Author & Alum of The New School's Open Campus Janet Lombardi Pens New Memoir
When love turned to bankruptcy for Janet Lombardi, she took it as a wake up call and opportunity to share her story, and encourage women to take control of their bank accounts—before it’s too late. After finding out her husband of 25 years was concealing significant debt—landing him in jail after committing a white-collar crime—Lombardi was forced to take control of her life. Her honest memoir tells a very personal story of “identity, sexuality, divorce, and learning to live again”. Lombardi chats with us about her time taking continuing education writing courses with The New School, which are now offered through Open Campus, how it helped her in writing Bankruptcy: A Love Story, and why you should just keep writing.
What continuing education courses did you take at The New School?
I took Writing for New York City Newspapers, Magazines, and Webzines with Susan Shapiro.
Did you collaborate with any professors during your time at The New School?
Yes, I collaborated often with Susan Shapiro as I completed essays, reached out to editors, and attended New School events. One of my writing friends is Lisa Freedman, a writing teacher at The New School. She and I collaborated over the years with our writing.
Did your experience at The New School help you in writing a memoir? If so, how?
Absolutely. The course I took with Susan kept me focused on writing. The ideas exchanged in the class helped me think about how to develop, complete the draft, and position or market my book. I met wonderful editors in Susan’s class, including a Newsweek editor who bought my essay and added it as a My Turn column. That essay became part of my memoir.
What is your creative process like and what were some of the first steps in writing this memoir?
I like to write about things I feel deeply about and am passionate about. So I let myself feel the emotions and then get excited as I frame the idea. It’s a real inside job! As for writing, attending classes was critical. There’s nothing like needing to be ready to hand in a piece that gets one writing. I also worked with two very good friends, my writing buddies – one of whom is a writing teacher at The New School (Lisa Freedman). We met for “writing dates” every Saturday morning (and some Sundays) by conference call. We had a method, whereby we would choose the time to “meet,” stay on the phone as we wrote, then read to each other what we’d written. Using this method and writing collectively was one of the ways I finished Bankruptcy: A Love Story. I owe tremendous gratitude to my two “writerlies.”
What was the most difficult thing about writing a memoir?
One of the most difficult things about writing a long work is staying focused and disciplined. I read somewhere that writing a book means keeping your buns on the chair. And it’s true! A book won’t write itself. You need to tackle it page by page. The other challenging thing about writing a memoir is being willing to be exposed. Revealing your fears, joy, unflattering or damaging behavior isn’t easy but makes for great writing.
For someone looking to write a memoir, a first novel, or simply a fellow writer, what advice can you give them?
Write the piece that is burning within. Even and especially the topic that may be scary or that takes courage to write. Get a routine and stick to it. Connect with writing buddies, like I did. The middle of a book can be tough because it indeed feels like you are driving a car in the fog at night (as EL Doctorow described writing a book); you may lose your way a little. But stay with it. Keep writing. Just keep writing.
Visit Lombardi’s blog at: http://janetlombardi.com/
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lombardijanet?lang=en
Order Bankruptcy: A Love Story here.
Explore upcoming Writing and Literature courses at Open Campus here.
Written by Leora Zauderer for Open Campus.