I had the pleasure of interviewing Edith G. Tolchin, whose comedic fictional memoir, Fanny on Fire, was a recent finalist in the Foreword Reviews INDIE Book Awards. Ms. Tolchin has been a journalist, reporter, columnist and author for many years. She and her husband Ken Robinson love to travel the United States seeking new material for the further outrageous adventures of Fanny Goldman and Solly Rabinowitz.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
In 1999 I saw a post in my local newspaper (the Times Herald-Record in Orange County, NY) asking for local business owners to share their comments on a weekly basis by answering a question of the week. That’s how I got my start — with my big mouth. And it hasn’t been shut ever since.
In 2000, I began to share my experiences of working with inventors in Inventors Digest. That has now evolved into a monthly column. (www.edietolchin.com/portfolio).
I also had a business/lifestyle column with the Times Herald-Record during 2007–2008, and then became a journalist/reporter with Orange Magazine also around that time.
In 2008, I wrote Sourcing Smarts: Keeping it Simple and SAFE with China Sourcing and Manufacturing, and in 2014, Secrets of Successful Inventing: From Concept to Commerce (Square One Publishers).
Now, with Fanny on Fire (Michelkin Publishing,) I have found my happy place: writing comedy.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Well, back in the seventies, my first job after college was with a Japanese import/export company in New York City. I was hired to work as a clerk/typist, though I only knew how to type with two fingers. After a few months, my boss, an elderly Japanese gentleman, one afternoon began to remove his shoes and socks and pulled out a toenail clipper from his desk drawer. He asked me to clip his toenails. For those of you who know me, that didn’t fly too well. I quit and walked out then and there!
This is a story that actually made it, with names changed, into Fanny on Fire, my fictional memoir.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It’s not really funny, but my first book, Sourcing Smarts, was self-published. It consisted of several articles I had published over the years to promote my business, EGT Global Trading (linking inventors for safe manufacturing with Chinese factories.) I knew I wanted to stretch the book to at least 150 pages even though I realistically only had about 80 or so. I resorted to making it a large print edition, double-spaced, with wider than normal margins and it really looked horrible. Granted, the 80 actual pages were, in fact, chock full of (then-) timely information. However, I should have either published it as a booklet with just the original 80 pages in a normal-sized font, or waited until I had enough material for a “real” 150-page book. This was back in 2008 and of course I know better now.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am enjoying doing book reviews of the newest, juiciest memoirs for the New York Journal of Books. I could have selected most any category — for example, business books, fiction or cookbooks, but I chose celebrity memoirs for my love of Hollywood glitz and glamour. Here are some recent reviews: https://edietolchin.com/book-reviews. I love getting the hardcover editions when they first come out!
I am also about to embark on a book reading/signing tour in Florida. So, if you are reading this from the east coast and your organization is willing to cover my travel expenses, I’ll be happy to come and read from Fanny on Fire and speak about all things Fanny Goldman.
And, would you believe, I’ve taken to writing comedic classic country song lyrics, with a modern twist! Think, George Jones meets Fanny Goldman. All I need now is someone to work with me to write the music.
One other thing . . . I am seriously looking into celebrity memoir collaborations! You tell your secrets — I write!
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
Fanny on Fire is a fictional memoir, though Fanny Goldman is my alter ego and many things that take place in the book actually took place in my life. Like the time, in my early twenties, when I returned home from a Valentine’s Day date with just enough time to change my panties, refresh my Tangee red lipstick, and run out for another Valentine’s Day date with another suitor, with only about five minutes to spare. And this was in the seventies when the snow-covered Bronx roads where I lived at the time were never plowed, so to say I made it by the skin of my teeth was not a lie. Some things you just can’t make up!
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
Always try to find comic relief and the good in people, even in today’s stressful world.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
The late, famous Hollywood costume designer, Edith Head. First, because I was named after her and second, because she designed the most glamorous costumes for many 20th century celebrities. She was the person who influenced my decision to study apparel design at the High School of Fashion Industries in New York City. I actually got to meet her in 1971 at the Singer Sewing Center on 34th St. She autographed one of my fashion sketches.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I adore memoirs — especially of classic country music artists and boomer celebrities. I am hoping to ghostwrite a memoir with a celebrity sometime in the future.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
For my non-fiction books, I have written informative works on sourcing and product safety when manufacturing in China, as well as the steps to safely develop an invention. These books are Sourcing Smarts: Keeping it Simple and SAFE with China Sourcing and Manufacturing, and Secrets of Successful Inventing: From Concept to Commerce (Square One Publishers). If I have saved even one inventor from a nightmare during product development, I’ve done my job.
My most recent work is a comedic fictional memoir, Fanny on Fire (Michelkin Publishing). I have discovered I love writing humor and I’ve been told readers just can’t get enough of Fanny Goldman, the protagonist. So, hopefully, there will be more adventures of Fanny Goldman and her hubby, Solly Rabinowitz! They are the modern-day Jewish Lucy and Desi senior couple.
Fanny on Fire was a recent finalist in the Foreword Reviews INDIE Book Awards, so I’m hoping I’m doing something right.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Just write, and keep on writing. Never stop to edit because you will never get your book done. Often, your story will develop itself along the way.
When you are ready, then edit — but it’s often best to hire a professional editor, that is, if you plan on self-publishing. If you are fortunate enough to land a publishing deal, which is not easy for first-time authors, your publisher will edit. But you should present your manuscript for queries in the best shape possible. That increases your likelihood of being published. A sloppy manuscript is a no-no.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Oh, don’t get me started! It’s nothing new. Women and men should get along better. Respect is key. Neither sex is better than the other. We are equals and if we can start treating each others as such, the world will be better. Do I sound like an old hippie? Perhaps, but what’s wrong with that?
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1) I wish I’d continued my education. Although a Spanish major helped me, as I’ve been bilingual for over 50 years, I probably could have used more English and journalism classes.
2) “Valedictorian” doesn’t mean much. Though I was the valedictorian of my high school class (High School of Fashion Industries in New York City and I won’t say when!), I had to attend the school of hard knocks. Nothing was handed to me on a silver platter.
3) Sometimes it takes fifty or more queries to land a publishing deal. I had read this but never believed it. Never give up though!
4) Find time to volunteer and give back to your community. I am currently a literacy volunteer and have done many other types of volunteering, including bake sales for youth hunger when my children were little. I cheated on this one because no one really had to tell me about this one. It’s just common sense — you always get back more than you give.
5) I’m old so I can’t think of a fifth thing. Just kidding. Stop and smell the roses, otherwise you’ll find you’ve reached your golden years and they might just be made of brass.
Some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Gloria Steinem: because she was one of the foremothers of the feminist movement and founder of Ms. Magazine.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: because of all of the adversities she’s had to deal with in her early days as a lawyer and (female) Supreme Court justice.
Erica Jong: because one of the first controversial books I read as a teen was her Fear of Flying in the early seventies.
Lunch with all three ladies would prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My treat!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook: facebook.com/edie.tolchin, also facebook.com/QueenWrites