Friday, October 8, 2010
Meet The Huffington Post's Entertainment Reporter, Jeff Rivera
Please join me in welcoming The Huffington Post Entertainment Writer and fellow author, Jeff Rivera, who has a truly inspirational story to tell. Based in Costa Rica, Jeff is also a sought-after speaker on new media and publishing. I met this incredible man through my agent, Christine Witthohn. She said he was someone I had to interview for M & M, and she was right. His bio is too long to go into detail, and I’d rather play the old “show rather than tell” game. So without further ado, I’ll let him entertain you with what he’s up to these days. Be prepared to be astonished.
Me: Right out of the box, can you tell our readers about your rise from a homeless teen to a published author?
Jeff: Yes, when I was about 19 years old my mother was in an abusive relationship and when she decided to flee, I wanted to be there by her side to support her. It was a difficult decision because we were very involved in the church at that time and siding with her meant our church turning their backs against us. No one believed our side of the story and treated us like the Scarlet Letter. But for me, the decision was a no-brainer and one that I'm very proud to have taken. Unfortunately, supporting my mom meant us living in our car for months. Waking up everyday to wash our socks in the rain water, using public bathrooms to change, begging for food at the local Wendy's was not only humbling but humiliating for a teenager, but all through the experience I kept holding on to the hope that one day I would be an author. Things got so bad that my mom ended up having an emotional breakdown and when she did, the government decided to step in, give us a studio apartment to share and we were able to start to get on our feet.
That meant finally being able to get jobs and at my first job, K-Mart I met a young man who inspired me to write my first novel, Forever My Lady.
Me: That’s truly amazing, Jeff. And it’s because of this you are an advocate of teens in trouble. Can you tell us about your work in that arena?
Jeff: One of my absolute favorite things to do is to talk to teens, especially in disadvantaged areas and inspire them that no matter what they're going through they can make it through it and still accomplish their dreams. I've spoken all over the country and have been flown to everywhere from South Carolina to San Francisco to speak.
Me: What about your job at The Huffington Post? Interviewed any big names you want to talk about?
Jeff: That's the fun thing about what I do as a professional writer, I get to meet and talk to all kinds of interesting people. One day I might be talking to Hugh Hefner on the phone, the next day might be Nicholas Sparks or Macy Gray. The list goes on. I pinch myself thinking that at one time, all we had to eat was one jar of peanut butter and shared one plastic spoon between the three of us. It was literally that bad.
Me: I know you are also a successful author who started out with a self-published book. In today’s economy, when NY is buying fewer manuscripts, a lot of the readers view this, as well as e-pubs, as a way to break into the market. Do you see your decision to do that as the starting point of your career?
Jeff: Absolutely, it also taught me the skills that I know now in order to help other aspiring writers land agents and market and promote their self-published books. That's why we created GumboWriters.com to do exactly that. I deal with hundreds of top literary agents, editors, publishers all the time and when I recommend something to them they read it immediately.
Me: Can you tell us a little more about Gumbowriters.com?
Jeff: Sure, GumboWriters.com is aspiring writers way in. For so long, the book publishing industry had closed its door to outsiders. Now, with sites such as ours, for the first time, writers have access to the same editors from major publishing companies that can edit their manuscripts and book proposals to the standards expected by major publishing houses before they even approach literary agents. We can even assist them in landing an agent or help them market their book before or after its release. Or, if they're looking to self-publish we can help them with that, all using veterans in the book publishing industry.
Me: Whew! I’m feeling tired just asking these questions. You have a lot of irons in the fire. Tell us abut your role in Mediabistro.
Jeff: Mediabistro, as you know is one of the leading media insider industry publications and I write for them as well as GalleyCat which is part of the Mediabistro family and it's one of the leading book publication online magazines. It's great working with them because I've interviewed everyone from James Patterson and Janet Evanovich to David Baldacci and Jeff Kinney.
Me: And finally, do you have any parting words of wisdom to all the aspiring writers out there who so desperately want to get published?
Jeff: Yes, definitely don't be so desperate to get an agent right away. Focus on writing the best novel you can. In fact, write at least 2 or 3 of them first. It doesn't cost a penny to join an online critique group to give you feedback on your novel. Then, I suggest you hire a freelance editor, such as the ones we have on GumboWriters to edit the manuscript so that it's at the level that would be expected. Then, query an agent at that time (www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com) and if you decide that you'd rather self-publish, you can do that too, and there's ways to do it so that it doesn't cost a penny.
Me: Okay, guys. As you can see, here is a wealth of information at your fingertips. Ask away. Jeff's promised to check in during the day to answer questions.