This week’s Word Slinger is CeCe Osgood, a woman who won herself a very special spot in my heart when she called me “MOE” in an email: Mighty Online Empress. Tell me that shouldn’t go to my head. She is the author of the insightfully comedic novel about the hated post stage of divorce–that state when all the other sex does is disappoint you, The Dead Not Divorced Workshop.
Meet Indie Word Slinger: CeCe Osgood
In the third grade, I wrote a spoof of a Greek myth, the one about Daphne, a lovely nymph, and Apollo, the god of sun and music. Angered by Apollo’s arrogance, Cupid shoots the young god with a love arrow then spears Daphne with the arrow of loathing. Lovesick, a crazed Apollo pursues Daphne who now despises him. Hearing her cries, Daphne’s river-god father transforms her into a bay laurel tree. And forever after, the spurned lover Apollo wears the laurel leaves as his crown.
It’s quite a tale, and as an adult I could probably do some naughty things with it, but as an eight-year-old, goodness, who knows what I did? Frankly, I don’t remember how I whipped up a spoof. But I do remember my teacher’s reaction as being, well, not too encouraging … and that’s when I gave up my dream of being a writer.
In high school the writing bug bit again, and I worked on the school newspaper. In college, I was wooed away by the movies and changed my major from journalism to film. After producing a cult horror film, I worked in film production before moving to L.A. where I became a freelance script analyst (main client: HBO). I also evaluated scripts for the Nicholl Fellowship, a screenwriting competition sponsored by the Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences. Two of my screenplays were optioned but not produced. Moving back to Texas, I provided script analysis for the Austin Film Festival until I decided to pursue my childhood of being a novelist.
After a few godawful efforts (which I stuck in a drawer) I woke up one night with my protagonist (Dorsey Bing), a setting, a title and a smidgen of a plot dancing in my head. Needless to say, I was elated. If only the rest of it could’ve come that easily. Now after a long struggle, my debut novel, The Dead Not Divorced Workshop, a romantic comedy with a whopping side dish of sassy chick lit, is a Kindle ebook on Amazon.
CeCe Osgood’s Thoughts:
The Dead not Divorced Workshop is a pretty cheeky read about the thirty-something relationship sinkhole that many of us women fall into. Dorsey is a very comical walking disaster, I couldn’t help but constantly be pinching my eyes shut to better imagine the visual of her antics. Was the first concept Dorsey the same thing that final edit Dorsey was? What was the evolution of her in your character process?
Dorsey did evolve from the original concept. At first, she was a less introspective character and a non-stop klutz, however as her backstory surfaced she evolved into a more realistic person in my view. In my writing process, and I know this is true for many authors, I created a list of details about Dorsey—her physicality, her attitudes, her family history, her emotional range—but during the (many) drafts of the story, she became more individualized and distinctive.
In the beginning of the story I noticed that you really “California’ed” up the novel. It oozes Los Angeles character and I couldn’t help but feel like I had returned back there when you were talking about the parking lot that is the 405, Pei Wei, air kisses & false affection, mini mansions on Beverly Glen, and the general douche-baggery of LA people in their unashamed and blatant preference of what twinkles, shines and has bigger, firmer and more than likely terribly expensive implants. Was it simply writing what you knew or was it that you really wanted to comment about the superficiality of Los Angeles and how it played into Dorsey’s state of mind?
Dorsey is at a crossroads at the beginning of the book. The fifth anniversary of her divorce is preying on her mind, as well as being dumped by Theo. She’s trying to figure how to make things change, and the idea for a dating workshop for divorced men surface, however she has zero follow-through on her ideas. Pilar is the one who forces Dorsey to act, at least it seems that way. To me, Dorsey is actually at a turning point in her life, one that’s been coming for a while. I hinted at this by having her quit being a freelancer in the film industry before the story opens.
Her observations about living in LA show she’s aware of the superficiality of a city enthralled with unbridled ambition. The “business before people” theme is threaded throughout the plot, from her ex-husband’s affair with a woman who can buy him a gallery to Lanier’s cloying desire to please a potential client to Dorsey’s angry reaction to Finn at the end.
However, I very much believe, environment does seep into the psyche and can affect attitude and behavior, and although Dorsey isn’t a superficial person, she does somewhat participate in the LA scene, as depicted in her relationship with Theo.
Dorsey is on the negative scale of self esteem and her self talk is horrendous and her pessimism is through the roof. Not many people would understand the conflict of a character like hers being so distrusting of other’s motivations and intentions while also relying so heavily on them to save her and like her at the same time. Were you ever worried that you would make Dorsey unlikeable in her emotional complexity?
In an early draft, I decided Dorsey was too whiny and had her show in later drafts a wider range of emotion, using anger, resentment, and sadness to offset her self-doubts. I wanted her to be real, not a kick-ass heroine, which seems more of fantasy than a reality to me. I can understand that women, particularly younger ones, who haven’t gone through divorce or other kinds of loss may still have a lot of kick-ass in them, but Dorsey has had several losses in her life over the past five years, so she’s proceeding with caution.
It’s often stated that in friendships three is the perfect number for a pack of females. In view of Dorsey’s insecurities did you ever consider when making this trifecta that there would be an imbalance in her mind that should have also been woven through the story about conflict of sides within that friendship. It would seem to me that Dorsey would also have a pile of Mimi siding with Pilar against her, Pilar siding with Mimi against her. The world was against Dorsey and everyone was always undermining her and sometimes you really can’t trust the ones you love after all. Did that aspect ever strike you?
No, frankly, that didn’t strike me. This story wasn’t focused on the female friendships, which I feel would have placed it more directly in the genre of women’s fiction. Its focus is on divorce and dating after divorce, so I chose to make the M/F relationship more complicated and filled with trust issues.
This entire novel is all about risk. The risk of taking an idea and actualizing it. Taking the risk to truly commit in a relationship and invest in it. Taking the risk to fully trust someone and surrender to the fact that they might hurt or disappoint you and it won’t be the end of the world. Taking the risk to be something and risk the chance to fail at it. When you were coming up with the concept for the book was the theme of risk so heavily weighing in your mind and why didn’t you make Dorsey focus more on the topic of risk in the workshop?
“Taking the risk to truly commit in a relationship and invest in it” is a central theme in the novel. At the deepest level, that’s what the workshop is about. It’s also how I feel about marriage. My own experience with divorce showed me that I did not fully commit to the relationship or to making the marriage work. Like Dorsey, I was too young and not ready for marriage, but wasn’t aware of this. I learned though. Sadly, it took many years because I didn’t go to a “Divorced Not Dead Workshop.” (sigh)
Another theme concerns why people don’t act on their ideas. Dorsey has a great idea but doesn’t put it into action. This is a behavior pattern for her. She fears failure, which many women undergo after a divorce. And taking the risk to start again? Well, that’s just about every Woody Allen movie ever made.
One of the hardest things for someone to learn is the lesson that everyone has a story to tell. I think The Divorced Not Dead Workshop, in theory, was born unconsciously on this principle even if Dorsey’s own inability to get beyond her own crap often kept this from staying in the forefront of her mind. The concept of understanding that other people have their own emotional world and that they are dealing with the highs and lows of it is something that most people have a hard time grasping. How important do you think it is to make the allowance for others to see and recognize to a create a healthy sense of self? How did it evolve Dorsey’s character?
Understanding that your crap thinking is similar to what’s happening in some else’s head too, is the beginning of wisdom. The workshop touches on this in the “me skills” and “you skills’ chapters. Dorsey knows this, and forgets it, like the rest of us. One day we’re wise and filled with measured well-being and self-esteem, and the next day … not so much. I believe this is the human condition, and we are gradually coming to understand our own minds and how to manage our emotions.
One of the things I noted the workshop never touched upon was the value of not every relationship ending in romance or something serious. It’s extremely unhealthy to be in that constant black and white thinking of men/women are bad or I can’t live without this being my everything. Entering into intense relationship after intense relationship only fortifies that sense of insecurity of not being worthy of one. Dorsey never really learns the value or importance of male friendship over a romantic or sexual relationship. Had you ever considered having an alternate ending with a more ambiguous ending? Maybe something where she realizes that she just needs to be whole before she become to halves of a whole?
If the story had been more of a literary fiction, I might have chosen that direction. Since, however, I thought of it in terms of a romantic comedy/chick lit/lighthearted women’s fiction I wanted the romance to play out. Plus, it shows Dorsey coming to understand her own mind and behavior patterns. She has to become proactive (to act on her idea rather than bail like in the past). She has to confront Theo. She has to face her biggest challenge — and fight to get what she wants; the “for serious” relationship.
The Divorced Not Dead Crew becomes a rather close group of friends. The dynamic is actually quite common in first run support or self actualization groups since their is a special bond created in building something new and trying something never done before. Of those in the workshop who was it that you found the most fun to write and who gave you the most trouble to visualize? Did any of the characters surprise you in their self-discovery?
I enjoyed the sisters and their rivalry quite a lot. And Stewie, who appears to be a jerk. He did surprise me in how he behaves as the story unfolds.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I remember my English class focusing on the theme of appearance vs. reality. That’s stuck with me all these years, and has become a linchpin in my desire to write and in my philosophical/spiritual view of “What the heck are we doing here on earth?” It also speaks to the LA question you brought up earlier.
I also enjoyed creating Chester and seeing him grow from a timid fellow to someone who realized his own value.
Finn is sort of the kicked puppy in the story. He seems to collect Dorsey’s clap-trap like black pants collect lint and his reaction is never a firm upper-lip. You mention in the start that Audrey maintains her sense of British reserve despite her time spent living in Los Angeles. Finn on the other hand seems to be fairly comfortable being emotionally robust. Did you distinctly separate the more formal comportment of Beryl and Audrey from Finn’s own persona to establish a generational gap or a sense of non-conformity?
Definitely I felt the generational gap was apparent with Finn. He too has recently undergone a difficult time (bike accident, divorce) and is at a turning point, as his dialogue about hitting the bird reveals. I’d say he’s a little more aware that he’s undergoing a change in his awareness and thinking patterns than Dorsey, and that’s why he’s more measured in his response to her … until he’s fed up with her final accusation.
If you were to review your own book what would you have to say about it? Tell me what you feel are the strong part and the weak parts about your novel and in hindsight is there anything that you might have changed.
I was worried about the workshop chapters. Originally they were longer but I cut out a portion because I thought it dragged, and I also felt that I needed to get more plot events going on to satisfy the genre aspect of the story. I wanted the book to show how we can become aware of our thought patterns and yet fall right back into them, which is what happens with Dorsey.
I guess my review would reflect on this and point out that this romantic comedy cloaks a fairly serious approach to human psychology.
Dorsey’s journey personifies what the workshop is really about – becoming more aware of your thinking patterns and the resulting behavior. Changing those patterns occurs slowly, which is why I wanted to show that, despite what she’s “learned” in the workshop and the events of the story, she falls back into that thinking almost by default in the last confrontation with Finn. I guess Tolstoy said it more succinctly: “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”
As a self-publishing author how do you feel about book pirating? Do you think that indie authors are more strongly impacted by illegal book downloading than publishing companies? Would you be willing to make your books free and request donations if you found that was a better earning model as a self-publisher?
I’m not sure how the requesting donations would work. I think the music industry has done something like this, but I’m unaware of the result.
I hate pirating, not only because it is theft, but also because it devalues the intense amount of work an author puts into a book. Like Nathaniel Hawthorne said; “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
And, really, doesn’t everyone wants to paid for working ? No matter what you do or where you do it.
What does being an indie author mean to you? What would you wish to change about it?
I enjoy writing under my own rules, which doesn’t mean NOT proofing or editing the work. That’s a given.
I wish I knew of a better way to become visible to the reading public. It takes a lot of time and energy to get reviews, to get your title out there, and to find promotional activities.
Are there an opportunities that you would like to find out about or network with that you don’t have available to you currently that would help you become a more accomplished writer, increase your fanbase or help establish your work publicly that you would be interested in having someone contact you about? (Writing workshops, online writing jobs, printing press companies, beta readers, reviewers, editors, illustrators, photographers, web designers, etc.)
Reviews are a strongly needed component in the self-publishing world. It’s getting very difficult to secure effective promo without a certain number of reviews and the number keeps ratcheting up.
Also I would like to know if there are more print-on-demand companies springing up and a list of editors, proof-readers and web designers would also be useful.
CeCe Osgood’s Web Tracks:
CeCe Osgood on All The Things Inbetween:
CeCe Osgood on the Internet:
The Divorced Not Dead Workshop Synopsis:
Divorced five years and recently dumped by Theo, Dorsey Bing brainstorms about a dating workshop for divorced people. Too bad she’s an idea person with zero follow-through. That changes when her pal, Pilar, sets up the workshop, puts herself in charge and gets Dorsey to be her “gofer.” Dorsey’s widowed stepfather Ralph, and his bride-to-be, Audrey, ask Dorsey to join their wedding cruise to Cabo, which will be held on the same weekend. Dorsey and Pilar nip that problem by holding the workshop during the cruise. But do things ever work out as planned. No. No, they don’t.
Everything goes topsy-turvy with a startling mishap, rebellious workshop attendees and the arrival of Audrey’s good-looking but wily nephew Finn. More trouble comes with the unexpected re-appearance of Theo. Will Dorsey and Theo revive their relationship? Will she discover Finn just might be a back-stabbing rat bastard? Facing failure and heartbreak, Dorsey must tackle her biggest challenge if she’s to win the love, and life, she’s always desired.
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