Tag Archives: networking

Laugh! and Get Noticed!

We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other people’s models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.
Shakti Gawain

Writers are fun loving people with countless interests, who love a good joke, and truly are kids at heart. Yet, we can feel overwhelmed when we’re in the public eye at book launches and conventions, or when we approach and agent or publisher. Our effervescent, perfectionist selves, our I-wrote-an-awesome-book selves, crumble in a public spotlight. It’s not about our craft (we work hard at that), or our ability to complete a project, nor is it about putting our literary babies up for criticism (we’ve jumped that hurdle a few times to get the manuscript ready). It’s that we’re perfectionists and we all strive to write the next best seller.

Ah, yes. I had written the perfect pitch and had practiced the perfect delivery. With my perfect pitch in hand, I went to my first convention and encountered a publisher’s representative. What was my book about? he asked me. Well, I was prepared, wasn’t I? I had polished that pitch, memorized it and practiced it until I could recite it anywhere. And then….

… FAILURE! For so many reasons it escaped me (I wasn’t doing dishes, taking out the garbage, reciting it to a blank wall – who knows?).  I rolled my eyes back into my head in an effort to mentally read my perfect pitch and I was suddenly, totally mortified. I had blown the perfect opportunity! Solution? Run? Turn a deeper red? I looked him in the face and laughing, I said, “Now that that’s over, let me tell you what the book is really about.” And so I spoke from the heart all the while laughing inside over how silly I’d been.

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.
Eugene Delacroix

That encounter didn’t get me the sale but I got a great chortle from the publisher and I had a good conversation with him. But most importantly, I learned to laugh at myself and relax. Publishers, agents and book buyers don’t have it easy trying to find the perfect book either. So once you understand that they have as much at stake in the moment as you do, it takes the pressure off needing to be perfect. Besides, you just want an opportunity to submit the manuscript or for prospective readers at your sales table to buy the book to read later. How does laughing at yourself accomplish that?

          Genuine beginnings begin within us, even when they are brought to our attention by external opportunities.
William Bridges

It’s about being true to yourself and sparking a relationship which in turn creates loyalty. Who are we the most loyal to? Those we are most comfortable around, not those who make us feel squeamish. Think of your best friends. You laugh, you discuss, even argue from time to time and you know what’s important or meaningful to them. So it should be with those we are trying to impress. Like with our friends, we need to listen, ask questions, converse and laugh at ourselves and with them. That’s what creates relationships and opportunities, not a perfectly recited pitch.

So, don’t be so hard on yourself. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. View your encounters as if you’re developing a friendship. Ask them what’s important to them. Ask about their interests. Don’t forget to smile. Above all, laugh and relax. But what happens if they aren’t interested in what you’ve written?

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is a reaction, both are transformed.
C.G. Jung

A negative response doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good or whatever the awful thing the voice inside your head is sniping. It simply means it isn’t for them or that you’ve got a bit more work to do to answer their questions. You can choose to address the issue or not. You can choose to purse the relationship or not. But what you can always do is laugh and revel in the wonder of how although we are all the same, we are so different.

I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!
Louise Bogan.

If you’d like to read more great quotes and learn to overcome limiting beliefs and fears that inhibit the creative process (and keep you from laughing), I recommend you read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.

It Takes a Tribe

computer 2


We get it into our head that writing is a solitary art.When we first dreamed of being a writer, who saw themselves as sitting along in a cabin banging on a typewriter? Come on. I see you over there. Put your hand up. You know it’s true.  Okay, put your hand down. If you were really advanced in your dreaming you’d have acknowledged on the edges that at some point other people come into the picture – an agent, a publisher, the reader. But that was way downstream. This whole creative gig. It could be done alone. Right?


It’s time we stopped kidding ourselves.

We lose writers – good writers – every day from the profession because they “go it alone.” While actually putting your butt in a chair and writing will almost always be a solo activity (even in a collaboration you are responsible for writing your part) the path that leads you to your keyboard and beyond is filled with other people. Spouses, significant others, and friends give us support, we may bounce ideas or our outline off them. We confer with experts to ensure our writing is accurate enough to be believable. We work with dozens of people to hone the story, the prose, the cover, the blurb, and all the lovely marketing bits. We need our readers.

But the biggest thing your writing tribe does is keep you going when you are in a low spot.

This past week I was in a low spot. I’d been rejected from two anthologies.   Two of my stories had been rejected from different anthologies.  I was sincerely happy for everyone who made it in but the rejection cut deep. Mostly though, I’ve had some stuff hanging over me for a while and it was coming to a head. I felt so alone. All my husband’s attempts to calm me put me into full-out panic attacks. (Sorry, honey.) So, I did what I’ve never done before. I asked my writing tribe, this tribe, for help. Now, I didn’t really tell them what was happening just that I was going to be facing a ton of adversity in the next 24 hours. The outpouring of support was humbling. Their words of encouragement, thoughts and prayers gave me the strength to go through that trial with grace and a sense of peace. My Tribe had my back. I wouldn’t have come through the crisis without them.

At the same time our Facebook group was discussing another writer the profession had lost because going alone had broken her spirit.  She went so far as to announce the death of her pen name. She didn’t have a support group. It broke many of our hearts. It’s a huge loss.

It shouldn’t have happened.

The advice I’d give my younger writing self? Even more than “don’t listen to your high school English teacher. You absolutely can and did write the story that touched her heart.”? It’s this:

Surround yourself with like minded-people who are going through or have already gone through what you are going through.

With your Tribe you can accomplish anything you work for.

Ask for and accept help. This is not a a  sign of weakness but of strength.

Know you aren’t alone.




Hi! My Name is Nathan, and I’m a Writer!

Several years ago, my company sent me overseas for a few weeks of training. Since I was already enduring the long trans-Atlantic flight, I decided to take some vacation time to make the most of my trip. I booked my flight a week early, and paid out of pocket to delay my connection in Frankfurt. I had been wanting to do a backpacking-via-rail trip for a while, and so I booked a Frankfurt to London round trip in order to take the opportunity to spend 10 days exploring the stretch of the UK between London and Newcastle.

Knowing that one of my friends participated in an study abroad program during college in Newcastle, I asked her what I should do with my few days in the city. She recommended that I take a bus ride up to the gardens at Alnwick. As she told the story, the gardens were created in response to a local student dying from a drug overdose. The city decided to create a poisons section in their local botanical gardens with the intent of educating visitors on the dangers of drugs.

Writing BookshelfMost writers I know are gigantic nerds for trivia and other useless tidbits. I am no exception. Just take a look at the bookshelf I have reserved for my writing references and you’ll see why the idea of a garden devoted to poisons appealed to me. One morning, I made my way to the Newcastle bus terminal, and spent the some time watching the beautiful countryside. Before long, I made to Alnwick. After paying my entrance fee, I spent a couple hours wandering and admiring the gardens.

Eventually, I found the poison gardens, which occupy an open space roughly the size of a small parking lot. Alnwick’s Poisons Garden is sectioned off from the public areas by a heavy, black wrought-iron fence. The only access is a gate that is kept locked at all times and is decorated with skulls and crossbones. Hard to misinterpret the message even if you don’t speak the local language.

As I approached, the tour guide waiting outside the gate informed me that a tour had just begun. When I asked her when the next would be, she smiled and assured me that waiting would not be necessary. She would open the gate and I could simply catch up the tour.

Once inside the gate, the Poisons Garden didn’t appear to be significantly different from the larger public space. There was a small path that meandered through flower beds and the plants were protected by mesh cages to keep people from touching. Otherwise, the deadly plants appeared to be unremarkable. However, I listened to the last three quarters of the tour aptly, taking pictures for reference material, and writing notes as appropriate. Upon leaving the poisons garden, I saw that another group was already forming to start their tour.

In one of my less-than-bright moments, I decided to catch the first quarter of the tour with the new group. As it turned out, each of the three guides gives their own version of the 20 minute tour, and with over 100 plants in the Poisons Garden, there was plenty of material to choose from. Enthusiastic for new information, and not thinking about how it looked to the locals, I decided to join the third tour as well and see what else I could glean.

As I left the gardens for the final time, I found the first two tour guides standing together and casting nervous glances at me. Concerned, I moved close enough to eavesdrop and began digging through my bag. The word “constables” was especially alarming. I did not have the time to be arrested in a foreign country; after all, I had a flight to catch from Newcastle to London the next morning so I could continue on to my company mandated training. Thinking fast, I did the only thing that I could to avoid being arrested.

I walked up to them with a smile on my face and introduced myself.

“Hello,” I said, “my name is Nathan Barra, and I am a writer. I came to the gardens to do some research for a book. Thank you for the tours, they were very informative, but I was hoping that you ladies could clarify a few questions for me.” The two women who had just been looking at me as if I were prone to poisoning the town’s water supply lit up and became passionate about helping me. Turns out, the the information on the tours is nothing compared to what the tour guides will give you if you make friends.

And that, is why I love to be a writer. Yes, there is joy in creating, relaxation that comes from the control of an entire world, and the sense of pride and accomplishment from a completed book. But in the end, writers get to do, and get away with, things a normal person wouldn’t have access to in the name of “research.” I have writer friends who gone on special tours of NASA, have shadowed prison guards, and are on a first name basis with rock stars. All in all, the perks of being a writer are pretty sweet.

This month, you heard from Fictorians and our friends in the writing community about why we love being writers. I hope y’all have new insight into our worlds and some inspiration to pursue your own dreams and craft. Life is only as interesting as you choose to make it. So go out, and make awesome choices.

Where did my “to do” list go, or how do I keep track of everything?


Lost Yet

So those of you who have read our posts over the years know I’m a mommy, writer and lawyer. My husband gets a bit put out that I don’t have “wife” in that list, but he knows I love him so he only snarls a little. It’s endearing. Really. Oh, and  did I also mention we live on a 5 acre horse farm? Anyway, what all that multi-tasking means is I have a lot to do. I mean, A LOT.  A “normal” to-to list across those different roles has over 70 items on it. Lawyers are an odd breed. Hal of us resist change and half of us embrace it. I’ve waffled back and forth between the high and low tech.

I’ve used a paper “to do” list. Often multiple lists would be scattered over my desk. These scraps of paper make for messy desks and the most urgent Post-it Note is always the one you look at last. The fully manual “system” didn’t last long. Then I moved to keeping that same “to do” list in a Word document. It works. Sort of. The problem with a “to do” list “system” is you track the tasks that lead to your goals but not actually your goals. The best thing about the passage of a decade is that technology has dramatically changed. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of organizational tools and goal trackers.  If you lose track of your goals you can’t measure your progress. All motion is not progress.

Someone else is writing about goal setting this month so I’ll just assume you can set them with the help of our upcoming and awesome guest post. Once you know where you are heading you need to set milestones and make sure you hit them.

Here’s what I’m currently using:

https://www.Todolist.com   This is a basic to do list. I use it to keep track of household tasks like laundry. The nice thing about this tool is you can share your lists with anyone. So both Matt (that’s the hubby in case you were wondering) and I can add and take items off it. This tool has greatly helped us coordinate tasks without having to track each other down. We can designate which child is responsible for what task. So Bobby usually gets loading and unloading the dishwasher and Mikey gets vacuuming the  downstairs. Even better once someone is done a task that person can mark it off and see what else is left to do. I’ve found this to be a useful tool for task completion but not goal management.

Pipe Drive, https://app.pipedrive.com/pipeline. I’ve only recently started with this tool. Pipe Drive helps you keep track of “jobs” or “work” in your pipe line. A pipe line is the channel through which your prospective customers flow. Pipe Drive allows you to input an opportunity – say an open call for an anthology -, track how that opportunity moves through  your process and, ultimately whether you won or lost the opportunity. Pipe Drive also allows you to attach a monetary value to the opportunity. Let’s take that anthology again. Submissions are limited to 7000 words and pay is “professional rate” which The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines as 5 cents or more a word.  Let’s assume this anthology pays 5 cents  a word. The maximum value for the opportunity is $350.

By forcing you to put a price to the opportunity Pipe Drive helps you can set priorities. If there is another anthology opportunity with the same deadline paying 6 cents a word for a maximum of 6000 words or $360 and you’re short on time, which opportunity do you pursue? The one with the higher value.

You can use Pipe Drive to track your networking contacts and your conversion rates to  customer or business partner. Pipe Drive also emails me a daily “to do” list based on deadlines I’ve set and my opportunities. Pipe Drive charges a really nominal monthly fee. Seriously , two cups of designer coffee gets you this tool.

My next new favorite tool is InfusionSoft – http://infusionsoft.com. This online tool does amazing things. Ever wonder how to online market to get to your sales goals? Ever wonder if your online or email marketing efforts do you any good? Ever tried managing more than one marketing  campaign at once? Then you NEED InfusionSoft.  It’s new Snap application lets you import business cards directly into the management tool and your phone’s contact list. It has a calendar to keep all your events and templates for certain types of email and electronic (webinars, free consultation, and a host of other) campaigns.  Again, I’ve only started using this tool so my current use barely scratches the surface.

I am using InfusionSoft for my part of the EWomen Succeeding Through Doubt Fear and Crisis book launch in August. InfusionSoft will create a landing page for people to sign up for my bonus “gifts” for pre-purchasing the books. When someone signs up InfusionSoft will capture their email for my mailing list. I’ll also use the system to run the webinar and track who actually attends or doesn’t. InfusionSoft will then auto send a thank you to people who attended and follow-up with the people who missed the presentation. It will send attendees the link to the ebook. Best yet, InfusionSoft will generate the metrics  to tell me if the campaign actually accomplished what I wanted it to. Everything is automated through the software! Less of my time on administrative tasks and more time spent at tasks that earn me money and bring me closer to my goals.

“What are those goals?” you ask.

Like my life I have goals for the different aspects of my life that support a greater goal. One of the reason people introduce me as “not your typical lawyer” is I remember that my calling as a lawyer is to serve my clients. So where am I headed? My boys graduated from college and standing on their own . Minimum of two books published a year. Five paid speaking opportunities a year. A law firm of 10 attorneys and 3-4 staff members. These income streams will give me the opportunity to  provide pro bono assistance to low-income or otherwise disadvantaged groups in setting up their business and making sure they have the legal structure in place to succeed in their callings.