Lessons from Julie & Julia

Just saw the movie, Julie & Julia. Several friends had recommended it to me, in part because Julie’s blog became a book — exactly the feat I’m trying to pull off.

What’d I learn from it?

Julie’s blog was successful largely because she put her soul into it. She wasn’t just writing about recipes, she was writing about her life. Julie’s readers felt like they knew her. I remind myself how important this is every time I feel like deleting an embarrassing scene from my book. Today my mom read one of my chapters, just for fun. She liked it, of course — she’s my mom, how could she not? But she was surprised by two paragraphs in which I revealed a bit about my love life. Yes, I explained to her, it’s personal. But those personal parts are what make the book great. Without them, it’s a boring travelogue.

Julie got a book deal because of a newspaper story. This is a lesson for all of us — getting pieces of your book into newspapers, magazines, blogs, or other publications will increase your chances of being published. Put your work out there so a literary agent or editor will come to you. Julie got lucky; she was interviewed by a newspaper reporter. But you can make your own luck by submitting stories to publications. While traveling, I freelanced for newspapers, and now I’m using pieces of those stories, or experiences I had while reporting them, for my book. Of course, at the time I didn’t know I would write a memoir. But getting your byline out there can never hurt.

It took Julia a long while to get her book published. But her perseverance paid off. After much hard work and a few rejections, her cookbook was finally published — and now it’s in its 49th printing. How’s that for success?

Who else saw the movie? Any lessons I overlooked?