Sloane Crosley: Great Writer, Terrible Painter

Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley has been slapped with more labels in her few years as a writer than most celebrities experience in their entire career. She’s the “21st century Dorothy Parker,” or a mix of David Sedaris and Carrie Bradshaw. She’s a writer with a “mischievous” streak, a literary socialite, a “non-threateningly pretty” woman who is also a master of the art of “self-effacement” both in her memoirs and in person.

Those who read her work seem to end up with one of two conclusions. Either they praise her as one of the funniest women writing today, or they bash her for being… well, one of the funniest women writing today.

Crosley began her literary career as a publicist in New York (correction: as the most popular publicist in New York) representing some of the biggest writers out there including Jonathan Lethem, Colson Whitehead and Jonathan Ames. And then something unbelievable happened. In 2004, she sent out an e-mail to a bunch of friends, including Ed Park, the editor of the Village Voice, about how she had accidentally locked herself out of her old apartment while trying to move into a new one. Park thought her story was so funny that he told Crosley to flesh it out a bit and then published it in the Village Voice. This was Crosley’s first published work but far from her last.

Every writer dreams something like this will happen, that some influential person will take notice of their work and put it in print, and Crosley undoubtedly had dreams of this too. Before accepting the job as a publicist at Random House, she had majored in creative writing in college and interned at the New Yorker. Now, with a published story under her belt, she started writing more for the Village Voice and other publications, and in 2008, she released her first book, a memoir called I Was Told There’d Be Cake, which ended up being hugely popular.Last month, she followed that up with her second book, a memoir titled How Did You Get This Number?

Oh and by the way, all the while she has continued to work as a publicist.

Crosley was kind enough to answer a few of our questions recently be e-mail before heading off to do another book tour in Europe.

Opening Lines: Growing up, did you have any other creative ambitions besides becoming a writer?

Crosley: I loved painting and drawing but it turns out I’m not a very good artist.  If you put me in one of those restaurants with paper tablecloths and a glass of crayons, I can impress people. But I know my limits and that’s pretty much it.

Opening Lines: Were you hesitant at all in the beginning about seeing your personal stories end up in print?

Crosley: I don’t think of them as that personal. Emotionally, they are very personal. But I don’t think of them as play-by-play memoir and all my secrets gushing out onto the page. That helps offset much – not all, but much – of the hesitation.

Opening Lines: What is the hardest part about trying to balance your career as a writer with your day job as a publicist, besides of course the incredible amount of strain it must put on your schedule?

I think you should set out to do as many things you truly love as possible and hope you can make a living doing them.

Crosley: I think that’s just it – the schedule strain. I know I need to take a breath or a day away from everything if I find I can’t be creative.  When you’re just trying to make sure everything gets done, you have to be careful to keep reading and keep writing. Because you actually don’t need to think of new things to write the way you need to, say, do laundry.

Opening Lines: Going forward, do you see yourself moving away from nonfiction one day and writing short stories or something else?

Crosley: I hope to write both in the future. I am writing both now. So the future is now. Oooo, ahhh.

Opening Lines: What questions should you ask yourself before you decide to try and make a living writing about your own life?

Crosley: Honestly? Don’t ask yourself that question because you won’t like the answer.

Opening Lines: What’s your advice for those debating whether to pursue a career in memoir writing?

I think the capsule review of most peoples lives are pretty mundane. It’s all in the telling.  Unless you’ve been through 8 wars and probed by drug lord aliens. Then it’s in the story.

Beyond that,I think you should set out to do as many things you truly love as possible and hope you can make a living doing them.  But a) so few people make enough money from just writing to make it a whole life and b) that shouldn’t hold you back ever.

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