Sunday, July 12, 2009

Quinn Cummings on What Women Write

By Julie

I learned about Quinn Cummings' NOTES FROM THE UNDERWIRE: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life (Hyperion/July 7, 2009) through Sara J. Henry, a fellow member of the marvelous Backspace writer's community. Quinn joins us today at What Women Write in a stop on her already hectic blog tour.

ATTENTION READERS: WE HAVE A CONTEST! Check out the interview, then leave a comment to be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of Quinn's book. We'll select one name, drawn randomly from a plastic cup imprinted with a local restaurant logo in a totally unscientific and non-audited method. I'm reading it first, so please take no offense at dog-eared corners or cracker crumbs.

From Quinn's publisher: In Notes from the Underwire, Quinn's smart and hilarious debut, she tackles the domestic and the delightfully absurd, proving that all too-often they're one and the same. From fighting off a catnip-addled cat to mortal conflict with a sewing machine, Quinn provides insight into her often chaotic, seldom-perfect universe--a universe made even less perfect when the goofy smile of past celebrity shows its occasional fang. The book, like the author herself, is good hearted, keenly observant, and blisteringly funny. In other words, really good company.

Let's talk to Quinn.

WWW: Forget the thirty-second elevator pitch. Imagine you're sitting across from a fairly new acquaintance at a great Mexican food restaurant (probably with Margaritas or iced tea flowing freely), and she says, "What's your book about?" How do you answer? You can stumble over words and even give the long version! (This happened to me last weekend.)
Quinn: Oh, this has been happening for two years and I have yet to get better at it. The book is about how I'm an idiot, about how I try to live way up here (waving arm around my eyebrow), being a good person, but usually end up right about ... here (slapping hand against nearest table, usually breaking a nail in the process). What's it about? It's about two hundred and seventy pages of, ideally, your most lunatic friend pushing a cart next to you in Target, telling you the embarrassing thing she did that morning. I serve that purpose for a great many people.

WWW: A common grumble among writers about "celebrity books" is that the celebrity didn't have to do any writing before they got the deal. Your publishing story is quite different and pretty unique in how it went down as a result of your blog. Tell us how your book deal happened.
Quinn: The blog began because I was writing to multiple friends at once, filling them in on the details of my life and I noticed I was cutting-and-pasting freely. It was starting to feel as if I were regifting my emails. So as not to feel regifty, I decided to write a single blog, tell my friends about it and let them get caught up with us as they were inclined. Two months later, a friend suggested it to Newsweek "Blog of the Week" column and they included it. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Sometimes, in a moment of hallucination, I imagined getting a column in a newspaper out of this, which is adorable because even in 2006/7, papers were already starting to look really unwell. And then I was in a story in USA Today and an editor at Hyperion saw the story and found the blog and an absurdly short amount of time later I was being offered a book deal. For the person reading this with the MFA and the file full of polite turndowns from agents and editors, I know. I'd hate me, too.

WWW: No, no. I think they'll be delighted to learn you got the deal based on your actual writing. Quinn, you've said one reason you quit acting was to start a family and raise your daughter out of the limelight. We've definitely seen a lot about celebrity kids being in the limelight lately with Michael Jackson's death. Was your decision to go forward with the publishing deal difficult in this respect? Did you worry about being back in the spotlight and how it might affect your child? What does she think about mom having a book published? Has she read the book? (So many questions! You pick and choose.)
Quinn: She has read a chapter; she would be happy to tell you that her mom is mean and won't let her read the whole book. Well, guess what? It's not for kids. Not even mine. She's so terribly proud of me that it makes me grin to think of it. This is what her father and I had hoped for when we had long and exhaustingly self-reflective discussions about whether I did this at all. It came down to him saying, "She gets to see you create something and that has to matter." She won't be part of the publicity, I'll promise you that.

WWW: You'll have to give her an autographed copy on her 18th birthday. (Or maybe 16th? Please, Mom!) I've heard it said two people could write a book with the same title, same subject matter, and same chapter headings, and they'd still be completely different. What about Quinn Cummings made you the "only person" who could write this book?
Quinn: I can agree to that premise right up until the time I fell up a flight of stairs and landed on my own fencing foil, removing a chunk of shin bone. I really believe I'm the only person who can tell that story. But as far as the book goes, I'm a special stew of eidetic memory of my own foibles, acute self-consciousness, and a weird habit of standing in the middle of the worst situation and being really happy because it's going to make a great story.

WWW: Ouch. That sounds painful! Pamela here at What Women Write ended up with stitches from going down the stairs and falling over her dog. And I sprained an ankle once falling off the edge of a bathtub. I guess what we're trying to say here is that weird falls and morbid curiosity are the perfect combination of experience/personality trait to be a writer. So, Quinn, give us the short skinny about the book cover. Our readers can also browse to Sara J. Henry's post to get the long version and see the other hilarious covers you and your publisher considered.
Quinn: It's glorious, isn't it? Brenda Copeland, my editor, remembered the "I dreamt I..." ads from Maidenform and found the one where the woman appeared to have made the most amount of bad choices. You'll note the car is off the tracks.

WWW: Now that you've written one book, almost by accident, have you thought about writing another in the future? Have you thought about writing fiction?
uinn: There might be another book in me. There might not. There's a blog, that's for sure. I doubt I'll write fiction.

WWW: I've noticed many writers seem to be animal rescuers by nature. Your blog posts about your rescue animals are moving, entertaining, and often funny. (Gassy cat, anyone?!) How did this particular obsession begin?
Quinn: My mother's nickname for me was Saint Francis; we'll overlook the gender issue. I've always kept a leash in my glove compartment, in case I saw a dog running down the sidewalk. Thank God for Consort and his allergies, which will keep this a mere quirk and not a character defect.

WWW: What's your favorite deadline snack?
Quinn: Whatever causes me to have to get into the car and leave the house and that horrible computer with all that empty space.

WWW: And we can't get away from here without at least one more child star question. When I was a kid, I wanted to BE Quinn Cummings (and Melissa Gilbert, Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol, of course. Am I dating myself?). When you were a little kid, who did YOU want to be? Quinn: By the time I was in "The Goodbye Girl," I wanted to be one of the reporters on "60 Minutes." Yeah, my dream was to be an old white man.

WWW: Wow. On that note, our interview comes to an end. (Really, it was just my last question.)

Thanks so much for stopping by What Women Write, Quinn, and best wishes for great success with Notes From the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life. Here's to a life filled with much happiness and more crazy stories to share.

Readers, don't forget to let us know you stopped by to be entered in our drawing. After we select a winner, we'll announce it here and obtain your contact info so Julie can mail her "like new" copy to you!

EDIT: Forgot to say, we'll leave comments open through Wednesday, July 15 at 5 p.m., North Texas time. That would be Central Standard Time! I'll draw a name Wednesday evening and announce our winner Thursday. Thanks for all the participation so far. We're enjoying your comments.

From Hyperion: Quinn Cummings is a former child actor. By the age of ten, she was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Her blog, the QC Report, has received accolades from publications like Newsweek and USA Today. She is the creator of the HipHugger, a stylish sling for carrying a baby, and a full-time mom. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.


  1. Great interview! Please enter me in the drawing--I can't wait to read this. :)

  2. I stopped by and enjoyed your interview.

    Also wanted to be Quinn Cummings, Kristy, Tatum, Melissa, Andrea McCartle (spelling?). Good question.

  3. Part of the interview made me laugh. Thanks for a good way to start the day.
    I'd love to be included in the drawing.

  4. As a recent QC report fan, I'm also happy to have found your blog, WWW. You rock.

  5. Anonymous13 July, 2009

    To err is human to be self-effacing is divine.

  6. Well, I can't say I wanted to be Quinn Cummings, because I'm closer to Marsha Mason's age (I wanted to be Hayley Mills, actually). BUT, she does indeed sound like a person I'd really love to know - one who does silly and goofy things and is so NOT perfect and so okay with that, with a sense of humor about it to boot! Great interview questions, and how fun and exciting for you to get to interview someone who you admired. Sounds like she turned out great, in spite of not becoming a 60 Minutes reporter. Pick me, pick me for your contest winner!

  7. What a well done interview. I'm a new fan of Quinn's blog and I can't wait to read this book.

  8. Loved the interview! Can't wait to read the book.

  9. Thanks ladies, great interview! (already have the book so count me out of the drawing!)

  10. Great job, Julie! - and if anyone else wants to host Quinn on their blog, shoot me an email with your blog name and contact info, and I'll pass it along to Quinn. Or you can skip a step and email your questions, and I'll forward it all.

  11. the Goodbye Girl was one of my absolute favorite movies. From the quirky characters to the music by David Gates. Excellent interview, I look forward to seeing the book.

  12. momsterrr13 July, 2009

    I am a new reader of the QC blog. I really enjoy her writing & look forward to reading her new book.

  13. I'm completely new to QC, but this interview has made me a convert. Sounds like a great book!

  14. Yeah, I'm one of those MFA grads who would like to hate her, but honestly I can't - Quinn is delightful and I'm sure her book is too. Any way to a book deal is a way to a book deal. Good for her.

  15. Anonymous14 July, 2009

    I will be one of the few of Quinn's readers who doesn't know her from her celebrity past. I just enjoy her blog and will certainly enjoy her book.

    Dawn in NL

  16. I found Quinn's blog a while ago and have been enjoying every minute. I do a little happy dance when I see a new post (at least in my head). I also enjoyed this interview, and am looking forward to exploring your blog some more.


  17. I'm somewhat ashamed to list a blog website as my postings are few and far between. (I intend to use it for my kids when they are away from home.) Thank goodness Quinn is more consistent in her writings. Like so many others, I so identify with her take on so many things. What a relief to have someone "tell it like it is", warts and all. It's far more relevant to me then the politically correct--but unrealistic--descriptions that everyone's worst moments seem to morph into in order to be socially acceptable!

  18. Anonymous14 July, 2009

    Great interview.........can't wait to read the book.
    Jennifer Ivy

  19. I would have visited ANY site with Quinn's name in it, so happened to stop by from her blog! Loved the interview! I have one question...Why does she call her partner Consort? It cracks me up, and I am sure there's a whole chapture inside of Quinn, just on that particular answer! I would love this book, but to be fair, I was wait listed at Barnes and Nobels, and got it Friday, and am now 1/2 way into is a great, "can't put down" comical read! Thanks so much for the interview! any chance Julie can get her copy autographed? NOW then I WOULD be begging for her once read-almost new copy of Notes From The Underwire!!!!

  20. Thanks for all the great comments!

    Powers--I'm not sure Quinn will stop by and see your question, so I will attempt to answer it and she can correct me later if she does!

    I believe she calls her partner Consort as a tribute to the fact that she is the Queen of her home! He is, thus, the Prince Consort, Consort for short. :)

    Not sure whether my copy will be autographed or not! I'll know when it arrives. It might just be ...

  21. Great job, Julie. Thank you WWW for introducing me to Quinn. I will definitely read her blog and book. As a long-time animal rescuer, I'm happy to be in such great company.

  22. The book sounds great. I look forward to reading it.

  23. Great easy as Quinn is so witty!

  24. Anonymous24 July, 2009

    Very entertaining interview, Julie. I remember Quinn well as a child actor. Really loved her in the Goodbye Girl and no doubt I'll get a big kick out of her book.
    Hope to meet you soon (I'm Kim's mom),

  25. Quinn Cummings is not only a writer but also businesswoman, television and film actress. I have seen her wonderful movie “The goodbye Girl” in which she performed awesome. I wish her best of luck for her upcoming book “The Year of Learning dangerously” and hoping it will be available before time.


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