Miss A Columnist

Mike Carson is an interactive media producer, artist, and writer located in the Washington, DC metro area. Mr Carson is the owner of Mike Carson Creative.

As Guy Friday, Mike dishes out advice, recommendations, and views — all with a twist of sass and a generous dose of bitchiness! Mike pulls no punches, spares no feelings, and isn't afraid to "go there" on any and all topics.

You can contact Mike at mcarson@mikecarsoncreative.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeInTheCity.

Living Renewal – An Interview With Cathy Alter Part 2

CathyCathy Alter is the author of the memoir Up For Renewal – What magazines taught me about love, sex, and starting over. Long before Robyn Okrant began Living Oprah, Cathy used the wisdom of the almighty O – and 13 other women’s glossies – to fix her shipwrecked life. Since it’s publication in 2008, Up For Renewal has enjoyed acclaim from critics and readers alike.

I wrote a review of the book for Ask Miss A.com and also had the pleasure of conducting an in-depth interview with Cathy Alter about this book, her other works, life, and process as a writer. This is Part 2 of 2 of that interview. Part 1 was published last week.

When I was reading your bio I was surprised to discover that your first published book was the anthology Virgin Territory.  Tell me about that project.

I interviewed women from all over the country – all different ages and backgrounds – and I asked them to tell me about their coming of age, girl to woman firsts. I wanted really quirky firsts so I have the first time someone wore a pair of high heels, the first bra, the first heartbreak, the first time they quit a job, the first time someone close to them died. Anything that made them feel that they were now a woman and not a little girl anymore. I just opened up a tape recorder and let them talk and then arranged their stories into body related firsts, relationship firsts, job firsts and family firsts.

For me it was the first time I got a cat call on the street when I was with my mom and I realized that she wasn’t getting the cat call that it was me, that this person thought I was older and that was a stunning moment to me. So I was interested in knowing what other women’s moments were.

But I really loved doing Virgin Territory. It was like this communal experience for me and the stories that I heard were funny and heartbreaking and terrifying. I was so lucky to have landed on this idea and gotten the book deal to do it.

I talked to some of the most interesting women ever and then when I did the book tour I would invite the women who lived in that area to come and read their own stories. So I got to meet a lot of these women in person which was great since most of the interviews were done on the telephone. Every event was like a huge party because I was meeting these women and they invited their friends and were getting up and reading their stories, which lead to women in the audience sharing stories. It was so fun. I really loved doing that book!

So for the next book my agent said, “OK now you have to do your story. You have to stop reporting other stories and write your own.” So that’s how this memoir (Up For Renewal) came about.


Did you include any stories from your own life or were they all just from other women?

I kicked off each chapter in the book with my own essay so I had some of my own.  And I varied a couple of stories. The people are only identified by first name only so it was very easy to get women to really open up about their first times and I was able to open up about my own too. It was an easy way to solicit these very personal stories because when I would share my own these women would go “Oh, one time…” and no matter what I said someone would have an equally entertaining or mortifying story.


How did the idea come about?

I went to Johns Hopkins to get my Masters for writing and I became very friendly with a couple of women. One night we’d all gone out to see the play “The Women” and afterwards went out for a drink. I don’t know who started it but one person was like, “Oh my God, the first time I got my period…” and the next person was like “Well mine…” and they started telling all these stories about getting their period. And I was listening and thought, “That would be a really fun project – to ask women about their first periods” because most first periods are horribly traumatic stories. Everybody has a first period story that they think is the most embarrassing of all time.

So I wanted to put together a book about first periods and the original title was First Period and my agent – who is a man – said, and I quote, “The menses make people nervous.” So he said I should expand and include lots of first things, which is what I did.

My sample chapter to get the book deal was “First Kiss”, which was amazing because I was in a hurry to do it and I went around my office and asked all the women on my floor to tell me about the first time they had their first kiss. That handful of women had wildly diverse stories and that’s when I thought, “I could do this book.” Everyone has a story so that was the concept.


Have you thought of doing a sequel to it, like another type of Virgin Territory book or do you feel like it’s been done and that’s not something you’re going to touch again?

I love hearing stories and love when people tell me stories about themselves or a time in their life. Like the first time they saw a naked man – that is a great icebreaker at parties. So yeah I think I would like to eventually do another collection of stories. And I’m always cataloging and thinking up things and setting them aside – collecting and archiving. I have a few ideas and I need to talk to my agent and see.

I think that is one of the benefits of being a writer you get ideas everyday -everyday could be another story or another book. I have a big list and I have to decide what do I want to live with for a couple of years because that is the process of writing a book and that’s what I’m doing now.


What other projects are you working on?  Do you have any other books planned?

Yes, but the ideas are still kind of nebular. I’ve been so busy writing freelance that I haven’t given any attention to the book proposal. And I have to write another book proposal before I can get another book deal. Having one book doesn’t make you have another book automatically, you have to jump through all the hoops again. You have to do a book proposal and competitive analysis.  I just have to find a need to do it. I’d still like to write memoir and I’d still like to mine my past for material and expand it out a little. I think doing women’s magazines and doing my own life was a little claustrophobic, I’d really like to branch out a little bit and write about other people as well.


Tell me about the publishing process for books, as it is a lot more involved than writing for magazines and newspapers.  What is the publishing process like? Was the process of publishing your first two books what you expected? What did you learn in the process from it?

You really have to do a lot of homework to be a published book writer. If you have a book idea that is non-fiction – fiction is completely different – the first thing I would advise is being able to say the idea of your book in no more than two sentences. We call it an elevator pitch; make believe that the elevator doors are closing and you have to say what your book is about in the time it takes the doors to close. Until you are able to do that, you’re pretty much going to be in trouble because you only have a few seconds with an agent or editor. They don’t want to read a whole preamble or explanation, so you have to be able to boil it down.

Once you can do that you need to figure out if there are any other books out there like the one you want to write because that will make it more difficult. Doing a real quick search on amazon is what I do or going to the book store and standing around in whatever section you want to write in is good. That would be the early step. Then if you figure out the kind of book you want to do you can find other books that are like the book you want to do.

The next thing you need to do is secure an agent. Authors usually thank their agent in acknowledgment section of their books.  Typically if an agent has repped a book like the one you want to do they might be interested in repping yours too.  You would send them a letter stating your idea as distinctly and briefly as possible and that you’re working on a book proposal. Usually an agent will ask you if you have any sample chapters or a proposal planned or in the works. There are a lot of articles, websites and books out there on how to write book proposals. The books on the market will tell you first you do an overview, then you do a synopsis, then you do competitive analysis and then the sample chapter. Having an actual sample of what you would like to do and what kind of writer you are is very important.

Now if you are trying to pitch a novel you pretty much have to write the whole novel. Then you have to find an agent again who has repped a similar genre and send it off in it’s entirety. You really don’t do a book proposal. If you don’t send it off in its entirety you’d send a synopsis of all the chapters plus a few full chapters. That’s what I’ve gleaned from over the years doing this.

I don’t know about oversees, but in every state here there are these writer’s conferences and festivals that offer sessions on how to style your book proposal or how to get an agent. If you go to journalism.com(www.journalism.com) you can find information on joining professional organizations which can tell you when these types of events are coming up. Finding a community of writers is important because writing is so solitary.

There is also self-publishing which I don’t know a lot about. I think it’s wonderful but I’ve been lucky to actually get published by publishers. I’m not sure if I have the energy to self-publish. It’s very different.


How long did it take to get Up For Renewal Published?

I had a book proposal but I didn’t have anything written because I hadn’t started the experiment yet. Once I got my book deal my contract gave me about a year to write it and then another year to get it out. It takes about a year from the time you hand in your manuscript to the time it hits the shelves, and then another year from the hardcover to the paperback. I was really lucky that it went paperback.


So not every book makes it from hardcover to paperback?

No, not necessarily. That’s one of the benefits with going with a major publisher. People tend to review books that come out in hardcover. And because it was with a big publisher chances were it would turn paperback.


That makes sense that they would release it first in a format that would get the most attention.

There are two kinds of thought on that. A lot of books now are released in trade paperback, which my first book Virgin Territory was. The benefit is that it’s more affordable. I am guilty of not buying hardcover; I always wait for the paperback. So that’s a risk.

Because Up For Renewal was released in hardcover it got more attention – it got me on the Today Show – and was considered for more reviews. But it also came out at a time when nobody was spending money because the economy was plummeting.

It was important for my career to have a hardcover release; that’s a reason to have an agent.  My agent said, “This book needs to come out hardcover for your career.” and I said, “OK.” I can’t even believe I have one book; I never thought I’d have books out at all. I just figured I’d always write for magazines and I would graduate from writing for local magazines to ones like Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Getting a “Talk of the Town” in The New Yorker was my dream – it still is. But that’s where I thought I’d finish; I’d get a “Talk of the Town” in The New Yorker and that would be it for me. And then maybe I would investigate writing a book. I never thought it would happen in this order. I just fell into it. I was very lucky.


You have been writing for publications for many years and have some impressive credentials. In light of your experiences have you found it easier or harder to have your work picked up?

I think I’m in the mix with a lot of really good writers and what’s been helping me is my relationships with my current editors. That’s what’s been keeping me so busy. I have cultivated and maintained really good relationships with editors who know I will turn something in on time that is well written, fun, and that I’ve worked really hard on. I’m easy to work with; I don’t complain and I pick my battles. I’m still so appreciative that someone is asking me to write for them even though I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m so grateful and so thankful, especially now when magazines and newspapers are folding and page numbers are dwindling.

It’s much harder but I still feel like I’ve been busy and have sort of figured out what sort of writer I am and what niche I fall into and what I like. I know what I’m capable of and I know when I’m out of my league; I don’t try and go out of my league. I think for me to write an Op-Ed piece would be a big mistake. I can do it if I have to but I’m better at doing other things and I’m fully aware of that and that’s where I go.

I think that editors are looking for really good stories. If you can tell a really good story or find someone with a really good story, that you have a really good shot at getting published. You know Andrea (Rodgers) is a really good story and I knew she’d be a really good story and would fit into the assignment and the article (for Washingtonian) and I was really lucky to be able to sell that idea.

I’d like to think that I could say, “Do you know who I am? I’m Cathy Alter!” and be able to write for like Esquire but I’m not and can’t do that. I have a friend who once did that and I couldn’t believe it. She did that to an editor at The (Washington) Post and she’s not anybody but she had the nerve to be like, “Do you know who I am?” and totally burned her bridges. So I would never ever do anything like that although I’d like to think I could. But my name doesn’t mean anything I think. There’re so many talented writers out there, I’m lucky to be a working writer.


There’s an entirely different creative process between writing for magazines and writing books.  What was the hardest transition for you in switching formats?

The only way I could make it through was to break it into smaller pieces. I just had to make pretend that I was writing one feature article after another. Each chapter (of Up For Renewal) was about 6000 words so I had to imagine my book as being a lot of articles, because it was too overwhelming to think that I was writing a book. So I would say, “Now I’m finished with that article, time to start on the next article.”


Do you ever feel pressured to “top” anything you’ve written before?

I feel that with my books. With my first book I felt that I was the faithful interpreter of these women’s stories and now I have to tell my own story. And now I have to do something else; I have to branch out further and add another layer of narrative or make it more literary.  I do that anyway, I’m very hard on myself and want to do bigger and better. I’d love to push myself to do something kind of scary. To do the kind of writing I do but take some more chances and try to do bigger and better publications, more national publications. The New Yorker and The Atlantic are such amazing magazines – that’s where I’d like to aim. Even just a front-end piece in a magazine would give me tons more confidence to do what I do.


What inspires you as a writer?

Other people. People are endlessly fascinating to me and I just love to hear people tell me their stories.

One time I went into the Ecco shoe store on Connecticut Avenue because I was looking for this comfortable walking boot with a rubbery bottom. So I go in there, and there’s nobody in there, and this woman comes over to help me.  While I’m explaining the type of boot I’m looking for she is fiddling with something in her pocket and it falls out and starts bouncing on the ground – it was a golf ball. And I was like, “Why do you have a golf ball in your pocket?” And she was like, “Oh, well it’s because we have a jar of golf balls in the back.” So I was like, “Why do you have a jar of golf balls in the back of your store?” and she said that they sued to have a jar of them in the front of the store. I kept asking “why” and finally got the story that they used to sell golf shoes and the golf balls were part of a display. When they took down the display they didn’t know what to do with it so they took it into the back and I guess when the people working in the store get bored they start throwing golf balls around. 

But it took me like ten minutes to get that out of her. And this is one of the requirements to be a writer, you have to be really serious and ask questions. You have to stay on top of people until they answer your questions. This woman was a very good sport about it and I realized that some people might not have noticed or might not think to ask, “Why is there a golf ball in your pocket?” But again you really have to, in Washington, DC in the dead of winter, ask why someone would have a golf ball in their pocket.

That’s sort of my inspiration; people who have golf balls in their pockets who don’t find it unusual, and to keep asking them, “Why?”


Do you have favorite places or times to write?

I really write whenever I get an idea, but I’m not allowed to write once my husband gets home; He really hates it when I’m at my computer. Occasionally I’ll run up and jot something down and I sleep with a notebook next to my bed in case I get an idea or a lead sentence that comes to me. But I’m better first thing in the morning. And I don’t mean 7 am in the morning, I mean like 9 o’clock when I’ve had my coffee and oatmeal first and can sit down and focus. I have to read Gawker first [laughs]. Some writers are like “I sit down and write from 6 am to 10 am and then I do this and then I sit down and I write from 4 to 7” and I don’t do that, I don’t have set times. I either write all day long nonstop or I write when I feel I have a idea.


What advice can you give to other writers about balancing the time needed to write and the obligations of their personal life?

You have to be very disciplined. For me the blank page is very overwhelming and one of friends always says, “Bum in chair.”  So you first have to sit in the chair and it’s painful and you’re struggling but just write a sentence. Just get it down on paper. Write a sentence and then it feels like, “That wasn’t so bad.” Then write another sentence and just do it and say, “I’m not going to get up until I have three sentences.” And once you have those three sentences you’re like all of a sudden, “Hey that wasn’t so bad I’ll write some more.” So that’s sort of the trick for me getting going.

But for me being a writer at home writing and not having an office or boss to be accountable to I have to try and be really disciplined and say, “OK, from this time to this time I will not look at my e-mail. And from this time to this time I will answer only the most important e-mails. From this time to this time I will write this thing and I won’t do my school stuff until this time.” I try and break my day and you have to be flexible. Often times I’ll get a crazy e-mail with edits that I’ll have to make right away and my day will have to shift a little bit. Sometimes I spend all day working on one paragraph, but it will be a really good paragraph by the time I’m done with it. And other days I’ll just write thousands and thousands of words.

Like today, I sat down and wrote an essay. I had no intention of writing an essay and I sat down and did it because I wanted to. That rarely happens. Usually there’s a lot more struggle involved. That was my day and I had some edits to work on for another story and I thought, “Well I can do that on Monday or Saturday when my husband is playing around with his remote control helicopter. He’ll have helicopter time and I’ll have edit time.”


It’s been about 3 years since you and your husband married.

Yeah we just celebrated our three-year anniversary.



Thank you! We realized New Year’s Eve that he proposed 5 years ago.  It doesn’t feel like that long.


Your early courtship and the steps leading up to the marriage is documented in Up For Renewal. How have things evolved and changed for you two as a couple since the last page of the book turned?

Well I always threaten him when he doesn’t pick up his socks or do his dishes that I’m working on the sequel so he behaves himself because he’s such a hero in this book. [laughs] But you know I still feel like a newlywed.  Everyday when he walks in the door at the end of the day I still can’t believe it. I cannot believe how lucky I am and how far I came since that book.

My mother – who I really wouldn’t go to  for advice – told me a long time ago before I met Karl or married my first husband that, “People tell you that marriage is hard work. Don’t believe them. Marriage is not hard work.” And now that I’m with Karl – somebody who is really good to me – I understand what she was saying. That was such a wise thing for her to say and it really stuck with me.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t get mad with him about some stuff or that we don’t argue about other stuff but it’s so nothing. It’s really not a big deal and there are no deep down huge core problems. And I’d never had that before. And I realized how easy and joyful it can be to be married to somebody. I never really got that although I did grow up with parents who had a wonderful marriage. I just never really saw myself as having that too. I sort of saw myself as this difficult person who was so sensitive or high maintenance that it would be harder for me to find somebody who could put up with that. And it turns out that wasn’t true at all. I found someone who knows how to deal with that and put up with me and that’s the trick for me being happy.

All the stuff I think would annoy somebody Karl thinks is cute. That’s what I can’t get over, and he says that about himself to me. He says, “You like the things that annoy other people.” I think that’s the secret, you just have to like those things.  I never saw my parents fight or argue. It’ not like they went behind closed doors and did it they just never did it.  And I once asked my mom how they could do that and she said that early on in their marriage they figured out what annoyed one another about each other and they stopped doing it. Which I thought was just so simple. It’s simple but that’s a book right there: “How to Have a Happy Marriage – Stop doing the thing that bothers the other person!” But she’s right you have to really make an effort.


What advice can you give to others who are starting over post-divorce? What has “the second time around” taught you about love and relationships?

I think that you really have to pay attention to all the red flags. That’s huge. If something doesn’t feel right in your gut it probably isn’t right although you may love somebody. I certainly loved my first husband and I’m still friends with him – I think he’s amazing and deserves a happy life like I have – but it wasn’t right and I didn’t want to see that. I just refused to see it because there were so many things that were good in our relationship. You really have to pay attention to everything.

But the most obvious advice is that you’re not going to change anybody. I don’t think you can really change yourself either. I think you can change how you deal with certain things and the control you have inside of yourself approaching a challenge during those hard times and good times.  But pretty much you are you and you have to like and love that person and feel worthy in order to attract somebody and have a happy relationship.

I hear my single friends say, “All guys are dogs” or “All guys are this. All guys are that” and that’s dangerous. Nobody is everything. And I always think l, “Do you know all guys? Do you know every guy in the world? How do you say something like that when it’s not true and have hope? You’re pretty good and pretty great so why isn’t someone else out there for you pretty good or pretty great?” Having that sense of hope is important and if you don’t then do something to make your life better. Whether it’s reading women’s magazines, taking a trip, reading the backs of soup cans, whatever it is you have to take an active part in your life; you can’t just sit back and expect things to get better, you have to do something. I think that’s number one; you have to be an active member in your own life.


There is a humorous part in your book (Up For Renewal) where you discuss the age gap between you and your husband. In reading your accounts the two of you seem to very much be on the same wavelength.  Having been together for 5 years now, have you found the age gap to be a challenge or simply a non-existent issue?

I think I’m more aware of it because as a writer I use everything in my life for something, and for the story I had to point out the age difference.  Karl says it has no bearing on why he loves me and what he sees when he looks at me. He doesn’t see it and he hates that I do.  And I only do when I’m writer Cathy I think. But occasionally he’ll say, “Do you remember this cartoon?” and I’ll say, “What cartoon?” and he’ll tell me and I’ll be like, “No, I was in college getting stoned and having sex when you were in your jammies watching cartoons!” [laughs] Every once in a while it’s evident that there’s an age difference and it’s usually in the entertainment industry. Like I won’t know about a certain television show or cartoon or movie because at the time I was in college or working.

But I think that’s something that I have to accept and feel good about. And not be so crazy about getting wrinkles or looking like his mom or whatever. Like sometimes we’ll go out and he’ll get carded and I won’t and I’ll be outraged. But I have to stop doing that because he married me because of my confidence and my zest and my energy.  And that’s what he sees when he looks at me; He doesn’t see crow’s feet. I could look disgusting and he always goes, “Look at that cute face.”

So I always have to keep that at the front of my mind and stop stressing. I think it’s the double whammy being a woman and having the messages all around us about why grow old gracefully when there’s Botox and fillers and creams. I have to be really careful not to fall into that trap.


What advice would you give to other couples who are starting a relationship in which here is a significant age gap?

I think the hardest thing for me – probably for Karl too though I don’t think he’d admit it – is managing other people. I cannot tell you how many my friends, even my good friends, when they found out about our age difference said, “Lucky you!” And I’m thinking, “Yeah I’m lucky, so is he.” But they would say it in a way like, “What do you think he’s doing?” because he’s younger so he’s swinging from the chandeliers or something. What does that mean, “Lucky Me?” Or they’d say, “How did you manage to get him?”  You know being older I’m the cougar obviously. I got called that a lot, “Ooh cougar! What did you do to get him?” And I’ll say, “Oh, well you know I keep him tranquilized. I have a stun gun I keep at home.”

I think for a guy to be with a younger woman is like totally acceptable, it happens all the time. But now with women being with much younger men it headlines, just look at Susan Sarandon and that ping-pong player guy.  You don’t read headlines when it’s a man.  So there’s still a lot of this salacious idea of this older woman stalking this younger man and I find it really, really insulting.

When you’re with somebody in an unconventional relationship it’s sort of other people’s problem.  I think as long as your partner can withstand that critical eye that you’ll be fine, but you do have to have a conversation. Karl and I did talk about it and I told him about what people were saying – what friends and coworkers were saying – and he’d say, “Who cares? There’re idiots.” And he was right. It’s not right and your friends should be supportive and happy for you and not say such an undermining thing.  During our courtship and marriage we shuffled our friends based on them being jerks.


In meeting your in-laws and integrating into the family you had a lot of humorous stories, especially those about your allergic incompatibility with many of the staples of Chinese cuisine and the knowledge gap between yourself and many of the cultural traditions.  In the years since marrying, how has your knowledge and comfort level improved? Do you ever find yourself in moments like the ones on your trip to China in which you feel you’ve made a cultural blunder?

No. The whole color thing – can’t wear red to this, can’t wear white to that – is still a little confusing to me. Karl doesn’t really have a traditional family. Like people were wearing black at this wedding and back in the day you would never wear black at a wedding. They are very Westernized and his mother and his mother’s sister both married Westerners so it wasn’t like I was entering into this Joy Luck Club craziness. I didn’t really worry.  I worry more now about his mother and her reaction to the book.  But I feel very comfortable. His mother’s a riot and his uncles and cousins are really fun. I don’t feel like, “Oh, look at round-eye in the room.” I don’t feel like that at all.

I think that having Joy as my mother-in-law is very different than Karl having my mother as his mother-in-law. My mother doesn’t have the same sort of expectations of a son-in-law as his mother has of a daughter-in-law. And that’s what I struggle with, how to make her happy. Karl was the man of the house – he really stepped in and became a father to his sister and a problem solver for his mother – and I sort of took the man away and how can I reassure her that they still have this close relationship and nothing has changed. It’s a very delicate balance and I’m much more open about talking about it than she is. So it’s stressful. I want her to feel good that her son married well and I know she loves me so I worry more about that – am I doing enough and being the best I can be for her.


There are a lot of women – cultural or otherwise – who find themselves in your position where they have a tense situation with the mother-in-law.  Not a Monster-in-Law situation, but one with that very tight mother-son bond and anxiety with the mother that the daughter-in-law is taking her son away or that her relationship with her son is going to drastically change because of the presence of this new woman in his life. Do you have any advice for women who feel they are in that situation and are wondering how to navigate the waters?

First you have to accept that this is his mother; He loves his mother and she’s not going anywhere and that’s the reality of it. Karl no matter what he says about his mom, loves his mother and is loyal and devoted to her. And that’s the first thing you have to get out of the way. I’m not going anywhere and she’s not going anywhere.

The second thing I think that has been helpful is remembering that even if you think you’re extremely different from your mother-in-law or boyfriend’s mother that what you do have in common is that you both love him.  She loves her son and you love your boyfriend or husband. That’s the starting point; that you have this one person in common and you both agree that he’s pretty great. That’s what I start with and you know I think in complimenting Karl and saying, “Oh, Karl has been great about this one thing” it’s really a reflection on her, that she did such a good job bringing him up that she created this wonderful guy. I think makes a parent feel good, when you point out all the great things about their son and that’s been really helpful.

The other thing that I’ve found makes our time enjoyable is that I know what her hobbies are, what she’s interested in and what she likes to talk about and I ask her about those things. People are very flattered to have somebody who is interested in them and have an engaged audience; I’m very flattered right now that you’re asking me all these questions. She’s very in to bird watching so I always ask her about that or her work and growing up – just ask her about herself. I try to always be in a good mood, laughing and upbeat and that seems to go a long way too – being pleasant.

And never pitting us against us each other, that’s really important. That’s a mistake a lot of younger people make is pitting you against somebody and making your boyfriend or husband choose. You’re never going to win; whether he chooses you or not, somebody is always resentful. It’s a bad idea to create that dynamic. I don’t want to add to my husband’s stress, I want to take it away. And I always ask him, “What do you want me to do? Do you want me to call? Do you want me to make dinner plans?” I always try to make it easier on him because he’s stressed out enough.


Any other thoughts or things you’d like to impart to the readers?

I think that my book (Up For Renewal) isn’t about women’s magazines – that was the vehicle I used – the book is really a memoir about someone who was really screwed up and figured out a way to get out of a hole. That is the theme. I think a lot of people misunderstand and think it’s this book that’s all about women’s magazines and I feel like that’s in the background and the main message is, “If you’re unhappy and feel you need to change, there are things you can do that actually work.” That’s the positive message I want readers to come away with.

I think that’s why people relate to the story. It’s not because they love women’s magazines. I don’t think most people understand women’s magazines or have read them but they understand that whole idea of that second shot at love, life or career. And that’s always a happy story to read.


Cathy, thank you. It has been such a pleasure interviewing you!

You’re the best! I want you to send me your list of questions so I can use them when I have to interview other people. [laughs] They were so good! This was the best interview ever! Thank you!


To learn more about Cathy Alter and her work, visit her website.

Also, be sure to pick up Washingtonian magazine’s February issue to see an article Cathy Alter wrote about Miss A, Andrea Rodgers. Here is Andrea’s take on the article.

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