Friday, December 20, 2013

Sharing the Big News -- and a Dose of Reality

I recently signed with literary agent JL Stermer of the N.S. Bienstock agency. (Cue the confetti and cheers and champagne!)  Writers understand exactly what this milestone means — that it often takes years of writing, and sometimes writing more than one book, to land an agent. They also understand being represented by an agent is just the beginning.

It’s a little harder to explain to non-writers. In sharing my news, I’ve stirred up a mess of confusion that I feel obligated to clear up.

Signing with an agent does not mean I have a book deal.
In today’s publishing world, authors do not pitch their manuscripts directly to publishing houses. Literary agents serve as a writer’s advocate, selling the story idea, and ultimately negotiating the deal. They serve as a mentor and partner, helping shape a writer’s overall career. One book may have attracted an agent, but the agent/author relationship goes on for years.

Authors do not pay literary agents.
Legitimate literary agents do not charge writers for the opportunity to represent them. Agents make their living purely off commission — a percentage of what the author makes on any given deal.

Literary agents are not obligated to try to sell everything an author writes, especially previously written books.
The relationship is a partnership but an author trusts that the agent knows what will sell based on a lot of complex and competing factors.  Sometimes those earlier books are just great practice leading up the one that captures an agent’s interest.

Authors don’t (and shouldn’t) share all the gritty details of the publication process.
What JL does now is magic…not really, but kind of. She’s the professional. The book is in her hands; the process is in her hands. My job, as a writer, is to be patient and to write the next book.

Authors don’t get rich overnight, land movie deals and go on nationwide book tours.
Well, maybe about .0001 percent of authors do and they are ones with blockbuster hits, and their names are usually in a larger font size on the book cover than the actual title of the book. Most writers want to have steady, solid careers in writing and that’s a worthwhile goal. Don’t be sad if your friend or family member is not the next J.K. Rowling.

Thanks to everyone who’s offered congratulations! And I honestly don’t mind the questions. And for you writers who have recently landed an agent, feel free to use this Q&A with your circle of people.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hello, Universe! It's me, Mandy

A work colleague of mine from years ago used to write a wish (dream, goal, intention) on a piece of paper and tuck it away in the back of a drawer. It was a mindful and purposeful way of telling the Universe what she wanted.

It’s not a new concept. Visualization, meditation, lists, journal entries, vision boards, intention boards all help us clarify what we want from life (in a career, in a partner, in friends).  My sister faithfully creates vision boards each new moon. Now before you react to the woo-woo-ness of that, let’s look at what such boards accomplish.

Thoughts usually run willy-nilly through our addled brains. In the busyness of daily life, we rarely take the time to think about what we want…what we really want. But when we start looking at pictures (from magazines or catalogues or Pinterest or Google images), we engage a different part of our brain. Pictures help us create a child-like sense of play without the judgments that often crop up in journaling (this happens to me!).

I thought about how this might work for authors. Even before I start outlining my next book, I’m exploring how to use a vision board to capture the feelings that bubble up when I think about the characters and the time period – the visuals that will lend themselves to words later on.

I stumbled across an author who uses a Pinterest board in that way. It’s cool that we can go as low-tech or high-tech as we want when setting our goals and intentions.

Have you done anything like this before?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Gravity of Inaccuracies in Fiction

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't.” – Mark Twain

My husband and I saw the movie “Gravity” recently because it received such great reviews (top critics rated it 100 percent fresh on  My husband is an aerospace engineer with a background in orbital mechanics (how things move in space).  After the movie, I asked him if there were any blatant errors in science and he said, “Pretty much everything.” Still, that didn’t completely ruin his movie-going experience because it was an interesting story 
We tend to give authors/storytellers some flexibility with fiction because it’s fiction! I think the problem is when inaccuracies pop a reader/viewer out of the story, asking “Can that really happen?”
I can suspend belief and logic far more easily when reading a book like The Hunger Games. The book is set in a dystopian future so we’re allowed to believe that technology has advanced to include force fields, hovercraft and fiery costumes that don't harm the wearers. We can imagine a future where 12 kids must fight to the death!
My writer friend, Micki, is a former police captain who writes crime fiction. She knows what details need to be factual to maintain credibility. And that's because readers/viewers are knowledgeable and savvy. I’m writing a book set in an infamous and horrific prison in the 1950s. I’m constantly researching what could happen and what’s too far-fetched, even if the story is compelling.
Do you have any examples of stories/movies that you found completely unbelievable? Did that lessen your enjoyment?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Telling the Untold Story

I just saw this Maya Angelou quote on Twitter: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

The concept of an untold story is nothing new to writers. It’s the germ not yet developed. It’s the illusive space before that moment of clarity when you finally say, “Yes, this is the story I need to tell.” I’ve known for a while it was time to start writing my next book. But no story gave me that “greater agony” to push me forward. I faced the same fear other writers have had before me: what if I don’t have another book in me?
Then something amazing happened. A dear friend from Mississippi visited and described a story idea she’d love to write one day. One morning a few weeks after our visit, when I was in a gigantic blue funk about my lack of motivation to write, I texted her:
“I need to steal your book idea. I don’t want to write anything else.”
That clarity came out of the blue. And it was so strong that it overrode any fear or guilt I might have about asking such a thing from her.
Because she loves me, she texted back immediately, “You may have it. You are much more likely to write it. I wouldn’t have told you if I didn’t think you could take it.”
Thanks to a generosity I can never repay, the voices in my head (the good kind) are real again. And once again, an untold story is ready to be told. (Katrina, I won't squander your gift.)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Embracing (Not Erasing) Regrets and Mistakes

As I mentioned in my last post, I enjoy reading young adult fiction. The storylines hold my interest and the characters are often dynamic, flawed and interesting. The books/series I’ve read have cross-over appeal, attracting readers in their 30s, 40s and beyond. (My book club read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson; it was one of our favorite books that year.)
Here’s my admission: as an adult reader of young adult fiction, I sometimes judge the characters for their decisions and feelings. (And mind you, I don’t have children of my own so this isn’t a maternal thing.)
  • “What?! Can’t you see X loves you? Don’t go out with that other guy!”
  • “That’s dangerous! Why wouldn’t you tell X or Y so they could help?!”
Those protagonists are making decisions that a 14- to 18-year-old would make. They don’t have three decades of ‘learning’ from mistakes to inform those decisions.
As a writer of young adult fiction, I have to keep those protective (judgmental) feelings in check. Arlie, the protag in my YA suspense novel, makes missteps, puts herself in danger (more than once), doesn’t read the feelings of others’ accurately, feels she’s alone in the world. And that’s as it should be.
Here’s another admission: I wrote in journals faithfully from middle school into adulthood. I captured on paper some MAJOR errors in judgment. About 15 years ago, I went back and reread journals from my high school years. Adult Mandy was appalled at teen Mandy’s feelings for a guy who turned out to be a pretty BIG mistake. And adult Mandy destroyed two of those journals – as if she could erase feelings and actions that easily.
See? Adults make major mistakes, too. And I learned from that doozy. Those very real fears, regrets, hopes and dreams make me a better writer of YA fiction. They are to be embraced, not erased.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Trap of Instant Gratification

Just saw this on Twitter: Netflix gives you 15 seconds between episodes to decide whether or not you're doing anything with your life today.

For those of you who stream and watch TV series on Netflix, you know how addictive it can be and how easy it is to convince yourself to watch just one more episode.

I’ve experienced something similar with young adult novel series. I read one book…then have to know what happens to the characters. I download the next book from Kindle (immediately) and read non-stop. Then I’m hooked and ready to read the next book. Then… WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE THIRD BOOK ISN’T OUT YET?!

The whole YA series phenomena puzzled me at first. Why weren’t writers writing one great book and moving on to new characters and new places?  It took reading a few series to understand that I cared about these well-written, dynamic characters and wanted to tag along for more of their journeys (just as I cared about television characters enough to watch 11 episodes of Downton Abbey one Saturday – but that’s another story).

Katniss (Hunger Games) and Tris (Divergent) and Allie (Night School) and Lyda (Pure) and Alex (Ashes) and Evie (Paranormalcy) and Lena (Beautiful Creatures) and other teen heroines have dominated my Kindle and bookshelf for some time although my reading tastes are usually darker and more literary (George Saunders, Donald Ray Pollock).

The publishing industry has found a cash cow in successful YA series and the brand loyalty they generate among readers. This is not a bad thing. After all, I’ve enjoyed these series and eagerly await the next installments in some.
But I'm left wondering where the stand-alone YA title fits in?  Will readers of young adult fiction go for well-crafted stories like The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson) and The Mockingbirds (Daisy Whitney) or have they (we) been trained to expect more? Fodder for another blog.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Rejection! Attack of the Evil Brain!

When I was a kid I thought the summers flew by too quickly. That’s nothing to how I feel as an adult! With business trips, a week being sick, family visiting and numerous writing projects (on top of a busy day job), June disappeared before I could even say hello.

So, “Hello, July, won’t you stick around a while?”

As a “yet to be published” author, rejection is on my mind quite a bit — especially now that six agents are reading one of my manuscripts and three agents are reading another.  Logic tells me that all nine will NOT email with offers of representation. Rejection is a guarantee, in some form or another.

With that theme in mind, I want to share an article from Psychology Today that explores 10 ways that rejections affect us psychologically. (Read the article.)

These three are particularly troubling:
  1. Rejection created surges of anger and aggression.
  2. Rejection sends on a mission to seek and destroy our self-esteem.
  3. Rejection does not respond to reason.
Whoa. The article convinced me that all types of artists need tender loving care as they put their art in the public domain. No matter how much we tell ourselves not to take rejection personally, our BRAINS do a number on us. Perhaps zombies are altruistic when they run around eating those dastardly brains that try to sabotage our work.

Let's remember that the literary agents (readers, friends, etc.) who reject our work aren't the enemy. Often, it's just our dumb old brains.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sharing Our Creative Endeavors

Yesterday, I was at a park enjoying the sunny day and the live music at Animas Riverfest. I ran into a former work colleague I hadn’t seen in three years or more. I faced the same dilemma I face every time someone asks what I’m “doing” now.

“Oh, I’m still a marketing and communications specialist for Goodwill Industries International,” I typically say.

And, then I must decide whether to share that I am also a writer — of fiction. If I do share, then the conversation ALWAYS goes the same way. I kid you not. EVERY SINGLE TIME. First, they ask if I’m published. Second, they ask if I’ve considered self-publishing.

No, I’m not published. Yes, I’ve considered self-publishing. Most aspiring authors do consider self-pubbing but must carefully weigh 1.) their reasons for self-publishing and 2.) how it fits in their overall writing goals.

More and more, I find myself not sharing my writing life. I find it tiring to explain how tough an industry it is -- even if you self-publish (especially if you self-publish). And I don't want to feel defensive about something so important to me.

And did I tell this former colleague I'm a writer? Yes, yes I did. And yes, it played out as I described above. But that's okay.

One of my best friends was up on stage, playing the bass guitar. Like me, she's a communications professional by day. But she had the guts to say, "I want to create music." And she went out and did it. Took bass lessons. Plays in bands. Puts herself out there.

So, like Tracy, I'm putting myself out there. I want to write, no matter the end result. I think I need a cool hat like hers, though.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Upside and Downside of Rejection: One and the Same

Writer blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media have made it easier (and faster) for authors to get their work noticed by other writers, agents and publishing houses. One phenomenon to arise from this instant accessibility is the CONTEST!  Your first 250 words! Your query letter!  Your most suspenseful scene! Your best dialogue!

There are numerous schools of thought about contests. Let's look at two. One lauds contests as a means to land an agent. And success stories abound about how a writer found his/her agent in this way. Critics, though, say that contests (when entered too often) deluge the same agents and publishers with your work…that you appear ‘over-eager’ and ‘desperate.’

Duh. That’s how many writers feel. Excited to get their hard work noticed, desperate to find that one agent who’ll take a chance.

Regardless of how you feel about contests, the downside and upside are one in the same: you get to experience rejection. Lots of it. Some implied (no requests!) and some stated outright through harsh critiques and feedback.

It’s all valuable. We learn to trust our guts on what feedback to take to heart and what feedback to leave behind. We choose to develop a thicker skin and move forward, or we let rejection damage our self- worth and shatter dreams.

Don’t get me wrong -- rejection sucks. REALLY sucks. So find other writers with whom to commiserate and stock up on dark chocolate. (I’m set on both counts.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Life's Short -- Eat Cheetos

My fingers are stained orange as I type this because I ate crunchy Cheetos for lunch.  You’ll see why later.

None of us knows the exact time and date of our deaths. Mortality statistics give us the impression that we'll live to a ripe old age (76.3 years for males; 81.1 years for females).  Without a firm idea of the time we have left, some of us put off doing things (saying things), believing we have all the time in the world.

That’s why I read obits. These stand out in my memory.
  • the vivacious 19-year-old woman who suffered a fatal seizure
  • the 45-year-old woman who died after a recurrence of breast cancer 
  • the 52-year-old father who had a heart attack while sitting in front of his home computer
  • the adventurous 23-year-old who died in an avalanche while snowboarding
I don’t know any of these people personally. But I wonder how they spent their lives. Did the 45-year-old woman always skip dessert thinking the calories weren't worth it? Did the father regret how often he brought work home instead of playing catch with his sons? Did the 19-year-old have a fight with her dad and didn’t have a chance to say she was sorry?

Whether we live 20 years or 100 years, life is short.  And regrets are a bitch.
  • Call the estranged relative.
  • Take the vacation.
  • Write the book.
  • Retire at age 55.
  • Buy the house (or new chair, or bicycle, or shoes).
  • Eat Cheetos for lunch.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Critique Sandwich: Tough to Swallow?

Most writers partake of (choke on?) some version of the Critique Sandwich (whether they are aware of it or not).  It goes like this:  to avoid completely demoralizing a writer, the critique partner (editor, loved one, etc.) says something positive first, then follows with what needs improving, then ends with something positive.

When we’re lucky, the ‘filling’ on the critique sandwich isn’t so thick as to overwhelm the ‘bread.’

I’ve been an editor for too many years to count. When I was younger, I was often guilty of throwing a whole lot of filling at writers without softening the critique. I thought I was being direct, saving everyone time, getting to the point.

Well, ladies and gentlemen…during those years, I missed the point completely.

People matter. People’s feelings matter. And there are always nuggets of gold buried in what we may think of as the worst essay, book, short story, poem, song or painting. 

The life of a creative is hard enough. We battle our own inner critic and self-doubt daily. Encouragement of any kind can make the difference in someone forging ahead or giving up her creative dreams.

Today, I received the nicest rejection from a literary agent. Just the right amount of bread and filling -- definitely not a Dagwood special. Instead of being utterly disappointed, I’m feeling pretty upbeat.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Comfort in the Tangible

My friend, Christi, posted on Facebook this amazing photo of a young boy reading in a bombed-out bookstore in WWII London. The powerful image stirred up a bit of emotion.
I write and edit for a living. But on a day-to-day basis, I don’t appreciate the importance of books — or hell, any written type of communication. Words transport, inform, inspire, incite, enrage. I shudder to think of a world without written communication. While I love television and film and YouTube and vlogs (yes, you, Lizzie Bennett diaries), I like the permanence of the written word. I like referring back to books, to links on the web, to my own journals. Life is fleeting. Tangible is comforting.

And yet, it was an image that inspired all this emotion I'm feeling. Hmmm…even more to think about.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Your Biography -- Courtesy of Google

I saw a tweet from a publisher who warned writers that agents and publishers always Google prospective clients. I mean, they have to make sure you’re not a crazy-pants, raving lunatic or a highly opinionated person with cringe-worthy views on politics, religion or the like.

I purposefully don’t post my views on politics or religion on Twitter or Facebook or in this blog. I’m not trying to hide anything. But I’m aware that polarizing views can make publishers leery – after all, I could be alienating a whole segment of potential readers.

I Google myself from time to time. You can piece together a good bit of my history if you bother to keep reading to the 7th, 8th and 9th pages of results.

  • I’m the author of quite a few nursing articles because I was editor of The American Nurse newspaper for the American Nurses Association in Washington, DC.
  • I edited publications for the United Nations – so my name is connected to tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and other UN priorities, sometimes in French!
  • I was executive director of the Women’s Resource Center in Durango.
  • I teach continuing education classes (writing, marketing, graphic design) at my local college.
  • I have a communications and marketing business on the side called mlm communications.
  • I drink a LOT of McDonald’s iced tea and post about it way too much.
  • I have a cat (and post about her way too much).
  • I have a blog!
  • I have a Pinterest board on cake decorating.
  • In 1982, I was crowned state queen of the Slavonic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas because of my rousing speech on What Fraternalism Means to Me. (This deserves a whole post!)

My life is an open book, so to speak. And so is yours, yours and yours because of social media. But is your book one you’d want the public to read?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ditch the Expectations and Watch Out for the Good Stuff

I recently watched a movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. An exchange between two actors has stayed with me all week.

Evelyn: Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.
Muriel: Most things don't. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.

This couldn’t be more applicable for my writing journey. Many authors write multiple books before ‘the one.’ I was certain the first book I wrote was the next “Secret Life of Bees.” (It wasn’t.) Then, I was inspired to write my first young adult novel — which featured a ghost just as the market was getting oversaturated with ghost/paranormal stories. Then, my cozy mystery flowed so effortlessly (well, not that effortlessly) and was so well-received that I sensed I’d have a career as a mystery writer. (I didn’t.) 

Somewhere along the way, I went back to an idea that had been niggling at my brain for some time… a story about a high school girl whose face had been burned in her stepfather’s meth lab explosion when she was little. I had even purchased a couple of books on burn survivors for research purposes.

This week, that book (titled Facing Fire) is featured in two different online contests whose purpose is to get book excerpts in front of literary agents. My book is doing well in BOTH contests. One agent loved my excerpt so much, he asked to see the full manuscript immediately. In the second contest, my excerpt was chosen one of 60 entries that 15 agents will review next week. There were 427 total entries.

It takes some faith (and tears and chocolate) to keep writing, to keep revising, to keep querying. But when I put away my expectations for what a writing life should look like, opportunities opened up. I need to remember this feeling for the tears/chocolate times ahead.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rescuing the "Self" from Selfish

In late February, I spent more than 37 hours in the air or in an airport during an eight-day period. (One travel day was 17 hours because of snow delays.) I can’t even describe the exhaustion I felt upon my return. (Let’s just say there were tears involved.)

A family function I felt I had to attend in Texas piggy-backed a stressful business trip. The family thing was important, and I’m glad I did it. But it brings up some issues for me related to self-care. I kept telling myself “I have no choice! I have no choice!” That's a steaming pile of horse manure.
I always have a choice. To stay in my current job or venture into something new; to exercise regularly or watch more TV; to eat more protein or stress-eat with sugar; to foster nurturing friendships or guilt myself into staying in one-sided relationships.

The crux of the matter is that taking care of myself is the harder choice because most of us are conditioned from an early age to think that self-care is selfish. And the first baby steps we take to put ourselves first often results in guilt.
I’m convinced it just takes practice. What do you think?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Easy is a Four-Letter Word

I bought a beginner’s yoga DVD about two years ago. As of yesterday morning, it was still shrinkwrapped and unopened.  I’ve been sick for about three weeks with a lingering cold (and haven’t exercised in much longer than that) so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Surely, it’d be easy! What a gentle way to ease back into exercising.

So, yeah. Today, I can’t lift my arms over my head, my knee is tweaky and the bones in the top of one foot ache. So much for easy.

From time to time, don’t we all make assumptions that something will be easy?  How many times have you uttered, “How hard can it be?” only to then utter, “Damn hard.”

One of my resolutions is not to make assumptions.  Another is not to give up on something that isn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. Like writing daily. Like staying connected with friends even though I have hermit tendencies. Like exercising often, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
Is there something you've stuck with even thought it was harder than you thought it'd be? (I mean, besides marriage.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fighting Extinction

First the demise of the Twinkie and now this! Hasbro has eliminated the beloved iron token from the Monopoly set and replaced it with a cat.  A cat! I know, right? And they let the PUBLIC vote via a Facebook page.  Do they think that’s a representative sample of the Monopoly-playing public?

Okay, that’s not the reason I’m irritated. I’m irritated by change. It unsettles me. I feel a part of my worldview is altered. I feel less and less connected with people born before 1990. (Let’s forget for a moment that I write young adult fiction.)

I’m not against progress. Hell, I experienced the horror of “Sun In” hair lightening spray. It’s just that whenever I meet someone who doesn’t remember something I remember, it feels like another part of me has gone extinct.

So, today is my tribute to outdated things that hold a place in my memory…and will until said memory falters with old age.
  • Interchangeable IBM typewriter balls for different fonts
  • Tab soda
  • The smell of mimeograph paper
  • Push-button transmissions (like the one on my ’64 Valiant)
  • Flashbulbs for cameras
  • The old Monopoly set that had wooden pieces
Feeling nostalgic? Check out the book Do You Remember Technology? Geeks, Gadgets and Gizmos.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Delight is in the Details

For some time, I’ve wanted to find out why there’s so much hub-bub about the British television series, Downton Abbey. Its fans are downright obsessive about it.

So, the flu and I decided to spend Saturday watching … 11 STRAIGHT EPISODES. Yeah, obsessive is the right word. The multiple story lines and interesting characters were engrossing. As a writer, I was most fascinated by the way the smallest details told the most powerful story.

For example, the staff ironed the newspapers each morning before his Lordship and family read them. A subtle detail like this said so much about the expectations of the upper class in 1910s and 1920s Britain. The show’s writer didn’t have to hit the audience over the head with an explanation of the class distinctions of the time. The day-to-day workings of a household said it all: female servants couldn’t serve in the dining room and never answered the front door; bad news was often kept from the ladies of the house because of their delicate natures; a hierarchy existed among the staff as well; some servants felt genuine loyalty and sometimes love for their employers, as if they were family.
I recently finished a novel called The Language of Flowers. In it, a very minor character often dyed her hair wild colors like hot pink. But the reader found this out by the stains on her pillowcase.
Other viewers and readers may not notice precise details as I do. After all, it's often the sum of the details that sets the mood of a television show, movie or book.
Still, I delight in writers who say so much with so few words.
Perhaps the smallest details of our own lives tell the biggest story as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Forget the Timetable: We're Not a Swiss Train

I’m pissed off. DO YOU HEAR ME, BLOGOSPHERE? PISSED OFF! Here’s why. I was on Twitter (yes, when I should’ve been writing) and ran across this tweet by the online editor at Writer’s Digest.

If you can’t carve out at least a short portion of your day to dedicate to writing,
then you aren’t serious about finishing a manuscript.

My first thought was “Where do you get off?”
My second thought was that he was trying to pick a fight.

Finally, I decided he was channeling my subconscious, which knocks, knocks, knocks daily with the same message. “You’re not a REAL writer if you can’t get up at 5 a.m. and write for an hour, or come home after work and write instead of watching Wheel of Fortune. You should’ve finished the damn manuscript weeks ago. Remember your plan to write throughout Thanksgiving break and instead, you baked!”

So, maybe I’m mostly pissed at myself. More like disappointed. But enough finger-wagging.

Here’s the rub: a lot of writers feel this same way. And we make it worse by reading about other writers and their craft and their writing schedules and their successes. We refuse to believe that it’s okay to write a book in six months by only writing on Fridays and sometimes a Sunday or two. We find any reason to belittle our “process” because it makes the sting of rejection feel justified.

So, let’s rewrite that editor’s post using a different shaming example.

If you can’t carve out at least a short portion of your day to dedicate to exercise,
then you aren’t serious about being healthy.

Can we agree that’s a load of hooey? Then let’s agree that we all have our processes, our timetables, our high-energy days and our low-energy days. And the sweetest freedom is choosing when we create.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Was Grandma This Excited When TV Was Invented?

I’ve joked to co-workers that I’m a social media dinosaur. With as much time as I spend on Facebook and Twitter, that’s not exactly true. I follow multiple blogs. I have Pinterest boards. I get most of my news online. I designed and update my own website.

But I’m 47. Which means I didn’t have email or a cell phone or the Internet in my first couple of jobs. I faxed news releases when I was a media relations coordinator and followed up by phone. My word processor required coding for bold, italics and centering.  (Anyone remember WordStar?)

Communications channels have changed dramatically over the last three decades. And I am thankful for it EVERY DAY.
Because of a writer’s blog I follow, I found two new critique partners this past week and we’ve already exchanged and reviewed chapters via email.  Because of Twitter, I learned of a blog contest where literary agents bid on writers’ work – and my last book will be featured starting tomorrow. Because of a friend’s Facebook post, I found a six-week online course on making my personal and professional dreams come true. Because of e-readers like Kindle, I sent my sister the first chapters of my latest novel for her review.  Because of Google, I can fact-check manuscripts instead of going to the library to look up the same information.
My life as a fiction writer – and a citizen of this world -- is tremendously richer because of technology.  What mind-boggling advances await us?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rekindling Creative Abandon

My regular coffee dates with my friend Tracy always inspire me, or at the very least, give me some new insight to chew on. At the end of today’s coffee date, she said, “So…what’s up with your blog?”

I had my excuses ready: no time, too much pressure, nothing interesting to say.

We ended up staying at the coffee shop another half hour during which time I had an epiphany. Tracy and I are both PR professionals who have had to write and edit as part of our jobs for more than two decades.  We write for media and public consumption. Our words have to educate or influence. Thus, they are evaluated by our employers and our colleagues and our audiences. We adhere to fairly strict protocols and formats.  It matters what others think of our work.

Writing outside the work environment – be it fiction or creative nonfiction – is more complicated. I believe the rules we apply to our work writing negatively influence our creativity. In my case, I set up unrealistic expectations related to how much I write, how often I write, who reads my writing, etc. I don’t allow myself the abandon that should come with creative work. I don’t allow myself to color the grass pink and the sky purple, or to color outside the lines.

Instead, I label the phenomena as writer’s block or limited time or lack of energy.

So, there’s the epiphany. I have some ideas on how to rekindle creative abandon and will share as I put them into practice. What's limiting your creativity?