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I was recently talking to a friend of mine about self-marketing.

self-marketing does not require gloves

self-marketing does not require gloves

She readily admitted that she was not strong at self-marketing her book, in fact, when she said the word “self-marketing” a visible shiver went down her body. Too many people see “self-marketing” as being boastful, as something that is icky and not to be touched unless wearing rubber gloves.

Oh not true. So not true.

Self-marketing is a chance for you to share the enthusiasm you have for your work. You don’t have to say that you are the greatest thing that has set foot on the planet earth, but you do have to say that your *idea* is a worthy one, deserving of being looked at.

I love to self-market.

It’s how I got my first egg noticed (I put it up on ebay at a starting price of $729.93 because that’s how much it cost us to get to that first, golden egg.)

It’s how a story about our chicken painting a picture with her feet which was then auctioned off to help a local playground fund got picked up and shared around the world.

It’s how I’ve been interviewed on TV for things I write about.

Basically, I see self-marketing as a way to spread my word to others, in short – it’s a way to teach.

So what can you do to promote your work?

Make it timely
If there is a current event that ties in your subject then use it. Have blackberries just been discovered to contain the elixir to longevity? Then write a press release about that finding and provide a link to your blackberry cookbook published last year and then send it out to every news agency you can.

Figure out how to connect what you’ve done with what’s going on.

Create anniversaries
It’s been six months since your book was published. Have a ½ birthday party and create some buzz by having a give-away or contest. Has your book just come out in paperback – why, have another party! Give people a reason to notice your accomplishments.

Invite others to participate
I recently met Ridley Pearson who was on tour promoting his Kingdom Keepers series. For his last book, he invited fans to submit paragraphs they thought should be in the book. Out of the 55K entries, he and his team chose 60 paragraphs to use in the final book.

Did you see that first number? 55 – thousand, that’s a lot of attention for something that hasn’t even been published yet. Smart guy, that Ridley.

Promote fan fiction on your site or hold a photo contest – just be sure to reward people for their involvement.

Contact any and all publication editors you know and offer to write an article
Editors need content, if you can write about a topic, your work will be considered. Sure, you might not get paid, but you can keep it short and in your bio make sure that you point to your blog, website, and recently published book.

Be sure to include good quality photos with the articles and those editors will become your new best friends.

Get involved in the community
Donate copies of your book for local auctions. Consider teaching a writing workshop. Create a basket of items in your genre (chickens, anyone) for a raffle. Get your work involved in a fund-raiser.

Don’t just stop at donating *things* – join local groups or civic organizations. Word of mouth is an important way to get people interested in what you do. You wouldn’t want to talk only about yourself but, if in my case, the topic of chickens came up, you can bet that I would have something to say on the matter.

Talk, talk, share, and talk some more about your topic and your work, people’s natural interest will do the rest.

 

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

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Everything, absolutely everything must lead to your final conclusion.

This is “rule” I was teaching my Technical Writing students as we were discussing feasibility reports.

If the information is not necessary, don’t include it. If the information is too long (charts, graphs, tables) and takes away from the final message then either remove it or put it an appendix to be looked at later, but take it out of the report.

Never let anything get in the way of your final conclusion that should lead to an action. (A feasibility report usually looks at various scenarios and makes a recommendation on the best one based on presented facts.)

ConclusionWe discussed creating a feasibility report on the college getting a baseball field. First we brainstormed header topics and then put them into a preliminary order. Because most people are uncomfortable with money, the students put the “Cost” section near the bottom.

However, with further discussion they realized that the audience (the President of the College) who would be reading this report would be most interested about how much would it cost and what the return on investment would be. As a class, once they worked it out, the cost section got moved up to the top of the report and some sections that they though were important (School Spirit) fell down to sub-headers, if even that, under other topics.

It’s the same thing with a novel, I told them (also acknowledging that this was not a creative writing class) you need to put the most important information up front. This will be what grabs your reader and it will set the stage for your story to continue.

And then every scene that follows should lead to your final conclusion.

It’s when you add extra information that you bore and confuse your reader, begging them to leave your work. As a writer, you just don’t want to do that.
Writing is writing, I tell my students, oh sure, there are different styles, like Technical Writing which requires specific formatting and chunking of information, but for any message to be clearly made, no matter what style of writing you choose, you still need to be:
• Clear
• Concise
• Writing to your audience, and
• Giving them what they care about

Just like in a feasibility report, if the information is not necessary in your story then don’t include it.

See? In many way, writing is writing – it all follows similar guidelines to make sure you get your point across most effectively.

Hmm, Perhaps my next challenge should be to write a novel using Technical Writing techniques.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

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Due to a recent burst pipe in the attic, I had a change to move a lot of ‘stuff’ around in order to make room for ceiling repairs. It’s been like spring cleaning, but in the dead of winter. I’ve made quite a few discoveries as I’ve sorted into a keep and toss piles.

Common Phrases and Where They Come FromOne of my discoveries is this great little book called Common Phrases and Where They Come From by John Mordock & Myron Korach.

I thought it would be fun to share some snippets of phrases I find myself using – and the history behind them.

I start off with the phrase and how I use it. The bullet points are my summaries of the write-ups within the book.

The phrase “all agog” has me seeing someone with mouth wide open in great surprise. It turns out, I’m not far off.

  • Medical practitioners noticed that when somebody was anticipating a great happy event, their eyes became lustrous and animated. This eye condition became “goggling eyes,” and groups of people stood “with all eyes goggling.” Then, over time, the phrase became “all agog.” (Disappointment resulted in “all aground.”)

I think “apple of my eye” refers to the person/people that one loves or cherishes. Children are usually the apple of their parents’ eyes, right?

  • Long ago, people in the medical field closely studied the pupil of the human eye and concluded it was apple shaped. The pupil became known as “the apple of the eye.” Then, since the eye was considered as vital as life itself, the gallant hero began to call his love interest “the apple of my eye.”

Although not one I’ve used, “bandy with words” strikes a chord with me as a writer. How can a writer not love to play with words?

  • Turns out, it basically means to talk a lot about nothing! It morphed from a game called ‘bandy’ (described a lot like table tennis), where opponents hit a ball back and forth until one of them misses. Bandy = hit and miss. And to people watching the game, it seemed pointless (ooh, my own pun!); so bandy eventually became associated with idle conversation.

As a mystery fan, I enjoy “red herring”s in stories — particularly trying to figure out what clues are false. And it’s quite fun as a writer to add them to my stories.

  • Campaigning politicians spend a lot of time focusing on matters irrelevant to real issues. It was first known as “dragging a red herring across the trail” then got shortened to “red herring”. It was also used to describe scholars using illogical points to try to prove a thesis. And it was also used to (literally) describe criminals who used strong-smelling smoked red herrings to cover their scent as they ran from justice. Bloodhounds eventually had to be trained to tell the difference between true scents, and that of smoked red herring.

These are just 4 small examples of the fun with phrases people have had over time.

This is a fun book to read through.

Isn’t it amazing how some phrases have morphed into what we use them for today? I find it fascinating.

Is there a phrase you’re curious about?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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Once a week I am kidnapped. And I’m actually okay with it.

I have a friend (hi Gina) who is convinced that if I just have the time to write my book that my book will happen.

Good friends like that are kind of awesome. She recognizes that although I have a book with a compelling story, it’s the money projects, the wildfires, and the kids that are *always* put first – meaning that my book languishes. (That’s one reason why the weekend at the Buddhist retreat was so productive – it was a weekend of only writing with no distractions.)

So my friend makes sure that I get to her house, one morning a week from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. and we write, she on her next book and me on my project (working title: A Tick and a Chick – How a deformed chicken helped a mom cope with her son’s chronic Lyme disease.) Oh sure we talk a bit, and we’re always throwing technique questions back and forth, but then we go to separate rooms and we write.  In part, because of her insistence to this schedule I have a 300 page first-draft manuscript.

Yesterday I was going over a hard copy of my draft making notations where more information was needed and where events needed to be put in a different sequence in order to make sense to the reader (even though they made perfect sense to me J ) and I realized that the first 100 pages looks pretty damn good.

I floated out the idea that perhaps I should query an agent and send along those 100 pages.

“Not on your life,” my friend counseled, reminding me that “This has happened before.”

And it has. I’ve had 3 very good literary agents show interest in my project but when they requested a full manuscript, a kid got sick, we had school events, work projects showed up, you know, life happened and with one thing leading to another, interest dropped.

Literary agents want to make the sale – they aren’t particularly keen about sitting around and waiting until the stars line up perfectly in your life.

I console myself by saying that my story has evolved and it wouldn’t have been ready at those junctures, but even I can recognize sour grapes when I see them.

So while it defies every bit of writing advice (never send a completed memoir, just send the first 50 pages) I have to agree with my friend’s logic. If I don’t get it done, chances are, I won’t get it done.

The bar has been set.

My friend wants my book done by January. And with a supporter like this in my back pocket, I’m starting to believe that this may actually happen.

It's all right in here

It’s all right in here

Update from my friend: When she read this post her response was:

“Love your NHWN blog post!! And what’s this may actually happen stuff … it will happen!!!”

Ooooh that one is a task-master!  :-)

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

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I know that a few of you were interested in what exactly happened during the Buddhist Mediation Writing retreat.

IMG_20131005_150539816Friday afternoon, after we had all gotten settled in, we met as a group. The instructor told us the format of the retreat (meditation, writing workshops, writing time, *great* food) and then we went around the room and introduced ourselves.

There were poets, future novelists, those who wrote journals – the common denominator was that they all loved the art and craft of writing.

When it was my turn to introduce myself, I told everyone that I was a writer. I wrote full time for a living. I was what some of them wanted to be.

“Be careful what you wish for,” I told them. I spend my days writing what other people want me to write and as a result I don’t have time to work on the project that *I* really want to get out. If it’s not the editors requesting a story, then it’s my kids who need a ride somewhere,” I whined.

“I never have time to focus on what I want to do.”

This was when the instructor said to me to use this workshop as I felt I needed to. “If you need to go off somewhere and write, go ahead. If you’d rather skip the workshops and meditation feel free. Do what you need to do.”

“Oh no,” I glibly replied, “I’m here for the experience. I’m going to participate in everything.”

Once we had gone around the room, the instructor told us that after dinner we were going to enter into something called “Noble Silence” for the rest of the weekend. That meant no talking.

At all.

Wait. What??????!!!! No one had told me about that part.

As anyone who knows me is aware, that’s one tall order.

But a funny thing happened when we stopped talking (for the record, I didn’t consider Facebook updates “talking”) when I stopped hearing other people’s voices, I started hearing my own.

I sat down at the end of a long dining table and I wrote.

I went to some mediation sessions (I made it to one a day) but I didn’t go to all four. I didn’t even go to the workshops, instead I wrote and wrote and wrote.  Seriously if my butt wasn’t in that chair for writing, then it was in the SUV where  I was sleeping.

People walked through the room, I wrote. Bells rang, calling for meditation, I wrote. The story, my story, that had been hovering on the edges of my mind, *finally* had the freedom to come out. I heard the voices in my head telling me how it was and because of the silence, I was able to feel some of the pain that I had been so careful to stuff into a jar so that it wouldn’t overwhelm me.

My initial wise-guy response to the “Noble silence” was “what’s so noble about silence?”

I had it wrong, by Sunday I realized my query should have been “what is there that’s not noble about silence?”

Between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, I ended up writing 35,000 words. Combined with what I went up with, I now have a 300 page first draft manuscript.

Was it worth it? You betcha’.

Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

My only regret (besides being woken up by the 3 resident roosters at 5:30 a.m.) was that it took a writer’s workshop for me to give myself the permission to write what I wanted to write.

As a writer, I should have embraced that permission all along.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

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Two weeks ago I wrote a post (“In the Company of Writers“) about my journey as a writer over the past ten years. I created a list of the things I have learned, and included the following:

  • Success of others doesn’t diminish your chance of success. It improves it.

Two of the comments questioned that statement, and so I thought I would explain, or try to.

The easy answer is that being around success you learn how people create their “luck”:

  • When you have a friend who gets a story published, you learn about markets, and niches, and submission processes.
  • When you know writers with agents, you hear how they made that happen. You take a look at a query letter that worked, and you learn. You hear stories about rejection, and you take heart. And perhaps you have opportunities to meet agents in the process.
  • When you have a friend who has a book published, you learn by watching her go through the process. You learn about proposals, contracts, deadlines, timelines, editing, copy edits, Goodreads, ARCs, blog tours, book launches, metadata, Amazon rankings, and B&N lists. And you gain knowledge in advance of needing it, which is always helpful.
  • Authors need teams to help them market, and to offer support. So you pass out book marks, drive to signings, and clap loudly at panels. And you find that talking about your friend’s work is easy, and fun. And again, good practice.

Luck requires hard work. Seeing other people navigate the waters of publication, your path may become easier. But probably not. It will just become clearer, and a lot less scary.

But this philosophy is about more than learning. It is about self preservation. There is room enough for everyone, and success is defined a lot of ways. But discontent in the form of “why not me?” creates room for jealousy, which soon turns into full blown envy. And this isn’t a good place for writers to live.

Instead, be happy for the success of others, especially for your friends. Raise a glass over every contract, dance when they get a book deal, weep when they get on a best seller list. Ride on the wake of their success, cheering all the way. If nothing else, it is a lot more fun.

“A rising tide will lift all boats.” — John F Kennedy

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J.A.Hennrikus writes mysteries, and blogs with five friends all in varying stages of launching new series over at Wicked Cozy Authors.

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This Friday I am going to a weekend Buddhist writer’s retreat in northern New Hampshire. This is how the retreat is described:

At the Write Meditation retreat, we will delve into the creative writing process within the context of Buddhist meditation practice and explore how the qualities of mindfulness and compassion can enhance the generative flow of creative writing.

banner-aboutThis retreat has much to do with Listening. . . listening with the heart, mind and senses to what arises from the stillness of our being; listening for the voice and narrative that yearns to be expressed through writing.

We will use techniques and skillful means that help bypass our tendency to inhibit or self-edit the creative impulse and help identify the themes and images we most want to explore in our writing. We will also work with methods for revising and revivifying works in progress.

Sounds nice, right?

Although I’ve been to writer’s days and conferences, where there is a frenetic mishmash between workshops and exhibits, I have never gone to an event that is focused on nothing but writing for an entire weekend.

My biggest complaint about my personal writing is that I never have time for it. There is always a job that pops up or a kid’s soccer game that is out of town, or…. My best intentions always leave me with a blank page and a bit of a pissed-off demeanor.

Hopefully this will address that very issue of time.

So what does one do at a Buddhist retreat? The short answer is anything you want. There is a structure, but you are not obligated to follow it.

You do what you need to do. (That’s kind of how Buddhists roll.)

If, however, you do need some structure, there are meditation (ha, my spell check had corrected that to medication)  sessions –  running from 45 minutes to 1 hours – a few times a day, designated writing times, and even an opportunity to share your writing with others.

I figure that if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this. I’ll be attending all of the meditations (I used to attend a Buddhist meditation group and so for me, sitting for an hour meditating is not as difficult as it sounds) and workshops, while working on my personal writing only (not bringing up any article work) during the dedicated writing sessions. Not sure if I’ll read my material out loud but I’ll certainly go to cheer on others.

I’m also looking forward to the vegetarian meals that will be offered. We’ve all heard that expression “garbage in equals garbage out.”  That applies as much to your physical body as to your imagination and writing soul. Even on my restricted diet, (for Lyme disease) my diet could always use some cleaning up.

Between the meditation and the food, I look forward to the cleaning out of stagnant materials that may be interfering with my writing (really, Wendy?? You can’t find 20 minutes during the week in which to write?)

And in an effort to really experience the retreat, I’ll be sleeping in my car for the weekend.

Yup, my car.

I signed up for the camping option.  There were bunk house and even private room options available (for an added cost) but I figured – in for a penny, in for a pound. I was all ready to set up one of my son’s single person tents on the retreats grounds (several people do this) when I realized that our (very large) SUV is easily the size of any tent (and its water and windproof.) I’m going to put all the seats down and lay out my sleeping bag in the back. I don’t plan on sleeping much and the way I see it, your eyes are closed when you are sleeping so who really cares where you are (And besides, the doors will be locked.) I’m just going to make sure that I have plenty of warm socks, a flashlight with a backup, and a polar fleece liner for my sleeping bag.

I have friends who are mortified that I would even consider doing anything like this retreat (especially the car sleeping part) and who are concerned that I might be falling into a “cult”, (once again, repeat after me Buddhism is not a religion but a philosophy) but, I’m not worried, the way I figure – it’s all about trying new experiences and getting that story.

And this will definitely be an experience.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

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