Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Wrap Up

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't post a 2009 wrap up?

I cannot believe it will be 2010 in less than 12 hours. That is just not possible. It's also not possibly that I'm a grown up with actually children who have survived long enough to annoy the crap out of me and I still love them.

I have learned a LOT in 2009. I could call it The Year Heather Grew Up. Or, The Year Heather Admitted She Couldn't Do It All. I am a self-admitted Dooce-lovah so in the vein of her recent post on 2009, I'm going to make a list of good things that happened, and even not so good things that turned out better than I'd hoped.

  1. The Green Guide for Horse Owners and Riders was published in June.
  2. Rookie Reiner came out in December.
  3. I had my first book signing and it was NOT a success but I learned what NOT to do (it unfortunately underscores my control issues, but I'm ok with that.).
  4. My second book signing was better but not great, BUT, I got over the fear of sitting at a table by myself and I had a whole herd of work friends come and visit me so I wouldn't be totally alone. I also learned a few things NOT to do and my next will be even better!
  5. I kind of sort of got a promotion at work, I don't talk about work here so I'll leave it at that, but it's good and I remembered why I loved my job - which is a good thing to remember because it makes it easier to get up each day at the butt crack of dawn. 
  6. I have learned better parenting and wifery through pharmacology. There, I said it, I have outed myself on blogger. I take Cipralex and have for about two months now. It's like I'm still Heather only Now! With Less Screaming! More Kissing! Saner!
  7. I've slowed down. I stepped down off of three different boards even though I thought it would make me feel like a horrible QUITTER! And it did for a bit, then I realized that life continued and I was still a good person and I could give more of my time to my family. Now I know that my maximum is TWO BOARDS. I will not, WILL NOT, take on more than I can chew in 2010.
  8. Ok, here's another work post even though I said I don't post about work.... I am a Team Leader and I have The Best Team our department has seen in my 6 years there. I'm proud of them. They rock. Nothing is perfect but we don't strive for perfection, we strive for awesomeness. I may not always be the friendliest and nicest boss, but I think they know I'd fight for them and I think that is more important. We're going to kick 2010's butt.
  9. All my writing assignments have come to me, I haven't queried in months and I still get writing assignments sent to me that pay better than the ones I used to query for. That is cool.
  10. I've got a plan. I have a plan for 2010 and I'm taking slow and deliberate steps to put it into place. This makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. You'll see some changes here soon. I promise. I also promise that I won't be as lackadaisical about the posting and the writing. I had to take time off to form my plan. \
So now, with a half-day left in this year, I'm spending it the only way I really feel comfortable doing.... cleaning my house. Yes, you heard me. I feel the uncontrollable urge to clean all the nooks and crannies of my house so I can sit down and be truly relaxed when I ring in the new year.

Be blessed!




Sunday, December 27, 2009

STDs: From 2 to 57 in about 40 years

I have a post up on BlogHer about the realities facing our kids today.... and how I cope with it.

Princess E







 

To be honest, I didn't think I'd be the mother of a girly-girl. But she is. And she's wonderful. And also? She's tough as nails.

Some Days You're the Princess, Some Days You're the Cat


Monday, December 21, 2009

Semantics

Dear Son,

Your sister did NOT try and cut the cat's ear off.

She merely tried to give him a haircut (as demonstrated by your grandma on your head) with some scissors she absconded with, using her newly found mad chair-moving-and-climbing skillz. (Mommy has a better hiding spot now.)

She tried to give him a haircut and SLIPPED.

It didn't bleed much.

Ok, it bled a lot, but it was a nick. You can't even see it now.

Please stop telling the neighbors your sister cut off the cat's ear. Especially the ones that belong to PETA.

Love,
Mama

PS you'll not the stupid bugger still sleeps on her bed, he's obviously not afraid she'll gut him in the night. Squeeze him to death with love, yes, gut him, no.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Home Visit from the Prinicipal

You know things have taken a turn for the worse when the principal needs to make a home visit.

Michael has been attending a different school for about 7 weeks. He's been in a program that was designed to help children with "mild to moderate" behaviour issues. At first I'd been reluctant about signing him up, but the teacher and the principal and the assistant principal said it was a great program. And with an 8:1 student/teacher ratio, I thought that perhaps it would just be a positive experience, even if they didn't figure out what makes him tick.

When I met the teacher in the program though, I was in smitten. He is a great guy with a positive, quirky personality. I knew Michael would love him - and he does. His behaviour has been stellar at the program. He gets a rating for each section of the day and most of the time he gets a 3/3. So far they have determined (surprise!) that Michael can take a long time with his work and is distracted easily. But they also have backed up the feelings that I've had for a good long while that Michael's confidence in his own abilities is low and this leads him to doubt himself. Since I realized this back in Kindergarten, I've tried to encourage him in every area related to school.

But the teachers are the one who hold the key. Last years' teacher did some serious damage to his self-esteem. This year they told me that he was reading below grade level. I knew this was not true so I asked them about their testing. After checking some details, they said it wasn't the reading... but the comprehension. Again, I knew that wasn't true so I asked how they checked his comprehension... they replied, by asking him questions. Aha, did they think that his low confidence might factor in to his inability to answer those questions, even if he did understand what he'd read? They didn't know. It wasn't in the parameters of the testing.

But Michael can read an entire Robert Munsch book without hesitating. He reads and understands complex words that are far above the grade three level. He's an excellent reader... and I don't say that because I'm his mom, I know it's his strongest skill in school.

Anyway... back to the home visit part...

Last week Michael wanted to attend the Christmas concert in his regular school. He'd been there for a half day 'reintegration' visit so he knew it was happening. In fact, he'd previously been really upset that he'd miss it. He looks forward to it each year - the confidence he has in performing is great. The teacher burned him a cd of the music and he went to the concert that night and did a great job. His class got up and did some handbells and sang Silent Night, but since he hasn't practiced handbells, he stayed at the side. Then he joined everyone for the finale.

There was a second night and Michael's dad took him - except this time I received text messages that Michael was upset and crying. Odd, I thought, since the previous night had been so positive. I spoke to Michael when he got home and what I heard really upset me.

(note, this is the story pieced together after talking to Michael and the principal)

Before the concert Michael asked his teacher if he could get up with his class during the handbell performance so he could sing Silent Night with them. She said he could. She sent the class down to the gymnasium with the other teacher. When Michael went to step up on stage the principal saw him and pulled him off... thinking he wasn't supposed to be up with the handbell kids as he hadn't practiced and didn't have a bell. He tried to tell her it was ok but she looked at the music teacher (who hadn't been a part of the discussion about silent night) who shook her head no. So Michael was kept off the stage despite protesting that he wanted to go sing. When he realized he wasn't being listened to, he began to cry. It wasn't long before the principal realized that there was in fact singing happening and that she'd been wrong. She tried to ask him if he'd go up, but it was the middle of the performance and he was embarassed.

I sent an email to the principal and the teacher, expressing my disappointment. I also told them that Michael was still upset and now was having very negative feelings about this special program he was in. In his mind it wasn't about the mistake that the principal had made, it was about the fact that he had to attend this other program and miss having fun at his school in the Christmas concert. I was heartbroken because this program has been so good for him. He has started to show more confidence and I'm hopeful it will show up in his regular school, even though there are more kids and it's more chaotic. But I did tell the principal that I wasn't sure the school was right for Michael. Perhaps another school might take better care of my son. There have been so many other issues... he is just not being watched closely enough in class. I've told them over and over that they have to get ahead of him. They have to know what he's doing if they expect him to be successful. His mind wanders, he daydreams.... he gets distracted very easily. That's what ADD - Inattentive type is all about.

The principal emailed me back and said she'd call me in the morning, which she did.

She offered to come to our house (just two blocks from the school) and talk to Michael and apologize. I was impressed by her offer (especially when she said this is the first home visit she's made in 26 years of teaching) and she was true to her word, she explained what happened from her point of view and apologized to Michael. He accepted her apology and said he'd forgive them and then we chatted a bit about some photos on the wall and his nearly perfect day sheet (just one 2, the reset were 3s).

I thought it was a classy act on her part. I think if I were cynical I'd say maybe the fact that I'm PTA president factored in, but I really don't think it did.... I hope it didn't. This isn't about me at all, it's about my son and his success at school. He has three weeks at the other school before he goes back full time to his home school. I know he's going to be a changed kid - I just hope the teacher can help sustain that change. In the classroom now he's both encouraged and held accountable in good proportion. He is rewarded consistently for good behaviour and prepared for success. (Example: instead of having him write the spelling test words in his nearly illegible scrawl because it's being written at the end of the day, they print it and send it home and now he's getting 100% because I can actually help him practice!)

Onward and upward. Only 9 more years, with this one at least!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Facebook is Killing My Blogging

I am a bit of a Facebook addict. And by "a bit" I mean, I have had dreams about playing Bejewelled Blitz or having a naked photo tagged and being unable to un-tag it. It makes me feel quite connected to friends from both the states and here in Canada.

But I feel so connected that I feel everyone knows what's going on in my life, so what's the point of blogging?

Father, it's been almost a month since my last blog post.

I'm not Catholic but I believe that's at least 12 hail mary's and something-something about rosaries.

It's also put a significant dent in my regular writing life. But that wasn't just Facebook, that full time job has taken a lot of energy... and some days I'm just too tired to think. Facebook requires little thinking. Just reading, looking, snooping...

Although I enjoy time on Facebook, I wonder if anyone else feels that it's a bit of a leech.....?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Glee....

We pause for some shameless back-patting....

The Green Guide for Horse Owners and Riders is currently:

#5,657 in Books on Amazon.ca and... 

#2 in Riding... (beating Pat Parelli... HA!) 

#3 in Equestrian

#4 in Sustainable Agriculture!!

I had to take a screen shot .... and if you look closely, it says "only one left". YAY!


 


A Mish Mosh - Just another day in the life...

Many times during the day I think about something I'd love to write. Maybe I've come across an article I would love to comment on or an idea pops into my head or I remember a story that I'd like to re-tell. And then I get off work, I pick up the kids, we have our snack, I make supper, I do dishes, I reboot the laundry, I run M off to cubs/karate/wherever if I have to, I keep E off of the cats so they aren't squished into oblivion.

Rarely do I even get onto my computer.... wait, that's not true, I do squeeze in a round or two of an online game... one of those games that takes a minute to play. Because that's all I usually have ... a minute. By the time I get around to opening a word doc to do some actual writing, it's after 10 pm and the kids are in bed.

And this is after I stepped down from some boards! Some days I can't remember how I did all of this AND wrote two books...

Oh yeah, speaking of that.... my second book goes on sale in about two weeks :)



But my point is... I'm tired! It's after 11 pm as I sit and write this and my bed is calling me. But I don't necessarily regret the lack of time. Tonight I got to go with my son's cub group to a local observatory where we looked at the moon through an awesome telescope and spotted the international space station in the sky. I got to chit chat with some other parents while my son had fun running around with the other boys.... in the dark (no outside lights at an observatory, duh!).

I'd love to write about how M choose to come back and sit with me half way through the evening, just because he wanted to sit with me. I'd love to write about how he can't imagine that cubs will be ANY FUN AT ALL because he has to leave whatever he's doing NOW to do SOMETHING ELSE OTHER THAN WHAT HE'S DOING AT THIS MOMENT (horror!) ... and then every time he has a blast, regardless of the activity.

I'd love to write about E's first swear, which was exactly the same as my first swear (Uncle Gord may remember that one...). M's not-so-great-day at school that he did a great job recovering from, the PTA and how much I love other moms, the poor rabbits who are turning white at this time of the year and yet there's no snow for them to blend into yet, so they are quite the little targets for the coyotes.

But all that will have to wait until a day - soon - when I am rested.

I hope they have wireless in the retirement home. You think I can get some rest there?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WHAT TIME IS IT MR WOLF?!

I swear I just looked at the clock and expected 9:30 pm but instead it is 11pm and I had plans to go upstairs and cuddle with a Big Rock Winter Spice beer and watch some of My Shows that I've PVR'd.

Instead I got caught up on trying to figure out a few more ways to get confused about what the heck I'm doing trying to be School Council Chairperson. I guess I'm so used to Knowing What The Heck I'm Doing that I freak about a little bit when I'm CONFUSED. Even though I heard someone smarter than me say "Confusion is the world's most honest feeling". Yeah, whatev.... I wanna know what I'm doing. Where's the GPS so I can plug in Get Me From Here to The End of the Council Meeting and Don't Let Me Drive Through a Bus Trap.

Do you know what a bus trap is? Maybe your city doesn't have one but mine does.... it's a big hole in the ground with a grate overtop of it and wide enough that busses can drive over it but cars fall into it nose first and usually end up with their rear end up in the air.... I have seen cars do this and a local columnist once complained that her GPS told her to turn right so she turned right and drove RIGHT into a bus trap. Does GPS = WHO CARES ABOUT ROAD SIGNS?? Because there are large, red signs that say things like BUSSES ONLY and NO CARS and they even put graphics up with big Xs through the cars... and still "UH, my GPS said I could go through here..."

Maybe my council GPS did actually tell me I could accomplish this task and I'm left with my face in a trap and my butt up in the air, hoping no one laughs at me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's Coming...

Even though I rarely finish, even though most of the people participating in my city are quite young (not that there's anything wrong with that... I just sometimes have no anecdotes to use.... lol), even though this is my first time in SIX YEARS not being a Municipal Liaison....  I still can't stay away from NaNoWriMo.org


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Listy Motivationus <-Inspiration! Just add water!

I have been staring at the screen, coffee in hand, and trying to figure out what to write. Over the work week I'll stop in the middle of my day and say "I want to blog this..." but there's no time (and I work full time and don't blog at work!) and by the time I get home, I've lost what I wanted to say.

So here in Random Order is a download of Things That Swirl in My Brain.

1. I am frustrated with my white carpet. I didn't choose the white carpet, but I did choose the house with the white carpet in it. I have children. What the hell was I thinking? The worst thing is that I know there is hardwood under there and I want it. And I've convinced myself that next spring I can pull up this carpet on my own and refinish the hardwood in all 1200 or so square feet of the top floor of our house.

2. Finally my son is having some kind of success in school. And I hate to say it, but I'm going to go ahead and say it.... because the teacher listened to me. He gets so easily distracted and I knew that giving him an MP3 player with some good songs on it would help. When he needs to focus, on go the headphones and he can do his work.

3. I'm kind of cranky that I listened to my doctor rather than the psychologist. The psychologist recommended we put M on Strattera. The doctor disagreed and said Concerta. We tried the Concerta and it was horrible. I freaked out and didn't want to try anything else. The doctor had said that the two were pretty much the same, one was just longer acting, one was more immediate. SO NOT TRUE. When I spoke to a friend in the pharma industry he explained the different base drug in each. Not saying that I am ready to go back to the medication track.... but I HATE not having all the info when I make a decision.

4. Is anyone watching The Biggest Loser? I keep watching Abby, the woman who lost her husband, five year old daughter and three week old son in a car accident a few years ago. And while one part of my brain says "she is really strong", the other part of my brain says "I could not be that strong, I think I'd lay down and die".

5. I could live in a motorhome and be happy. I know that some people (uh, like my husband) would think that's cRazY. But I think it would be cool. Then I wouldn't covet a Dyson vacuum because there would be no room to use it.

6. I love old stuff. I have a "new" old typewriter. We have a SUPER old set of spurs that come with a SUPER old letter that says they were THIS GUY'S SPURS. Yeah, the Charge of the Light Brigade Guy. I want to paint my walls to look like old parchment paper. I love my photos in black and white. Maybe this is why I bought a house that hadn't been updated since the 60's. The only old thing I don't love is my old fridge.

7. My house is too cold. I'm sorry but I need at least 70 F in here.... and hubby makes the cranky face if it's over 68F (20C) and I am trying so hard to keep it there, but DUDE... I have two pairs of socks on, slippers, three shirts, a pair of sweatpants AND my housecoat. But I can't put anything on my nose and it is cold too dammit.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

This is how we make friends around here

Last week my son was out riding his Most Favoured Possession: The Awesome BMX Bike his dad gave him for his birthday. I let him ride in the back alley when it's not "coming home from work" time and all the tired people are Just Trying To Make It Home To Have A Martini.

I was in the house, as I don't feel the need to hover around the back alley. He's 8. He can ride safely and it's not as though I'm allowing him to ride on the expressway.

He came home after a few minutes. Without his Most Favoured Possession: The Awesome BMX Bike. That was certainly odd. I asked him what happened and he began to explain how The Mean Man had kicked him out of "his end of the alley". He'd been so scared by this man's menacing arm waving that he left his bike behind and ran home. At this point in the conversation his cohort arrived and explained that he'd moved the Most Favoured Possession: The Awesome BMX Bike into his garage so it would be safe.

I asked the boys what had been going on. I managed to figure out that they'd been eating crab apples and one had rolled "near" The Mean Man's backyard and he'd come out yelling and swinging.

Hmmmm.

I asked them to show me the yard from which the ogre had emerged. We made our way there and the boys arrived first. They were in plain sight while I had yet to be seen because the bushes in the man's backyard were too high. The three of us were still in the back alley, just to clarify that we hadn't actually gone IN the backyard.

Well. Out of the house comes this, crazed man with arms flying and he's yelling "What the hell do you two want, why the hell are you standing there..." At which point I stopped being the curious mom and turned into Mother Bear from Hell.

He and I "exchanged words".

I determined that the boys had been throwing crab apples in the man's backyard. I paused to glare at the boys who stared at their toes, realizing they had left that detail out. I sent the both of them off home so I could finish my conversation.

The Mean Man tried to say that the boys had disrupted the entire neighbourhood by riding their bikes in the back alley. He had forgotten, of course, that the boys had only started riding their this summer since the back alley had been quite unsafe for the previous few years due to some crazy teenagers who lived two doors down. "Oh yeah, they weren't great..." he admitted when I reminded him. He also had concerns about how fast they rode their bikes. He kept saying he was concerned. Concerned he'd hit one. Concerned they would get hurt. Concerned.... so concerned in fact that he hadn't bothered to mention any of this to the parents. Because when you have an issue with an 8 year old boy, you don't try and solve it with the 8 year old boy... you mention it to the PARENTS.

He was quite upset about the fact that the boys were arrogant. At one point Michael had opposed me sending him home and The Mean Man said "see! see! arrogant!"

Um. NORMAL 8 YEAR OLD BOY BEHAVIOUR.

I made sure to tell this man that I would be talking to my son about his behaviour and that it would not happen again. But, did he know WHY they did it? BECAUSE HE'S THE MEAN OLD MAN ON THE STREET. And guess what is fun for an 8 year old boy? Picking on the MEAN OLD MAN ON THE STREET. Ooooh, look at how mad he gets. Ooooh, let's throw things in his back yard. Ooooh....

I'm not saying it's Right. I'm saying it's what boys do. And if he'd been a NICE OLD MAN, it's quite likely that they wouldn't have done anything at all.

After he cut me off a few times and I told him I was going to finish my sentence even if he was old, mean, Scottish and arrogant... we calmed down.

Then we had a talk about the neighbourhood and about Michael being Scottish, too and how he was surprised more homes were not selling and how he had been there for 31 years. And then we made like friends and shook hands. And I found out his name is Bob. Bob the Scottish and Not So Mean Man.

After the war had ended, I took Michael around to the front and made him apologize for throwing crab apples. Bob asked him to be more careful on his bike.

Now whenever Michael goes out to ride his bike I ask "what will you say if you see Bob?" and he says "I'll say hi".

That's how we make friends around here.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

You-Know-What Moments

I had A Moment the other day. Sunday mornings are SUPPOSED to be nice and peaceful as you head out the door, right? Except they aren't. They are hurry-up-and-brush-your-teeth and stop-squishing-the-cat and PLEASE-don't-poke-your-sister.

As we were backing out, my son Michael (8) was repeating a phrase over and over and over... I can't even remember the phrase now, but it WAS ON MY LAST NERVE. And you know how that can be.

So I lost it for a moment and said "would you please stop being such a pain in the ass?!?!" I meant to say arse or butt or something else, but ass came out...

There was silence in the van.

Emily (3) isn't quite sure of which words are bad words yet, since I rarely, rarely say any of them... she looked at Michael and said "What did mommy say? A bad word?"

Michael, still recovering from the shock (yeah right) said, "Yeah, mommy said I was being a you-know-what in the ass."

Friday, September 11, 2009

When is it ok to lie to your kids?

Do you remember those lies our parents told us - the ones we didn't figure out until we were adults ourselves?

You can't swim for an hour after eating or you'll get cramps and drown. Or... we're tired of watching you kids swim and we want to go inside and play cards and smoke.

Don't go near the train tracks because a train will come by and if you're even ten feet away it will suck you in. Or... we know we're letting you run rampant in this little town so we're going to try scare the crap out of you about the only thing that could really hurt you.

Don't pee in the pool or the chemicals will change color and we'll see exactly who peed. Or... seriously, we're tired of adjusting the pH because you kids are too busy playing to go pee in the bathroom.

I was just thinking the other days about the little white lies we tell our kids. I started lying when I'd want my kids to eat something. M would poke at the meat and say "what's this?" and I knew if I said then he'd say "I hate ". So I'd say "it's frozen dinosaur" or "it's monkey nuts" or "boiled squirrel brains". He used to fall for it, now he just makes that face at me and laughs.

E on the other hand is still in the lying zone. She didn't want to eat the cauliflower (although she was joyfully scarfing down the green beans and broccoli) so I said "But E, you have to eat the cauliflower because it makes your hair grow more pretty princess curls." And as soon as she popped one in her mouth I said "OH! Look at that curl that just grew!" She froze and then clamped her hand right on the top of her head, feeling for a new curl. It was quite cute.

But it can be hard when kids ask you tough questions that you really don't want to answer. We have a policy on honesty. We will tell the truth to the kids ALWAYS, except if it's an adult thing. We're not going to discuss adult things with them. These can include WHY I'm not married to M's daddy (frankly, it's not his business... his dad and I are now better friends and all he needs to know is that we couldn't be friends while married. He does NOT need the details and he won't get them from me!), what a family member said to anger mommy, what mommy thinks about a snotty mom from down the street, why a cousin is a little 'different' (um, because he's crazy?) etc... I mean, really, some of those things don't need to be spoken out loud at all.

I acknowledge that I can be judgmental. I'm working on that. Sometimes I can't really help it... when I see a fellow mom drop her kid off at day care and she's still in her pajamas I can't help but thinking "what the heck are you in a rush for... you got a pillow waiting for you at home??"

But I digress... yet again ... My point is that sometimes I think it's ok to lie to your kids... when it's a funny lie, when it's an obvious lie that they can figure out or when you are too tired and, really, the kids have been swimming since 9 am and it's 3 and I need to get out of the sun.

My other rule is that sometimes it's ok to tell them "that's something between mommy and daddy, it's an adult thing, it's ok and you don't have to worry about that." Hopefully that tides us over until the birds and the bees talk, because I'll have to tell the truth for that one!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Goal Setting 101 - Make sure they are YOUR goals.

First, an immediate digression.

Have you noticed it? The stress?

I have. Everywhere I turn there are stressed people. I look in the mirror and one looks back at me. Everyone is being asked to do more with less. Everyone is pressed for time. Pressed for cash.

I've been planning the PTA BBQ and today I called a couple of the volunteers and I realized how WONDERFUL it can be to talk to truly pleasant, sweet and kind women. Some of the other moms I volunteer with are simply amazing women.

I know they are stressed, I know they are pushed to the limit. But their voices are sweet and kind and happy. They make me want to be a better woman.

Now the real post starts....

I recently decided to step back from a lot of volunteering. I was on too many boards, was pulled too many directions. I knew it was unhealthy when I was trying to list "Heather's Personal Goals" and all I had were goals that accomplished things for someone else.

I had things on there like helping out with campaigns, fixing a group web site, setting up processes for a board, developing strategies... blah blah blah.

But my list was completely empty. I was just happy to make it to the end of the day without yelling, putting myself in a time out or banging my head against the wall.

But since I've stepped back from the boards (I'm only on the PTA now) I have been able to actually consider my goals and some include:

read every book that is sitting in my "to be read" pile.
pray each day
go to a church retreat
get my butt to the gym
run with my husband
eat breakfast each day

That last one isn't really a GOAL, per se, but it's been something I haven't always done. I would sometimes get to 2 or 3 o'clock and realize I'd only had coffee. No wonder my body stores all the food I eat... I'm starving it!

I could put a few of those goals under the main heading, "GET HEALTHY". I'm not following any particular pattern, just developing a few habits:

eat breakfast every day
drink water first thing in the morning
limit myself to ONE coffee a day
be active for 20 minutes every day
choose healthier food for the family

I've been really good with that last one since we removed a lot of sugar from our diets... the kids eat fresh or cooked veggies, brown rice, homemade foods...

Which brings me to a question... does anyone have a tried and true recipe for granola bars? The kids are eating me out of house and home with them!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writing Wherever

I'll admit, I've never been a great Anywhere Writer. I am envious of writers like Shirley Jump who can sit down and write at stoplights or at school events. I think she even writes on backs of napkins. No, I think I'm far to ADD for that. I'm constantly distracted by what's around me. I lose my train of thought as it zips from one track to the next. One moment trying to figure out how a sentence my sound best, the next wondering if I took the right meat out for dinner, the next reminding myself that there's an email I forgot to write. I've never been good at focusing on small tasks.

I'm also finicky about my writing environment. I don't like to be too hot, too cold, too quiet, too noisy.... wow, I really do sound picky!

Take yesterday for example. Major Man suggested that the boys take over the main room where we are staying. Instantly I was in a foul mood because that room had the comfortable chair. And the comfortable couch. I was relegated to uncomfortable seating arrangements in other rooms. And even if the internet was better there, I still didn't want to sit and finish up the articles in discomfort.

Eventually though I did. I gritted my teeth and tried to sit so at least my back wasn't aching and my wrists weren't sore. See, my issue with comfort isn't just to be picky. I don't like to twist myself up in uncomfortable positions because they aren't ergonomically correct.

Yeah. That's it.

Today though I'm trying to push through again. I'm actually writing while standing in the laundry room where I have a view of the older boys in the pool. My daughter is asleep and my son is playing with his cousin and a friend. The dryer actually makes a peaceful sort of noise that keeps my active brain distracted so my creative brain can work. It also kind of helps that my ears are still plugged from this sinus infection and it feels like I'm listening through two pillows strapped on my head.

But this is what we have to do when we're writing mothers, isn't it... try to single-task while we multi-task. I may not be at my most creative. But there are days when quantity is better than quality. Because in the other moments when quality is better than quantity, I will go back and edit the words I wrote.

Monday, August 17, 2009

SFWA's Statement on the Proposed Google Book Settlement

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA), in conjunction with outside counsel, has reviewed the terms of the proposed settlement between Google, Inc. and the Authors Guild, Inc., and other class action plantiffs. On April 19, 2009, SFWA’s Board of Directors voted to stay in the claimant group in regard to SFWA-owned copyrights so that SFWA has standing to file a formal objection to the proposed settlement with the court. This decision should in no way be seen as an approval of the proposed settlement, nor construed as advice to either our members or writers with potential claims in general. Put simply, in order to file an objection, SFWA must opt-in as a claimant; should we opt-out, we lose our ability to formally object with the court.

Though it is clear that the proposed Google Book settlement is well-intentioned, the problems are myriad and, in SFWA’s opinion, the terms should be reviewed with extreme care by authors, in particular those authors who write fiction. Some of the particular problems we have identified include:
  • The proposed Google Book Settlement potentially creates a monopoly by granting Google excessive power to control the market for out-of-print books that are offered to the general public.

  • The “opt-out” mechanism proposed for the settlement contradicts the very foundation of copyright.

  • The financial impact on authors could be significant because the settlement would effectively thwart any third-party system from competing with Google and offering alternatives to authors of out-of-print works.

  • The terminology of the Google Book settlement makes no distinction, nor does it provide a mechanism for discovering the difference, between works deemed out-of-print and works in the public domain.

  • The class does not reflect the interested parties, primarily the holders of copyrights in “orphan works” where the rightsholder(s) cannot be identified or found.

  • The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers are poor representatives of the class as neither represents the types of work perhaps most significantly affected by the settlement, namely scholarly works.

  • The class representatives do not include any authors of adult trade fiction, an obvious issue for SFWA.

  • The class fails to consider fully licensees of works and fails to account for their interests.

  • By settling, Google never fully addressed and litigated the issue of copyright infringement/fair use, which was at the heart of the 2005 lawsuit brought forth by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The settlement further obfuscates the issue of how Google’s scans and publication of the snippets should be treated under U.S. copyright law.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but merely a sampling of some of the problems SFWA believes are inherent in the proposed settlement. SFWA is not advocating a particular course of action nor providing legal advice for individual authors, who should evaluate the proposed Google Book settlement based on their own situation and with the advice and input of their own legal counsel.

For the record, SFWA believes that the proposed Google Book settlement is fundamentally flawed and should be rejected by the court. With this public statement, we advise all authors and other writing organizations (in particular those who hold copyrights) to consult with legal counsel to ensure that they understand the precise meaning of the Google Book settlement, and the impact it may have on their own situation, should the settlement be approved.

For the Board of Directors,

Russell Davis
President
SFWA, Inc.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Postcards in Indiana

We’re on “vacation”. I add the air quotes because it is one, but it is not.

On the 6th of August, my father in law – Arthur Cook – passed away from liver cancer after a very short battle with it. In fact, it wasn’t much of a battle since he entered it at 84 years of age and it just sort of had its way with him.

I knew him as my husband’s father, the man who taught my husband how to be a good father. I knew him as my children’s grandfather even though they had precious little time with him, what with us living in two different countries and all.


I remember the first time he met my son and he coaxed the shyness out of him by offering to read a book with him. I bet he’d read it with many other grandchildren but as each page turned he pretended to see it for the first time.


You couldn’t help but like the guy. Nothing phased him. And why would it? Just out of high school he joined the army and they sent him to the Pacific. They were sent to an island that had been pretty much taken over by the Japanese, who had decimated the local population. Well, the locals weren’t really that happy. They happened to be head hunting cannibals. Art said it was the only time he was really afraid. The Japanese were still afraid of the cannibals, with their habit of eating the scouts they sent on patrols. The Japanese would walk into the American camps and surrender rather than be eaten. Not something you would think of those Kamikaze Japanese from WWII.


Nothing got to Art. Even the diagnosis. He accepted it and went about living… until he didn’t. The last time I saw him he said he’d “see me when he saw me” and talked about taking one day at a time. He died at home about two weeks later, in his sleep, surrounded by his beloved elephant collection. (He had thousands in the house.)

After finding out he’d passed away I got up, went about my day with a feeling of overwhelming sadness for what we’d lost as a family. I realized I’d never had a conversation with Art about what he believed. I knew my husband said there were no atheists in foxholes, so could I assume he believed in God? Could I assume he had found that “better place”? I’ll admit, it was stressing me out.


So I prayed about it. Now normally I’m not into telling God that I want a sign and, oh by the way, I want a specific one. But I did. I asked for a sign, like a postcard from Art to say he was ok and in a good place. And I wanted it to be an elephant. I figured they didn’t pop up in every day life and as long as I didn’t go drive by the zoo on acci-purpose, it wasn’t too likely that one would pop up.


So I got ready for work, went off and figured that if one was going to show itself… it would probably be in the evening news or something.


My boss came into work an hour after I did.


“Heather, I have to tell you about the toys I bought for my grandkids when we were on vacation… it’s three elephants. They stand all in a row and hold the tail of the elephant in front. It’s really cool.”


Yes, it is really cool.


Thanks for the postcard, Art.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Plans

Why do I insist on being a planner when I'm not that good at it??

Plan: To work out. Sometime. EVER.

Really the only time I have to work out is at lunch time. So why are my lunchtimes full all the time?! And when they are not I say "I am too busy today, I will workout tomorrow" and when tomorrow comes.... there's something I forgot I had to do.

Run home and make lunch for Army Boy, lunch meeting, lunch event, bank appt, downtown errand... things I can't do at any other time. ARGH.

Oh how I wish I had a normal schedule.

September Psychosis and the Fun on Facebook

I think I am having some kind of episode. I'm going to call it the September episode, even though it is August because September is approaching and it's always the approaching of September that sets me off.

It started after high school when all my friends went off to college and I hummed and hawed and thought about what I wanted to do.... I was a horse trainer and there was no school for horse training that I wanted to attend other than the school of Climb On Anything With Hair (and that includes cowboys, eek!). As I was working full time for good people anyway, I figured that I might just as well keep doing it. Though I made noise about going back to school and Becoming Something.

Eventually I went to Europe and lived there for a year and though I came back feeling a bit disheartened and overwhelmed with life (working 6.5 days a week will do that to ya) there was that really cool thing that was Meeting The Man I Would Eventually Marry (after a practice round). But still, every September I'd think "I want to go back to school". I never thought this in the spring time, which is when I should have been applying.... story of my life.

Digression: When I was graduating high school I went down to the counsellor's office and said "so I should apply to some schools then?" And she laughed and laughed and said "oh you are joking, right? Because you're a smart girl so you'd know that you should have applied in, like, March.... right?"

No. No one had told me that applying started early. That June wasn't the time to apply for the colleges or universities. Parents, Teachers, Friends... all had been mum. Then there was that thing my parents had taught me... "debt = bad". So all debt was bad. No one ever told me that there was good debt (school loan) and bad debt (consumer debt).

I think I've carried a grudge ever since.

A grudge that people are going to school and looking all carefree and learning stuff and here's me with no edjumucation.

Overall I think I've still done ok. I've gone into professions where the proof is in the pudding, not necessarily in the letters after your name: horse training, cook, salesperson, sales manager, writer...

As September approaches, that feeling begins again. Things are happening and I'm not a part of them.

Oh but soon I will be, I remember suddenly. Soon the Army Boy goes back to school and that means PTA and Cubs and Karate. The Banshee (formerly known as Army Girl) may start Dance and Swimming lessons. There will be much to be a part of.

This summer has felt really disjointed... there have been family illnesses, disappointments, changing job requirements, losses.... I have an overwhelming feeling that life is zipping by like a great big circus train where the rest of the world is hanging out the window and laughing and having a gay old time and I'm standing on a dusty old road watching them pass and wondering why no one told me the train was leaving the station.

Or maybe I'm just overdramatic like that.

Part of the problem has been Facebook. Yes that wonderful social networking site where you'll meet everyone you wanted to forget and still be unable to NOT friend them.

People put up all their fun pictures. If you're having fun then you must catalogue it. You must SHOW THE WORLD YOUR FUN.

Fine for you, but I'm sitting here in my pajamas at my kitchen table and your fun is looking a lot better than where I am and WHY DIDN'T YOU CALL ME AND TELL ME THERE WAS FUN HAPPENING.

Oh it's like junior high all over again but with less teenage angst and more wrinkles.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Birthin' a Book & Lessons Learned

A few weeks ago Kai and I were discussing "having a baby" and "writing/publishing a book". She asked about why I made the analogy about birthing a baby and a book. So here is a little more discussion on that topic.

Let's see how we make a baby. (Sorry, no videos for this one!)

Girl meets Boy & They Fall In Love
There's a proposal.
They Get Married (hey, its my analogy so we're going down the traditional path! )
They have a honeymoon and love each other A LOT.
They work hard at their marriage, realizing it's not like the movies.
They Get Pregnant.
For nine months she's a little crazy.
For nine months he's a little afraid.
They prepare, they read books, they ask other people.
They get lots and lots of unsolicited advice and everyone contradicts each other.
Labour begins and they realize they couldn't have prepared for this.
Baby enters the world.
They realize that there's a lot more work AFTER baby arrives than BEFORE!


So how do we make a book?

Writer gets a great idea and loves it a lot.
There's a proposal. The writer writes it. No rings involved.
Writer finds an agent and signs with her.
They like each other a lot.
Writer gets an offer from a traditional publisher. (Hey, again, it's my analogy!)
They sign the contract! Nine months until delivery!
For nine months the writer is a little crazy.
For nine months the writer's family is a little afraid.
Writer does lots of research, writer interviews a lot of people. Some people contradict others.
It's down to the wire and there are bits to review and edits to make.
Deadlines within deadlines come hard and fast.
The book arrives.
The writer realizes that there's a lot of work after the book arrives. Marketing, writing, interviewing, obsessively checking Amazon stats, wondering when it will ship, holding contests, getting press.....

Now, neither of these represents a complaint about the process. I loved being pregnant (if I had my druthers...) and I loved getting a contract and writing my book. But they were both learning experiences, especially the first ones!

I learned:

1) Plan ahead to be done all tasks before your deadline/delivery date.
2) Don't think you know it all.
3) Research like crazy.
4) Asking for advice will result in better info than receiving unsolicited advice.
5) There are people around you whose job it is to help you. Accept their help.

(Cross-posted at Mama Needs A Book Contract)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Health Care Crazies

I'm watching 20/20 right now and they have a great bit on health care systems in Canada and the US. It's been a big topic in our house because my husband (who is American) likes the US system much better than ours here in Canada.

Some highlights:

- a city in Ontario that has a LOTTERY to see who gets a family doctor

- the average wait after being admitted to the hospital is 23 hours.... before you get a bed. So you're admitted.... but sitting in the hall for a day. (this happens to my grandmother almost every time she's admitted)

- 6 month wait for an MRI.... unless you are a dog.

I interviewed a guy this week who works with hospitals in the US and he talked about how "patient satisfaction" is actually rated and considered important at US hospitals. Here? Yeah, not going to happen.

Here it's "why are you complaining about the wait? It's "free"!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pre-order contest!!

If you pre-order The Green Guide for Horse Owners and Riders, and email me your receipt, you will be entered into a draw to win some really cool prizes:

Five Tip Sheets from Horses For Clean Water
DVD on Mud Management from HCW
Elephant Poo-Poo Paper (just because it's cool)
Eco-Polo Shirts from Ash City and Trimark
Environmentally-friendly Drinkware.
A signed copy of Green Guide

CONTEST RUNS UNTIL JULY 16th!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

27 Hours

That's how many hours of travel time I just spent going from Calgary, Alberta to LaPorte, Indiana. From the country of the maple leaf to maple leaf city. I am still amazed that I have to come here to actually find a maple tree.

But being here is nice. I like the family here because they are the same, but different. Two kids, working parents, like to laugh, kids drive us nuts, family drama overwhelms, we know what we'd do if it were all up to us.... That kind of "same".

The kids have asked 6521 times about going in the pool (not clean yet), I got to ride a Harley and their dog is awesome. Life is good.

Grandpa does not look well. I want to sit by him and ask him questions, show him his grand-daughter and make him laugh. He's happy to see his son and does his best to connect in his subtle, caring way.

The kids will camp out tonight, I hope there's no crazy storm like last night! But hey, at least I'll have a bed if they are out in the tent!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Serenity Now!

I have a few things on my plate at the moment. There's the full time job. The book. The children. The liver cancer that is robbing us of a grandfather. The pending 2000 mile trip By Car. With the children.

But I'm a planner. I'm the planning queen. Want a goal accomplished? I'm your gal. I'm pretty good at the prioritizing and the timing too. You know, if I do say so myself.

Here's what I'm NOT worrying about:

who will feed the cats
if I'll leave my house clean or if we'll forget to take the garbage out and return to stinkville
if I'll finish all the laundry by the time we leave
if E will pee her sleeping bag everynight
whether or not we should bring a bottle with us
my jean size
who will take care of my plot at the community garden
work stuff

Here's what I'm focusing on:

I get to SHOP for things for our trip!
Our family will go camping for the first time.
I will get to read books
We will get to see Art
Emily will make Art smile
We will float on a boat at a lake

Will I have to take care of the things on the first list? Yeah, someone will and it will probably be me. That's one of my "issues"... I need to know what is being done and when. Now? What about now? or Now? It makes my husband insane, I'm sure.

But instead of expending energy on worry. I will just know that they will be done. I'll trust that I will find someone to feed the cats, that someone will water my garden, that we'll remember to take the garbage out. I know they will happen.

I will instead actively look forward to the good things, the shopping, floating, talking and reading. And I'll remember what they say, you can't pray and worry at the same time.

It's Here! It's Here!

Finally, finally, finally.... I'm holding it in my hand.... my first baby book!


In case you are wondering. I sold this book in October 2007.

That's a 20 month gestation period.

:)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Greetings from Allergy Hell

I am an allergy sufferer. I feel like one of those commercials. I actually took a picture of my eyes the other day and considered posting them so you could feel my pain. But it was so awful that posting a picture of me in a bikini would be less stressful.

Sleeping for only two hours at a time, popping pills in the middle of the night that make it a chore to get out of bed in the morning, spending the whole day reminding myself NOT TO TOUCH MY EYES. Because woe unto me if I do because it will take an hour for the irritation and itching to die down. I think my left eye is actually raw.

Feel my pain?

Or even better, WHICH DRUGS WORKED FOR YOU????

Being at work all week is actually the easiest part because I have some make up on and I know i can't touch my face or they'll all be "hey, who invited KISS" as I'll rub all the make up around my face and be oh-so attractive. Plus, I work inside so I'm not assaulted by nature.

At home though we keep windows and doors open to let the cool air through. And I have to go weed my garden plot at the community garden, and these darn kids don't want to hole up in the dark basement, which is blissfully free from most allergens.

Yesterday I figured that if I had to be out in hell then I'd best be as comfy as possible, so I bought me one of these:

An anti-gravity chair from Canadian Tire. It is the bomb dot com. I love it. My kids call it my "favourite chair" because I love it so much. It's very easy to move back and forth from upright to reclining with just a shift of your body.

Last night, as I was propped up on my couch, trying to breathe properly without one side of my face stopping up like an old faucet, I considered bringing this chair into my living room to sleep in it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creative Genius.

Writers much watch this video.



"Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk."

I really loved watching this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, she of the Eat, Pray, Love fame.

She talks about "genius" and how our society has moved from "having" genius to "being" genius and the problems that can occur because of this. As a Christian, I really liked her take on the "genius" being "on loan" to us. It's not that "I" am the smartypants, it's that something smart was created through something I did.

She's currently getting ready to publish her second book. Could you imagine writing the follow up book to Eat, Pray, Love?

What do you think about creative genius? Do you think that some people are more creative than others or do you think that creativity flows through a person instead of from a person?

What can you do to increase your creativity?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Interview: Christina Katz

Today I'm featuring a Guest Post by author Christina Katz. I have been inspired and encouraged by Christina's writing for many years now and love her writing! So enjoy...


Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform



Bio:

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! (Cross-posted at MamaNeedsABookContract.com)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's Good To Be Bad

Great video from CNN that features Her Bad Mother. (Who is from Toronto!)

They mentioned some things she'd blogged about, but of course they only chose the ones that would be MOST controversial. I went to find The Whole Story and here's a paragraph from her site:

I have left my children alone in the bathtub. I have spanked my daughter. I have turned my back on my crying son. I have had intrusive thoughts. I drink. I curse. I have put my own needs first. I have thought that I love my husband more than my children. I have had moments of resenting my children. I have thought that motherhood is boring. I document all of these things and lay them bare for the world to see. I have been called an exploitative mother. I have wondered whether that might be true.


I get what she's saying. I really, really do. Just about every mom I know knows a Super Mom. A person who not only Does It All, she knows it. She knows that she's doing a better job than you and she's not afraid to mention just one more thing that you are doing that she isn't.

But it's in a subtle way, like "the other day, I found the perfect glue stick in the craft section at Superstore." And she knows that you didn't even know there WAS a craft section at superstore.

I'm far from innocent here. I wonder if there's a mom out there thinking these things about me. When M first started school, one mom said she thought I was the "mean mom". I had a kindergartener and a baby who was just a few weeks old... I showed up in my big Dodge truck (with the Hemi, sigh, I miss her.) and climbed out and walked M in and then walked out. Apparently when I'm sleep deprived and working on a book, I look "mean". No shock there.

Thankfully this mom and I are now fast friends and she could tell me this. I now hang it over her head mercilessly everytime we gather to guzzle some wine.

I sometimes hold things back because I don't want to share all the stuff that I do. I know I'm over-committed:

  • Chairpeson of PTA/School council
  • director with community association & communications committee chairperson
  • board member of my MLA's riding association
  • Chairperson of PWAC Chapter in my city & gov't action committee member
  • Beaver leader (thank goodness that's over!)
  • writer/author (book comes out in less than 6 weeks!!)
  • full-time sales manager & team leader

This means that I have no less than 4 monthly meetings to attend and sometimes one meeting a week for M. And I haven't started anything with E (though riding appears to be something she might like!)

What it comes down to, is that there are moms I know who are handling things MUCH more difficult than I have on my plate. Health concerns, children with cancer, divorce, money problems.

What do I have? A great system of family support. Encouragement. Love. With a handful of ambition and a desire to DO STUFF. And there's so much stuff to do! I'd love to start going back to school part-time, volunteering at school more often, writing more, doing more team building at work, speaking more, presenting more.... there are awesome causes out there: early literacy, anti-bullying, city issues... I know I can't do everything, but there's so much to do.

Do other moms see me as a Super Mom because of those things above? The problem is that very few things in that list have anything to do with parenting.

When it comes to parenting I'm as good/bad as the rest. I've yelled at my kids, I've said "shut up", I've had a glass of wine too many when they are asleep, I've left them at childcare later than normal so I could have a coffee alone for a few minutes, I've let them watch too much TV, I've left them in the car while I ran into 7-11 (they could still see me, I could see them!) and I've been less than patient.

But I've also devoted hours each week to working with and for my son, to advocating for his educational needs, to reading about ADD so I can help the school, to learning about who he is so I can help him, to playing referee in school yard squabbles, to talking to him about all his childhood issues. I've read hundreds and hundreds of books to my kids, put a high value on reading, kicked them outside on good days, taken days off work to take them to the zoo, I'm the one who stays home when they are sick.

So what's the judgment? Even if it sways one way or another, it is rarely as harsh a judgment as in my own mind. It's almost as though one can never be good enough.

That's one of the reasons I love this quiz, Are You a Good Mom or Bad Mom, because it really speaks the truth.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Equine Bankruptcy

Today was E.'s first pony ride. My best friend has bought a pony for her kids (since we go waaay back to the days when we were young, flexible and wild cowgirls) and we took him for a test-ride today. He is the most awesome pony.

This first photo was of E when she first got on. Something was wrong. She was not a happy cowgirl. We walked around, I told her how to guide him. She continued to pout.


Then I realized what the problem was - we were walking. She is the "go fast" type of cowgirl. So off we went. This required jogging on my part, in arena dirt, which is not easy!


Below is one of my favourite pictures because I can remember exactly what this felt like, to be going fast enough that it makes you giggle.


As one of my friends commented.... I sense equine bankruptcy in my future.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stop. Go. Stop. Go. SLOW

Ever have the feeling like the word is not going slow down any time soon? At my full time job we work at a hectic pace, always feeling a little bit panicked. (Or, maybe that's just me!)

My writing continues to grow, I'm getting more opportunities and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel... it's less than 6 weeks until my first book comes out. But I feel like life is moving too fast. Almost like I'm speeding around a racetrack, BlackBerry in hand and I know a really good email has just come through and I want to read it, but I don't want to stop driving.

Um, yeah, not like that never happens in real life, right?

Sidebar: sometimes I KNOW a really good email has come through.... or *gasp* an important BlackBerry Messenger Message.... and it is actually REALLY HARD for me to NOT try read it. But I don't. I don't want to be THAT IDIOT who crashed her vehicle while reading a text message.

After coming home from the PWAC Writer's Conference, where I didn't learn whether it's writer's or writers', I have had a great idea for a book, but I know it needs more time to germinate. Yet, my brain doesn't seem to slow down enough to germinate.

So I've done this: I've joined the community garden and I have a plot to tend to now. I'm looking forward to hanging out in the sunshine with my friends in the garden. That feels.... slow. These days, I look for things that are slow. :)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sometimes it's Ok to Procrastinate

Hey, head over to Jo Knowles blog and read about how it's OK TO PROCRASTINATE sometimes. There is a fine line between my productive procrastination and lazy procrastination. I know my writing process starts with STOPPING and letting the idea simmer in my brain. But when I find myself blog surfing... I know I am dangerously in the lazy procrastinating territory.

Ignoring the Sun

Of course the weekend that I'm to finish the edits on RR, the sun is out there shining for all she is worth. The kids do not want to stay inside and it would be mean to make them.... yet I'm stuck in here. Editing editing editing. Truthfully I could probably be done. But the biggest task left is going through the text and referencing forward and back.

Because the subject matter is kind of big. It was supposed to be 50K and it's closer to 65K. One of those issues when you sell your first book and you don't have a clue how to guesstimate the word count.

I'm watching Coronation Street (shut up, it's cool and so am I) and one character is obsessed with his manuscript. He's stopped shaving, he's drinking, he is snappy to his family.... yeah, not familiar at all. Ok, at least I'm not drinking. And I did shave my legs. So, wait, all that leaves is "snappy to family". Yeah, that fits.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Be Ye Not Afraid

Recently I attended the AGM of my MP (Member of Parliament for my American friends...). Well, technically his riding association, but he was there to speak and I was fortunate enough to get to ask him a question. (I asked about Canada's archaic libel laws and whether there were going to be any changes... it was a moot point I suppose since the gov't doesn't change laws, but still... I want my gov't to know that writers are being hamstrung here in Canada by "libel chill")

Afterwards I approached him and asked some further questions. I explained that I had actually backed off of political writing because of the threat of libel. Maybe that implies that I was some super-politico-powerhouse (which I was not) but that's not really the point... the point is that in Canada, anyone can sue anyone else for libel and it onus is on the PERSON BEING SUED to defend themselves.

Back-ass-wards.

Most writers in Canada have heard about Ezra Levant and his fight against libel lawsuits and being dragged into a kangaroo court where he spent millions defending his right to publish "the Danish cartoons".

I realized that it wasn't about what I wrote, it was about someone with a bad case of The Crazies taking offense. At times we seem like a country about to put "the right to NOT be offended" in our charter. But as I spoke with my MP, he encouraged me to keep writing, keep voicing opinions. He was right that there had been recent court wins that defended free speech (an american term, not Canadian) so I should not be afraid. This is true, but still, I'm no Michelle Malkin, I struggle with concerns about whether voicing an opinion in the overpopulated political blogosphere really matters as much as my actions in real life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Winning on Twitter

I love being on Twitter, it's an eclectic, wild, fascinating place where you can find just about ANYTHING.

I happened to be tweeting tonight and saw a quick little contest... "RT @TwilightEarth: Wanna win Disney's DVD "Earth" (when it comes our?) Be the the 31st person RT this. DVD to our 10,000th Follower too!"

So I re-tweeted, and won!

The great thing is that Twilight Earth is a site I hadn't previously been familiar with. It's a site dedicated to "
saving the environment through shared news, discussion, advocacy and activism". JUST the kind of site I need to find when I'm getting ready to start the Green Guide for Horse Owners and Riders blog!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Let's test that theory...

So yesterday I posted all about optimism.

Today? Yeah, today tested that theory like double mocha chip ice cream tests my willpower. It was the trifecta of trouble. A day that makes you want to scream What The F.... fudge.

Work? Sideways accounts.
Kids? Worst behaviour in a long time.
Writing? Way behind.
Family? Ok, not so bad... hubby picked up some slack.

I was at my wit's end. I even called a prayer line, a really great one Crossroads Ministry has a 24-hour prayer line. A very nice lady read my Psalms 121:

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.



It helped, a lot. And it brought something home for me. Sometimes optimism isn't enough. Sometimes we have to surrender completely. The other day I read an essay by Max Lucado about how we don't have any control or authority over the powers of evil. That kind of took me by surprise because all these years I've been all 'get the behind me Satan' in my rough patches.

Oh no, we don't have authority at all.... God does. Our job is basically to draw closer to Him and THEN evil will flee. Kind of like a kid running closer to her parent and the bully thinking "yeah, I can't take that big one". We are told we have the power and authority to RESIST. Just not the

So that's what I tried today. I have tried willing myself to perform better as a mother, I've tried willing the evil away, I've tried all except surrendering, throwing my hands up and saying "I can't".

Today I tried. Today it worked. Even my husband complimented me on how I handled things. It was the hardest thing I've done in a long time, NOT reacting. But I did it. I hope next time is just a little bit easier. My inner optimist hopes it will be.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Optimism

Just finished watching a documentary with Michael J Fox and his take on optimism. It was quite inspiring because he's simply an uplifting, beautiful person. I'm sure he has his dark moments, but overall, this is a guy who has taken what many might see as a death sentence and turn it into something to work towards.

(I recently purchased his book, Always Looking Up, but I haven't had the chance to read it just yet.)

In the documentary, they spoke about Bhutan, a country that focuses quite a bit of energy on their Gross National Happiness. While it has a lot to do with Buddhist values, I can still appreciate the value of choosing happiness and optimism above the alternative. I don't know if I'm a pessimist or optimist, I am hopeful, but at the same time, I always need to know what the Worst Possible Outcome is so that I can be prepared.

But it did get me thinking about the choices we make in our life and how they might define if we are optimists or pessimists.

Take freelance writers. We work at a career that is not guaranteed to leave us rolling in the dough. Quite contrary... most freelancers are earning below the poverty line in North America. But we still do it.

Or look at the 36,000 jobs that were added to the Canadian economy last month. A pessimist might say "oh yeah, but they were self employed jobs..." an optimist might say "these people choose to go start their own businesses rather than sit on social assistance".

I think that it might be our choices in life that reveal how we think. Do you keep writing query letters despite the rejections? Do we keep pitching book proposals despite the lack of response? Do we push the limits of what we can do, trusting that we will have the resources to finish what we start?

(x-posted at Mama Needs A Book Contract)