Category Archives: Boosting confidence

You May Need Professional Help, Part I

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clouds

It’s not a fun thing to admit:

I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Novel writing, I mean.  (See there? I can’t even form a complete sentence.)

No, no. I’m not looking for consolation. I’m simply being transparent about what’s what.

Given that time is lapping me like an Olympian, something must be done now if I’m ever going to achieve my dream.

Somethings I’ve tried, include, but are not limited to:

  • Attending writing-focused workshops, retreats and conferences
  • Completing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature and the UCLA Writing Extension
  • Reading books on writing (if you’d like recommendations, please ask)
  • Paying for critiques from editors and authors
  • Studying novels written by award-winning authors in my genre
  • Participating in a critique group
  • Seeking one-on-one advice from a trusted fellow writer
  • Eating a library’s weight in cookies

To be crystal, I am not saying I’ve tried all of these somethings and they were a waste. Not. At. All. I value these experiences and will return to them again going forward (particularly the last one).

But now, this is the time to try a shiny, new something.

But what?

I made of list of everything from reading a new self-help book to applying to grad school and nothing seemed quite right–either not personalized or too pricey or impractical given my day job.

That’s when a friend suggested I get some professional help.

Now, that’s a true friend!

My friend suggested I contact an editorial service–a business that provides copy edits, developmental editing and coaching.

Eureka! (Time for a celebratory cookie!)

I investigated the particular service she recommended and loved what I learned. So much so that I spoke with the owner, sent in a writing sample, picked my editor, signed on the dotted line, attached my manuscript and mailed my check this week. In about three weeks, I will receive my detailed editorial letter.

Be aware, my little apricot tarts, quality editorial services are not cheap. Nor should they be. But when I compare the cost of a full-manuscript edit to a fly-away weekend workshop, much less graduate level courses, the price is much more manageable. Plus, I will be learning transferable skills I can apply to past and future manuscripts. I also anticipate having this level of personalized help will speed along the process a bit rather than meandering without aim through a writers’ wilderness (aka per usual).

Is there some wink-wink magic hidden door wink-wink connected to such services? In other words, if you use an editorial service, will your work somehow become cover to cover catnip to publishers because the service itself will help you on your way? Mmm. No. It’s still about you and your writing. But because your writing will be stronger, there’s hope your chances for publication are stronger too.

Next time, I’ll tell you what it was like to get the letter and a bit about what I learned and how I’ll use the editor’s input to shape my work in progress.

For now, I feel excited, empowered and energized. And that’s mighty fine by me.

If you think you could use some professional help, let’s connect on my contact page. I’ll be glad to share more with you.

It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed. ~ Napoleon Hill

 

 

The Who’s Who of Thank You’s

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adams-pumpkin-2I’m about to do something dangerous. So, hold on, my mini pumpkin muffins. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am compiling a list of people I want to thank for encouraging me as a writer. It’s inevitable I’ll miss some folks and for that I apologize with a dollop of whip cream on top. (But if you ask me, having lots of names to recall is a most excellent problem to have.) When I surface from my tryptophan-induced haze, I will draft a Part II to recognize anyone I may have missed or new names I need to add.

I am most sincerely . . .

  • Thankful for my critique group for their honesty, genuine encouragement and generosity.
  • Thankful for Helen who always makes my XL English Breakfast with two creams just right every morning. Writers run on tea.
  • Thankful for Erin,my agent, for taking a chance on me.
  • Thankful for my parents who are always enthusiastic about my writing pursuits.
  • Thankful for my husband who never makes me feel bad for heading off to yet another writing retreat, and always supports me with love and a listening ear.
  • Thankful for the inventor of “Find/Replace” and “Cut/Paste” (aka Ctrl C/Ctrl V).
  • Thankful for Mrs. Eickholt, Mr. Darling and Mr. Brahlek–middle school and high school teachers–who recognized my love of writing.
  • Thankful for my stellar beta readers–you give me much-needed confidence.
  • Thankful for my non-writing friends who patiently listen as I babble on about a conference or puddle up about a rejection.
  • Thankful for my children who have listened to me read my stories over the years.
  • Thankful for editors who have considered my work, even if they said no thank you.
  • Thankful for Hope, Kelly B., Kris, Danielle, Ann F., Pam, Rachel, Cathy, Monica, Matt, Kristen, Randy, Rebecca, Lisa, Buffy, Ann P., Jay, Ruth, Anna, Charlie, Deb, Vicki, Janice, Kim, Sarah, Ann A.,  Carrie, Hayley, Kelly P., Terry, Kirsten, Patti, Leslie, Catie, Donna, Kathi and soooo many others. (Like I said, needing to remember lots of names is a good problem to have.)

Let me encourage you to go and do likewise, my little drumsticks. It’s great to say you’re thankful for your friends and family, but why not reserve a minute or two while you wait for the turkey to brown, and recall the names and faces of the dear folks who have made a big difference in your writing life. Why, you’ll feel warmer than a mound of mashed taters.

Ahem. Pass the gravy.

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

help you help me

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Every writer I know is a “waiter.” We wait for our muses to return from Rome. We wait for feedback from critique partners. We wait for emails from editors and agents. We wait for books to launch and reviews to post. For those of us who are pre-published, we wait (and wait and wait) for our first big break into print. Given that waiting is a given no matter where we are in the waiting room, it’s wise to find ways to use the time, well, wisely. Otherwise we’re time-twiddlers in danger of becoming solitary sadsacks. And yeesh, don’t even get me started on those pricey catered pity parties. What’s that? How do I know about pity parties? Well, uh, [insert awkward silence so long you would take a nap in it here], let’s move on.

And so, my little twice baked potatoes, to help each other whilst we morning glorywhile away our waiting time wisely (versus wastely or woely–and sure, those are words (sorta)), here are ways to help yourself by helping other writers:

  • Join or start a critique group.
  • Offer to exchange manuscripts with someone who writes for a similar age group or genre.
  • Know someone who’s new to writing in your area? Invite them to the next SCBWI event in your area and introduce them around.
  • Send encouraging notes or emails to fellow writing friends. Aim for sending two a week.
  • Promote a friend’s books on social media.
  • Read books or articles on craft–pass along what you’ve learned.
  • Offer to guest blog (even if you have one of your own).
  • Enter a writing contest or apply for a writing scholarship or grant–and challenge a friend to do it with you.
  • Offer to teach a one-day (or even one-hour) workshop for young writers at your local library.
  • Join or start a book club.
  • Read books for fun. When you’re done, recommend to a friend.
  • Study books for craft–how’d your favorite author “do” that? Post ideas on Facebook.
  • Go to book launch events for your friends.
  • Write articles, poems or puzzles for children’s magazines–and encourage a friend to do the same.
  • If you discover a new children’s magazine, encouraging blog or writing opportunity, share it with your friends.
  • Volunteer to read to a class in your local elementary school or senior center.
  • Help a literacy program.
  • If you have a blog, invite friends to do a guest post or do a guest interview.

You’re so smart, my little brownie bites, I bet you already do a lot of these things, but maaaaybe you hadn’t thought about how helping you could help someone else. Hope these ideas hlep. Can’t wait to hear your ideas too!

“For a while” is a phrase whose length can’t be measured. At least by the person who’s waiting. ~ Haruki Murakami

how to avoid the foisting bellybutton-gazing magna nincompoopus

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Photo & Collage by Vicky Lorencen

Photo & Collage by
Vicky Lorencen

You, my lovelies, are brilliant, radiant writers. You are warm and kind, and most days you smell pretty good. But even the creamiest of the crop can slide down the sloppy slope into that abyss of abysmal behavior. How do I know this? Um. Well. Okay, enough about me.

Consider this list of Don’t Do’s and Do Do’s (smirk):

The Foister–you’re at a conference. It’s social hour. A new person walks by. You reach out and touch his arm. He stops. “Here’s my card,” you say. He looks at the card. He looks at you. He looks at the card, stuffs it in his pocket and walks on. Look. Another person approaches. She sees you reaching for a card and does a U-turn. At the end of the night, you see your card left under wine glasses (My card’s not a coaster!) or, worse yet, populating the trash bin. This is not good. You’ve been pegged as a Foister.

What to do: Take your postcards and/or business cards with you to the conference, but use the social time to talk to people. Scary, I know. But you are not an apron-wearing sample distributor for Costco. Your job is not to see how many units you can move by the end of the night. You want to network, make new friends and enjoy. So, when it comes to cards, wait until someone asks you for one. This takes patience and self-control, but it’s the right thing to do. And it’s the most effective way to share your cards. Handing your card to someone who actually wants it is a time honored way to do a bit of networking and build relationships. And for the love of 12 pt. font, don’t forget to ask for their card too! You can do this, my little figgy pudding.

The Bellybutton-gazer–when a presenter asks for questions at the end of her talk, this is not your cue to raise your little pencil grabber and then famble on about how you’re having trouble with your middle grade novel’s subplot because it’s based on your uncle’s dairy farm in Minnesota and you’re afraid of cows, but it’s crucial to the part in the main plot about the twins who own a cow circus and blah-blah-blah . . . NO! This is not good.

What to do: phrase your question in such a way that others could potentially benefit from the answer. Do not ask three more follow-up questions, and thereby monopolize the Q&A session. Wait until everyone has had a chance to ask a question before posing a new, carefully worded question. You can do this.

The Magna nincompoopus–you’re been to every conference, retreat, workshop, book talk and poetry slam in the tri-state area. You read Publisher’s Weekly, weekly. You’ve taken online classes, joined a critique group, and you have your own blog for gosh sakes. So, now you’re at yet another conference. You could practically teach the thing (or so you think). Before you know it, you’re commandeering conversations, over-talking/under-listening and taking condescension to new depths. You’re behaving like a magna nincompoopus.

What to do: set a goal for yourself before you ever leave the house–today I will meet and listen to three new people. I will only offer advice or information, if asked. And, even then, I will be to the point. I will learn three new things. I will be intentional about finding opportunities to encourage others, especially if they are new, or nervous or human. You can do this.

I can do this too. Now, let’s have a cookie.

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. ~ George Carlin

Think you’re not a bully? Take the “Am I a Bully?” Quiz

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Are you a bully? You’re mostly likely saying no. Well, um, prepare yourself for an awkward moment of self-revelation served cold with a side of I Did Not See that Coming. You’re still skeptical, aren’t you. That’s okay. I’m not going to bully you. I’ll let this quiz do my convincing for me. Please go ahead.  Take this quick, eight-question test. We’ll talk when you’re done.

Pencils ready? Please respond with a T for True and an F for False.

The “Am I a Bully?” Quiz

  1. _____ I encourage my writing friend to invest hours trolling Facebook, especially when I know awards or “best of” lists are being announced so she can look for her name and not see it there.
  2. _____ When a rejection letter arrives, I help my friend dissect it, looking for any nuance that suggests this was a personal rejection and a comment on her chances of ever selling this manuscript in any form, both existing and those yet to be created, anywhere in the known universe.
  3. _____ I help my friend do side-by-side comparisons of her writing journey with that of someone else, all the while posing questions like “How old was he when he sold his first book?” “You know you should be a lot further along by now, right?” “Did you know he writes 9,000 words a day?”
  4. _____ If my friend says she’ll never be published, I affirm her in her fears with a hearty, “You betcha!”
  5. _____ If I suspect my friend may be hoarding Rubbermaid® tubs of jealousy under her chocolate hamper, I am swift to shift into shame mode and toss out words like immature, sophomoric and baby doodoo head.
  6. _____ When my agent-less friend learns one of her friends got an agent, I read and re-read the announcement aloud to her using a fancy British accent. Once it’s tattooed on her gray matter, we move on to making a list of the reasons an agent will never-ever-ever want to represent someone like her.
  7. _____ When my friend complains that all of her ideas are lame, I protest and correct her by saying, I see them as derivative, tired and utterly unappealing.
  8. _____ When my friend compares her rough draft with the edited/polished/published work of her favorite author, I fail to point out the unfair comparison while we drive to the store for more Cherry Garcia.

You answered F on every one, didn’t you.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

But, my dearest buttered English muffin with apricot preserves, you are a bully. Every time you belittle yourself, blame yourself for having human emotions like jealousy or sadness, or torture yourself by comparing your unique journey to that of someone else, you are bullying you. Are you seein’ what I’m sayin’?

For the love of ampersands, stop.

Oh, I know it’s not that easy. It’s not easy at all. But if you can’t be your own defender, who can be? Start today by being mindful of the words you say to yourself. Instead of damning jabs, try using the sweet, consoling, empathetic words you give to others. Seek the company of encouraging people. Go on a 48-hour Facebook fast. Be BIG and send a worthy someone a note of congratulations. Be real about your disappointments. Celebrate even small victories.

And remember, my little former self-bully, even now, you are making some people sick with jealousy just by being you. Now, doesn’t that make you feel better? You betcha!

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~ Desmond Tutu

 

 

 

how to recognize value

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DSC07467My husband likes to watch Prospectors on the Weather Channel. Prospectors  follows real, modern-day diggers of gold and gem stones. I like The Voice, a reality show/singing competition. Recently, I recognized these two shows intersect.

Prospectors endure extreme cold, looming storm fronts and other dangerous conditions to find the prize—a smoky topaz, a ruby, an aquamarine or even gold. Judges on The Voice listen to some lackluster auditions while searching for someone with golden pipes. So, the singers and the smoky topaz are treasures. That’s the obvious comparison, but there’s something more.

DSC07474Were the stones beautiful while still encased in layers of limestone? I would say, yes. It wasn’t the touch of a prospector’s pick or palm that made them precious. And what about the hopefuls who appear on The Voice? It’s certainly not the judge’s ears or their feedback that make those singers amazing. The vocalists were outstanding before they ever walked on stage.

Here’s what I want you to know my fragile little tea cups—you and your writing have intrinsic value before you receive a single word of praise. Think of all of the painters and poets who never received acclaim during their lifetimes. How sad to think they thought of themselves as “almosts” and even failures. You don’t need to have your name on a dust jacket to be a writer of worth. Interested editors or agents are simply recognizing what’s already there—like a prospector uncovering a lump of turquoise or a judge discovering a brilliant performer. Okay, okay, you make a good point. Like the unearthed gemstones or a singer’s vocal range, your work (and gosh, yes, mine) could benefit from a good polishing to bring out its true luster and make it all it could be. But just because something can be improved doesn’t mean it was extraordinary to begin with.

Yes, I can hear the b-b-b-BUT coming. But I waaaaant an agent to love my work. I waaaant an editor to offer me a contract. I waaaaant readers to send me fan mail. Of course you do (and so do I). That kind of validation is wonderful, but remember–your work isn’t valued because it’s recognized. It’s recognized because it’s valuable–regardless. And first and foremost, you have to recognize that for yourself, my little lemon square.

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman

tips for giving a stellar interview

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Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

Because I enjoy eating and living indoors, I have a day job.

I’m a Communication Specialist for a regional health system, and part of my job involves media relations. Most weeks, that means interacting with reporters from local television, radio and print media. Recently, we received inquiries from reporters with NPR, Cosmo and The Huffington Post, but that was an exceptional week!

What does all this have to do with you, my little parfait? Well, because I arrange interviews, I also help to prepare the interviewees, many of whom are new to the experience and naturally nervous. Since there may be interviews in your future, I thought why not share these tips with you?

TV interview

  • Practice with a friend. Video your interview. Look for what you’re doing
    Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

    Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

    well and do more of that!

  • Look at the interviewer, not the camera.
  • Bring a copy of your book with you. Don’t assume the interviewer will have one.
  • Don’t wear checks or stripes. Simple solids are your best. Wearing a vibrant green, blue or red is terrific.
  • To give yourself a chance to make any necessary wardrobe adjustments, practice sitting down in the clothes you plan to wear–is it easy to sit or do you have to adjust your jacket a lot or fiddle with your skirt because it rides up? Are there unfortunate gaps between buttons, or does your collar or tie go all wonky? I’d rather have someone tell me “before” I got to the studio than notice this after the interview airs, wouldn’t you?
  • If possible, arrive a bit early so that you won’t feel rushed. This gives the crew time to attach your mic and run through anything they’d like you to know or expect before it’s your turn.
  • See tips for radio interviews.

Radio interview

  • Smile as you speak.
  • Have a mirror in front of you so you’ll have “someone” visible to talk to. It will remind you to grin.
  • Be sure you know how long the interview will be, so you can pace yourself.
  • Ask if you can send questions ahead of time. The interviewer may really appreciate it, and you’ll know what to anticipate and how to prepare.
  • If you can’t send questions ahead, it’s absolutely okay to ask the interviewer the direction of the interview (is it more about your book, about you, about your writing journey, about advice, about your favorite panini–you just never know).
  • Prepare yourself a cheat sheet with answers to anticipated questions, but DO NOT write out every word. Make it more a “grocery list” of prompts. If you create a word for word script, you’ll be too tempted to just read it and you’ll come off sounding stiff even when we all know you are super cool.
  • Have a cup of water handy. (A bottle takes too much time to open.)
  • Thank the interviewer.

Phone interview

  • Have a mirror in front of you so you’ll have “someone” visible to talk to. It will remind you to grin.
  • Use a landline, if available, so you don’t have to worry about your call being dropped mid conversation.
  • Try to be relaxed and conversational. Listeners will respond to your personality, not your perfect diction.
  • See tips for a radio interview.

For any type of interview

It’s easy to get flustered. If you really get stuck, you can always say the information is available on your web site. But as a bit of reassurance, make yourself a cheat sheet with basic information so if your mind goes blank, all you have to do is read–

  • The title(s) of your book(s)
  • Web site name and address
  • How readers can can contact you
  • Where your books are available
  • Details about the event or signing you’re promoting (date, time, place, etc.)
  • A good friend also suggested creating a list of reasons why your book would be appreciated or useful to your audience. Examples–When I do school visits, I meet children who are fearful of XYZ, and the characters in my book show them, it’s possible to be afraid and still be brave/it’s normal to have doubts/it’s okay to ask for help, etc.

And finally . . . 

It’s not uncommon for an interviewer to wrap up an interview with a question like, “Is there anything else you’d like to say?”

Think about using this as an opportunity to promote someone else’s book. David Sedaris does this every time he goes on tour for his own newest book. Isn’t that a beautiful, generous gesture? It’s a delightful chance to pay it forward for an author or illustrator who has been especially supportive of you.

Now, if you have an agent, publicist or your publisher’s marketing team advising you, please listen to them and learn. Use my suggestions when/if they seem useful to you.

Most of all, no matter how an interview turns out, remember you, my little blueberry scone, are still one of the coolest, most talented people on ten toes.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt