lindsay emory

Welcome to the official site of Lindsay Emory, author of books with kisses and sass including the Sorority Sisters Mysteries, The Last Plus One, and the forthcoming The Royal Runaway.

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Everything You Need To Learn About Writing & Publishing You Can Learn From Project Runway

I normally don't watch competition reality shows for longer than a season or two. The twists and challenges get repetitive. The contestants are unlikeable. Project Runway, however, is the exception.  Maybe it's all the pretty. Maybe it's the inherent wonderfulness of mentor Tim Gunn, but I've been devoted to PR since it premiered on Bravo, many years ago.
In recent years, as I've pursued my own creative dreams, I've come to see that everything one needs to know about writing/ publishing you can learn from Project Runway. Don't believe me?
Every episode starts with some sort of fashion challenge and the way the designers approach the challenge is an individual combination of market/ materials/ inspiration that mirrors the way writers start books.

Some people sketch and make a detailed list of fabrics, notions. (If they were writers, they'd be 'plotters.')

Some people go to Mood and find the perfect bolt of lime green crushed velvet and go off on a lime green cloud of inspiration. (Or 'pantsers' as we call them in Writer World.)

Everyone has their own style and methods but one thing you see from the contestants who make it to the top is they are confident in their craft. They are expert enough that they can be flexible and nimble when all of a sudden they have to make a day-to-night outfit for Heidi Klum's chihuahua. If they were a sketcher/ plotter,  they can still come up with a new plan on the fly. If they were winging it on a cloud of lime green velvet, they don't melt down when their yardage is insufficient.
In other words... no matter how they start their book, they are resourceful and talented enough to finish it, despite the challenges that arise.
Whether it is  Tim's feedback in the workroom or the judges' critiques on the runway, feedback on Project Runway is EVERYTHING, as it is in publishing too.
Think of the workroom feedback as what you receive from your critique group, or your agent. This is your opportunity to revamp,
...or back in their adoration.

You don't have to respond to their feedback (which I'll get into more, later) but you have to listen to it. And consider it. Because Tim Gunn isn't trying to screw anyone over. He wants the designers to succeed. As a mentor, that's his job.

The Runway critique is also super important. Think of Nina, Heidi and Zac as your editors and publishing professionals. If you watch Project Runway you'll see the difference between professionals and the amateurs (and it has nothing to do with how much money they make.) The professionals thank the judges for this:
and this..
And even this...
The Amateurs argue, get defensive, cry. The amateurs don't understand that Nina Garcia wants to find the next great designer to feature in Marie Claire. Zac Posen wants to see talent and innovation.  Heidi Klum wants to wear something edgy and sexy.
In other words, they want the best on the runway, just like publishing professionals want to be swept away, inspired by and make a lot of money off your book.
But they don't want to settle. And they don't want you to settle. And if you're arguing and pouting and crying about their critique, you're not grabbing the chance to learn how to be the best.
So learn the value in a professional critique and then blow them all away.
I've written an amazing blog post about editing here. But to really see how to work with an editor, watch when Tim comes into the workroom to give the designers his (always constructive) feedback. When Tim says, "rethink that" "needs editing" or even, "start over" the professionals do what he says. They rip seams apart, shred sleeves, chop hems. And the non-sewing people at home (like me) are shocked at the destruction - how could they? How will they ever make another dress?
But professional designers - and professional writers - know that there's nothing that can't be fixed. Your darlings may need to be sacrificed at the altar of Saggy Middles. You may have to start fresh. For non-fiction authors, I imagine that editing must be even harder - what do you mean, you don't think my story about my tenth birthday party is fascinating? That was the day I didn't get a pony!  How could anyone not want to learn about this rare Peruvian fern I researched for five months?
Designers and writers (heck, all creatives) must ask themselves what their goal is - a professional, cohesive, finished product?  Or that stray (yet beautiful) sub-plot about a meandering butterfly that's a metaphor for lost innocence?

I think you know what Tim Gunn would say.

Voice/ Brand
These are two inter-related concepts that some writers really have a hard time understanding but I think if any writer watches Project Runway, they will eventually get it.
As the season goes on, you'll invariably hear the judges discuss a designer's point of view. Or their aesthetic.  Or whether "they have something to say as a designer."  By the time the final four are developing their collections, viewers have strong visuals of what a designer's voice or brand would look like.
Let's play a game with these three examples. Pretend each look in each photo is a book, written by the designer. Which writer would have a consistent voice and which wouldn't?




Er... maybe?

See what I mean?  And if you watch the whole season, paying attention to design choices and designer reactions to challenges, you'll soon see how a creative person should stay true to their vision and voice even when faced with creative and practical challenges.
How to Ignore the Noise
Maybe this is the most important thing for writers to learn from Project Runway.
It goes against a lot of what I've said.
And yet it doesn't.
Any successful designer on Project Runway has to, at some point, ignore the haters, Tim Gunn and yes, the judges.
Note I said: Successful. Not winning.  Not best-sellers.
There are successful designers who don't win. Who are sent home. But they walk away from the runway feeling confident, knowing they did their best work and stayed true to themselves.
Most of the successful designers don't win, actually, Because there can only be one winner. But winning isn't the coolest part of Project Runway, anyway.
The best part of this show are designs like this:

A dress inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge shouldn't work. On paper, Nina would have worried about the "taste level."

But damn, that's cool. It's a dress that looks sort of like a bridge... but it's a dress! And yeah, it's kind of weird, but I've never seen a dress that looks like a bridge that's also kind of... sexy. Huh. Sexy bridges. Who knew?
And a dress that changes color in the rain? Could really make up for a bad hair day.
These kinds of things aren't created unless a designer says, 'you know what? I'm going for it. I have the skill, the imagination and the ovaries to make something that's never been made before."
So yeah, sometimes you get some iffy feedback.
You consider it. And then you go... nah.
You say, I'm going to make the baddest LBD ever. That looks like a MF'ing umbrella. And it shouldn't work, but damn, it does.
And it's a hot dominatrix umbrella. Sexy umbrellas?? Huh. Is that a thing? Who knew?
Because at the end of the day you would rather have a fierce dominatrix umbrella dress that's a little slutty than
Am I right?
We're here to create! We're here to have fun!  We should participate in this crazy creative process with the diligence and professionalism that maximizes our ability to, um, sell books. But we should never forget that we each have a divine, unique, kaleidoscopic pilot light inside of us that we have to let shine.
So go, learn your craft. Do you. Make something, but don't be afraid to tear it up. Be professional.  Design the best, sluttiest unicorn dress out of lime green velvet that you can.
Go shine.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Project Runway or other reality television that's inspired you on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments down below!

Best Books to Read Now - September 2016

Reminder/ Caveat/ Disclaimer: This is my (hopefully) monthly list of books I’ve read and enjoyed. These are not reviews, I do not include books I didn’t enjoy because life is too short to speak badly of books!

Dream a Little Dream

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips


This is the first SEP book that made me cry. Again. And again. And over. and over.

Let me back up a few. When I join a book club, I lay down my first rule: no hurting kids stories. I don't care how uplifting they turn out, if there's an abused or murdered kid, I'm out.

So it should be no surprise that it was the KID in this book that made me sob.  And really, it wasn't so much the kid as his mother, who loves him so desperately that she's willing to go to desperate measures to provide him food, shelter and clothing.

Even with the tears, do I recommend it? Yes. It has more pain than most SEP books (with a widower hero, to match the widow heroine), but it also has all the feels, the funny and a few Chicago Stars - my favorite.

A Scot in the Dark

, by Sarah MacLean


The first few chapters of this book were fine. And if you think I'm speaking badly of this book, please remember that it's written by Sarah MacLean and a "fine" Sarah MacLean novel is better than 98% of all books.

I'm just warning you. It's a fine story about a forgotten ward and the Scottish duke who discovers he's her guardian. And then. ...Slowly, deliberately, artfully, Ms. MacLean began to slice and dice my heart with a Scottish broadsword and stuff it into a sheep's intestine and call it haggis, #romancelandia style.

A SCOT IN THE DARK comes very close to my favorite Maclean (That would be


) (and yes, savvy Sarah Mac fans will note similarities between the Diluted Duke and the Killer Duke and therefore deduce my preferences in heroes - growly, damaged and often violent.)  I also loved the bright spots of humor and banter that balance the torturous haggis o'heartbreak. Also? SESILY NEEDS A BOOK, SARAH!!

That's me plying Sarah with alcohol so she'll write me a Sesily story.
That's me plying Sarah with alcohol so she'll write me a Sesily story.

As observant readers will remember, Julia Kelly is a friend of mine and I was able to scoop up an exclusive advanced reading copy of this book in July at RWA.  Observant readers will also recall that I've been devouring non-traditional historical romance for this whole year, and THE GOVERNESS WAS WICKED fits right into that.  The heroine is a governess, of course. The hero? A doctor.  And a whole heck of a lot of clandestine sexual tension between two people who are supposed to be very good role models.   Scoop this one up quickly (it's on sale for $.99!), because the next two in the Governess series (Wild and Wanton) will be released in the next TWO months.

Julia Kelly is unique among historical romance authors because she has dual citizenship in both the U.S. and U.K. She graciously agreed to provide my readers with this exclusive, insightful and delightful quick BRITISH Q&A w/ Julia.

Austen or Bronte?

Tough one, but I’m going to have to say Austen. Although it feels like I’m betraying governesses by picking her over Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre, Persuasion has been one of my favorite books since I read it in high school. Every time I go back to it I find some other insight that fits another stage of my life.

Sherlock or Poirot?

Another hard one! I was raised on both series of books and TV shows. Choosing one feels wrong. Kind of like this:


If I have to choose, I’d say it’s Sherlock by a hair. He’s a fascinating character, and I really enjoy watching how different actors have interpreted him in so many different ways.

Sorry Poirot.


Afternoon tea or ale at the pub?

This is a little easier. An ale at the pub, please. I love pubs and the little communities that surround them.

Also, although I’m a staunch tea drinker I’m actually not crazy about high tea (which is how I interpreted this question). It all stems from having been a waitress in a rather stuffy tea shop before going off to college. I used to have to wear a frilled cap and a pinafore that was a pain to keep clean, starched, and ironed. The one benefit was that developed asbestos hands that can still stand very hot water.

Favorite British historical period?

If you think about it, the Victorian era was an amazing period. You could have been born at the beginning of Victoria’s reign in 1837 and by her death in 1901 have watched the railways and manufacturing boom, the installation of electric lights on the streets of London, the explosion of print media like books and newspapers, and the invention of the telephone.

For a writer, it also is helpful that the Victorian era is a time of social shifts with the rising industrialist classes clashing with members of the aristocracy who struggled to maintain their fortunes in a changing Britain. It’s full of material to write about, and it doesn’t hurt that the frocks were pretty too.

Favorite British tourist spot?

Although I grew up in Los Angeles, my parents relocated to London and live right by Hyde Park. When I go there for the holidays I love taking the dogs for walks in the park. On some mornings you can still see riders exercising their horses along Rotten Row just like a Victorian gentleman would have.

Favorite undiscovered (by Americans) spot in the UK

There were two things I did on my last trip to Edinburgh that I thought were wonderful and I never would’ve known about if my sister and her boyfriend didn’t live there. One was taking a boat called the Maid of the Forth out to Inchcolm Island. There’s a ruined abbey you can climb to the top of if you’ve got a strong stomach for slippery, narrow staircases. There’s also World War I and II defenses on the island, but I went during nesting season for gulls. Here’s what happens when you try to walk by a gull’s nest:


I also paid a visit to the Assembly Rooms on George Street. It’s an imposing Classical building with a grand Georgian interior. I actually gasped when I walked into the ballroom which still has its massive original mirrors and chandeliers. I desperately want to set a scene in a historical romance in that beautiful space.

Music you listened to while writing Governess was Wicked (or series)

I’m not much of a music listener while I’m drafting, but I rely on it to keep me on track while editing. For the Governess series I listened to a lot of dreamy ballads like Beyonce’s “Superpower” and Hozier’s “Work Song” as well as big, joyful songs like Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” which is the stuff of happy endings.

Will Liverpool win the 2016-17 EFL Cup?

For those who don’t know, I’m a big soccer fan and wake up too early some Saturday mornings to Liverpool play.

To answer your question, Lindsay, I wish that Liverpool could pull out a league-winning season but, I think it’s too optimistic to believe the manager, Jurgen Klopp, can turn around a team that’s hovered at mid-table for so long. He needs time to reshape Liverpool to his own system, and I just hope that the club has enough faith in him to allow him the time he needs to pull it off.

For now, let’s just look at GIFs of the adorkable giant German nerd of a man that is Jurgen:


Favorite Britishism

There are so many! I lived in Manchester while studying abroad which isn’t far from Liverpool where my mother’s family is from. I still miss everyone from bus drivers to the ladies in the school cafeteria calling me “love,” and starting off every conversation with “You alright?” (which sounds a lot more like “Y’alrite?”)

I also love (and believe) that the appropriate reaction to any crisis is to put the kettle on and make a cup of tea.

Favorite Royal

Is there really an answer other than Harry? Here, look at this BuzzFeed article of him playing with dogs and tell me I’m wrong.

So here’s the deal. The man is a former wild child who served in the military and now does a lot of high-profile charity work for children and wounded veterans. Harry’s also faces a lot less pressure than William who stands to inherit the crown — something I’m not at all interested in. He’s also handsome, seems intelligent, and fun.

Plus the man dances like this which just makes me giggle:


Thank you Julia! You answered all the questions correctly, especially the last.

Interested in winning Julia's book, mine, or tons of other prizes?  Julia (and friends) have put together a huge Rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate the release of THE GOVERNESS WAS WICKED.  Enter today and as always, let me know here, on Twitter or Facebook what books you're loving!

prince harry
prince harry

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