Thursday, March 26, 2015

I'll Meet You at the Water Cooler

noun col·league \ˈkä-(ˌ)lēg\
: a person who works with you : a fellow worker

Writers write alone. I spend a lot of time at home, in yoga pants, not doing yoga. I carry my MacBook around to various spots—my office, kitchen table, couch, and, perhaps not so wisely, my bed—and I write. Sometimes, for a change of scenery (and clothes), I don jeans and go to a friend’s house where she writes literary fiction in her bedroom, and I write YA fiction in her den. When I leave, I yell up the stairs to let her know I’m leaving, assuming she knew I was there in the first place. When I drive, I’m in my head planning out scenes. When I’m with family or friends, sometimes I’m in my head making characters sketches.
I worked in a corporate office for years, and I talked with my colleagues all day long. At the clichéd water cooler, we talked about the work, office politics, the industry, the weather, TV shows, and movies. My schedule was so booked up with meetings in which we discussed ideas, next steps, and planned meetings to plan more meetings, I barely had time to actually do the work.

Now I’m a writer. I don’t go to an office. I don’t chit-chat at the water cooler (actually,  if I'm lonely enough, I tell my water cooler what I'm working on). I don’t have meetings. But, I do have colleagues, in a sense—critique partners I can talk to about ideas, writing processes, struggles, and frustrations. My crit partners are spread around the continent, and most of our communication is via email, online chat, or occasionally Skype, but I always know they’re out there, and I couldn’t do this without them.

Last week, I learned I have even more colleagues—other authors who are promoting their books. As part of the NYC Teen Author Festival, I was given an opportunity to participate in The Big Read, which was a day of readings to students at libraries across the city. I was assigned to speak at the Queens Library in Jamaica, NY on a panel with four other authors.  I wasn’t as nervous for my first reading as I expected to be. Reading from my own book and then answering questions about writing was like going into an essay test you’re pretty sure you won’t bomb because it’s stuff you know cold.

Highlights of the event were answering the students’ questions, which were thoughtful and smart, and when a girl took a selfie with me, and told me how excited she was to read my book. But what really struck me was that being an author isn’t just about being alone and writing. It’s a job, and I have colleagues. The other authors—Heather Demetrios, Corey Ann Haydu, Aaron Starmer, and Cathleen Davitt Bell—were veterans, so they had done this a million times. When I met them, I told them it was my first time doing a reading, and Heather broke the ice—“Oh yay, we get to watch you lose your virginity!” We all laughed, and I felt like the new employee being warmly welcomed at the water cooler.

Each milestone in the publishing process as a debut author is a first—the offer, the cover, finally telling people who’ve been asking for years that my book is coming out in the fall, the first teenager who added my book on Goodreads, seeing the pre-order page on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other places. All of this stuff is beyond thrilling. But the first reading with established authors, and not feeling like a complete hack? Realizing that not only do I have critique partners as writing colleagues, but also other authors who are business colleagues? That’s cool. And it makes me want to take them all out to lunch. Too bad the new job doesn’t come with an expense account.

Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she's still in high school, and hopes that no one near her can read minds. Her debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press on September 1, 2015.


  1. So lovely, Natasha. Brightened up my Toronto morning as I head to the water cooler. ;)