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


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

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. :)