Caroline Leavitt is a book critic, essayist, screenwriter, and an award-winning author of the Indie Next Pick Cruel Beautiful World, and the New York Times Bestsellers Is this Tomorrow and Pictures of You, as well as 8 other novels.
I met Caroline in her online creative writing class at UCLA’s Writers’ Program where she teaches step-by-step how to create story structure for a novel. Just like she does in her classes, Caroline bares her heart in today’s new episode, peeling back all the layers, generously exposing and sharing all that she has learned and experienced in life and in her writing career.
Caroline and I dive deep in our conversation about her intimate tie with loss and grief, and how she is able to push forward with strength and courage. This episode is the most emotionally powerful discussion we’ve had on the show to date.
Caroline also shares the haunting story that inspired her newest novel Cruel Beautiful World, how to find your confidence as a writer, and how to edit your manuscript. She walks us through creating strong characters by using character webs, and breaks down the function of a writer’s synopsis and how it can help jumpstart your novel.
We unpack what the ‘core question’ means, how it brings depth to your story and characters, and how to structure your novel around it. We also dive into Caroline’s advice on choosing the right writers’ group that will give you constructive feedback, along with her tips on finding a writing mentor through social media.
PS. Do you know anyone who’s struggling with loss and grief? Or anyone who’s curious about story structure? Please share this episode, it may really be of help!
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What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
- Caroline walks us through the haunting story that inspired Cruel Beautiful World
- How to find your confidence as a writer
- How Caroline became a brave writer through teaching writing classes
- How to use character webs to create strong characters
- How to structure your story around the ‘core question’
- Caroline breaks down the writer’s synopsis
- How a writer’s synopsis can help jumpstart your novel
- How loss connects us and makes us stronger
- Caroline advises actionable steps to edit your manuscript
- How to choose a writers’ group that will give constructive feedback
- How to find a writing mentor on social media
Caroline Leavitt is at her mesmerizing best in this haunting, nuanced portrait of love, sisters, and the impossible legacy of family.
It’s 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte’s youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into a nightmare.
Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and explores what happens when you’re responsible for things you cannot fix.
Learn More About Caroline Leavitt
Caroline Leavitt is the author of the Indie Next Pick Cruel Beautiful World, and the New York Times Bestsellers Is this Tomorrow and Pictures of You, as well as 8 other novels. A book critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe and People, and teaches writing online and privately.
Cruel Beautiful World has won raves from The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Tampa Bay Times, Real Simple, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The New York Times, New York Newsday, Marie Claire, Parade Magazine, Lit Hug, BBC.Com, Book Riot and more.
Her ninth novel, Pictures of You, went into three printings months before publication and is now in its fourth printing. A New York Times bestseller, it was also a Costco “Pennie’s Pick,” A San Francisco Chronicle Editor’s Choice “Lit Pick,” and was one of the top 20 books published so far in 2011, as named by BookPage. Pictures of You was also on the Best Books of 2011 lists from The San Francisco Chronicle, The Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Reviews.
Her novel, Is This Tomorrow is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick/Editor’s Choice, a Jewish Book Council Bookclub Pick, a WNBA National Great Group Reads, a May Indie Next Pick, A Best Book of 2013 from January magazine, on the longlist for the Maine Readers’ Choice Award, and the winner of an Audiofile Earphones Award.
Her many essays, stories, book reviews and articles have appeared in Salon, Psychology Today, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, The New York Times Modern Love, Publisher’s Weekly, People, Real Simple, New York Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and numerous anthologies. She won First Prize in Redbook Magazine’s Young Writers Contest for her short story, “Meeting Rozzy Halfway,” which grew into the novel. The recipient of a 1990 New York Foundation of the Arts Award for Fiction for Into Thin Air, she was also a National Magazine Award nominee for personal essay, and she was awarded a 2005 honorable mention, Goldenberg Prize for Fiction from the Bellevue Literary Review, for “Breathe,” a portion of Pictures of You. As a screenwriter, Caroline was a 2003 Nickelodeon Screenwriting Fellow Finalist, and is a recent first-round finalist in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab competition for her script of Is This Tomorrow.
Caroline’s Recommended Books & Resources:
Pulpwood Queen by Kathy L. Patrick
Mothers and Others Strangers by Gina Sorell
Wired For Story by Lisa Cron
Gail Hochman (Caroline’s literary agent) Click here to listen to Gail’s podcast episode with us!