Category Archives: Risk-taking

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

 

 

Where’s Your Scary?

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The road is longclouds

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

Do these lyrics remind you of your journey toward publication?

How about words like wandering, wilderness, what-if-it-never-materializes, wondering what’s next?

I hear you.

More important, I feel you.

This journey is tough. At least it is for me. And it’s so much longer than I ever imagined it would be.

You too?

Lately, I’ve recognized one of the things that is making it feel even longer–I’ve tripped into a rut.

Trudging.

Trudging.

Trudging.

Now my journey is as dry as winter elbows.

Know what’s missing?

Scary.

For me, Scary equates to doing something new, putting myself out there for an unpredictable payback and feeling my heart stampede.

Now I’m on the hunt for the right kind of Scary.

You too?

These ideas to inject an element of Scary back into our Writing Life–

  • Enroll in a writing course
  • Apply to an MFA program or another form of formal education
  • Register for a workshop, retreat or conference
  • Send three chapters to a willing beta reader
  • Enter a contest
  • Read at an open mic

I’m going for it. Look out Scary. Here I come.

You comin’?

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. ~ Helen Keller

Lyrics by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott

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

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

 

don’t go minding my heart

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

You’ve had them. Those dreams of days that exist solely in your mind’s eye. You imagine how you’ll feel, what you’ll say or do as soon as the thing you’ve longed for a long time flips from fantasy to reality.

Then, that magical day arrives, and in a blink, you realize your mind’s eye was playing tricks on you.

It was like that for me earlier this month when my dream agent Erin Murphy offered to represent me. I was near tears, but then a surreal calm covered me. Not at all what I expected.  I always assumed I’d hang up the phone and do a squeal/jump/cry combo. (Just picture it!) But I didn’t. I sat alone in my office in stunned silence.  I’ve heard from friends who’ve had a similar experience.

Why? Well, I’ve pondered on that.

My best guess is that when your brain has been standing guard over your dream-holding heart for many years, it takes a bit before it can stand down and let your heart be happy. Your mind cares so much about your safety, it goes deaf to the cries of your heart that’s saying, “This is great news! Let’s celebrate!”

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Thankfully, it only took about 24 hours before my mind unlocked my heart and I was free to be both grateful and giddy (yes, I even skipped down the hall with happiness).

Now, I know there’s still lots of work ahead, no guarantees and more opportunities for rejection, trial and error, and failure. My mind will still be busy watching over my heart, but for now, I’m delighted to enjoy this milestone.

Let me encourage you to celebrate your milestones too–sending out a submission you’ve spent many months (maybe years) preparing, making the shift from beer to champagne rejections (that is a big deal!), selling an article to a magazine you admire, getting that beloved book contract or whatever achievement makes your heart smile and your dear, overworked mind nod in agreement.

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead. ~ Nelson Mandela

 

 

the smartest thing you can do after you hit “send”

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You poured your very self, spleen and all, into your manuscript and you’ve sent it off to an editor. Now what? Well, while you wait for a verdict, there are any number of things you could do . . .

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

A Half Dozen Ways to Go Way Wrong While You Wait

1. Revise the manuscript you just submitted–either on-screen or in-brain. The deed is done (for now). Let it rest already.

2. Eat your weight in _____________. Even if it’s kale, uh, still not a gold-star idea.

3. Whine about the editor’s perceived lack of speed on Facebook/Twitter/And So On. These things take time. You know this. You are a marathon runner, not a sprinter. The same is true for editors. Now, do some stretches and drink your vitamin-infused water, Sweet Knees. Go to your Zenny place. That’s it. Breathe. Good.

4. Follow up too soon. You just planted a, oh, let’s call it a pumpkin seed. It will sprout. Trust the process. Fretting, pestering and pacing won’t help. An answer will come, maybe not the one that you want, but it will come (most likely).

5. Check your email 24/7 (a tactic formerly known as Stalking the Mail Carrier).

6. Drive your friends, family, sweetheart, coworkers and critique group bonkers. These are your A team, the folks who will celebrate with you or console you. Do not suck them into your swirling chartreuse vortex of neuroses any more than necessary, or at least evenly distribute your crazy, not unlike chocolate curls on a cupcake. See how pretty?

One and a Half Ways to Spend Your Wait Time Wisely

Jump into something new. Or revisit something old, perhaps a manuscript you were allowing to cool a bit. Can’t stomach the idea of actually writing another novel right now? That’s okay. Write an article. Pen a poem. Do research for your next novel. Interview your new characters. Piece together an outline or road map or even a grocery list of scenes or ideas for your next project. Keep moving.

Reward yourself. Do you know how many well-intentioned, would-be authors are out there with half-scripts fermenting in a folder? Neither do I. But the point is, you finished an entire manuscript. Then you had the audacity to send it to a real editor. What are you, a freak of nature? A Titan? That’s amazing. Reward yourself in a meaningful way. Yes, yes, I’m giving you permission. Why are you still reading? Shoo. Go celebrate you!

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. ~ A.A. Milne

diagnosis: chronic “stupbornness”

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Art Institute of Chicago, photo by Vicky Lorencen

Art Institute of Chicago, photo by Vicky Lorencen

When you’re stupborn, you’re stupid and stubborn. I know because that’s what I am. At least that’s what I surmise. The lab tests are inconclusive, but a decade of firsthand observation cannot be ignored.

After more than ten years of writing, revising, reading, work-shopping, conference-going, networking, critique-grouping, class-taking, submitting and querying, I am still without a book contract. A smarter, less bull-headed person would have given up by now.

And why not? No one is forcing me into this pursuit. It’s self-inflicted without question. Yet, here I am peering into the shiny, giddy-go-lucky face of a new year and I am trudging ahead. I am not buoyed by hope or spurred by optimism. In fact, I feel quite hopeless. But my chronic stupbornness will not permit me to retreat or resign.

 

 

How about you?

Are you stupborn too?

You are? Oh, bless your heart. You need a cookie and a nap. But first, I’ve culled these quotes to encourage you:

There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me. ~  Jane Austen

I promise I shall never give up, and that I’ll die yelling and laughing, and that until then I’ll rush around this world I insist is holy and pull at everyone’s lapel and make them confess to me and to all. ~ Jack Kerouac

It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed. ~ Albert Einstein

Happy New Year, my dear, sweet, stupid, stubborn friends. (And yes, yes, certainly, warm wishes to my smart friends too.)

Let’s show 2015 what we’re made of!