Do You Want To Jump or Fly?

There’s a video on YouTube called: “Steve Harvey talks to audience: Jump.” When the cameras weren’t rolling, the talk show host told his audience that “Every successful person in this world has jumped.”

https://www.google.com/#q=steve+harvey+talks+to+audience+jump

Steve Harvey’s talk is insanely inspirational, touching on the consequences of staying in a job you hate. Now, before you go quitting your job . . . here are some of the implications and nuances I pondered after watching this video.

If they really tune into themselves, most people can access what they yearn for, and when the facts of their lives aren’t congruent with their inner promptings, they begin to feel stuck, or trapped—or even hopeless.

To start a new endeavor can mean very little money while shouldering tons of work and responsibility. If you look at the life of Steve Jobs, there were many highs, devastating lows, and betrayals that went both ways. Business is always a lot of work, but if you follow your feelings, you eventually start concentrating more on the parts you’re good at or those you love, and the business starts supporting you in more ways than simply money.

It’s January, when we think about how it’s going to be different this year.

But when the birds sing, the snow melts and the trees are decked out with pink and white blossoms, spring too holds the promise of renewal. And after some lazy days of heat, the bracing fall air and bright foliage invests our spirits with renewed purpose . . . somehow our body still hears the faint echo of “back to school.”

What can you do that “feeds” you, challenges you and excites you this year?

You have numerous opportunities to jump.

But you owe it to yourself to ask: Do I want to jump or do I want to fly?

If you jump, it could be from a huge rock as you splash into a deep, serene lake.

Or it could be into an unforgiving rocky crevasse . . . where meet your end.

If you do make a big commitment this year, your jump depends on faith—and not just a fleeting sense of faith, but “keeping the faith.”

If there’s something you’d like to do in 2016, you may not be up for climbing to the top of the Empire State Building in order to jump.

But you can start with something small and delightful.

It’s no secret that some of the most successful people rely on their intuition in business.

Sometimes they don’t know why they decided to employ a specific person or hire a business coach, but it just “felt right.” And you may want to explore an area that doesn’t entirely make sense to you, it just clicks in.

If you’d actually like to fiddle around with starting a business, take a class in something relevant to that . . . but make sure it’s fun.

Write down the qualities you’re looking for if you start a business or even a pastime: More flex time? Freedom? More money? More people surrounding you that stimulate your imagination? More fun? More excitement?

Identify what you’re yearning for. Is it community? Mastering a skill? A way to get out of your head by working with your hands?

I took several Venice Adult School woodworking classes because I wanted to create beauty. But I also did it because:

  • There were amusing people in the class, including the teacher
  • We “wood nerds” became a community
  • I was able to walk away with something beautiful and useful for my home
  • I also walked away with confidence

I spent three months in Maine taking a furniture craftsmanship class, and:

  • There was even more camaraderie
  • Nothing felt better than pushing my goggles to the top of my head with my hair piled up six inches, feeling anchored and strong and capable in my work boots, high on accomplishment after using the saws in the workroom
  • I soared on creativity designing my own furniture projects

I have always taken for granted the fact that I don’t have a lot of patience.

But looking back, in that workshop:

  • I somehow possessed the patience to spend an entire week honing my chisels
  • I painstakingly cut my own dovetails
  • I had to go to every movie or event everything myself if I wanted any social life because I was the only female in the class and most of the guys were afraid to talk to me

In my daily life now, I finally recognize that I have not only patience but a joy for editing, feeling the beauty of the words, and the satisfaction of the rhythm, pace and rightness of the prose.

If you’ve been meaning to do something stimulating this year, no matter how big or small . . . take one step. You may be creating a whole new world for yourself . . . or you’ll discover a quality or talent you never thought you possessed.

I’m not talking about promising to go the gym every day or losing 15 pounds. I’m talking about something you really enjoy. Something that feeds you.

Identify what you’re yearning for. Is it engagement? Mastering a skill? Getting out of your head? Creating more fun in your life?

Because feeling accomplished in one area saturates everything else in your life . . . and prepares you for the bigger steps, as it’s weaving the feathers for the wings you’ll use to fly.

Is Traditional Book Marketing Misleading?

I received this comment from my pleasant and easygoing sister about a novel she just finished: “Just finished NAME OF BOOK, which had no ending. I am really pissed off.” She would not have written this if she weren’t pretty steamed! This article discussed fiction and book marketing that are making other readers angry too!

Even though I concentrate on nonfiction, I try to write about fiction at certain times, and this is one of them. I felt the same way about the hyped-up book my sister referred to. I felt disappointed! Here’s why:

  1. With a great book, the writing should feel effortless. No clunky words or lofty terms that feel as if the writer is trying too hard. In this book, many descriptions contained two adjectives where one would do. The second was often a word I didn’t know, or one from another language, but when I hit my Kindle dictionary, that word meant the same thing as the word I did know. Good writers work very hard to craft sentences that are easy and elegant, so the reader takes them in without thinking of anything except that sentence and the story—not the vocabulary or the extensive research! Much of the prose was beautiful but other times the author would end a chapter rather abruptly.
  1. The marketing logline wasn’t exactly true. We were led to believe that two characters would get together. Well, they did, and the outcome was a letdown, and it took most of the book to arrive there. By the end, it was a slog.
  1. The characterizations were expertly drawn and this book contained little-known history and classifications of the natural world that were fascinating and well-written. I enjoyed learning about them. However, the demise of a major character happened suddenly, and then a minor character took over the book. I was stunned—and I felt duped. Where was my payoff for reading all those pages? Where was the wrap-up of a life we’d been following?
  1. This book was a #1 New York Times Bestseller, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and a finalist for the National Book Award. With these types of prizes, certain books seem to be classified as culturally important for their bleak outlook and tragic endings. But how do the readers classify their reading experience? Can we really accept a random ending after getting to know these characters? I sometimes think there’s a bias toward books or movies that are positive or amusing, that they are considered frivolous and lightweight.
  1. A cautionary tale: Because this book received so much buzz, I’d ask people if I should read it. The replies were: “Yeah it was good,” or “I read it in my book club. I liked it,” but no one said, “Oh, I looooooved this book, you have to read it!”
  1. What is going on with the Big Five publishers? (I recommend Kristen Lamb’s posts for solutions to their outdated business model. She claims they’re not in the publishing biz, they’re in the printing business.) These houses spend much of their time and resources on marketing, but their first priority should be excellent books. Case in point: my article about “Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns.” Readers complained it was boring and Amanda Priestly was largely absent from the book! (Amanda=Action. The protagonist was rather dull.) Why did the publisher snooze on this? They would have made money from a built-in audience who’d be lining up for a juicy book and movie sequel. Authors need to find outside editors if the Big Five don’t have the time or ability to edit their books. The amount Lauren Weisburger would have to pay a freelance editor is infinitesimal to the money she would have made from another blockbuster book and movie.
  1. I read to be entertained and to escape into another world. I need a satisfying ending that wraps up the journey of the protagonist. I felt the same letdown when I finished “Winter’s Tale.” No, the ending doesn’t need to be happy, but I do need a conclusion. An author should know the ending before the book is written and write “to” the ending. Yes, the author owes us that!

Can Meditation Make You a Better Writer?

My friend Karen sent me this link about meditation, written by Rebecca Gladding, M.D.:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/use-your-mind-change-your-brain/201305/is-your-brain-meditation

The article explains how meditation calms the brain, frees your mind of obsessive thoughts and helps you grasp the bigger picture. But can it make you a better writer?

I started meditating when I was 25, and I’ve done it on and off for years.

There are days when I resist it too. For some, it’s too woo-woo, or another way to feel guilty that you’re not as healthy as you should be—you’re not eating kimchi washed down with kombucha in your 100% fair trade organic cotton yoga pants. But once you try it, you begin to notice that it helps in all areas of your life, and it can help with your profession.

Here are some ways to feel differently about meditation, especially if you’re a writer of any kind:

  1. Meditation only has to take 10 to 15 minutes. If you sustain it longer, you’ll begin to feel completely self-contained, as if you don’t need anything outside of yourself for contentment. But 10 minutes alone gives you benefits, especially clearing your mind so you can write, yet it does even more than that:
  1. Meditation puts you in the driver’s seat. When you wake up, there’s a laundry list of things you “have” to do, even if they are simple daily tasks. By meditating first thing, you are telling your brain that you are #1, that you love yourself enough to put YOU first. The act of meditation first thing calms you down so that all of your tasks are not running you, you are running them.You feel calmer and more in charge, so the rest of the things you “have to do” are done with more awareness and a lighter heart. You may even get to the point where you cut out some things you don’t want to do and your life flows even more positively. Leading to:
  1. Meditation as a mood changer. Some days you wake up and you just feel lousy. Perform a quick check-in by asking the magic words: “Is it mine?” You’ll feel a no or a yes. If you sense it is not yours, then you may have been slimed with someone else’s energy. Imagine a “return to sender.” But if it is yours, meditation will take care of it. Breathe into your heart and simply focus on your breath. Imagine light streaming into the top of your head clearing out anything not needed, filling you with light, and going deep into the center of the earth to ground you.
  1. Meditation will make you more easygoing, more loving toward yourself and more accepting of others. Your heart is wise. You’ll be able to shake off perceived slights and not take them personally. You’ll know that what others say is not really about you, it’s about them.
  1. The great thing about meditation is that you’ll get wisps of ideas and concepts because you’re more open. Or you can just ASK. A “yes” may feel like you are lightening up or there’s more light behind your eyes, and a “no” may feel like darkness.

The amazing thing is that you can start asking questions about your writing/ your presentation/your business meeting. Or you can say, “What do I need to know about _______” and jot down all the answers you need. (Or you may see images.)

The other day I looked over the formatting for my new book and I was confused. Everything seemed to meld together without rhyme or reason.

Then I remembered my art teacher/friend saying, “I’m in phase two. Phase two is when I hate my painting,” and I started laughing. I was in phase two. I hated my own book!

As an editor whose byword is clarity, I edit books to be crystal clear so no reader will ever close the book in frustration—and here my own book was confusing me. That’s when I knew I couldn’t just jump into my book right away, it needed an introduction.

So I sat down and meditated for a few minutes with my notebook and pen in hand, and the introduction came pouring out of me. I wrote the entire thing in a matter of minutes in four scribbled pages with my eyes closed.

Can meditation help you with your writing? It’s like ordering up the muse. Because sometimes meditation is the most practical thing you can do; it’s not woo-woo at all. By connecting all aspects of yourself, you bring more joy and creativity into the mix. And that’s a huge benefit for one 10-minute practice.

The Devils Wears Nada

I was flipping around the stations late one night and settled in for a few minutes with Andrea (Andy) Sachs and “The Devil Wears Prada,” (which always seems to be on the tube).

As I watched the way the film expertly moved the story along by revealing backstory and exposition with voiceovers, I thought about all the changes the screenwriters had to make to the source material.

Then I thought about the cast. Oh, that cast that launched so many careers! The sublime Emily Blunt and sexy Simon Baker, and Andy’s friend—you know, that guy, the one from “Mad Men,” Harry Crane, played by Rich Sommer. The film also gave a boost to a pre-“Entourage” Adrian Grenier, to Daniel Sonjata, and a standout role to Stanley Tucci.

“I love that movie!” people always say about “Prada.”

And then, something just sank within me, and I realized: What a squandered opportunity!

When I read the novel, it was enjoyable, but the parts with Andy’s family were beyond tedious. I couldn’t wait for Andy to be back in the office with her villainous boss. Since Devil, Lauren Weisberger has written three other novels before she circled back to revisit Miranda Priestly with Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns.

Some Amazon reviews of the 2013 Prada book were good, others include: “Lots of complaining;” “Really, nothing happens;” “One gigantic run-on sentence;” “A whining sad sack who needs therapy;“ “Vapid;” “Poorly written;” and “The book has no central plot.” Worst of all, Miranda is hardly in the novel at all.

Prada #2 made the bestseller list, but plummeted in a tragic death spiral after people started reading—and reviewing—it.

Why was such a great brand left to die? Where was Weisberger’s in-house editor? If this had been a good book, people would be lining up to see the film version.

So why didn’t the publishing company hire someone to help the author or suggest she get an outside editor?

Or . . . why didn’t the author have the humility to hire her own developmental editor, book doctor or plot expert? Doesn’t she read her own reviews? Doesn’t she want to write a book she can be proud of? Doesn’t she want to protect her own brand? A brand known and loved by millions?

Would you deface the brand of an iconic car like Carroll Shelby’s Cobra? Or change the name of Dunkin’ Donuts to Dunk and Donuts? Would you let someone with shaky skills and three iffy books play dice with a huge brand when she’d failed so miserably before? Were “okay sales” really okay in this instance?

There’s only one more possibility for this colossal misstep: the book was so bad to begin with that the editor had done all she could. She was exhausted and ready to stab herself with her own red pen.

It happens.

Novels are the hardest books to write. I understand. I have so much respect for novelists.

It reminded me of another disappointment, the book Bond Girl. Great idea, great title—a young woman in a man’s world as a bond trader on Wall Street. It could have been remarkable. But it wasn’t. Then I read that the author had made 30 revisions. The time comes when you just can’t see straight anymore, and you just cannot fix it one more time.

But you can hire someone who knows structure, just as you can hire a ghostwriter or a developmental editor for your book. If the publishing company had gotten a ghostwriter for “Prada 2,” no one would ever know.

Authors need a second eye on every book they write! We all need someone else to tell us when we need more explanation or better hooks, to see what we can’t see, to give us great ideas and help us structure our work so it can be something we’re proud to put our name on.

Editors always make books much, much, much better.

That’s just what they do. That’s our job.

And the best thing is that when you hire someone to edit or help you with a novel, nonfiction book or your story, you still get all the glory.

Who knows? Maybe Revenge Wears Prada will be optioned by some film company after all.

But that screenwriter is going to have to work awfully hard . . .

Stories that Connect with Your Readers

The stories you tell stick in readers’ minds. It also helps them remember you.

Through the details of the story, they recall point or message. As Maya Angelou said, people remember how you made them feel. It you reach them with emotion or open their hearts with laughter, you create a bond with your audience. Laughter “primes the pump” and gets people ready to receive your message.

Telling stories means you have to be honest about yourself and demonstrate that you aren’t perfect. Although many of us grew up striving to be perfect and accepted, people actually love it when you’re not. You’re one of “us.” You’re human.

Here are 4 tips for telling effective stories:

  1. Even though the story you’re writing or telling is obviously in the past, you can relate it in present tense. The audience will appreciate the immediacy, as if they are right there with you in the moment. Words in the present tense have more action than the past tense.
  2. Nothing is more boring than sentences with the same structure over and over. I once edited a self-help book with this repeat: “The result you want will be gained by doing this, this and this . . . almost every sentence over and over—three solutions. This actually lulls your readers to sleep. Vary your rhythm and the length of your sentences as well.
  3. Be honest. People can always tell when you’re not and they admire you for admitting to your fears and your ambitions.
  4. It’s so easy to just type out a cliché. When you’re writing a quick draft they come tumbling out, and that’s fine, getting it on paper is important. But as you read it over, you will spot them immediately. How to fix that?

Say you’re relating a story about a bad job interview. Instead of “I was a bundle of nerves,” or “My mind was racing,” or: “There were Butterflies in my stomach,” “I’m tongue-tied,” the trick is to use the exact physical sensations you are having, coupled with your thought processes at the time.

Some of these will be universal: sweating, dry mouth, but others will be particular: My mother was in my head saying, “You wore that outfit? Sit up straight,” as you’re wiping your clammy hands on your skirt.

What are you thinking about when you’re sitting there? Maybe you’d rather be working with a relief agency in the slums of Calcutta than sitting at a desk working for that company.

Describe what you were actually feeling.

Paint a picture using other senses, colors and sounds—and a thesaurus. Instead of using the same word twice, i.e. being nervous or anxious, look it up on the online thesaurus and find other descriptors.

You will end up with a unique piece that allows people to get to know—and like—the real you.

Dos and Don’ts for Event Goers

Don’ts

  1. Don’t go with a friend or relative, and if you do, split up so you can meet new people. And do not schedule time during the conference to meet with your obscure second cousins from Tarzana. Meet them after the conference and take advantage of golden networking time.
  2. Don’t hole up on your room! LUNCH with people you don’t know. At a writer’s conference, everyone disappeared. You may be a writer, introverted, shy . . . but that’s no excuse, you have a built-in ice-breaker by your shared experience and you’re missing out on making some valuable connections! Try to eat every meal with people you don’t know. “Is anyone sitting here? Do you have room for one more?” And invite others who are wandering around to dine with you at your table.
  3. Don’t forget to bring snacks, almonds, celery, carrots, protein bars. When you are hungry, you can’t concentrate on the speaker and most times the hotel store is filled with candy, candy, candy.

Dos

  1. Bring warm throws and fluffy socks. I went to an event in LA in March. People coming from colder climes were wearing sandals because they thought, Hey it’s LA, it’s warm there. I even checked NOAA. That’s true, it is warm outside in the sun, but at most events the rooms are kept cool and the short-sleeved and sandal-clad are freezing.

    Why do they freeze us?

    1. Because the host is sweating up there under the lights.
    2. Because it keeps people awake, and
    3. Because studies have shown that when prospective buyers are uncomfortable, they buy more.

      Is your host more concerned about your comfort or about making “torture sales?” I think if you aren’t comfortable, you may actually be miserable, and miserable, angry guests become resentful of their “captors” and they don’t buy. Check out my event reviews here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qqtr-P1FNc; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8nXyNQ7vSU

  2. Bring what you need to stay healthy and pampered: vitamins, any medications, bath salts, body lotion, power shakes, etc., especially if the hotel food is bad. At an event down by the LA airport, the food at the Westin was gourmet, out of this world, uncommonly great. Everyone was remarking on it. This is an exception to the rule.
  3. Keep a Travel List on your desktop to print and check off whenever you ’re on the go.
  4. Have genuine, meaningful conversations and make connections, rather than being “the person with the most business cards.” Follow up with the people you met as soon as you get home. They could be important to your future. Finally, bring your sunny attitude. A few grumpy comments are okay with people you know, but try not to complain too much because connections like to work with agreeable people, and, after all, with my tips, you should be on top of your game and feeling great.

(See my previous articles, “How to Put on a Bad Event” and
How to Put on a Good Event: 11 Dos for Putting On an Event” )

11 Dos for Putting on an Event 

  1. Book a Hotel with Luxurious Extras: People are away from home, they miss their kids, they’ve had a long flight, had to catch a shuttle, and their hotel room is noisy, but at least they can take luxuriate in the hot tub or go to the spa.

    It’s too cold to swim in winter in LA but hot tubs are perfect, so I climbed in, and a few minutes later another attendee arrived and asked if she could join me. She lived in Brooklyn, my former home, and we not only had the same birthday, (hence our love of water) but she’d studied with an extremely obscure person I was familiar with because a very good friend of mine studied with him as well. She couldn’t believe it!

    The third day we had to decide if we were “joining the mastermind.” I saw her getting out of the elevator and I asked if she was joining. She said yes. That had a direct impact on me because I wanted to stay in touch with her and all the other fantastic people I’d met. I spent a sleepless night arguing with myself because I couldn’t see how I could pay for it, but my heart really wanted to sign up. The next day at the very last moment, I did sign on, and my body was flooded with relief. It was one of the best investments I’d ever made because it put me in touch with people who were just like me, my tribe, who gave me tons of advice, tools, tips and information—and bonds of friendship.

  2. Be There to Say Hello and Greet Your Guests. I attended an event where we watched a movie in a freezing room the first night and the host didn’t even show up to greet us. That’s just rude and puzzling at the outset of an event, it left many wondering: Does he even care?
  3. Be prepared, be structured—don’t wing it. This same host admitted on stage that he doesn’t write down his material, he just gets downloads on the plane. He also went on a 1 ½ hour frivolous discussion obviously intended to burn up some time.
  4. When you’re up on stage and you sense you’re losing people’s attention, ask if they need a break. Your schedule may be blown but at least you know your words are being heard and your attendees aren’t distracted.
  5. Never, ever have a public “private aside” with anyone on stage or from the stage (inside jokes, giggle fits, remember whens, etc.). I saw this happening on a stage years ago at a press tour and it shuts out your audience, annoys them and, let’s face it, it’s just plain rude.
  6. Have a Party. A dance party, a meet and greet, a cocktail hour with appetizers or some kind of ice breaker is a great way to meet people, hear some really great tunes and bust a move on the floor. One mastermind meeting I attended had a Halloween costume contest. Another had such a great DJ it was the highlight of the event. Dancing together creates bonds. The more fun they have, the more they will like you.
  7. Encourage Networking From the Stage. Have interactive intervals, “Turn to the person next to you and (do an exercise together).” Encourage them to “Meet the person in front of you.” On the break, nudge them to introduce themselves to at least one person.
  8. Make Sure the Hotel is up to Speed. Bad food, bad staffing and no pool? I wanted to take a break from a conference and swim. I was told the pool was undergoing renovations and was sent to a sister hotel. Very upscale, gorgeous grounds with a pool to die for—and closed for a special event. This, after waiting for the shuttle for 40 minutes. I wondered, do I really have to ask the question, “Is your pool working?” when I reserve my room? Yes, I do, but it would help if the event planners checked and let everyone know ahead of time.
  9. Put Your Sponsors on Stage. Wow, nobody does this except for the last event attended! I don’t know about you, but I avoid sponsors. I avert my eyes when I have to walk past them sitting out there in the lobby behind their tables, knowing they want to sell me things. But at this event, the sponsors sat in chairs onstage and we really got a sense of their personalities and their genuineness. I’m sure it increased sales. I bought one service and a 3-month class. Happy sponsors, happy event host, happy attendees.

    Many hosts ask their former or current clients to come onstage and share their success stories about working with their mentor. That’s a selling technique, but it’s so refreshing to also give the sponsors a chance to shine because it shows you care and you are not just all about the money. Which leads to my next tip . . .

  10. Don’t Sell Too Much. It makes you look desperate and it’s a turnoff. At one event, I said to myself, “Does she seem to be selling way too much up there? Is it because I know her material so well and I recognize her selling cues, or is it me?” Later some attendees told me the selling was so blatant, they couldn’t stand it anymore and left to have their own party.
  11. Never Let Speakers Speak Longer Than Their Allotted Time. No one has an attention span longer than 1 ½ hours, after that you are losing people and losing sales. Giving people the stage for longer than allotted helps no one—least of all that speaker.

    Check out my event reviews here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qqtr-P1FNc
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8nXyNQ7vSU

    (See my previous article, “How to Put on a Bad Event”)

How to Put on a Bad Event

Yes, I go to events just to network, with no intention of signing on to a mastermind or other offer . . . and sometimes I do buy. Sometimes the host surprises me with thoughtful content, valuable contacts, great speakers and really fun “extras.”

And other times . . .

5 Don’ts for Putting on an Event

  1. Don’t Allow a Sponsor to Speak During Networking Lunches. “Special lunches” have become a popular way for event hosts to make money. “Spend $197 or $249 for a gourmet lunch and great networking!” Although these were initially billed as being organic and healthy, many are now just lunch, and a way for people to avoid standing in line at the Starbuck’s cart for a wrapped sandwich. These speedier lunches also get attendees back into the event room on time.All of that is fine, but at two events I attended, sponsors who paid for a slot were added during the lunchtime that attendees paid for in order to network. One of them was doing therapy up at the microphone with people actually crying through their breakthroughs. Unfortunately the lumps in our throats were not emotional, it was food trying to go down. At another similarly awkward event, the person next to me said of the event host, “Isn’t that double-dipping?”

    People need downtown from being “spoken to” all day, so they can go back to the conference after lunch refreshed and ready to listen . . . and perhaps purchase what you are offering.

  2. Up-To-Date, Appropriate Pics Please. Look like you, not like your girls club picture from 25 years ago when you had hair.
  3. No Free-For-Alls. Make up some rules (even on the spot) and enforce them by saying, “You are not allowed to _________.” How would the offenders know you just made it up?There was a guest at a ghostwriter’s conference I attended chewing everyone’s ear for literally an hour about his first book—a fantasy novel that he was selling. At a nonfiction conference, what was he even doing there? The hosts did not take action even though he was making everyone uncomfortable. Shut these people down! (And take note of what you want to change for your next event. You think you will remember later but there is so much going on, you won’t!)
  4. Curb the Blowhards. Screen your speakers and presenters and take them aside if necessary. There was one speaker who was so self-aggrandizing and drinking so much at the ghostwriters opening cocktail hour that he actually said that he was disappointed that they hadn’t paid for his plane ticket, and he was going to ask them to do so next year because he was so important. Not classy. Fortunately, this was a life-changing conference for me it was so great, but it was their first one and they made many mistakes and also lost their shirts. So no, they didn’t have a “next year.”
  5. Make Sure Your “Help” is Helping. The twentysomething son of this conference holder was “helping” her. He was also displaying and selling his graphic comic book drawings (huh?) and I actually heard he and his wife reply like rude and snotty 12-year-olds when his mother asked them to do something (in front of several attendees). Sure they were “helping” but how much were they “hurting”?

Stay tuned for my next article, “How to Put on a Good Event: 11 Dos for Putting on an Event.”

And check out my event review videos here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qqtr-P1FNc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8nXyNQ7vSU

The Truth About Self-Publishing

Back in late October, I attended a one-day Hay House i can do it seminar in Pasadena with Reid Tracy, the President and CEO of Hay House, who has personally selected over 35-40 bestsellers and made stars of authors such as Wayne Dyer, Christiane Northrup and Jerry and Esther Hicks.

Here are 5 of his tips for authors:

1. Brand yourself with your name, not the title of your book. Most people don’t know that Doreen Virtue, who is Hay House’s biggest seller, started off her career with diet and health books. You never know which direction you’ll be setting off in, so keep it all tucked under one umbrella: you. www.yourname.com

2. Virtue appeared in a pre-taped segment, giving a helpful nugget for busy non-fiction authors: structure your book into chapters, make folders for each chapter, and when you get ideas, write them down and put them in the appropriate folder.

3. Hay House buys books that are self-published. They regularly scour the list of top-selling books on Amazon and if a self-published book has sold enough copies (say 10,000), they will offer the author a publishing contract.

A month ago I had lunch with someone who worked for Random House and S & S in New York years ago, and she told me the big publishers have been acquiring successful self-published books for years. Why? Predictable profits and no slush pile! Plus editing, promotion, cover and jacket copy have already been done by the author. These books are proven winners, so what have they got to lose?

I asked her if she thought the five major publishers left in business were in trouble and she said no, but they will have to slash the number of books they print, which she thought they need to do anyway. (Making getting published the traditional way even more difficult!)

Blogger Kristen Lamb has mentioned that publishers are actually “in the printing business.” Ripping off covers and sending back the remainders (as they do with magazines in CVS) seems pretty antiquated. They are cutting down trees for this?

4. The #1 way books are sold is through word of mouth.

5. Fifty percent of all books were formerly purchased in bookstores. Publishers counted on the fact that most book buyers would walk in, find the book they wanted, then browse around and emerge with two books.

Amazon has changed everything in the last five years. Currently eBooks comprise 30% of non-fiction books and 50% percent of all fiction purchases. Unlike the bookstore scenario, when readers download eBooks, they are much less likely to purchase more than one book.

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How Women Rule in Publishing

Romances have much more clout than we all thought!

  • Romance novels exceed $1 billion annually in the U.S. (The Fifty Shades series alone sold upwards of 100 million copies.)
  • Romances were the first books to be published in mass-market paperback.
  • Romances blazed the trail in digital publishing (38% of all digitals are romances) because readers wanted to hide the telltale sexy covers from prying eyes. Those Kindles are also handy because 46% of romance readers buy at least one book per week and their bookshelves can’t handle it. (EW’s Karen Valby reports that by contrast, the typical American reader purchases five books a year).
  • Of the Top 10 fiction genres, #1 is Thrillers at $1.09 billion and #2 is Romance at $1.08 billion.
  • Geographically, the most romance books are bought in California (it’s a big state), New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.

After being published and then rejected by the industry back in 2010, writer Bella Andre decided to self-publish her next romance book. In one month she made $8000, more than the $5000 advance she would have gotten from Random House, and five months later her sequel to that self-published book was selling 1,000 books a day. Today, Andre has self-published four million romances.

Romances aren’t what they used to be. A romance writer has to fashion a unique story, create engaging and believable characters and find a way to write a sex scene that isn’t corny. Talk about pressure!

Having represented romance writers when I was working for a literary agency, these women were smart, funny and kind—and ahead of the female wave of entrepreneurs we’ve seen in the last 10 years. But what I noticed is that they are sharp cookies, schooled in human behavior and highly skilled in emotional intelligence (even before the book by Daniel Goleman was published in 1995). Thirty years ago, Harlequin had a few categories: historicals, contemporaries, mysteries, adventures and comedies in various lengths.

Today there are holiday romances, medical romances, romances about various religions, multicultural romances, paranormal, and now the historicals include Medieval, Viking and Native American.

But what is it that really sets romances apart from other books? Yes, our real world is filled with murders, shootings, wars and criminal mischief, but our TV news, TV shows, movie screens and books are disproportionally filled with such dark matter. Today’s tube has so many crime scenes and forensic goings-on that good ol’ Quincy M.E. would rise from the dead in surprise.

When you write a book, you’re often floating in a dream state as you go about your daily life. You’ll get ideas in the car or in the shower, or all the time. Your “baby” is always with you and that can be uplifting. What sets romances apart from, say, thriller or mystery writers, is that these authors are writing about love, and as they write about love, the feeling of love flows through them. They are running love through their energy bodies, emotional bodies, mental bodies and physical bodies as they plot how to get the lovers together, how to engineer that first kiss and then those dramatic complications that keep the two apart. To quote a song, it’s almost like being in love. (We don’t seem to have as many money, class and racial no-nos to complicate these books with today, as opposed to Princess Margaret being forbidden to marry the man she loved by her sister, Queen Elizabeth in 1952, and Charles and Di’s arranged marriage). This makes romance writers jobs even harder.

For so long what these writers create has been made fun of and dismissed as pulp. But from romances about prehistoric tribes to those taking place on interplanetary stars, we all desire a good love story, because love is the glue that warms our hearts and makes all of the things we must do in life worthwhile. Concentrating on a satisfying love story every once in awhile can be good for the heart—and soul.

 

I’d like to share a special experience with you . . .

 

I went to a screening of “Warsaw Uprising,” a film based on footage filmed by actual Polish cameramen working for the propaganda arm of the Polish government during WWII. Although 14 out of the 20 hours they filmed was destroyed, from the remaining six hours of footage modern filmmakers have made this documentary. They added three fictional cameramen (who were heard but not seen narrating the action in English). And they told the story of the City of Warsaw preparing for the German invasion that started August 1, 1944. A daring choice the director made was to colorize the footage so it would be more relatable and emotional for the modern viewer.

 

I was surprised to find that the producer was at the theater to answer questions, and I hope his presence in L.A. is increasing the film’s documentary Oscar® chances. What a thrill! Plus he gave each of us a DVD of the film.

 

Incredibly, at the end of the film, in the credits, they listed actual people that were filmed, identified either by the survivors themselves or their families. Some of the survivors in their 80s and 90s even watched the first showing of the film in Poland. And one couple shown getting married in the movie now lived in the U.S.

 

During the 63 days of the uprising, 180,000 civilians were killed, 80 to 85% of the city’s beautiful buildings were destroyed and those who were still alive were sent to concentration camps.

 

After watching these real live people making homemade bombs, laughing and eating soup together and running across the streets trying not to get shot at, it was hard to see this as just something that happened 70 years ago to another generation on another continent.

 

Imagine your city as a chessboard, with a foreign army holding certain sections of the city, and they executing large groups of civilians as airplanes routinely drop bombs, causing blazing fires. Imagine that you have little food and water, and you’re hoping to God the Americans or the British will come to your aid. What would it feel like to be so brave and then slowly lose all hope?

 

The following day after I watched the movie, I meditated and sent all of those souls, dead or alive, love. I could not send them safety or security, which they had needed the most, but I could send them love and gratitude for what they had been through, and for the resistance and the bravery they showed the world.

 

If you decide to tune into these brave souls yourself, please let me know what you sense from them and I’ll post your responses here in my next newsletter. For more info, http://www.warsawuprising.com/

Is Your Doorbell Broken When Opportunity Knocks?

In the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld in 2002:

Reports that say . . . that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

The ex secretary of defense’s statement was intended to deflect criticism of the Bush administration’s rush to war in light of the lack of evidence linking Iraq with weapons of mass destruction.

Errol Morris later named his 2013 documentary about Rumsfeld The Unknown Known. (The “known” being Rumsfeld himself or the knowing that there was no threat?)

But besides defending a massive outlay of cash and troops, is it true that “What you don’t know can hurt you?”

For instance: Is your doorbell broken when opportunities could be knocking? Are your brake lights out? Because mine were and I didn’t know it until the guy at the carwash spotted them. Like Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, driving around with no brake lights can cause a world of hurt. This also popped into my mind when I was driving on the freeway behind an old car from the 30s sporting dull gray primer and no brake lights. If the driver slammed on his brakes, I wouldn’t know he was slowing down until I smashed into him and the cars behind would hit me.

These two instances reminded me of being aware and being thorough. We probably should all check our doorbells and our taillights from time to time. And it certainly helps to have all your lights, bells and whistles in working order in the world of writing because having your book or your work edited is not just about fixing mistakes, it’s about enhancing what you’ve already put on the page.

It always helps to get another eye on your work because you’re so used to reading it that you don’t see the repeated words or the opportunity for a play on words that will make your readers smile. It could be the piece needs a little spicing up; livelier verbs can make it feel more active and alive. And sometimes you don’t notice that you were so afraid to bore your readers that you confused them instead.

Editors deal with pacing and the rhythm of sentences. Sometimes, for instance, turning a sentence around so the back is in the front can make a big difference, or using lyrical words or phrases can make it sound more beautiful.

Whatever it is that could polish up your work and make you look good, it’s not about warning you that something bad could be out to get you. It’s reminding you that something good is possible—that your work has the potential to be even better. The need for editing is universal. A good editor will always be looking out for you, so there’s nothing to fear. You can go out into the world with the confidence and pride of a job well done. There is no room for ego when it comes to turning your work over to an experienced eye!

Is Something Coming “To Get You”?

Beware the undertow was a theme of Irving’s Garp. The undertow can get you at any time and drag you out to sea, resulting in a big scare, a good pummeling by the waves or even sudden death. The son of the novel’s protagonist imagined this as a huge and scary amphibian, and he remained ever vigilant as he searched the ocean for “the undertoad.” Here is the intro my erstwhile professor wrote about it:

http://john-irving.com/a-note-from-john/

Garp was a well-written and readable book, but I consider it on the verge of “pre-waking up literature.” Many of the books that are lauded and even considered classics are stuck in the idea that fear, hurt and disappointment similar to an undertow are always ready to swallow us up. (Unfortunately, what you are looking for will find you!)

Unexpected downers in life can always happen, but time and the advantage of a higher perspective will make sure that:

  • Whatever happened can be reframed.
  • The diversion made you look at things in another way and put you onto a better course or made you build a better mousetrap.
  • Or you discovered how powerful and amazing you really are

These books want you to believe that events in life are random.

There are so many sad stories out there in novels, on TV and in movies. I can’t watch or listen to violence, it’s so disturbing. I want to feel uplifted by a film, not depressed the next day.

The opposite thing we do instead of drowning in downers is looking at the lives of others, especially on Facebook, Huffpost or in magazines, where impossibly cool stuff continually happens to certain lucky people. I see this in the world of entrepreneur business coaches. One of them almost got evicted from her apartment, then spent time with a mentor and soon thereafter had her first $10,000 month. (And she wasn’t even 30 yet.)

Besides reading about fabulous vacations in Antigua or a café au lait in a Paris arrondissement, what could you consider GREAT about the story of your own life?

If you look back, you will find some events that were custom built for you: divine pairings, precious encounters and awe-inspiring places. Although they won’t always be brag-worthy, it’s important as any kind of writer, whether fiction or nonfiction, to feel blessed and to know you’ve had as rich a life as anyone (and maybe better than any character in a book).

Now that we are enlightened enough to realize that what we think and feel creates our reality, we can spend some time reframing our lives. Those things from the past that you still get angry about can be released for good, so you’ll never end up recreating more unwanted experiences out of that same old energy.

Do yourself a favor. Get out a piece of paper and write down all your joyful experiences. Spend some time thinking about the priceless events that have occurred in your life and why you feel thankful and lucky to be you.

You have your own story, and if you don’t think it’s great, then nobody else will either. By recapturing your shining moments, you will actually be creating more of them.

A Mixture of The Bloggess with Hildegarde of Bingen

I am represented by Gotham Ghostwriters, which puts out a newsletter every Monday. This week they featured a wonderful article by literary Agent Eric Nelson called “The Right and Wrong Reasons to Write a Book.” http://blog.gothamghostwriters.com/2014/07/the-right-and-wrong-reasons-to-write.html?utm_source=Gotham+Ghostwriters+Writer+Network&utm_campaign=5534849a38-Gotham_Writer_Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2b2f7ebb96-5534849a38-50971789#.U81liFa4llI

I liked this article is because it’s a mix of practicality and possibility. For people who are getting asked, “When are you going to write a book?” as well as those who want to enlarge their audiences, writing a business book is a natural next step, and I work with many authors/entrepreneurs who want to share their knowledge and spread the word about their businesses. The books I work on: Self-help, health and memoirs are not exactly Forbes business books material, so they have much more room for your personality and a fresh spin on these topics.

For some writers, without larger goals and a vision that spurs them on to greater heights, it’s not exactly thrilling to slap a version of your methods or your class outline into a book. That’s why Nelson’s questions are so tantalizing. He wants you to be practical but also move out of your comfort zone. So many of us are modest—too modest—so by admitting what our greatest dream of success actually could be helps crack that window open for success to flourish.

Many of us were told not to get too big for our britches, not to brag, to share and that “all men are created equal.” Now sharing is great but giving your services away for free will land you in the poorhouse. And yes, everyone has a soul and everyone has experienced strife, heartache and turmoil, and they deserve compassion. But not everybody is equal, and that’s why allowing yourself to admit to your highest dream can be a boon for your readers. Sharing from your expanded mind and heart is a gift; it is true sharing at its finest.

Do I agree with everything Nelson says? What if you have a book that’s so different it’s hard to compare with others or even pick a genre? Pushing the boundaries of creativity is exciting and many bestsellers have done this. But by answering Nelson’s questions you will no doubt begin to find some footing, enough to say, “It’s a mixture of The Bloggess with Hildegarde of Bingen,” even if it’s only in your mind as a place to start . . .

So if your dream of a book is still “one day” away or “someday” in the future, you owe it to yourself to take Eric Nelson’s questions seriously. And if you’d like to share your answers with me on my Book Nurturer Facebook page, I’d be delighted to get the conversation going. https://www.facebook.com/thebooknurturer

Are You Admitting to Your Highest Dream?

I am represented by Gotham Ghostwriters, which puts out a newsletter every Monday. This week they featured a wonderful article by literary Agent Eric Nelson called “The Right and Wrong Reasons to Write a Book.”

I liked this article is because it’s a mix of practicality and possibility. For people who are getting asked, “When are you going to write a book?” as well as those who want to enlarge their audiences, writing a business book is a natural next step, and I work with many authors/entrepreneurs who want to share their knowledge and spread the word about their businesses. The books I work on: self-help, health and memoirs are not exactly Forbes business books material, so they have much more room for your personality and a fresh spin on these topics.

For some writers, without larger goals and a vision that spurs them on to greater heights, it’s not exactly thrilling to slap a version of your methods or your class outline into a book. That’s why Nelson’s questions are so tantalizing. He wants you to be practical but also move out of your comfort zone. So many of us are modest—too modest—so by admitting what our greatest dream of success actually could be helps crack that window open for success to flourish.

Many of us were told not to get too big for our britches, not to brag, to share and that “all men are created equal.” Now sharing is great but giving your services away for free will land you in the poorhouse. And yes, everyone has a soul and everyone has experienced strife, heartache and turmoil, and they deserve compassion. But not everybody is equal, and that’s why allowing yourself to admit to your highest dream can be a boon for your readers. Sharing from your expanded mind and heart is a gift; it is true sharing at its finest.

Do I agree with everything Nelson says? What if you have a book that’s so different it’s hard to compare with others or even pick a genre? Pushing the boundaries of creativity is exciting and many bestsellers have done this. But by answering Nelson’s questions you will no doubt begin to find some footing, enough to say, “It’s a mixture of The Bloggess with Hildegarde of Bingen,” even if it’s only in your mind as a place to start . . .

So if your dream of a book is still “one day” away or “someday” in the future, you owe it to yourself to take Eric Nelson’s questions seriously. And if you’d like to share your answers with me on my Book Nurturer Facebook page, I’d be delighted to get the conversation going.

Amazon Showdown

There’s a showdown happening in book-land. Amazon is aggressively going after Hachette (Little Brown, Hyperion, Grand Central) as a test case. Should Hachette cave and negotiate smaller profit margins with Amazon, the rest of the traditional publishers are expected to fall in line.

The major publishers are no longer the Big Six since the merger of Random House with Penguin last June. (It sure would be fun if they called it Random Penguin, but it’s now Penguin Random House.) The other four of the Big Five are still standing, including: Hachette, HarperCollins (William Morrow, Avon Books), MacMillan (Farrar Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt, St. Martin’s Press) and Simon and Schuster (Pocket Books, Scribner).

Amazon left readers of Hachette’s books high and dry with nothing to click on to buy their books on its site, including new works by J.K. Rowling and Michael Connolly, according to Entertainment Weekly magazine, and they previously delayed deliveries of other Hachette books. It’s their gambit to garner a larger portion of the company’s e-book earnings.

In all fairness, Hachette authors had to go through the usual publisher smell test, finding an agent, getting accepted for a book deal and all those hoops that traditional publishing requires. Unfortunately it’s the writers who are being ripped off here, not just the publishing companies.

In one of James Altucher’s blogs, he once said, “F*** Barnes and Nobles,” he would rather just use Amazon. Barnes and Nobles, once the heavy, is now the lone wolf of the major bookstores, once the victor now the victim. And the publishers who had all the power are now facing huge overhead and a new enemy. “We are Not Alone” Blogger and Author Kristen Lamb has written many posts about the major publishers’ demise and what they could do to reinvigorate and reinvent themselves, and her ideas are worth consideration. http://authorkristenlamb.com

James Patterson, a Hachette author who has sold 300 million books told a Book Expo audience on May 29th, “[Amazon] wants to control bookselling, book buying, and even book publishing.” In the once genteel world of publishing, the gloves are off. It’s a shame that there can’t be room for everybody. To have a coffee while perusing books at Barnes and Nobles, to roam the dusty stacks at an indie bookstore, and to have the right to publish with traditional publishing companies and have your books bought online without becoming the victim of a shakedown.

Writers, authors and publishers are thinkers, they are oftentimes hopeful people with conscience who want to contribute to the common good, entertain and push boundaries with edgy ideas and characters. We’d like to think this skirmish could be settled so that everybody wins, and we’re not left with another monopoly.

Thankfully, readers who are learning about Amazon’s strong arm-tactics are now flocking to independent bookstores. It’s not over yet, although the Big Five publishers now have another front they must defend in order to save their beleaguered empires.

How to Balance the Joy of Writing with the Jumps

I admit it: I was rooting for the Italian figure skater Carolina Kostner in the Ladies Figure Skating final. (Please don’t tell my fellow Americans!) When she won bronze, I was so happy for her. She’s long-limbed and elegant and has that classic Italian face, and her demeanor throughout was one of calm happiness and gratitude for her medal.

In a competition that always seems to invite controversy between grace vs. athletic jumps (the same issue edged out one of the greatest skaters ever, Michele Kwan who lost to jump-tastic Tara Lipinski in 1998), this year Russia’s jumper Adelina Sotnikova edged out the defending Gold champion, Korean Kim Yu-Na.

The men were under huge pressure to jump and every single one of them fell, some disastrously. The women were all steady on their skates and so wonderful!

Carolina Kostner had two devastating Olympics before 2014 and was ready to quit, when she took her mother’s advice: Stop focusing on the competition and skate for the joy of it.

So, how to balance the joy of writing with the jumps? The jumps are the hurdles of sitting down and being productive, and getting that first draft nailed down.

It’s so easy to procrastinate but here are some tips that can help:

1. Figure out your writing schedule. Will you write 3 days a week? 5 days?

2. Just like Carolina, connect with the joy. To do that, meditate beforehand. Sure, you can find a million things to do before you sit down to write, but if you write before everything else that day, chances are you’ll feel great and do all of your other work better that day.

In my meditations if I stay in there long enough (10 minutes) I get to a point of connection, and I see green and purple and feel a sense of quiet and divine energy. I try to stay in this space for as long as possible because I’m receiving an energy transmission. Breathing into your heart helps. You can also ask for ideas on your writing and images and phrases will pop into your head. Jot them down with your eyes closed.

3. Have an outline. This makes it easier, even if you have only outlined the next two scenes. Then you can take off with your writing that day without delay.

4. Be realistic about time. After my latest writing class, I realized the 15 minutes to half an hour I put in every day was not as powerful as writing for an hour. So I set the timer on my iPhone for one hour and off I go. 45 minutes will also do nicely.

5. What gets me rolling? I tend to edit the work I did the day before which puts me in the energy of my book. This way I’ve gotten myself rather effortlessly into “the vibe.”

6. Number your drafts sequentially, for instance, MyMemoir1, MyMemoir2, etc. and save all of your drafts in one folder.

7. Use Evernote or Stickies on your desktop. This will save you enormous amounts of time. Add the new version when you change it. Sure you think you will remember but you’re in an altered state when you write, and when you finish up your mind is shifting to your next “real world” task. So giving yourself this little “cheat sheet” can save you time and aggravation looking for your latest file. And when you need to add a scene back in, you’ll be able to find it in your earlier drafts.

8. Don’t get cute. When I ghostwrite a book for someone else, sometimes I jump the gun because I want to be finished and call the draft EllenFINAL. Then I do an EllenFINALFINAL or use EllenMar132014. Don’t do this! Number sequentially or you will drive yourself crazy!

9. The first draft is the hardest. Just push through as best as you can. Once you start editing your work, like Carolina, you have now entered the “joy zone” of writing, which is so much easier and more pleasant.

10. Hire an editor you can trust or take a writing class so a professional can read your chapters as you go.

11. Don’t be afraid to steal tips from screenwriting books. That will give your book a three-part dramatic structure so it is tight and cohesive and every word counts.

12. Having every word count and being literary (and not obvious) means allowing your reader to figure some things out for themselves. There is a fine line, however. Sometimes we have to spell it out for people in a creative way, such as having a conversation between two parties in the book. This gives the reader a chance to relax, get to know the characters and delve into an entertaining scene that is still moving the action forward. They can also judge  what the characters are doing (omitting information or making themselves look better than they are.)

The other eye on it (your trusted editor) lets you know when she/he gets confused or just plain doesn’t know what’s going on in your story. You need to know when you’ve assumed too much and confused the reader because you are so familiar with your own story you assume the reader is too.

13. If you have someone looking over your work chapter by chapter, do not go right back and change the chapters they’ve critiqued until you’re done with your first draft. Right now you can take some of their advice to make the remaining chapters richer. Because of the help from your mentor, you have become a much better writer by the time you go back and tweak Chapter One in your second draft. We all know Chapter One is crucial. If someone doesn’t dig right into your book and want to continue reading, they won’t buy the book, they won’t finish the book and they won’t tell their friends what a great book you wrote!

If you feel you could benefit from a writing mentor for your memoir or your personal story in your self-help business or health book, someone to edit and keep you motivated and on track, drop me a line at ropower2@gmail.com or call me at 310-909-3988 and let’s have a chat.

Remember, many an author’s personal story is laced throughout their non-fiction books not simply contained in the About the Author section, and they can even use conversations they’ve had with clients (with names changed to protect the innocent). These devices are not limited to fiction and they help your non-fiction books come alive.

I’m all for stretching the boundaries of what a book can achieve!

I will be doing a special Tele-class on this spring on how to make your book more professional, so please be on the lookout for details!

Olympic [G]Old

OLD PARADIGM
I was struck by how relentless the political commentary was at the opening ceremony. An expert on Russian politics who had lived in Russia was caustic in his criticism of Russian oppression and Putin, essentially calling him a dictator.

NEW PARADIGM
The beginning of the ceremony was magical and beautiful. It was like being in a fairyland seen through the eyes of a child with gorgeous music and shimmering visuals.

OLD
As the opening ceremonies went on, one of the female commentators said they would be back for the lighting of the torch, finally. She couldn’t wait for it to be over. Contrast this with the Lillehammer, Norway Olympics in 1994 when reporters were gushing about how quaint and beautiful the place was and how everybody wanted to move there.

NEW
The Olympics continue to be a virtual enlightenment fest for anyone who has been in the spiritual and entrepreneurial world. So many comments about mindset and how important it was to stay positive, not let nerves get the best of you, and do your personal best no matter what any other competitor is doing.

NEW
There is so much inherent drama, in a good way, by seeing Yevgeny Plushenko medal in his fourth Olympics through sheer will and determination after multiple surgeries. He was hopping mad after Evan Lysacek won the gold in 2008 and he vowed to win it again, and win it he did.

NEW
We saw Shaun White pass the torch to a younger upstart who idolized Shaun for always pushing the envelope. Yet that’s exactly what Iouri Podladtchikov did when he invented the YOLO halfpipe flip and won the gold for Switzerland. It was fun to see an old clip of Shaun first watching a video of Iouri performing the YOLO maneuver and see Shaun’s response of “Oh no” mixed with sheer admiration on his face.

OLD
Iouri’s parents are mathematicians who wanted him to follow in their footsteps. This shows us how universal that quest is for parents to see themselves in their children, wanting them to be secure rather than venture out into a risky occupation. In Iouri’s case the risk is not just in terms of economic security!

OLD
The Cadillac commercial where the narrator moves through his lovely house and pool area pooh-poohing other countries for taking four weeks of vacation, because we only need two weeks. We’re Americans and we work hard so we can buy all this stuff!

NEW
As far as the frank and fresh responses go, I enjoyed it when Jamie Anderson was asked how she was feeling when she won the gold for Snowboard Slopestyle. She said it had been a good day; she was happy to be there in such a beautiful place, the snow was great and she was really enjoying herself.

What? No mention of the competition, her parents being there, the Gold?

That made me think of why they do it: for love and passion, the beauty of being in the mountains, the rush of speed and the ability to push their bodies to the utmost while still feeling free.

The Olympics, however, did leave me with some lingering questions:

Why isn’t NBC showing any of the medal ceremonies unless Americans win?

Why were the Olympics held in a place that was known for being a warm haven in a cold country? They had to make a lot of snow and the snowboarders really took a hit!

What’s up with those hideous Olympic sweaters and bland beige outfits?

Does Julia Mancuso have a guru? It was inspiring watching the clip of Mancuso surfing in Hawaii for her training, and it was fun to hear the announcers try to explain the woman’s presence when Julia was getting ready to ski down the mountain. She wasn’t her coach, so who was the woman in Julia Mancuso’s entourage and how much did spirituality play in Juilia’s Bronze Medal triumph?

Let’s keep watching and see if these questions get answered!

The #1 Dream Killing Mistake We Make Just as We Approach Success

The Golden Globes is the most fun awards ceremony ever. Having been a transcriber for the SAG Awards and the Emmys, I have an interest in what goes on in these shows from many angles.

The Golden Globes has a winning format: a mix of both TV and movie stars and tables, not auditorium seating. They serve food and booze, loosening everyone up to have a good time.

Part of the fun watching the show is commenting on the gowns and laughing with Tina and Amy. Not so fun is listening to “Oh my gosh (stumble, awkward silence, drunken stare) I didn’t expect to win.” Let’s face it, when Diane Keaton is one of the most polished speakers at an event, something is amiss.

Dear Nominees: There are 5 of you, so there is a 1 in 5 chance that you might win.

Why would an actor who struggled to make it in Hollywood, doing everything they could to get an agent, make it to auditions, run their lines so they are perfect, not fully prepare to accept an award? What’s the harm in writing down the names of your manager, agent, producer on a 3×5 card just in case?

Do they think they’ll jinx themselves by preparing for success? Or they’ll wing it just fine when they’re up there on stage? Even after a few cocktails?

A similar situation came up for me a few months ago. I signed on a new client and cut my prices to write this book because I knew I would get a slew of ancillary business out of it. And I did.

Me to Friend: “I’m getting less money on this project, but it’s my passion, it’s right up my alley and I am the perfect person to write this book.”

Friend #1: “Then why do you keep emphasizing the fact that you slashed your price when you feel this is a great book for you to ghostwrite?”

Now consider Friend #2 who jumps into situations then reconsiders them. She recently joined a mastermind. As she started questioning herself, I saw that she was doing the same thing the actors and I were doing.

Another practitioner has a 100% success rate with her patients yet cannot get past the anger of what wasn’t being done: anger at doctors who she says poison, weaken and bring suffering to patients.

Can you hear it?

  • Who am I to write an acceptance speech when I really don’t have any chance of winning?
  • Who am I to believe that I will receive a ton of business from this one passion project?
  • Who am I to spend money on a mastermind when I’ve done so many things that don’t work?
  • Who am I if I can’t save everyone?

The solution is to make the decision to succeed and then let it go.

Dear Nominee: Write out your acceptance speech just in case and then forget about it.

Dear Friend #2:  Make the decision that you’re going to make the mastermind work no matter what—somehow, someway that you don’t have to know right now. Then forget about it, until a challenge comes up and then MAKE IT WORK!

Dear Practitioner:  Some people don’t want to live, they want to die, and, according to the Jane Roberts/Seth information, they often look for socially acceptable ways to exit the planet. Young soldiers in their early 20s sign up for war so they can die. People who don’t have the strength to leave a terrible relationship often do so by dying (consciously or not) but they still go through treatment to assuage their family and friends.

Put your focus on the ones who want to live!

Do you see what happens when we hang onto both stories? We watch our own dreams die. Because our subconscious hears us saying: This story is true for me but I still really want this other thing.

You cannot achieve what you’re verbally kicking to the curb. We all must be 100% behind our own dreams because:

  • It’s okay to want it! In fact, if it’s somewhat scary, it’s probably your next big step.
  • It won’t happen if we don’t allow the success in. All of it!
  • Release the “hows” so your intention can be delivered to you in the best way possible, “For the highest good of all concerned.” But when you need to stay on track, remember that you are committed, so MAKE IT WORK!

What can you Learn about Writing from Bad Christmas Movies?

It’s Christmas, which means it’s too cold to go outside and regular shows are bailing on new episodes until 2014, so it’s time for Christmas movies.

Most Christmas movies attempt to get to “The Big Message” by stressing Family, F; Slowing Down and knocking off work (we’ll call this SD); Romance, R; drinking Festive Beverages, FB; Tree Trimming, TT; at least one mention of Children, C; and, for some reason, Dancing, D. We’ll see how they rate on those issues after my reviews.

Here’s what I learned about good writing from 6 Christmas movies:

  1. The bigger the villain the better.
  2. Tension please!
  3. Romantic Comedies beat Santa is Real any day.

As far as I can tell, these movies, especially the romantic ones, are for women who are doing 98 things as they watch the tube, plus wrapping presents, surfing the web for a good holiday recipe and ordering online. Every once in awhile they glance at the TV but still don’t allow their captive husbands (CP) to control the remote, because CP has the remote rest of the year. This is Christmas, so bring on the Rom Coms!

1. The bigger the villain the better. Excluding the abominable snowman, no one was frostier than über-bitch Elisabeth Röhm in “A Christmas Kiss” (ION) who is mean and unfair (think Jenna on “30 Rock” crossed with Mama Kardashian). She steals her assistant’s designs for Rich Guy’s house and would do anything to become engaged to Rich Guy, who’d kissed her assistant on a whim when their elevator was plunging.

Here’s a movie with tension, a different idea (first 10 mins = kiss + elevator) a loveable protag played by talented Laura Breckenridge and her believable roommates who laughed as if they were really laughing. Points for tension. Minus points for poindexter rich love interest with bad ‘80s haircut. Rating: B

Speaking of villains, nothing beats cancer, and “Christmas in Conway” was the unHallmarkiest Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas movie I’ve ever seen, thanks to Mary-Louise Parker, Andy Garcia and a self-assured Mandy Moore. As they deftly set up the heroine coming home to die, Parker positions the neighbor’s hostility by telling Nurse Mandy she was once the sweetheart of Neighbor’s Brother, then she met Andy Garcia, and “He swept me off my feet.” The way Parker so brilliantly said that line made you wonder if she was bitter or ironic or sad, but no, there was a lot of love between the doomed heroine and her prince. I shed more than one tear on this one. The tension came from whether Husband could complete the gift he was giving her before she would . . . well, you know. Rating: A+

2. Tension please! Ah, tension. Otherwise known as drama. In “Hitched for the Holidays” a Jewish girl does NOT want to hear it already! So she asks a Catholic guy to be her fake boyfriend for the season. He in turn is trying to save his hospitalized grandmother because she wants to see him married before she, well, you know . . . Besides the schmaltzy shenanigans and the inevitable religious goof-ups when the Judeos meet the Christians, they did manage some tension and cutesy interplay. (Points for stealing a policeman’s horse in NYC.) Rating: B-

The movie “Let It Snow” features snow-adverse Arizona girl taking over a Maine Lodge where everyone is obsessed with Christmas. This movie was saved by the engaging Candace Cameron Bure, who did not miss one charming beat. She had some drama going with her dad and only wanted to have a real Christmas with him. Points for her Christmas wish being about said father, not that she end up with Handsome Son of Maine Lodge Owner who had his own drama going with his father. There is exactly 15 minutes of high stakes when Candace says she has to bulldoze the place but changes her mind in the next scene. However, her overall chirpiness carries the day and the movie. Rating: B-

Haylie Duff in “Christmas Belle” goes to Napa to appraise an estate that Handsome Shirtless Man, a morose modern-day Rochester, cannot abide due to too many sad memories. After almost driving Belle away, he has a personality transplant and smiles incessantly. No real drama until 30 minutes to the end when Idiot Guy from home decides he wants to marry Haylie. Even then, the actors seem to be rolling their eyes as she went thataway from Idiot Guy, so Shirtless is looking for her thisaway, sufficing for tension. Rating: D

I must contrast Candace from the Maine Lodge with the walking zombie in “Fir Crazy.” This protag sleepwalks and slowmos her way through having to sell her family’s Christmas trees in NYC. This is one of those “What in God’s name does he see in her?” movies. Even the scenes are slow (the cameraman may have had a few festive beverages). Slight tension came about 30 minutes before the inevitable Christmas kiss. Rating: F

3. Romcoms beat Santa is Real any day. The lady on the couch does not want to watch any more Santa is really Real with Elves and everything, and that infernal Mrs. Claus who just stands there and never has anything to do. She’d rather watch the women take over in “A Christmas Kiss” any day.

10 Tips to Get Your Ideas on Paper!

When you are writing your book, article, newsletter or even a business letter, it helps to know that even professional writers struggle with the blank page. Here are some tips to help you when you feel tired, stuck or out of ideas:

  1. Write down all the thoughts and concepts that come to mind on this particular topic, chapter or newsletter quickly in longhand. You may have a vague conception of how you want people to feel or the action you want them to take at the end. Write those down too. This is important because sometimes we tend to focus in on one aspect when we start writing and our other concepts and feelings may float out the window. Some people like to meditate for a few minutes before writing because it opens the space for our “other than rational mind” to have a say, other people find mind mapping helpful because it spurs ideas and makes connections.
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  3. Remember the goal is to bat out an imperfect first draft. This takes the pressure off you. In that draft, you’ll get to see where your mind is taking you. It may discover a different conclusion, a wonderful illustrative story, or a more nuanced, profound summing up than you had anticipated in the idea stage. This is the magic of letting your imagination go and being in the free-form first draft stage where nothing is set in stone, nothing is final.
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  5. When you finish your first draft, read it over, make any changes or corrections to the document and print it out.
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  7. Take a break, even for five to 10 minutes. Get away from the computer. Go for a short walk, clear your mind, have a cup of tea or coffee, or do some other small, mindless tasks.
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  9. Now read over your printed copy. Double spacing may help. This is important because there is a definite difference between reading on the screen and reading on paper. A good editor knows this and even as we love the Track Changes feature in Word, pacing, cadence and the way words flow together are best judged on the printed page.
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  11. If you have a red pen, this will help you feel more professional and also spot your changes later. Make corrections and add in longhand to what you’ve already written if you want to expand a certain area. Conversely, tighten it up. Is there a more succinct or clearer way to express something? An image or phrase that gives an instant visual? Do you tend to use the same word often? Look for synonyms that can replace those words.
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  13. When appropriate, put some of YOU in there. This does not mean, “I think . . . “ we know you think that because you are writing it. But feelings are connectors. For example, if you are enumerating contest rules, you may explain you didn’t want to use a certain rule but it makes things fair, or that you don’t like rules but everyone needs to be on the same page and be able to communicate. This makes you and your darn rule-making more palatable and human.
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  15. Now put your corrections in the document and print it out again.
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  17. Look it over one more time for any mistakes and tweaks. Some writers read their work aloud. This also helps with rhythm and flow.
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  19. Congratulate yourself for a job well done and write down your ideas for the next chapter . . . or press the SEND button!

The Rhythm of Language

Great Googly Moogly! They keep showing pictures of Sheik Yerbouti, the man whose discography is legendary but whose only Top 40 hit was “Valley Girl.”

On PBS’s “History Detectives,” researchers were trying to determine whether a busy and inventive collage of percussion instruments signed with the initials “FZ” (found in a South Carolina thrift store) was painted by the musical and social iconoclast Frank Zappa. (It was pretty dang cool, so yes, I would hang it on my wall.) The researcher scoured other works of his, learning Zappa had been a commercial artist and a drummer in the early part of his career.

Detective Gwen Wright tracked down his widow, Gail Zappa, who suggested they meet at the famous Professional Drum Shop on Vine Street in Hollywood, CA.

Assessing the bold black lines filled with brilliant teals, purples and dominant oranges and yellows, it became clear that the word “Drum” was written backward in the painting. As the wife of Zappa and mother of his four children explained, when she and Frank first got together in the 60s, they didn’t have much money, so when they actually went someplace they’d go to the drum shop, the subject of the painting.

What she said next astounded me. Zappa would sometimes draw music before writing or playing it, “He would start off a composition by making a visual sketch in terms of densities and progression.” For Frank, she said, “Music was visual,” he “saw” music. She also said he only ended up in rock n’ roll because there was no other category he could fit into back then. She affirmed that the signature “FZ” on the painting was definitely his, and although she had never seen the painting before, Gail was certain it was Frank’s.

That Zappa experienced different tones and vibrancies in a visual medium made me think how close writing is to music. When I am editing, I sense the rhythm of language and discard words that disturb pace and flow so readers can feel the cadence, pulse and tonalities.

My mind becomes so in tune with the piece that while I’m reading, anything out of place feels jarring. I’m also aware of sentence length and I’m not afraid of those that are too short—they break up the monotony of a paragraph.

Speaking of paragraphs, size does matter and short is better. Overloaded with 24-hour news cycles, celebrity gossip, new apps, new media and new music, our attention spans balk. Reading something quick and delightful is a relief. That’s what we’re all shooting for in our blogs, our emails, our Facebook and Twitter posts, to let the medium be part of the message, imparting our information in an entertaining way.

This episode made me aware of how the language of writing, music and painting are similar, sharing such terms as: rhythm, tone, pace, vibrancy, line, even adjectives such as “shimmering.”

How Much to Tell?

I just read a review of Shirley Jones’ s new book in Entertainment Weekly. The “Partridge Family” mom is 79 and wrote a tell-all (or rather a tell-too-much) featuring tidbits such as how endowed her husband Jack Cassidy’s was (and former teen heartthrob David as well), some of Jack’s stranger proclivities and some of Shirley’s sexual fantasies.

The same word popped into my head reading this that engulfed me when I read of Gloria Vanderbilt’s biography, heavy on the detail of romances with the likes of Marlon Brando. The word is: Why?

The poor little rich girl with the fashion empire and mother of Anderson Cooper could have saved her rep and ushered herself out of this life without dishing about her one-night stands.

When EW does a piece called “Here’s the important stuff about Billy Ray Cyrus’s book so you don’t have to read it,” the TMI has backfired.

So how do you know how much to tell in your personal bio or memoir?

Certainly there are people for whom a bit of shock value is a bargaining chip with a publisher and publicity for the book. But give away too much and your book becomes a joke. Here are some tips:

  1. What kind of image are you trying to uphold? A little scandal goes a long way.
  2. There’s nothing like writing to get it emotion out of your body and mind, but just because you wrote it doesn’t mean it’s suitable for print. Perhaps the catharsis is enough.
  3. It’s the emotions that are important. Is the tale too outrageous for most people to relate? Too bizarre and off-putting? Or does it resonate with common emotional connectors such as: regret, loss or confusion instead of weird, bizarre and disgusting.
  4. I thought Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild was too wild for some with its promiscuity and heroin. Now, most people would not go on a bender with these vices of choice, however, the connector here is her grief over her mother’s death, leading her to question her marriage and search for meaning and emotional closure on the Pacific Coast Trail. There she learned just how strong and resilient she really was. The details are not gratuitous here, the dimensions of David Cassidy’s “member” are.
  5. It’s always smart to aim for relate-able, as if the reader would enjoy having a drink or a cup of tea with you.

3 Biggest Mistakes That Keep You Making Mistakes

The 3 Biggest Mistakes That Keep You Making Mistakes are, thankfully, mindset shifts, and easily correctable once you are aware of them!

  1. Driving ourselves hard but not accomplishing much, or running tapes through our brains that are relentlessly critical.

    Stop and analyze the source of this voice. Is it a parent’s voice you have internalized? Or simply ask, “Is it mine?” and tune in for an answer. If it feels like a “No,” let it go. If it’s a “Yes,” spend a few moments searching for the deeper meaning of the message. It could be telling you to slow down or take a different route, or that there is more information to come.

  2. Despite the subject line of this newsletter, a common stopper is confusing “having an experience” with “making a mistake.”

    Sure we have setbacks and obstacles that stop us in our tracks. Keep in mind that you are in a physical body because you wanted to experience life. Successful people have had many more “mistakes” than “bullseyes” and they find the lesson in them. When something you plan does not go well, it’s helpful to view this as a deep experience you wanted to imprint on your consciousness to remember and learn from. This keeps you in the driver’s seat as a creator of your reality rather than putting you in the victim stance, being acted upon. What you learn is probably something that will come in handy later so you can recognize certain warning signs and sail to success.

  3. Remember the adage “The darkest night is just before the dawn” or “The breakdown before the breakthrough”? The clouds part and the answer comes into view because we give up or surrender and stop controlling the situation with our minds or our egos.

    As we shift and change, being flexible is more important than ever. You never have to go all the way into that dark night. When things are murky, stop obsessing and surrender right away. Do something else. You might be wishing you could go for a run or take a nap, and, under the circumstances of being stuck or spinning your wheels, these are very good choices. Getting your mind off what’s not working allows it to relax so the solution can pop right in. Take your Internal Wicked Witch’s advice, “Surrender Dorothy!” or better yet, “Surrender Early!”

Unstuck

Remember when I was stuck back in August? Well, I’m not stuck anymore and I’d like to share with you some tools that can help when you’re swirling into negative territory or you’re just not sure what your next step should be.

MINDLESS MOVEMENT
A walk, no matter where, even around the block, always changes your energy.

By doing something different and preferably mindless, solutions are able to drop into your brain—the classic “idea in the shower” or “light bulb while doing the dishes” fix-all!

When I was ghostwriting a book, I programmed my brain to solve a problem while taking a hike, and there’s no reason you can’t do something similar. Change your environment, be active and don’t think about the problem!

ASK A QUESTION
The subconscious loves a puzzle, and if you ask a specific question, it will give you an answer. Try this before going to sleep.

CLOSE THE DOOR / ERECT A “KEEP OUT” SIGN
Get yourself into a semi-meditative state so you’re accessing the superconscious or higher states of creativity. Do not allow yourself to be interrupted when these ideas are flowing freely!

TAKING A BREAK IS A CREATIVE ACTION
You can’t go, go, go all the time. Taking a full day off without doing anything work-related (including reading email) will recharge your batteries.

HOW CREATIVITY WORKS
Here’s a fantastic article about fostering creativity featuring some of the most creative minds of the modern world. Remember, if you are breathing, you are a creative person.
http://wakeup-world.com/2012/01/23/12-things-you-were-not-taught-in-school-about-creative-thinking/

COMPUTER FRIENDLY
Eyestrain and headaches can zap your creative flow. This free app changes the colors and light frequencies on your monitor so it’s gentle on the eyes. It lessens the brightness of the blue at night and adapts the light to the time of day. It may also enhance sleep because your body won’t be so stimulated by “fake sunlight,” instead it will be signaled to wind down and go night-night, so you can wake up refreshed and ready to create your day.
http://stereopsis.com/flux/

QUICK PULSE
If there is something you’re obsessing over or an issue is making you fearful, frustrated or angry, try this Quick Pulse Technique. It clears your subconscious mind by having you state everything you dislike about the problem. Deb Cummings has made an effective 5-minute video in her delightfully calm manner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E44bC8V3Ebo

20-MINUTE CLEARING TECHNIQUE
I like to augment my morning meditation by doing this clearing process first. If you don’t meditate or you find it difficult, simply spending several minutes with your eyes closed after this process can ease you into your own meditation practice. Deb Cummings is on a mission to help as many people as possible, so, for the uninitiated, she doesn’t even use the word “chakra” in this clip.

Every time I use her video, my meditations become deeper and more profound. And it’s never been easier to clear your energy.

20 Minute Energy Clearing and Balancing with Debra Cummings: http://vimeo.com/7866488

FUNNY BLOGS CAN CHANGE YOUR MOOD
Writers relieve stress and get ideas by reading well-written blogs that make them smile! This one is smart, witty and sophisticated. Sign up for this newsletter; you won’t be sorry. http://redpenofdoom.com

5-MINUTE ENERGY REVAMP
For an afternoon pick-me-up, I’ve been enjoying Donna Eden’s 5-Minute Energy Routine. It stimulates the lymph glands, vital for moving toxins out of your body and maintaining health.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gffKhttrRw4&feature=related

 

Anatomy of Two Copy Edits / Website and Sales Letter

Recently I edited a website and a sales letter. After finishing the website I was on such a creative high I couldn’t sleep. When I sat down to type in my edits, suddenly something unexpected flowed out of me that had tons of emotional connectors to the reader. It was exciting.

Part of writing is getting in flow with your muse, the other is having a storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. Gloria Steinem, for instance was such an effective writer because she had so many fantastic insights and ideas and was a great thinker.  (She’s really a humanist, not simply a feminist, she wants equality, opportunities and respect for everyone.) To be good at writing you do need to read and be interested in many things.

I’m also fortunate because most of the work I’m offered I know “more than a little” about.

So what are you a natural at manifesting? What comes easy for you?  Give yourself points for this!  You’ll see that when you think about these or sit down to do them, there is no resistance, it flows. Now try being in that space with other things that don’t come so easy.

  1. When I edit copy, thinking critically on the first read-through takes a lot of energy. What is working and what is not? The website HOME page is way too technical and jargon-y, (and boring), the sales page is too long and needs pizzazz.
  2. As I read, I’m hyper-aware in my body and mind where my energy and interest flags and I start to cut or quickly circle anything that stops the flow of my reading, puzzles me or stands out in a bad way. If I have to stop and think, that’s bad—nothing should take me out of the flow of reading.
  3. I get myself into the feeling state the original writer is trying to elicit—is the promise of the transformation getting me excited? Would I buy the product? Both the website and sales letter needed to be more emotional and play up their uniqueness. In the case of the website, fantastic concepts were buried in the back pages, so I brought them home to the Home Page, sometimes paraphrasing, sometimes using the exact same language. (It’s okay to repeat copy if it’s good, it sticks in potential clients brains that way!)
  4. Website was done but after editing the sales page it was still not right. I told the client there were three points I personally would consider unique and exciting. Then I listened carefully as she explained each of them in her own words. I knew I could sell those benefits with emotion.
  5. I wrote up the copy on the three benefits while still fresh in my mind and then inserted them at effective points in the text.
  6. I scanned the copy for any promises that were too broad or could not be delivered.
  7. Two jobs well done and grateful clients!

Your Sizzling Summer Beach Book?

I picked up Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild and wasn’t immediately into it, but it grew on me. It’s the story of someone who comes undone by her mother’s death. Given the death sentence of a year by the doctor, her mother dies much sooner, and much too soon for Cheryl at age 22. After this, siblings fall away, her stepfather becomes distant (and finds another family) and her marriage falls apart.

Strayed obliterates her grief with infidelities. There are sections where you can relate, and parts where you see why this book is sensational in all senses of the world. She becomes involved with a man who does heroin, promising herself she’ll never shoot it . . . until she does.

Soon after, she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, (or the PCT) at age 26.

This book is unflinchingly honest in the way it talks about burying yourself in something else or someone else to shut out grief and anger and the unfairness of it all. Honest in the way she talks about loneliness, on the trail or watching vacationing people as she comes off the trail, hungry, dirty, smelly, her feet bruised and blistered in her too-small boots; and in the way memories of her abusive biological father surface, juxtaposed with the sweetness and love she received from her mother, who finally left that abusive marriage and found happiness with Cheryl’s stepfather. All the rage, all the men—it begins to make sense.

There are moments when she’s funny. There are the deep but fleeting ties, leading to heart-rending hugs of goodbye when a bond is formed with other PCTers. By virtue of how few courageous long-distance hikers there are—after all, not just anyone can understand the fear, the uncertainty, the rattlesnakes, foxes, bears. It’s fun to anticipate with her the packages she sends to herself along the trail, how unprepared she is and the hilarious first time she tries to put her pack on and cannot stand up for the weight of all the things she’s purchased “just in case.”

There are delays, mishaps with food and life-giving water, the alarming heat and shuddering cold, and other incidents that just can’t be helped. The PCT is not for control freaks. There is no control over the weather, the lingering ice and snow, the vagaries of the trail system and life itself.

This book surprised me with some seriously good prose, some moments of alienation as well as human bonds I could relate to, and it cleared up some things I had assumed: No, Stayed didn’t go all the way through California; she had to skip the John Muir Wilderness and the Sierras because of huge snowfalls that winter and instead hiked through Oregon. Her name is not pronounced “Stray – Ad” as I’d assumed; it’s simply Strayed, like a dog strays . . . or a wife strays, and it’s not her real name. When she got divorced there was a line on the form asking what her new name was, and that’s what she came up with.

Strayed hiked the PCT in the mid-90s. What would it be like today with GPS and internet coverage on your cell phone? She relied on phone booths, her charts and a compass.

Would I recommend this book? It’s not technically “beach reading” that takes you away from real life, but I’d still say yes, read it.

And wait! There’s one more reason why I like Strayed. She has popped up again soon after her splash with Wild. Her new book arrived on July 10th and is called Tiny Beautiful Things, a compilation of her “Dear Sugar” advice column for www.therumpus.net. A selection: http://therumpus.net/2012/05/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-98-monsters-and-ghosts/

You’ve heard me go on about advice columnists and here she is, compassionate, forgiving, life-affirming, Our Advice Columnist Saint and Sinner. She’s also gets extra points for being a writer doing something interesting to keep her profile going between books. No, she isn’t getting paid for the column, but she’s getting paid in other ways. (Just watch out for the swearing, in the book and in the column.)

I leave you with this. As Melissa Maerz in Entertainment Weekly says of Tiny Beautiful Things, “Dear Abby probably never did heroin. But if she had, no one would have known. Until now, that was the problem with advice columnists: They were supposed to help you solve your problems, but they didn’t reveal much about their own lives, so it was hard to understand why you should trust them.” Exactly.

How to Get from Grief to Love

I helped Sandra Moore Bernsen with her first book, a memoir entitled Free My Heart of Grief to Love about coping with the death of her handicapped baby who suffered brain damage at eight days old and died two and a half years later. Her older son died accidentally at 21 and her husband followed 1 ½ years later from cancer.

I not only assisted Sandra with editing but with getting to the heart of her book with one of my Emotional Turning Point Readings, as well as an Intuitive Book Reading. We were able to hone Sandra’s events down to those that shaped her life the most, as well as dig into her parents’ history. Certain things about her life that she took for granted that I saw as extraordinary and urged her to highlight were: 1. Her mother was born with one eye, 2. Her father was also “a social misfit, “3. She grew up in a half-finished house with no toilet, running water or wallboard. Baths were a luxury and yes, they were social outcasts in their tiny town in Montana.

Because I met Sandra in a spiritual class which taught the Berkeley Psychic Institute method, she was comfortable with those readings, but many other clients have benefitted from them as well because they received a big vision of their book which gave them the enthusiasm and inspiration to finish it.

What’s so great about these readings is that I am able to hold a client’s hand through the most emotional parts of his or her book, the events that make them delay writing because it is so painful.

In Sandra’s case, her Intuitive Book Reading gave her great tips for marketing her book and on her looming speaking career. These readings always line up with the writer’s highest good. See my website for more details on the two special readings I perform.

Here are the outtakes from my conversation with Sandra:

Sandra: Free my Heart of Grief to Love was published at the end of 2011 in ebook and paperback. I’ve been doing a lot of book signings, have been approached by local bookstores, and my publisher has been helping me get the book out on BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com and Apple iBooks. She’s helped me set up my Facebook business page, get on Twitter, Goodreads.com and Kindle Boards, a website where avid readers talk about their favorite books and authors promote their books.

There are a lot of electronic ways of getting exposure, but my favorite way is doing one-on-one interactions at book signings. I love the personal contact, and I get to hear people’s stories, give them a hug for sharing, knowing that my book is going to help them feel better.

Rosemary: Any surprises?

Sandra: I’ve had men come back to me after reading the book telling me how much it’s helped them. I just love it that the book is not gender-oriented, so men get as much out of it as women. We tend to expect men to be less receptive to talking about their feelings and their grief issues.

Women tend to want to resolve it, want to talk about it, want to read about it. So when men come up to me, it just affirms that I did the right thing for everyone.

The book is written in such a truthful manner. It’s meant to give inspiration and empowerment. What I hear the most is, “Thank you so much for letting me feel like I’m normal,” that the things that they are feeling and thinking and questioning in their heads are normal things.

The way my book is written, it gives that reader permission to continue asking the important questions and find answers to questions of faith. It also gives them permission to move forward.

Rosemary: I would think that even showing up to see you at all is an acknowledgement of facing it head on, dealing with it in some form.

Sandra: At the point where they approach my table, that is their breakthrough moment. I still get to see many eyes read my book title and their heads go down and they dash away. They are not prepared to deal with it. So yes, the people who do come up, they are taking a big step in their recovery just by doing that.

Rosemary: You told me you felt such a sense of freedom after writing your book and this is such a beautiful example of what I see with my clients, that expressing their emotions fully on the page gives them catharsis.

Sandra: It was magical and very spiritual that when I completed the book, when I no longer had to carry those emotions to get them down on paper, I was able to actually put that part of my life behind me. It’s still there but it’s behind me now, and that gave me the freedom to move my spiritual and emotional life forward without that “baggage.” There is no sense of forgetfulness, it’s just that I feel relieved of the weight of that grief. I can now move forward more freely.

At the point where I was able to place my loved ones in a cemetery (I had been holding on to their ashes for years and years) I began to feel that I also needed to contribute somehow to other families who have lost a loved one, mostly children.

So I started by donating the urns that housed my husband’s and my firstborn son’s ashes. That funeral director was just awestruck and I knew it was the right thing to do in my heart.

Now my goal is to create a charitable fund, a 501(c) 3, to give assistance to families who have lost children. We typically don’t purchase life insurance for children because we don’t expect them to pass away before we do. When families have hardship, this gives them a place to go for a little help.

I finished the book in mid October, and at the beginning of November I was able to lay my guys to rest. It was wonderful.

I have prayed and meditated to manifest getting my book out there to as many people as possible, to help them progress through their grieving process, and if they themselves are not going through it, to assist them with the understanding of what their loved ones are going through.

Rosemary: I know you’ve been invited to other places besides bookstores …

Sandra: Yes! One hospice nurse told me, “The thing about your book versus the other professional publications we have available for our clients is that your book is truthful. The others tend to sugarcoat what happens when you suffer a loss and yours is so straightforward—and it’s still empowering for the reader.”

I was pretty awestruck by her comment.

Rosemary: Congratulations Sandra, I can’t wait to see where you and your book wind up next!

Take a peek at how Sandra handles her first media interview:

http://www.kmvt.com/features/riseandshine/Local-author-is-selling-books-all-over-nation-152035315.html

To purchase Sandra’s book: http://www.amazon.com/Free-My-Heart-Grief-Love/dp/1936408465/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1337978243&sr=8-3

The Caffeinated Writer

What happened here? I’d finished a big project and it was taking me hours to wake up in the morning. Nothing and no one was safe until I’d had my coffee.

I’m writing this as gift to any blithering writer on deadline, any computer-addled worker who can’t walk straight in the morning, or anyone else burning the midnight oil.

It’s my caffeine cheat sheet.

When I’m too acidic (yes, I’m watching my alkalinity and in an acidic emergency have been known to gobble down a tablespoon of chia seeds dry), I forego the coffee and use Yerba Mate. This delicious herb is coffee-tastic and coffee-tasting enough to get by and it is a stimulant.

It’s got a rich flavor, which I enhance with a bit of honey and some rice milk. I have to confess, being off dairy, that I drink coffee with rice milk too. That’s how low I have sunk to maintain my coffee habit. Bonus tip: Trader Joe’s sells organic Guayaki Yerba Mate packed into tea bags. It’s alkaline with antioxidants, 24 vitamins and minerals and 15 amino acids.

Need another pick-me-up? I take Greens+ Extra Energy. So far so good, but here’s the beauty part: it’s cappuccino-flavored and it tastes great. You read it right, greens that taste great. Here’s another kicker: it’s got CAFFEINE in it! The only problem? It’s not a hot drink in the morning.

Two warnings before you rush to order it: it also comes in orange flavor (which is pretty good but read the fine print on the website when you order), yet if you love the taste of coffee the way I do, stick with the cappuccino.

The second is that this is a Canadian green food company with the same name as the American Greens Plus and searching for it on the web and their website is like trying to find a banana slice in butter, so you have to go to:

http://www.nationalnutrition.ca/SearchResult.aspx?KeyWords=Greens%20+&All= True and have it shipped from Canada.

Buy two! It’s worth it at NationalNutrition.ca.

The next pick-me-up in my arsenal is for late afternoons. I don’t drink soda or many flavored beverages except for teas. In the summer iced peppermint tea is delicious, no sugar, sugar substitutes or high fructose, no carbonation, and it’s peppy, but I’m also sold on Isagenix’s Want More Energy. There’s one in orange flavor with a bunch of B vitamins, C, A, and some zinc and chromium that does the trick. If I’m running evening Mastermind call at 7:00 pm, it perks me up but won’t keep me up at night if I drink it at 5:00 pm.

So there, I’ve spilled my secrets. The only other tip up my raveled sleeve of care is that when I get really, really tired … I take a nap! Wakey, wakey!

5 Secrets to Hiring the Right Editor

Editing not only makes our writing better, it helps us grow as writers. We get to see our blind spots and improve our skills.

When you receive an edit, it’s not the same as a critique, however some editors will comment on your work because they can’t help it … they want to make your work better when they see an opportunity.

Here are 5 secrets to getting the best edit possible:

  1. When you ask someone to proofread your work, that’s what they are doing, looking misspellings, wrong word usage (their/there), missed punctuation and other mistakes. Nothing more. Proofreading is not editing.
  2. A good editor will cut parts that lag, are too wordy or repetitive or words that detract from what you are trying say. A good editor will pay attention then something stops the flow and they will either cut it completely or minimize it so it won’t interfere with the reading experience, whether that means building suspense in a novel of making a point in a nonfiction book.
  3. A critique is different. No corrections will be attempted, no edits made. You will simply receive written pages on the merits of your work, whether you achieved your aims, what you need to explain or expand upon, and where you have gotten too windy, lofty, technical or boring. The person you hire will have an audience in mind and know when you have lost that audience. They will also give you suggestions on how to improve your manuscript so it will appeal to your readership.
  4. A good editor who can’t help herself will fix everything she sees wrong in terms of readability (flow and pacing) and tune up what she finds grammatically, stylistically, punctuation and spelling-wise, so, even though you will still need to hire a proofreader, hiring this type of editor will get you the most bang for your buck.
  5. You really get lucky when you find an editor with an “ear” who notices when your manuscript halts or goes off-kilter. These editors are attuned to rhythm, pace and timing. If there is one word in a sentence that stops the rhythm, it misses its potential to be the most effective or beautiful sentence it can be. A good editor will be attuned to pacing and flow, so you can make your point and elicit the desired emotion in your reader.

If you’re open to making your book the best it can be, spend your money on an overall edit, then spend the rest of your budget on a proofreader. If you’ve done a first draft and you need direction, or you’ve written several versions of your book and you’re confused or frustrated, your best bet is a critique. You will receive ideas and the big picture of where your book fits in the marketplace so it can find its audience.

Outsmart Writing Deadlines with These Tips

I’ve been ghostwriting a book for five months on a very intense deadline. In one section, I was interviewing people and writing their stories – 27 stories in 22 days. So while at the beginning I had the luxury to print a story and proof it the next day, or take a nice hike and have ideas and answers drift in to my consciousness (which always works), by the end I was writing two stories a day and going over the material for my next story at night. Here are some things I learned that may help you when you need to write on a deadline:

 

1. Scan your material and pick out a good place to start. You can start at the beginning, but you can also start with an event further along in time, or with an arresting sentence or situation that will wake people up and get their attention. It’s also great to start with a question that seems impossible to answer.

 

2. Know your ending.

 

3. Sometimes 1 & 2 don’t work and you need to take what you’ve got from your notes, outline or transcription and start shaping sections or honing them down and hacking out parts that are extraneous. This works, but it’s not quite as efficient, nor does it get to those “connectors” as quickly. You need those connections that bring all of your elements or points together, especially when tying things up at the end of your story. When you can see the connectors right away, that’s ideal, but sometimes this method (like walking through a maze until you get the hang of where you’re going) must suffice and somehow by the end you’ve found a way to tie it all together. Tips 4 & 5 will help with that:

 

4. Start with your title, subject or theme, then stretch it. Think of all of the meanings certain words, definitions or concepts have that will illustrate your point and devise metaphors to enrich your subject.

 

5. Create a recurring image, concept or a running joke. This will give you impetus and give the reader some comic relief. This is a trick many laconic, laid-back writer dudes use, and they seem to live in warmer climes, like Dave Barry (non-fiction) or Carl Hiassen (fiction). They do have a point but they take their sweet time getting to it, entertaining readers along the way.

 

Use these tips for starters and soon you’ll be looking at your screen full of gems.

Run / Don’t Walk

I do everything fast. That’s my nature. I walk fast, I talk fast, I think fast, I work fast. People tell me to slow down. Sometimes I’m three steps ahead in a conversation because I’ve skipped over parts that seemed self-evident to me but not to my friends. It’s something I’ve learned not to do. I’m sensitive to it, so I’ve become good at recognizing when writers get too far ahead of their readers or breeze over crucial information in their books that I edit. I stop them from confusing (and losing) their readers.

 

I write fast too—when I’m ghostwriting or copywriting for other people. When I’m writing my own book, I need to slow down in certain sections. If I write fast, I’ll breeze over uncomfortable feelings I’d rather not re-live. So I’ve learned to feel the emotions intensely without getting stuck, and now I’m able to take my clients through the same process as they write their books.

 

Writing about your emotions connects you with your readers, and that’s vitally important, whether you’re writing a business book (so readers know you’ve been through what they’re going through), a memoir or a novel. I can guide you to get the right words on paper and heal your wounds at the same time. I excel at this because it’s a core issue of mine.

 

When you do everything fast, it leads to wanting things to happen fast in your life. Being in the moment helps. When you sit down to write, give it your all and focus intently.

 

“Learn patience,” I was always told. Writers are told this as well. (Who has time for that?) Then one day someone explained, “When you ask for more patience, you’ll be given more opportunities to practice patience.” Images of standing in line at the post office danced in my head.

 

And then it clicked. I don’t want to be a patient person, I was born to be FAST. We’ve all been told there’s something wrong with us, and some aspects do need improvement, but they are still gifts. Why would we be born this way just to “fix it?”

 

What tendencies do you have that can be appreciated and enhanced in your life? Whatever your nature is, stop fighting it. As a writer, find a way to see the gifts in it and make it work for you. This is what improved my writing (and can improve yours too) FAST.

My #1 Powerful Writing Secret

If you are writing a memoir or writing your own personal story for your non-fiction book, your website, your speeches, teleseminars, radio shows or other interviews, you need to know how to write a compelling story that makes readers think, “She has been where I am, so I trust her to lead me.”

 

My #1 secret that I give to my clients who are writing memoirs (or writing anything) is to read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I’d heard about it twice, maybe three times, until I was invited to a dinner and the hostess actually put it in my hands. As someone once told me, “If you hear about it twice, do you really have to wait or the Universe to give you a third hint?”

 

Why do I like this book so much? First of all, it’s a “We’re in, we’re out, nobody gets hurt approach.” It’s clean, it’s spare, it’s all in there.

 

When Walls writes a chapter, they can almost stand on their own, they are all such little gems. Of course it’s chronological, but Walls seems to use my method of getting into the feeling state, the emotionality for each chapter, but she still writes with economy. There’s the innocent small Jeannette and then the older Jeannette, and it’s just marvelous to see the stars in her eyes as small Jeannette when she beholds her father as his “favorite” and then later in life when she knows who he really is.

1. The author does not comment on what happens to her, she simply reports it. Show don’t Tell. Only toward the end do you see her anger boiling at her parents. Extremely effective technique!

 

2. What a story! It’s amazing to me that the writer was ashamed and embarrassed about her upbringing. Her parents were neglectful to the point of being off their rockers. Walls was a CNN gossip columnist, living with a well-off husband in NYC, in a cab going to a party when she spied her mother dumpster diving. Recognizing the irony of getting people to spill their own secrets and gossip, she decided to come clean and tell the story of her growing-up years with parents who never put their children before themselves. (So grateful that most parents do.) It makes me believe there are many other writers out there thinking, “I’m too ashamed to tell my story,” or “Who would believe me or care?” when they actually have a story as dynamite as Walls’s story. (Do YOU?)

 

3. I was stricken by a remark from one of my friends whose childhood was 1000 times more horrifying than Walls’s was. (Truly the worst I’ve ever heard.) We were discussing why the father in The Glass Castle trashed a beautiful house given to the family on a temperate climate, only to move to a cold impoverished place with little opportunity, no running water and no heat. My friend said, “Because that’s what he felt he deserved.” It was the perfect response because by the law of resonance and the law of attraction, he didn’t feel worthy, so he destroyed opportunity after opportunity due to the unhealed parts inside himself.

 

4. The prose is stellar. Really fantastic writing.

 

Give yourself a gift: read this book! It’s a course in memoir writing itself.

Deepen Your Story, Touch More People

When we read a novel or watch a movie, there are certain scenes we can’t wait to get to and savor when they happen. These are the BIG MOMENTS. There have been films where we wait almost two hours before we see the couple get together.

 

Big moments occur whether you are writing a memoir or a business book. In a memoir you are highlighting an aspect of your personal story with themes of empowerment, finding love, growing up, getting through an ordeal, or searching for something.

 

In a business book, you need to tell your story to assure your readers that you’re the one who can help them achieve their goals.

 

In all of these scenarios, there is something deeper—basic wishes we all have. Making money can mean being appreciated and respected or proving to oneself that you are worthy or smart. Or it can mean having security and peace of mind, or allowing yourself the time, resources and space for passionate pursuits.

 

In all these, there is a deeper wish. Being appreciated means getting acknowledgement or love from others—but the love really starts with yourself. Having security and peace of mind is really created IN the mind, not with money. However allowing yourself the time and resources for a passionate pursuit (or having the passionate pursuit MAKE money) START with the passion and the love first.

 

So going up the chain of enlightenment to a higher outcome (and a better book) reasonably would start with the theme first. To create a memoir or even a business story with impact, start with the deeper wish.

 

Discovering that Christmas doesn’t come “in a box,” as the Whos down in Whoville find out when the Grinch steals their Christmas gifts, and the love George receives when his savings and loan is rescued by the townspeople in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” are BIG MOMENTS. At Christmas, these heartfelt sentiments flow freely, yet they are at the heart of every good, wise spiritual story, because the Whos know what Christmas is really about, and the townspeople can feel how wide George’s heart is, even if George can’t.

 

My work is about getting writers to connect with their own emotions so they can touch their readers. Your homework is to start with your themes. Then find those “high notes,” the ones everybody keeps turning the pages to read or sits in the dark for two hours to finally see, and write these first. This is a sure way to keep you focused on what is important in your story, and all the other events will fall in line to illustrate these pivotal universal heart-based higher themes.

 

And if you’re not ready to start your book? Try it with your story in one or two pages, then, as a holiday gift to yourself rewrite every pain or disappointment from the perspective of the gift you received from it. There, that’s the synopsis of your engaging spiritual story (which will instantly reorganize the molecules in your world into a more positive outcome).

 

Happy Holidays indeed.

The Sexes are Unequal in this Respect!

When I worked in New York City years ago, I got cornered in the elevator one day by my Italian, pinstriped, shiny-shoed boss who asked me why I was reading a men’s magazine. “Because I like the writing,” I replied. The “you are one bizarre chick” gaze did not leave his face, but it got me wondering about the state of magazines, and I’m still wondering …

 

Men’s magazines continue to eschew the self-consciousness that women’s magazines have. They’ll have stories by some goofball guy doing silly goofball guy stuff, with no apologies. The sartorial columns are witty and hilarious when no one would expect the column about “what to wear where” to be—just for the fun of it—fun.

 

Not so with women’s magazines which seem bent on self-improvement. Unless you’re reading a fashion magazine filled with clothes, makeup and hair tips (which still assume you need an upgrade), some mags are quite rigorous in their assignments, while mainstream mags make me feel like an alien. As another old boss would say, “You’re not the demographic!”

 

Oprah has Martha Beck, who is brilliant but still wants you to get your life in figured out already, Suze Orman to fix your finances and Dr. Phil to answer your tough questions about life. While not giving you the latest lunges for your thighs, they are certainly bent on whipping your psyche into shape.

 

Woman’s Day, by contrast, has articles on mammograms and breast cancer and their piece on healthy drinks includes artificial sweeteners (blech) as well as the obligatory scary but inedible Halloween food.

 

The ads, though, did make me crack a smile. Who wouldn’t want a bracelet with two intersecting hearts monogrammed with “Dear Granddaughter, you are always in my Heart,” the freakiest wrinkled brown baby monkey with wispy hair (hand-applied, they brag) wearing a onesie, called “Baby Babu–the most lifelike simian ever!” Not to mention an “I Love Lucy” Vitameatavegamin Doll (who talks), in a 14-inch poseable body.

 

I remember reading the cover of a women’s mag that said, “Don’t forget about those fruit juice calories!” Thanks for the guilt and another thing to worry about!

 

While it may be hard to find a women’s magazine that can help you escape and just enjoy yourself, I’ll occasionally pick up some men’s mags or read some Nick Tosches pieces in Vanity Fair for inventive and amusing wordplay that says, “Forget about those fruit juice calories and spend some time with me. Relax, you’re okay just as you are.”

4 Easy Fixes that Will Make Your Writing Shine

I am The Book Nurturer, a ghostwriter and editor, so when I see common mistakes in manuscripts and books by major publishing houses it frustrates me because they are so easy to fix. I believe you can train your brain NOW. Awareness is everything! Once we’re clued in, we can avoid them before they are committed to paper.

 

1. Using the same adjective in close proximity.

 

I find published books using an adjective and then using the same exact same adjective in the next sentence. This is all right once in a while and can actually be used creatively for emphasis, but used over and over, I think, “Where was the editor?” Doreen Virtue and Philippa Gregory do this all the time. Find another descriptor!

 

2. Using words that are essentially meaningless and using them too much.

 

I’m editing a manuscript now where the writer uses “nice” quite a bit. Nice is one of those adjectives that doesn’t really mean much unless you say it sarcastically. You can use nice to describe a person, a drink, a cat, a house, a job . . . which renders it pretty much useless doesn’t it? It’s lazy writing. Reach for a different more accurate and evocative word.

 

Ditto for: “really” and “very.”

 

J.I. Rodale’s Synonym Finder is the best thesaurus on the planet. You don’t want your writing to sound overly highbrow, fake or as if you obviously used a thesaurus, but you do need to give it some flavor.

 

3. Misspellings in published books.

 

Editing is a meticulous job that requires mental energy, focus and concentration. If you’re editing your own writing, hire someone to copyedit it so they can see what you cannot see. Your eyes have looked at the material so many times they have glazed over. I counted seven misspellings in a mid-list book by a mid-sized house. More and more books are being published with errors. Spell check is not enough. It will okay “their” and “there” when you mean “they’re,” right? Take pride in your craft and spend the money for a professional editor or proofreader.

 

4. Leaving too much in and being too attached to your writing.

 

Philippa, here we go again. When I read The Other Boleyn Girl, I thought, this book could have been cut by 60 pages or more. Granted, she did all that research and didn’t want it to go to waste, but the book labored on an on and became more unbelievable as it continued. She needed a good editor.

 

I sympathize. When I first started writing screenplays, it killed me to cut anything. Hey, that’s my blood spilled upon the page! Now I cut judiciously because I know when I’ve gone on a tangent it detracts from my message. If it’s distracting or confusing, it needs to go. The reader is likely to put the book down when they don’t understand something . . . and may never pick it up again!

The Help—Anatomy of a Good Novel

I just finished reading “The Help” and I was impressed with it on several levels. From the very first chapter, I thought, wow, Kathryn Stockett is writing in dialect and getting away with it! Not too many people aside from Mark Twain can do that. Another thing that impressed me was that she allowed three characters to reveal the story in their own voices. I was enjoying Abilene’s story since it was the first one, and apprehensive when I saw other characters take over the book, but I was able to dive happily into their sections. I was glad Stockett took chances with this device.

 

So there I was, just getting used to our rotating narrators when Stockett diverges to omniscient narrator for the big “Banquet” scene. Now the characters were free from having to overhear other people to get details that moved the story along, and we could roam around the room and see what the other main characters were thinking and saying.

 

I have to give the author credit for not making Hilly, the villain of the book, a complete monster. Even though she is vindictive, she does love her children. People are complex, and I was gratified that she allowed her characters to be a puzzle, with certain behaviors that are not congruent with how they have been pegged.

 

There are so many dramatic, film-able moments—too many to count. Stockett mined this subject matter for believable drama and zingy dialogue that the movies love.

 

Another thing Stockett did that I admired was to create suspense. She set up storylines that I thought would end in a certain way and all my expectations and guesses were wrong. She did not write a predictable novel, she wrote one with well-thought-out characters the reader cared about. Even though some of the things they did were a surprise, they were still in character.

 

Writing a detailed backstory of each character for research allows writers to shape their hopes, fears and their Achilles’ heels. Then we take the journey with them to see whether they have the will to overcome their obstacles. With overwhelming odds stacked against black women in the 60s South, these stories are believable, and, each in their in their own way, triumphant.

The Secret to Keeping a Secret

When you have an idea for a book or story, a big juicy hit that you can’t get out of your head that makes you jaunty and happy when you think of it, you know you have a good thing going. So why spoil it? Keep it to yourself.

 

There are a number of reasons why you should keep your ideas and your writing close to the vest. When you spill the beans, you have opened up your idea to various interpretations. Up until then it was clean, unsullied and pure, and it was yours alone. When you tell someone else your idea, it’s not your precious private idea anymore. And no matter how much you are protecting the integrity of the idea in your head, the comments of others could always be in your head now too.

 

It’s a good idea to incubate your idea alone, and get started writing on it before you tell anyone.

 

There are some exceptions to this concept. When you’re in a writing class and sharing your writing, this can be a great help, as long as it is a supportive class. You also want to be sure you tune in to your inner compass and only take the suggestions that resonate with you. Your idea should be developed enough to withstand criticism, unless you are just throwing out ideas and not too attached to them.

 

One thing that often happens is that people try to connect the dots to something they’ve read or seen that sounds even vaguely familiar to what you’re attempting. The funny thing about writing is that the same theme or concept can be the root of a somber and gut-wrenching tragedy or a rollicking comedy, so it’s important to honor what you’re writing as a work that is completely original.

 

There are so many influences from our culture and thousands of stories we’ve seen in our lives from television episodes alone. So when someone does play with the genre in an inventive way, it’s a shame if they become closed down and conform to convention.

 

At times, however, you may be deluded and have an idea that’s just not going to work or be marketable. In that case, it’s good to know this before you invest too much time. Fortunately, this mostly applies to non-fiction, where it’s prudent to do your homework in advance anyway. In fiction, it’s a big, creative world out there, and when invention connects with an audience, it can connect in a big, big way.

Consciously Writing or Writing with Consciousness?

When writing, it’s always good idea to allow yourself to really let loose, at least in your first draft. When writers talk about the muse, what they are describing is tapping into different states of consciousness that allow them to access information, remembered snippets of how things look, sound, feel, taste and smell, and creative ways of describing things.

 

When you let yourself loose while writing, you can even find yourself creating new words or word combinations that may surprise you. Some creative fiction writers would not pass spell check, and for certain types of writing, this is more than okay–and lots of fun for the reader. After all, Shakespeare created many words in the English language that instantly give you a picture of what he’s conveying, or words that actually sound like what he’s writing about. This is doubly true for him because his plays were meant to be performed and spoken, not read. This is what makes his work so lively.

 

The term consciousness also comes into play in a different way when writing a memoir or even your extended bio. You may be talking about incidents in your life where you did some things unconsciously, or events you had no knowledge about. Perhaps you were young and “stupid.” You could have been naïve. Maybe you were living in a fantasy. Or you knew something was the wrong, but you did it anyway.

 

There could have been situations going on in your home of origin that you were not aware of—relationship issues between your parents that now, as you look back, you can see their emotional state so clearly through the light of maturity and your own adult relationships. As you’re writing, you must make the decision about whether to these issues or incidents through the eyes of the young person who doesn’t know the whole story or to comment on the action from your grander, more informed and evolved point of view.

 

The same goes for writing fiction—it’s important to be aware of what the protagonist knows and what they don’t know, as it can foster suspense and get the reader involved by thinking, “Don’t go up those stairs!” or “Stop being so trusting!” For suspense or mystery novels, there is a skill to how much information to reveal and when to reveal it, but keep in mind that you can use these devices in a memoir or even the story you tell about yourself professionally. This is a great tool to get readers emotionally involved and rooting for the protagonist—who very well could be you!

Oops I Did It Again! You Never Know Who You’ll Meet at a Book Fair

At Book Expo America in May, I had another “Did anyone ever tell you that you look like Gerard Depardieu?” moment. Years ago when I lived in Manhattan, I went to a bar in the Village and chatted about Gerard Depardieu movies with someone who looked quite like him. After a few drinks, I realized I was actually talking to the actor! At the time, I was besotted with “The Return Martin Guerre,” one of the most affecting and romantic films I have ever seen. He was pretty amused.

 

At the book convention, I first visited the booth of Inner Traditions/Bear & Company and joked with the rep that their catalogue specialized in “sex, drugs and aliens,” (albeit in a studious, scientific but New Age-y sort of way, with titles such as Cosmic Detox, Psychedelic Healing and Lost Knowledge of the Ancients).

 

Then I sauntered over to New World Library, the house of Eckhart Tolle, Sanaya Roman, Dan Millman and dream book specialist Robert Moss.

 

My spiritual journey was given a great boost by reading Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization, recommended to me by a man sitting next to me on a train. It was The Secret of its time. “I’ve read many New World Library books over the years,” I mused, “Shakti Gawain and Marc Allen started this company when she was looking for a publisher.” And the “booth rep” said, “I’m Marc Allen!” Marc and I proceeded to have a lively chat.

 

As I looked over their selection, there was no drug, alien or any other discernible theme. “You’ve got quite a diverse group of books here,” I told Marc. He said he chose books he responded to, and if he could get his marketing department behind them so they could sell them, his choices were given the green light.

 

One book he selected was bought because he was so captivated by the way a teacher taught grammar in a Marin County school!

Starting a publishing company so far from New York with no capital 30+ years ago turned out to be an inspired and lucrative decision.

A millionaire several times over, Allen now teaches others how to accomplish the same. He is the author of The Type-Z Guide to Success: A Lazy Person’s Manifesto to Wealth and Fulfillment. (Allowing his heart be his guide helped a lot too.)

 

So often when we think about success, we get revved up with images of stress and competition and climbing our way to the top. But our most effective successes actually come from a relaxed place of calm and connectivity, a place where we can open to the greater part of ourselves, to create, produce and publish the fruit of our wildest imaginations. When we are on this sort of a “roll” things come easy …

 

I was reminded of this when Marc Allen told me the BEA, “I love coming to this convention. It’s not like dealing with the music and film industries, these people are here because they all love books.”

 

Remember Shakti Gawain’s famous “For the highest good of all concerned” corollary to be repeated after affirmations?

 

Well, I did a little digging and found out that Marc Allen has a shorter workweek than most people, allowing plenty of time for his family and his music. Here is Marc’s success affirmation:

 

I am now creating (fill in your desire) in an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way.”

The Future of Publishing

The Future of Books panel at the LA Festival of Books said they really didn’t know what the future of books was, however they were sure of these things:

 

E-books have not been formatted so they look pleasing or are easy to read.

 

Everyone on the panel from a book columnist to an independent book review editor to a publishing consultant to an editor for a traditional publishing house agreed that the e-books purchased for Kindle and iPads look awful.

 

The editor for the traditional publishing house edited on paper with a red pen, not with redlining on the computer. This warmed the cockles of my heart, as I also do the same. Holding the printed text in your hands allows you to catch so many more mistakes and recognize nuances in the writing that need fine-tuning.

 

Even though you can sell an e-book yourself for 99 cents online and become a millionaire, (and your name is Amanda Hocking) when you’re subsequently picked up by a major publisher (a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press) and they’re charging $12.99 for your books, will people still buy them?

 

It may seem as though e-books should be a lot cheaper than bound books, but this is not the case. The marketing, the purchasing and the editing are all done the same way and paper, printing and shipping add negligible costs. But the public perception is that e-books should be cheaper. With Amazon falsely keeping the price down, willing to lose money on books to capture the e-book market, this fosters the perception that e-books not only SHOULD BE cheaper but ARE cheaper. They really are not.

The Book Nurturer Gives Birth!

The Book Nurturer talks with Diane Koziol Krueger, who just published Being Gay Saved My Life, a book edited and nurtured by The Book Nurturer.

   

Rosemary Sneeringer:  What I loved about your book was the spare elegance of the writing. You got right to the heart of some very difficult material and you were willing to delve into your emotions. It must have been a very healing experience.

 

Diane Koziol Krueger:  Finishing my book is another big step forward for me. I “needed” to get it done.

 

Rosemary:  How did you get it published so quickly?

 

Diane:  These days you don’t need a professional agent to get your book published. You do need a good story, an editor and a designer to get any book self-published or otherwise ready for publication. My most recent book, Being Gay Saved My Life: The Art of Moving from Fear to Love, has of all those things.

 

Rosemary:  What did you like about working with The Book Nurturer?

 

Diane:  You helped me keep my story flowing and engaging. With your intuitive help, I was able to get my story out of my head and onto paper. The editing enhanced my message, but allowed my words to be mine.

 

Rosemary:  You drew self-portraits in Being Gay. The text with the art works so well together.

 

Diane:  I needed to draw myself to begin to love myself.

 

Rosemary:  How can people find your book?

 

Diane:  I self-published my book through createspace.com a division of Amazon. You can find my book at:  www.createspace.com/3557355.

 

Createspace is an easy-to-use service with fabulous, “real people” customer support. I was introduced to Createspace when I was hired to be the illustrator and co-creator of Goodnight Just The Same, www.createspace.com/3530872

 

Rosemary:  I know you have extensive experience with art and design. To hold a book with a pleasing layout and design is so important to me and so many other book lovers.

 

Diane:  If you’ve written the story you’ve always wanted to write, there are a few more steps in getting your book printed. Your story must be put into a fully designed and/or illustrated document ready for easy uploading. If you need assistance, check out my self-publishing page at www.contagiousllc.com

 

Rosemary:  Congratulations, Diane.

 

WOW!!! Being Gay Saved My Life is amazing. I devoured it! I am so moved by Diane Koziol Krueger’s coming-out story and her beautiful self-portraits. This heartwarming book will give comfort and hope to those who are not yet out, and inspiration to those who need to know it’s okay to be who you are. ~Kaylee Murphy, LICSW

Autobiography of a Memoir? When the Lines Between Autobiography & Memoir Get Fuzzy

There are several reasons to write a memoir. Many people want to share their experiences to help others. There’s the cautionary tale— don’t do what I did! There’s the transformational tale—through hardships one overcomes, learns who he or she is, and turns out to be a better and more loving person for it. There is the Hollywood memoir (from tawdry and tell-all, to beauty tips), the adventure story, misspent youth, the fish out of water, the grand accomplishment.

 

And then there is Somerset Maugham.

 

When I was in college, I took a course called Autobiography. We read The Confessions of St. Augustine, the first autobiography (written in the third century AD). Lo and behold, so did another friend of mine who took Autobiography at her university. Wastrel, profligate, sinner—her takeaway was that Augustine was egotistical through and through, having to be the worst sinner on earth and then rising to become the brightest of the light. I do remember that his mother, Santa Monica, was forever fretting and praying that her son would see the error of his ways. Augustine did and became quite righteous, condemning those who sewed their wild oats (as he certainly did)!

 

I don’t remember some of the later books we read, but the second one was Grace Abounding written in the 1600s by John Bunyan. Also known as Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. (Quick synopsis:  You can do everything right, be a good, pious, chaste and charitable person, but God still may not pick you out of the Heavenly lineup.) For the first time I learned how harsh Calvinism was, which many say begot our capitalist system.

 

In this class, we had to read an autobiography and write a final paper. I chose Of Human Bondage, regarded as Maugham’s autobiography. This book is about unrequited love. The character of Philip Carey has quite a few life-altering struggles early on that garner our sympathy. I remember young Philip living in Paris, painting with notable artists when his art teacher takes him aside and lets him know that while his technique is good, he will never become a great painter. The teacher explains that he’s doing Philip a favor by telling him this now so he can move on to other things.

 

Why did this little scene have such an influence on me? Could it be my own fears about not being a good enough writer? Could it be that Maugham went on to become the highest-paid writer of the 1930s? Could it be that the role of the mentor is to be honest, not simply supportive?

 

Maugham (1874-1965) prolific playwright, novelist and short story writer, wrote works that became films, including a book I loved called The Razor’s Edge (filmed twice), Rain, The Letter (filmed twice), The Moon and Sixpence (based on the life of painter Paul Gauguin), Being Julia, Up at the Villa, and The Painted Veil (filmed twice), and, of course, Of Human Bondage.

 

Maugham also wrote a book on Aleister Crowley called The Magician. Crowley believed “everything is permitted” in life, leading him into the dark arts, but he seems not to have included the line “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” Maugham spent time writing scripts in Hollywood after WWII broke out in Europe, where he surely met Crowley.

 

The film “Rain” was excellent. I actually liked “The Razor’s Edge” with Bill Murray. “Being Julia” was a trifle. “Of Human Bondage” with Bette Davis is a horrible film, and “The Painted Veil” is a masterpiece. A labor of love by producers Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, Watts actually found love on set with Liev Schrieber, who plays a womanizer. Edward Norton is sublime, as usual. This is a film that deserves the greatest praise, which is: “I cried.”

 

While wildly popular in his day, Maugham is not considered a literary great, writing in the same time period as the experimental modernists William Faulkner, Thomas Mann, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. (Although Of Human Bondage has never been out of print.) However, he was able to communicate emotion and very profound human truths. I found him eminently readable, with his heart in the right place. Hollywood loved “Rain” because it was about morally righteous people with deep moral flaws themselves (otherwise known as hypocrites). The prostitute Sadie Thompson stood in for Hollywood itself.

 

Maugham traveled in India, Southeast Asia, China and the Pacific, telling his most famous tales about the final days of Colonialism in the 1920s and 30s. He and his companion also met many people who shared their stories.

 

In the book Of Human Bondage there are differences between the author and the protagonist. Philip Carey’s clubfoot was Maugham’s stammer. Both were orphans sent away to live with mean-spirited uncles who were church vicars. Maugham lost his mother at age eight, his father two years later. Philip studies medicine (as did Maugham) but Philip becomes a doctor after he gives up painting.

 

While Maugham was studying medicine, he worked among the very poor, a subject he wrote about in his first book, Liza of Lambeth. This was such a success that after five years of study, he left medicine to pursue the writing life. Perhaps there was an inspirational person at his medical school who gave him the “don’t stick with medicine, kid” speech.

 

Maugham mingled with the different classes, men of the cloth, prominent lawyers (his father and three brothers) and, although gay, he married well-to-do American decorator and heiress Syrie Maugham. Their daughter was titled, marrying a lord and becoming Lady Glendevon. He spent his golden years in the French Riviera.

 

In 1938 Maugham wrote: “Fact and fiction are so intermingled in my work that now, looking back on it, I can hardly distinguish one from the other.”

 

And so, following in the tradition of memoir writers who embellish and novelists who are really writing about themselves, but a smarter, wittier, more virtuous (or more dangerous) version, Maugham kept the glue that held his works together—the emotions we all share and experience that keep us coming back to devour his books, novellas, plays and films. And for that I’m grateful.

Connecting With Story

Dr. Mark Goulston, M.D. is a psychiatrist based in Santa Monica with a paid column in the Los Angeles Times. On Sunday, March 6, 2011, he wrote about Peter Guber’s new book, Tell to Win:  Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story. Guber, as you may or may not know, has been a film producer and Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, producing such films as “Rainman,” “Batman,” “Flashdance” and “Midnight Express.”

 

Lately Guber has been hanging around with Tony Robbins. For those of you who are familiar with self-help coaches or mastermind groups, interested in writing books and booking speaking engagements, this material is especially helpful, as Guber has managed to talk about story in a way that is beneficial to both writers and speakers.

 

His emphasis on emotions fits right in with my philosophy. I work directly with writers to connect with their own emotions so they can touch their readers. It’s difficult, but it actually IS cathartic and healing. You must put your emotions on the page; they are the connectors that bind us together as humans, and they motivate, move and transform yours readers. When someone has an experience, they cannot deny it – their feelings and their bodies know it’s real. Telling a great emotional story is the next best thing to actually giving your readers an experience.

 

Goulston is kind enough to give us his version of Guber’s formula, and Lisa Sassevich would be proud, because he has an acronym:  MAGIC. Motivate / Audience / Goal / Interactivity / Content.

 

I’ll mention a few gems here:

 

-Know your intention before trying to get your audience’s attention.

-Let the real you shine through.

-Disrupt the noise running rampant in your listeners’ heads by telling them something that will cause them to go, “Whoa!”

-Put yourself in their shoes and answer “what’s in it for them?”

-Tell them something that will cause them to feel more grateful to you than just thinking you are great.

-Have a call to action. What do you want them to do?

-Engage your listeners’ senses. Make sure that whatever they hear, they see and then feel. Feeling is believing.

-Emotionally transport your audience with your story from where they are to where they’d like to be.

-Tell your story in a way that makes it theirs. The more they see themselves in it, the more they are likely to take action.

-Find content from firsthand experience that they see themselves in, or find someone else’s story that touched you and let people see, hear and feel that you have been touched by it.

Would Your Book Pass the Page99Test.com?

The creators behind www.Page99Test.com say “Rather than judge a book by its cover, turn to page 99 and start reading. That’s the tactic literary types have used for years to decide whether a story is worth reading, and it’s the idea behind Page99Test.”

 

This free website allows both published and unpublished writers to upload excerpts of their books. Readers are asked two questions:

 

Would you turn the page?

How likely would you be to buy the book based on what you just read?

 

Authors get the results of this feedback, and readers can add further comments if they choose. Writers who are still writing their books receive opinions and commentary on their works in progress.

 

Once a reader’s feedback is sent, they receive:

 

The author’s name

The book title

The percentage of readers who bought the book

Where they can buy the book if it has been published

 

Web originators Lance Jones, Joanna Wiebe and Steven Luke feel that “Often authors overwork their first page, but Page99Test.com lets readers get a feel for writing style and voice.”

Which is More Difficult: Fiction, Non-Fiction or Memoirs?

Is it harder to write non-fiction, memoirs or fiction?  The answer depends on many variables.

Fiction

Fiction employs so many talents—imagination, pacing, wordsmithing. Being a wordsmith means not only finding the right words for descriptions, but coming up with word combinations no one has thought of, or words that give readers texture or emotional resonance because they are words that are not often associated with those subjects. Good fiction writers look for new and different ways to phrase a passage instead of using tried-and-true but trite metaphors.

 

Fiction writers must also be conscious of giving enough detail but not so much as to bore the reader; for instance, how much should be said in dialogue and how much should be summed up with, “They chatted for a few moments more . . .” Pacing is vitally important.

 

Writers must select a point of view. Is it from one person’s view of life (first person) or is an omniscient narrator describing the viewpoints and the emotional complexity of many different characters (third person)?

 

For many books such as mysteries or suspense novels, there is the question of where to put hints, and how early to start hinting, i.e. the calculated revealing of information that keeps the reader turning the pages, hungry to find the answers.

 

Pacing is important to give a sense of immediacy, but so is tense. Many writers try to keep sentences in the present tense using active  -ing verbs in order to avoid sentences such as, “She had had a little dog when she was growing up.”

 

Finally, many fiction writers are aware that people learn in different ways. Some are auditory learners. For them, listening to teleseminars or going to lectures cements knowledge into their brains, so describing birds chirping or background music will appeal to these readers. Others are kinesthetic, so giving tactile examples helps, such as a step-by-step explanation of a football play, or how an object feels in someone’s hands – is it light or heavy, is it rough well-worn wood with a rich patina or smooth and cheap new plastic?  Finally there are the visual learners, and description of settings, whether a hiking trail or a posh drawing room, falls under this category. Writers may also add smell and taste to further engage their readers.

 

Non-Fiction

 

Some non-fiction, such as how-to books, business books or biographies, entail research. For a biography, this could mean reading many books and articles about the subject, and interviewing people who knew the person being profiled. Some biographers use fiction devices to give readers a sense of place and atmosphere (both real and emotional atmosphere) with descriptions of the houses where people grew up, or contentious scenes with colleagues, parents or spouses. Biographers may start at birth, or even with the subject’s parents’ or grandparents’ birth. They may also simply concentrate on a significant time period in the subject’s life.

 

Memoir

 

Finally, there is memoir, which not only encompasses fiction and nonfiction skills, but a certain amount of self-reflection and bravery. If someone reveals some very personal, even embarrassing episodes, people would think the author is skilled, inventive and true to life if the book were a novel. In a memoir, the audience now knows a secret about the writer!

 

However an author comes to grips with what to reveal (celeb bios, for instance, often include TMI incidents that grab headlines and get them reviewed in People magazine or Entertainment Weekly), most people have read so many books and seen so many TV shows and movies with people doing illegal, immoral, self-sabotaging or horrifying things that chances are these incidents have a lot more charge for the writer than they will for the reader. Most readers will appreciate a writer’s honesty and be able to relate to the book even more.

The Book That’ll Make You Write YOUR Book

My writing compadres, the hot book to read right now is The War of Art:  Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. I’ve been hearing about this book everywhere lately, even though it was published in 2002. It’s popular in screenwriting circles (the foreword is written by Robert McKee, famous story and script teacher), and now it’s appearing in entrepreneurial circles. It’s a great motivator for writers, painters, athletes, visionaries and people with big goals.

 

Do I agree with everything Pressfield says?  No. Would I have edited it differently?  Yes. Does it contain conclusions I’ve come to in my life already?  Yes, I say again, with grudging admiration. Is it worth reading?  Absolutely.

 

It’s a book that’s packaged well: 162 pages divided into topics, and the topics can be three pages long, but also may not even make up an entire page. In other words, you can read it in a day. People like sections. You can close the book and feel good about finishing 20 sections in 30 minutes, or grab a few doses of inspiration before bed. The layout alone will cheer you on:  Hooray for you, you are one voracious reader!

 

What this book is about is overcoming resistance. The author has so much respect for resistance that he capitalizes it throughout the book. What’s important about this book is that it views the lonely artist as someone who is able to embrace freedom, yet still must tame freedom.

 

It’s easier to go with the herd, and we are tribal in nature, so to embark on a solo journey of creativity with no guarantee of success is to believe that life itself is about growing and evolving.

 

There is a spiritual element to this. We are also endorsing, banking on, trusting our own part in a co-creation that dances with a greater part of ourselves – the muse, inspiration, God—who we hope will show up to the page or to the canvas when we do our craft.

 

To rail against these notions, Pressfield says, is to become a fundamentalist, where old ideas reign supreme and are used to reign in those who will bow to conventions. It’s seen in social norms or religion as a means of control, believing in a great prophet or believing that things were better in the hazy distant past. And it has an enemy, such as Satan or the Western World.

 

There are many quotable portions of this book, but I’ll leave you with just two:

 

“It may be that the human race is not ready for freedom. The air of liberty may be too rarefied for us to breathe. Certainly I wouldn’t be writing this book, on this subject, if living with freedom were easy. The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.”

 

“Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of the Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that the enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”

Shine Your Light This Holiday Season

Everyone has his or her own point of view of the world—no two people see it the same way. As you shed your negativity, your old wounds, stories and baggage, you become more attuned to essential, universal truths and you are able to shine your light more clearly. Judgment falls away the clearer you are, because what you see negatively in the outside world is what is resonating within yourself, so you notice it. These are the negative things you don’t like about yourself.

 

Judgment has a negative connotation. It’s important to see the difference between judgment and discernment—which means recognizing what you don’t like in order to avoid it—which is being smart.

 

As your star shines brighter, more people get to see your reflected light. You become magnetic. At this time of year, when people reflect and connect more, it’s an excellent time to observe what is holding you back from connecting to the world in a more inclusive and joyful way. Pay attention to what is coming up for you and ask yourself if it’s old patterning that you can get rid of.

 

HOLIDAY TIP:  As you go about your holiday parties and family gatherings, here’s a tool I learned from the Berkeley Psychic Institute Classes I took:  Before you greet people verbally, say a silent hello to their spirit. They will feel it. Everyone wants to be acknowledged. Homeless people, the less fortunate, the guy who’s begging at the shopping center, say hello. They are spirits in human form just as you are.

Small Chunk vs. Big Picture People

Listen up, Small Chunk People!  . . . Or why I trade in business books, memoirs and novels and few history books or straight biographies.

 

In a recent EW review of Laura (Seabiscuit) Hillenbrand’s new book Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Benjamin Svetkey writes that Louie Zamperini, still kicking at 93, was “shot down over the Pacific, chased by sharks while floating for more than a month on a raft, and imprisoned in a hellish Japanese POW camp.”

 

At one point he says of the hero, “He was beaten, starved, and forced into slave labor at a salt mine.”

 

He goes on to comment on the writer, saying, “Hillenbrand is a better writer than a lot of historians and biographers. At times her prose even veers toward the poetic. But she’s still a historian, and she gives this story a chronological structure that frankly gets a little plodding (you have to wade through 130 pages of Zamperini’s childhood before his bomber crashes and the plot kicks in).

 

“Also, as inspiring as Zamperini’s tale is, his ordeal isn’t exactly a joy to experience on the page. I occasionally had to give myself a break from the bleakness of his life in the POW camp.”

 

Then Svetkey comes full circle back to the fact that Seabiscuit is a favorite book of many readers:  “All of which makes Unbroken a good book, sometimes even a profound book, but it’s probably not going to be anybody’s favorite book.”

 

And there’s the rub:  do you want to write an accurate, exacting, true-to-life book or do you want an entertaining book?

 

There are memoir writers who distill their life stories to the most salient portions of their lives. Upon reading a conversation between two people, some purists say, “Who can remember exactly what two people said 30 years ago?” They can’t—but they’ll remember the gist of it. You can see where my vote is being cast. I’ll always vote in favor of the memoir that reads like a novel—but stops short of pulling a James Frey, with out-and-out lies as in his A Million Little Pieces.

 

I realize I might get lambasted for catering to small attention span America. But, just as I referenced my friend skipping pages upon pages of description in old novels in my last newsletter, if nobody’s going to read it years from now, what’s the point?

 

I had a friend who would tell stories in this manner, “I picked her up at 12:30—no, maybe it was 12:45–no, no, it had to be 12:30, because it we ended up being a little early . . . yeah, yeah, 12:30.  So anyway we go to this little place on 8th Street—or was it 6th Street?  Anyway, we get there and it’s about 1:30—no, wait a minute, it couldn’t have been 1:30 . . .

 

Steam comes out of my ears, and then my head blows off. WHO CARES? Just get on with the story!  That’s how I feel about small chunkers.

 

Small chunk people (God bless ’em) focus on the details, and, as my friend Kit pointed out, drive Big Picture people crazy. I am a book editor who sees connections, who finds the theme out of the morass of words and seamlessly weaves different threads into a whole cloth, the one who picks the pearls out of the small incidents and strings them together in a cohesive manner.

 

After a recent bout of run-ins with small chunkers, I found myself feeling both grateful and in wonderment that most of the people in my life are Big Picture people. I am thankful for the petite chunkers – the people who make my cabinet doors close perfectly, engineers, bridge builders and those technicians whose advancement in recording devices and computers enhance my life in so many ways. But do I want to hear about the details of what they do?  Sorry, no.

 

That’s the big picture editor’s role—to get the writer into the action, to see the most important parts of their story and to emphasize them, to grab the reader and not let them go. And if you start your book with me early, we can hone in on the big picture and the important scenes to include so you won’t be wasting your time floundering around with incidents that don’t add up and do not fit your theme or story.

 

A book needs to flow along quickly, but still retain the details that anchor it into a real and recognizable world. Writers need an expansive perspective to make their work excellent in the particulars but able to appeal to as universal audience as possible—those people who will say, “I wouldn’t normally read this kind of book about a Swiss Army Knife designer / Toast-R-Oven inventor / O-Ring Wunderkind, but this book was so fascinating, I couldn’t put it down . . .”

 

And there’s a book that comes to mind that’s amusing and affectionate, pitting big and small chunkers together in one big house. It’s called Cheaper By the Dozen, written by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, chronicling the adventures of a family of 12 children with an efficiency expert father being affected by a multitude of changes in the Roaring 20s. It’s filled with scenes of the father calling his children together—as the girls wipe off lipstick and rouge and the boys slide down banisters—while dad checks his stopwatch to see how long it takes them to assemble at the bottom of the stairs.

 

Probably the first huge generation gap of modern times, it’s fun to watch the father struggle with his girls wearing short flapper skirt and bob haircuts tying sheets to the bedpost to slide themselves down into the Model A of their latest beau.

 

(And if you’re wondering:  the movies are no substitute.)

 

All in all, teenagers are the same rebellious creatures, and this fond and funny memoir looks back at a dad who made his unruly brood a fun experiment—as if to say, “Well, I’ve got all these kids, may as well see if 12 kids can as cheap and efficient as three.”  And, in a way that both small and big chunkers can both appreciate—hilarity ensues.

Keeping Your Writing Fresh

Reading an old novel is a culture shock. A friend of mine recently commented that there are pages and pages of description that she flips through and doesn’t read. That’s because they had no photographs, magazines, TV and films, so everything—including how someone looked— had to be meticulously envisioned. Imagine describing the following to someone who has never seen them:  slums, mansions + furnishings, the sea, giraffes, Ebenezer Scrooge and the Headless Horseman.

 

Today we have a shorthand. We can describe someone as looking like a well-known person with a certain celebrity’s body. Or eyes. Or checkbook. Done. In one sentence. Detective novels do this all the time.

 

This shorthand can be a blessing or a curse because you could have a plot that reminds someone of an old “The Good Wife” or “Law and Order” or “Perry Mason.” That’s why readers love to have their expectations challenged, love to be surprised.

 

Here are some ways to keep your writing fresh:

 

1 Make it a game to see how few words you can use – edit to death!

 

2 Find inventive ways to use similes (comparing using the words “like” and “as,” and metaphors (comparing directly).

 

For instance:

 

SIMILE: Her smile was like sunshine in winter, melting hearts of ice.

METAPHOR: Her smile was sunshine in winter the way it melted hearts.

 

3 If you discover a sentence or paragraph you really, really admire, type it out on your computer. Look it over. Study it. What makes it work?  Take it apart. Now try your own sentence in that style or with that wit or grace.

To Write or To Speak?

One of my newsletter readers asked me what I thought about programs promising you’ll write your book in one weekend. My feeling is that any way you can get your book written is great. There are programs to write your book in a weekend, in 90 days and one called Speak to Write.

 

If you can write quickly, you can at least get your book outlined. If you speak into a recorder and then have it transcribed, you will have a first draft. You will, in all of these cases, need to edit, revise and rewrite. For someone who is realistically never going to sit down and write, or does not have the time, this could be a perfect solution—for example, a businessperson writing a business book. Businesspeople are often traveling, putting their brain power into presentations, calculations and sales, so they’ll likely want their books like their drinks at the bar:  just give it to them straight!

 

For novels or beautifully written memoirs that read like a novel, these methods probably won’t work. I find there’s a process from brain to hands where sentences are crafted that make prose sing—these just won’t happen if the words are spoken. The traditional writing process allows you to get into the “writing zone.”  I have even noticed a deeper quality in my own writing when I use a pen and yellow pad vs. typing on the computer.

 

In addition, if your Speak to Write book starts out talky, the book may always remain conversational in tone—and this can be a plus or a minus. All the years I worked at TV industry press tours transcribing human speech, I can tell you that 99.99% of people do not speak in instant sentences. There were a few British actors who spoke very well. The Brits use “sort of” the way we Americans incessantly use  “you know.”  “It was all very sort of complicated, and she was very—well . . . . very sort of angry,” they’ll say when searching for the right word.

 

One producer/director out of the hundreds I’ve transcribed who was an utterly remarkable speaker was PBS documentary maker Ken Burns. Burns spoke in complete sentences that could easily be formed into neat and cogent paragraphs. There was never a “like, you know” or even an “um” or “ah . . . ” to buy time for him to think. His sentences flowed out of his mouth, perfectly crafted and 100% grammatically correct, and—dare I say it— written in language that painted pictures with emotional resonance. His speech was moving, stirring and eloquent. An entire book could be recorded straight from his lips, transcribed and sent to the publisher to be printed immediately.

 

I know that if I read a few paragraphs of a book I enjoy and then sit down at the computer, I can imitate the style of another writer. This can be a blessing or a curse. I shudder to think what would happen if I were to end up at a Speak to Write seminar next to someone trying to write dialect (not to be attempted if you are not Mark Twain) or sandwiched between the next Twilight wannabe and an aspiring juicy Hollywood novelist.

 

There is another secret to the process of writing—and it is THINKING!  When I read Gloria Steinem’s books, I was struck by her writing style. But I also realized that she was an extraordinary thinker, was able to see ordinary things very clearly in new and exciting ways—and she was deeply compassionate. Unfortunately, as we know, most people just talk—and they do not think very much before they do it. So trying to get good prose from these methods is a dicey proposition.

 

The Book Nurturer helps you get into the writing zone quickly, assists you in finding your style, and allows you to come from a place of emotional honesty with your readers. They’ll connect with you because you’re brave enough to put your own emotions on the page. They will respect your honesty and be inspired by your story, especially when you’ve been down and pulled yourself back up again. Best of all, The Book Nurturer offers support when you need it most in your writing process.

NaNoWriMo

Thanks to Newsletter reader Kathryn Cannon for this juicy tidbit:

 

Coming up in November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. If you write 50,000 words from November 1 to November 30, you “Win!”

 

Anytime from November 25 to November 30 send in your novel, have your word count officially verified, and pick up your prize, which is . . . satisfaction that you have written your novel, and a listing on the site as a “Winner!”

 

The website itself, http://www.nanowrimo.org/ is a blast. Every question under the sun is asked and answered, such as “Can I write one word 50,000 times?”  “No.”  “Can I share writing duties with a partner?”  “No.” (But you can with the Script Frenzy event.) “Why 50,000 words? And how do you define ‘novel?'”  “… 50,000 is a difficult but doable goal … the length makes it a short novel. We don’t use the word ‘novella’ because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way ‘novel’ does.”

 

“Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap” the website says, “And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.”  Other advantages include the ability to drink coffee at all hours and talk about the ravages of writing your novel.

 

And yes, you can do any kind of outline or notes to prep for the starting date, but cannot start writing until November 1.

 

But wait, there’s MORE. There’s a FORUM to talk about writing or not writing your novel with other crazy and creative people. That alone would be worth it—connecting with your kind!

 

And the number one question:  has any winner been published? Yes, there is a list of published authors on the site AND a section called “Pep Talks” from famous writers.

 

So, what about those writers I’m encouraging who are writing books to grow their business or a memoir, in other words:  nonfiction. I say, “Go for it.”  Who is going to know what you’re writing is not a novel?  Perhaps you’ll get some good content out of it and make some friends—and I certainly won’t tell!

The Rules for Published Authors

The first rule is that if you have a book as huge as eat pray love – more than three and a half years on the New York Times Bestseller List and more than seven million copies in print, any other book disappointments automatically get cancelled out. It’s the same as “No crying in baseball.”  “No crying over the next book, no matter what.”

 

The second rule demolishes the sophomore slump theory. There really is no sophomore slump. Your first book is the accumulation of YOUR WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE UP TO NOW. So of course it’s going to be jam-packed with 20, 30, 40, 50 years of wisdom and hard-won epiphanies. The second book may take two years to write.

 

Years ago when I lived in NYC, my friend Cynthia enjoyed reading first novels, and I followed suit. One of them was Harriett Doerr’s Stones for Ibarra. Doerr published her first book at 74—a lifetime of compassion, beauty and wonderful insights. Doerr was not your typical older person who was set in her ways—she was the type who kept growing in self-awareness and love for everyone. She was that rare elder who was even cooler than you are. She wrote a beautiful book that has been seared in my memory for decades.

 

So when the record company is waiting for the next CD, Broadway producers are chomping at the bit for the next play or when the publisher is waiting for the next book because you’re under contract, remember that you poured your whole heart, soul and life into your first baby. The well may seem a little dry the second time around. We’ll address that in rule five . . .

 

The third rule is that each book is its own—and your own. Of course there was pressure to write another eat pray love, that’s why Gilbert tore up an entire book she wrote and wrote Committed instead. You can’t write to other people’s expectations, just as you cannot live up to other people’s expectations – you can only be happy with your own—or you’re not living your own life or writing your own book.

 

Starting your book is a huge step. Finishing your book is a gigantic accomplishment. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Decide what you will be truly happy with when the book comes out and the rest will be gravy. (That’s not to say you can’t visualize more, but where is your contentment / personal success point?)

 

Rule number four:  never throw anything away. When you cut from the first book, throw it into a word file. When a good title pops in your head jot it down and throw it into a drawer, into a box you’ve set up, somewhere it can be found and sorted and used some day.

 

Rule five:  inspiration is ongoing, life-giving and never dries up. You only have to tap into it, and if you’re not tapping in, maybe it’s not time. Maybe your tired, maybe you need more life experience, maybe you can skip that chapter and move on to the next one. When it flows again, you’ll be ready to fill yourself up with it. It might happen standing in line at the bank, in a dream, in the shower. Write it down and put it somewhere you can find it again. Especially with dreams – don’t roll over and say “I’ll remember it in the morning, I’m too tired.”  You won’t remember. But if you do roll over and snooze, a new message will come around again – you’ll get a second chance with a new dream with the same message – I promise.

 

Rule number six – the most important rule:  there are no rules. (But there are some pretty good suggestions engineered to keep you sane and happy—and keep you writing.)

Welcome to the Book Nurturer

The first edition of The Book Nurturer Newsletter (www.thebooknurturer.com) finds me at Lake George, New York at the family lake house I visit every summer. With the craziness of the airlines, it took me three days to get here from Boise, ID.

 

My newsletter will be published every other Thursday until I launch weekly, and will vary in content, but I can assure you it will contain information on books, the many components of writing and spirituality.

 

My mission is to help you write your book, no matter what genre – fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, and books to further your business. The Book Nurturer helps you find the heart of your unique story by gently getting you in touch with your own heart and emotions.

 

Writing is viewed as a mysterious creative endeavor where the muse is fickle and writer’s block can thwart you. So it helps to know that I have the tools to remove blocks and get you in the writing zone so you can finish your masterpiece.

 

There are three things I want to accomplish in this uncharacteristically lengthy newsletter. One, I want to show that audacious writers can break the rules. Two, I want you to use everything you’ve got to your advantage – in this case, a love story. Three, I want you to consider that the more you reveal about yourself and your emotions, the more the reader can identify with you and love your book.

 

One Day

 

One thing I love about being on vacation in NY State:  The New York Times in actual newsprint! Thursday, July 15’s “Books of the Times” published an article on One Day by David Nicholls. The book is a British publishing sensation, and reportedly Random House took a gamble by printing the paperback as a Vintage Contemporary. The gamble?  Obscure terms such as “Ceilidh” (Gaelic festivities) and the love affair in question occurring one day each year on St. Swithin’s Day.

 

This made me giggle – one of my Dad’s famous evasive lines was to tell us kids that something would be finished, started or acquired on St. Swithin’s Day.

 

Well, Dad, the secret is out:  St. Swithin’s Day is actually celebrated July 15th, the day the Times article was published. I showed him the article and he laughed.

 

One Day is a 437-page novel in which boy meets and meets and meets girl.

 

It got me thinking about a book I am editing where the couple gets together right away. “Big mistake,” I told the writer by phone from the Boston Airport. (Flight log:  Day three, Four-hour layover).

 

TIP:  Drag the love story out!

 

Anyone who watches TV knows that sexual attraction is a goldmine. Producers started to catch on with one particular show: “Moonlighting.”  But what happened when Maddie and David finally got together?  Goodbye series!

 

TIP:  Love’s early days are so thrilling – when half of the relationship is in your mind, your daydreams and your suddenly-awakened hormones. Remember the electricity of a smile, the brush of his body against yours, the touch of her hand or the “yes, it is going somewhere” first kiss? Use it!

 

The feeling of love makes everything take on an extraordinary sheen because we are allowing love to flow through us and create wonderful and happy occurrences in all aspects of our lives. We are WILLING OURSELVES to see the positive all the time. Anyone who is familiar with Abraham Hicks knows this is their method – put your attention on the positive and positive things will flow to you. But when you fall in love it’s effortless – you don’t have to fight negative thoughts.

 

Love transforms, and it doesn’t have to be from another person, but in our culture, this is the way it most commonly occurs. “Love is the Drug,” sang Roxy Music.

 

I once read a spy novel. Yes, once. The protagonist met, wooed, made love to and married the woo-ee in two pages. (The most awkward two pages I have ever read.)  The author was not comfortable with romance and did it ever show!  The wife was then relegated to ironing his spy shirts and having his spy kids.

 

Rom coms, TV series and publishing empires are built around romance and this guy afforded it two pages!

 

My advice is: streeeetch the love story out!  Let it be additional spice that keeps the pages turning – within reason. Look what a little romance did for the first “Bourne Identity” movie!

 

That said, my 13-year-old niece came to the lake with a school summer reading list. On the list was:  “Anything by Philippa Gregory.” Having slogged through the first half of “The Other Boleyn Girl,” I have to say too much romance can be a killer. There were 200 more pages to go when the other B girl, thrown over for her sister Anne, journeyed alone on her own horse, escaping King Henry VIII’s court unnoticed to visit her bumpkin lover in the country. Preposterous!  The book that amused with courtly machinations and cutthroat parents suddenly became a sodden romance novel with 200 more pages to go. I couldn’t take it anymore it put the book down.

 

But One Day author Nicholls successfully breaks the rules by having this love story span from youth to middle age. He uses the local details to his advantage. Of course this is an asset, Random House!  (Were you not fascinated by life in China in Amy Tan’s works?)  He also includes stunning locales all over the world where the lovers meet once a year. The film version is shooting even as I write.

 

 

 

Catherine, Called Birdy

 

The aforementioned little-known (but surely esteemed) St. Swithin got me thinking of another literary sensation—one for the Junior High set. The book is Catherine, Called Birdy and it was required reading for my nephew when my older sister admitted him to Catholic school in Marin County and threw away the key.

 

She called me up one day in LA and invited me to vacation with them in a condo in Kauai. Hiking in Waimea Canyon, a luau on the condo grounds and snorkeling off the beach were to be had just for the price of a plane ticket.

 

When I got there, I immediately seized Birdy, read the covers and a couple of pages. I was hooked.

 

“Back of the line,” said my brother-in-law. I was to be third to read it, behind he and his lovely wife.

 

This book was a hot commodity among the lapsed-Catholic set! Apparently, it was anyone’s guess whether my nephew would actually read it.

 

Birdy featured the intellectually-curious daughter of an estate-holder in the Middle Ages (you had me at “Middle Ages”) who hangs out with the smart and musical goat boy and is in trouble for thwarting an arranged marriage with a much older man.

 

To keep her reined in, her monk of a brother tells her parents she should keep a journal of her activities—a pious, nice-girl journal. And, being a Catholic girl, she embellishes the dates with a brief account of the saint’s day it falls on.

 

The ensuing entries are peppered with accounts of unmitigated martyrdom such as fingernails being pried off young virtuous saints or miracles so incredible and implausible that I found them hilarious.

 

Kids love a rebel. Kids love humor. Kids love to put themselves in another time period and country. St. Swithin would be proud!

 

Karen Cushman won the Newberry Award for Birdy. She was able to sell her books in bulk to parochial schools because of the historical details. (Plus the Catholic angle.) Perhaps the inclusion of so many saints produced for her a lovely little miracle and nest egg.

 

Summer Reading

 

Summer reading. How I love summer reading!

 

Being at the lake makes me think of other books I enjoyed reading here. A few years ago I read eat, pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert and now the movie version is about to be released. I would have chosen Cate Blanchett for the lead rather than Julia Roberts. Who would you have chosen?

 

I give this book quite a bit of credit for including spirituality in a mainstream work.

 

Another book I absolutely loved was The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Elizabeth Bank. Taking place mostly in New York City, it describes the protagonist’s experiences with love in a lively, witty and fun way—no calculated chick lit here—just great stories. A wonderful, smart summer diversion.

 

Both of these authors reveal their heartaches, insecurities, longings and, finally, the peace they find within themselves. And we can relate!