Category Archives: Boosting confidence

wisdom from whitney of reality TV

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Photo and window box by Vicky Lorencen

Photo and window box by Vicky Lorencen

It’s okay. You can admit it. Reality TV is a guilty pleasure for a lot of people, and by people, I mean me, of course. But duh, it’s definitely not a go-to for deep insight. Well, not typically.

This week I caught “My Big Fat Fabulous Life.” Starring Whitney, a young, sassy, dance-loving woman, the show focuses on her challenges and triumphs while living with polycystic ovarian syndrome, which has caused Whitney to gain a dramatic amount of weight.

In this episode, after Whitney performed at the National Museum of Dance, she addressed the audience and said, Don’t wait until you have the confidence to do something that scares you. It’s doing the scary thing that gives you confidence. Maybe that seems simplistic or obvious to you, my Pumpkin Praline Muffin, but it’s borderline brilliant as far as I’m concerned. And sure, while Whitney applied her wisdom to dance, it doesn’t take much of a leap (or grand jete’) to see how it could work for writers.

I’ve long ascribed to the adage “attitude follows action.” But I’m going to adopt a new one a la Whitney–“confidence follows action.”

And now, for the confession portion of this post –writing picture books scares me. They seem so simple. And maybe they are for you. But me? Hardly! So then, my muse (Edna) keeps dealing me these story ideas she knows I can’t resist. (That chick does not know the meaning of mercy.) Well, I’ve got news for Edna. I’m going to channel my inner Whitney and write my way to confidence. So there! (Wait a sec. Maybe Edna’s in kahoots with Whitney!)

Ready to make a deposit in your confidence bank? Take action this week. G’head and do what makes your right eye twitch and your palms go clammy. You’re going to be amazing, my little Butter Pat! I’m confident of it.

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it. ~ J.M. Barrie

 

48 of the most important hours in a writer’s life

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Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

There are a plethora of important days in a writer’s life. (Pardon my use of plethora, but it’s such a keen word.) But, in my book, there are 48 hours that stand out from the rest. They are far from the most fun, but a lot hinges on how we choose to handle them.

Day 1 – The First 24 Hours at Ground Zero

You receive a rejection letter or slam into a serious setback. I know there are some who say it’s best to roll with it. Rejection is knit into a writer’s life and there’s no point becoming unraveled by it. I commend you for your ability to be cavalier, but I can’t manage it myself. The times I’ve tried only came back to chomp me. Stuffing the sadness caused tears to erupt at the oh-so-wrong times, so I’m better off taking 24 hours to wallow and be a wreck.

I say, allow yourself to free-fall into the velvet bean bag chair of despair. Lie on your back and let the tears collect in your ears until it sounds like the ocean. Ask a musical friend to set that sadistic, frozen-hearted rejection letter to music–in a minor key. Eat your weight in whatever sweet or salty concoction delights you. Imagine the source of your angst tethered to a termite colony wearing only plywood underpants. Get those toes curled deep in the Quicksand of Certaindoom. Hand your friends and family this form too:

I AM AN AUTHOR. I AM IN NEED OF IMMEDIATE INTERVENTION.

My name is: _________________________________________________________
(I suggest using your real name here, not your pen name. Make it easy on the first responder.)

Emergency contact: __________________________________________________ Genre type: (PB, MG, YA)
(e.g., Agent; Nearest Living Author Friend; Ben and/or Jerry)

While you are waiting for the Emergency Contact to arrive, follow these five simple steps:

Step 1 Check to make sure I’m breathing.
This step is especially if you found me face down in the area rug. Wave a Lindt truffle next to my nose to revive me.

Step 2 Do NOT apply logic.
Even small doses of logic have been known to be toxic at this point.

For example, these seemingly sensible words will NOT help:
“You’ve only tried two editors, right? You can try more.”
“Maybe it’s not you. Maybe the editor was just having an off day.” Liar.
“There’s always next year.”
“It’s not the end of the world.” Yes. Yes, it is the end of the world. The sun will not come up
tomorrow, no matter what that Annie girl says.

Step 3 Do NOT offer compliments, such as, “Well, I really liked your story.”
I don’t care. Your opinion doesn’t count right now. It will tomorrow (provided there is a tomorrow), but not now.

Step 4 If I look like I’m trying to put on a brave front, induce tears.
Force me to re-read the rejection letter out loud in front of a mirror so I can see how pitiful I look. Offer generous amounts of Kleenex.

Step 5 Apply ice cream to the site of the babbling in liberal doses.

To the rejected writer: Be sure to write your kind first responder a thank you note. That is, when you feel like writing again.

Day 2 – The Next 24 Hours at Resurrection Central

Today is the day you get on with it. Attitude follows action, so act like you’re bouncing back and you may actually believe it. (Besides, if you spent the first 24 hours wisely, you won’t want to curl back into the fetal position.) You’re now ready to stretch and stand up straight. Breathe. Wash your tear-streaked, Hershey’s Kiss encrusted mug. Pull on a fresh pair of big girl panties. Put on real I-can-be-seen-in-public clothes. Open your laptop. Pop open a file filled with half-finished projects. See what’s going on in there. It’s likely there’s something you like. Maybe even love. Type. Type again. Type some more. You see there, my little Puffalump? You’re going to be okay. I will too.

If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces. ~ Shane Koyczan

take the spot your super power quiz

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

In 2013, I was fortunate to receive a critique from the lovely and ever-encouraging YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith. After reviewing the opening chapter of my second middle grade novel, Cyn told me humor was my super power. Me? I have a SUPER power? Well, if I have one, I know for certain you do too.

Maybe your super power is . . .

  • Writing realistic dialogue
  • Riding that fine line between sweet and sentimental
  • Creating rich, other-worldly settings
  • Weaving intricate, suspenseful plots
  • Concocting quirky, but believable characters
  • Being just plain funny
  • None of the above–it’s your own proprietary blend

It’s always easier to pinpoint someone else’s super power, isn’t it. My friend Lisa Wheeler is a whiz with rhyme. Catherine Bieberich and Kelly Barson are able to strike a perfect balance between heart and humor. Jennifer Whistler crafts novels with a highly visual, cinematic quality. Others, like Monica Harris, are grand researchers who cull little-known tidbits from old texts to make even snoresville non-fiction topics intriguing.

What’s the point in knowing your super power? Well, as with a lot of things, it’s empowering to have a “go to”—like that perfected dish you can always whip without worry or that compliment-winning outfit in your closet. You can’t make lemon chicken piccata or wear that same suede jacket every day, but when the time is right, it’s confidence-building to know it’s there when you need it.

You can’t lean on your superpower for everything. (Even Superman had his day job as Clark Kent.) That’s why it’s important to read widely, request critiques, participate in workshops and stretch yourself by writing outside your comfort genre. Because my super power is humor, it’s easy for me to write in silly sound bites and let my characters make clever asides. While being funny can be engaging and amusing, overuse of humor can lapse into what I call “snarkasm.” Chronic quipping distances readers and makes otherwise 3-D characters seem shallow. A clever boy can become what political consultant David Alexrod described as a “congenital smart aleck.” There’s nothing super about that.

So, how about you? What’s your super power? (You may even have more than one!)

Spot Your Super Power Quiz

  1. When someone critique’s my work, the first positive thing I most often hear is:
    1. You’re so ___________________________.
    2. Your writing is ________________________.
  2. I feel most at ease writing ____________________.
  3. If I had to compare my work to someone else’s, it’d have to be:_____________________ and his/her work is known for ____________________________.
  4. Three words I’d use to describe my work:
    1. ___________________________
    2. ___________________________
    3. ___________________________
  5.  Text/call a fellow writer and ask for three words to describe your work:
    1. ___________________________
    2. ___________________________
    3. ___________________________
  6. Is there an overlap between the answers to questions 4 and 5? If so:_______________________.

My super power is:__________________________.

Super! Please use your super powers for good. And remember to pick up your cape from the dry cleaners.

We must be careful with our words – we’re like superheroes and words are like our super powers. Super powers should always be used to help others. ~ Dianna Hardy

 

4 simple ways to keep writing over the holidays

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

No, my little sugar plums, I haven’t been sampling the “enriched” eggnog. There really are at least four simple ways to keep putting one snowshoe in front of the other (writing-wise) through the holiday season.

Now, I know some of you actually first-drafted an entire novel in November (HUZZAH!), but instead of taking a well-deserved break, why not keep that keyboard humming? And if you’re like me, and didn’t exactly knock out an entire book last month, maybe you’ll want to try these ideas to keep your writing muscles from going fudgy and flabby.

To keep writing a part of the holiday season without turning into a stark raving nutty fruitcake:

  1. Have a way to capture thoughts/quotes/ideas with you at all times. Time spent with friends and relatives over the holidays can be golden opportunities for writers. Jot down details, mannerisms, expressions, dynamics, kid’s questions–in an inconspicuous way, of course! These notes will make fabulous fodder to kick-start your January writing.
  2. Use the time doing semi-mindless tasks, such as gift wrapping, cookie baking or waiting for wee ones to finish pageant practice, to think about your writing. Ponder how to make a character’s personality fresher or concoct a new barrier to put in his path. You could untangle a knotty plot problem while you untangle the Christmas tree lights. Or use your noodle to dream up the perfect title or a character’s name.
  3. Give yourself the gift of 30 minutes three times a week to write. If you have a day job, you could use your lunch hour. It’s not really so much about word count as it is maintaining forward momentum. It’ll make it a lot easier to charge ahead in January. And while we’re on the subject, try idea number four.
  4. Compile a list of writing goals for the New Year. Go for realistic and specific. Say adios to the grandiose.

DSC02577Sound like too much? Just try one or two of the ideas. Or come up with your own (and please share!)

Oh, and remember to write yourself a thank you note. You’re so amazing!

One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself. ~ Lucille Ball

 

encouragement is like hot buttered toast (gluten-free, of course)

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Last week I sent the opening pages of my third middle grade novel to my critique group. My accompanying email read:

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Here are the first measly, tender baby words of my new middle grade novel. Now, I will be completely transparent and say I’m really looking for encouragement here, but not the fake kind where you’re just making stuff up to make me feel good. I want you to be honest, but mostly focus on what’s going right (if anything no matter how small), so I can do more of that. You will be welcome to be much, much tougher once I’m further along.

Thank you so much for taking the time to look at my new baby. Remember to support her head, and for Gerber’s sake, keep your dang thumb away from that soft spot on her head would ya? (And I apologize in advance if she smells like poopy.)

Is it just me? You’ve been there, right? I was so vulnerable and needy (one of my all-time favorite states of being for sure). I knew my critique group would be fair and kind, but I was not prepared for the first comments I got back.

I got dark chocolate covered, name in neon lights, to Neptune and back, crazy ENCOURAGEMENT!!!

How did that make me feel?

Hopeful!

Energized!

Confident to push ahead!

As I see it, encouragement is more than good cheer or offering support. It’s fortifying a friend who is afraid–afraid to act, afraid to take a risk, afraid to speak up or afraid to ask. In other words, encouragement provides courage (See there? It’s right in the word itself. How ’bout that?) And that’s what my group gave me.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Encouragement is like . . .

  • Jumping through the sprinkler on an August scorcher.
  • Finding $20 tucked in your wallet.
  • Scoring a gorgeous pair of shoes (at 75% off).
  • Savoring a well-timed cup of tea (with a scone, of course).
  • Receiving an unexpected hug (or a wink).
  • Admiring December’s first snow.

Encouragement makes your soul say, ahhhhhh. You feel full, different, better and ready to take the next step. Little wonder Frog on a Dime‘s primary goal is to provide encouragement to writers.

Who’s been your biggest encourager lately? Who will you encourage today?

Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up. ~  John C. Maxwell

4 perks of sitting at the kids’ table

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

It’s nearing Thanksgiving and my brain is shifting into stuffing-mashed-potatoes-and-pumpkin-pie (a la mode) mode. I’m recalling those big family gatherings where the grown-ups sat one table and the kids at another. The kids’ table was typically of the folding variety on hiatus from the front closet. It was set with the B-list china and plastic cups instead of stemware. But that was okay. You were with your cousins or sibs—away from the cheek-pinching, bum-patting relatives—and there was pie. Life was good.

When I ventured into children’s writing half an ice age ago, I didn’t know I was sitting at the “kids’ table.” I plunked myself down with such enthusiasm, I’m sure I toppled a glass or two. But everybody was new to me and nice to me. I couldn’t tell the adults from the kids.

Since then, in meltdownable moments, I’ve pushed my chair away from the table a few times, surmising I’d be wise to walk away, but something—typically someone—pushed me back to the table, shoved a fresh crayon in my hand and insisted I keep on writing. And I did.

But as the years stack up like so many pie plates, I’ve begun to feel like that cousin you see only once a year. Everybody is so shocked by how big she is. She’s actually in junior high now, for turkey’s sake, but still she’s sat at the kids’ table. That’s how I feel. I have OCS (over-grown cousin syndrome (don’t bother looking it up—it hasn’t made it into the DSM yet)).

And as I’ve grown as a writer and more than outgrown my little chair, I’ve watched as some of my dearest tablemates picked up their plates, glasses and silverware and one-by-one excused themselves to go sit at the grown-up table. I’ve felt happy for them. Absolutely. Their dream of getting an agent and a publishing contract came true. Their name would be next to the word “by” on the cover of an actual book.  And, no point in denying it, I’ve swallowed hard and pushed back tears too (sometimes unsuccessfully).

Being at the kids’ table isn’t as fun as it once was. But you know what? As long as I’m here, for as long as I’m here, I figure I may as well make the best of it.

Here are 4 perks of sitting at the kids’ table:

  1. No kitchen timer—expectations are a lot lower when you’re pre-published. No deadlines. No reviews. No line edits. It’s just you and your muse.
  2. Always new guests at the table—and if you’ve been at the table awhile, you’ll have something to share with the new kids about which “menu items” to avoid, which funny looking “veggies” are actually good for you and which “pie crust” is just a little too flaky.
  3. Loads of time to load your plate—this tour of duty at the kids’ table offers opportunities to grow, listen, network, take classes on craft, join a critique group, establish an online platform, eat pie, eat pie (did I say that already?)
  4. Room to master your manners—like any business, publishing has its own etiquette. Sitting at the kids’ table gives you time to learn which fork to use and where to put your elbows before you move to the table with the big folks.

You bet your drumstick I want to move to the grown-up table, but until I do, there’s pie here and friends, and at least four perks. I can wait my turn. (But I would appreciate a bigger chair.)

And just because I like you, here’s a pre-Thanksgiving treat from The Onion.

you just never know

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

At the close of the SCBWI – Michigan conference on Mackinac Island, book reviewer, blogger and first grade teacher extraordinaire Ed Spicer (I know cheers will erupt at the mention of his name!) shared about one of his students. Brycen struggled with reading. He simply could not decipher those black squiggles on the page. That is, until he found a book that unlocked the magic for him. The title of the book isn’t significant to Brycen’s story. It was well reviewed and nicely illustrated, but it was not a groundbreaker or a bestseller. That didn’t matter to Brycen. He simply loved that book, and it loved him back by patiently waiting for him to decode it word-by-word until he could read it with ease. By reading it over and over and over, that story gave him the confidence to select more titles.

He’s such a book lover now that, well, why don’t I let Brycen tell you . . .

Ed Spicer shared Brycen’s story to remind authors and would-be authors that our stories make a difference regardless of critical acclaim or popularity. We may never know how one of our stories set up camp in a child’s heart and made a forever home there. And that’s okay. We just need to make the best stories we know how and trust they’ll find the hearts that need them, hearts like Brycen’s.

Feeling small or discouraged today? Keep crafting your stories with love and care. Because you just never know.

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading. ~ Maurice Sendak