Phoebe Fox

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Phoebe Fox

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October 2013


Phoebe Fox has been a contributor and regular columnist for a number of national, regional, and local publications--currently for the Huffington Post as a relationship writer. She's been a movie, theater, and book reviewer; a screenwriter; and has even been known to help with homework revisions for nieces and nephews. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two excellent dogs.

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Phoebe Fox Hi, John! Thanks for the question. YOU HAVE UNMASKED ME. (Wasn't that easy?) Yes, Phoebe is my pen name, although it's an open secret rather than one…moreHi, John! Thanks for the question. YOU HAVE UNMASKED ME. (Wasn't that easy?) Yes, Phoebe is my pen name, although it's an open secret rather than one I'm rigid about hiding.

I opted to use a pseudonym because I'm also a book editor, working with authors of many different genres, and I felt some distinction between my careers would keep from muddying the waters.

As it happens, using a pen name comes with an upside and a downside: It's nice to have a built-in separation between the two careers, but it does lend itself to some confusion--for instance, I was recently a featured author at the Texas Book Festival in my hometown of Austin, and there was plenty of confusion among festival staff, who have known me for years. :)

Phoebe Fox was a natural fit, though--as a child, my nickname was Fifi the Fox, and I knew I'd answer to something that sounded so much like it.

You asked why so many authors use a pseudonym--I think for certain genres it's de rigueur, like romance and often erotica. In other instances authors write in more than one genre or style, or are extremely prolific (Nora Roberts's J. D. Robb identity, or Stephen King's Richard Bachman, etc.), and it's useful to separate the types of stories they write to better help with reader expectations.

I find this to be partly the case for me too--I also write upmarket women's fiction under another name, so that readers expecting the light, funny reads I write as Phoebe aren't disappointed by something deeper and a bit darker.

Long answer...Good question! Do you also use a pen name in your writing?(less)
Phoebe Fox Hi, Cintia. Thanks for your note. It's a great question, and one I've recently been talking to author friends about--partly because (and I'm guessing…moreHi, Cintia. Thanks for your note. It's a great question, and one I've recently been talking to author friends about--partly because (and I'm guessing you've heard this a lot if you've been talking to your own writer friends about it) this is an unfortunately cyclical state for most of us creative types. I know that I seem to go between confidence and pleasure in my writing, to loss of faith and drive with depressing regularity.

So I have been working on ways to address this, and here's what I've come up with recently, if it's of any use to you too.

1. I have had LOTS of heartfelt conversations lately with a writer friend who hasn't yet found representation or been published, and she is losing heart. So we posed this question to ourselves: If someone told us right this minute that we'd never, ever be published (or published again, for those who have been), would we keep writing? "Of course!" we both said immediately. Because we don't do it to be published or make money (god knows...!). :) I did it for years before the "break" happened--I mean literally since I first learned to read and write--because it's part of me. I love to tell stories, and doing it helps me make sense of the world. If I never have another book published, I will keep writing and writing and writing. If you can say that too, maybe that's some comfort and motivation. It is for me when my confidence flags and I wonder whether each manuscript is worthwhile to anyone, or will find readers, or I will even get it finished.

2. I just watched a great documentary, related to that idea, about Colin Hay, former lead singer of Men at Work (eighties band). It's called Waiting for My Real Life to Begin, and it's a beautiful portrait of the artistic life and temperament, and of how--and why--you keep pushing forward even when you aren't getting the audience or acclaim you want. I am recommending this to every creative soul I know.

3. A multipublished author friend of mine once told me that what separated her from all her unpublished writers was only one thing: persistence. That really hit me--and inspired me. Persistence I can do. So I did it when I queried 112 agents (seriously) before I found mine; and when we submitted it to countless publishers, two separate times, over a period of years before I got published. I'm doing it again now, when I've decided to leave my publisher, not knowing what is next for me as a writer--but staying in the game. Persisting. I can't recommend that highly enough either. :)

4. This isn't a zero-sum game. Other people getting published--or not getting published--has nothing whatsoever to do with whether you do. Rather than other authors succeeding taking a piece of the pie and leaving less for you, in my view, I think it's other authors who help each of us: A rising tide lifts all boats. This is one of so many reasons that a community of author friends will be of the greatest benefit to you. They are not only support and friendship and understanding in an often isolating pursuit, but will be your greatest cheerleaders, and most wonderful network of connections. Perhaps one will introduce you to her agent, or write you a blurb for a book, or simply encourage you with her own story when you feel you will never, EVER get there (but refer back to #1 as to what "there" really is and isn't). Meanwhile our job is to learn our craft, read other authors (both for our own education and for supporting them too), keep writing and writing and writing, and getting better, and turning out the best story we can at every stage of our development. If you stay in the game and do all that, you WILL get where you want to go. You will.

I'm not going to tell you that you should learn to love your competition for making you better. Because screw that...we're human, and I get where you're coming from on it making you feel inadequate sometimes. :) But I will say that no one is really our competition. No one will tell the story you tell in the way that you tell it. They may tell their story, differently, and it may be freaking GREAT. Way better than what you can do. :D God knows many of my favorite authors make me feel like I write "See Spot Run" primers. But--please brace for cliché now--they WILL make you better. (Dammit.) And they will show you what you're striving for. And sometimes they will show you how far you've come. Or inspire you. Or entertain you. Or offer you an insight about life that you then bring to your own writing. We don't exist in a vacuum--someone will always, always be better than you. We don't have to be "the best" to be good enough. And good enough can often really reach a reader, touch them, change the way they look at their life. And if there are thousands of other authors out there trying to do the same thing? Well, that's okay too. There's nothing you can do about that...and there are millions of readers who will always be hungry for the right story at the right time that touches them--and that's the most subjective thing there is.

Finally, if the news about the industry and other authors is depressing you...I'd suggest not reading it. :) I don't mean that to sound facile. I had become deeply, deeply engaged in world events and politics these past two years, and while I indeed had a lot of knowledge about what was going on in the world, it mainly served only to depress me. So now I siphon in what I take in from the news, learning enough to know what's going on, basically, but making sure that it's a small part of my day, and that I leave it alone entirely when I'm feeling especially fragile. If publishing news is bringing you down...stop reading it.

Okay, this is already a freaking novel all on its own, but let me say a quick thing about your concern about not having ideas. I wonder whether you are second-guessing the ideas you have--shooting them down as worthless before you really give them a chance to take wing. Or if you are so afraid to fail, you don't start. Or if you pick your own ideas apart as "not good enough" before you actually sit and start to see what they are, write and let them develop. There's some incredibly trite cliché that I love about stomping out a seedling as it sprouts because you're angry that it isn't a fully formed flower. Let it sprout. See what it grows into. Or as I like to say, less elegantly, vomit it all up onto the page. First drafts are for that--for spinning out the idea and seeing where it takes you, how it develops. Later, as you edit and revise, you can assess its worth, but for now...just tell your story, Cintia. You are human and rich and full and complex and beautiful as we all are. You have stories...and we want to know them. <3

Good luck! Tell me how it goes.
Love,
Phoebe(less)
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More books by Phoebe Fox…
It’s been nearly two years since the final episode of How I Met Your Mother aired — my favorite show — and I still can’t watch the reruns.


For nine years, the primetime sitcom was nearly perfect. Original, creative and clever, with characters like dear friends, each episode was filled with truth, humor and heart. Truly, the show was a thing of genius.

Then, in the final episode, the creators neg... Read more of this blog post »
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Published on November 04, 2015 18:36 • 244 views • Tags: barney, himym, how-i-met-your-mother, marshall-and-lily, spoilers
The Breakup Doctor Bedside Manners Heart Conditions
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3.88 avg rating — 764 ratings

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No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain
"It's an act of tragic irony that I already had this book in-hand from the local library when Anthony Bourdain's life ended earlier this week. I had been reading a few pages of the book at a time, but accelerated this weekend after the heartbreak o..." Read more of this review »
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All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
All We Ever Wanted
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Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner
Carrie Pilby
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I really enjoyed this story about a brilliant 19-year-old college graduate who skipped three grades and started Harvard at 14, whose emotional maturity hasn't quite caught up with her intellectual level. Lissner draws us into Carrie's busy, questing ...more
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Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
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I'm always a Hornby fan, and this one was no exception. The topic is a bit different for him, though: about a girl, for starters, instead of a boy, one from a small British town who dreams of making it in television in 1060s London in the mold of Luc ...more
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Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
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I'm always a Hornby fan, and this one was no exception. The topic is a bit different for him, though: about a girl, for starters, instead of a boy, one from a small British town who dreams of making it in television in 1060s London in the mold of Luc ...more
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Brief Cases by Jim Butcher
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All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
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The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
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I adore Jonathan Tropper--and this book is my favorite so far. Deliciously witty with an unexpectedly touching emotional punch, like all his books, this one is for anyone who's ever broken away from family to figure out who they are...then come back ...more
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Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird
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An astonishing story told by a gifted author, based on the true story of Cathy Williams, a former slave who secretly served as a Buffalo Soldier. Cathy is fierce; Bird is a force.
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Helen Fielding
“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting "Cathy" and banging your head against a tree.”
Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary

Anne Lamott
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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