May 31, 2011

Sprint to the Beginning

May 31st!!! We made it through 31 straight days of blogging, a challenge we accepted from Michelle Rafter's WordCount Blogathon. Michelle often referred to the task as a marathon (thus the term Blogathon), and I couldn't agree more.

My family lived in Superior, Colorado until November 2010 when we moved to Maryland for my husband's job. It was a sad day for all of us. We loved the community and beauty in Colorado. My oldest daughter was heading into fifth grade and had some opinions about leaving the friends she had been with since first grade. We made plans to come back Memorial Day weekend to visit with her graduating friends (all heading into middle school!) and to see our Colorado family. Bittersweet.

As part of our trip, I ran the Bolder Boulder 10K (along with 54,000 other people). I love this race and ran it three times when I lived here, but they went and changed the course for the first time in the race's thirty-two year history. For fun, they added more hills. Plus, I trained at sea level (people from CO love wearing t-shirts that say "Sea Level is for Sissies").

The Unversity of Colorado's Folsom Field (finish line)

I ran the race with two of my girlfriends, Kelly and Sara. They were wonderful running partners. When I said I needed to walk for a second to breathe, they were gracious knowing I was readjusting to altitude (the summit of the race was just shy of 6,000 feet above sea level). At the end, I was in desperate need of some Motrin, but felt exhilarated and proud.


Kelly Smith, Sara Jensen and me post 6.2 miles

This morning, I realized how much the race reminded me of this blogging adventure. There were moments where mentally I just had to push through and moments I found my stride and felt really good. In addition, I couldn't have made it to the finish without the encouragement of my new blogger friends and Michelle. Even though we cross the finish line today, I know it is only the beginning for this blog!

I already recapped what we learned during Blogathon, although I can't believe I forgot to mention Haiku Day. I dreaded the art of Haiku at first, but it ended up being my favorite Theme Day. Some highlights from our blog's May adventure:

* Guest Blogger, Eden Sterlington, on the Mother-Daughter Bond: simply beautiful and comment-neglected thanks to being my post during the Blogger shutdown.
* Ten Mistakes I Made in My Writing Career so you Don't Have to by Elaine Isaak: great speaker, great information. I included five mistakes I have made to date. I'm sure I'll need to update that before year-end.
* I am Woman, Hear me Roar, for Shoes?: The Chick Lit classification debate.
* Friday Feature: My Favorite Thing I Read this Week and Why: Mom's discovery of Muffin-top syndrome. Hilarious, yet disturbing. A new feature for our blog that Mom and I are both enjoying.
* Interviewing in Character: Krista Interviews Abby: Loved this exercise. A 13 year old character interviewing her mom. Too much fun (yet as the mother of a preteen, it was too close to home).
* What Most Southern Women Love about the "F" Word: Mom discusses the art of flirting (I know, that's not what I was expecting either).

What was your favorite part of May's Blogathon, either as a reader or participant?

May 30, 2011

Wordle, Wordle: We all Love Wordle

Another theme day to get us through thanks to Michelle Rafter of WordCount's Blogathon. The following image was created at Wordle using words from my blog posts. It's pretty cool!


A shout-out to my dear husband who figured out how to take the image from Wordle using Jing to my blog. He has so much more patience for technology than I do.

Looking at the words above, book beat out Kindle and you need love, wonder and allure to see, think and go. Happy Memorial Day to everyone, but especially our military and veterans.

May 29, 2011

Community and Knowledge Go Hand in Hand

When I committed to WordCount Blogathon’s challenge to write a post-a-day-in-May, my goal was to focus on our blog and my writing. After two years of heavy writing for Depression Cookies and a cross-country move, I lost my energy. Now I feel renewed. Initially I was going to set a 500-word-a-day goal for writing starting in June, but now I know I can do much more.
But this knowledge was only the tip of the iceberg. This is my feeble attempt to quantify what I’ve learned:
* How to better define what I want our blog to be: our blog started as a way to promote and discuss our novel, Depression Cookies. Now, thanks to seeing so many wonderfully diverse blogs, I realize Mom and I have so much more to say. We are a mother-daughter team who wrote a mother-daughter book . . . there's a wealth of topics for us to cover.

* Respecting Copyrighted material: Don't get me wrong, I would never steal another's thoughts or hard work for my own use. Still, I didn't get the nuances of using images or "selected pieces" of blog posts. Now I do. When I wanted to pass along some great information from a discussion I attended, I contacted the speaker and asked if I could paraphrase what I learned. She was thrilled and I've formed a bond with her. I wouldn't have thought to contact her before.
From PublicDomainPictures.Net
* Simply ask: I never thought to do guest post exchanges and contact other people for help with my blog! I've found it only improves my blog to have others' thoughts and opinions featured, and I've been astounded at how many people are willing to do this if you just ask.

* Twitter: Before Blogathon, I had only dipped my toe into the pool of Twitter. Basically I signed up kicking and screaming. I’m still a Twitter-newbie, but I’m starting to appreciate what it has to offer.

* Links: It never dawned on me to put links within my posts. Such a rookie mistake.

* Community: I am a better blogger when surrounded by a community of bloggers. You get what you give. I’m updating my Blogs We Love sidebar come June 1 to reflect this new and growing community. I became a better mother when I surrounded myself with mothers, the same has been true of blogging.

Then there’s the invaluable advice I’ve received on Feedburner, Google alerts, blog stats, freelance writing, writing techniques and inspirations, and the list goes on and on.

Thank you Blogathon bloggers and our ring-leader, Michelle Rafter. Although it's been a crash course, I now have reliable sources to use as I continue to learn.

What in your life has been made better by community?

May 28, 2011

What Most Southern Women Love about the “F” Word!

Now that’s a headliner! I bet I get a lot of reaction from this one. But we’ll save that for the comment section. Here’s the real story . . .
I love the South−slower pace, warmer weather, friendly people and tall tales told from the coast to the mountains. The richness of the language could fill reams of binders for entertainment and future writing projects. But there is one area of Southern culture I find waning . . . it’s the “F” word of the South−flirting!
As a young girl, I watched my grandmother charm the britches off a grave digger. Okay, let me clarify this old saying of my grandmother’s. Trust me that woman would come back from the grave to haunt me if I left this one unattended. This catchy little phrase of hers meant you had the wiles to charm anyone who wants to change. Now I know how comedians feel who realize no one got the joke and then had to explain the punch line. YIKES!
My grandmother, Antho Marshall Greer LeMaire, knew the art of flirting. The looks that woman gave, especially when around a male audience, could curl your toes or embarrass the fool out of you. But even while turning red, I watched mesmerized by art in action. Those Silver Screen actresses had nothing on this lady. She mimicked and perfected the many nuances delightfully.
Since returning to my home state of North Carolina, I am appalled at the lack of social flirting. Yes, my precious, there are many types we Southern women have achieved. And before I forget it, the other word Southern women love is the “P” word−Precious. Oh and there’s the “D” word−Darling. Lastly, so we don’t disparage anyone, we love the “GD” word, too−Gorgeous, Darling! It’s just so delicious! I feel like a Designing Woman. Here’s my homage to precious Dixie Carter!
Back to flirting . . . I see plenty of seductive flirting. Walk down the hallways at any middle school or high school and you want to cringe. That’s another kind of art all together which brings to mind all those images Mama said the devil would chew on till you went mad; so, we’ll stop here.
The third kind of flirting, courtship flirting, has flown out the door. Couples have completely forgotten it. I mean, why bother? Today everyone wants a quickie right now. Flirting takes time, energy and practice. And to my humble knowledge doesn’t come on an IPhone, IPad or ITouch. You can’t tweet it, text it or tweak it . . . well, you can vibrate it, can’t you? Oh my.
So what’s wrong? Where’s the playful flirtation. I do believe we are born with it. Look at the picture of my granddaughter, Reagan. It’s a perfect example of flirting. We have it and anyone can do it. Flirting doesn’t require age, beauty or personality type.
Reagan

I grew up with the flirt girls. Examine these . . .
Natalie Wood


Marilyn Monroe

Kim Novak

Now let’s get down to the core of flirting. Here’s your lesson of the day.
1. It’s all in the look: open your eyes, then slightly close them for that smoky effect. Once in a while, pout your lips, but don’t overdo it. Oh, I forgot the shoulder image. Keep your right shoulder edged in slightly toward your chest and lower your chin. People love this one, makes them think you are truly engaged in whatever nonsense they are spouting.
2. It’s pulling out the deep down inside: irresistible humor, coy self-confidence, humbleness with intent (not the mushy kind), and a colorful spirit.
3. Play it, Baby! Go for the fun; it’s the core of flirtation. Draw out the best in someone. Everyone has a story. People need to express themselves. If you nod, it only encourages more. Be your gorgeous self!
Now I know you are thinking, “What’s in this for me?”
Precious, everything is in it for you. Sweetness is the absolute nectar of divas, Southern or not. You might seem to be giving a lot, but darling, you are going to be the recipient of it all. People will seek you out, have you on every intended list and you will feel empowered.
Happy Flirting!
******
Thank you Mom for this wonderful and thought-provoking post. As everyone can imagine, I was beyond terrified when Mom sent me an email asking if she could write a post on why Southern women love the "F" word! And a hint to non-Southerners, if someone in the South ever says "How Nice" it's translated into FU. Or at least that's what I've always been told!
Come on, ladies. Tell us your favorite story where flirting made all the difference.

May 27, 2011

Friday Feature: My Favorite Thing I Read this Week and Why

As we were leaving an event in our neighborhood this week, my middle daughter, Tara, asked me, “Can you write a piece about the advantages of growing older? All I hear are negative remarks.”
She was right. All of us over 60 that greeted her were quite vocal when she asked how we were doing.  We gave it to her straight up, hurling our latest rash of medical problems and procedures without thinking how she would view the information. 
While I didn’t pay too much attention to the rhetoric at the time, I saw it later through her 35 year old eyes and the picture wasn’t attractive. It certainly didn’t give her warm fuzzy feelings about growing older. And, there’s damage in that presentation. It made me ponder the many times I’ve heard our elderly residents say they hadn’t seen their children and grandchildren in weeks, months and sometimes years. Last Friday, I visited the nursing home and saw only a handful of visitors. The picture was disturbing.
When I got home, I rummaged through my files and found one I had put aside: a May 17, 2005 Family Circle article titled, “There’s Still a Girl in There”. I saved it because I wanted to remember what the beautiful ladies featured in the article said about the aging process. What I forgot, and many of us forget, was the overall message.
For you younger folks: We older folks are at a juncture in our lives that is scary and hard to reconcile with. We forget you haven’t been here. It’s like telling a young girl about childbirth. It sounds scary, when in fact, it is beautiful.
We remember all the hustle, bustle and life in your daily lives and we miss it. Oh we say we don’t, but we do. We’ve replaced the joy of little ones with bridge and fall asleep if we sit for too long. And we hurt! The old adage is true: if it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t work.
So here’s some things (paraphrased from the article) the seniors from Damariscotta, Maine wanted to tell the younger folks. I hope it will make us all, young and old alike, more tolerant of our specific places on this journey in life.
1. It’s hard to admit we don’t need help. You need to keep trying to talk to us. Be patient. We are working through our stubbornness just like you are with your children. We will eventually reconcile it all. If not, nudge us with more love.
2. We need time to adjust to change. All the things I used to do are getting harder. I have to let things go, and it’s not easy. Give us time and be patient with us. We’re trying. Respect our decisions, even if they aren’t what you would do with your life. We are changing what we do to accommodate what we can do.
3. Please don’t talk down to us.  “Imagine living a long, rich, productive life only to be spoken to and treated condescendingly in old age by someone decades younger.” It’s like your 10 year old making you look foolish. Be patient.
4. Celebrate our life as seniors. We have many stories in our heart. Don’t ask us how we feel, ask us about who we are, what our dreams are about and how we view life now, seeing it change and modify over many years. And listen. Make us a part of your life and become a part of ours. Sharing generationally allows us to stay connected and less misunderstood.
What do you look forward to when you grow older?

May 26, 2011

Looking for a Good Read: Look No Further than The Blue Virgin

For those of you who don’t know, I also do a book and movie review blog at Mom in Love with Fiction. I started this blog as my first foray into blogging. I’m an avid reader, so reviewing books was a natural progression. I also review books for Rebecca’s Reads.
Marni, or M. K. Graff, is a friend and writer’s group cohort of my mother’s. Mom featured Marni’s co-authored Writing in a Changing World book on our Five Favorite Writing Books blog post. I have it in my pile of books and can’t wait to read and review it at a later time. Most of my reading time has been spent perusing the wonderful Blogathon posts lately.
Marni also sits on the Editorial Board of Bridal Path Press and reviews books at her AuntieMWrites blog. She is multi-talented, and I feel honored to have met her. I’m only beginning to pick her brain for information and hope she will guest blog here soon.
The Blue Virgin is the first of M. K. Graff’s Nora Tierney mysteries (and a little birdie told me she has written a second one due out late 2011 or early 2012). I was hooked from the beginning. Nora Tierney is an American in Oxford sorting out her life. She’s pregnant and recently lost her fiancĂ©, who she’s not sure she even loved, in a plane crash. When her dear friend Val Rogan is suspected of killing her lover, Nora jumps head first into the investigation.
The mysterious death of Bryn Wallace grabs you from the first page. I suspected many characters thanks to Graff’s twists and turns, and I didn’t guess the true killer until near the end, and even then I wasn't sure.  Detective Inspector Declan Barnes heads the investigation and leans toward Val in the beginning but has nagging feelings. And although Nora is closely guarded by friend and want-to-be lover, Simon, there’s a pull toward the detective as well. I’m hoping we meet Nora’s baby and find out more about her love life in Book 2.
Graff does an excellent job maintaining a tight pace; she pulls the reader from page to page while also focusing on character development. You care about these people. After all, what’s a good story if the characters aren’t compelling? And it’s a good who-done-it to boot.
I really don’t want to give too much away, but I recommend all mystery-lovers buy The Blue Virgin. You won’t be sorry you did!

May 25, 2011

A Fantastic Dinner Party with Michelle Rafter as Host

I managed to somehow wrangle an invitation to a month-long dinner party with Michelle Rafter as host. That's how I feel about Blogathon. With the party coming to a close, I hope we'll stay in touch and keep supporting one another. I, for one, do not want to go back to my little pre-Blogathon blog world.

Although I couldn't possibly list ALL the blog posts I've enjoyed recently, I wanted to lift my glass to a few favorites:

BooksYALove: Katy presents "YA books beyond the bestsellers" and had an interesting take on this week's Theme Day with My Favorite Places to Write...About. I commend her for focusing on lesser known works!

RE | GROUP: Kriss, Ruth & Charlsie focus on topics to "help reinvent your professional self ... one week at a time". Their Get to Know Myers Briggs had me obsessing about my ENFJ "The Giver" profile.

wordsxo: Julia Munroe Martin's blog about "words, writing and life" inspired me with her Blog 101 celebrating her 101 posts. I loved looking back through her blog, and it gave me great ideas for future posts. Congrats Julia for 101+ posts!

Writing Pays: I was honored to have Nicky LaMarco guest post here. And I needed the inspiration provided by her Honor Your Vomit post this week. She graciously shares her knowledge about freelance writing day after day.

Lawthenticity Blog: Alison Law's posts have helped fill to overflowing my Blogathon Lessons notebook. This week's favorite was Five Great Social Media Marketing Books. Library, here I come!

The Billiegram: Billie Noakes has an uncanny ability to bring a smile to my face. I've loved so many of her stories, but Inch by Inch is a must-read.

A special birthday shout-out to Liz at Motherlogue! May your birthday bring you many blessings and list-worthy adventures.

Party at my place June 1 and beyond!!

May 24, 2011

Bathtub, Bed, Desk, Outside & In a Car: What Could these Things Possibly have in Common?

Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. Today is a WordCount Blogathon Theme Day. First, let me say thank you to Michelle Rafter at Wordcount for helping ease the burden of daily blogging by giving us some Theme Days to consider. Today's theme is My Top Five Places to Write are . . .

1. My desk in the kitchen: I have my computer, great windows with light surrounding me, and food nearby . . . what more could I want? Might be problematic this summer, however, as my children feed their inner beasts roughly every 15 minutes.


2. The bathtub: I love hot water and bubbles. It relaxes me. Don't worry, I don't have my computer anywhere near, but I have a soggy little notebook and jot down ideas as they come to me.

3. My bed: Confession time: my 6 year old needs my help getting to sleep (sitting next to her and daring not to move is usually sufficient after 3 books). I sit in bed with pad and paper, and sometimes my laptop, and write. I did this the other night until midnight because I was so absorbed. I try not to overuse this method, as I do appreciate sleep.

4. Outside: Whether it's the park or out on my deck, nature and sunshine inspire me. However, bees do not, so I'm often at nature's mercy.

View in Yellowstone from our trip last year
Where I wish I could write outside

5. Sitting in a car: Usually I'm waiting to pick up children, but I hate wasted time and started keeping a notebook in the car. It has proven quite useful.

Where do you like to read or write? Where do you feel inspired?

May 23, 2011

Interviewing in Character: Krista Interviews Abby

Mom and I wanted to do something fun for a Monday, so we decided to have Krista interview Abby as part of a sixth grade English assignment. In Depression Cookies, Krista is the 13 year old daughter and Abby the mother.

Krista: Why did you have three children? I don't remember asking for a brother or a sister.

Abby: And I don't remember needing your approval either.

Krista: Fine. I'm supposed to ask you your favorite memory as a teenager. Do you even remember being a teenager?

Abby: Certainly! Probably playing slap, kiss and hug with your father.

Krista dry-heaves and then continues: That's SO gross. How did you know Dad was the one?

Abby: I didn't at first. We didn't run in the same crowd. But he was cute!

Krista: Enough. When you were my age, what did you want to be? And my teacher is going to want me to ask, Why?

Abby: I wanted to be a teacher. They seemed to have all the answers and my parents seemed to be struggling with all the questions.

Krista: Aha! So you admit parents don't know everything!

Abby: I admit some parents are so steeped in their own problems they can't see the larger picture.

Krista: Um, okay, whatever that means. Last question, because I forgot my paper and can't remember any more, did I mention I need 2 dozen cookies by tomorrow?

Abby: No, but what's new?

A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.
Agatha Christie

May 22, 2011

Hand Gestures Don't Sell Books like a Voice Does


Mom and I both attended our first book festivals yesterday in NC and MD respectively. Mom had a table set up in a lovely, downtown store named Wine & Words, and I enjoyed a sunny day mingling with fellow authors and enthusiastic readers.

But I must explain my title . . . I could feel a head cold coming on mid-day Friday. Power through, I chanted all day. I woke up to a beautiful Saturday, took cold medicine, and headed out at 8am to setup. Pumped up, I started out strong. Good crowds, people interested in talking about our book, and two great booth neighbors pumped me up.

The voice started going about 10:30am (the festival started at 10am), and nice, uncontrollable squeaks and cracks littered my speech. Some found it endearing, especially those who were already smitten with my t-shirt (see picture, thanks Mom!). By noon, it was all I could do to project my voice over the crowd and train that passed by every so often.

Melanie of the Paper Pear and Richard Peabody of Gargoyle Magazine and Paycock Press, my lovely booth mates, were so supportive. At one point, Melanie offered to step in and pitch the book if my voice completely failed me.

In the end, I hand gestured more than normal and pushed through. My middle daughter, Reagan, hung out with me part of the day. She was so sweet telling people her mother was losing her voice, and she even gave a pretty impressive synopsis of the book. (The fact that she's adorable, if I do say so myself, charmed several people).

It was funny how many people saw the back cover of Depression Cookies and took a second before asking, "Is this you?" Yes, it's the non-head cold, non-heat suffering, hair and makeup done version of me, I wanted to say.

One of the sweetest people I met was Haley Tanner, author of Vaclav & Lena. She and her mother came around to several of the booths before Haley gave her presentation and signed books. They spent several minutes speaking to me and relating mother-daughter stories. They were both lovely.

Silver linings . . . sometimes people listen better when you use fewer
words, and my husband has a quieter Sunday ahead of him.

May 21, 2011

A Furry Friend Remembered: We'll Miss you Mikey

Mom and I sat down at the beginning of the Blogathon and made a rough calendar of topics to cover. We have deviated from time to time. We are going to do so today to say goodbye to Mikey, the Yorkshire Terrier child of my mom and dad. A faithful friend and companion, he's with his brother Rambo now (the Chihuahua child of my parents who passed away not long ago.)

We'll miss you Mikey!



we girls moved away
a companion to fill space
filled your heart instead

May 20, 2011

Official Award Recipient and Now Appearing on the Lit Chick Show!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you exciting news. First, as a follow up to our Chick Lit debate, please check out the list of 2011 award recipients at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards website. We are honored to officially announce that Depression Cookies was named a Finalist in the Chick Lit category.


In addition, we are featured today on Sylvia Massara's Lit Chick Show. When researching the idea of video as a marketing tool, I came upon Sylvia's website. Such a cool concept. Sylvia, a self-described Literary Chick, is a Sydney, Australia-based author who is giving back to her literary community by featuring authors on her literary blog run as a mini-TV show. Thanks so much to Sylvia for featuring us!


Please check out our show at http://www.litchickshow.com/2011/05/lit-chick-show-looks-at-depression.html.

Normally on Fridays, our blog features The Best Thing We Read this Week and Why. Is it okay to admit the two best things I read this week were the announcement of our Finalist award and Sylvia's email about our Lit Chick debut?

Still, I have read some incredible blog posts as part of WordCount's Blogathon and plan to feature some of those very soon.

May 19, 2011

Support Book Festivals OR Don't Leave Authors Sitting All Alone

I've always enjoyed book festivals. Row after row of great hidden gems: books the big book chains aren't exhibiting at the front of their store. Quoting the Gaithersburg Book Festival flyer, "(it's) a large-scale annual celebration of the written word." So, let's celebrate!

I'm looking forward to talking with book lovers, but I'm also looking forward to sneaking away from my own booth and checking out the local author scene. I've recruited my oldest daughter to help man my table while I mingle.

Mom and I will each be attending our first book festival this Saturday, May 21. I will be at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD, and Mom will be attending the Washington, NC Book Fest sponsored by I Can't Believe It's a Book Store, a great, local bookstore. This festival has authors set up in local businesses, and Mom is in a shop called Wine & Words. Wine and Books, brilliant.

If you are near either of these areas, come check out all the books and local authors. And, don't be shy . . . stop by the Depression Cookies table for a chat!



May 18, 2011

I am Woman Hear me Roar, for Shoes?

We won an award, we won an award . . . so exciting, but let me get back to that in a moment.

Mom and I wrote a book about something very near and dear to our hearts: the many female relationships in our lives, particularly the relationship between mothers and daughters. The publishing and marketing world require "labels" for products. You need to define what you are selling before you attempt to sell it. I get it. I'm not a genre-specific reader, so I don't personally need a book to be labeled. I need a good friend recommendation or great back/inside cover detailing the story.

Caving to industry standards, we set out to define our novel. This was particularly important for submitting to awards contests. We didn't want to be in General Fiction, because we'd be competing with everything. And, although so many elements of our lives creeped into our finished work, we are not a memoir. The term "Chick Lit" seemed the best choice, but I had a hard time giving into this classification.

Prior to researching, I definited Chick Lit as any book about whiny, self-absorbed women who only cared about shoes, clothes, purses, jewelry, the right man, and the right purse-sized dog. The big reveal at the end: the woman realizes she is more than said things, but she's not willing to live without them. Don't get me wrong, there's a time and a place for fluffy beach reads, but I don't read them often. And I really felt our book offered more.

Off to the computer I went. I simply typed in "definition of Chick Lit" to see what bounced back. The best of what I found:

The World English Dictionary defines Chick Lit as a genre fiction concentrating
on young working women and their emotional lives (as modifer: chick-lit romances).

The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines it as stories
written by women, about women and for women to read.

And, finally, Wikipedia, says Chick Lit addresses
issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.

Each of these was problematic in some way. Our two main characters: a stay at home mom and a thirteen year old. The stay at home mom is hard-working for sure, but not the "young working woman" this definition alludes to. And I wasn't sure the definition of modern womanhood, but our story is set in the 1980's so probably not a fit. We are humorous in several parts, but it does not define the novel. I could wrap my head around written by women, about women and for women to read. But does that mean Nicholas Sparks for all his sappy, emotion-jerking books does not qualify for Chick Lit?

I needed more than a definition. So I kept searching. I found blog after blog trying to define it. Yeah, I wasn't the only one confused. Time and time again, I saw the face of Chick Lit as Sex and the City. I know I'm in the minority here, but I've maybe seen two episodes of the TV show, never saw either movie, and did not read the books. Our book would not speak to someone looking for more Carrie Bradshaws. More adjectives seemed to circle around the term Chick Lit: fluffy, happy endings, romance, contemporary, hip, stylish...

Then I found two quotes. One from an author (Roberts) I've turned to time and time again when I needed some "down-time but not trashy" reading and one from an author I know little about.

"Chick Lit uses humor to reflect life back to us. It's a very comforting genre..." Marian Keyes

Oh, we reflect life, but I don't know how comforting life's reflection is at times.

"Women's Fiction is a story that centers on a woman or on primarily women's issues, not necessarily the romantic relationship based books I do but the woman's story." Nora Roberts

Now, this I like, but the term is Women's Fiction and not Chick Lit (although the article quoting Mrs. Roberts stated it was the best Chick Lit definition she'd read). I like Women's Fiction and would embrace defining ourselves that way, but it's rarely used and I'm not sure it's interchangeable with Chick Lit.

In the end, we defined ourselves as Chick Lit for our submissions. There was even one award with the category Chick/Women's Lit. I don't like labels (not helping my Chick Lit cause!). Still, it must be a fit, at least in the eyes of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. We were just named a Finalist in the Chick Lit category (winners and finalists will be officially announced on their site on Friday, 5/20). Shiny stickers, here we come.

I'm not sure I have a better handle on what Chick Lit really means. I'd like to think it centers around stories written by women (prefer to "chicks"), about women and for women to read. Women define themselves in many ways. They can be a stay-at-home mom, a business woman, or anything in between. So it stands to reason "their" literature is varied in its definition.

Still, I couldn't help but chuckle at my favorite quote about Chick Lit:

"If we call Bridget Jones's Diary 'chick lit,' why don't we call
The Hunt for Red October 'dick lit'?" Gloria Steinem

We'd love to know: How do you define Chick Lit?

May 17, 2011

Guest Post: Shameless Self-Promotion Dos and Don'ts by Lisa Carter

We welcome Lisa Carter of Intralingo to our blog today with a wonderful article about self promotion (check out my guest post at her site as well). Yet another fascinating and talented blogger I've met through WordCount's Blogathon, Lisa is a literary translator.


Shameless Self-Promotion Dos and Don'ts

Congratulations! You've just had your feature article/book of poetry/contribution to an anthology/novel/[fill in the blank] published! This is no easy feat. It has taken time and effort, dedication and perseverance. You should be justifiably proud. Now the public needs to hear about your work so they can read it.

In 2007, The New York Times book review supplement estimated that 1.5 million books were published around the world the previous year. With the recent explosion of self-publishing, just imagine that number now! Without s
ome promotion, your work is sure to be swept away by this rising tide.

What's more, in this era of reduced marketing budgets, even major publishers leave it mostly up to you, the author, to promote your own work.

Shameless self-promotion can be daunting. Standing there, holding the brightest flashlight you can find over your own head, takes most writers far out of their comfort zone. Yet, if writing is meant to be read and it's unlikely that anyone else will turn a high-powered spotlight on you, it is simply something we have to do.

This fall, I was fortunate enough to have two novel translations released. Because my name is only on the inside cover and the publisher's marketing efforts (such as they are) never target the translator, it was up to me to tell people about this work and my contribution to it. I chose to do a virtual launch for each novel: I sent out e-mail announcements, posted on my blog and added pages to my website.

What you choose to do may vary, but I hope a few of the dos and don'ts that I've learned along the way will help.

Do promote. Whatever you decide is the best marketing approach, be it a virtual or in-person launch, you have accomplished something extraordinary. Shout it from the rooftops! Contrary to what you might think, people do want tohear about your work, and you are the best person to tell them about it.

Do cast your net wide. Invite friends and family, of course, but also colleagues, past and potential business contacts. A launch is not only about one specific publication; it is about building your reputation. Clients you may not have worked with for a while will be reminded of your skill. Prospects are sure to be impressed and will be more likely to get in touch.

Do be personal yet remain professional. Since the invite to take part in your launch is from you, not a slick marketing firm, let your real voice be heard. Write in your usual e-mail, speaking and published writing style. People will be more receptive if they feel they are being approached personally. However, make sure you maintain your high writing standards: use appropriate language, ensure there are no spelling or other mistakes.

Do offer some value-add. By announcing your work, you are asking the public to acknowledge you. It's only fair to acknowledge their attention by offering something beyond the trumpet horn blaring your name. You might want to give away a certain number of your books or provide links to related articles of interest.

Don't announce every single publication. You're obviously proud of everything you publish, but save your focused promotion efforts for major milestones. People will grow tired or even annoyed if constantly spammed with announcements. Then, as the boy who cried wolf found out, when a really important work comes out, your news will be ignored.

Don't only ever promote yourself. If you are going to interact with potential readers, let it be about other things as well. For example, if you tend to announce new works on your blog, make sure you post other things in between. This will build up a consistent readership that is engaged, not rolling their eyes thinking, "Here she goes again…"

Don't offer more than you can deliver. If your value-add is to raffle ten signed copies of your book or three subscriptions to the magazine, make certain you actually have those physical gifts to give when the time comes.

Don't repeat yourself ad nauseam. Let's say you have decided to launch the work on your website and blog, as well as send an e-mail invitation. Be sure to provide different content in each of those places so visitors will find something new of potential interest, not be sickened by the same thing over and over again.

Although promotion means an investment of at least your time, it is absolutely worth it. You write with the public in mind. They deserve to be given the opportunity to read your work, to congratulate you on your success. If shameless self-promotion is done well, respecting your audience, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Good luck with it!

Lisa Carter is a literary translator with five novels and one book of non-fiction to her credit. You can find her on Twitter @intralingo and on the Web at http://www.intralingo.com/.
Note: This post originally appeared in November 2010 on The Urban Muse blog. 

May 16, 2011

Guest Post: The Top Advice for Anyone Considering Freelance Writing by Nicky LaMarco

Today is Wordcount's Blogathon Guest Post Exchange Day. I'm honored to have Nicky LaMarco from Writing Pays guest blogging today. I've learned so much from her since we started this Blogathon journey. Thanks Nicky!
 
The Top Advice For Anyone Considering Freelance Writing
This is a loaded question, and the one answer I can give is write. To be a writer you must write. It sounds simple, but (as you may know) is not. Freelance writing is a business and you need to treat it as such. You'll need to write well and market yourself to potential clients and Editors. You need to learn to create a writing plan, choose your writing niches, build a writing portfolio, create a resume, write queries, apply for writing jobs, and set your fees.
Freelance writing is a superb career if you love to write. Learn all of the basics in my freelance writing class Get Paid to Write: Become a Freelance Writer.
Based in New Hampshire, Nicky LaMarco has been writing on animals, business, health, home and garden, martial arts, gift giving and writing since 2001. She enjoys helping beginning writers with her blog Writing Pays and her online writing class Get Paid to Write: Become a Freelance Writer. She has studied business administration at McIntosh College. LaMarco has a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

May 15, 2011

Wishes for an Eleven Year Old: Happy Birthday Jackie

My oldest daughter and Mom’s oldest granddaughter, Jackie, turns 11 today. So on her special birthday, we wanted to share the dreams we have for her.

From Nana:

Faith – in God and in yourself.

            My family never went to church. They never talked about God. Still there was always a part of me that knew all about Him. Friends invited me to their church. I fell in love with the beautiful stained glass windows and the songs that filled me with wonder and awe. I loved Jesus even before I knew His name. I sense you have this longing in your soul, preserve it.
            Faith also rests in yourself. Be real. People want to be around real people, not people who change like a chameleon. Get grounded in your beliefs and stand firm. Some people will want to change you. Understand a lot of people aren’t as strong as you are and be patient with them.
Nana and Jackie 2000

Love – guide your heart.
            Sanskrit has 96 words for love, Persian has 80, Greek three, and English only one. One word and we use it for everything. We love our parents, and we love pizza. Well, yes…but no…I mean, it’s not the same, is it?  Love is powerful and wonderful. Take it seriously. Right now you know love as parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. Before long, you will start to have tender feelings for others. That special young man will be standing on your doorstep. Choose wisely; guide your heart to guard your heart. Be honest about your feelings; love is not a fad. We can have a lot of wonderful friends, boys and girls, but real love is to be treasured. Look at Mama and me – we’ve got your dad and papa. 

Dream Big – you can be anything you want to be or dream to be.

When I was your age, I wanted desperately to be a paleontologist. I poured over library books on the subject. I dug up half the yard looking for bones. One night my dad picked up a book off the mound in front of me, flipped through the pages and said, “Do you see any women in this book?” I grabbed first one and then another and he was right, there were no women in the pictures, only a bunch of old, gray haired men. I closed the books, returned them to the library and then decided to become an anthropologist. Lots of books; no women. Geologist? No women. Archeologist? No women.
So, I started writing down my thoughts, eventually writing two books, and I’m still digging in the dirt, hoping to find a pterodactyl toe. And when I’m famous, I’ll head to Egypt, to that one place I found in my dream and I’ll dig until I find itan unnamed cranium unlike me.

From Mama:

Love: I hope you concentrate on loving yourself before trying to love another. I want you to find your soul mate without too many “sole” mates (my version of the boyfriend equivalent to the crap on the bottom of your shoe or a smelly, rotten fish!). May you find yourself before you find him. If he’s THE one, he wants an authentic you as much as you should.
Mom and Jackie 2000

Dreams:

“Dreams are illustrations . . . from the book your soul is writing about you.”  ~Marsha Norman

Keep a notebook for dreams. Jot down everything your imagination considers. Later, another dream may replace it, but don’t simply disregard anything on your list. (And for my sake I hope your dreams don’t include inspired tattoos, too many men on motorcycles, collection of Mardi Gras beads, or anything to do with modeling or casting couches).

Faith: There’s a reason it’s called a “leap of faith” and I hope you take that leap. In a world where religion is often distorted and used for evil, remember grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. Let your faith guide you and be your shield without it every being armor against good people.

Stumbling Blocks: Life is full of them. You can’t avoid them. I just want every pothole in the road to teach you something you needed to learn in order to reach your destination. I hope none leave scars that cannot heal. Know your father and I (and sisters and grandparents, Aunts, etc.) are here to catch you if you fall or throw you back in the ring if we think you can handle it!

Technology: May Facebook, Twitter and email lose their social allure and good old-fashioned letter writing, kind conversation and phone calls come back into vogue.

And a final list of what we’ll both need:

·         Patience – for each other and in life
·         Prayer – but know unanswered prayers can be the sweetest gifts
·         Resilience – for when patience and prayer need a helping hand 
·       Humor!!
     
And know all the things we want for you could not possibly be compiled in a list.

God lent us one of the sweetest angels when He gave us you!

Jackie - end of 5th grade