Lessons from Julie & Julia

December 10, 2009

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?

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    0 Replies to “Lessons from Julie & Julia”

    • Ami says:

      I just got Julie & Julia from Netflix, but I’m holding off on watching it because I’m still reading the book. I finished reading My Life in France last week. I’m learning a lot about writing from both Julie and Julia. Mostly I’m learning about channeling passion and not being afraid to put your all into something you love…even if there isn’t a clear and visible positive outcome. Can’t wait to finish the book and see the movie. I have a feeling there’s a lot more I can learn from them.

    • Karen Walker says:

      Totally loved that movie. Didn’t read the book, but I think I will. Thanks for the reminder about putting our work out there. I’m in the process of making a talk into an article and will begin the submission process to magazines and newspapers. Oy!

    • katieleigh says:

      I loved the film, and just read My Life in France. I’d echo Ami’s comment on really investing in your passion – that’s definitely what Julie and Julia both did. And I like your insight on how the personal parts make your memoir interesting. Must remember that as I start to write mine.

    • jessiecarty says:

      It does give me hope that if you invest in what you love, someday it may also give you more back than just satisfaction (like a paycheck!)

    • Peggy says:

      I think another lesson is to see if you can come up with a unique angle or twist for your blog. Julie’s idea of cooking one recipe a day was clever, and that’s part of the reason she had bazillions of readers of her blog, which led publishers to assume she’d have bazillions of readers for a book!

    • Hi Alexis,

      I enjoyed your article. You’re right about the need for authenticity. And as for getting lucky, Julie hit the mother lode when Amanda Hesser came to dinner and wrote about it in her “Dining & Wine” column for The New York Times. Even Julie admitted this…she said the first time she was interviewed and it appeared in the paper she got a call from her mother and a note from a local restauranteur (I think). When Amanda Hesser wrote about her, she changed Julie’s life forever. So we want press coverage, but we also want important press coverage. Go for the gold.

      As you know, I too wrote about lessons learned from Julie & Julia. Here’s a link to my post: http://womensmemoirs.com/memoir-writing-book-business/what-julie-julia-tells-us-about-publishing-and-marketing-in-2010/

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