Have you ever done the freelance thing? Bouncing from job to job to pay the bills? Liz Alterman began her career as a freelance writer working in corporate america on topics like finance, energy, and manufacturing. Not exactly topics that lit her up. After being unemployed one too many times, she began using her words to express life as a parent and even writing her own memoir about being unemployed at the same time as her husband. In one year, Liz had three books published and she is officially a successful published author calling her own shots in this creative world of writing. Liz shares the challenges she has faced and shares her advice on how to break through writer’s block to get that novel written once and for all! Listen to episode #35 of The Second Act Success Podcast with Liz Alterman.
SHOW NOTES FOR THIS EPISODE
CONNECT with Liz Alterman:
Website – lizalterman.com
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/lizalterman/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/lizalterman
0:00 – Introduction
02:39 – Beginning of Liz’s career out of college
03:18 – Getting a job at Merrill Lynch in the 401K Department
03:45 – Freelance world of writing and media
04:20 – Working at a bond brokerage firm
04:56 – Working as an Energy Reporter at Bloomberg
05:20 – Taking a break from work to raise her kids
05:57 – Writing about random topics as a freelance writer
07:32 – Trying to work as a freelance writer while being home with her kids
09:33 – Freelancing for local websites and news organizations
09:38 – Being laid off, while her husband had also been laid off at the same time
10:03 – Starting a blog about unemployment
10:41 – Freelancing again and interviewing a local writer about a course on writing a memoir.
11:02 – Liz took the course and wrote her own memoir about unemployment called Sad Sacked
11:34 – Writing her young adult thriller He’ll Be Waiting
11:42 – Submitting her memoir to Audible’s Pitch Portal and she got an editor and book was released
12:13 – Working on her young adult thriller He’ll Be Waiting
13:20 – Taking writing classes helps hold you accountable to write every day.
14:05 – Loving books as a child
14:57 – Pitching He’ll Be Waiting young adult thriller
16:31 – Audio version of He’ll Be Waiting released October 2022 in time for Halloween
17:55 – Memoir and recording the audio version of that book herself
20:16 – Writing her third book during the pandemic
22:12 – The Perfect Neighborhood book
25:35 – Thinking back to the freelance world before she was a published author and advice she has learned
27:46 – Advice on how to find the time to write
29:34 – How being an author has affected her family
30:55 – Advice for aspiring writers
33:21 – Five Fast Qs
33:30 – Thread between her different careers
34:29 – Advice
35:52 – What is next for Liz
36:51 – Connect with Liz Alterman
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Second Act Success Podcast
Season 1 -Episode #35 - Freelance & Unemployed to Published Author with Liz Alterman
Guest: Liz Alterman
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)
[00:00:00] Shannon Russell: Before we get into the episode. I just wanted to say thank you to those of you who have shared the podcast with a friend or left me a review. This feedback helps me plan upcoming episodes to serve you better. I'd love to give a quick shout out to Kerry H for her latest review. Kerry wrote. "I love storytelling more than that. I love feeling inspired. This podcast is the perfect forum to shake up the snow globe of your reality and inspire you to take action in the direction of your dreams. I find the content to be the perfect blend of practicality, coupled with passionate pursuit of the things that uplift the soul." Um, wow. Thank you so much, Kerry, those words were just wonderful to hear. And I thank you for taking the time to leave that review. It really means so much to me. If you feel this podcast is offering you inspiration and adding value, then I would be ever so grateful, if you would leave a review on Apple or Spotify and if an episode resonates with you, [00:01:00] share it with a friend. That's how we can spread the word and grow. Thank you.
[00:01:04] Shannon: Are you at a crossroads in your career or in life? Well, don't worry because life's next chapter is waiting. This is the Second Act Success Podcast. I am your host Shannon Russell.
I'm a television producer, turned boy mom, turned business owner, podcaster, and career coach. If you are looking to start a new career or begin a fresh chapter in life, then get ready to be inspired with stories of women who have done just that. We will share advice and offer steps you can take to help figure out what your true calling in life really is.
It is time to shine. So let's turn the page and get started.
Welcome to Second Act Success.
[00:01:54] Shannon Russell: This week I am chatting with author Liz Alterman. Liz started her career working in corporate [00:02:00] writing for different businesses in finance. Industrial manufacturing and energy. Liz has been through the ups and downs of the working world being laid off several times. Dealing with freelance projects. Taking time off to raise her kids. But finally, she has found a place where she is writing what she wants. Liz had three books come out in one year. You guys, and I can not wait to have her share just how she did it. Here's my interview with Liz Alterman.
I'm here with Liz Al Alterman. Hi Liz.
[00:02:31] Liz Alterman: Hi Shannon. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:02:33] Shannon Russell: You've got such an interesting story. I thought we'd start kind of where your journey began.
[00:02:39] Liz Alterman: Well, you know, I always have loved reading and writing, and that's kind of a passion of mine. had an English degree. But, when I got out of college I just couldn't find any jobs in publishing or magazines. So competitive. So I was actually babysitting for a couple of little kids and I kept applying for things that [00:03:00] I really, truly wanted in publishing or magazines or something. And I think it was a rough night at this house. Like I think one kid had a stomach bug, another wouldn't stop crying. And this was before cell phones. So my dad, I can't even believe that he did it, but. Somehow found the phone number of the house where I was babysitting and he said to me, Merrill Lynch just called and you could have a job interview like later this week if you want it. And I was looking at like one kid vomiting on the floor and the other like throwing a tantrum. I'm like, I am going, I don't care if they want me to like clean the restrooms, park the cars, shine up the mascot I'm in. And so that was my first job and I was in, um, customer service in their 401K department. It was good because I was only maybe 22 and I learned the value of saving for retirement, which is very helpful when you keep getting laid off from media.
[00:03:49] Shannon Russell: Oh yeah. And I feel like people in media don't know how to save, because everything, in like production, entertainment, news, kind of TV that I was in, it was one job and [00:04:00] then you're off and then another job. So it's very freelance. So there's no saving. Yeah. No 401k in our world.
[00:04:06] Liz Alterman: No, no paid vacations and, sometimes you don't even have the tax taken out, so you have to set that money aside too, so,
[00:04:14] Shannon Russell: but at least you were working for a financial firm and learning that on the job, which was good.
[00:04:20] Liz Alterman: Exactly. From there I went to work for a bond brokerage firm and that was different. So I was cold calling and trying to sell bonds, which I joke now that that was really great training for being a writer cuz there's so much rejection, in, in cold calling and trying to sell things over the phone. I did that for about a year and then I realized like, this is just way too challenging and every month you'd be starting from zero and it was tough. I had seen an ad in the paper for some, I guess they were looking for someone who could combine. A background in English and writing with financial experience. And so the company was Bloomberg and at the [00:05:00] time, this was probably 1996, you didn't know the name the way you do today. And so I was kind of like, Oh, I don't know what this is about, but as long as there's a salary and benefits, I'm gonna go see what I can do. . So I got the job as an energy reporter. And I worked with, you know, some really great people. And, then when my oldest son was born, I decided to kind of step out of the full-time workforce for a little while and try my hand at writing things that I really wanted to write. Not that natural gas and the oil markets aren't, you know, scintillating content, but I thought maybe this was a chance to write about, um, you know, parenting essays or just real, like, kind of life topics.
[00:05:40] Shannon Russell: I feel like once you start writing about parenting, you're writing about more stuff that you know, or that you might read in your free time, so you're almost more invested in those articles or those blog posts.
[00:05:51] Liz Alterman: Exactly, Yes, it definitely felt more organic as opposed to trying to educate myself. Once I, I wrote a freelance piece on advanced [00:06:00] manufacturing and you know, even my husband was like, You are really out of your depth on this one. And like, you better bring in some experts who can explain this to you in layman's terms, or you're going to be in the weeds. And that was really true.
[00:06:12] Shannon Russell: Yeah. I feel like people don't think about that with reporters and journalists there's a lot of research that goes into those articles or those news segments that you see on the news you're researching before you're writing those words.
[00:06:24] Liz Alterman: Exactly a man, I worked for would always joke that, you know, a little about a lot and , you're not really an expert in any one thing, but you can speak on a variety of, of different topics.
[00:06:37] Shannon Russell: You can fake it till you make it. And
[00:06:39] Liz Alterman: Exactly.
One man, he kept assigning me divorce articles, like the cost of divorce or things you should think of before you get divorced. I also, I, one that I really enjoyed was, learning about entrepreneurs, people who follow their passion and, just kind of risk everything to open a shop or something they love. So I was fortunate to write [00:07:00] about a lot of different people who have done that and that is something I really admire. You must have a ton of those with the second act success, right.
[00:07:09] Shannon Russell: Yeah. Yeah. And I love those stories, like finding real stories. I grew up in the industry interviewing celebrities and, big names, but I get to interview real people and real stories with the podcast, and it's been the most fun I think we can all find a little bit of our ourselves and other people's story, and you can connect and that's just, That's so fun.
[00:07:31] Liz Alterman: absolutely,
Having the kids at home is kind of what led me to try to freelance. Not that it always went well because I can remember, one of the first assignments I got, I had set my kids up in the yard with popcorn and juice boxes and I said, I'm gonna watch you out the window, but no matter what happens, you can't come back in. You have to just stay out. And it was a beautiful day. So I said, Just go play. And the second I hit the record button, you can hear mommy, and like, someone's juice had spilled, [00:08:00] someone's popcorn, heads fallen in the grass and could they eat it? And I was like, I'm on with an expert. It's been on Oprah. Just figure it out. Like, I can't, This is my first assignment. I can't blow it.
[00:08:10] Shannon Russell: Oh. And then you're so stressed and it's like, how can you balance it?
[00:08:14] Liz Alterman: Right, exactly.
[00:08:16] Shannon Russell: and it's such a blessing cuz you were probably able to do these interviews from home and write these articles from home, but you're Yeah, it's in the middle of the tantrums
[00:08:24] Liz Alterman: Right.
[00:08:26] Shannon Russell: I remember when I was working. Fashion Week.
I was doing a
[00:08:30] Liz Alterman: Oh wow.
[00:08:31] Shannon Russell: and I was home. We were trying to find a house. We had just moved from California to New Jersey. I was working in Manhattan. I was home for the day with my little one, You remember puffs, You know those little
[00:08:40] Liz Alterman: Yes, yes I do.
[00:08:42] Shannon Russell: an entire thing of puffs and I was like, here, and I was on a conference call trying to prove that I could do it from home and not come into the city every day. And he was like, just, oh, boo boo boo. Making all these little cute sounds. Not cries, but I just, I could still picture that moment of being like, This is it. If they hear him, I'm gonna have to go [00:09:00] in every single day. So I, I'm with you, Liz. I, I hope that employers have changed their, their ways since
[00:09:07] Liz Alterman: I really hope so too. Yes. And so did you get to stay home or, Uh,
[00:09:11] Shannon Russell: No, I did it maybe one day a week, and I was the same thing, getting home late, not seeing him, And that's eventually why I ended up, you know, changing my path just because I wanted to be home more. So it's hard. Some industries just don't make it as easy on us. Moms
[00:09:28] Liz Alterman: No, they don't. They don't at all. I guess after my third son went to preschool, I began freelancing for local websites and news organizations. And then I was laid off in 2014, and it was, really bad timing because my husband had been laid off six weeks prior. So we were home together indefinitely and I started a blog just sort of chronicle our, uh, I would say mis adventures in job hunting. And it was funny because about a [00:10:00] decade earlier, my husband had said, You know, you should start a blog. And at the time he said it, it was like, you know, you might as well like build a rocket in the yard. I had no idea what he was talking about.
[00:10:09] Shannon Russell: Yeah,
[00:10:11] Liz Alterman: later. But, so I had this blog and it was sort of just like, I thought of it as an online diary to kind of just think about all the rejections that were coming in while job hunting and, you know, worrying about how are we gonna pay the mortgage and keep feeding these kids. And so I did that for a bit until I got into more like local news, regional news. As a freelance assignment, I was asked to write about a woman who founded a local writing school and just one of the questions I asked her was, What is your most popular course? And she said, Memoir writing. And she said, everyone feels that they've got a story to tell. And so, you know, I was kind of at a low point in my career and just kind of wondering, what am I gonna do next? And I thought, you know, this would be a really good creative outlet and. If anything, [00:11:00] I need two hours out of the house alone. So I'm signing up for this memoir class. So I took it. And so two years later I had completed the memoir about our job searching and being unemployed together. And I was fortunate to find an agent. But unfortunately she couldn't sell it. It was a time where I guess by 2017, the economy was thriving and nobody wanted to hear about unemployment. And I would also bump up against things like, Well, you're not famous, you don't have a platform, blah, blah, blah. So, I kind of shelved it for a while and then I wrote, a young adult thriller, which was published last April.
So that was very exciting and. Thank you. But I think in writing the memoir, it kind of proved to me like maybe you can write more than an essay or more than a short story. Like if you just stick with it, you can kind of write a whole story rather than just a snippet.
A friend of mine said, Have you heard about Audible's pitch [00:12:00] portal? And I hadn't. And so I dug out my memoir and I sent it through the pitch portal, and I was lucky enough to get an editor who was interested. And so that came out last November. And then, during c I started writing an adult thriller. So I feel like, when people will say like, Oh my gosh, you have so much coming out at once. And I'll say, I do. But it really all began in 2014,
[00:12:25] Shannon Russell: Isn't that so funny? Right? Cuz that's three books in a year.
[00:12:28] Liz Alterman: Right. It is. I know. And I think people have a vision of me, like always with, you know, my laptop in hand and a pen and paper and like I'm writing on CVS receipts in my car, which sometimes is true, but it really, it's been like years and years and it was just, you know, fortune smiling on me all of a sudden and everything happened at once.
[00:12:47] Shannon Russell: You wrote these in different times of your life. And now it's just all coming together at the right time, I guess.
[00:12:53] Liz Alterman: Yeah. It's just, it's funny how it all worked out, but I would keep thinking too, like I'll probably never publish anything again. It will [00:13:00] just be this weird fluke of all these things at once and then never again.
[00:13:04] Shannon Russell: No, no, no, no. Your windfall is gonna go for a while after this year. But you know, writing is such a great way to kind of work and balance, when you do have those moments to yourself that you can be creative and get in the zone and do some writing.
[00:13:20] Liz Alterman: I was taking writing classes. To get out of the house. And because it was a passion of mine and I, I was so fortunate I was in such a great group but I guess once I started taking the classes, I guess it's how some people feel about when they join a gym. Like, I've paid this money, I'm a member, I have to go. And so when I take a class, I'm like, Okay, you have to have eight pages by Monday night. You have to write them. You know, I still will have certainly typos as anyone will tell you who's been in the class with me, . But I have to have them semi polished. And so that holds me accountable in a way that I just, I don't think I would be without a course. So that's been really helpful
[00:13:59] Shannon Russell: Had that always [00:14:00] been your goal to like write an actual full length book at some point?
[00:14:05] Liz Alterman: It was, you know, growing up like I'm a horrific athlete, like I will trip just walking down my stairs. And so my biggest thing growing up was just to like lie in my bed with a book. I had all the Nancy Drews and, I treated them like they were at bars of gold. I had them lined up by volume in order and, if I loan them to a friend, I was always eager to get them right back to my Nancy Drew library. So going to the library was just like the greatest treat. And I remember, after I had read A Wrinkle in Time, I found another book by the author and it was like a lottery win I remember kind of jumping up and down in the library aisle. So I think, you know, if you can make one reader escape, you know, into the pages, I think that's, you know, such an exciting thing.
[00:14:52] Shannon Russell: It really is well what was it like to finally have your first book published?
[00:14:57] Liz Alterman: That would be my young adult [00:15:00] thriller. it's called, He'll be Waiting And I have to say, I, I read the email like maybe. Five or six times. Like, wait, wait. They're really willing to publish it. Because I had gotten an agent for that book and she had sent it out and, the feedback, it was very mixed. Like there wasn't a through line that you could. Say, Okay, I'm gonna go back and revise this. Like some people would say like, Oh, the pacing was great, but I didn't connect to the main character. And then the next rejection would say, Loved the main character the pacing just wasn't right for me. And so as these things conflicted, I thought like, where am I gonna go with this? And so then, I sent it out on my own to some indie publishers and one of them said, we love it. We'd love to publish it. And that's, you know, I just kept rereading, like, Wait, really? And then it was funny, I reached out to a couple of their authors, which I think is a good thing for anyone to do, just to kind of vet like a publisher or just to find out about the whole experience. And the authors I wrote to wrote right [00:16:00] back with only positive things to say. And so that made me feel really, you know, even more excited about the whole process. The publisher, they're Between the Lines they're, in the US and they were just so supportive and lovely to work with. Like they really went out of their way to make sure, do you like the cover and you know, what can we do to support you on the marketing side? And so that was just a really great first experience.
[00:16:25] Shannon Russell: That seems wonderful because otherwise it could have just got lost in the shuffle at, you know, a bigger publisher. Don't you think?
[00:16:31] Liz Alterman: Yeah, I do wonder about that. And I just had a bit of, um, good news in that I was able to sell the audio rights to it. Blackstone is going to put it out this October and since it is a thriller, they were saying, you know, just in time for Halloween. So I'm very excited cause I don't think I would've ever had that opportunity if I hadn't, you know, kept pursuing rather than just shelving it and sitting on it. Yeah.
[00:16:55] Shannon Russell: Oh my gosh. So that's so exciting. Tell me what the young adult, novel is [00:17:00] about.
[00:17:00] Liz Alterman: It's called, He'll be Waiting and it starts off with a 17 year old girl who wakes up in the hospital. And it's right before Christmas and she can't remember what happened and why she's there. And she has some broken bones. And, she's wondering why her boyfriend hasn't visited, why her best friend hasn't visited. And her parents are acting strange. And so as the story progresses, she kind of has to piece the, put the puzzle back together. And, she has, I guess someone from the hospital comes in and suggests that she start keeping a diary or a journal to try to help her memories come back. And so that's how the story unfolds.
[00:17:39] Shannon Russell: Ooh, you hooked me already. I love a good young adult novel. Like, that's always, If I was gonna write a book, that's what I would wanna
[00:17:45] Liz Alterman: I will send it to you.
[00:17:47] Shannon Russell: Oh my god, I would love to read it. That sounds amazing.
[00:17:49] Liz Alterman: Yeah, I'm really excited about that
[00:17:52] Shannon Russell: you landed the deal for your memoir right around the same time. Right?
[00:17:55] Liz Alterman: It was funny because I had just gotten the email that the indie publisher was interested [00:18:00] and then within about a month I heard back from Audible's Pitch Portal saying, Our editor read your memoir and she'd like to schedule a call. And again, that was an email I had to read about five times. You know, just so excited and I loved her. Wonderful. And, the editor I worked with at Audible was great. I was referring to her as my Edward Scissorhands because she really shaped, like, she took this big ball of words and like shaped it into a story, so I'm so indebted to her. That was like a bit of a longer process than what I was expecting. I just didn't know too much about publishing. And with the indie publisher, things moved quickly, like they. Sent out a contract and they said, We're gonna turn it over to an editor and you'll get your edits back. They have this whole timeframe, but with Audible, with the memoir, I guess there were some changes internally. So things, took a while to get the contract. And so every day I would be like, did they have a change of heart? Do they not like the story? And then having been at [00:19:00] that point, I think I'd been laid off twice. I was kind of like, Is my editor, is she still there? You know, you just, you worry. And I didn't wanna keep emailing her and, um, being like, Are are you still interested? Do you still like it? And so that's very kind of nerve wracking because as you say, it is your baby. But then, fortunately, I, I got the contract and , then I started working with the editor, revising, and of course I learned so much for audio just about. The way sentences are structured differently for audio, for the listener. And then I did narrate it myself, which I was hoping not to just because I, I feel like when you read your own work, you're kind of always your own worst critic. I'm not a great public speaker, or I don't have great comic timing as people like to point out in my audible reviews.
[00:19:47] Shannon Russell: Oh, no
[00:19:50] Liz Alterman: I know people can be cruel.
[00:19:51] Shannon Russell: I listened to your sneak peek on your website, and you sounded great. So , I don't know what.
[00:19:57] Liz Alterman: thank you. So I recorded it, but [00:20:00] I guess it's, it's kind of made me think a little differently as I write, like, is this too long a sentence? Or, if someone were to read this aloud, would they be breathless at the end? So it was an interesting process.
[00:20:12] Shannon Russell: That's so interesting. And then meanwhile, you're writing your third book.
[00:20:16] Liz Alterman: Exactly. And I went back and I took classes again, at the same school and I was really lucky to find wonderful women. It was at the start of the pandemic and one of them was writing a piece of auto fiction that was just this fascinating tale about her going to Italy and turning an old convent into holiday apartments. And then the other woman was writing a middle grade. Fantasy, which was equally fascinating. And I was writing an adult thriller. So even though we were all writing in different genres, I felt like we were able to give each other really different feedback and like just really constructive and supportive. I don't think I would've been able to finish the book without, [00:21:00] especially during Covid, cuz then we would meet over video. It was just wonderful to have that encouragement because writing can be such a solitary endeavor.
[00:21:09] Shannon Russell: So would you suggest that to any listeners that might be listening, that want to write a book to maybe join a class and kind of get into a group that can help you kind of flush out your ideas?
[00:21:20] Liz Alterman: I definitely would and for me, like I said, I think it's so important to know, okay, I have a deadline. Unless you're really self disciplined and good about it, I could find a million excuses that I will make for myself. So knowing that it's due is so helpful for me. And then just to, even when you read it aloud, you catch, That's what we do in the class. We'll read our own pages. To the other participants and then they'll weigh in. When you read it aloud, you catch all your errors and the times you've used the same word over and over again, or you know, sentences or dialogue that doesn't ring true. Even if you don't wanna take a class, I would say read your work [00:22:00] aloud or have the computer read it back to you and that will help you so much.
[00:22:05] Shannon Russell: Oh, that's really great advice for any aspiring writers who are listening right now. Um okay so talk to us about your third book.
[00:22:12] Liz Alterman: Yeah, it's called the Perfect Neighborhood and it's in this sort of perfect town, this upscale New Jersey neighborhood. There's an actress. And her husband is a former rock star. And around April the actress leaves him and there's a guy in town who sees her get into a waiting Uber around four in the morning. And so this becomes the talk of the town, all the neighbors gossip, because before that they really seemed like the perfect couple. And then in June while walking home from kindergarten, a five year old boy goes missing. And then that becomes the primary focus. And so it's told from multiple points of view of different neighbors in this neighborhood and the mom of the boy who goes missing, the actress who's left her husband, and then other [00:23:00] women within the town. I guess I should mention too, the boy he goes missing on his walk home from kindergarten, but also his babysitter who was supposed to be waiting for him is late. And so one of the points of view is hers and she has kind of her own secrets. So, and they all kind of weave together.
Shannon, I'm gonna send you that too.
[00:23:21] Shannon Russell: Oh, thank you Liz! Oh my gosh. So, which is your favorite of your three babies?
[00:23:26] Liz Alterman: Ooh, that's a good question. I would probably say The Perfect Neighborhood, maybe because I was working on it during the pandemic, it was like such a sweet escape for me, even though, you know, my son will be like, What's with you and why would you have a kid go missing? I mean, he's 20. I don't think anyone would be able to snatch him.
[00:23:44] Shannon Russell: Right, right.
[00:23:46] Liz Alterman: He was like, That's so dark and weird, why would you do that? And I said, Well, I think as a mother, that's really my greatest fear is something happening to your child. And, you know, growing up, I remember that book Without a Trace [00:24:00] about that, the poor boy who went missing and he was, you know, just walking to school. And I remember that, the headlines and even though I wasn't a parent, I was just, you know, a kid. I remember thinking, that's so, so scary. And his poor mom. So I guess like that, that whole thing has kind of stayed with me, and especially as a parent, I think, how frightening that would be.
[00:24:19] Shannon Russell: Wow. I think that's gonna be great.
[00:24:22] Liz Alterman: I've been very fortunate. My publisher, Crooked Lane, they're in the US and then also I was very lucky to connect with a UK publisher, Legend Press. So they're putting it out there as well. On @Bookstagram, some people have reviewed it and Crooked Lane has done some Good Reads giveaways which is exciting to see. I've just been trying to connect with people where I can, I've done a couple of giveaways on Instagram myself and, I'm so grateful for podcasters like you who are willing to spread the word for me and, you know, reach out to different audiences that maybe I wouldn't have. Been able to [00:25:00] tap into. I'm really excited.
[00:25:01] Shannon Russell: Do you have other books kind of brewing down the line?
[00:25:05] Liz Alterman: I do, I'm, I'm in the middle of revising. I'm unfortunately very impatient and I always think like, Okay, this is done. And then I'll have a critique partner who will say to me, Well, what about this? And I'm like, Oh man, she's right. That's such a good idea. So I've kind of been going back, but I also feel like I'm the kind of person where I could probably revise this manuscript for the rest of my life, so I think at one point I'm just gonna have to cut myself off and, and send it out and just cross my fingers and hope for the best.
[00:25:35] Shannon Russell: That's so exciting. So can you think back to being a writer in finance and writing blogs about parenting and where you are now? Could you even imagine back then that you'd have three books out and another one being ready to be pitched?
[00:25:51] Liz Alterman: No, I never would. I never would. And I, I guess I would say to anybody who feels daunted by the thought of, maybe putting [00:26:00] together 90,000 words, I would say like, just start small and, you know, try if you can. write every day. I think that really helps. I would also say like, don't get discouraged cuz I think sometimes it seems like such a monumental undertaking, but I think if you just break it off in bites and like, sometimes I'll write out of sequence, like if, if I can't figure out the next step, but I know a scene that I need to include later on, I'll just try to write that scene that comes later on. And sometimes it won't make it in, but sometimes it'll help me kind of break through that writer's block just to, to tackle something and to feel productive. It's almost like a little boost of your confidence. Like maybe you didn't get the thing you were supposed to do, but you got this other thing and that's, you know, just as good for now.
[00:26:46] Shannon Russell: Great tip. And I think the fact that you wrote small in the beginning, you know, you were writing a thousand words or whatever your articles were back then and just gave you the confidence to keep it going and growing. So if someone [00:27:00] wants to write a novel, maybe like you said, start out small, write these smaller articles and pitch them around or write some blogs of your own, and then eventually you'll be able to sit down and try to do the 90,000 words.
[00:27:12] Liz Alterman: Exactly. Yes. That's what I would say. Cuz I remember sometimes I think I got to 11,000 words in something and I thought like, okay, this is it. I, I've hit a wall, I'm not gonna be able to go on. And then you'd get to like 28,000 and I'd think, All right, this is it. I can't go on. And so now I'm kind of like, okay, that might be just your process,
[00:27:32] Shannon Russell: Right, Right.
[00:27:34] Liz Alterman: you know, every 10,000 words you think you can't go on
[00:27:37] Shannon Russell: So as a mom of three boys or just really as a wife, As a woman, what are your tips on trying to find the time to write?
[00:27:46] Liz Alterman: I think it's very, very hard, I have to say, like, you really have to carve out that time for yourself. And I always joke, and I'm sure you can relate as a mom, I am never more popular than when I try to go be alone. You know, I sneak up in my [00:28:00] attic and suddenly like, people wanna tell me about gym class. The same kids who didn't have a word to say at dinner are now like rolling all over my bedroom floor trying to tell me about, you know, what happened at lunch. And I hate to cut them off, but I wanna say like, Dude, this was like dinner time conversation and now I'm trying to write a novel. So it, it's hard. I have to say on Twitter, there's, I guess, a hashtag like. #5amwritersclub and there's a lot of writers who do it, and I have such admiration for them. I do try to get up early and when the house is quiet and have a cup of coffee and if you can get a little done or even editing, I think that helps because at night I used to be a night owl, but I am just not anymore
[00:28:43] Shannon Russell: I guess just any, any little time, even if it's just 15 minutes a day, it's better than nothing. Just to get you started.
[00:28:50] Liz Alterman: Yes. And sometimes what I'll do is I'll keep a notebook in the car. So if I have to drive somebody like to an appointment or a, it used to be when they were playing more ball games, [00:29:00] but I loved when, I didn't have access to wifi, cuz for me, as soon as the sentence gets hard, I'm like, Oh, let me go look at cats on Instagram. And, you know, that is, that is not how you get a novel finish. So to be without wifi and to write free hand in a notebook sometimes is, is good enough. And then if, if I can read my handwriting, hopefully later I'll , I'll type it up and try to make it work.
[00:29:22] Shannon Russell: How do you think this transition affected your family going from going out to work and then kind of freelancing a little bit here and there, and then saying, I'm going to start being a full-time writer.
[00:29:34] Liz Alterman: You know, I think it's kind of confused them a little bit because they'll be like, Will does mom work? Will, does mom not work? Well? What, what is she doing? Or, if I'll say, I'm going upstairs for a call, they're like, , Is it a work call? Cause they realize like, I'm expecting a certain level of quiet if it's a work call versus, you know, a personal call or something. It's funny because when I started out, I would tell them about every rejection I got and I was actually thinking about writing an essay [00:30:00] called like teaching my kids the F word failure. Cause like I wanted them to know that you can't give up at the first sign of trouble. And you know, if you wanna do something hard, chances are like you're not gonna succeed immediately. You're gonna have to keep going and get knocked down and get better and whatever. But it seemed to have the opposite effect where they were like, Oh mom, please quit. This is so sad for you. Oh mom, you're torturing yourself. So that is funny. So, because other people will say like, Oh, are your kids impressed? I'm like, No, not at all. And at dinner I'll say, Oh, I need a character name. It's an older woman. What do you think? And they're like, Just watch TV and come up with something that way. They don't wanna play along with me anymore.
[00:30:43] Shannon Russell: Writing seems to be something that a lot of people secretly have a dream of doing. I feel like everyone has a story in them that they wish that they could publish. Would you recommend going into the world of writing professionally?
[00:30:55] Liz Alterman: Ooh, that's a good question I have to say at this point, [00:31:00] unless you absolutely love it and can't imagine anything else that you would wanna do, um, from the author perspective, I would say yes, absolutely. If that's your dream, pursue it and, and see it through to the end. Don't give up when you received your first 30 or 50 rejections. But I would say trying to write for like corporate America or things like that, I, I would discourage just, I actually had my third layoff in February. I had been working full time for a FinTech in corporate communications. There was a restructuring and things kind of turned around, and the job that I was hired to do was not the job I ended up doing. It just got very, I would say like non-productive and for somebody who enjoys the creative aspect. That it's very hard to work to be a writer in a corporate setting like that
[00:31:53] Shannon Russell: I can imagine because you're writing to an extent and then you're getting a million rounds of notes and you have to get this in I can just imagine it [00:32:00] being so much more technical than, than creative.
[00:32:03] Liz Alterman: And especially too, I think unfortunately, and maybe it's just the way of the world, I feel like that's just not a skill that's as valued as it used to be. Versus let's say your software engineers who people regard as indispensable, it's kind of like, well just get another's of, don't worry about it.
[00:32:22] Shannon Russell: That's interesting though. So even though you're writing and you have three books that you have written, you're still working, at other companies to do writing for them.
[00:32:32] Liz Alterman: Yes. I, I had been up until February, it was funny too because people would say, Well, what are you gonna do now? And, you know, never knowing if a novel is gonna go anywhere. I had this manuscript, and thankfully my husband is very supportive, and he was saying, you know, this is kind of like a gift you've been given this time, this gift of time, and why don't you try to finish it? So I hope if this next one. Does sell, then I think that would be kind of an encouraging sign that [00:33:00] maybe I should stick to this and, and not go back to corporate writing where I'll probably have my fourth layoff.
[00:33:06] Shannon Russell: Right. I think these are all definitely signs, that you're supposed to be writing your own words in something that fills you up and that is creative and, you know, can bring people joy when they read it
[00:33:18] Liz Alterman: Oh, thank you. I hope so.
[00:33:21] Shannon: Alright. It's time for our Five Fast Qs of the Week. Here we go!
[00:33:26] Shannon Russell: Do you think there's a thread between all of your different careers?
[00:33:30] Liz Alterman: For me, the through line is like, things might be hard, especially like I would have a job I liked and then I would lose it, or I would think this was gonna be my dream job, and then it wasn't quite exactly as it was sold to me. So I would just say, you know, no matter what comes your way, I think through all of these different jobs, I've just tried to maintain a positive attitude. Like, okay, something better lies up ahead. And maybe that happened for a reason and just, you know, [00:34:00] keep going. If you can kind of just keep going and see what you can achieve, like believe in yourself no matter what the, I guess the environment or the setting is, no matter, no matter how dismal that might be.
[00:34:13] Shannon Russell: You'll get there eventually. It's just timing.
[00:34:16] Liz Alterman: Exactly. That's kind of how I try to look at it now.
[00:34:19] Shannon Russell: I like that. And it's like trying to teach yourself to be a little bit more patient and things will come. Would you recommend taking a leap into a big life change to your best?
[00:34:29] Liz Alterman: I would, I think if it's definitely something that they want to pursue or something that they've dreamt of for a long time. I think the pandemic has taught us that life is short and that the future's never guaranteed. So if there's something that you really wanna do, I would say don't put it off, But I would say this, like, do your homework. I wouldn't want someone to jump in blindly and then be heartbroken when it doesn't work out. You know, sort of do the homework so that you're not, you know, kind of losing your home or or having, having to do without a lot of things. [00:35:00] But if it's something you wanna pursue, definitely go for it.
[00:35:03] Shannon Russell: what is one piece of advice that you can give to someone who's trying to start their second
[00:35:08] Liz Alterman: Ooh. I would say be gentle with yourself. I think it's very easy to get discouraged when you start something new. And especially if success isn't happening right away, you can kind of wanna throw in the towel. And I think also with social media, it can be very hard because people are out there, you know, cheering for their own successes. I mean, a lot of people do share their failures too, which I think helps sort of keep things in balance. But I think if you, if you compare yourself to the people who are already so successful, it's it that's a hard yard stick. So I think just be gentle and just believe in yourself and try to take a long view if you can. I would.
[00:35:49] Shannon Russell: What does the next chapter look like for you, Liz?
[00:35:52] Liz Alterman: I'm really hoping to finish this manuscript that it has sort of been lingering and just doesn't, doesn't quite wanna come [00:36:00] together and I'm hoping it's gonna come together soon. I would love to, to see that, find a home and then, maybe think about maybe a different writing project. Maybe going back to maybe more nonfiction like the memoir. I think from doing these longer pieces, I think I'd like a little bit of a break maybe to, to try something that's maybe not so plot heavy or, you know, especially in thrillers today, I think everybody wants these twists and for me, I want it to be twisty, but also. You know, not unrealistic, like where people don't close it and say like, Well, that made no sense.
[00:36:38] Shannon Russell: Right,
[00:36:40] Liz Alterman: So I, I feel like I'm, I'm taxing my brain trying to, to put it all together.
[00:36:44] Shannon Russell: You want something that comes a little bit easier, flows a little bit easier,
[00:36:48] Liz Alterman: like if I can find it, Yes, that would be good.
[00:36:51] Shannon Russell: where can our audience connect with you?
[00:36:53] Liz Alterman: Oh, thanks for asking. I'm on Twitter and Instagram @lizalterman, and then my website is also [00:37:00] lizalterman.com.
[00:37:01] Shannon Russell: So if we wanna purchase the books, everything will be there?
[00:37:04] Liz Alterman: Yes. Then, uh, if I could just give a small plug to Words Bookstore in Maplewood, , we've partnered, so if anyone would like to order through them, I, can sign a copy so that if, if they'd like assigned copy, that's where to find one. That's a wonderful family owned bookstore right in the heart of Maplewood. So I'm so happy to support them and to have their support.
[00:37:26] Shannon Russell: Aw, that's great. It really is like everyone just helping each other these days. The small bookstores and they're helping you and you're helping them. That's nice.
[00:37:34] Liz Alterman: I, I I know they're helping.
[00:37:37] Shannon Russell: Oh yeah, . well this was just so much fun to talk to you and I'm so excited to talk to you cuz you're in New Jersey like me
[00:37:43] Liz Alterman: you. I'm thrilled to talk with you and hopefully we'll get to meet in person one day.
[00:37:48] Shannon Russell: Oh, it was so nice to chat with Liz and hear about her journey going from writing these industrial energy based articles kind of freelancing and now here she is with three books out, [00:38:00] including a memoir, three books in one year, you guys. It might've taken her a long time, like she said, but she accomplished it. She even has the audio version of He'll Be Waiting out this month in time for Halloween. I also want to say that I finished The Perfect Neighborhood. Such a page turner. I went away on a girl's weekend and I finished it within an afternoon. It was amazing. I also read a really cool article that listed The Perfect Neighborhood in a list of the top 10 books that are like the Luckiest Girl Alive. I don't know if you've seen that on Netflix, but it's incredible. So Congratulations to Liz. It's really wonderful to see all that she's accomplished and I'm excited to see what she comes out with next. So if you'd like to read Liz's books, go to lizalterman.com. Follow her on social and support her by picking up one of her books. If you aspire to write a book, if you are an aspiring writer of any kind. I hope this conversation gave you a couple of tips and takeaways on how [00:39:00] you can write just a little bit each day to get you to that finished product That you're working so hard for. Thank you again for listening and for supporting the show. i will talk to you next time!
[00:39:10] Shannon: Think you're ready to start a second act. I created a freebie that will help. It's my Second Act Blueprint with five questions that you should ask yourself before you make this massive decision. To check it out, go to secondactsuccess.co and download the Second Act Blueprint today.
Thank you for joining us. I hope you found some gems of inspiration and some takeaways to help you on your path to Second Act Success. To view show notes from this episode, visit secondactsuccess.co. Before you go, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast. So you don't miss a single episode. Reviews only take a few moments and they really do mean so much. Thank you again for listening. I am Shannon Russell, and this is Second Act Success.
Episode #34 – Money Goals! From Debt to Teaching Financial Freedom with Bernadette Joy