man interviewed hundreds, HUNDREDS, of incredible authors. I was beyond honored to be one of the many authors he interviewed (in case you didn’t already know, John was my first interview, ever.

When he passed, it looked like his literary tradition might pass with him, but through the tireless efforts of Beth and Linda, the kind funding of Judy and Steve Turner, and the support of our Nashville Public Television team, the show was reborn. A phoenix from the ashes, we came back to life as what’s called an “Interstitial” which is a short snippet that airs post- or pre- a regularly scheduled show. 

I LOVE this definition I found. 

Interstitial art: any work of art whose basic nature falls between, rather than within, the familiar boundaries of accepted genres or media.

We fall between the boundaries of accepted genres, not within… 

It made me think about the four of us, the two hosts, the producer, the station lead. Women, all.

My cohost is a comedian, an artist, and a brilliant essayist. My producer was already an EMMY-award winner prior to this, known for another Nashville show, ARTS Break, and is wicked smart and very creative. The station President is a reformed English major who is a dynamic leader and tireless believer in the importance of public television. And then there’s me, the thriller author. 

I’d say all four of us fit this interstitial description well, that our talents fall between, not within, the boundaries of our chosen fields, and maybe, that allows us to transcend them a bit. It certainly felt like that on Saturday night, when I was standing on a stage in a gorgeous dress holding a gold statue.

There are so many people who make this show incredible. Matt and Will, who were up on stage with us, are our backbone. Susie and Paul and Jim and Sean, who work tirelessly behind the cameras on the shoots to make everything look so good. Amy, who helps me get to know our authors whom I haven’t read before, which helps the interviews go smoother. Ariel Lawhon, who did a lot behind the scenes to help me when we first started. Our whole NPT family, who loved John’s show and wanted to see it succeed in this format. The viewers, who have embraced us wholeheartedly, and keep asking for more. The authors we’ve had on as guests, who have been patient and kind and willing to laugh, and go on locations which have been creative, to say the least (jail, Margaret Atwood?). The city of Nashville, and all the sites where we’ve filmed, for allowing us to invade their worlds for half a day. Our booksellers and literary community, who have tirelessly worked to help us promote the show. Our sponsors, who sit quietly but powerfully in the background.

We share this celebration of the muse with all of you. 

And now, I really do have to thank the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for their acknowledgement of our efforts. It means a lot to me. 

I have no other words but these: Please, please, keep reading. It makes all the difference.

Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 1.22.17

Hello, chickens! How are y'all doing? Did the sun peek through winter skies in your neck of the woods? It finally did here on Friday, and it was glorious. I'd forgotten how much I'd missed it.

It was another big writing week at Chez Ellison. I must say, it's nice to be home for large swaths of time. When my routine settles into consistency, I can settle down, too, get into work or play much easier than when I'm running to and fro every couple of weeks. Work on the new standalone is humming along. Oh, and I got to gather with a few of my writers friends, too, laughing over queso and swapping stories at lunch. Don't forget to make time with your people, the ones who get you, who make you heart happy. A happy heart is a thankful one, a kinder one, a focused one. 


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

When we bade farewell to Downton Abbey last yearMasterpiece on PBS had big shoes to fill. Downton's regal replacement, VICTORIA, premiered in the US last weekend, and I have to say, Masterpiece might have a winner. A few weeks ago I saw a screener (because of my sweet PBS hookup), and I really enjoyed it!

Judging by the wait times on your library's hold list, you can probably pinpoint which books are the most popular in your hometown. But do you wonder if the same book is flying off the shelves in Dallas, or Atlanta, or San Francisco? Wonder no more, fellow reader: these were the most popular library books around the country in 2016.

If you're looking to get a jump on your spring cleaning, maybe clearing the extra stuff that finds its way into your house, read this article from Being Minimalist: 8 Simple Strategies for When You're Struggling to Declutter. Even if you're not Marie Kondo, you can handle this.

I am the reigning Queen of the Notebook Nerds, and I can prove it: this week, Quo Vadis Planners & Notebooks invited me to talk about how I organize my life and work. I laid out all of my Type-A for y'all. Don't say I didn't warn you.

And Closer to Home:

Heads up: if you're looking forward to the next Nicholas Drummond book, mark your calendar for THE DEVIL'S TRIANGLE's release on March 14! If you'd like a copy signed by Catherine and yours truly, you can pre-order one from Barnes & Noble.

This week on the Tao, I talked about what I'm into this month (spoiler alert: delicious tea and cookies ahead), and I pondered the merits of being a prolific or consistent writer.

That's it from me! Enjoy this week, take a friend to lunch or coffee, hug your kitties, and we'll talk again soon.


What I'm Into (January 2017)

Here's a quick roundup of the stuff that's turning my crank this month!

The Genius Deck

I haven’t been stuck, per se (ahem, she says, she who doesn’t believe in writer’s block), but I have been fighting with this new manuscript, and when I came across The Genius Deck, I fell, hard. The idea of lateral thinking to boost creativity isn’t new, but when you’re fighting something that shouldn’t be hard, it’s revelatory. I played around with it a bit this afternoon and ended up with 500 new words on the book. So it does work. 


My new MacBook Pro’s keyboard

I was gifted a new laptop for Christmas, and I have to say, the new MacBook keyboards are pretty freaking cool. The keys are bigger, and placed closer together. When I move back to my Air for a few things, I feel like my fingers are spread out all over the place. A huge improvement in my eyes. Plus — OMG, retina screen! And Emoji touchbar! It’s not really useful yet, but it is fun to play with. I can see how it will eventually be a very powerful tool.

Alyssa’s Healthy Oatmeal Bites

My husband and I are dropping soy from our diet entirely, which means a whole new set of hidden ingredients to be on the lookout for. Soy lethicin, the sludge leftover from soy production, is in EVERYTHING… So when I came across these healthy oatmeal cookie bites from Alyssa’s, I jumped for joy. There is simply nothing bad for you in them, and they are delicious. I love it when something addictive is good for you. 

Moroccan Mint tea

I’ve always been a fan of spearmint, and this Moroccan Mint is my favorite. Great to have an an afternoon pick me up, or for an upset stomach, it’s rich and flavorful, and have the best scent! Makes brilliant iced tea, too.


ReadKit - AKA Instapaper and Feedly in one place

When I was setting up the new MacBook, I had to decide what apps I wanted to download. I had heard the battery life wasn’t very good. Though I’ll tell you, I’ve been working nonstop since 11 A.M. today and I’m at 47% with 3+ hours remaining, so not too bad… that should be a full 10 hours, which is what they say, plus my wi-fi’s been on the whole time. It’s varied quite a bit since I got it, the battery really does depend on the actions, so I’m looking forward to the update with the promised fixes.

Anywho, I had to think through what I wanted to port over. ReadKit is a big part of my workflow. I use Instapaper for articles to read later, and Feedly for my RSS feeds, and I send research articles to Evernote from both places, as well as to Buffer, when I want to share with y’all. ReadKit lets me put both Instapaper and Feedly in a single interface, which is beautiful and easy to navigate. It’s only for the Mac—I still use the individual apps when I’m reading on my iPad—but I’ve been using it for years and love it. Highly recommended.

What are you into this month?