Manhattan authors give writing advice to Temple students

Susan Shapiro and Patty Marx shared some tips at a Borders Q-and-A.

Susan Shapiro and Patty Marx shared some tips at a Borders Q-and-A.

Cupcakes and books make a great team, as writers Susan Shapiro and Patricia Marx proved this past Wednesday at Borders, where they held an audience of 40 Temple students and staff, providing them plenty of sugary treats and writing tips to go around.

“I loved when the Temple students starting asking good questions,” said Shapiro, who opened the floor for a question-and-answer session after she and Marx read excerpts from their new books.

Shapiro’s debut novel, Speed Shrinking, is the semi-autobiographical follow up to her addiction memoir Lighting Up.

In Speed Shriking, main character Julia Goodman is a self-help author who’s abandoned by her best friend, psychiatrist and husband in short order, so she finds solace in cupcakes. With her last book about overcoming addictions and her new one on conquering food cravings, Goodman is worried that at any moment, she’ll be exposed and made a fraud.

To avoid possible accusations of hypocrisy on her television appearances for her new book, Goodman decides she needs to shed the weight and tackle the emotional reasons behind it fast. She embarks on a mission to replace her beloved psychiatrist, Dr. Ness, and frantically sees eight psychiatrists in eight days – “speed shrinking.”

“I did everything dumb early and everything smart late,” Shapiro said, referring to attending Ann Arbor University at age 16 and moving to New York City for grad school at New York University by age 20.

Shapiro was bound for a city life.

“It seemed amazing that I left my house at 3 p.m., had a great time in a totally different world and then was safe at home before 10 p.m.,” Shapiro said.

She and Marx have done book readings before in New York, but there was something different about the Philadelphia audience, they said. It was smaller, more intimate and more student-based.

“I already know what they’ll ask before they do, I guess it comes with teaching experience,” said Shapiro, who has been teaching since 1993 and has instructed 9,000 students at New York University and the New School of New York College.

Known for her autobiographies and memoirs, she said she loves the combination of teaching and writing.

“I appreciated the advice for writers,” Gina Ryder, recent Temple alumna, said. “[Marx] was realistic about the difficulty of publishing a book which was helpful to know, and [Shapiro] was optimistic, which was encouraging.”

Ryder, who graduated with a B.A. in magazine journalism major, helped promote the event.

“The bigger the better,” said Marx, who said she loves large audiences and dialogue in the Q-and-A.

Marx’s novel is an obsessive love story, titled Him Her Him Again The End of Him. A young woman, who remains nameless throughout the novel, falls in love with a man at Cambridge University.

Philly native Marx is a former writer for Saturday Night Live and currently writes for the The New Yorker.

“My favorite part of the Philly reading was watching Patty read that funny section of her novel about her mother’s reaction to her novel while her mother was sitting right there,” Shapiro said, “maybe because I have a Jewish mother in Michigan who hates when I write about her.”

These two novels based on the obsession of psychiatrists, love and cupcakes, won’t be the last stop for either of these two Manhattan authors. Both are working on upcoming novels.

Shapiro’s new one, Overexposed, is a novel she first started writing in 1996; after thirteen years, she said she’s calling its release her “book mitzvah.”

Marx’s new book, to be announced, will chronicle cheating in college relationships.

Melanie Menkevich can be reached at

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