Monday, June 29, 2009

a much shorter post...

Thanks to Meg over at megs-musings.blogspot for a tip on a great contest. Real Simple's Life's Lessons Contest - essay under 1500 words on when you realized you'd become a grown-up. Deadline 9/7/09. Great prizes.

Sage returns from her travels this week so we'll do the q&a about Writing the Life Poetic sometime next week. I'll confirm a date with her and let you know. I'm shooting for full-moon Tuesday. Seems kind of poetic :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jobs I've Hated, Part One

I once went to work for a man named Lester. I'd tell you his last name but that's also the company name, which unlike Lester, still exists.

I got the job through a temp agency. They said it was a great place to work, and I'd love the people. The next week the rep from the agency called me to get directions to the place, so I'm thinking she had no clue what Lester's place and people were like.

Part of the agreement when accepting employment was to have your photograph taken. I learned why one day when the company president had left his album lying out - It was titled "Ryan's Angels," and contained a photo of every female employee that had come and gone, complete with degrading comments.

There was a "reception" desk, even though nobody ever came to our offices, with an alarm clock stationed dead center. The alarm went off every day at 2:00 p.m., as warning that Lester might show up any time. As soon as he walked in the door I was to take his mail to his car, put it exactly where he wanted it, which was on top of 300 other untouched mail packets still in his car. Then I was to check the gas gage, and if it read less than 3/4 of a tank I was to call the service department at Lester's company next door and have them fill the tank.

Lester never knew my name - he usually had Linda, his assistant, pass the orders: "Find Mr. Mean (not his real name) a mirror for his Navigator that does not say Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear. She said these things with a straight face. One day Linda sent me to Mean's office. He said to go to the vending machine next door and make a list of everything in it. I knew he knew what he wanted. "What are you craving?" I asked. "Just make the list."

I returned with the list and he pulled a wad of bills from his pocket and told me to bring him two candy bars. I tried to get him to keep the money and pay later but he insisted I carry more than I made in a month to buy two treats. I returned with the candy and the wad of money and got instructions to put one of the candy bars in his glove box. I imagined him holding candy bars at different angles to the rear view mirror, studying how close they appeared to be. After worrying about carrying all that money, it was not the money I was accused of taking. Lester forgot he told me to put a candy bar in the car, and accused me of stealing it.

Lester once called from his bathroom, while doing his business and looking at a magazine ad for a watch. He wanted one like it, and today. When he wanted to talk to his wife, who was at home with him, he called and told us to get his wife on the phone. If he wanted to speak to his daughter who ran the company next door, he called and told us to get her on the phone. Need I tell you that every call also had to be recorded?

Thanksgiving came, and my child became emergency room ill. Her little neck was swollen wider than my hips, she had a fever, and she hurt. After numerous physicians looked at her, they sent us home with no diagnosis, but told me to make sure she had no activity whatsoever until she got treatment with her regular doctor on Monday, as if this were mono related, she could "bleed out". While anxiously waiting for Monday I called a coworker to give a heads up that I'd be absent. Before the doctor's office opened Monday morning Linda called: "Too bad you won't get paid for the holiday since you're missing the day after. Company rules."

After my daughter's recovery, I wrote a letter to management, enclosing a copy of the "rules" along with proof of the medical emergency that kept me from cataloging candy bars and shopping online, for a fool with too much money. It was determined that an error had occurred and I was promptly paid for the holiday. Suddenly there was a need to change my hours, requiring I stay in the office (alone) until 6:00 p.m. every Friday, in case Lester needed something.

Lester didn't need anything, but I did. The following Monday morning I called in done, and joined the other angels in the album.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I can't stop browsing craigslist. I'm also a stickler for proper spelling. This is a very bad combination.

Usually I just giggle and move on when I see listings for "rod" iron, or "chester" drawers (or draws) but the other day, after seeing more ads for dinning tables than I could stand (I quit counting at 54), I snapped.

In a maniacal outburst brought on by menopause and caffeine and people who can't be bothered with spellcheck, I clicked on "Create New Post." I knew this was a CL rule breaker - you can't post an ad just to complain about another - but I was out of control.

I frantically typed my opinion of dinning, dinning, and more dinning, while trying to be helpful by explaining that you dine in your dining room on your dining table at dinner time. I hit the post key with no concern whatsoever for the feelings of those who can't spell. They certainly had not considered my feelings before posting their dinning tables.

Soon the emails started arriving from those who wanted to thank me for saying what they, too think but didn't have the hormonal/caffeine malfunction to say. I went to bed.

The first email of the next morning informed me that my post had been flagged and removed. The CL furniture section still had comments though, and lots of them, from people who wanted to share the typos and misrepresentations that make them crazy. My favorites were Amish Maid China Cabinet, and Queen Mattress with One Night Stand.

One post said that I am a very mean person, but they hoped I had a blessed day anyway.

The final note was from another CL addict, recommending I visit a blog called yousuckcraigslist. Now when I feel the urge to correct those wacky missppellersss, I can just visit that blog and laugh.

It was a blessed day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Baby is 21

Remember when we played "I love you more than...
and it was always something like Diarrhea! or All my other children! or Pilonidal Abscess! Or Ruptured Appendix!

I love you more than everything.

Happy Happy Birthday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tell me a story has all sorts of writing contests. There are entry fees, but the prizes are big. They usually have a weekly puzzle, but the most recent was a contest for best six-word story. I haven't had time for much serious writing effort outside my current class, but six words? I couldn't resist. It turned out to be a great writing exercise. If you can think up six words for a story, those six words can get your muse moving toward 600 or 6000.

My six-word story: I could not tolerate his thinking.

A contest winner? Probably not. A longer story waiting to be written? Yep.

What's your six-word story?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thanks For Playing!

I don't know about you, but the chat with Christina was fun and educational for me. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read and write. Since I have no idea how to do those random computer draws (did you know your computer can do that?), I'll bring the names and the hat with me to writers' group and let someone else draw.

Now for my gripe of the day. When I go to a book store because I want to buy a book, it irritates me when they don't have the book I want. Of course they can get it, but I don't want it in about a week, I want it now! After getting online and then making numerous phone calls, there are 3 copies of Get Known in the midwest, none of them being a reasonable driving distance from my home. I'm on a mission to fix this. But in the meantime, I'll just order them from Amazon, and the lucky winner will have to delight in anticipation for a few more days.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Welcome Christina Katz

I'm proud to say that my blog post today is an interview with author Christina Katz. She's not only livin' the writer dream, but can teach us all more than a thing or two about livin' it too. Please check out the interview, and feel free to post questions for Christina in the comment section. Because I'm so excited over Christina sharing, I'm going to share too! I'll draw a name at random from those who post comments/questions and the winner will get their very own copy of Get Known Before the Book Deal. YAY! I hope I win... OH wait...

An Interview with Christina Katz

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform "for fun" seven years ago and ended up on "Good Morning America." Christina teaches e-courses on platform development and writing nonfiction for publication. Her students are published in national magazines and land agents and book deals. Christina has been encouraging reluctant platform builders via her e-zines for five years, has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. A popular speaker at writing conferences, writing programs, libraries, and bookstores, she hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon. She is also the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books).

Q: What is a platform?

CK: Long story short: Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform.

A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Get Known explains in plain English, without buzzwords, how any writer can stand out from the crowd of other writers and get the book deal. The book clears an easy-to-follow path through a formerly confusing forest of ideas so any writer can do the necessary platform development they need to do.

Q: Why is platform development important for writers today?

CK: Learning about and working on a solid platform plan gives writers an edge. Agents and editors have known this for years and have been looking for platform-strong writers and getting them book deals. But from the writer’s point-of-view, there has not been enough information on platform development to help unprepared writers put their best platform forward.

Now suddenly, there is a flood of information on platform, not all necessarily comprehensive, useful or well organized for folks who don’t have a platform yet. Writers can promote themselves in a gradual, grounded manner without feeling like they are selling out. I do it, I teach other writers to do it, I write about it on an ongoing basis, and I encourage all writers to heed the trend. And hopefully, I communicate how in a practical, step-by-step manner that can serve any writer. Because ultimately, before you actively begin promoting yourself, platform development is an inside job requiring concentration, thoughtfulness and a consideration of personal values.

Q: How did you come to write Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: I already had a lot of momentum going when I got the deal for a very specific audience. I wrote a column on the topic for the Willamette Writer’s newsletter. Then I started speaking on platform. When I gave my presentation, "Get Known Before the Book Deal," at the Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference in May 2007, Phil Sexton, one of my publisher’s sales guys, saw it and suggested making the concept into a book. Coincidentally, I was trying to come up with an idea for my second book at that time and had just struck out with what I thought were my three best ideas. My editor, Jane Friedman agreed with Phil. That was two votes from people sitting on the pub board. They converted the others with the help of my proposal, and Get Known got the green light.

Q: Why was a book on platform development needed?

CK: Writers often underestimate how important platform is and they often don’t leverage the platform they already have enough. At every conference I presented, I took polls and found that about 50 percent of attendees expressed a desire for a clearer understanding of platform. Some were completely in the dark about it, even though they were attending a conference in hopes of landing a book deal. Since book deals are granted based largely on the impressiveness of a writer’s platform, I noticed a communication gap that needed to be addressed.

My intention was that Get Known would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference, and that it would increase any writer’s chances of landing a book deal whether they pitched in-person or by query. As I wrote the book, I saw online how this type of information was being offered as "insider secrets" at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can even ask your library to order it and read it for free.

Q: What is the key idea behind Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: Getting known doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take an in-depth understanding of platform, and then the investment of time, skills and consistent effort to build one. Marketing experience and technological expertise are also not necessary. I show how to avoid the biggest time and money-waster, which is not understanding who your platform is for and why – and hopefully save writers from the confusion and inertia that can result from either information overload or not taking the big picture into account before they jump into writing for traditional publication.

Often writers with weak platforms are over-confident that they can impress agents and editors, while others with decent platforms are under-confident or aren’t stressing their platform-strength enough. Writers have to wear so many hats these days, we can use all the help we can get. Platform development is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Anyone can do it, but most don’t or won’t because they either don’t understand what is being asked for, or they haven’t overcome their own resistance to the idea. Get Known offers a concrete plan that can help any writer make gains in the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive publishing landscape.

Q: What is the structure of the book and why did you choose it?

CK: Writer Mama was written in small, easy-to-digest chunks so busy new moms could stick it in a diaper bag and read it in the nooks and crannies of the day. Get Known is a bit more prosaic, especially in the early chapters. Most of the platform books already out there were only for authors, not writers or aspiring authors. To make platform evolution easy to comprehend, I had to dial the concepts back to the beginning and talk about what it’s like to try and find your place in the world as an author way before you’ve signed a contract, even before you’ve written a book proposal. No one had done that before in a book for writers. I felt writers needed a context in which to chart a course towards platform development that would not be completely overwhelming.

Introducing platform concepts to writers gives them the key information they need to succeed at pitching an agent either via query or in-person, making this a good book for a writer to read before writing a book proposal. Get Known has three sections: section one is mostly stories and cautionary tales, section two has a lot of to-do lists any writer should be able to use, and section three is how to articulate your platform clearly and concisely so you won’t waste a single minute wondering if you are on the right track.

Q: At the front of Get Known, you discuss four phases of the authoring process. What are they?

CK: First comes the platform development and building phase. Second comes the book proposal development phase (or if you are writing fiction, the book-writing phase). Third, comes the actual writing of the book (for fiction writers this is likely the re-writing of the book). And finally, once the book is published, comes the book marketing and promoting phase.

Many first-time authors scramble once they get a book deal if they haven’t done a thorough job on the platform development phase. Writers who already have a platform have influence with a fan base, and they can leverage that influence no matter what kind of book they write. Writing a book is a lot easier if you are not struggling to find readers for the book at the same time. Again, agents and editors have known this for a long time.

Q: What are some common platform mistakes writers make?

CK: Here are a few:
They don’t spend time clarifying who they are to others.
They don’t zoom in specifically on what they offer.
They confuse socializing with platform development.
They think about themselves too much and their audience not enough.
They don’t precisely articulate all they offer so others get it immediately.
They don’t create a plan before they jump online.
They undervalue the platform they already have.
They are overconfident and think they have a solid platform when they have only made a beginning.
They become exhausted from trying to figure out platform as they go.
They pay for "insider secrets" instead of trusting their own instincts.
They blog like crazy for six months and then look at their bank accounts and abandon the process as going nowhere.

I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say that many writers promise publishers they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver.

My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them. Get Known shows writers of every stripe how to become the writer who can not only land a book deal, but also influence future readers to plunk down ten or twenty bucks to purchase their book. It all starts with a little preparation and planning. The rest unfolds from there.

Q: Couldn’t any author have written this book? Why you?

CK: I have built a career over the past decade empowering writers. I’ve developed and built my own platform as a writing-for-traditional-publication specialist, and I’ve worked with others as a writing and platform-development instructor. Many of the people I’ve been working with are landing book deals and while the other hundred-or-so writers I work with a year are developing their skills, I notice patterns of behavior—what leads to success, where writers get stuck, and how I can be helpful in these rapidly changing times in the industry.

I’ve witnessed too many writers, who were off to a great start, hopping online and quickly becoming very lost. I started to write about platform in Writer Mama, How To Raise A Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, but I quickly noticed that more details on platform development were desperately needed. My platform is based on helping others. I have a vested interest in seeing the people I work with—and those who read my book—succeed. Writers are my tribe.

Thanks Christina - writers are my tribe too!