Meryl’s not the ONLY one who gets publicity–
Check out these interviews from Hollywood and beyond
(and no, I didn’t photoshop my face in there…)
Interview with Next Act For Women: Writing a Memoir About Divorce: Amy’s Story
Tell us a little about your background…
I am the oldest of three daughters, which, when I was growing up, was pretty cool. I got to stay up later, stay out later, shave my legs, and wear make up before anyone else did. That came back to bite me in the ass later, when I was the first one to go through menopause, fanning myself through hot flashes, while my sisters looked totally cool and glam whenever we dined al fresco. They’re catching up now, however. Yes, it’s all fun and games until all the sisters hit menopause.
My parents are both New York born and raised, but we lived in St. Petersburg, Florida until I was a senior in high school, at which time my father accepted a position in Louisville, Kentucky. I had never heard of Louisville, and in fact when I wrote my new address down for my then boyfriend (who would later become my husband and father to my four children), I actually wrote, LOUIEVILL. I ended up living in Louisville for most of my adult life, and raised my kids there. It is a beautiful place, I miss it at times, especially in the spring, but am in love with my little slice of Florida paradise, a little house on the water where I see birds, dolphins, and manatees on a daily basis, which helps me calm down when I’m in a panic over writer’s block or the end of a binge watch of my favorite series on Netflix.
Now my four kids are grown and I am enjoying life with my partner Michael, whom I met on Match.com seven years ago. Empty nest? BRING IT! I love my kids more than life, but the peace, the quiet, the lack of drama? Something to be said for that too.
What changes did midlife bring for you?
I really thought I had mapped out my midlife pretty well. My children would all grow up, get accepted into Ivy league schools with full scholarships, thanks to their unbelievably perfect combination of brilliance and athletic prowess, and my husband and I would travel the world and probably buy a vacation home in San Francisco because it’s near wine country and there’s no humidity.
Not so fast. Some women have that “aha” moment in midlife, when they think, “Now it’s MY TIME and here’s what I want to do.” I did not really have that type of aha, my aha was more like, “AHA! My husband is leaving me for another woman, now what do I do?” Me, married 27 years, never having graduated college, and never having worked outside of the home. So I guess my midlife path was more or less thrust upon me.
During my divorce, the J word (job) was bantered around. Imagine my surprise to discover that, in my late 40s (I am 55 now), I would be expected to work? Where? Doing what? I worked at a spa. I worked at a furniture store. I got my real estate license and then I even went back to college and enrolled in Creative Writing classes.
What is your next act?
I am a blogger, writer, and author.
My blog, Ex-wife New Life began in 2011 as a way to describe what I was going through, including dealing with the new woman in my ex-husband’s life (although not so new to him apparently) and dealing with four teenagers. I like to think it is a humorous but from the heart tale of my journey. My posts now focus a lot on having adult kids, being in a second long term relationship, and the joys of midlife.
My first book, There’s Been A Change Of Plans: A Memoir About Divorce, Dating and Delinquents in Midlife is the true story of my divorce experience, both the time leading up to it and its aftermath. It starts when my husband of 27 years tells me he is having an affair with a Swiss pastry chef. We go to counseling. He can’t give her up, even though I buy all new Victoria’s Secret thongs and get a mini facelift. We go to mediation—I am nearly led out by police. I scream, I cry, I drunk text. We get divorced. Throw my four teenagers into the mix and you’ve got yourself a party.
That’s only the beginning! I not only recover but reDIScover a new and exciting life as a midlife woman. I go to work, I go on dates! I find part two. It is a tell-all that I hope will help other women who are going through the experience.
I am also passionate about helping women write THEIR way through divorce. To that end, I am hosting my first weekend retreat entitled“Writing Through Your Divorce” the weekend of September 23, here in my home In St. Petersburg, Florida. My business partner, Rebecca Gold, (also a divorcee, author, and writing teacher), and I have designed a well-crafted weekend that will provide not only the emotional support to go through this life-altering process, but also offers tools and techniques that will get your creativity flowing while promoting healing. Whether you plan to share your writing with others, shoot for publication, or just get thoughts, feelings, and emotions down on paper, writing can be a way of working through divorce by organizing thoughts, putting them down on paper, and then moving on! Plus there will be bagels, so there’s that. Details are available onmy website.
In addition, Rebecca Gold and I have formed a small publishing company called Word Gets Around Publishing and we just released my second book titled How To Write It Funny: A Step-by-Step Guide for Bloggers and Others, which basically gives away all my secrets on how I write my blogs and books. It might put me out of business, come to think of it. I am also conducting online classes on How To Write It Funny.
How did you become a blogger and get work as a writer?
I started my blog, Ex-wife New Life in 2011, at the age of 49. At the time, I was working as a realtor and my boss would make me go to Starbucks and not come back to the office until I had made three contacts. Well, uhm, no. I am not going from table to table interrupting online coffee dates and girl talk to see who wants to buy a home, which at that time was no one. So I would take out my laptop and start writing about my experiences and loved it.
I was also lucky enough to secure freelance writing jobs. I wrote about the world’s most expensive caviar, how to buy your very own private island, how to know if you’re ready to start dating—the list goes on. I got a great job writing home descriptions for a high-end real estate magazine in Sarasota. I had 100 descriptions to write. I started out strong, using flowery language to describe a traditional ranch home in a gated community. I even got my thesaurus out. How many words are there for foyer, (entryway) for patio (lanai) for media room (screening area)? I used them all.
Towards the end, I was beginning every post with “Welcome to your own tropical paradise” so I was not rehired for that job.
Recently I had a wonderful job populating celebrity Facebook pages for a digital marketing company. I loved it! We would look for trending stories and write them up in the voice of our celeb clients and post on their Facebook. I started as a writer and was then promoted to a team lead and finally to executive content director. Imagine me, at 55, in a position of authority doing something I love! My boss was 25. Yes, 25. I would sit in meetings learning about Google analytics and when asked for feedback would be like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Still, it was a great job and I had a great bunch of young writers under me who have no idea that they have the whole world at their feet. Sure I was envious, but these were great talented kids. Unfortunately, that company went by the wayside.
One of my proudest moments was when I was contacted by Huffington Post. I received an email from the editor of the Divorce section saying, “We like your story, would you be interested in writing about it?” And of course I was and AM interested in writing about it! When my first post came out and I saw my name on the Huffington Post blog site, I was overwhelmed. I still contribute to the divorce section, however, I also enjoy writing about midlife and the humor that surrounds it and have been featured in the comedy and book sections as well.
How did your book come about?
My book, There’s Been A Change Of Plans, came about after I started my blog. I remembered sitting on my bed after my husband had left for the last time (“This time I really mean it!”), petrified and feeling totally alone. All my friends were still married! I read book after book trying to find solace, help, someone who knew what I was going through. I read about meditating your way through divorce, how to breathe, how to let go of anger. WHAT?
I needed to know how to get through the day! How to deal with four teenagers while my ex was off in Switzerland skiing with his new girl. I read one book by a woman whose husband had also left her. “Now we’re getting somewhere,” I thought. However, that woman was lucky enough to return to her role on a popular TV show and move on with her life. Hmm… Not sure that would work for me. I felt totally alone. So, when my time came and a memoir started taking shape on my computer screen, I wanted to write a book to help other women find their way and to let them know they would survive, they would be okay, they would laugh again. Truly. I have people tell me, “I read your book and it is just like you are in the room talking to me.” That means the world to me!
What challenges did you encounter with your book?
First was overcoming the challenge of actually writing and completing my book! Then I was lucky enough to find an agent. Any writer will tell you that is a huge challenge. And then came my biggest challenge, the moment I thought maybe this wasn’t meant to be. Here’s what happened: My agent sold my book to a large publisher! I received an advance. More importantly, I told everyone. My mother told everyone. We had a big congrats party. I had the author’s portrait photo taken. And then, my agent called me to tell me that the imprint had lost their editor and they were no longer going to do memoirs. I could keep the advance, but there would be no book.
Devastated? Yes. My agent took instant action, acquired my rights back and immediately hit the pavement again. We sold it to a small Indy publisher, and finally my book made its way to the public. I cannot tell you how I felt when I held that first book in my hands. I DID IT! My book came out in October of 2015 when I was 55.
What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
I learned that I love to write. I NEED to write. And that is what I am doing. I now know that I am stronger than I ever believed and that when I have a goal, one that really means something to me, I will achieve it. I also learned that skinny jeans should not be worn with high waisted underwear—but that’s another story.
How supportive were your family and friends?
My family has always been my major support system. My father especially said, “You have a book in you, I know it.” He taught me the joy of reading, at a very young age. I could stay up as late as I wanted to if I was reading; otherwise, it was lights out at 8:30pm.
My friends have been supportive as well, but now will say, “THIS IS NOT FOR YOUR BOOK” when we are engaged in some in depth conversations about dating, belly fat, or where are our eyebrows.
My ex and I are in a very good place and the point of the book was not to bash him and his new wife, but of course, there are repercussions. When I received a date for publication, I called him and said, “You need to know, the book is coming out,” and I sent him the PDF several months before it hit Amazon. He told me he could not bring himself to read it and I don’t believe he has. As far as his wife goes, she and I do not have any contact and as I don’t mention her by name; she really has nothing to say about it. It is what it is, right? Own it.
When it came to my children, it was a fine line I had to walk when I wrote the book, because obviously it revealed some intimate details about my life with their dad. I believe my daughters have read the book and my sons have not, which is fine with me. I think it may be too much for sons to read about their mother dating, and some of the shenanigans I got into.
As it turns out, only one of my four kids took the traditional route of a four-year college, and it was NOT on a full scholarship, much to my dismay. But they are all living their lives—happy, caring people whom I love dearly. I can’t imagine my life without them and for that I thank their dad every day. Really, I’m not kidding. Sometimes I will just text him out of the blue and say, “Thank you for these wonderful children.”
What advice would you offer to women in midlife?
I don’t know if I have advice as much as a philosophy for women in midlife looking for or FORCED INTO change. I can’t stress it enough: THIS IS OUR TIME. If you want to write a book, WRITE IT. If you want to make jewelry, MAKE IT. Whatever it is, DO IT. The person who you were way back then when you began your family, or pursued a career in order to have the life you so craved, IS STILL IN THERE! Get to know her. See what she wants NOW.
What resources would you recommend?
As far as resources that helped me move forward, I have several. The first one is the ONE book I read that truly helped me through my divorce and gave me hope. It is
How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over by Theo Nestor. I also had the great experience of attending a seminar by Theo years later and she guided me through my own memoir, which thrilled me.
Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craftis a must for any writer. I read a little each day to get me started.
Publisher’s Marketplace is a site that writers need to pay attention to. It has the daily book deals, agents, and publisher’s news. It has a small monthly fee but it is imperative to keep up with what is happening in the writing world, what is selling, what isn’t, etc.
Query Tracker is a site where writers can keep track of the agents they have submitted to as well as see what agents are looking for what type of work. Plan to treat your search for an agent as a full time job.
Finally, my go to, the book I always have with me, is Heartburnby the unforgettable Nora Ephron. Her humor, her wit, her insights, inspire me so. When I was last in New York City, I walked past her building hoping some of her fairy dust would settle on my shoulders.
What’s next for you?
Well, as I mentioned, I’m really excited about helping women work through their divorce by writing, just as I did, which is the goal of my “Writing Through Your Divorce” retreat in September, and I plan on continuing these throughout the year.
I am also writing my third book now, which is really exciting since it’s my first fiction book, but really, isn’t everything we write somewhat based on our real experiences? Not going to give too much away but it is a hilarious story (I HOPE) about a midlife divorcee from a small town in—guess where—Florida, who moves to New York City for one year and well… You will have to read it! Let me just say it combines the divorce experience with my love for dogs. Okay, that’s all I’m saying. My goal is to complete it by my 56th birthday in August
Interview with Divorce Force.com: Spotlight: Amy Koko – Dumped for a Younger Woman
DivorceForce had the opportunity to speak with Amy. The following interview is a great read for anyone, not only people affected by divorce.
DF: You write about hearing the news that her husband is in love with a blonde, thirty-something Swiss pastry chef and trying everything from thong underwear to a mini-facelift to save her marriage. When a spouse decides to go that route can a “mature” person really compete?
AK: Honestly, looking back, I now know, a mature person wouldn’t try to compete. A mature person would evaluate what was happening in her marriage, survey the damage that had been done and ask herself, “Is my marriage worth saving, can I move on and forgive the affair?” And when you answer, be truthful with yourself. Living a life of checking cell phones and reading emails when he’s not looking, is no good for you or your marriage. So, in answer to your question, can a 50 year old compete with a 30 year old? I have a daughter who is 30. No, I cannot compete with that nor do I want to. Look, I did the facelift, I bought the thongs…in the end he left anyway and I still have a little tingling above my left ear! (Don’t ask where the thongs ended up.) If you feel that is something you need to do in order to save your marriage, then I believe your marriage is over and as hard as it is, time to move on and reinvent your life.
DF: By your own admission, you were a mess for a period of time after the initial shock of hearing of you ex’s affair. In your own words, you “Caused my friends to run the other way if they saw me in the grocery store.” How did you get your life back in gear? What was the progression? How long did it take?
AK: Hmm…I am “a mess” when I forget about a dental appointment and have to reschedule. I am “a mess” when I have chipped off my acrylics and my nail girl can’t get me in for 2 days. When my husband told me he was having an affair? I was a crazed lunatic. I walked off a tennis court midgame telling my partner, “I just can’t do this.” I screamed. I cried. I demanded answers that I did not get. I have to say that it was after I finally filed for divorce and realized where my life was heading that I began to settle down. I began doing things like going back to school, volunteering at a local TV studio, and of course, eventually dating. I began to take control and that is key. I can’t put a time frame on it, it’s been years and every once in a while I still get a pang of sadness, but my life is full and much, much different than I pictured it when I was 25! It’s better!
DF: You write with a bit of comedy, sarcasm. Is that what you feel (a happy go-lucky nonchalance) or is that what you need to express to deal with “angst”?
AK: When I was going through my divorce I wanted someone who had been through it before to commiserate with. I read book after book. One book told me how to breathe my way through it. One book was written by an actress who was able to return to her Park Avenue apartment and her job on a top rated TV show. It was a good book, but come on, what does that have to do with me? So after I had come through on the other side and continued to meet so many women going through the same process, I decided to write my story of how it feels and what you go through. I didn’t decide to write it funny, these are the words that came out! I can’t tell you how good it felt to get it down on paper and make sense of the whole journey.
DF: You are now conducting writer’s workshops for others dealing with divorce. How and why has writing been so important to your own transformation?
AK: For me, writing has released the sadness and anger that was boiling down inside me. Just getting the words out is such a weight off. It also helped me make sense of it all. I was able to look at the timeline, what happened when and how I was feeling at the time. It helped me to see why I acted like I did at times and how far I have come. So now I feel like it’s time to give back, to share what I’ve learned – the techniques and tools of writing to unblock feelings, unleash creativity, give power and confidence. And with that confidence, it’s easier to come to terms with your experience and help plot a new course, a map for the future. And they might even come out with a piece of writing they will be proud of! (You can check out my retreat info at www.amykoko.com/workshops.) I still write on a daily basis, it still works for me. I am passionate about getting the message out to women everywhere, LIFE GOES ON! Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s better than being in an unhappy marriage, I can truly attest to that.
DF: How is your dating life going? Are you ready to put on a thong for an older man that appreciates a beautiful mature woman?
AK: I had a very good time dating, and got into some crazy situations, which I write about in my book. (Told kids not to read that chapter.) Let’s just say I got my money’s worth from those thongs!
I am now in a long-term relationship with a lovely man that I met on a well-known dating site. It can be done if you go about it in the right way. We have been together over 5 years now and have 7 kids between us! I had a lot of fun, and met some very nice men but more importantly learned a lot about myself in the process. The key is to know what you want this time around and not to settle for less. That’s a big take away from this whole experience. Don’t settle. Don’t let things happen TO you. Make things happen FOR you!
Interview with Bravo Channel: Married For 25 Years, It Fell Apart With An Affair…One Woman’s Divorce Advice
The story of Amy Koko could also be called: “How To Keep Your S**t Together Because Trust Me You Will Be Glad You Did,” or “How To Get Out Of Your Snuggie and Back Into the World.”
It all started one afternoon, when the mom of four was doing laundry and heard the dreaded words, “I’ve had an affair.” Following his utterance, it was a blur, but what she did discover was that her wonderful husband of 25 years had been cheating (sexually and emotionally) with a younger, blonde, Swiss pastry chef. A real punch to the gut.
Here’s the story in Amy’s own words:
“The day that changed my life started like any other, only this day was extra special because I was testing out my new front loading washer and dryer, so life was even more exciting than usual. A steam and dewrinkle cycle? Talk about living the dream! I was wiping a smudge from the shiny stainless steel when my husband appeared in the doorway, which shocked the hell out of me because I had no idea he even knew we had a laundry room. ‘I need to talk to you,’ he said and I knew what was coming—Italy.
Finally, he had planned the trip I had been dreaming of for years. With our 25th anniversary right around the corner, the timing was perfect. He led me to the patio, sat me down and took my hand in his. He looked me in the eyes, my heart pounding waiting to hear the words, ‘Rome,’ ‘Venice,’ ‘Business class.’
I’ve had an affair, he said.
Due to this development, there would be no trip. There would be screaming, crying, pleading. There would be new Victoria’s Secret underwear and a mini facelift. There would be four children watching their mother walk around in a blue Snuggie eating Captain Crunch from a box and muttering to herself. There would be lawyers and mediations, one of which nearly resulted in my arrest for screaming so loud the secretaries became frightened after which, my lawyer whisked me away to Macaroni Grill for the endless pasta lunch. There would be a little more pleading, and then, in the end, the young, blonde Swiss pastry chef who stole my husband’s heart and tummy got her man.
Turns out though, I got so much more. A new life that is full of purpose, joy, love and a newfound affection for Deep Eddy’s Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka, which I probably would never have tried if I had stayed married. Is it easy? No. It is painful and sad and you may do things and say things you will regret later, but you will get through it and live to tell about it. Trust me. I’ve been through it…you just have to keep moving towards the light.”
Here are Amy’s top do’s and dont’s when going through divorce:
1Drink and email
Do not go to your friend’s house with a bottle of Pinot Noir pretending you are going to share it, drink it by yourself, and then start sending drunk emails to your ex, with the words You Are a D**k in the subject line. I know! It feels so good! This’ll show him! Remember, anything you put out on the internet can come back to haunt you later if decide to run for a public office, or in my case, Head of Neighborhood Watch. I was forced to settle for the beautification committee, and was lucky to get that.
2Don’t get behind the wheel
If there is another party involved, do not drive up to their home, park in their driveway, leave the car running and bang on the door screaming “I know you’re in there open this door!” She will open the door looking calm cool and collected and you look like a raving lunatic, plus your car is running.
3Don’t answer nosy people
Never listen when people tell you while looking at you as if you’re a child who just fell down and got a boo boo, “I saw them out last night…I mean it’s just awful, can’t believe he/she is doing this to you.” Typically they will follow this with, “How did you find out?” “How are you doing?” and of course, “We’re going to miss you at the club this weekend.” Remember that old Gillete slogan, “Never let em’ see you sweat?” This is kind of like that only it’s more like “Never let em see you scream obscenities while waiting at the deli counter of Publix.” Don’t give them the chance.
4Don’t talk smack to your kids
Do not talk badly about your soon to be ex with your kids. This may be the hardest thing about divorce because you are angry, you are hurt, you are a little bit out of your mind with fear and uncertainty. Remember your kids are dealing with their ownconfusion and sadness and need to believe that both parents are in their corner. They need you both right now.
5You are not a victim
Do not think of yourself as a “victim of divorce!” This does not define you. Don’t be that person who when someone asks you how you are doing, you say, “My ex is asociopath and narcissist.” Uhm, okay. It may be true, but let’s keep it to yourself. Take charge of your divorce, make things happen your way, don’t let things happen to you.
1Find a role model
I loved the way LuAnn de Lesseps came back after her split with the count. Happy. Cute young boyfriend. Awesome Hamptons house. Okay most of us don’t come out of divorce with a summer home, but she certainly didn’t appear to be a sad victim by any means. And Ramona? Killing it. When I was dealing with my break up, Christie Brinkley was also going through a hideous divorce and hers was really out there, with her husband sending private pics of himself all over the place. There was a photo in a magazine of her dressed in a pink cardigan and gray pencil skirt walking into court that caught my eye. “How elegant,” I thought. “How classy.” I cut it out and put it on my mirror and every day would tell myself, act like a lady, just like Christie.
2Find a happy place
Make your bedroom your happy place! You know you always wanted that paisley comforter from Anthropologie but your hubby hated yellow. Go for it! And, sleep in the middle of the bed. Enjoy every inch of that thing.
3Go to therapy
Find a good counselor or therapist to help guide you through the process, as you may not always be thinking clearly. I can’t tell you how much I spent on legal fees for what I call the “Battle of the Bowl.” A hideous bowl made of creek rock became my main focus for several months. He wanted it, therefore, I wanted it. I won. It’s hideous. It’s his now, I was like, “Please take this bowl. Please.”
4Be there for the kids
This doesn’t need to be said, but be there for your children. Be there for your children. Can I say that enough? Nope. Be there for your children. Keep their routine as close to normal as possible. Don’t break down in tears when they leave to spend the weekend with your ex. Not in front of them at least! Use that time for you. Trust me, you need it.
5Talk to people who have been through it
Above all, find support from others who have been there. Your friends will say, “I can’t imagine what you are going through.” Guess what? They really can’t! I don’t mean one of those support groups where everyone cries while explaining why their divorce is worse than everybody else’s. I mean one where people have moved on and paved a new road for themselves. They can help guide you and be a good shoulder to lean on when you are down.
“In closing—divorce sucks,” Amy says. “I know it does, but you will get beyond it. It willend. Now my life is more than I ever thought it could be and no, I don’t have a house in the Hamptons. I do have a wonderful partner, four fabulous children and a career as a writer and coach that fulfills me. I have Pinot Grigio, dirty martinis and Ruby Red Vodka readily available at the end of the day, depending on my mood. I made it to the light and you will too.”
Amy Koko is author of the book, There’s Been A Change of Plans, A Memoir About Divorce, Dating and Delinquents in Mid-life, as well as the blog, Ex-wife, New Life. She is a Divorce Coach and co-creator of the Writing Your Way Through Divorce retreat.
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