Tag Archives: writing

Flight attendant details life in the sky in best-selling book

20130223-085718.jpgFlight attendant details life in the sky in best-selling book by Brian Summers originally appeared in the Daily Breeze on August 6, 2013. 

Heather Poole will not soon forget the underwear incident.

It was three years ago, when a New York Times photographer visited her home. Poole is a flight attendant, and the newspaper’s website published 12 pictures detailing every step of how Poole packed for a week-and-a-half trip. One tip: Poole prefers rolling some clothing rather than folding to save space.

There was only one problem: She didn’t pack any underwear. And people — lots of them — noticed.

So eventually, she came clean on her blog.

“All right,” she remembers telling her readers, “I wear underwear. I just didn’t want the whole world to see.”

Such is life for Poole, a Redondo Beach resident who might be the most famous flight attendant in the United States. Her 2012 book, “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet,” was a New York Times best-seller.

While still working for a major airline, she has appeared on ABC’s “20/20” and “Good Morning America,” as well as “The Ricki Lake Show.” She has almost 90,000 Twitter followers, and her blog is among the most popular in the industry.

The recipe for her success is simple. Poole, 42, engages with readers about flight attendant life — layover hotels, seemingly endless shuttle bus rides, cranky passengers and canceled flights. She shares how she can never plan for holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas because she rarely knows her schedule in advance.

When she told me she was writing the book, I said, ‘Oh yeah, OK. I am sure a lot of people are going to read that,’” said her mom, Elise Poole, a recently retired flight attendant at the same airline. “Shockingly, a lot of people did want to read it. I’m very proud of her that she did it.”

Heather Poole is fond of telling how she met her husband, Neil, on an airplane and how he told her, in the aircraft’s galley, that she could do better than the men she was dating.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about being a flight attendant…

Book View TV interviewed me about my book, Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 30,000 Feet.  Basically we discussed everything you ever wanted to know about being a flight attendant.

PART 1:  BARBIE BOOT CAMP.  A little bit about how my book Cruising Attitude came to be, and what it’s like, really like, to be a flight attendant

PART 2: SKY ROMANCE?   What’s a crashpad?  Why do flight attendants commute?  How does it work?  How do flight attendants balance flying with life on the ground?  It ain’t easy.  And what about dating pilots?  Watch here….

PART 3: TURBULENT GLAMOUR. It’s not a glamorous life.  We discuss flight attendant pay, uniforms, and what scares me more than turbulence.

PART 4:  THE CRAZIES. What it’s like to work on a private jet, why passengers go crazy in flight, and a little bit about special passengers (AKA frequent fliers)

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Bad passengers, best pick up lines, my last flight…

20130223-085718.jpgThis interview originally appeared on Societe Perrier

What led to your foray as a flight attendant? Was it always the plan or was there a moment that led to the leap?

My mother always wanted to be a flight attendant. Whenever anything went wrong in my life, she’d suggest I apply to Southwest. That only made me not want to work for an airline. But when a job promotion didn’t lead to a raise, I decided to apply. I figured I’d do it for a little while. I thought as I travel the world and meet new people, I’ll interview for other jobs, the kind that people have respect for, maybe something in sales or marketing. Eighteen years later I’m still flying. And happy to be doing so!

What is the biggest misconception that people think about flight attendants?

That we’re not college educated. We make a lot of money. While you don’t need a college degree to get the job, competition is fierce and only the most qualified are hired. I’ve worked with flight attendants who are also doctors and lawyers. And trust me no one takes this job for the money. What money!?!

What is a telltale sign that you got a hell on wheels passenger in flight?

When they board the flight complaining. How am I supposed to respond to a passenger that looks me in the eye and says, “This airline sucks!”

Last night a woman came on board miffed, because she had to check her third bag. Then the flight was delayed because she didn’t think the business class bathroom was clean enough. After we had the cleaners come in to take care of it, she informed us she’d only be using the first class bathroom. It just went on and on.

Worst pick up line in-flight?

You fly this route often?

Best?

A smile. More wine and water for them!

Porn in flight? I saw your post on that the other day. Can you share your thoughts and the latest update on that status with our readers.

Passengers cannot read porn in flight. Most people realize they’re in a public space. But those who don’t follow the rules actually get mad at us for embarrassing them when we politely ask them to put it away.

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Cruising Attitude has landed – in Germany!

The best thing about a foreign sale: different book cover artwork!  Here’s what Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet looks like in Germany.

TITLE TRANSLATION:  “We’ve just forgotten our cruise altitude.”

“Really?” I asked The Twitter Translator, because certainly that couldn’t be right.

His response:  Absolutely.  I’m not kidding.  Bizarre.

Bizarre is right!  Never – I repeat, NEVER! –  forget your cruising ATTitude.  Two T’s.  Altitude is another story.  We’re not going there today.

When I first started learning about the book business I was shocked to discover the publishing house has total control over what the cover looks like, which is why I was thrilled when I  saw mine for the first time.  Dark (not too feminine) colors.  Didn’t want to run off any potential male readers.  Slight smile instead of what I imagined would be a big, cheesy, over the top, Stepford Wives at 35,000 feet kind of smile.  Reality, people.  Non-regulation oversized hoop earrings.  Flight attendants are rule breakers, too, ya know.  Bright red scarf, the perfect pop of color.  Screams FLIGHT ATTENDANT clear across the bookstore.  These things matter.  They really do.  At least when it comes to selling books they do.

Yesterday I received a very nice email from a soon to be Lufthansa flight attendant named Yasmin-Marie.  She wanted to let me know she’s reading my book, “A flight attendant tells…” in German.  I asked her to email a photograph of the cover.  Two seconds later the photographs posted here arrived. I was thrilled.

Seriously, how cute is this?!  And so totally different from the US version.  I love it.  Good job, Germany!

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Advice for writers & my chick lit inspiration

This interview originally appeared on ChickLitCentralTheBlog.com 

What was the most challenging part of writing “Cruising Attitude?” 
Finding time to write. I’ve been talking about writing a book for years. After awhile even close friends and family didn’t take me seriously when I’d talk about it. I’m a flight attendant, wife and mother. It’s not easy balancing all that without also trying to find time to work on a book. When I was writing I’d feel guilty about not spending time with my family. When I was spending time with my family I’d feel guilty about not writing. I should also mention it took a few years to realize the first book I was working on was the wrong book, even though every agent and publishing house told me this multiple times. I didn’t believe them. Turns out they were right! Blogging helped me find my way. When you blog you get immediate feedback from readers. You learn what they like and what they want to know more about. It’s why I now tell struggling writers to know who their market is and to give them what they want.

Who are two authors who inspired you to write?
Writing really starts with reading. The first author who truly captured my attention was Judy Blume. In grade school I checked out every single one of her books after reading “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.” I couldn’t get enough of her. That’s how my love of books with a strong female voice began. The book that inspired me to start writing was “Catcher In the Rye,” although as I read it I don’t think I was completely conscious that I wanted to write. But the conversational tone is what got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could do that – on a much lower level of course! Sarah Dunn’s “The Big Love”is the book I kept on my writing desk to use as motivation when I first began writing, the perfect combination of “Catcher in the Rye” meets the best of chicklit.

What do you think the key is to a successful chick lit novel? Lots of sexiness? A studly hero? Plenty of angst? 
A strong voice people can relate to. Although we’re more connected because of cell phones, Facebook, twitter and the like, we’re also more disconnected than ever before. This is why I think reality TV is so popular today. Writing something that’s real and true, something that people can relate to on an emotional level, is more important than ever before.

KEEP READING (and enter to win a free copy of my book)

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Cruising Attitude book giveaway! (If this post doesn’t discourage you from writing a book, you’ve got what it takes!)

Chicklitisnotdead.com is giving away FIVE copies of my book, Cruising Attitude!  All you have to do is scroll down to the bottom of the interview posted on the Chicklitisnotdead.com website (just click the highlighted link above), leave a comment – any comment!- and  you’ll be entered to win.  They’ll choose the winners on Sunday April 8th after 3pm PST.  Here’s an excerpt from the interview that focused on my journey to becoming a published author….

2. What’s a line from your “favorite” rejection letter?  An agent who’s famous for being snarky once scribbled a personal note at the bottom of one of those generic rejection form letters that after reading my book about flight attendants she hoped to never have me on one of her flights.  HA!  I should mention the book was about a serial killing flight attendant.  I called it Stewardeath.  Almost every agent who read the manuscript said they liked the voice, but wished I could make it more “fun.”  I stuck to my guns and….well…you guessed it.  I never sold it. That’s when I started blogging.  The book business is a business after all, so I figured if I could get a following and be able to show just how many people come to my blog, maybe, just maybe, I could sell a book.  10 years and 7 million hits later an editor from HarperCollins read my blog and asked if I’d be willing to write a book for them about flight attendants. 

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? Finding the time.  I’m a flight attendant.  I’m also a wife and mother to a five year old.  There were times I thought I might have a nervous breakdown because I wasn’t going to make my deadline.  When I was writing I’d feel guilty about not spending time with my family.  When I was spending time with my family I’d feel guilty about not writing.  I think the hardest thing for most writers is not giving up.  Being patient but also persistent.  Recently someone asked me for writing advice.  I told him to just sit down and start writing.  It can’t be that easy, he wrote back.  Certainly there’s more to it, he added.  That’s when I informed him that it took me 10 years of writing every single day to get where I am now.  He was shocked.  Another writer came up to me at a conference to let me know she’d been querying agents for six months.   She couldn’t believe she didn’t have a book deal yet.  I tried not to laugh.  Most people get discouraged if they don’t sell their book within a year – one year! It took me ten.

4. What is the best/worst advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz?  A passenger who turned out to be a television show writer once told me there’s no such thing as writers block, that writing is work and some days are just harder than others.  If writing were easy all those people who say they’re going to write a book someday would have already written it.  You have to put in the time.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Doesn’t matter if all you have is an hour each day and it takes 10 years to get to those oh-so-precious two little words, The End.  That time is going to go by anyway, so why not have a finished book to show in the end?

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? I didn’t. In the beginning of my writing career I dreamed about  launch parties and celebrating at a special restaurant in Beverly Hills. I read about in People Magazine, which turned out to be right next door to my second agent’s office.  But when my book finally published, just spending time with my family without feeling guilty about not writing was celebration enough.   To be honest, writing a book is so much more than the final product.  People have no idea what it truly takes to not only write a book, but then also sell the book, and then market the book to readers I never dreamed my book would make theNew York Times bestseller list, but it did, and I still didn’t celebrate.  I did, however, stare at the newspaper for a few hours in an effort to let it sink in.  It still doesn’t feel real.

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BIG NEWS: My book is actually a book!

Galley copies arrived today!  “Galley” is term for a pre-publication copy of a book that publishing houses send out to reviewers and people in the press. I can’t even tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this day.  Or how I feel now that it’s FINALLY here.  Or why I’m still typing and not out celebrating!  On that note can somebody please pass the champagne!

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This is why I haven’t been blogging much lately….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s my book - all 375 pages of it.  I’m in the copyediting phase.

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Chapter 13: Turbulence (& difficult passengers)

An excerpt of Chapter 13 -the FIRST draft!

13. 

“Welcome aboard!” said the flight attendant greeting passengers at the door.  Upon spotting a pair of cat eyed frames, she cooed, “Oh I love your eyeglasses!” 

“We’re not sitting together and it’s your problem!”

No longer did the funky frames look quite as cute paired with an evil glare and a pointing finger.  And passengers wonder why flight attendants aren’t always smiling. 

My faint smile, a nervous reaction that officially became labeled a “smirk” in a promised letter that never landed on my supervisor’s desk, once caused an upset passenger to go from angry to irate in a matter of seconds after he abruptly spun from the ticket counter, looked directly at me, and snarled, “This airline sucks!”  As if it were my fault.  It’s not that I didn’t feel for the guy, but what should I have done; nodded in agreement or explained to him why he might be wrong?  I mean really what is the proper response to constant scrutiny and verbal abuse?  I’d like to know before my next trip incase the next guy who doesn’t get an upgrade decides to take it out on me!  

“Hello, how are you?” is how I often greet passengers at the aircraft door during boarding, but after a  handful of passengers tell me exactly how they are, and how they were on their last trip, and why they’ll never fly my airline again, I’ll eventually shorten it to just plain “Hello.” Why roll out the red carpet and invite confrontation into my life if I don’t have to?  But sometimes even that one word will get shortened to a simple, yet very pleasant nod after a few of the hello’s go ignored long enough.  No one enjoys talking to themselves.  My life is crazy enough without having a one-sided conversation.   Although my flight attendant friend Mimi would disagree.  Some of the best conversations she’s ever had were with herself.  And that, dear reader, is why the airline hired her – er, us. 

A great mind I’ve never met, someone I follow on twitter, once suggested I channel Cesar Milan from the television show The Dog Whisperer and treat passenger aggression with firm but gentle responses.  The advice reminded me of the time I put my cat into a headlock and waited until I felt his body relax before releasing my grip in order to remind him who was in charge, exactly the same way Cesar Milan suggests on the show – except with dogs.  Not sure how well that would go over in first class, but it did work wonders on the cat – for about a day.  Of course it might be easier to spray bad passengers with a squirt bottle like some people do with pets when they act out.  Right before pressing the trigger I’d think, Take that Senator Schumer! For calling a flight attendant a bitch just because she asked him to turn off his cell phone before the boarding door had shut.  Then again meditation – a lot of meditation – is probably what I really need.  Only grabbing a beer and pulling an emergency chute sounds way easier and a lot more fun to me.  After the Jet Blue incident an ex flight attendant confided that she wishes she had pulled a Steven Slater before quitting her job. But instead of running across the tarmac and into the terminal with two cans of beer, she would have stood right there on the tarmac sipping straight from a bottle of first class Champagne while waving buh-bye to the plane.   And a future as a pilot, I reminded her…

Photo courtesy of Psyberartist

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TBEX2010: Your questions about travel blogging, branding & self promotion answered

This weekend I’ll be attending the Travel Blog Exchange Conference in New York City.  I’m also speaking on a panel about branding, finding a niche, and relevant self promotion with a few of my favorite travel writers; Debbie Dubrow (Delicious Baby - makes traveling with kids look so easy), Mike Richard (Vagabondish - A travelzine for today’s vagabond), Jessica Spiegel (Italy Logue - I want to go to Italy with each and every tweet!), AnneMarie Dooling (Frill Seeker Diary - everything you ever wanted to know about NYC), and Evelyn Hannon (JourneyWoman – an inspiration to all women).  Here are just a few of the questions we’ll be addressing

 What is your niche and how did you choose it:  I didn’t choose it.  It chose me.  At first I wanted to write a fiction book about flying, a dark comdey about a serial killing flight attendant, but chick lit was popular back then and publishers wanted me to make it lighter and more fun.  I refused.  Then, when I got pregnant with my son, my brain turned to mush.  That’s when I started blogging about juggling a professional career and family.  In tracking the keywords that led readers to my blog, I noticed that most were airline- and travel-related. I updated the blog, moving more personal entries elsewhere and narrowing my focus to travel. Since I don’t spend that much of my travel time on the ground, I mainly write about life at 30,000 feet – dealing with difficult or eccentric passengers, answering air travel-related questions, or revealing the secrets to seat switching – things like that.  The editors at the travel blog site Gadling.com asked me to write for them and soon after that Harper Collins approached me to write a book (scheduled to be released summer 2011).  Something tells me I could sell that serial killing flight attendant book now! (Thanks to blogging.) 

How do you think that having a niche has helped you vs writing about generic travel:  I’m not a great writer and I certainly haven’t traveled to half of the places most travel writers have, but I do have stories that most of those wonderful writers who travel to amazing places don’t! 

 

How do you differentiate yourself from the other people writing in your niche:  I allow my personality to shine!  When I first started writing, friends and family would say, “Oh don’t tell anyone what you’re writing about…”  The truth is I can tell a million people what I’m writing about and exactly how I’m going to write it and no one is going to “sound” like me.  Even if I were to experience the same thing at the exact same time as someone well-known in the travel writing industry like Wendy Perrin  or Christopher Elliott, we’re going to come away with two different views due to our different experiences in life.  Everyone has their own unique perspective and storytelling skills.  Trust in them and don’t play it safe.  Safe is boring – in my opinion    

 
How strict are you about staying “on topic” - when do you write about other aspects or your life or broader travel topics:  If you’re going to be an expert in your field, you don’t want to start playing on other fields.  For example, are you going to eat Italian food at an Italian/Chinese restaurant? Probably not.  Same goes for niche blogging.  Stay ON topic, especially in the beginning of your blogging/writing career.  You don’t want to confuse your readers.  That said, I can take just about any topic and give it a flying spin - It may not be the kind of post the majority of my readers want to read, but it might pick up a few new readers and lead to something I want to do more of in the future.  The secret is to sprinkle it in slowly.  For instance, I recently wrote about a funny experience I had at my gyno’s office (at least I thought it was funny), but I also mentioned that my doctor is a fertility specialist and how I plan on writing a post about infertility and flight attendants (one of these days I’ll get around to it).  When it comes to having children, it’s hard for flight attendants and pilots to just be home during ovulation time – a 24 hour window!  So I mention this.  What I didn’t mention is that in the future I’d like to write a humorous book about infertility – without the flying.  If you know what your goals are, why you’re blogging in the first place, and you keep that in the back of your head with every post you write, you’ll do fine.   
 
(Can’t wait to meet some of you at the conference!)
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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