Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Interview with Amanda Pendolino, author of WEDDING PLANNING FOR THE BUSY FEMINIST

If you're familiar at all with this little corner of the screenwriting blogosphere, you're probably familiar with fellow screenwriter/blogger/reader Amanda Pendolino. Amanda's been a friend for a while, one of many people I first got to know through blogging and Twitter long before we met in person. She's also the ONLY paid reader I recommend, as she's always given me fantastic and thorough notes. The woman knows her stuff.

Amanda's first book is available today on Amazon, WEDDING PLANNING FOR THE BUSY FEMINIST. I'll let the blurb below set the book up:

Wedding Planning For the Busy Feminist is filled with practical, funny advice from real brides, grooms and vendors about how to plan your dream wedding on a budget. It's also an empowering survival guide that examines how modern women feel conflicted about outdated traditions and expensive social media fantasies but kinda want the perfect wedding anyway.

You're mostly known as a screenwriter and a script reader, what made you decide to write a book?

I used to have a blog about the journey to becoming a screenwriter, and I missed that sort of straightforward prose writing. (Ok, I admit it, I also like telling people what to do.) I also just wanted something different from the features and pilots I've been writing over the years. Sometimes I think it can be invigorating to use a different part of your creative brain.

Why did you choose wedding planning as a topic?

I have always been a fan of those pop nonfiction/memoir books from writers like Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Chelsea Handler. When I read them, I think, "I wanna write one of these!" Problem is, I'm not famous and I don't have a 20-year Hollywood career to talk about. So I couldn't just write about myself - I needed a topic. When my sister and best friend both asked me to be their Maid of Honor, amid a time in my life when I got invited to about 10 weddings in 2 years, I accidentally became a wedding expert. So it felt natural to choose wedding planning as my topic, and I thought writing about it from the Maid of Honor perspective could add something funny and different to that world.

The title is WEDDING PLANNING FOR THE BUSY FEMINIST and you say it deals with "modern wedding culture." What exactly does that mean?

I think a lot of women feel conflicted about weddings because they can reinforce traditional gender roles and values. "The busy feminist" is a modern, independent woman who has established a career and identity on her own. She's excited to get married (to a man or a woman), but she feels a little strange and maybe even guilty about wanting the perfect wedding. She feels like maybe it's backwards or not progressive to want such a thing... but she wants it anyway! So when couples get married, they have to decide what they want and how much tradition they want to include or exclude. How do they modernize things when family members of a different generation might have strong opinions about what weddings "should" have? So I wanted to dig into those feelings and try to help brides and grooms navigate the world of weddings.

When I say "modern wedding culture," I'm talking more about the performative and personalized aspect of it. It's no longer your parents throwing you a party when you're 22. It's two adults planning (and maybe paying for) their own wedding and trying to make it an expression of their specific relationship. With the internet - Instagram, blogs, Pinterest and specific wedding sites - a lot of couples feel the pressure to have a perfect, personalized wedding. Like, the table numbers need to refer to a shared hobby, the favors need to be the bride's and groom's favorite candy, the bar has to serve the couples' favorite cocktails, etc. Sometimes this is fun - I love signature cocktails! - but sometimes it feels like a nightmare of pressure that's fueled by unrealistic social media fantasies and companies trying to sell you products. (Have I mentioned that weddings are hella expensive?) How did we get here, and how do we deal with it? Those are the questions I find interesting and wanted to explore in the book.

You're not married, so was your perspective informed more by "This is what I'd want" or through observation and survey of friends and family at their weddings?

If you’ve been a wedding guest as many times as I have, you’ve probably already thought about whether you want your wedding to include a photo booth (yes!), dessert bar (yes!) or lobster (what am I, the carpet king of Wisconsin? My cousin's father-in-law is literally the carpet king of Wisconsin, so I learned at a wedding that I like lobster!). But I surveyed over 30 brides and grooms from all over the world about their weddings, so the book is way more about their advice than about my preferences. My motto is "you do you" - I don't pressure readers to include or exclude any particular tradition or to spend any more or less than they want to.

While the book is "for the busy feminist," do you think it has utility for the woman's partner as well? Will it help them better understand the bride's desires for the big day?

Absolutely! I imagine that most of my readers will be women, but plenty of men are deeply involved in wedding planning. And I would love for men to read the book! I try to be inclusive of anyone who is getting married, whether it's a heterosexual or same-sex couple and whether it's a traditional or nontraditional wedding. I also talk about smaller wedding and elopement ideas.

Does this cover the planning of the bachelorette party? What are the biggest rookie mistakes you can make there?

Yes, I have an entire chapter on bachelor and bachelorette parties! One thing I learned the hard way is that you should investigate flight and hotel prices BEFORE asking party guests about potential dates so you don't end up in a garbage fire of reply-alls; it turns out that Vegas flights and hotels are way more expensive when there's a UFC fight and a dentist convention in town the same weekend. I also found that I should have chilled the F out when it came to making sure that different guests were having a good time. The hardest part of a bachelorette party is trying to please party guests of different personalities and ages. I worried that a 8-month old pregnant woman was being scandalized when a shirtless Magic Mike dancer was all up on her. But she was fine! After all, she's the one who brought the giant inflatable penis to our hotel room. Ultimately, it's about making sure the guest of honor has a good time, and guests generally understand that. Another big tip is making sure you're upfront with guests about what things might cost - nobody likes having surprise costs sprung on them later. People getting married should also keep in mind that they don't HAVE to do some kind of traditional debaucherous party. The book includes a whole list of less traditional party ideas. Several people I surveyed also told me they skipped the party altogether - you do you!

One of your readers walks into Kleinfeld's - how much more informed will they be than the average customer faced on SAY YES TO THE DRESS, and will their appointment be so successful that they won't need to call in Randy to save the day?

Haha, I love that you have seen Say Yes to the Dress and appreciate its intricacies the way I do. They will be VERY informed! I have a whole chapter on dress shopping, including an interview with my friend who visited Kleinfeld as well as other bridal salons in New York City and upstate New York. I've been dress shopping with multiple friends/relatives, so I walk readers through the process of ordering a dress and have advice for people who are excited about it as well as people who are anxious about how they might look. I also give options for people who want to spend less than $500 and who may not have time to wait for a made-to-order dress. The book's appendix also contains links to 95 different bridal gown designers, since I love dresses.

Assuming WEDDING CRASHERS is a documentary, do you offer tips on identifying and avoiding the slick guys just attending the wedding for some action?

Haha! I was always a fan of that movie - I think Owen Wilson's speech advice (I also have a chapter on How to Write a Speech) is pretty solid: "People want something from the heart." Nobody I surveyed said they had a wedding crasher, but the book includes a funny disaster story from a bride whose Best Man wouldn't leave the couple's hotel room after the wedding! That might be way worse! Also, a wedding coordinator I interviewed said that one upside to having your wedding at a hotel or other venue that does a lot of weddings is that its staff members do this for a living and know how to deal with situations like crashers. If you choose a campground or public space, you have no idea what you might encounter, and if you don't hire anyone to deal with it for you, YOU'LL be the one dealing with it on your wedding day when you'd rather be downing Prosecco and basking in your lifelong commitment. This also gets into why you might want a wedding planner or coordinator - I have a chapter on that, too!

I'm gonna pose a hypothetical: you have four friends who are getting married within an 18-month to two year span. Each of them wants not only a bachelorette party weekend out of town and also a bridal shower. Does your book offer any tips in politely dealing with the fact these brides' friends are not made of money?

I think the biggest thing is that if you want to have an expensive bachelorette and shower, that's fine - but you have to be OK with it if people decline. It's better to have someone decline to attend something (or even be a bridesmaid) than to have someone accept and then complain to you or make passive aggressive comments about money for a year. If including the most people is what you value, then you should make more inexpensive decisions - it's just up to you what your priorities are. These costs really do add up, so couples should be cognizant of what they're asking of people. You can also be definitive about things like gifts - you can tell people that you specifically do NOT want gifts at your bachelorette, you do not want people to pay for your drinks/dinner if they're spending money on flights, etc. You can also explicitly tell people that you do not expect them to hop on a plane for a shower AND a bachelorette AND a wedding.

Follow-up: And also, two years later, when the remaining single friend gets married and all four prior brides bow out of pre-wedding events because of "kids and money," how justifiable IS the resulting multiple homicide?

Hahah - This can definitely be a bummer. I hope couples remember that their friends supported them and spent a lot of money on them when the tables are turned! But also, don't assume that married parents don't want to attend things. One married bridesmaid I know loved attending an out-of-town bachelorette and wedding solo because she got to sleep in a bed by herself with no husbands, kids or dogs - something she hadn't done in years!

Anything else potential readers should know?

My aim is to be legitimately helpful - I break down confusing caterer gratuities, offer wedding day timelines and provide lists of ideas for themes, favors and unorthodox registry items, for example. But it's also a humor book with advice like "Nothing sexes up a ceremony like a hot usher." Because that is 100% true.

You can purchase WEDDING PLANNING FOR THE BUSY FEMINIST here on Amazon, in both softcover and Kindle versions.

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