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Nature or Nurture?

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I am in transition.  As I reflect back at my life (yesterday was my birthday), I see that I unwittingly followed in my mother’s footsteps.  Was this nuture or nature? 

I can make an argument for both.  My mom is the creative type, a bit wayward.  She has structure in her approach toward her goals, but the structure is limited to the scope of the immediate project.  She is detailed in a microcosmic way, never able to step outside herself and see the bigger picture…see that her artwork is wonderful and how her talent was never discovered (except by close friends and family). 

As I look back into a couple of generations before her, I see her shortcomings are the shortcomings of all the women in her family.  This could be  generational, societal, and ethnic —all equally responsible for her lack of consistency.  It could be a lack of a role model in self promotion.  But what if she were lucky to find the right mentor?  Would her inherent choices in life change? 

While genetics doesn’t help you make decisions, it does govern your responses to situations.  If you tend to be shy, self promotion may be extremely difficult.

I am so much like my mom, it is frightening.  I fear that I will follow in her footsteps.  The path isn’t quite the same, but the results parallel each other.  My mother strove for self-actualization in her artwork.   She is 80 plus years old, still painting, producing her best work, but the staccato rhythm of her projects makes it tough to get any momentum. 

My lifestyle differs from my mom, but yet, I too suffer the same staccato pattern.  Is it learned behavior or the inability to stay focused for any length of time? 

I am moving past my genetics, my learned  behavior.  I, unlike my mom, understand what strategies I have to employ to reach my goal.  I know I am not alone. My internal struggle is shared by many others.  I just wonder sometimes, if the adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has merit.

Reading People

March 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I was in the JFK airport a couple of months ago and picked up a book called,”Reading People” by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Wendy Patrick Mazzarella. 

Aside from the fact that I am in marketing and the information might prove useful, I was wondering how relevant understanding people and being able to predict behavior might translate into writing more believable characters.

The writing is conversational…and luckily, it doesn’t have the major fault so many of these types of books have…that is repeating the same information in different words.  The content is substantive and I found myself putting post its with messages to myself as possible character development traits for different characters.

Product Details

It is an easy read.  It is a good mixture of casual description and concrete examples.  I liked the first impressions chapter because with fine detail, the authors examined every physical feature, every action, reaction, and verbal utterance to create our first impression.  They also cover why our first impressions could be faulty and how we communicate or miscommunicate with our clothes and body language. 

As we get older, we become more astute at reading people.  We are more analytical and introspective.  Reading People organizes our observations, connects the dots between what we see and hear and what reality is.  This is fertile ground for characterizations.

Let me hear what you think.  Do you have any books that you really liked?

Writing Workshops

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Over a decade ago, I attended several writing workshops.  I always walked away disappointed and wondering  whether I could have used my time more wisely by spending it writing.

Today, I attended a writing workshop that for the first time brought some clarification to why I have been struggling with my writing  all these years.  

What I learned today is that the scope of my project is ambitious for a first time novelist.  The suggestion from the group was to take it in smaller chunks.  While that would seem obvious to anyone, the obvious becane obfuscated through too much isolated thinking and not enough sharing. 

For years I have been searching on and off for a writing partner. Inherently, I knew I needed someone to bounce ideas around with, to help keep me focused, and to provide the mental support when that inevitable writer’s pause strikes.  My mistake, as Edie Hemingway, today’s instructor, pointed out is not pairing with a writer that shared a similar genre.  No wonder why I cringed when my writing partner handed me a 50 page manuscript of science fiction or 3 pages of esoteric poetry!  I had no interest in reading much less critiquing a first draft manuscript.  It wasn’t my niche.

Another point I found interesting was the show of hands of writers who thought they were structured writers and those who thought they were intuitive writers.  I, of course, stood alone again.  I lean toward left brain, structured approaches to all tasks.   As we each presented our thoughts on a small writing assignment, it was amusing to hear how each one of us interpreted Edie’s assignment. 

Mine was 4 sentences, each about 12 words long.  I thought I misunderstood the assignment at first as I watched others writing away, scribbling furiously on a second page.   Just as too many words is not good, paucity of words is not good either.  My writing lacks that emotional ingredient that stirs up the reader’s passion and loyalty.  I have to learn to share my feelings, otherwise, there will never be a wide audience for my writing.

In any case, I feel motivated again.  This class was just what I needed to jumpstart my 2010 writing goal for the year.  Edie’s workshop breathed O2 into my book.

I wholly recommend Edie’s class, if you are in the area.  She runs workshops from her home in Frederick, MD and teaches classes at Frederick Community College.  http://www.ediehemingway.com/

Off to a Good Start in 2010

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I thought I would be more accountable for not finding time to write, if I shared this honesty with the world. As luck would have it, I am no further along than I was a year ago, when I had this great idea.

I am excited to go to a writing class this Saturday. It has been a long time….I know you’ve listened to me whine about my writing groups. However, I think this one will be different. Although the instructor doesn’t write in the same genre, the elements in storytelling are all the same.

Well, wish me good luck. I need to stop horsing around and just sit down and write. Till next time…

Reading is on the Rise

January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

letters-in-book-copy1According to the Herman Trend, reading is making a comeback. Let’s hope so!

In January 2009 we wrote, “We expect this reading trend (Reading on the Rise) to continue to increase, in a small way supporting the United States in its drive for competitiveness”. When we look at the fact that Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon are all still in business and Kindle (the machine that provides books electronically) sales are thriving, it is easy to confirm this forecast. (The Herman Trend)

10 Ways to Build Your Writer's Platform

January 3, 2010 Leave a comment

1. Create your website.  This is your calling card, your business card.  It is evidence to the world that you are committed to writing.  Obviously, you do not have to wait until your published to start a website.  You should begin NOW.  It will take time, especially if you haven’t created one before. A website will establish a following, so that when you get your first book published, you can announce its birth!

2. Blog or write for an established website.  There are websites out there that pay you (minimally, of course. Common now, you have to earn the title of a starving artist.).  Check out Suite 101 or About.com.  This provides an income stream and exposure.

3. Capitalize on your niche.  Pick a theme or specialty and wrap your writing, your website, your promotions around that theme.  For example, if I am a dog lover and all my writing should be about dogs — my website, blogs, newsletters. etc.

4. Give talks about your specialty.  Many of us like to talk about writing, because that is what we do.  Be kind to your target audience.  Only writers like to hear about writing. For all the rest of the world, it is a snore.  That is why you build up your exposure talking about Not What You Do necessarily, but WHAT YOU KNOW.  People flock to topics on how to solve or resolve their dilemmas.  If you are writing fictional mystery stories, then maybe your talks will revolve around weapons.  Or say you are a romance writer, then your talk might be about the pros and cons or comparisons between online dating services such as eharmony.com, match.com, or chemistry.com.

5. Print up business cards.  These are handy and more professional than writing your telephone number or email address on a scrap of paper.

6. Offer a product.  Let’s say your book is about dogs.  What about selling t-shirts promoting you, your book, or dogs online?

7. Participate in online communities and forums.  Focus on building your writing platform by offering thoughtful comments and helpful information.  If possible, leave your website address under your name after your contribution.

8. Sell or donate articles or parts of your book to magazines and newspapers.  Writing for free can be a great way to getting noticed.  Remember to leave your email address or website address, if you can. At the very least get that byline.

9. Offer to teach classes or hold your own workshop.  You get some money for your efforts, while building your exposure.

10.  Depending on your niche and topic, get an organization to commit to buying 100 copies of your book.  Include that letter of commitment with your book proposal.  For example, if you wrote an inspirational story about a sales person.  Might not any large company like IBM think this would be a great book for their sales training…or to inspire new employees?

One word of caution.  All these suggestions will take time to implement.  And once implemented, you will have very little time for what you really want to do…and that is write.  So, guard your time wisely.  Think out your game plan…get your family to help…then, put it into ACTION.

Eegaads! It's almost 2010.

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

As we approach the new year, I see that I have made only baby steps in my writing attempts.  I’m embarrassed that I have not written an entry in this blog since September.  No excuses.  I got swept up in my old habits and let time slip through my fingers.

If you are in need of some serious motivation to break old habits, shake things up a bit because your answer to Dr.Phil’s “How is that working for you?” has you shaking your head, I recommend reading James Arthur Ray’s book Harmonic Wealth.  Yes, he is the same dude that is under investigation for deaths at his retreat in Sedona, AZ.  (I am not sure why people don’t use common sense when trying new things.  People, huddled in a sweat tent, must have known that they were subjecting their bodies to the same environment that animals face locked in a parked car for hours in the summer.)  Anyway, if we can surf past this event, and discover what Ray has to say, you might find that there is relevance in his life philosophy and message.

As I read Ray’s book, I liked the fact that the conversational tone wasn’t preachy.  He  tells you his take on life and what he has learned.  His message isn’t new.  What is new is his delivery.  He is able to explain and connect what happens in everyday life.  It is not as random as we might like to believe. 

For us busy people,  he outlines steps to help you realize what you want and how to get it.  As I said, this  nothing new.  For years business schools have touted the management by objective system, but Ray has broadened the scope to open the potential for success in all areas of life.

For the new year, this book/ CD, which is in libraries, might help you slug through and figure out how to achieve your wildest dreams.  So, I have read this book once, listened to the CD, and now look forward to 2010 with renewed enthusiasm for my writing. 

Julia Cameron in her book,  The Artist’s Way, says that if you do a timeline of goals, you will find when you look back 80% will have been realized.  So, join me in creating your timeline for 2010.  We’ll meet back here next year at this time and see how much has come to pass.

Mini Cards – A Great Promotional Idea

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Are you looking for a business card that will make you stand out?  Why don’t you take a look at the mini card?

Although smaller than the typical business card, www.moo.com offers every opportunity to help you create cards that stand out.  The site is simple to navigate and execute a design.  www.usa.moo.com allows you to use your own images to create a simple, but very effective marketing tool.  You are allowed to write text or put an image in the front and write up to six lines on the back.   Templates can help the more graphically challenged.

Best of all you can mix and match to the quantity you desire without an extra charge.

Make Text CardsUpload Your Images

Since we are all writers, what is the best way to promote the birth of a new book?   I can visualize  you putting a cliff hanger of a question on the front and on the back the name  of the book, your name, and your contact information.

Best of all, you can write or use up to 100 different images or text if you order 100 cards.

Pricing is very reasonable.  If you buy400 cards at a price of nearly $80, it comes to about $.20 a card.  100 cards cost as little as $19.99.

I have not had the chance to order some for myself.  However, if you should order them before I get a chance, let me know how you like them.

The vendor has suggested a number of ways to use these cards.  Peruse the site and good luck.

Writers Never Lose a Word again!

August 13, 2009 Leave a comment

In Sex in the City Carrie doesn’t back up her computer and loses all her writing.  We all feel her loss,  because most of us have been crippled by the loss .  Today, you can avoid the misery of resurrecting the software packages and personal files on your computer by backing it up onto servers. 

Two companies that assure you that they will be good stewards of your work are www.mozy.com and www.carbonite.com.  Both are easy to install.  Both are hassle free.

The quick run down:

www.mozy.com is designed for non commercial use.  It is secure.  And best of all, there is a generous FREE basic version.  The FREE version gives you 2 GB, with no setup fee, no credit card information, and no expiration date.  It is virtually hassle free to store documents, photos, etc.

All you do is register to set up the account.  Then, download the software and select the files you wish to upload.  Mozy.com uses the same encryption that many banks  do (128 bit SSL).  For unlimited storage capacity, the cost is $4.95 a month…a real bargain for peace of mind.

If you listen to Glenn Beck, you’ll hear him hawk www.carbonite.com on his radio show.  Unlike www.mozy.com, carbonite.com has a free trial for 15 days, whereas www.mozy.com will give you the basic package free for as long as you want.  However, just like www.mozy.com, the companies both claim they are risk free.  Neither will require a credit card number until you get to know. 

Once the trial period is over, the annual cost for unlimited storage is $54.95.  You can upload music, photos, documents, and videos.  It claims to be safe and secure.  The easy file recovery and the remote file access make it attractive for people on the road.

Mess around with these sites.  See which one works better for you. Let others know your thoughts by commenting below.

Thumbs up for Noah Lukeman's New e-Newsletter

July 21, 2009 Leave a comment

I like Lukeman’s writing style.  It is succinct, content rich, and conversational in tone.  When his e-newsletter showed up in my email box, I was excited to see what he had written. 

If you are trying to break into publishing, Lukeman’s contributions are a must read.  He gives insight into why some books bubble up to the top of the slush pile and some crash and burn at the query level.  So, increase your odds of your writing being discovered; follow his suggestions.

 You won’t regret taking the time to read the advice in Lukeman’s e-newsletter. Also included is  a thumbs up free e-book on How to Write a Great Query Letter.  (As I read the e-book, I can only imagine some of the queries he has read over the years.  It must be the comic relief of his occupation!)

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