Tuesday, April 15, 2008

WELCOME TO LIZ ZELVIN From Morgan Mandel & the Acme Bloggers


For most of my life, I’ve reinvented myself every few years. I’ve been a poet, a singer/songwriter, an editor (accounting textbooks were the worst), a teacher, a shrink, a life insurance agent (a nightmare), and a bunch of life cycles roles all the way to grandma (the best). Through it all, from the age of seven on, I’ve always identified myself as a writer. And through most of my life, I have indeed been writing one thing or another. Writing my first three mysteries, in the 1970s (never sold and unpublishable today), was my respite from full-time parenting of a toddler. Several mornings a week for three years, I walked a few blocks to the apartment of a friend from my women’s group. First, I’d procrastinate: an essential part of the writer’s task that I could perform much better in her home than in mine. I’d mist all her plants, sharpen many pencils, make myself a cup of coffee. Then I’d have a couple of hours to write. I eventually produced three completed manuscripts—or, as I would now call them, three first drafts.

Since I’m a woman of my times, the next phase of my life cycle was a divorce, and shortly after that, a full time job. In the mid-1980s, I went back to school for a master’s degree in social work. I then spent fifteen years in the field of alcoholism and addictions treatment, with a psychotherapy practice on the side. I also wrote poetry, sent it out assiduously, got into a fair number of journals, and was lucky enough to have a good small press do my two books—18 years apart. It takes either forever or no time at all to write a poem. I know a few fine poets who write every day and everywhere, but for many of us, including me, it didn’t demand the sustained effort of writing a novel.

So for years, I ran around telling everybody I knew that some day I’d write my mystery, Death Will Get You Sober. That should have jinxed it for sure, right? Tell everyone, never write it. And I never would have, except for a tragic stroke of fate with, um, a silver lining. I was running an alcohol outpatient program down on the Bowery and flourishing under the benevolent guidance of the best boss I ever had. He was a bit of a workaholic with a lot of health problems, and he knew precisely when to help and when to leave us alone. Year after year, to my amazement, I loved my job. I meant to stay forever—or at least until retirement age. And then he died.

A year later, I was sitting at home with time on my hands. Did I write my mystery then? Nope, not yet. First, I found out about a brand new kind of mental health treatment: online counseling and therapy. Those who were doing it—social workers, psychologists, a few psychiatrists—had the kind of energy and enthusiasm that had drawn me to the addictions field years before. I booted up my computer and plunged right in. Before long, I was seeing clients via chat and email at LZcybershrink.com. Building a practice is like developing any small business. It costs money to set up and maintain, it needs to be marketed, and success is cumulative, not immediate. As social workers say (about everything), it’s a process. “Don’t give up your day job,” my colleagues in online mental health would advise therapists who thought an online practice might mean easy money.

Working from my computer meant I could work anywhere. I got to spend my summers in the country: in the garden, on the beach, and at my laptop. And that’s where I finally wrote the first draft of Death Will Get You Sober. In the five or six years since then, I’ve learned a lot about the realities of publishing in the twenty-first century. Seasoned writers constantly tell newbies, “Don’t give up your day job.” I’ve heard bestselling authors, plural, admit they didn’t start to make a living till the tenth book. But not too long ago, I heard Lee Child, speaking at an MWA meeting, say, “I love the life.” Yeah. Me too.

ELIZABETH ZELVIN’s mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, is her first published novel. Her story, “Death Will Clean Your Closet,” has been nominated for an Agatha award for Best Short Story. Liz has been writing since the age of seven. She earned honors in English at Brandeis University in the Sixties and spent two years in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, as a Peace Corps Volunteer. In the Seventies, Liz’s poetry appeared in numerous journals and eventually was published in two books, I Am the Daughter and Gifts and Secrets: Poems of the Therapeutic Relationship. In 1983 she received a CAPS award in poetry from the New York State Council on the Arts.

In the Eighties, Liz returned to school for a master’s degree in social work and began working in alcoholism treatment programs, including one on the Bowery, where Death Will Get You Sober begins. She also started a private practice in psychotherapy. For the next twenty years, besides those two professional roles, she wrote and lectured widely on addictions, codependency, adult children of alcoholics, and women’s issues. Her publications include a coedited book on gender and addictions.

In 2000, Liz launched an online therapy website, and began to write Death Will Get You Sober. When Bruce wakes up in detox on the Bowery on Christmas Day, his biggest fear is dying of boredom if he stays sober. Instead, he’s catapulted not only into a murder investigation but into the all-absorbing world of recovery. Helping Bruce in his quest to stay sober and find a killer are two friends he thought he’d lost: a computer geek and the world’s most codependent addictions counselor. All three will return as the series continues. Liz’s author website is www.elizabethzelvin.com.

Learn more about Liz on her author website at www.elizabethzelvin.com. She blogs on Poe’s Deadly Daughters at http://poesdeadlydaughters.blogspot.com .


Morgan Mandel said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Best wishes for the success of your new release!
Morgan Mandel

Margot Justes said...


Congratulations on the release of your book. It is an awesome feeling. Now comes the hard part-marketing...


Deb Larson said...

Hi Elizabeth!
Congrats on your new release!! It's always fun to spread the good news. Good luck
DL Larson