What happened when I reached out to an editor for my memoir

I worked long and hard hours to get my manuscript ready to send off to my editor. I’m talkin’ twelve hour days on top of my 'need-to-make-money-so-I-can-live-job’. I was waking up at five in the morning and going to bed at eleven at night without barely stopping to eat. And why? Because timing is everything.

Over a year ago I had reached out to an author/editor about potentially working together, perhaps she could help me flush out the structure of my book. She was swamped as she was working on a book of her own but she gave me a list of editors who she thought could help me. Although I was incredibly grateful I didn’t even open the list. Within the time I had sent her the email and the time she replied I realized I wasn’t ready for an editor quiet yet. I needed to make more headway on my own.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, I had hit a roadblock in my book, a big one. I needed an ending. After agonizing over it for months I needed a break. I wanted to work in the realm of my book just not actually on the book itself, so I began to scroll my email for the editor list.

There it was. The list of the editors. Pure gold.

I opened it and began highlighting the ones I thought could be a good fit. There were quite a few and I was starting to get a overwhelmed with how I would choose who to reach out to first. What’s the etiquette anyway?

Then I came across Alexis and began reading her testimonials from people who have worked with her and recommended her. I immediately knew she was the kind of editor that could help me take my book to where it needed to be. She would keep my voice and my intent but would make sure I didn’t have any holes or lulls. I could tell she was a person who truly loved words, who loved stories. Then I noticed WHO wrote one of the testimonials… one of my all time favorite memoirists who wrote one of my top five favorite memoirs.

VALIDATION. I knew she was it. I had to work with her.

My book wasn’t ready. It was a mess of stories that needed a thread to pull it together. It needed an ending. It needed a title. But I wrote her anyway. It felt like some kind of gift from God and I didn’t want to squander it just because I felt unprepared and not good enough. I figured she wouldn’t reply and if she did then it would be ages from now and maybe my book would be in better shape. It was worth a shot either way. I wrote the email.

Three hours went by and there it was... “Dear Jessy, I'd love to hear more about your project…”

My heart leaped out of my chest.

She said she was busy until the end of the year but she was “intrigued by my online self” so she wanted to set a meeting. Omg. YES. YES. YES.

And she wanted to see my manuscript ahead of time. Um. Okay. Sure, I could do that. “Let me rework a couple things,” I told her.

I had TWO WEEKS to finish up my manuscript. Two weeks to make it the best I could make it before someone I highly respected took time out of her busy and full life to read it. Two weeks until someone would read it for the first time ever.

So, I worked as much as I could without having a mental breakdown and I got the thing done. 296 pages. 43 chapters. 85,800 words.

I finished writing the editor-ready draft of my memoir.

Why am I telling you this? Three reasons.

* Pay attention to timing.

When the time is right, you’ll know. Pay attention to the force and flow of your work and emotions and that will help guide you in the right direction. Listen to your intuition because it’s trying to tell you something. Trust it. Trust yourself. A year ago I wasn’t ready and I felt it in my core. Two weeks ago I wasn’t ready either, but it was more on an external level, a level that I could change and work within that flow. The simple fact that she replied within a few hours told me that the time was now and I needed to get going. That gave me the drive and determination to put my head down and work, work, work until my manuscript was as far as I could take it. Sometimes we need a deadline. Sometimes we need a push. Sometimes we need someone in our corner.

* Don’t be scared. Or if you are, do it anyway.

Before I sent my email to Alexis I was drowning in a sea of doubt. I was scared she wouldn’t reply and scared that she WOULD reply. I was scared I was just a first-time memoirist that didn’t deserve her time. I was scared to finish my book. I was scared for her to read it. I’ve been scared and full of doubt through almost this whole process but I did it anyway. Because great things happen when we push through fear and step into our genius. So, whatever you’re scared of… do it anyway. Book the meeting. Send the email. Begin the art. Finish the work.

* What you post online matters

Alexis said she was busy until January of next year. (NEXT YEAR!). But she wrote me anyway. She took on my book anyway. Why? Because of who I am online. I am an intentional person and what I post online reflects that. I am not trying to be anything that I’m not, anything that isn’t in my heart. I want to connect with people on a deep level, on a level that is true for me. And I couldn't do that if I wasn’t being real with myself and real with them. I want to resonate with my people, ya know what I mean? I’m sure you do, too. So, this is just a reminder that you will attract what you put out out in the world so make sure what you put out there is what you want to come back to you.

Okay, I’ll get off my little soapbox now. Thank y’all for supporting me through this process. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done and your encouragement truly means the world to me. If anyone wants to discuss any of these concepts further, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram at @jessytai.

Oh, and having a little chihuahua made a world of difference during my twelve hour writing and revising days. Every time I would get overwhelmed he’d be there to remind me that I am loved and I have so much to be grateful for. Thank you my sweet Memphis. You are my little love.

An Airstream in Kentucky

I booked a surprise date night for my love in Kentucky on our way to Michigan to see my dad. He thought we were stopping overnight in Lexington to break up the drive, which was partially true, but really I just wanted a chance to cozy up in an airstream with him. Keeping a regular “Us” night, ideally once a week is key. It keeps things fun and slows things down so we are present for the beautiful relationship we have together. We work, live, travel, play — we do everything together and sometimes it can be easy to just get caught up in all the things we need to do or want to do and all the places we want to go. I always say we have a date life because we get to do so many amazing things together, but it’s a gift to be able to celebrate each other every week and just make “Us” a priority. We had so much fun here, so many hidden gems in this city.

But first, coffee in Knoxville because it's not a trip to Michigan without kicking it off with K Brew.

Click on the photo below to view an evening in our date life.

Gallery

The city streets of Barcelona

Before we found home in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, we almost moved to Barcelona. As you look through our captures from our adventures through the city, you'll see why. The city is so warm and so alive. Out of all the European cities I've traveled with the love of my life, it holds the biggest piece of my heart. Click on the photo below to view the full Barcelona gallery.

GALLERY

We made so many memories and looking back through our photos feels like a dream. We booked a beautiful flat from the 1850s via Airbnb in the Gràcia district and it immediately felt like home. It has a charming patio to enjoy your coffee in the morning and the most gorgeous tile throughout. 

My brother flew in from Michigan with his wife Angel, my cousin/best friend Jenna flew in from England with her husband Ben, and a couple of our Rhodes Wedding Co. clients Emily and Tom flew in from England as well. It made for quite the memorable trip to get all of us together.

Tom proposed to Emily in the Parc de la Ciutadella with an incredible rose gold engagement ring that we hand carved with a Tsavorite Garnet. It was so special to be part of this intimate moment. I was in tears. We also surprised my cousin Jenna with a hand carved ring with the most gorgeous green amethyst. Her husband Ben got down on one knee for the surprise. We loved capturing their smiles.

While we were in Barcelona, Gregory Alan Isakov, my favorite artist of all time was playing at Razzmatazz. I was dying to go, but the show was sold out. I was contacting all my old music industry peeps to try and get ahold of tickets. And in my desperation I reached out to Gregory personally. I didn't know him and he probably wouldn't respond, but hey it was worth a shot. Sure enough, he responded that he put me on the list +2. WHAT?! I was overwhelmed by gratitude. His kindness and generosity blew me away.  Here's a quick clip from the show of my favorite song of his, Master & A Hound. Try not to cry.

After the show he texted to see if we wanted to meet up the following day for coffee. Um, yes. The next morning we met in the darling district of La Barceloneta and sipped coffee at a seaside cafe and talked traveling, music, and about his farm life in Colorado. He's a photographer as well so after our coffees we wandered around the amazing city chasing light. He is the most genuine and most talented human I've ever met. Since then we've spent time at his beautiful farm in Colorado and have seen him play more times than I can count. What is this life?

A dream.

On top of being able to spend time with one of the artists who have inspired me down to the core of my soul, I got to stroll the city streets with my brother. A lot has changed from growing up in a meth house in the barren California desert, from eating ice cream for breakfast because all we had in the house was sugar, from watching horror movies until 3am because our parents weren't around to tell us not to, from creating an imaginary world in the dust — we are now in control of our own life. A life where we can leave the dust behind and explore one of the most beautiful cities in the world, where we sip coffee seaside with our heroes, where we can make memories that we will cherish forever. I love you, Brandon. Thank you for braving our wild childhood and for adventuring through this crazy life with me.

 

Savannah magic

Savannah was an absolute dream. It’s pure magic. It forever feels like the first ten minutes after a thunderstorm. The air is full of warmth and life. I've listed some of the favorite things we did while we were there below and if you click on the photo below you can view the full Savannah gallery.

        GALLERY

 

 

 

 

 

Airbnb:

We stayed in this beautiful townhouse in the Historic district of Savannah, right next to Forsyth Park. Adam, the host was incredible. He is the only artisan chocolate maker in all of Savannah. He has two locations for his shop Chocolat by Adam and if you ever make it out to Savannah, be sure to try his Honeycomb chocolate bar. It is absolutely to die for. 

Coffee:

We tried a couple coffee spots and the one truly worth mentioning is Perc Coffee. The cafe is part of their roastery that's housed in a beautiful old brick building. I love how they utilized the space. We went here every day we were in Savannah and every day it was consistent and the cappuccinos were made perfectly. 

Food:

  • The Grey is true Savannah magic. It's a 1938 art deco Greyhound Bus Terminal that has been restored to it's original beauty and is proudly serving what I think is the best food in all of Savannah. Every single thing we ordered was amazing, and we basically ordered every vegetarian thing they had on the menu. They bring out the tiniest thing of popcorn before your meal and at first I was like, "um, okay? That's small. Why bother?" But omg. Please bother. All-the-bothers. Because that popcorn was the best popcorn I've ever eaten, and I am a popcorn connoisseur. At the end of the meal, before dessert, they bring out tiny popsicles that were also incredible. Even though they brought us the popsicles for free we still ordered cheesecake because CHEESECAKE. And it was my favorite part of the meal. Perfect texture, perfect sweetness, perfect everything. If you go to Savannah and only eat at one place, make sure it's here.
  • Fox & Fig is the only true vegan spot in Savannah and they were about to charge us rent because we were there so much. They had too many interesting things on the menu so we had to try pretty much everything. The weirdest, but most delicious thing was a special that wasn't even on the menu — a glazed donut cut in half and grilled and then filled with Miyoko’s cheese which had a smoky flavor so it was like a sweet + smoky hooked-up donut grilled cheese. AMAZING. And if you haven't had Miyoko's cheese and you're a vegan, what are you doing with your life? You must get your hands on it because it's the best vegan cheese we've found. Photos of donut deliciousness in the gallery.
  • The Collins Quarter is all-around incredible. The decor is stunning, the staff is helpful, and the food was some of the best we had in the city. They didn't have a ton of vegetarian options so I risked being annoying and asked our server if they could make the # Tag This Hash, but leave out the meat. She said she was a vegetarian too and gets it all the time sans meat. She said she would have the chef hook it up veg-style. And man, it was perfect. They have great brunch drinks here, too — strawberry mimosas, bellinis, bloody marys, all the goods done really well.
  • Cafe M could have killed me with their croissants they were so good. And their ceylon black tea I could have consumed by the gallon. 
  • Vinnie Van Go Go's was the perfect spot to grab a pizza for lunch. Great local spot. It was all about their crust - the perfect texture. The line gets long here and it's cash only so come prepared.
  • Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market is located inside the beautiful Perry Lane Hotel. We had a few drinks and appetizers here as we waited for the Rick Bragg event to start. Lively and bright atmosphere, lovely decor, great service, and well-made drinks.

All the things:

  • Perry Lane Hotel is amazing, everything about it. They have a rooftop bar that has a view of the city that is incredible. We explored the hotel (they even have dog-friendly rooms!) and I loved every single room. We spent most of the time in their Ballroom for the Rick Bragg reading and signing. It has a view across the city and we watched a beautiful thunderstorm as he told stories that touched my heart.
  • Forsyth Park is a must-see. We walked it twice a day because we just couldn't get enough of the trees. You'll see a lot of photos from here in the gallery.
  • Bonaventure Cemetery is a beautiful and haunting graveyard that sits on the bluffs of the Wilmington River. I tired to look at the headstones, but I couldn't take my eyes off the trees. In Savannah, the trees are magic.
  • E. Shaver, Bookseller hosted the Rick Bragg event and they have the oldest bookstore in all of Savannah. I bought the most darling book bag and filled it with Rick Bragg books that I bought for myself and friends.
  • The Book Lady is another great indie bookstore that also has used books. The staff was really helpful and they were kind enough to let us hold and smell a first edition of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Yes, smelling old (and new) books is a thing, an acceptable thing.
  • Woof Gang Bakery was awesome and they showered Jackson + Memphis in tons of treats and love. There's a super cute photo in the gallery of Jackson smelling the treat bar and another cute one of Memphis with a treat that's too big for him in his mouth. It's pretty much the best thing you'll see today.
  • Black Dog Savannah General Store was calling to us. Being official members of the Black Dog Club we had to check it out. Love their merch, love their logo, and the staff is so friendly. My favorite part was the little chihuahua they have with a balloon tied to her harness so they know where she is at when she is walking around the store. Adorable and brilliant idea.

I have so many highlights, but the one that tops them all is having the opportunity to talk with Rick Bragg, one of my favorite authors of all time. He is so real, so raw, and so incredibly charming. I feel so grateful to get to ask one of the greats questions that plague me as a writer. And his answers were full of validation that I so desperately needed. He spoke truth — messy, dirty truth. There’s nothin’ more valuable than that. He was so kind to personalize two books to me. In one he wrote, “welcome home” because after all my years I finally found a place to call home in the beautiful mountains of the south. And in the other he wrote, “by way of North Carolina” which I thought was extra special because it was through North Carolina that I found him to begin with. It was in a used bookstore in Raleigh that I first stumbled across his work. I paid 25 cents for All Over But The Shoutin’, and now knowing how much it’s touched my heart, I would have paid the moon. Here’s to the truth-tellers, the life-livers, and the memory-makers. 

Summer love in New York City

We were in NYC co-hosting a cocktail party for Ali Brown, one of my high-level entrepreneur clients and women leaders who were guests of the Glambition Radio show (which I produce), and some of the gals were in town for the Forbes Women Summit. It was inspiring to be amongst such incredible women.

Of course we had to tack on a few days for exploring our favorite coffee spots and eating all the food. For those of you who have asked I have included a list of our New York City adventures and recommendations below. Click on the photo for all of NYC gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NYC GALLERY

Hotel: 

Orchard Street Hotel - this place was amazing. We had a room on the 10th floor and it was wall to wall windows. The view was incredible and the bathroom was floor to ceiling marble. Easy check in, great location in the Lower East Side, good WiFi and the price won’t break the bank. 

Coffee:

  • Black Press Coffee made the best all around best cappuccino and the staff was super nice. It was in Midtown so it was a bit of trek from LES, but it was worth it. 
  • Cafe Grumpy made a good, consistent cappuccino but the staff is super rude. Not sure if that’s their act because it’s called “Grumpy” or what, but it was a bit much. Their logo is the best though. I almost bought a baby onesie with the logo on it because it was so cute, but I restrained myself.
  • Birch coffee was everywhere and they make a good cap and iced latte. We met a guy named Josh while we were escaping the heat, and we ended up camping out in Birch for almost three hours. This is one of the best things about traveling with no agenda, just allowing the space to meet inspiring people. 

Food:

  • Juliana’s Pizza in Brooklyn was worth the 45 minutes we waited in line. Coal fired pizza made with fresh ingredients and the staff is super nice. 
  • Top Thai in Greenwich Village, the food is good but more notable were the drinks. We got a cocktail with jalepeno infused vodka with mango purée with chili flakes on the rim and a lychee purée saketini. I don’t usually drink mixed drinks, but these were an exception, and they were incredible. 
  • Il Corso for Cacio e pepe. We specifically went here for this dish, and it was incredible. They served it in a beautiful bowl made of parmesan. It was so delicious that it was almost exhausting to eat.
  • Doughnut Plant was incredible. Perry got a rose water glaze that was shaped like a rose and I got a blueberry cake doughnut. It was the best blueberry doughnut I've ever had. I wanted to try all of them, but it took me all day just to eat one so there was no way that was going to happen.
  • Best Bagels & Coffee was a must. You can't visit NYC without having a proper bagel. The bagels were huge and this place didn't stiff you on the cream cheese either. 
  • Egg Shop is known for their egg-centric dishes, which are awesome. And their biscuits are to die for. Oh, and get the hashbrowns. All the carbs.
  • TAIM makes a killer falafel with harissa. The whole join is vegetarian which is totally my style. I wanted EVERYTHING, but settled on the falafel plate with hummus and tabouleh with super fresh za'atar pita. Great spot to grab a hearty lunch before we headed to the airport.
  • Gong Cha in Chinatown makes the BEST boba milk tea I've ever had. And I've had A LOT of boba milk tea. If you go, get the pearl milk tea. That's the jam.
  • Kubeh was like experiencing a culinary trek across the Middle East. We had a table full of small plates as we couldn't decide what to get. Every single thing we ate was incredible. And I loved the decor here. Cozy nighttime spot, too.

All the things:

  • Terra Blues, arguably the best blues club in NYC, and it didn’t disappointment. And they have an impressive whiskey and bourbon selection. Their open until 3am so it’s a great after hours spot. We went on a Sunday and it was only a $10 cover. 
  • The Chelsea Hotel, iconic landmark frequented by some of the greats like Leonard Cohen, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, the list goes on. If you haven't heard Leonard Cohen's Chelsea Hotel #2, what have you been doing with your life? And if you haven't heard Gregory Alan Isakov's cover, you're in for something truly special. You're welcome.
  • Bryant Park, in the summer they play movies on the lawn. It’s free, but you want to come early because it fills up fast. 
  • The Iceman Cometh starring Denzel Washington at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The theater was beautiful and we could see the stage perfectly from the first row mezzanine. And DENZEL WASHINGTON. Excuse me while I have a fan girl meltdown. 
  • Oscar Wilde themed bar + restaurant. Very extravagant victorian decor and the drinks are great. Cheeky drink titles, too. "50 Shades of Dorian Gray", yes please and thank you.
  • Bookmarc is a book store owned by Marc Jacobs. They carry a great selection and the store is sleek and stylish, as you would imagine.
  • The New York Edition, upscale hotel in midtown with killer Lobby Bar. That's where I hosted my cocktail party and it was a perfect location.
  • Chelsea Market is a madhouse, but worth a visit — especially the Artists & Fleas portion.
  • McNally Jackson is a two-story indie bookstore that I could have spent a week in. 
  • Central Park, duh. Calm and peaceful during sunset — we could actually hear the birds. We went to the Tavern on the Green in Central Park West. We ducked in here to escape a crazy thunderstorm and the bar was very inviting. Swanky and really comfortable. The outside has string lights and lanterns, it’s very beautiful. And the staff here is great. While we were waiting for our Uber some crazy came up behind me, like right up on me and started shouting madness. Perry asked him to back up, but that just led to him getting in Perry’s face and threatening to punch him, and just being very vulgar. The doorman of the Tavern stepped between Perry and the crazy guy, and told him to leave. Another 5 minutes of this crazy guy now shouting in the doorman’s face and the cops had to be called. Our Uber finally came and the guy tried to follow us into the car so our driver had to step on it. What’s a New York trip without being accosted though right? We called the Tavern and sang the praises of the doorman to make sure he would get recognition for his bravery. 

Anyway, that's all for our trip recommendations. Until next time, NYC <3