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Featured Writer of the Week: Amy Klein

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Amy Klein is a writer based in New York City. She wrote the “Fertility Diary” column for The New York Times’s Motherlode blog for three years. She writes frequently about health and fertility for publications such as Newsweek, Slate, The Washington Post, and others. Learn more at thetryinggamebook.com or by following @AmydKlein on Twitter.

You just came out with a pretty significant and personal book, “The Trying Game: How to Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind,” from Penguin/Random House on April 7th. Tell us about the book.

So I used to have a column in The New York Times called “Fertility Diary,” following my four-year journey to have a baby, with ten doctors, nine rounds of IVF, four miscarriages in three countries till I had my daughter (she’s almost five!). I thought I would write a memoir about that experience, but instead I realized it was bigger than a memoir, so I expanded it beyond my personal story to include interviews with doctors, therapists, scientists and other patients, and to really help people get through the entire process. It deals with everything from, “Oh shoot! Will I have fertility problems?” to “how do I find a doctor and pay for it?” and more emotional issues like “How can I preserve my partnership?” or “What do I do with all these feelings of baby envy?” and “When is it time to change doctors/clinics/treatments or adopt or give up?” all the way through to the epilogue, “Motherhood After IVF.”

It’s for people who might have fertility trouble, to those in the trenches, and others who want to understand what the experience is like for their family and friends. There’s something in there for everyone—gay, straight, single, married.

How has the experience of publishing during the coronavirus been?

So in the first week of March I started to realize my grand book tour—dozens of events in NYC, Boston and Los Angeles—were not going to happen. And that was quite a shock to wrap my head around. I wasn’t quite understanding what was going to go down herein NYC, and all the sickness, death and grief—but I knew I was not going to have this big book release. I had two parties planned—one for writers and one for friends, an event at the Strand, another at The Wing, and they all started to fall through. I wrote this article “What It’s Like to Promote a Book in the middle of a Pandemic” for Electric Literature, and we weren’t even in the middle of it yet! I did not know what was to come. Thankfully, I am healthy and my family is healthy, even though we are smack dab in the middle of New York City, so I’m grateful for that. But this is not how I planned the culmination of more than two years of work!

Have you participated in online events instead? What did you think?

I’m super grateful to all the people who are having me on their podcasts, like Zibby Owens, who hosts, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books,” and “Reading with Robin” and others who are promoting authors during this time. I’m participating in a lot of FB live events—especially with National Infertility Awareness Week on April 19-25—so many I can’t even keep track!

I think there are many people who have time to watch FB live events and join Zoom meetings, and this is a good way for them to use screen time in a productive and social way.

Any advice to other authors that will also be publishing their books in the coming months that will most likely be affected by the lockdown?

The only good time to publish a book was last January, LOL. Who knows what the future will bring—a slowdown, another resurgence of the pandemic, another lockdown? There will be an election and that will dominate the news, for sure. And then there will be a post-election period. It’s a new world we’re living in. (I actually wrote ANOTHER book, but a very, very short one, called: After Corona: Stories, dystopian/speculative flash fiction about that new world!)

It might be hard to get publicity now, with the news dominated by Corona, the economy and the election. For me, as a journalist, it means pivoting to writing about those things and how they affect fertility. For better or worse, pandemic or no, people will always have fertility issues. People will also always want to read novels. Right now some people are desperate to be off their screens and read. So you have to find the venues—the independent bookstores and book clubs—who will help you promote your book.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew getting started as a writer? What would you tell your younger self?

When I was in my early twenties I told some guy I was working on a memoir and he said, “What do you have to write about? You’re so young!” That kind of derailed me because I had so much to say (and still do). I wish I would have told my young self that I had plenty of important stories to tell and to tell them NOW. What I did not know then was that there is a time to tell your story, a time that you need to write it and that time doesn’t last forever. If you miss that time, you might have a different story to tell, but you should always write the story you are burning with passion to write. And not worry about the other stuff.

Where do you get your ideas?

I’ve never had a lack of ideas—in fact, I always have too many ideas. I used to ask others how they wrote, but now I realize the question is “how do you think?” Which is what you’re asking I guess. For me, it doesn’t happen in front of the computer. Well, the actual writing does, but for me usually on a run or hike, when I’m alone, that’s when I get ideas and flesh them out. Yes, I dictate them in front of the computer, but I have to have time to think and come up with the ideas. And that only happens in solitude.

Do you feel like you have a community of writers around you? Do you have a mentor?

I have so many communities of writers: I have my MFA community from Antioch University in Los Angeles, I have Professor Susan Shapiro’s workshops and all the friendships I’ve created from there in NYC, I have various writer’s workshops I’ve belonged to over the years, I have the Moth storytellers groups, and I have my community of journalists—I’ve worked at various newspapers for the last two decades. I also have a group of writers from my NYC workspace (Kettle). So I think 95% of my friends are writers or in the creative space, actually. 

When I was a new mom people were always trying to set me up with other moms but all I wanted to know if they were creatives, because I wanted playdates to write. As a full-time freelance writer—whether I’m working on books, articles, essays or even content marketing—I like to spend my time in the company of other writers and creatives.

What’s next for you? … if you will, the next not-shiny object that you’ll be chasing?

I have many ideas for books—another work of narrative nonfiction, a YA novel, a TV show loosely based on my book. Now that I’ve finished my first book—which took about two years or so from start to finish—I realize that it’s not only about the idea, but which idea I want to immerse myself in for such a long time!
So I’ll have to see what the future holds.


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