Category Archives: Writing career

why rabbits play checkers and you can too

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Scooter Plays Checkers, a watercolor by Vicky Lorencen

Ironic, isn’t it. Rabbits eat carrots. Carrots contain vitamin A, a nutrient essential for good vision. With such great eyesight and countless stories starring rabbits, you’d think bunnies would be big on books. Not so. Nine out of ten prefer checkers. Why am I telling you this? I haven’t a clue. But it’s gotten you reading this far, and that my thimbleberry tarts, is what this post is all about.

 

Scooter Plays Checkers,  watercolor by Vicky  Lorencen

Since I can assume you are not rabbits, given that you’re still reading this, I want to recommend some books you may enjoy exploring this summer. Full disclosure–not of these are new. Regardless, they are worth exploring. And the fun thing is, you can pick them up, graze a bit and come back later to enjoy a bit more.

Right now I’m reading Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. Jonah is a marketing professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. I admit to being a bit of a psychology and marketing geek, so his book interests me. It also surprised me. As a blogger I was deflated to learn that only about 7 percent of our daily communication takes place on social media. Seven stinkin’ percent! On the other hand, as a writer, I was comforted and motivated to think that means a whole lot of our interactions take place face-to-face and in writing–good, ol’ fashioned writing. This book would be especially valuable to anyone who is in the promotion phase with your book. Or for all of us who want to be ready for when that day finally, finally, sheeeesh-finally comes.

The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan. This book can teach you how to unleash the creative power of your brain–and you get to color while you’re doing it. Perfection!

Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Dreamers by Carolyn See I’m going to level with you since the chances of Carolyn See ever seeing this less than zip, this book is now 14 years old, so it’s a titch out of step. But there are so many timeless insights, pinches of practical advice–like writing charming notes, and Ms. See’s delightful perspective, you can’t help but love this.

Writers [on Writing] Collected Essays from the New York Times Treat yourself to this treasure. Barbara Kingsolver, Carl Hiaasen, Susan Sontag, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, Jamaica Kincaid, Marge Piercy,  Saul Bellow, and so many more . . . it’s like an all-you-can-read author buffet. Great car trip or beach reading.

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

How about you? What are you tucking in your beach bag? Share those titles! (But not with bunnies, because you know.)

My computer beat me at checkers, but I sure beat it at kickboxing. ~ Emo Philips

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

 

 

 

the inevitable inquisition of ms. kelly barson

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Filing income taxes.

K.Barson Author 2232
Yup. That’s her all right. The one I was telling you about.
Eating tongue.
Folding a fitted sheet.
These, my wee wombats, are all things we would rather not do. And yet, oft times we must (well, hopefully not too oft. Yeesh.) So is the case with today’s post. Do I want to pummel my dear friend and sublime author young adult Kelly Barson with question after needling question? Nay. And yet, pummel I must. It is for your own good, dear readers.
And so, steel yourselves, and let the unfliching query of Kelly Barson begin . . .
What is your favorite day of the week-and yes, why? This isn’t popular, but I like Mondays. I like a week that’s full of possibilities, open for a fresh start.
Have you ever kissed a toad? No, but I have almost stepped on one. In my bare feet! I stepped, but before I shifted my weight to the point of no return, I felt the toad’s muscles ripple under my feet. I jumped and screamed. The toad jumped, too. We were both grateful he didn’t croak.
What is under your bed? Drawers full of treasure and an impressive collection of dust bunnies, many of them vintage.
Who makes you laugh the most? My husband Larry. Because we’re so different, he sees and navigates the world very differently from me. As a result, he often says the unexpected and that cracks me up.
If you were a cheese, what kind would you be? Pepper jack because no matter how hard I try to be smooth, I just can’t hide the fact that I’m kind of spicy.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Forgiveness.
What kind of music feels like torture to you? Country music. Not a fan. Not at all. Listening to it makes me really grumpy.
What was the last thing you ordered from an infommerical? This exercise contraption called The Bean. I loved it! It was super comfortable and perfect for lounging in front of the TV and eating chips. It didn’t help my abs at all though.
What is your inner adult/inner child ratio? I was much more of an adult when I was a child. Now that I’m older, the ratio is closer to 50/50. I’m guessing that when I’m old, I’ll be totally childlike.
If you could make a guest appearance on a sit com, which one would it be–and why? Life in Pieces. It’s one of my newest favs. I would want to be friends with Dianne Wiest, both in the show and in real life.
Describe your sock drawer in three words or less. Colorful and woolly.
If you hadn’t become a writer, what would you be? Sad and grumpy. Oh, you mean as a profession? A hermit who sells vintage dust bunnies on eBay.
What is your favorite punctuation mark? The em dash because I like to interrupt a thought–both in real life and in my writing–to insert random info.
What is your favorite food or drink while writing? Coffee before noon. I drink a lot of water, so I always have a glass with me. While writing, I like crunchy snacks like pretzels or garlic plantain chips. And candy. (However, while writing CHARLOTTE, I kind of OD’d on pretzels and garlic plantains, so I’m taking a break from them for a while. I’m currently seeking a new obsession and am open to suggestions.)
And your fantasy roadtrip destination? I’m kind of a homebody, so whenever I fantasize about a cross-country road trip, it usually morphs into an Upper Peninsula Michigan trip because Michigan is beautiful and close to home. I would like to see the Grand Canyon someday, though, but I probably won’t drive there.
Can you do any impersonations? If so, who? No, none, not one. All of my voices sound like me.
Dear insatiable readers, you want to know more now, don’t you? I knew it, you inquisitive little weasels, you. Well, click here and you’ll learn even more about Kelly and her amazing YA works published by Viking Books for Young Readers.
As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left? ~ David Bowie
Charlotte

Available April 5, 2016

 

 

45Pounds_COVER

Kelly’s first young adult novel.

 

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

You’ve Sold Your First Book. Now What?

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We are in for a treat, my little ginger scones. Frog on a Dime is delighted to welcome a very special guest blogger–debut author extraordinaire Kris Remenar, author of GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA.

Okay, Frog on a Dime is all yours. Take it away, my darlin’ friend!

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Illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Congratulations! You sold your first manuscript! After you’ve popped the champagne to toast your sale, you might wonder – what do I do now?

Become “findable” online. You want people to know who you are, what you write, how they can buy your books, and how to contact you. Build your own website or hire a web designer. If the idea of a website makes your throat close, start with an author page on a book site like Amazon or GoodReads. Explore social media options like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Trying to do everything at once is guaranteed to scramble your brains, so take it slow and do what works for you.

Set up book signings. Contact local bookstores to set up a book launch party. To broaden the marketing reach, consider creating signing events with other authors/illustrators. Research events where there will be people with a special interest in your book. Because my first picture book is called GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, Matt Faulkner and I signed books at the Howell Nature Center on February 2nd during their annual Groundhog Day celebration. If you’re willing to travel, see if you can sign books at conferences for groups like the ALA (American Library Association) or NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English).

reedConsider school and library events. Check with area libraries to see if they have author events in which you can participate. For school and library events, you want to offer more than just a reading of your book. For younger ones, plan an interactive story time, and for olders, prepare a presentation about your process, or publishing, or ways your book ties into the curriculum.

Overwhelmed? Reach out to experienced authors and illustrators for advice, or ask librarians and teachers what they’ve seen that works. Hire a marketing genius like Kirsten Cappy of Curious City or an educational guru like Deb Gonzales for promotional ideas.

Literary genius Sarah Miller asked me an important question when I was frazzled making multiple promotional plans: “Will it be fun?” After working so hard to get published, don’t forget to enjoy signing the books and interacting with your readers. There is no magic formula to guarantee your bestseller status. Do what works for you, do what makes you happy, and keep writing so you can go through the whole process again soon when your next manuscript sells.

Illustrator Matt Faulkner and Author Kris Remenar

Illustrator Matt Faulkner and Author Kris Remenar

Kristen Remenar is busy promoting and hugging tightly her first picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA (Charlesbridge, 2015, illustrated by Matt Faulkner) and her first adult book, DRAW WITH A VENGEANCE: GET EVEN IN INK AND LET KARMA HANDLE THE REST (Running Press, 2015).

(my) top 5 musts for writing professionals

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Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Disclaimers before we dig in:

  • Most of us do not enjoy being told what we must do, so if my musty list makes your writerly toes curl, you’re welcome to swap the word for something more appealing. Mush?
  • If you identify yourself as a writer, I am going to assume you’re writing (just nod here), so I don’t need to include that on the must list.
  • This list probably sounds all bossy pants, but that’s really more for my benefit. I need this list to keep me on track.

And now, on to the list . . .

By no means is this an all-inclusive list of musts, but it covers five of the biggies (for me anyway):

  1. You must remain true to your vision.

Now, hold on. I’m not talking about adopting a “My Way or the Highway” mentality. Hardly. I think it’s essential to be open to feedback and insights from voices you respect. What I am saying is, don’t be a sellout. Don’t compromise your integrity, your story and your characters for the sake of a byline. It won’t be your story any more. Don’t go creating regret.

  1. You must be kind.

And you know the kind I mean, right? Not the faux, syruppy, suck-uppy kind of kind.  Genuine kindness, to me, is as much a part of being a professional as meeting deadlines. Being gracious and kind to everyone doesn’t just make you a well-liked writer, it’s what makes you a welcome member of the human race. Keep this must in mind when offering and receiving critiques, interacting with publishers or agents (and members of their support team), and whilst commenting on social media (that last one is a doozy, and sadly, the most often forgotten). And finally, be kind to yourself.

  1. You must express gratitude.

I’ve sent thank you notes for rejection letters. Yes. Seriously. You’re a kind person, so I bet you have too. If an editor took the time to read and consider my work, I want to acknowledge that, even if we didn’t make a match. Send thank you notes or emails to fellow writers and industry professionals, to those who encourage you (and especially to those who send you treats). Express appreciation for opportunities and be grateful for the help you receive. You are pursuing your own dream. No one owes you a thing to help you achieve it. If they do assist you, don’t just be astonished, be thankful and say so.

  1. You must take risks.

How you define risk is up to you—reading at open mic, entering a contest, asking a question when it feels safer to sit in silence, revising based on some good advice even if you’re not certain you’ll like the result, trying a new genre, joining a critique group, creating a blog, going to a conference (or speaking at one!), hosting a writer’s meet-up, approaching an agent or submitting to your favorite editor. Venture out.

  1. You must give back.

Unless your name is Bob and you live in a pineapple under the sea, you can only be a sponge for so long, ya know? Soaking up is essential, but there comes a time when you’ve got to give yourself a good squeeze. Share what you’ve learned (when asked), volunteer and look for ways to benefit your fellow writers.

What about you? What are your professional musts? You simply must share. (There I go, all bossy pants again.)

In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different. ~ Coco Chanel