Jon Paul Buchmeyer :: his life as a sit-com
When writer Jon Paul Buchmeyer left Dallas for New York City in 1996, it wasn’t under the most auspicious circumstances. He had just finished directing his first independent film, a comedy called Gay TV: The Movie. It had been accepted at film festivals in Philadelphia and Turin, Italy, but did not receive the response Buchmeyer had hoped for, especially from distributors. One told him "I can only market movies with AIDS or hot gay sex." As if that wasn’t enough, his personal life was a mess. New York offered the chance at personal and professional redemption. And so he went, jobless and without clear direction, but eager to start afresh.
Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life is Buchmeyer’s uproarious and dishy account of his Big Apple rebirth and the struggles, breaks and successes that resulted from his risky plunge into the unknown. Recently named a 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award finalist, Alphabet City began as piquant stories the writer would tell those close to him about his experiences as a Texan in Manhattan. At the urging of friends, Buchmeyer eventually set those stories down in manuscript form. In 2009, the writer began a blog (which he still actively maintains) to share excerpts from Alphabet City with a larger audience and test the manuscript’s marketability. It soon became clear that Buchmeyer’s stories would have no difficulty finding a readership and today, abcityblog.com boasts an international following.
The writer frames his memoir as a literary sitcom, partly in remembrance of a worldview "formed by a steady diet of 70s TV programs" and partly out of a need for what he calls a "personal coping mechanism" to help him process life-events. Each chapter is an "episode" in the "show" of his life, a show Buchmeyer styles after his all-time favorite TV comedy, Mary Tyler Moore. His experiences are along the lines of what the plucky Mary encounters as she makes her way in the working world. But where Mary’s experiences are made-for-TV zany, Buchmeyer’s are uncensored and unabashedly outrageous.
As MTM’s gay alter ego, Buchmeyer starts out as a Kaplan test-prep teacher but soon stumbles into a career as a publicist for the rich, famous - and hopelessly spoiled. After a series of adventures in celebrity baby-sitting for divas like Tyra Banks and Vanessa Williams, he tries his hand at marketing less volatile products like KFC chicken. Later, he’s "adopted" to work in PR by publishing giant Condé Nast. His new working "family" is bitchy, gossipy and fashion-obsessed, but Buchmeyer thrives nevertheless and helps transform Condé Nast Traveler from staid to glam.
Alphabet City has a devoted - and ever-growing - readership thanks to Buchmeyer’s blog. Not one to be content with easy gains, the relentlessly entrepreneurial Buchmeyer will be doing a multi-city four-month book tour with support from Kimpton Hotels and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. EDGE talked with the writer as he was preparing to kick off that tour in Dallas, the hometown he left behind in pursuit of self-reinvention.
Truth is funnier than fiction
EDGE: Who - and/or what - inspired you to write Alphabet City?
Jon Paul Buchmeyer: Over the years, many friends who heard my stories encouraged me to write a book. With a big birthday staring me down, I decided to buckle down and do it-I wanted to finish writing the book by the time I was 40!
EDGE: Why did you use a non-fictional rather than fictional form to tell this story?
Buchmeyer: Truth is funnier than fiction! I pride myself on my honesty-so I wanted to tell my truth. Since my story is about real things that happened to real people, I thought readers could relate to it better.
EDGE: Did you keep a journal of your experiences before you began blogging/writing about them?
Buchmeyer: One of the public relations habits I adopted is keeping a detailed notebook with copious notes of everything happening. My bookshelves are filled them. Anytime I travel, I keep a special, separate journal-something I’ve been doing since I was 10.
EDGE: You call yourself a "writer-preneur". What does this term mean to you and how do you see it as different from "writer"?
Buchmeyer: To me, a "writer-preneur" is someone who combines artistry with business acumen. Someone who explores all methods of connecting with readers-blogging, books, twittering-and then working creatively with companies interested in connecting with those fans.
For example, Kimpton Hotels is known for their marketing and outreach to the lesbian and gay community. Their target is also my reader. How can we partner together to accomplish both of our goals? Kimpton was looking for ways to expand their LGBT outreach, and we came up with a plan for me to travel to many Kimpton Hotels during June’s Gay Pride Month, attend their guest wine hours, and host events in the hotel with my other partner the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. It’s a win for Kimpton-they expand their reach in the gay community. It’s a win for me-I get to market my book to their guests. It’s definitely not your traditional book tour.
Given the economy, I believe writers have to be more creative and work harder to succeed. The days of sitting back and hoping that a major publishing house puts serious money behind your book are over-for most of us. As a writer-preneur my job is to get my writing in the hands of my fans directly-by all means available.