You Go, Girl!
I’d like everyone to stand up and give Jennifer Irwin a big round of applause for taking part in our exciting adventure.
Jennifer Irwin’s Bio
A native New Yorker and captivating storyteller with a flair for embellishment, Jennifer Irwin currently resides in Los Angeles with two cats, a dog, and her boyfriend. After earning her BA in Cinema from Denison University, she worked in advertising and marketing raised three boys, and ultimately became a certified Pilates instructor. While she has written screenplays and short stories since her college days, A Dress the Color of the Sky is her first novel.
Jennifer and I talked about marketing, getting reviews, social media, pushing yourself out there long before your book is published, hiring a writing coach, writing contests, writing through divorce, getting your feelings out, chasing dreams, finding creative outlets to ease your mind, developing a three-minute elevator pitch for your book, why you shouldn’t publish with a Big 5, beating the Amazon algorithms, hustling on social networks, the necessity of a great cover, a good blurb and an amazing first chapter and getting in the right genres.
Excerpts from Jennifer Irwin’s works in progress
Henry waited curbside while I juggled bags filled with unworn, rehab unfriendly attire. A freshness covered the old me and I hoped it would last more than a nanosecond. The passenger window rolled down, he leaned and waved. A motorcycle cop blared it’s horn for him to get moving.
“Thanks for picking me up,” I said. Henry hurled my bags into the back and flashed a stink eye at the cop. A memory of Nick getting arrested at an airport flashed before my eyes. Three cop cars had surrounded our car. “Is there a warrant out for your arrest?” I’d asked half-kidding. My belly swollen to the last possible moment one could travel with child. Our final hurrah before the baby changed our lives forever. Turned out there had been a warrant and I spent the next few nights alone. He’d call from the jail pay phone until I told him not to anymore.
“Of course,” he said with a smile. “The house is a real mess. Sorry.” He veered onto Pacific Coast Highway.
“Thanks for showing up at family week,” I said. “That was pretty epic of you and Lil.” I flipped on the radio to avoid my plaguing thoughts.
“My flight back to New York is early tomorrow. Maybe tonight we could go over a plan for getting you back on your feet.” Henry’s childhood blonde hair had turned dark over the years and the edges were starting to grey. He had married a nerdy girl with her masters degree in library science. He lived a low risk lifestyle. I yearned to be more like him in that way instead of living by the seat of my pants.
We drove past the complex where Nick was renting a bachelor pad. My stomach flipped and flopped. I snapped open the mirror and analyzed my wrinkles. The dried-up mascara I’d been using for the past month left a trail of flecks under each eye. I dragged my index finger across to clear the mess.
At the red light, he turned to me. “You look great. Well rested.” He gave my knee a squeeze and when the light turned green he punched the gas.
There was a part of me who wanted to believe this man I’d been sharing my life with for all these years and then the guard gate closed and yelled at me. Do not trust this guy!
“We’re going straight to grab Christian at school,” he said. “Needless to say, he’s super excited you’re home.”
By the time, we got to the middle school, a line of cars had already formed a mile down the street. Nick pulled up behind the last waiting car while I beat myself up for not fitting in with all of the other mothers. I caught myself mid-flog and said a little prayer to stop the madness from taking over. The mother in front of us was on her phone in an unmoved car. Nick leaned on the horn while I cringed. The mom turned and waved. Of course, I knew her. Dammit. Christian stood with a group of boys. When the car pulled up he acted super casual. The beginning of him pretending not to care about his parents around his peers.
“Welcome home,” he said, once we were a safe distance away from school. “Lou is going to be so happy to see you.”
I twisted around in my seat to see his face. It amazed me how fast the subtle changes happened. A reminder to live in the moment and not to future trip. The Serenity lingo embedded in my brain to the point where I could apply it to my everyday life with ease.
“It feels good to be home,” I said. My safety net was long gone. No choice but to face my life head on.
The rent was cheap and I figured walking up four flights would keep my lard ass in shape. The apartment had a railroad track layout. I had to walk through my roommate’s bedroom to get to the bathroom but it was on the Upper East Side where we wanted to be. To make it doable, we had to take in an extra girl who slept in the living room even though we pretended she was just visiting whenever we entertained.
Mads and I had planned on rooming together by spring semester senior year. She had a small trust fund account and wasn’t nearly as destitute as I was or as the other poor slob sleeping on the living room sofa. The first week in the apartment I held my pee until the morning just to avoid going through Mads room. She was paying the most money since she had the proper bedroom. Mine bed sat on the floor in the dining area. The third girl was a friend of a friend who had gone to Villanova. She seemed innocent and went to mass on Friday nights. My guess was, she wouldn’t last long the way Mads brought guys around.
I landed a job in the creative department of an ad agency making less than sixteen grand a year. My income was subsidized as a coat check girl at an upscale restaurant two blocks from our place. Mads got hired by a faux jewelry company as a sales rep. She was constantly bringing home bags of baubles for us to forage through. Mads parents paid her rent. She spent her earnings on coloring her platinum blonde hair, new clothes, and taking cabs. I stood a few inches taller with the opposite color hair so we didn’t compete for male attention. In my mind, I told myself I was a fat hog even though I was thinner than Mads. I lacked the ethereal, helpless aura she exuded.
“On Monday’s they serve free spaghetti at The Stumble Inn. Feel like checking it out?” I asked, dragging my hands through gold chains piled in a shopping bag.
“Sounds fun,” Mads said. “Do we have to invite her?” She dipped her head toward the living room.
“I don’t even think she’s here,” I said, wishing I had something new to wear. Mads kicked off her sensible pumps. “That’s a cute dress on you.” Sometimes I felt as though I could have passed as her bull dyke girlfriend.
“Thanks.” She turned for me to unzip. Her back was white and doughy. “Want to go to the Surf Club on Saturday? I heard they’re having a guest list only event and I think I can get us on it.”
“For sure but I’ll have to meet you after I get off of work.”
“Dammit. I hate that you have a job on the weekends. It ruins everything.” She stomped her foot for effect.
“I get out at ten and nothing happens in New York before then. Maybe you can wait for me. We don’t want to be the first ones there anyway.”
“Good plan.” Mads changed into pants, a striped blouse and a blazer. I felt underdressed in my faded jeans and converse sneakers. I threw on my brother’s letter jacket which I stole without asking. It made me feel like I might have been popular in high school.
The bar was brimming with prepsters wearing alligator shirts and faded khakis. I felt at home since I’d gone to all-girls boarding school even though it was on a full scholarship. I was adept at pretending to fit in. My last name was a solid giveaway that I wasn’t in the blueblood tribe. It screamed Italian with every imaginable vowel in the alphabet.
I leaned on a stool in the bustling, dimly lit bar and observed the people. Mads had an odd twitch that crept up around guys. Her upper lip lifted on the right side and made her smile crooked.
“Isn’t it your turn to buy the beers?” Mads looked me up and down. She was a cheap one and damn that bugged me.
“Probably,” I said. Halfway to the bar, I remembered I’d bought the last beers on Saturday night which sort of pissed me off. I leaned against the sticky, shellacked bar and attempted to command the bartender’s attention.
“How’s it going.” I turned and locked eyes on a dark eyed guy with puffy lips and short black hair. “Don’t I know you?”
“You do now,” I said. “I’m Alexandra, my friends call me Lexy.”
“Sexy Lexy,” he said and laughed. “I’m Jamie.”
“I’ve never heard that one before.” I turned toward the bartender and begged with my eyes.
“Let me buy,” Jamie said. “I was a tool to say that.”
“Really?” I asked with a bit too much enthusiasm. “I’ll have two Amstel Lights. My roommate is over there.” I swept my hand toward Mads who was ensconced with some buff blonde.
“I’ll buy if you promise to come back after you give your friend her beer.” His smile nearly blinded me. I dragged my tongue over my teeth and prayed there weren’t any remnants of the popcorn I’d eaten at work. He raised his arm and the bartender bee-lined. “Two Amstel Lights,” he said. “Put it on my tab.”
“I will be right back.” I sashayed to Mads figuring the dude was checking out my ass. “Here,” I said handing the bottle over.
“Lexy, do you remember Ryan from the Hamptons this summer?” She loved playing the do you know game. “Well, this is his cousin, Mike.”
“Cool,” I said. “Nice to meet you.” I shook his hand in order to not threaten Mads. I learned the hard way she freaked if you so much as smiled at a guy she was working over. “I’ll be at the bar if you need me.” My stomach rumbled as I passed the red clothed, free pasta table pressed up against a brick wall. I piled a plate with pasta and garlic bread. By the time, I got back, Jamie had convinced the person next to him to move down so we could sit together. As I eased onto the stool two pieces of bread flew. One landed on the floor.
“Whoops,” I said. My face heated up.
“I’ll grab you another piece,” he said. “I was going to eat anyway.” He stood up. “I love a girl who can eat.”
The pasta eased my hunger pangs so I could think straight. “Are you from the city?” I asked. Another beer miraculously appeared in front of me.
“I’m from Columbus,” he said. “Ohio.” He chewed with his mouth closed which I liked. His arm brushed against mine and my stomach tingled. “I’m in a training program at Merrill Lynch. It’s a great opportunity but a real grind.”
The next morning, I stood over the coffee maker while it brewed. Just as I was reaching to tug my underpants out of my butt cheek a man’s voice bellowed.
“What’s up,” he said.
I swung around and yanked my t-shirt over my crotch with my back pressed against the lovely formica countertop.
“Mike,” he said. “We met last night.” He started opening cabinets until he found a mug. “Is it brewed yet? I gotta roll so I’m not late for work.”
“Hey.” Miss ethereal floated into the kitchen in a white satin negligée. I swear I’d never seen anyone wear such fancy sleeping garments until I met Mads. And as if nothing happened and there wasn’t a big dude lurking in our kitchen, she pulled a mug from the cabinet and poured herself some coffee. Mike wrapped his arm around Mads shoulder.
“Fun night,” he said. “Thanks for having me.” He took a big swig of black coffee and rolled out the door.
“What the hell?” I said.
“That’s what happens when you leave me alone in a bar,” she said. As if it was all my fault.