Thursday, February 17, 2011

Writing Partners

I'm a lone writer. But the writing collaboration of Elisa Lorello and Sarah Girrell with their new book Why I Love Singlehood proves that sometimes two heads (or pens) are better than one. I can't imagine having the patience or the grace to be able to write a book with someone else, but these two have managed it with aplomb.

As an added bonus, Elisa and Sarah are giving away a free e-copy of WILS to a randomly-picked commentator on today's post. So leave a comment!

Here's a peek into the evolution of Elisa and Sarah's writing relationship...


Sarah: Let me start from the beginning. I met Elisa my first week of undergrad. I was the one along the far wall of the room trying desperately to be unnoticeable. The magic started the moment Elisa had us all writing. It was brilliant. Not the writing, mind you. That was total crap. But somewhere in those first 75 minutes of class, Elisa gave us all permission to love writing as much as she did.

Elisa: Wait, I remember it differently. The one sitting in the back—that was true; but Sarah was also was the first one to approach me on the first day of class, shake my hand, and introduce herself—

Sarah: I did? God, what a dork.

Elisa: At least I thought that was you… After reading Sarah’s revised draft of her first essay, I knew she was something special—she got it.

Sarah: Flash forward three years—Elisa was my advisor for an independent study in writing style (which basically meant we got to schedule weekly time to geek out together about writing). And though I did my best not to show it, I wrote as if she were leaning over my shoulder, and revised like a madwoman before handing her a single sentence.

Elisa: Really? And yet all along, I was afraid Sarah was going to find out how little I really knew. But those weekly geek-out sessions really were fabulous.

I remember the first time I asked Sarah to critique one of my pieces. She looked at me, rather shell-shocked. And yet, she’s still one of the readers I trust most with my writing, even at its most suckiest stage.

Sarah: A year later I was living in her apartment during winter break, co-writing daily, and rationing out cookies as rewards for pages completed. Gone was the intimidation; all that remained was respect.

Elisa: And cookies. I recall lots of cookies.

Sarah: Whenever asked about drafting Why I Love Singlehood another year later—

Elisa: From two different states, mind you!

Sarah: I’d hastily add, “It’s okay, though, cause I’m co-writing it? And my friend, the uh, other writer? She’s already like, a published author.” As if that made me more legit.

Elisa: But here’s the thing: the writing process? It always worked. We were writers who engaged the craft of revision. We were constantly giving each other feedback, giving each other the credit when the writing worked, and taking the sole blame when it didn’t. We talked for hours on end about our characters, their hopes and dreams and fears and failures.

Sarah: We emailed, we google-chatted. The phone calls, when they happened, were epic. We’re talking max-your-minutes-in-one-call sort of epic. But mostly we wrote: questions, critiques, re-writes, snippets. We wrote more words about our novel than in it, and I think articulating it – literally spelling it out – made the writing stronger and the revising easier.

Elisa: Most importantly, we listened—to each other, and to our characters. We compromised. We deleted. We revised and revised and revised until we called it done, even though we learned that writing is somehow never finished.

Sarah: Forty-eight grueling hours before our publishing deadline with Amazon Encore, we argued. We spent 45 minutes arguing over three words of dialogue—I can’t even remember which three they were—but we went head-to-head, round after round. In the end, neither of us got our way; the character won.

Elisa: Looking back, I’d say it was a defining moment. We began as student and teacher (although over the years she has taught me plenty), evolved into friends, and emerged as co-authors. Put another way, as a relationship revised.

Why I Love Singlehood
Eva Perino is single and proud of it. Owner of The Grounds, a coffee shop nestled in the heart of a college town, thirtysomething Eva cherishes her comfortable life filled with quirky friends, a fun job, and no significant other. In fact, she’s so content to be on her own that she started a blog about it: “Why I Love Singlehood.” Yet when she hears the news of her ex-boyfriend’s engagement, her confidence in her single status takes a surprisingly hard hit.

So begins Eva’s clumsy (and occasionally uproarious) search for love as she secretly joins an online dating site, tries her hand at speed-dating, and breaks her own rule by getting involved with one of The Grounds’ regulars. Soon Eva is forced to figure out exactly who—or what—is the true love of her life. Sparkling with warmth and wit,
Why I Love Singlehood is a charming and insightful must-read for anyone—single or otherwise—who has ever been stymied by love.

About the Authors:
Elisa Lorello is the Kindle-bestselling author of Faking It and Ordinary World. Born and raised on Long Island, New York, she spent eleven years in southeastern Massachusetts before moving to central North Carolina, where she teaches and writes today.

Sarah Girrell has a background in art history, writing, and rhetoric. After moving to Ithaca, New York to earn a medical degree, she and her husband returned to her native Vermont, where she is a physician and writer.

Sarah and Elisa met at UMass-Dartmouth in 2002, where they quickly discovered a shared love of writing and a humor for everyday life.Why I Love Singlehood is their second collaboration and Sarah’s authorial debut.


  1. writing for me is a very personal thing, I guess because I'm new and starting out but I would eventually like to work with someone else on something. At this moment I can't imagine it being anyone other than my sister, who is nagging me with graphic novel ideas! It would take me out of my comfort zone and I know it would be a great challenge. I admire all folk who are able to work together on something so personal and in depth, thanks for an interesting insight into collabs!

  2. This sounds very interesting.

    I could not imagine writing together with someone either, but when a writing friend asked me, I agreed to try, and for some time things went quite well - I enjoyed it more than I had imagined and was sorry when she broke it off due to lack of time. I think I learned something about flexibility, though.

  3. What a terrific way to be introduced to a writing team. I've had the pleasure of collaborating with a number of creative folks and agree that two can sometimes make a project so much better. Congrats on the successful partnership and the book. Can't wait to read it.

  4. There are days when I long for someone to bounce things off of, beyond my crit partners. Someone with the same vested interest in the final product. Thanks for this post.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  5. thanks for the great comments! writing has always been a personal thing for me, as well, and i'm really not sure i could collab with anyone but elisa. but, now that i'm writing solo again i find i really miss the process - the constant ricocheting of ideas, the fresh eyes, the helping hand, the person who can help you answer your characters' questions, the validation, the challenge, the momentum...

    i always marveled at collaborative projects and assumed i could never do one because writing was so soul-bearing to me. but if/when you find a good partner, give it a shot - it's well worth the experience!

  6. What a fantastic approach to writing. Sounds as if you two are a perfect pair. I can see the good parts about your collaboration. This sounds like a fun book.

  7. I second what Sarah said -- finding a good writing partner is like finding the right spouse, I think. I can't see myself collaborating so well with anyone but her (or, at the very least, it wouldn't be anything like our process).

    And since going back to solo, I definitely miss getting her feedback and assistance (and the fun part of it all, the talking about it). The pros of working alone is having sole control. The cons of working alone is having sole control.

    Fenny, I'm getting Skype as soon as I get a laptop w/ a webcam! But yeah, Skype would've come in handy... :P

    Thanks for the great comments so far, and thank you, Elspeth, for hosting us. Good luck on the drawing, everyone!

    Elisa :)

  8. You don't need a webcam. Jaz and I and Diana and I talk on skype for hours without the need to wave at each other. It's so much easier when people can't see you picking your nose!

    And you can call me on skype!!!

  9. Y'all are amazing! I think it takes a special couple of writers to do this so successfully. Best wishes for your book!

  10. fenny,

    there are days when i would've KILLED for her to be on skype. the writer in me says that writing out our conversations, rationale, critiques, etc is part of what made it work. (we were so mindful in everything we did and how we went about it.) writing is about craft and writing about writing just smacks of processy goodness.

    ...but, then the realist in me rears her head and says "yea, but it'd've been a helluva lot easier if ya coulda just done it in real time."

    (as an aside, if ever i find the inventors of skype, i will hug them fiercely. in a totally non-creepy i-just-think-you-made-the-world-a-better-place sort of way.)

  11. I didn't know that, Fen! (Hmmmm... methinks I need to check out some Skype-ness.) And quite honestly, the best week of writing was when we were in the same place at the same time, both staying at my mom's.

  12. Skype totally rocks. Even calling landlines is incredibly cheap, but it's free between devices.

  13. Thanks Elisa and Sarah for starting such an interesting discussion. I wish you both many, many sales. And pop tarts.


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