Lisa Francesca is the author of The Wedding Officiant’s Guide, How to Write and Conduct a Perfect Ceremony (Chronicle Books). With Lisa’s guidance, you will learn everything you need to make a wedding unforgettable for two people in love.
Lisa delivers valuable how-to information, including advice on not being a wise guy during the ceremony (“your remarks made simply for laughs may not be appreciated”) to the fine points of the kiss, as well as plenty of anecdotes from her years of joining people in matrimony.
A thoroughly enjoyable read, The Wedding Officiant’s Guide includes interesting information about various wedding ceremony rituals, same-sex weddings, and a selection of wedding-related poetry.
Please welcome Lisa Francesca!
Q: The book is really fun, even to me, and I have no intention of marrying people. Is the process of marrying two people as enjoyable as it sounds?
A: Yes, it is very enjoyable to marry two people who love each other. It is cheerful, romantic work, and a great form of community service. When I talk with a couple and get their ideas for a ceremony, I sometimes witness moments of happy intimacy between them as they foresee the future they want to create. And it’s often a bit scary to them, too: thinking through their ceremony and vows, they are mentally walking through a serious, sobering, enormous undertaking. What will it look like, to be married to this person? And what can I promise to them?
It also helps to enjoy reading and speaking expressively in public. I love how I get to stand and say important things, and yet I am not the focus of attention, merely the facilitator.
Q: What do you want readers to come away with from the book?
I want readers to know that they have the power and resources to officiate at a wedding and do a great job with it. Their best tools are a little organization and a lot of compassion and humor.
Q: What are the main challenges in writing a “how-to” book?”
Thank you for asking, I love this question! The main challenge for me was parsing out the mass of information I held in my mind so that it could easily be consumed in an orderly process. One thing I did was create mind maps of the book and of each chapter. And even though I laid out the information as best I could, I still got a lot of help (especially with subheads) from my organized friend, Jennifer. The independent editor who I hired hauled entire chapters around, and the clarification was further polished by the editors at Chronicle.
When I was an assistant book editor at Sunset Publishing in the mid 1990s, I found Sunset’s archive of household and cooking books and became obsessed with them. The voices in them were calm, cheery, and empowering. A little sleuthing in the dusty library turned up a terrific book: How to Write for Homemakers, by Lou Richardson and Genevieve Callahan (1949), two of those Sunset writers. I knew I would need their information someday, and I did use it as soon as I started my book. “Visualize, analyze, organize, dramatize,” repeated the authors, and I hear them even today.
Q: Do you have a daily creative routine? What does it look like?
My life is a little too complex and unpredictable for a daily routine, but a typical week will contain the following: reading books, walking, daydreaming, writing, wool-gathering, complaining, cooking, administering my social media (I call it “checking the fences”), more writing, thanking someone, asking for things, reading on the couch, reading in bed, reading in the bathroom, making task lists, reviewing stuff, and folding laundry.
That said, my two daily tools are writing something, anything, at least a journal entry, and meditating for a little bit. I’m working on half an hour. The writer and writing coach Eric Maisel says, “A wild person with a calm mind can make anything.” Isn’t that inspiring?
Q: How did you get connected with Chronicle Books? Did you have an agent?
I met a friend and wedding colleague in the Caffe Trieste and ran my book idea by her because of her wedding expertise. She said, “That’s a cool idea, why don’t you run it by my editor at Chronicle Books?” It took me days to compose the “casual yet complete” e-mail with my book idea for her editor.
The editor liked the idea and wanted a more complete proposal—thank goodness that I had bought Putting Your Passion Into Print maybe three months earlier without a clue as to how much I’d need it. I followed the book’s proposal writing instructions to the letter, and eventually Chronicle came back with an offer. Thus began my education on negotiating an offer and contract, working with a publisher, drafting a book, hiring an independent editor, handling permissions, finishing a book, working more with the publisher, and creating and executing a publicity plan. Steep learning curves!
Q: What genres do you read – poetry, fiction, nonfiction..?
I rarely read fiction, and when I do I want symmetry and harmony and entertainment over dark, sad-but-true stuff. I got enough of that in my twenties and while I attended an MFA program in Creative Writing.
I have seasonal book purges and rarely regret them, though I did have to go out and re-buy the beautiful UC Press edition of Moby Dick. My current library holds about a hundred books on spirituality, yoga, Buddhism, Christianity; another hundred books on California history and art, maybe fifty books of poetry, a shelf of children’s classics, and ten novels I keep meaning to read.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring writers?
Writing is a sacred act—animals don’t yet have the hang of it (I think it’s that lack of opposable thumbs), so it is an essential part of being human. If you write and you share your writing with others, you are both the messenger and the message itself. Your persistence gives other people permission to do their art, too. So persist. Aim high, write hard. I am a fan of the ass-in-the-chair school of writing, though some fallow seasons are also acceptable. But don’t give up: write, ever write.