Monday, January 15, 2018

Writing Through Catastrophe

The lives of writers have always interested me. Long before I even thought about writing stories for publication, I gobbled up biographies of my literary heroes and discovered many lived lives much like everyone else’s. Great highs. Miserable lows.

When I started to write, I began to connect with others, so instead of reading about the lives of writers, I was actually sharing in them. Daily humdrum to catastrophic. Of course, those catastrophic times remain clear in my memory.

The hurricanes that devastated the southern states, wreaked havoc that will have long-lasting effects on everyone who suffered the loss of people and property. Some of my writer friends have vanished from the online scene. They’re taking care of family and working to put their personal lives together. 

During last year fires in California totally upended some writers lives. I know some had to evacuate. Two are still without homes, and they may never return to where they lived before the fires. I still don't know if they lost their work, and I dread asking. 

Illness. Death. Financial loss. All can enter a writer’s life, derail a book, derail a career, derail a writer so that they can’t get the words to come. So how can writers write through catastrophes? How can they recover from their experiences and even turn them into something of value to themselves and others?

When I’ve had run-ins with catastrophe, I asked myself those two questions. Searching for help, I found sports psychologist Lew Hardy’s Catastrophe Model, and suggestions for athletes coping with those times they plunge over the emotional cliff and can’t function--in a writer’s case, that translates to “can’t write.”

His model is complicated, but his suggestions are simple: “Once over the edge, the key to recovery is 1) relaxation, 2) restructuring cognitively and 3) reactivation.”

Focusing on breathing is a simple and easy way to reduce tension and anxiety. When you’re in control of your most basic life function, you can’t be tense. You can’t be anxious. Your level of “emotional arousal” drops. Some use prayer with the same calming, centering effect.

And then there's the idea of having control over at least something. Here's a quote from one of the abstracts (Perceived Control of Anxiety and its Relationship to Self-Confidence and Performance
Sheldon Hanton  & Declan Connaughton) "Symptoms perceived to be under control were interpreted to have facilitative consequences for performance; however, symptoms not under control were viewed as debilitative." As I interpret this, when the bottom of your world drops way, get control of something, anything. That may be enough to help you gain control over something else. One step at a time.

Have you ever come up with these thoughts? This is horrible…I’ll never finish…My career’s over. There’s no use in going on. I have, several times. Hardy’s model suggests this is the time when restructuring the way we think is so crucial. We can use the tried and true mantra, “Dwelling on the negative will only hinder my performance, it does not help.” Or we can find something specific to our writing. “I’ve written good stories before; I can do it again.” Instead of the general and vague, make it very personal. We've just entered a new year. This is a great time to do a recap of what you accomplished in 2017. 

Reactivating is the last step in this process for getting back to optimum performance. It’s a gradual process, not a jump-back-into-the-fray one. Hardy says, “Focus on regaining a rhythm and comfort to your effort. As you settle into a sense of flow, you can increase your intensity and soon be back at that peak level.” Tell yourself, “Just stay calm and write a sentence you love. That’s enough. Tomorrow, do more.”

We all have times when we fall over an emotional cliff and can't perform the way we trained to do. I'm using these steps. They're getting me through one of those falls. What do you do when catastrophes strike? 




Monday, January 8, 2018

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Says, Promote Your Own Way

Today we’re excited to have Carolyn Howard-Johnson as our guest. She has provided us with a dynamite post about promotion, something writers must do, but sometimes dread or simply don't know where to start doing. Carolyn's a savvy, successful promoter who shares her expertise as she has here, but also in her multi-award winning books. More about those below! 


 
A Promote-Your-Own-Way Case Study

Saturday Night Live Writer Uses
Article/Essay Route for Marketing
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
 HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

In the second edition of the flagship book in my multi-award-winning series of books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter, I suggest writing articles and selling them (or giving them away free). It is an especially good way to get exposure for authors who are shy or think they’ll hate marketing but admit they love writing. So I was pleased to see an op-ed piece in the LA Times written by Patricia Marx, former Saturday Night Live writer and a staff writer for The New Yorker.

The little credit at the end of her piece said it was an essay excerpted from her new book Let’s Be Less Stupid: An attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties. She let her Saturday Night Live voice shine throughout the piece and added a sidebar that was a quiz on “how to be brainier.” The essay included a nice byline for her, and the essay was illustrated with a brain-map of the worries we tend to have as our brain ages—in color no less. And it was huge attention getter!

This kind of marketing is pure genius because:

   The piece was a marketing time-saver. Marx didn’t have to write anything she hadn’t already written. She probably only tweaked the excerpt a bit to suit space requirements and maybe added the sidebar.
   She carefully slanted the article to related topics that are in the news right now. Think: Aging population. The fear of Alzheimer’s. Dementia. These are topics news outlets from CNN to the Wall Street Journal are covering these days.
   Her humorous voice immediately captures readers who then want to know more about her expertise and about her personally. Thus, a huge percentage of readers probably do what I did—that is they read through to that little bio/credit line to get that information. (It didn’t include a link, but that is probably because a URL or link goes against the LA Times’s stylebook.) Neve fear. You may not write humor, but I trust you have developed an appealing voice!
   Marx can repeat this particular marketing approach to every paper in the nation. I mean, she has a whole book of chapters and subheads to choose from so she could accommodate papers that require an exclusive.
   If her credentials had not been quite so stellar, she might well have done the same thing submitting guest posts to blogs that may not be quite as hard to impress as the major newspapers. She probably will do that in any case. Stephanie Meyers of Twilight fame used blogs effectively to propel her young adult zombie series to bestseller status.
   And, because this was Op-Ed for a major newspaper, Marx probably got paid and paid pretty well. That money could be put toward a great marketing budget for her book.

You can do the same thing. Yes, you may have to adjust your technique or approach a tad to fit your title, your writing style, and whatever happens to be news in the moment (or you can wait until a topic that complements your book becomes an in-the-moment subject—and I promise if you keep your marketing hat on, you’ll recognize something related to some aspect of your book when it comes up!).

Note: If you write fiction, you can use this technique, too. It will take more thought to find current events related in some way to your fiction, but it’s possible. You may be able to work a quotation from your book (even a longer excerpt) into your op-ed piece or article. Maybe a first-person essay about your writing process or path becoming an author would work just as well.



Carolyn on AMAZON
Nonfiction Bio
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter. TheFrugal Editor, now in its second edition, won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 

The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com

If you would like a sample of one of my first-person essays related to my work with fiction or poetry, e-mail me with your request at HoJoNews@aol.com


 
Order paperback or e-book on AMAZON

Ta da! The Second Edition of 
The Frugal Book Promoter 


How to get nearly free publicity on your own or partnering with your publisher
(Second Edition)

From the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

  • First Edition Awards: Winner USA Book News, coveted Irwin Award
  • Award for Second Edition: USA Book News winner, silver medal from Military Writers Society of America, honored by Global Ebook Awards

ISBN: 9781463743291 Distributors: Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Createspace



 
Thanks, Carolyn. This is great information that all writers can adapt for our own needs. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

#IWSG And the 2017 IWSG Anthology winners are.....

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

January 3 optional question - What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

The awesome co-hosts for the January 3 posting of the IWSG are Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Megan Morgan, Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria!


Thank you for another great year at IWSG and welcome to the new year!
 
***
Today is the exciting announcement of the 2017 IWSG Anthology Contest winners!

Thank you to the awesome IWSG Admins for reading through all of the entries: Alex J. Cavanaugh; Lynda Young; Michelle Wallace; L. Diane Wolfe; Nick Wilford;
JL Campbell; Heather M. Gardner; Pat Hatt; Christine Rains!
 


A HUGE thanks to this year’s official judges:


Elizabeth S. Craig writes cozy mystery series for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently. She curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine Writers Knowledge Base.

Anne Hawkins is a partner in John Hawkins & Associates, Inc., New York. Founded in 1893 by Paul R. Reynolds, it is the oldest literary agency in the country. She works with mainstream literary and commercial fiction, including mystery, suspense, and thrillers and a wide variety of serious non-fiction, particularly history, politics, biography, science, and natural history. A number of her books have gained distinction through award nominations, book-to-film contracts, significant foreign rights sales, major book club selections, or placement on the New York Times bestseller list. Anne Hawkins is a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives.

Candace Havens is the Editorial Director of Covet has written multiple novels for Berkley, Entangled and Harlequin. Her books have received nominations for the RITA’s, Holt Medallion and Write Touch Reader Awards. She is one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists, runs a free online writing workshop, and teaches comprehensive writing class.

Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia's longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998. His qualifications and employment range from horticulture through electronics into literature and communications.

Patricia (Pat) Stoltey is the author of four crime fiction novels published by Five Star/Cengage including a historical mystery called Wishing Caswell Dead (https://www.amazon.com/Wishing-Caswell-Dead-Patricia-Stoltey/dp/1432834401/) (December 2017). She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Sassy Dog, and Katie Cat. To learn more about Patricia and her books, visit her website/blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Mason Canyon had a love of books since childhood encouraged by a mother who loved to read. A 30+year career in journalism fueled her desire to know what a story is all about. Blogging at Thoughts in Progress since 2009 and operating MC Book Tours for over a year. Loves to read and share great stories with others. MC Book Tours


The winners of the 2017 IWSG Anthology Contest: TICK TOCK


Until Release  - Jemi Fraiser

The Tide Waits – Rebecca M. Douglass

Center Lane - Christine Clemetson

One More Minute – Mary Aalgaard

Reset – Tara Tyler

Three O’Clock Execution - S.R. Betler

The Little Girl in the Bayou - J.R. Ferguson

Cypress, Like the Tree - Yolanda Renée

Gussy Saint and the Case of the Missing Coed - C.D. Gallant-King

Special Mention:
Heartless – C. Lee McKenzie



And the grand prize winner: 
A Stitch in Crime – Gwen Gardner  



Congratulations to the winners and to all who entered!

Look for the anthology, Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, late spring, 2018.



Note: Our Special Mention story is for IWSG Admin, C. Lee McKenzie, who did not participate in the reading or judging of any of the entries. Her story made the top ten from the judges and we are honored to include it in the anthology.

***

The next #IWSGPit will be Thursday, January 18, 2018!
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time 


Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On January 18, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.

Many writers have seen their books published from a Twitter pitch - it’s a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents.


***

Are you ready for #theiwsg writing Wednesday posts on Instagram?
Link: https://www.instagram.com/theiwsg/
Join as you can.
Share and Encourage.
Spread the word.