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Want to Be a Writer? Get Your Training as a Wedding Planner.

2 min read

HERE COMES THE SCRIBE There was the bride who instructed a makeup artist to make her bridesmaids look like “little piggies” so they wouldn’t steal the spotlight. There was the couple who dreamed of transforming a summer camp in Maine into a luxury venue for their nuptials. There was the wedding where a grandparent suffered a heart attack, prompting a second (impromptu, unrehearsed) procession — firefighters followed by the police followed by paramedics. And of course, there were the newlyweds who traded vicious barbs and the divorced parents who refused to find common ground and the many moments of kismet and serendipity one would expect when two people say “I do.”

During the 13 years Xochitl Gonzalez spent as a wedding planner, this was all part of the job — and it prepared her to become a novelist. Now a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the author of “Olga Dies Dreaming,” a frothy romp with serious undertones (picture a brainy bride in a lacy hoop skirt), Gonzalez said in a phone interview, “We did not plan simple weddings. They were intense and elaborate, and I think what happened is, you get very good at having a Spidey sense. You’re able to manage many, many threads at a time.”

When you’re managing an event, Gonzalez explained, you begin with infrastructure (budget, tent, restrooms) before moving on to “the decorative stuff” (flowers, finery, music). This approach came in handy as she tackled her multilayered narrative about a high-end wedding planner caught between her own aspirations and the legacy of her Puerto Rican family. “I have a problem-solving brain and there’s a certain amout of novel-writing that I find to be problem-solving,” Gonzalez said. “You create this hypothetical world and these circumstances and you work your way through them in a way that feels believable and has a certain logic.”

Another quality that’s useful in both professions: a sense of humor. “You have to be able to laugh, to be able to find certain things ridiculous,” Gonzalez said. “That ability to find humor in moments of gravity or sadness or absurdity is something I really wanted to preserve in the storytelling.”

“Olga Dies Dreaming” landed on last week’s hardcover fiction list at No. 15. It has also been adapted into a Hulu pilot, with Gonzalez as a writer and executive producer. She said, “The biggest difference between this career and the other is, I’m so much less stressed out. I don’t live in constant fear of litigation.”