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Personal or writer's assitants -- responsibilities

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Chicklit

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Not that I'm in need of hiring one (I wish!). One of my characters is a writer's assistant. According to my research (*ahem* googling writer's assistant, stalking blogs of personal assistants, and this great blog by Neil Gaiman's assistant) writer's assistants can do practically anything, from grocery shopping and feeding the writer, to sorting fan mail, to caring for Tasmanian devils.

But what writing biz related tasks would fall to a writer's assistant?

Thanks!

#1 - November 10, 2010, 09:48 AM

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Handling correspondence/maintaining social networks/fielding appearance requests/scheduling would definitely be part of the job--they're huge time sucks.  Research might also be part of their job as well...really it's going to be up to the individual writer.
#2 - November 10, 2010, 10:10 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

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Yup, I agree -- the time-suck stuff plus "it's up to each writer," which gives you total freedom, really, to give whatever tasks you want to the assistant and let the writer reserve any he wants for himself. So if you want the hapless assistant to be stuck with the Tasmanian devils, go for it. *Not seeing much in the way of a Tasmanian devil smilie*
#3 - November 10, 2010, 05:43 PM
Adventures of Jenna V. Series
Caroline Grade Mysteries
The Journey of Emilie
Anne Bradstreet: America's Puritan Poet
www.marciahoehne.com

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Here you go, mrh:  :taz

 :D
#4 - November 10, 2010, 06:25 PM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

Chicklit

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Thanks! These help. I have a bunch of stuff for her that would be more general housekeeping and life management kind of stuff, but I wondered what sort of tasks writers would hand off. Just the scheduling and correspondence sounds like that could be the bulk of it.
#5 - November 10, 2010, 07:02 PM

Asnodgrass

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Awesome link!
#6 - November 10, 2010, 07:11 PM

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LOVE the link!  :yup
#7 - November 11, 2010, 11:38 AM

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 :taz :taz :taz :taz :taz

Ah, THERE the little rascals are. :D
#8 - November 11, 2010, 01:31 PM
Adventures of Jenna V. Series
Caroline Grade Mysteries
The Journey of Emilie
Anne Bradstreet: America's Puritan Poet
www.marciahoehne.com

Ally Carter had an intern for a while and I know she blogged about what he did for her. I do recall it involving mail, but I think there was more to it. I believe his name was Jason, so you could search her blog for it.
#9 - November 11, 2010, 01:35 PM
Robin

Chicklit

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Nora & Lindsey S: I know, right? I love Fabulous Lorraine.

MysteryRobin: Thanks for the tip! Going off to search her blog right now.
#10 - November 11, 2010, 03:55 PM

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My Niece (by marriage) has been a personal assistant for a few years. She interviewed for such a position with a VERY FAMOUS kid-lit writer, (y'all would know this writer) and almost got the job. She was told she'd have to do just about anything and everything, from help with details that had to do with the writer's appearances to child-care, help with travel (personal and professional) and pretty much whatever was needed that day.
The person who got the job found that it involved mostly child-care. My Niece was sort of glad she didn't get it. (She's a fan of this writer, and was more interested in this writer's WRITING.)

She now works for a childless couple who are mega-rich. It's my impression that personal assisting is really a gofer job.
#11 - November 12, 2010, 10:34 AM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520

www.mirkabreen.com
http://mirkabreen.BlogSpot.com

I had a teen being a writer's assistant in a WIP, and then ended up changing it to just an assistant. I had her do much of the same things, though. Just all the stuff nobody really wants to do -- fetching coffee, fetching lunch, going to the post office, picking up dry cleaning, proofreading some stuff.

Specific Writing Assistant ideas -- organizing the mail, answering emails, delivering stuff to an editor, doing research, shopping for/buying first editions, organizing a bookstore appearance, going to a conference with the writer, listening to endless versions of their keynote speech -- that you wrote, dealing with pushy, rabid autograph seekers, being their driver -- to and from meetings, reading their newest book for typos, pre-galley form, and discovering it really sucks.

John Irving's, A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR had a teen writer's assistant, if I recall correctly, he mostly just typed stuff and had sex with the writer's wife. But I'm guessing that might not be appropriate for your story.
#12 - November 13, 2010, 07:43 AM
« Last Edit: November 13, 2010, 07:52 AM by CC »
OPEN COURT, Knopf

slf

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I've been fortunate to have a friend of mine work a few hours a week as my assistant for a year or two now.  As others have said, her responsibilities vary a lot week to week.  Some weeks she does mainly personal jobs (grocery shopping, dry cleaning, bank, unloading the dishwasher--Oh I do love having someone else unload the dishwasher!)  But she also does a lot of "business" tasks as well.

I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but here are some of the highlights if anyone is still interested:

Mail.  She sorts all the mail I receive (recycles junk mail, shreds what needs shredding, passes relevant things on to me as needed)

Fanmail.  She opens all the letters and addresses the postcards I send in reply, paperclips the postcard to the original letter, and handles the postage and all.

Post office.  She goes to the post office for me for some reason or another at least once a week.

Contests and giveaways: if I need to give something to someone for some reason (a "thank you" to a fan who makes me a special gift, a free ARC to a librarian I connected with...whatever) she handles making sure we have an address, have a box, have whatever we're giving.  Then she packs it up, takes it to the post office--whatever.  A simple "Sure, I'll send you an ARC" can turn into 40 minutes worth of work for me.  Being able to hand that over and take it off my plate both mentally and physically is one of the biggest advantages of having an assistant.

Taking me to/picking me up from the airport on long trips when I don't want to leave a car there.

Checking on my house and staying on top of things when I tour.

Some aspects of my website (release date calendar, international edition information, tour appearances, etc.) are entirely hers.

All filing (financial information, tax items, contracts, etc.)

Printing, mailing, filing all contracts (all I do is read and sign which, believe it or not, is one of the most helpful things on this list).

Coordinating and sending newsletter reminders to my mailing list about upcoming appearances.

Keeping track of all book editions (foreign and US) and determining when my supplies are getting low and ordering new copies.

More personal tasks include (largely) house maintenance.  If I need a plumber, she calls, arranges them to come when she's here, let's them in, etc.  I never have to leave the office.  This holiday season she'll do some of my shopping, a lot of my wrapping and organizing, and a large part of my decorating (I'm on deadline and if she doesn't do it I know it won't get done.) 

But perhaps the biggest thing, I've realized, is that there are days when, if she doesn't come over, I may go into my office and not see anyone.  She's someone with whom I get to have "water cooler talk" and that, I've realized, is important to me.  We have a very solitary profession--especially those of us who are fortunate enough to do this full-time.  We don't really have coworkers and colleagues and people stopping by the desk throughout the day.  That's nice.  And that, I'm coming to accept, is part of what I'm paying for.

Hope this is helpful.
SLF

#13 - November 13, 2010, 06:31 PM

Chicklit

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Thanks everyone! These lists have been really helpful. I'll be referring to them as I go along with my WIP.  It's good to know there's a lot of flexibility in the job.
#14 - November 15, 2010, 01:12 PM

philipisles

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An assistant's job will usually reflect whoever he or she is assisting. One of my friends started out as a successfull writer/director's assistant, and they are now as close as mother/daughter. On the other hand, you have the cliche Hollywood assistant experience, which is usually labeled as awful and soul-sucking http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114594/.

So: what kind of character is your assistant working for? If I were you, I'd give her creative, unusual tasks that reflect the boss's character. Like if the boss is totally OCD you could have the assistant untangling paper clips, etc.
#15 - November 30, 2010, 12:39 PM

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Years ago I knew someone who had been an assistant for a Famous Writer. One of my favorite stories she told was about blurb-writing. Famous Writer would get requests to write blurbs, which the assistant would read to him. He's say things like, "Ernest has a book out? I owe him one. Say something like, 'Spellbinding prose. A page-turner.'" This without ever having glanced at the book in question. The assistant would write up what he said, tidy it to make it appropriate for the book in question, and send it back to the publisher or author.
#16 - November 30, 2010, 03:23 PM

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Last year I did a piece on virtual school author visits for Instructor magazine, and contacted Laurie Halse Anderson through her webpage, as I knew she'd done some Skype author visits. Her assistant emailed me back, and the whole email interview was done through her assistant. Her email signature is:

Queen Louise,
LHA Goddess of Organization, a/k/a Laurie's Personal Assistant

 :dr Love that.
#17 - November 30, 2010, 06:41 PM
FLYING THE DRAGON (Charlesbridge, 2012)
A LONG PITCH HOME (Charlesbridge, 2016)

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http://bibliolinks.wordpress.com/

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Years ago I knew someone who had been an assistant for a Famous Writer. One of my favorite stories she told was about blurb-writing. Famous Writer would get requests to write blurbs, which the assistant would read to him. He's say things like, "Ernest has a book out? I owe him one. Say something like, 'Spellbinding prose. A page-turner.'" This without ever having glanced at the book in question. The assistant would write up what he said, tidy it to make it appropriate for the book in question, and send it back to the publisher or author.

 :faint :faint :faint
#18 - November 30, 2010, 06:50 PM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

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I have an assistant (Donna) who is somewhere btw a mother, keeper, organizer, & all around angel (or monster when necessary).  Initially, I had an assistant for 10 hrs a week, but a year ago, I hired Donna. Then over the last 6 months, Donna has gone from 15 to 20 to btw 30-40 hrs a week now.

She handles:

typing my stories (I write a lot longhand when I go on the road or on retreat)
my mail (print & email)  What she CAN reply to, she does.
copy, file, or faxes
send pkgs
deposits/bills
taxes (She deals with the accountant.)
giveaways (She sends them.)
office supplies, coffee/tea supplies, or vitamins? She orders or otherwise retrieves them.
house sitting & dog sitting when I travel
book editions (list, file them, request the ones we lack)
coordinating w my research assistant to get whatever I need
press clippings/press kit updating
books travel,
makes my appts (both social & work & medical).  
Scheduling repairs, upkeep, or renovations at the house or the writing retreat (ie coordinate w "honey do" contractor, cleaners, lawn guy, & any subcontractors.)
menus/coordinate w cook
any phone calls, knocking on the door, or etc is hers to handle
nagging me (this one is essential)
nagging me more
  
Honestly, she is utterly indispensable to me at this point.  All of the stuff that was eating me alive is her domain. I am left with the essential things--being my children's mother & writing.  

I wouldn't ever ask her to write blurbs or do anything like that. When she replies to letters, it is with HER signature.

HER EXPERIENCE:
She ran a small regional airport, a cleaning service, & a yoga studio prior to now.  She is organized, efficient, funny, kind, fiercely protective, and loyal.  

For her convenience, she is authorized on both my home & business credit cards, uses my car, and has keys to everything.  The level of trust I need to have in her is extreme.

Hope that helps :)
#19 - November 30, 2010, 07:10 PM

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