Monday, August 31, 2009

Brainstorming to Ease Your Fall Schedule

Summer's sprinting away. I can see the dust trail left behind and I'm waving--a sad, mournful little wave--as it disappears. Sigh. See you again next year, my playful friend.

And here comes fall, brisk and welcoming. I stand a bit straighter, gird myself for productivity. But fall is no slave driver. Fall knows how to have fun too.

Heather Sunseri wrote a comforting series about the seasons of the writer's life over at her blog, Balance with Purpose. Here's the link to her take on fall: Seasons of the Soul, part 4, Fall. If you get a chance, read through the entire series--it's very reassuring.

With a new season, comes a new schedule. I have to adapt to a frantic pace as soon as September hits. I rise earlier, cram more in during the day, and am bound to a variety of late afternoon activities. Over the past week, I've brainstormed ways to keep my sanity with the new schedule. Here are a few things I'm doing:

  • Wake up 30 minutes early for Bible study, prayer, and a quiet time before I have to get up.

  • Simple wake up routine with minimum fuss.

  • Pack snacks, drinks, and reading material for my never-ending car time. Sometimes I think I spend more time in my mini-van than I spend at home.

  • Take an hour on Sunday to plan the week's meals and create a shopping list. (I've been doing this for years. It saves me so much mental stress!)

  • Deal with incoming paperwork (mail, children's homework, permission slips, etc...) immediately.

  • Shorter, realistic exercise routine. I know I can fit a 20 minute walk in my weekdays, whether on the treadmill or outdoors, but a 50 minute yoga DVD will only collect dust.

  • Continue my fall/winter weekly writing session with a dear friend. I can't tell you how much I've missed our sessions this summer!
I'll admit the one item on the list that gives me the most grief is exercise. It's the first thing I give up when I'm busy. But I don't want to. I'm a nicer person, not to mention healthier, when I exercise regularly.
Also, the packing of snacks, drinks, and reading materials each morning for my mini-van time has kept my stress levels low. We're always hungry and tired in the afternoon, but due to activities, we can't go home. I feel guilty if we head to a drive-thru, but with snacks in the car, there's no need. And I can catch up on my magazines or read a few chapters of a book while I wait. I always, always, pack snacks and books!
What challenges do you face as the new season arrives? Can you let a few of your summer routines slide until next year? Is there a way to adapt your morning routine or your exercise routine to fit in your life better?
Join me on Wednesday when we'll dive into a new month with a new topic: career planning!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Conference: Unexpected Feelings

Many who return from a conference come back inspired. They dive into their current project with renewed zeal. They float for weeks afterward, aloft on the residual excitement. New pages turn out effortlessly.


I came back inspired, yet frustrated.

Spending every free minute with writers was incredible and uplifting. But when I got back home, I faced the tedium of everyday life. My schedule was extra strained just having to make sense of conference notes, author cards, and unpacking. It's enough to overwhelm anyone.

Worse, good friends were e-mailing me about the new book they'd started. They were writing with fire under their seats, whereas the only thing firing up at my house was the laundry in the dryer. I was happy for them but I wished to be in the same position.

I still had two passes of revisions left on my manuscript. I couldn't start a new book, because I refuse to start a new project until the current one is 100% complete. And I was already tired of revising. So all that terrific energy smoldered within, waiting to project itself. Did I mention I have about half the time to devote to writing in the summer as I do in the winter? Yeah, the burning built to an orange glow.

I'll admit it. I got a little ugly. A bit disappointed. Flat out sick of revising. The orange glow grew to code red.

I finished the revisions. And the volcano didn't erupt. All that conference excitement? It's still there, waiting to be poured into the next project. It just had to wait a bit.

I'd love to hear how you deal with conference aftermath. Did you bring home any negative energy? Or is it all rainbows and delight for you? I hope it's the latter! But if not, well, you aren't alone!

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Conference: Oh, the Amazing Things You Learn

When I think of learning at conferences, I think of workshops. I didn't realize how much I'd learn in the lobby.

It amazed me how much information seeped in just from speaking to other writers. And I'm not talking about craft secrets or anything like that. I'm talking about small clips of conversations that settled into my brain and left an impact. Here's a sample:

-When I met a writer, I asked what they wrote. Four out of five said paranormal. And paranormal is still a hot genre. I just didn't realize how many wrote it! (Not a formal poll--just my interpretation.)

-The published writers I met shared their ups and their downs. They struggle with many of the same things I do, which surprised me.

-The agent I pitched to said three words that changed my mind about my submission strategy. Three words!

-Agents who blog and who have a massive web presence will give an author different advice about platforms than agents who don't.

-One best-selling author made a huge impression on me. She was at the literacy signing, and my friend and I walked past her table. She stopped us, waving her bookmarks, and we had a nice conversation. She went out of her way to make a personal connection with us, even though the room held thousands of people. Guess who bought her book? We both did. Lesson learned? You're never too big to not hand-sell your book. And people buy books from authors they like.
Wondering who the author was? Well, let's just say I plan on buying Jenna Petersen's books from now on. Talk about a funny, genuine, and inspiring lady.

When you return from conference, spend an hour or two and think about the little conversation tidbits that left an imprint on you. Analyze the people who impressed you and figure out why. This is the information that will stay with you forever.

Has a tidbit of information ever completely changed your course?

***I want to thank everyone who follows my blog. I've noticed new names over the past month. Thanks so much for taking the time to subscribe. I really appreciate your support. ***

Join me on Friday when we'll discuss unexpected feelings about a conference.

Happy Writing!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Conference: Free Time

If you've never been to a major writing conference, it's difficult to prepare yourself for what lies ahead. Whether the conference lasts a weekend or longer, you're probably wondering how you'll spend all of your free time. Perhaps a little sight-seeing? Or a leisurely tour of the hotel? Maybe a few hours by the pool in the afternoon?

Here's what I learned.

There is no free time.

Okay, maybe I exaggerated, but seriously, there won't be much time for you to unwind. Sure, it looks as if there's plenty of time to take the workshops, relax at lunch, and twiddle away the evenings, but conferences have a way of sucking you like a magnet to the other writers in the hotel.

I thought I'd go to a museum for a few hours, maybe see a few sights one night. Wrong!

The hotel buzzed with an energy I knew and loved--creative excitement. I didn't want to miss a minute. And even if I'd wanted to, the conference itself soaked up so much of my energy, I simply was too tired.

A few days in, though, all of the workshops and new people drained me. I needed to get away from the hotel, away from the swirling information in my head, away from it all. My girlfriend and I found a little restaurant near the hotel where we chatted for hours. It felt so good to just sit, talk, and absorb.

Listen to your mind and body. If your head is spinning, give it a break. If your body is exhausted, sit and have an ice cold soda for an hour. Don't worry about missing out on a workshop, or declining an invitation to join a group of writers if you desperately need to be alone.
You'll enjoy the conference if you pay attention to what you need. You won't enjoy it if you cram everything in even though you're exhausted. And don't plan on doing much sight-seeing. You won't have time.

Happy Writing!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Conferences: The Image You Project

Oh, conferences. Where we drop into a world full of writers and we might as well be tripping down the yellow brick road. I can only speak from my own experience, but I felt comfortable yet uncomfortable at the same time. Makes no sense, I know.

I felt comfortable because I'm at ease with other writers. It's fun learning about them. I enjoy meeting new people. I never felt like the odd-man-out; indeed, I felt right at home.

However, I felt uncomfortable because I'm not quite where I want to be on my journey. It felt crummy saying "No, I'm not published," especially when many of the authors I met either were published or about to be. In my mind, I set them at the big kid's table and myself at the little kid's table. But when I talked to them, they didn't make me feel that way. In fact, they treated me with dignity and respect.

From minute one, I had to remind myself not to quantify my work or my path. The temptation to excuse my unpublished state arose, but I didn't give in. (The good Lord listened to my prayers.)

My truth is this: I'm ready to be published, but my writing isn't. Maybe it will be soon, maybe it will be a few more years. Who knows? I didn't gloss this truth over, apologize for it, or try to make my writing sound better than it was. If someone was interested in where I was at, I was honest. And they didn't think less of me.

If we want to be accepted, we have to be comfortable with who we are, even if we aren't where we want to be. If you want other authors to take you seriously, take yourself seriously. You don't have to apologize for your lack of credentials. On the flip side, you don't have to boast about your impressive credentials. Just be honest.

And remember, the published authors you meet might not be exactly where they want to be either. They still deal with rejection. It may have taken them years to get published, too. Listen to them and empathize. They aren't holding the brass ring in the middle of the carousel. They're struggling with the same work and life issues as everyone else.

Remember, you have something special to offer the world. Be proud of who you are and where you're at.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Red Carpet Delight

The spotlight descends as I walk up the red carpet, hand at my chest, tears glistening in my eyes. I step up to the podium and say,

Thank you Icy Roses and Jeannie Campbell! Thank you so much for this award!

If you haven't checked out their amazing blogs, go over, right now. Here are the links: Icy Roses: From Elysium and Jeannie Campbell: Mind Healing Fiction

Okay, so this award has a few rules attached. They're listed below.

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might not know.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Let's see. Seven things about me...

1. I have a snaggletooth. It used to bother me, but now I kind of like it. Maybe it's because I love cats? Rrrrowww!
2. My toenails are always polished. Usually hot pink.
3. My fingernails are never polished with anything but with clear polish.
4. Every year about this time, I ooh and ahh over the upcoming fall fashions, but I wear the same basic clothes. I'm not sure if it's because I'm cheap, scared to try on a trend, or just plain old.
5.. My mom had a "no soda before noon" rule. I still feel guilty--sometimes even call my husband at work to confess!--when I crack open an ice, cold Coke before noon.
6. I've watched Saturday Night Live for years. Stephanie Faris, over at Steph in the City, recently posted a picture of the hilarious "Mom Jeans" skit. I'm linking the parody here for all you who need a laugh today. Mom Jeans--There's a short, real commercial before the skit begins, but it's worth it. Enjoy!
7. That Giada deLaurentiis is amazing! I mean, her food's delicious, her show's relaxing, and she manages to have an incredible career and still look good. Impressive!

The seven Kreativ Bloggers I'm passing it on to:

1. Nancy - Boomers, Scribblers, and Saints
2. Susan - A Walk in My Shoes
3. Heather - Balance With Purpose
4. Jessica - Booking It
5. Angie - GumboWriter
6. T.Anne - White Platonic Dreams
7. Diane J. - Contentedly Neurotic

Take a few minutes to check these talented bloggers out if you have a chance!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Meaningful Networking

When you attend a conference, you meet people--it's impossible not to! I'm sharing a few tips to soothe the meet-and-greet jitters. If you're like me, you may be socially at ease in your own circles--family, church, work, school--but a tad uncomfortable (or downright terrified) at the thought of meeting hundreds of writers.

If you're attending the conference with a few friends, you're very blessed. They're comforting, like a security blanket. You won't have to worry about having someone to sit next to at lunch, nor will you feel like a green M&M in a sea of yellows, and you'll have friends to share the ups and downs of each day with. Be thankful!

For all of you first timers who don't have a circle of friends to rely on, please remember you aren't the outsider looking in. Sure, there will be little cloisters of writers dotted throughout the facility. They all seem to know each other. They're laughing and patting each other on the back, hugging and hollering. And you might feel lonely, left out, as if you're the only stranger in the hotel. You aren't.

From the minute you arrive until the minute you leave, don't let the "poor me, everyone knows each other" attitude overcome you. You're going to have to step out of your comfort zone and make an effort.

And for all of you writers with a built in circle attending, you're going to want to step out of your comfort zone and make an effort too, or you'll miss out on meeting some incredible people.

Stop hyperventilating. You can do this. I'm going to show you how.

Here is my tip for meeting new people.


That's it. Easy!

Don't spend every second with your friends. Walk around and introduce yourself to people. Are you in line for something? Strike up a conversation with the lady in front of you. After the day's events are over, go down to the lounge. Sit next to a group of writers and introduce yourself. At workshops, talk to the people next to you before it starts. Don't let opportunities to be friendly pass you by.

So how do you strike up a conversation with a stranger at a writing conference? Again, easy!

1. Introduce yourself
2. Ask them where they're from.
3. Ask them what they write.

It's a guaranteed conversation starter. Everyone loves talking about what they write. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all of the intriguing books people are working on.

If you think of it, ask for their card. Then, when you're back in your room, write a few notes about the person so you'll remember them. I met many, many people, but had meaningful conversations with about a dozen. When I returned home, I e-mailed the dozen. Will we always keep in touch? Doubtful, but I know I'll stay in touch with a few, and that's pretty great.

So here is my question for you: are you comfortable meeting new people or does it intimidate you? How will you handle the social aspect of conference?
If you get there and need a boost, e-mail me. I'll give you the nudge you need to meet some great people!

On a side note, I'm guest blogging over at Reality Covered in Chocolate today, so if you're addicted to magazines, or curious about someone who is (ahem), head on over! I appreciate your support!

Join me on Friday when we'll discuss the impression you make on people.

Happy Writing!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Conference Preparation:What is Your Goal?

I know many of you will be in Colorado next month for ACFW's Annual Conference and some of you are signed up for other conferences this year or next. Congratulations!

The week before you leave will be full of little details--packing, smoothing out family and work problems, printing out travel plans, and making sure you have everything necessary to thrive at the conference. So, I'd like you to take some time now, or a few weeks before you're scheduled to leave, to clarify what you want out of the conference.

What is your goal in attending this conference?

You may have several, but one will stick out more than the others. This is your main goal, the one you want to focus your energy on. When you have met this, you can relax and pick activities that will meet your other goals. But don't waste all of your energy on activities that don't matter to you at the expense of the one that does.

My goal in attending RWA's National Conference was to make a personal connection with my dream editor and agent. In order to do this I scheduled pitch appointments. I wanted to discuss my book with each of them so they could put my name to my face, and, more than anything, I wanted to make a positive impression on them.

My lesser goals were to network and to make a few real connections each day, and to learn more about the publishing industry.

Please, please, do not set your main goal as "selling your book." A conference isn't a book-selling sweepstakes. It may help you sell your book. It may help you get your project in the right person's hands or it may nudge your foot in an agent's door, but you will not come home with a contract.

And many of you will disagree with me on this, and that's okay, but here is my opinion on a touchy subject.

Save your pitches for your pitch appointments.

These poor agents and editors are stalked relentlessly. They don't want to get accosted in the elevator. They're tired, they're stressed, and they want to relax at night. They don't want to listen to a complete stranger's book concept outside of a pitch session. (If I were an agent or editor, I might not even want to listen to the pitches in the sessions! It looked exhausting.)

I'm not saying to ignore the agents and editors if you see them in the lobby, but treat them as you would any other human being. Be friendly. If you've already pitched your book, go up to them and say hello, chit chat a minute, then leave them alone. Don't make it all about you and your writing. Respect them.

If your main goal is to learn more about the industry, then plan on attending at least one industry related workshop each day. If you want to immerse yourself in craft, attend at least one craft related workshop each day. If you're there to network, try to make two or three meaningful connections every day.

Remember, everyone has different goals at a conference. Don't be afraid to say no to an invitation from another writer if the event will take away from one of your goals. You can always meet up later that evening or for breakfast.

Join me on Wednesday when I'll discuss the finer points of meaningful networking.

Happy Writing!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Go Ahead. Compare Yourself.

Haven't I always spouted off about not comparing yourself to other writers? Today, I'm throwing up my hands. Go ahead, compare all you want.

Compare myself to my favorite author? Okay, I'm game.
The facts about my fave author: she researched cancer cures, lived all over the world, and writes the best heroes on the planet.

How do I compare: I don't research cancer cures, haven't been overseas, and struggle to write a decent book.

Hmm..that didn't feel very good. It felt kind of kick-in-the-ribs bad.

I'll try again.

How do I compare: I sympathize with and help people who are going through tough times. I've been blessed to live in many places and have met interesting folks wherever I went. Writing a terrific hero is important to me.

Not bad.
If we're going to compare, we should at least spin ourselves in a positive light. Someone else's success doesn't equal our failure.

How do you compare to your favorite author?

Happy Writing!

Join me next week as I offer encouragement on keeping your confidence high during a conference.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rules, Uniqueness, Blah, Blah, Blah...

With all of the talk about "rules," I sometimes wonder if we aren't being groomed to sound exactly the same, like we're all writing into the same corner. Let's call it the 2009 Writing Rules Corner. I'm thankful for the rules, but it's possible to take them to the extreme, and worse, they change all the time.

I agree with most of them and, trust me, I'm thankful for them. My writing has improved leaps and bounds, but some of the rules have changed my writing style in a bad way. With my last book, I stomped my foot and made the decision to break a few rules.

Adverbs are not demons. "Ing" verbs aren't the devil's minions. Dialogue tags are sometimes necessary. And no, I'm not saying to dump adverbs, ing-verbs, and dialogue tags back into your work willy-nilly, but they aren't disgusting scabs to pick out. They're words.

I'm glad I bent the rules, because my voice peeked through. Sure, many will read my book and tsk-tsk over the rule-breakage, but the writing reflects me.

Trust your voice. Believe in it. Don't worry about breaking some of the rules. Your voice is what makes you unique, and if your voice includes a few adverbs, so be it!

Have any of the rules stifled your voice?

Happy Writing!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Confidence and Humble-Pie

I don't know about you, but when I started writing, I soared over the atmosphere in happiness. Perfect fit, writing and me. So I wrote my first book, my second, my third, and I submitted them as I finished. It felt good, natural, lovely. And anything that felt so good and natural and lovely meant instant success, right?

Now by success, I'm not talking about huge advances and press releases, I'm talking about getting "the call."

While I wrote those first books, I had no access to any critique group, and I was still a new-ish member of my local RWA. All that earlier confidence slipped a notch or two as I listened to the members share their stories. I dreamed of instant publication, but these were talented people, and most of them had experienced skads of rejection. I thought, why would I be different?

I hadn't been rejected yet, nor had I received contest results or gotten feedback on my books from fellow writers. A nagging voice urged me to have other writers read my work, so I did. Contest results arrived along with the form rejection. And my confidence plummetted. But I learned something very valuable.

Blind confidence is necessary to succeed in this business.

Did I read that wrong? She must have made a typo.

Blind confidence is necessary. If anyone starts out on their writing journey without a massive dose of confidence, they won't be able to handle the upcoming, bone-crushing blows to their ego. Now mind you, there are plenty of talented writers who get published on their first try out. I'd never pretend everyone is doomed to write for years before getting the call. However, the vast majority of us will experience plenty of rejection before we get published, and in order to survive, we need confidence.

But we also need humble-pie. It wouldn't make sense to get feedback from contests, critique partners, and editors, and then toss the advice aside. Sure, we need to evaluate the comments and decide if they're right for us, but to cling to a false confidence will only hold us back.

Poster @ Brewhouse Yard Museum, Nottingham
Photo by timparkinson

We need to be objective about our own work. We need to accurately assess our strengths and our weaknesses, and the best way to do it is to throw off our preconceived notions about our writing and listen carefully to anyone generous enough to point out our problems.

At first, it's not easy. It's hard to read criticism from contest judges. It's painful to read suggestions from critique partners, and it's devastating to get rejections in the mail. But then, we take the advice and apply it to our current or next novel. We study and avoid making the same mistakes. And we repeat the process. Sometimes over and over. And it gets so much easier.

If your path resembles mine, be thankful. We're learning to accept criticism. We're learning to be objective about our work and to take advice. Editors will be giving us plenty of suggestions when we do get the call, and we'll be able to handle it. When our books are published and we open a review, we might have hurt feelings if it's negative, but we'll remind ourselves how far we've come and look ahead to how far we have yet to go.

And we'll smile.

Next week I'll be sharing tips on keeping your confidence high while attending a conference, but this week's posts are general encouragement. Thanks for waiting!

Friday, August 7, 2009


Do you ever get frustrated when you have a set-back? Most of us do. Or maybe you meet an incredible writer and find out she published her very first book? You're happy for her, but in the back of your mind, you're wondering why your first book didn't sell? And then you start feeling bad, insecure, less worthy.

It's very hard to have realistic expectations in the publishing business, because each writer's journey varies wildly. There is no sure-fire path to publication. Some hit it big instantly, while many other talented writers push on for years before getting the call. How do we know which path ours will be? And are we inferior if it takes several books before an editor takes a chance on us?

I went to college to be an electrical engineer. The journey made sense. I went through four (okay, five) years of college, got my degree, and landed a job. My superiors trained me, and slowly, I became good at it. They didn't expect me to be Engineer Extraordinaire right off the bat because it takes time, practice, and application of skill. And they knew it.

When I decided to pursue my dream of writing romance novels for a living, I searched for the magic formula to get published.

I didn't find it.

Does having a master's degree in creative writing help? Sure. Does it guarantee you'll get published? Nope. What about writing every day? Well, it's a good start! But, again, unless you're studying craft, getting feedback, and growing as a writer, you can't expect your writing habits to open the first door.

So how do we deal with our expectations? Can we even have realistic expectations?

For all of you whose very first book gets published, congratulations! But please, read on. You're going to have reviews coming out, and some may be negative. Amazon readers will comment on your book, and many will rip it to shreds. We all have to deal with our inner demons, no matter where we are at.

For all of you who aren't published yet, don't worry about when you'll get published. Just keep moving forward. Talent needs to be honed, and even Olympic gold medalists don't win every match. They show up every day, without guarantee, because they are driven, focused, and extremely good at what they do. You are too. You just don't have a coach.

So go ahead, dream of your fabulous future, but don't let set-backs stall your progress. Don't let unrealistic expectations rob you of even a moment of joy. Someday, you'll be telling other writers your story of "the call," and these days will be a distant, and hopefully happy, memory.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

August Topic: Believe in Yourself

The last hurrah of summer--August! I know many of you will be attending ACFW's conference in September, and I wanted to encourage you as you prepare. After my experience at RWA National Conference, I can guess what many of you are feeling in the days leading up to such an exciting event.

Please take a few moments each day this month to believe in yourself. It doesn't matter if you're writing your first book or have completed your tenth--you're a writer and that's enough. Do not feel inadequate if you aren't published yet. Do not pin every hope on your current manuscript. And do not wish you were further on your journey. You are exactly where you need to be right now.

If you're attending next month's conference, relax. Soon, you'll be out of your cocoon, surrounded by talented writers, and it will be an absolute rush. But it might also prove intimidating for anyone not published. Don't worry and don't compare. No one will think less of you if you aren't published. And if you are published? Please take time out of your busy schedule to encourage a few writers who aren't. They'll remember you forever.

If you aren't attending next month's conference, relax. Maybe you desperately wanted to go but couldn't afford it. Or maybe you've never heard of it and could care less. Either way, you're blessed with time at home to focus on your current project. When it's the right time for you to go, you will.
So join me as I share practical tips on keeping your confidence level high this month. No matter what step you are on in your journey, you should feel elated. You're in the game. That's all that matters.

Happy Writing!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Interested in My Journey?

Guess what? The incredible Keli Gwyn has honored me with an interview on her amazing blog, Romance Writers on the Journey. Many of you are familiar with Keli, but for those of you who aren't, I urge you to check out her sites.

It's fun to watch her writing progress over at On the Path to Publication. If you're looking for useful writing advice and fun interviews of authors, head to her blog, Romance Writers on the Journey. And you can learn about her award winning (double Golden Heart finalist!!) inspirational, historical romances at her website, Keli Gwyn: Journeys of the Heart...and Soul. I know it's only a matter of time before we see Ms. Gwyn's books on store shelves.

And here's an added bonus: Keli is giving away the cutest binder clips for one lucky winner who leaves a comment on Romance Writers on the Journey anytime up until August 10!! You don't want to miss a chance at these!

I'm honored to be interviewed by Keli. Anyone interested in reading the interview, please click here.

Have a wonderful Monday!