Sunday, October 7, 2012

The hilarious Julie Klam talks about Friendkeeping, social media, not sleeping so hot, and so much, much more

Julie Klam is totally hilarious. I've been devouring her books for a while, from Please Excuse My Daughter,  Love at First Bark, You Had Me at Woof, to her newest, Friendkeeping. Early on, I began to stalk, um, I mean, follow her on Facebook and Twitter because I kept responding to everything she was writing, and I was more and more curious about the real person. 

She's the real deal. Hilarious. Smart. Warm. Honest. And what a pedigree. She interned at Late Night with David Letterman; she's written for Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine and the VH1 television show Pop-Up Video, where she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Class Writing. And along with Ann Leary and Laura Zigman, she hosts the radio show Hash Hags. I'm thrilled to have Julie here.  Thanks, Julie!  And no, per your obsession, don't do Botox. You don't need it.

I have to say, from your book, you sound like the kind of friend everyone on the planet would be thrilled to have. What can others learn at your feet?

I don’t know about everyone on the planet, there’s a huge group of shepherds in Ulan Bator that do not want anything to do with me! I hope others can avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made by reading about what would’ve been a better way to handle a situation. 

What sparked the idea to write about friends for you? And what are you teaching your daughter about friendships--and what is she teaching you?

My brilliant editor Megan Lynch first suggested to me that I should write about friends and the book was put on hold for a year while I wrote another book. When I came back to it, it was at a time when I felt more appreciative of my friendships than ever before and then I was really thrilled to write the book. Writing it was like spending the day with my friends. My daughter is a million miles ahead of me in friendships. She is like the champion defender of all of her friends. If anyone gets picked on or bullied, Violet jumps in there.  She has so much more confidence than I do. She’s like a little super hero to me.

I loved how honest you were in the book about your bad times and your occasional failings. What was the writing like? Anything surprise you?

Writing it was a little harder than I anticipated, mainly because it’s not a straight memoir so it was something I needed to learn, structurally, it took me really until the second draft until I got into the flow. And it actually terrified me. It’s my fourth book and the first time I thought, I may not be able to do this. Never underestimate the power of a great editor (the aforementioned Megan Lynch at Riverhead). She really knows me and my writing and how to guide me when I’m lost and I was lost a lot here.   

I think what surprised me was that I have had a lot of friends in my life and that though not all of them are still my friends or as close as we once were, I’m appreciative of every experience. They have all contributed so much to the ways I move through the world and how I feel about myself. 

I also loved your chapter on social media. There's a lot of talk about how bad social media is for writers (See the Maria Semple blog post) but for me social media has opened up worlds, made me new and wonderful friends, and acted as an important and essential community to me. Can you talk about this a bit?

Oh yes, I think it’s different for everyone.  I would never ever tell someone to Tweet or Facebook because it really doesn’t help if they aren’t into it. I was resistant to it initially, it just sounded like “Hey all the cool kids are on Facebook.”  But then I got into it and Twitter and found a real place for myself there. I read what Maria Semple said about word of mouth being the key to book sales and it is, but a lot of people get their word of mouth on social networks. I know I tweeted and facebooked about Maria’s book and actually that was where I first heard of it. It’s been said before but it really is my water cooler. 

How do you see your daughter's friendships differing from yours and why do you think that is?

I think it’s just the different kinds of people we are and the different environments we grew up in. I grew up in a rural area and went to one school system from K-12. She is growing up in Manhattan and will be with new kids in middle school and high school. She is also an only child so she depends on her friends in a different way. I mean I had two brothers but they never played with me but I couldn’t walk to someone’s house so I’d just play alone… in a cobwebby corner of the basement… where I swept the ashes.
Even though this isn't part of the book, I want to say how much I admire you for the dog rescue work you do. How is that going?

It’s going okay, the really nice part about the dog books is that I feel like I can help in much larger ways just getting the word out about rescue. I’m not taking in any fosters at the moment but I still am active in my group.

Writing is such a tough and competitive business, which is why I also adored your wise and funny chapter on being envious/jealous of others' success and how to handle it. It made me feel that the key to handling those feelings (and I think any writer who says he or she doesn't have them is lying!) My personal way of handling this is to get industrial strength generous and kind--to do things for the person who has what I was killing myself for, to congratulate and praise rather than eat myself alive. Your way seems to be to own those feelings, look at them, realize what they mean, and let them go. Which is probably more honest! Can you talk a bit about this?

I think that’s ideally how I would like to handle it, but it’s extremely difficult and I definitely do not always succeed.  I don’t know if it exists in every professional realm but I imagine it does. I wonder a lot about aging actresses looking at the incoming 20 year olds, the whole All About Eve thing. But probably two orthodontists in the same town compete and feel envy when one of them gets more Bracie Awards. I do know people are very uncomfortable with envy but it’s part of life so we have to deal with it. My thing is just not to be enviable. I think I make the world a better place by making sure I always show up with a lump of spinach in my teeth.  

What's obsessing you now and why?

My annual should I get something injected into my face to look younger debate. I talk about it for a month and everyone tells me I should go for it and then I don’t. But maybe this time I will. But probably not.

What question should I be mortified I didn't ask you?

You didn’t ask how I’ve been sleeping. Eh.

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