June 16, 2009

Made It Moment: Jeffrey Cohen

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 6:34 am

Jeffrey Cohen is a writer whose work manages to straddle two lines: humor and mystery. His books are both well plotted and rich in clever allusions. Since I am a writer who almost never pens a funny word, I am in awe of Jeff’s abilities. Read below what he has to say about some of the struggles and triumphs he’s experienced in this business.

Jeff Cohen
A Night at the Operation

When did I “make it?” There are two schools of thought on the subject:

1. I made it the day I held the first copy of my first novel in my hand. That was the culmination of a lifelong dream, a journey that had taken me from the streets of Irvington, New Jersey, to…

Ah, forget it. Writing novels wasn’t my lifelong dream–that was writing for the movies. So I spent 20 years writing screenplays that were just good enough to get production companies interested, but not enough to get them sold or produced. I fell into writing novels when my latest screenplay wouldn’t cooperate, and insisted on being told as a first person narrative. I had, before that, assumed that only “real” writers wrote novels. They had so many words in them, after all! So holding my first book, which had sold on the first try (go figure), was a triumph. Take THAT, Hollywood! The people who REALLY know writing wanted me, after all!

2. When did I “make it?” The minute it happens, I’ll let you know. When I can pay tuition bills without breaking into a sweat, when I can turn down work I really don’t want to do because the book is taking up too much of my time, when I’m a mostly-full-time novelist (only doing the freelance work I really like doing and the teaching I enjoy), when I don’t have to stay up nights wondering every time the contract with my publisher is about to expire, then I will have made it. Until then, well, have I mentioned that A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION is available at a bookstore near you for $7.99 or less?

2.a.: When you pick up one of my books and laugh at something I’ve written, I’ve made it. Pure and simple.


  1. Told you guys it was poignant (see last line)…

    Comment by jenny — June 16, 2009 @ 6:38 am

  2. Interesting how different people have different views on what “made it” means. . .

    Comment by Judy — June 16, 2009 @ 7:33 am

  3. I wonder if anyone really thinks they’ve ‘made it.’ It would mean stagnating. I ‘make it’ every day when I get that combination of a rush and a calming (and I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive) as I work on a story.

    All sorts of moments raise the level on the ‘made it’ status meter.

    A total stranger buying my book.
    A fan letter/ email.
    Seeing my books in print for the first time.
    People who follow my blog.
    Having people as ME for writing advice.
    Giving workshops and panels and being invited to ‘meet the author’ events –as an author, not a guest.
    Seeing a royalty check.
    The list goes on — but I don’t think I’ll ever “Make It.”

    Comment by Terry Odell — June 16, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  4. As a follow up — EPPIE Award winning author Liana Laverentz is talking about this topic (synchronicity anyone?) at my Blog, Terry’s Place http://terryodell.blogspot.com/ today. And she’s offering a critique as a prize to one commenter.

    Comment by Terry Odell — June 16, 2009 @ 10:43 am

  5. I love this list, Terry! Maye you would like to expand on it a bit and give me a Moment ;)

    Comment by jenny — June 16, 2009 @ 8:34 pm

  6. Jenny – sure – just email me with details. However, I have a new Made It Moment to share right now. I just got an alert to one of my books, WHEN DANGER CALLS. I followed it to eBay, where there are 10 brand new, never read copies on “sale” for about $7 MORE than they’d cost at Amazon. Heck, I’ve got brand new, never read copies that I’ll even AUTOGRAPH and send to you for less than that. But I suppose eBay is a ‘made it’ moment.

    Comment by Terry Odell — June 17, 2009 @ 7:59 am

  7. Dear Jenny,

    I remember discussing with you that I would send you the info for a made it entry. Just checked your website and see it isn’t there. Does that mean I haven’t sent to you yet??? Oh, dear, I didn’t think the brain was that far gone. Just finished the near-to-final edit on Private Grave, so maybe that can count as an excuse. Does rewriting cause you to lose brain cells?

    Donna Fletcher Crow

    Comment by Donna Fletcher Crow — March 2, 2010 @ 6:59 pm

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