Claire Cook’s Passport to Your Next Chapter

Claire Cook’s Passport to Your Next Chapter

When do you know it’s that time?

Time to tackle your dream, sandwich it between kids, parents, home, work, the craziness of everyday life?

Conventional wisdom says if it’s important enough, you’ll make the time.

Conventional wisdom doesn’t live in the 21st century.

But what about unconventional wisdom?

Unconventional wisdom sounds like Claire Cook, who, at age 45, wrote her first novel in a minivan parked outside her daughter’s 5:00 am swim sessions.

Procrastination Pays Off

That novel, Ready to Fall, sold to the first publisher who asked to read it. Luck, as they say, is where preparation meets opportunity.

I think the trick to avoid rejection might be to procrastinate for decades and skip all those awful stages!

Claire used much of her advance to promote the book. Her investment got her an agent at International Creative Management, who repped her next novel, Must Love Dogs.

Then, serendipity struck. Claire left several autographed copies at a bookstore display in Vermont. Gary David Goldberg (creator of Family Ties and Spin City) wandered by and bought one. He took it home, poured a glass of wine, settled in — and called Claire’s agent first thing the next morning.

At age 50, Claire waltzed down the red carpet at the movie première of Must Love Dogs. Now she can add a few stories about John Cusack to her repertoire.

She didn’t just make time, she outclassed it.

Claire Cook's Passage to Your Next Chapter at LaterBloomer.comWallflower In Bloom

I just finished Claire’s latest book, Wallflower in Bloom. It’s the story of Deirdre Griffin, personal assistant to her brother Tag (a Tony Robbins-esque new age guru) who has no life beyond acting as her brother’s gatekeeper.

Then her sometime boyfriend says he’s marrying another woman because she’s having his baby — the one he told Deidre he never wanted. And by the way, Tag’s performing the ceremony.

After drowning her sorrows in a Ben & Jerry’s Triple Caramel Chunk and vodka milkshake, Deirdre hijacks Tag’s social media following (which she created) and gets herself voted onto Dancing With The Stars.

In Los Angeles, she experiences sore calves and spray-tanning, meets female contestants whose waists are smaller than her wrist, and finds her groove.

The spot-on characterization and affectionate send-up of the entertainment and self-help industries made it a lighthearted read that washed away the stress of a crazy week. I totally recommend it.

The inspiration for Wallflower In Bloom is a hoot. GalleyCat, a popular publishing blog, asked its Facebook readers which author they’d most like to see on Dancing With the Stars. Claire’s fans rallied behind her, and she beat Nora Roberts, Jodi Picoult, and David Sedaris to win.

Dancing With The Stars has yet to call, but Claire says she would do it, knees shaking, “Not just for me, but for midlife women everywhere.”

Passport To Your Next Chapter

Today Claire has nine books behind her and almost as many lives, including bartender, advertising copywriter, radio station programmer, physical fitness instructor. She became a teacher at her kids’ school and stayed for sixteen years.

I loved all my previous jobs. There was always something creative in them. Even if you’re in a horrible job right now, it could pay off later.

Her novels are classified as “women’s books,” but she tackles universal themes — reinvention being the biggest. Here’s Claire’s “Passport To Your Next Chapter” from her novel Seven Year Switch:

1.  Self. You can’t have self-awareness until you decide to like yourself, and who you really are.

2.  Soul-Searching. Sometimes it’s getting quiet enough to figure out what you want; often it’s really digging for that buried dream you had before life got in the way.

3.  Serendipity. Stay open to surprises, throw routine out the window, and let spontaneity change your life.

4.  Synchronicity. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

5.  Strength. Life is tough. Decide to be tougher. If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. {Click to share this on Twitter!}

6.  Sisterhood. Connect and do something nice for someone. Karma is a boomerang.

Claire has another piece of advice for late bloomers — pick one thing. The grass is always greener in front of the book you’re not writing.

Creative people are good at lots of things. But if you choose one and focus all your energy and creativity on it, you’ll go from good to better. I can’t tell you how many times an aspiring writer has told me about her partially completed drafts of two novels and three short stories, not to mention that screenplay, all of which she’s abandoned because she just got a great idea for a children’s book.

Claire Cook's Passage to Your Next Chapter at
Author Claire Cook

I cover this in Why Are Some People Late Bloomers? Focus doesn’t mean giving up your passions.But Claire eventually channeled her various jobs into her characters, and you might need to find an unconventional outlet that blends your passions into your dream.

Claire Cook, however, proves don’t need to find the perfect desk to write that first novel, you don’t need to quit your day job to find happiness, and you don’t actually need to land on Dancing With The Stars to find your groove!

Do you have a piece of unconventional wisdom that’s helped you tackle a dream?  


20 Responses

  1. Pat O'Dea Rosen
    | Reply

    Love this post, Debra! Thanks for reminding me how much I enjoyed MUST LIKE DOGS. Your synopsis of WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM hooked me, and isn’t that cover stunning?

    • Debra Eve

      Thanks, Pat. I saw Must Love Dogs, but never read the book (it’s on my Kindle now). But I had to read Wallflower in Bloom! Claire is so talented, especially at characterization. I think you’ll love it

  2. Marla Martenson
    | Reply

    I loved that movie Must Love Dogs! What a great post, so inspiring. I became a published author at the age of 45. I just published my 4th book this summer, a memoir based on my experiences as a Beverly Hills Matchmaker. I am now writing the prequel, it’s about my adventures as a single gal waiting on tables. So, I used antics from stressful jobs that I wished I didn’t have at the time, to entertain people now.

    • Debra Eve

      Hi Marla! I’ve got your memoir on my Kindle. There’s a few books ahead of it for reviews and articles I’ve committed to writing, but I can’t wait to read it! PD James says nothing that happens to a writer is wasted. You and Claire have proved that.

  3. khaula mazhar
    | Reply

    Another inspiring post Debra. I was so happy to see you on Write it Sideways! Look forward to your posts there.

    • Debra Eve

      Thanks, Khaula! Very honored to be writing over there. Thanks again for stopping by!

  4. Jennette Marie Powell
    | Reply

    It’s so encouraging to see people who went after–and achieved–their dreams, even after waiting for years. One advantage many later bloomers must have is that we’ve had plenty of time to fail – and learn from it. Thanks for another inspiring post, Debra!

    • Debra Eve

      So true, Jennette. I really didn’t figure out what I wanted to do until the trial and error of my 20s and 30s and even then, I waited until ten years. I didn’t have the confidence to embrace my creativity so fully earlier.

  5. Chris Edgar
    | Reply

    Yes, what she says about focusing on one particular project definitely resonates with me — I am moving forward with one online animated musical, but I have another in the works, and I also have a screenplay draft, just like the aspiring writer in Claire’s example. Of course, at least on the musical theater front, the nice thing is that I can cannibalize songs from one show and use them for another, depending on which project builds momentum.

    • Debra Eve

      Also, I think once you finally allow your creativity free reign after years in a stifling day job (as I did), there’s a tendency, like a kid in a toy shop, to want to try everything at once. Settling on one thing at time comes naturally after that exploration period. Sounds like you’ve got some intriguing stuff going on, Chris!

  6. Emily Woodhouse
    | Reply

    ‘Must Love Dogs’ has very quickly been added to my favorite’s shelf; it had me laughing out loud so many times I had to keep checking around me to see if anyone noticed. *giggle*
    Also I found the characters in this book were so real and easy to relate too, you know people just like them as well as being able to compare yourself and your own insecurities to them.

    • Debra Eve

      I kept seeing myself in Claire’s latest heroine, Deirdre, because I used to dance, but have now put on *ahem* a little weight. I’ve got to read “Must Love Dogs.” Thanks for stopping by, Emily!

  7. Julie Hedlund
    | Reply

    I love Claire Cook and find her own story so inspiring! Can’t wait to read this next one!!

    • Debra Eve

      I agree. She’s so accessible. I’m planning on going back and reading all the rest of her books. Thanks for stopping by, Julie.

  8. florence fois
    | Reply

    Debra, during my blog hiatus I missed that you are contributing on Writing It Sideways … Kudos … one of my favs I’ve also been neglecting lately.

    Love this post. It speaks to what happens when you stop “day dreaming” and start working the dream … one wishes the other does. Great stuff, Thanks so much 🙂

    • Debra Eve

      Welcome back, Florence! So glad you stopped by. Claire is truly an inspiration to all of us starting a little later!

  9. Karen McFarland
    | Reply

    Debra, I am so glad I know you. Every single person you’ve written about is just amazing! And such an inspiration! I think that because we are older, we’ve had over the many years more opportunity to express ourselves on different avenues. For some, they are perfectly happy doing what they do for the rest of their life. Then, there are others that for whatever reason, feel it necessary to move on to another path and go where life leads them. Whose to say what is right or wrong? But along with age comes experience, so there is a benefit when we start writing in our later years. I love Claire Cook’s voice, so I appreciate your encouragement to read her latest book, “Wallflower in Bloom.” Another wonderful post Debra! 😉

    • Debra Eve

      Karen, you’re so sweet. I so agree with you about the benefit of starting to write later. I was technically a decent writer in my 20s, but it wasn’t until I really had some experience behind me that I found my voice.

  10. K.B. Owen
    | Reply

    Debra, I love this story. So inspiring! I’m definitely a plodder – stick to one thing and plow through it – so I’m glad that it’s a good thing. I’ve been wondering about how long to stay with something, and when to try something new: not because I necessarily have the burning desire to, but because it seems everyone around me is embracing new projects, you know?


    • Debra Eve

      Thanks, Kathy. I do relate, but that’s what’s great about being so connected — always something new in the air. I love this story, too, because Claire could really be any one of us! Thanks for stopping by.

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