Friday, February 28, 2014

Confessions of a bibliophile


You can blame Charlotte’s web for my lifelong passion for reading.  I can still vividly remember sitting in my bedroom crying because Charlotte died.  After reading that, I was hooked on reading for life.  I have always considered books to be among my most prized possessions and I am extremely happy to say that both of my daughters have followed in my footsteps.  Although in the case of my older daughter, I do have to apologize to her fiancé for instilling this love of books into her, she insisted she had to take dozens and dozens of books with her as she moved – so helping her move was a very weighty experience for him (to be fair she also loves to collect rocks – so it wasn’t all books).

I love bookstores
There is nothing quite like going to a bookstore.  I simply adore just browsing the aisles, reading random jacket covers, picking out two or three or ten and finding somewhere to sit and look through the treasures I have picked out, to see which ones I cannot live without.  My fiancé and I make special dates to go browse bookstores, but not too often, because he reads as much as I do and we are running out of room in our house for the books we collect. 

I have literally thousands of books at my house.  There are bookshelves in almost every room.  There is a huge pile of books on my night table – in the coveted ‘to read next’ pile.  It is an eclectic pile of books ranging from history & biography to contemporary fiction and an occasional thriller or romantic comedy.  My kindle is just as eclectic and varied, with hundreds of books downloaded onto it. 
Goodreads is a wonderful place to hangout
Last year my older daughter introduced me to Goodreads, and my life has not been the same since.  Goodreads is absolute heaven for us bibliophiles.  It is this incredible online sharing site for lovers of books.  There are book reviews for almost every book written and lots of lists of most popular books in almost every genre, and even the chance to win ‘free’ books – yes free books!  It really is a wonderful place for book lovers.  I have won several books through their ‘first reads’ program – where authors give away one or more copies of their books in the hopes that the winners will read and review the books for them. 
https://www.goodreads.com/LaurieWJN
Another fun opportunity on the Goodreads site is the reading challenge.  This is a great tool to help you set reading goals and keep track of your reading.  Last year I set a goal to read 52 books, one book per week was my idea.  Sadly, I fell short of my goal and only managed to finish 46 books (to be fair I started the challenge two months late).  I think it was a very ambitious goal for someone also working full time as a teacher.  This year I have scaled back my goal to reading at least 26 books, that way I am hoping for at least one book every two weeks, and so far I am on track.  With the reading challenge, as you go on Goodreads and mark that you have read a book, it adds that book to your total for you. 
You can see how Goodreads is nirvana for us bibliophiles!
Reviewing Books
I have also been having fun reviewing the work of fellow authors lately.  I think of this as positive writing karma.  While some of the work is…umm…interesting, I think it is really important to support fellow authors.  I hope that when I release books there will be people willing to read and do reviews for me.  I have always made a point of posting reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, and now that I am working on being a full time author, I can see how valuable those reviews really are.  Let’s face it – when you go to purchase a book online, you like to check the reviews first, to see if others liked it.  Reviews are like gold to authors.

Reading is a huge part of my life
I try to include some time reading into my life every day (which is more than I can say for housework).  As I continue my journey toward full time writing, I know that reading is an essential part of growing and improving my skills.  Every famous author extols the virtues of reading.   Stephen King stated, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  William Faulkner explains, “Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it.
Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”
Perhaps Dr. Seuss said it best, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Menopause – going through puberty in reverse

 
 
I just realized that in six short months I will officially be joining the 50 and older crowd.  It is so strange to think about actually being a half century old, it is even stranger to realize that those 50 years have passed, it honestly flew right by.  I know that lots of folks fear getting older – and to be fair, there are lots of struggles and challenges that come with age, but I really do feel like I am having the best time of my life right now.  My two beautiful daughters are grown and I have found an incredible partner to spend my life with, so things are really good. 
 
But…(some of you knew that but was coming, didn’t you?)  Coming close to 50 also means entering that most dreaded time of a woman’s life – Menopause.  Menopause can make life very interesting.  If you are too young to think about menopause you can stop reading right now – because this won’t mean much to you.  If you are the husband or significant other of a woman going through menopause – you need to read this to help understand why the woman you love occasionally turns into a raving lunatic.  If you are a woman in her late 40’s or older, you will be able to completely relate to what I am saying & sometimes it’s nice to know that you are not completely crazy, and that other women have felt the same way. 
 
Right now I am in what most doctors refer to as peri-menopause, and while that sounds like an expensive brand of water, it is basically the time period when my body is beginning to go through changes related to no longer being able to have children.  It seems completely odd that headaches, hot flashes, irritability, weight gain and a slowing metabolism are all the by-products of not being able to have kids anymore, but somehow all of this craziness is related inside our bodies. 
 
For me, this whole peri-menopause thing has led to some weird, embarrassing and uncomfortable situations related to my reproductive system.  I am actually working on a manuscript right now about the crazy mixed up adventures of me and my uterus and hopefully I will be able to give a humorous view of the struggles that women my age are going through.  J (Wish me luck on finishing and publishing my book).
 
For most women, menopause happens slowly over several years.  I realize this sounds like extended torture, but the good news is that, for me at least, not all of the symptoms happen all at once.  Much like when your body went into puberty, suddenly without warning you will begin to experience some interesting or uncomfortable new bodily occurrences.  For example, instead of waking up with hair on your underarms, now you get to wake up with weird hairs growing on your chin.  Instead of asking your girls friends to borrow a tampon or sanitary pad because you forgot yours, now you ask your girls friends to borrow their reading glasses. 
 
Perhaps the most well known menopause symptom for women are hot flashes.  These little adventures can happen at any time of the day or night, and they prefer to happen at the most inopportune times.  I have a friend who refers to these little blessed events as her own personal trip to the tropics, which is actually a quite fitting description for the sudden feeling that you are drowning inside a hot humid swamp of some kind.  For me, these little personalized sauna adventures actually start in one spot, my face or neck perhaps and then slowly migrate across my entire body.  The really good news is the once I am completely drenched in sweat, after 4 or 5 minutes it actually starts to go away.  Until I get another one at the next most inopportune time.
 
Another prominent feature of menopause are frequent headaches, this has something to do with the changing levels of hormones in your body.  Even women who are not prone to regular headaches seem to have more of them during this fantastic adventure leading to menopause. 
 
One of the most dreaded symptoms of menopause for women is weight gain.  As your body enters menopause, your metabolism slows down and the weight can begin to add up, particularly in the middle section of your body, giving your shape that lovely barrel effect that so many women desire.  Some women try valiantly to ward off the weight gain by frantic attempts at diet and exercise, but often this is not entirely successful. 
 
The most notorious symptom of menopause might be the mood swings and irritability – but since we have already mentioned hair growth in unwanted places, hot flashes, headaches and weight gain – is it really any surprise that women going through menopause are irritable?
 
Doctors generally agree that a woman is officially in menopause once her monthly period have stopped for a year or longer, which is the only menopause symptom that I am actually looking forward to. 
 
While menopause is an undeniable part of getting older, the good news is that it is only temporary, and once you have endured through the crazy mixed up world of menopause, you can now relax and enjoy being part of the post menopause club and have fun watching as other women go through it. 




 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Editing your manuscript; It just needs another coat of paint

As I was recently working on a fun painting project with my fiancé, I realized that the writing process is a lot like painting.  First you have to decide on your colors and get all you supplies - just like writers have to come up with their story idea, and do the research.  When it's time to begin, you just have to put the brush on your project.  It helps to use a good paint with a basecoat built right in, just like having some natural talent as a writer helps your writing.  It usually comes out a little rough at first, the coverage is uneven, the brushstrokes might be messy, but the whole point of this first layer is to get the paint on.  Thinking about the writing process, this is your first attempts at writing, just getting words on the paper.  If you worry too much about getting it perfect, you will never get the words down. 

It takes time to get coverage all over and then comes the hard part, you have to be patient and wait for it to dry.  If you keep trying to touch up little imperfections it will make things even worse and it is a never ending battle.  To get perspective in your writing, you really need to step away from your first draft, you could work for days at small changes, but taking some time away lets everything settle - on your painting and in your manuscript.  When it is ready you can add your second coat, or in the case of your writing, fill in all the missing details.  Now you can begin to see your project coming together.
Once again you need some patience here, to let the project really dry.  If you try to put finishing touches on too soon - it just won't be ready.  When painting my chairs, they sat overnight, and then I wanted to add the style to really make the chair my own.  I made the mistake of not using the proper tools, I started to add the accent color and basically I made a mess - but thankfully I was smart enough to stop & get the right tools for the job.  This is the part in your editing process where you need tools like an outside editor (or two or three) to help you get the job done.  In painting, my tool was as simple as some painter's tape. 
It took some time and effort to apply the painters tape, but it saved so much time in fixing mistakes later. It is uncomfortable, and even a struggle at times, but once I carefully removed the tape, I had such a beautiful chair.  Editing your manuscript can be a struggle too - it feels uncomfortable, but if you use the right editor, once the tape is removed you will be happy with the finished product too.  Now beware, even after the tape came off, I still found a few spots that needed some touch up.  One extra look through your manuscript (or two or three)  can find any spots that still might need a touch up.
 

 
Your project is complete, make sure to find time to really enjoy it!  It's okay to show off and brag a little, you worked really hard.  Make sure to celebrate and brag about your manuscript too.   Not only is this a good way to celebrate, but it helps to generate some pre-sales excitement for your book.
 
After some time relaxing and enjoying your creation, if you are anything like me, you will be ready to start on another project soon.
 
 
 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review of Once in a Blue Moon by Ken Christopher Ping

 
I got a free copy of this book from the author for my honest review.  This book was an interesting collection of three short stories.

The first story 'Of Sand and Castles" was a sad tale about twin brothers finding their own way in the world, I have to be honest this one was my least favorite of the three. The story explored the conflicting emotions of the two brothers, each seeking approval from their father the king.

The second story 'The Mothers Day Gift' was a sweet tale about love and devotion, where a small boy learns he was adopted and wrestles with this knowledge, but ultimately comes to understand what real love is.

The final story "Once in a Blue Moon' was an interesting fable type story, giving a rationale of why we have a blue moon based on a character named Rainbow and her desire to help a young couple find love. It was strange to introduce new characters into Greek god lore, and in some ways I feel like this story missed the mark, combining Cupid & Aphrodite as if they had no opinion of their own.

I enjoyed reading the stories, but the writing was a bit stiff and formal at times. While there was no connection between the three stories, the author has an interesting point of view and I really enjoyed the romantic feeling of all three stories, especially 'The Mother's Day gift' and its wonderful expression of selfless love.
 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Freedom of speech, doesn't mean free of consequences

It is not okay to be mean!
 

Please excuse my rant, but I am so tired of the craziness.  I am tired of the excessive rhetoric on social media.   I'm tired of people belittling others and justifying their actions.  I believe we all have a responsibility to each other - and anonymous insults, threats and negative commentary is not helping any of us. 

Ahhhh - thanks for letting me get that out there.  I live in Arizona, a state that some people consider Ground Zero for bigotry & intolerance, and based on some of our state legislation, that is not always an inaccurate statement, but to paint all Arizonans with the same brush is as wrong as the legislation that many think define us. 

Despite the intolerance of some narrow minded and often short sighted legislators, I really do love this state.  There is a lot to love about Arizona.  We have some of the best weather in the country (at least during the fall, winter & spring months).  Arizona sunsets are unparalleled in their beauty.  Our state boasts an amazing collection of diverse cultures and a rich history.  Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized Native American tribes.  According to Google (based on US census numbers) Arizona has a population of 6.553 million people.  Most Arizonans are kind and caring, but like most states, we have our share of challenges.  We are a state that has much to offer.

 Unfortunately we are also home to some of the most discriminatory proposed laws in this country – for example the current controversy over Senate Bill #1062.  If you haven’t heard about this law, it’s an attempt to protect an individual’s right to discriminate based on their religious beliefs – and the primary target of the bill is the LGBT community.   

I am not writing to persuade anyone to support or oppose this law, I am writing this post because after several days of my Facebook & Twitter feed absolutely blowing up about this law, I am frustrated with the lack of ability of either side to conduct any kind of reasonable discourse about the issues.  Social media has made it so easy to simply SHOUT your indignation or outrage, or just plain old insults at other people.  For some reason – even reasonable people, who would never shout insults at total strangers, let alone friends and co-workers, these reasonable people feel that it is okay to be mean and rude on social media. 

It is not okay to be mean or rude to anyone – even if you don’t agree with them, and even if they are mean and rude first!  When did we as adults stop following basic common courtesy?  This acceptance of mean and rude behavior has infiltrated every aspect of our culture – even the news media participate in name calling and sensationalism. 

I don’t know if the Arizona Governor will sign or veto this bill, I personally hope that she will veto, but either way – it is not okay for me to spew hatred simply because I disagree.  I am going to try my best to bring back some civility to social media – even if I am outnumbered, because being polite is the right thing to do. 



The Social Part of Social Media: Part 3 – Building your Brand

It seems like there is so much more to being an Author than simply writing a book or two.  Have you heard about building your brand as an Author?  One of the first steps to building your brand is deciding what your brand is.  I chose Laurie W-J-N as a simple way to identify all of my various media.  It is simple but it works well for me.  The next step to building a brand is sharing it with the world, for most of us that means sharing it through social media.  Making a Facebook page, having a blog or website, having a Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Youtube or any number of new social media options for connecting with potential readers of your work all require time to master and even more time to maintain at a consistent level for optimum efficiency – so when do you even have time to write anymore…
 Well, if that’s how you feel you are not alone.  As I have discovered, social media can be overwhelming, but it can also be encouraging & affirming.  As I work on building my ‘brand’ as an Author – what I am really doing is letting the world know that I have something cool to say and I am encouraging folks to follow my work.  For me personally, the number one reason for branding is to make a commitment with myself and my potential fans that I am in this for real.  Having my Author page on Facebook and all the other media options is a statement about who I am and where I want to be going.  It’s also a very public statement. 

The other important part of branding is to build genuine relationships with fellow writers and potential customers.  The more I work on building authentic relationships and recognition of my name/my brand, the better my potential readership will be – and let’s face it, the goal of any author is to have people actually read your work. 
Here are just a few pointers that I have learned about this whole idea of branding. 
1.       Have a consistent brand.  Use the same profile picture, the same tag line & the same description for all of your social media.  Consistency is key in developing that recognition.  If you look at my Facebook, my Twitter, my Pinterest, my Instagram, my Goodreads, they all are consistent. 
2.       Put your web/Blog address prominently on every platform.  Finding multiple ways to drive folks to your site is the best way to increase traffic and hopefully increase your readership over the long term. 
3.       Make sure to engage with your followers, and do this consistently; reply to every comment – even if it’s only a quick thank you, like the posts of other authors, it only takes a second to tap and like photos on Instagram so as you sit waiting for a doctor appointment or for your coffee to finish brewing,  grab your smart phone and start tapping. 
4.       Even though you are excited about your new book release, be careful not to try and ‘sell’ you or your products with every interaction.  Building genuine relationships goes much farther in the long run – than simply pushing your book.  You should announce and be excited about your publications, but make sure you have developed relationships first. Balance your 'sales' contacts with genuine interactions.   
5.       Don’t list something everywhere – all the time.  Sometimes you can focus on using only one social media outlet and use other sites to promote it.  It’s okay to use a teaser, i.e. see my Instagram this week for a special give away. 
I am so lucky to have an amazing daughter who is extremely savvy at social media marketing – she has helped me learn the ropes (although I have sooo much more learning to do).  I have taken her expertise and started building my brand as an Author.  I have made some great contacts so far & I am really excited about what the future holds – but right now I have to get back to actually working on my writing, because the most important part of your brand is having quality work to share J
 
 
 
If you missed it -
In Part 1 of this series we explored making your Facebook author page and how to begin connecting with other Authors and writers in the writing community (http://lookingonthesunnyside.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-need-to-be-social-on-social-media.html)
In Part 2 of the series we explored the idea of paying to promote your page or increase your followers (http://lookingonthesunnyside.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-social-part-of-social-media-part-2.html )
 
 

Sharing is caring

My Mom always told me that sharing is a good thing - with that in mind I am happy to share a great big THANK YOU to Vicki Taylor at Your Writing Coach for featuring me as her Guest Blogger today - I hope you have a minute to check out my post http://www.succeedatwriting.com/2014/02/there-is-no-age-limit-for-pursuing-your.html

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Social Part of Social Media: Part 2 – There are no shortcuts; Do NOT buy Likes or Followers


It seems like a good idea to promote your author Facebook page, but should you?  Well if you are thinking about purchasing likes for your page or paying Facebook for promotion – the answer is a definitive NO. 


It sounds very tempting, who doesn’t love the idea of rapidly gaining hundreds or even thousands of likes for your page.  You pay for an add and suddenly you feel like Sally Field at the Oscars “They like me, they really like me” (hopefully you are old enough to enjoy that reference)

But beware – purchasing followers of any kind can do more harm than good.  Once you decided to click that button to promote your posts or purchase those ‘fake followers’ your numbers may take a big jump, but almost none of those followers are actually interested in you and what you have to say.  They are even less likely to be potential future customers of your books. 

Facebook is actually an incredibly sophisticated program that chooses who gets to see your posts, based on all kinds of data including the amount of engagement your page typically gets.  Those fake followers may inflate your overall number of likes, but they actually destroy your percentage of followers who are genuinely interested in your posts and who interact (clicking like or commenting or sharing your posts).  That percentage of engagement is actually a primary factor in Facebook determining who gets to see your posts.  Lower engagement reduces how often your page is featured in the news feed of your followers.  So even with more followers your Facebook is now less effective at sharing with others.  This doesn’t seem right – but it is very strategic, because now Facebook can sell you more services to boost your posts. 

In terms of growing your Facebook numbers, organic growth is best.  Continue to connect with other authors, share your Facebook page info on all of your other social media and slowly build up a following of people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.  This is the most effective way to grow your presence – Shortcuts usually come with a price and in the case of Facebook, shortcuts can actually be harmful.  If you really want to grow your Facebook numbers – ask people to come follow you. 
Did I mention - Please “like” me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LaurieWJN 

If you missed it - In Part 1 of this series we explored making your Facebook author page and how to begin connecting with other Authors and writers in the writing community (http://lookingonthesunnyside.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-need-to-be-social-on-social-media.html)
 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Social part of Social Media – Part 1 Growing Your Facebook

Learning the ins and outs of social media can be a challenge. I must admit having a very tech savvy daughter helps quite a bit.  You read somewhere that you should have a Facebook page to help market your book or your blog, so you went onto Facebook and made your page.  (if you want to check out an example visit https://www.facebook.com/LaurieWJN and hey, please feel free to like my page and leave a comment or two).  That was actually pretty stress-free. 

You followed the basic directions and realized, hey I can do this.  But you are not done yet.  Now you need to invite your friends and family (the ones who actually might care about your writing) to like you page.  I did read about a fun strategy about making an event to ‘launch’ your new page and inviting friends and family as a way to increase your following.  So far so good.  You keep checking and you can see the likes adding up, which feels great. 

Unfortunately, you are just getting started.  You will want to be strategic in adding posts, you want to post fairly regularly, but not too much so that it annoys your followers.  You will also want to play around and get used to using your new page, once you sign in as your new writer/author/blogger page make sure you post links to your blog and/or website. 

It is also a good idea to link your Facebook page to other social media accounts.  Do you have a twitter account?  Are you on Pinterest? (If not please see my earlier post about Pinterest http://lookingonthesunnyside.blogspot.com/2014/02/have-you-discovered-pinterest-yet.html )  Are you on Google+? Are you on Instagram?  There are so many social media outlets, don’t feel frantic, but do your best to identify where else followers can find you.  This was a bit of a learning curve for me, so don’t worry, you will get there too.  

A quick word of caution here – make sure to set time limits or decide to work on only one goal per day i.e. add my twitter address to my Facebook today, or you could wind up spending way too much time on your social media – and while promotion is important, you need to have a product to promote. 

Now you have your Facebook page, it is linked to your other accounts, you are posting at least 2-3 times per week, but you are still not quite done.  Here is the social part of social media; connecting with other authors is an important way to grow your following and use your Facebook page effectively.  To connect with other authors, log in to Facebook and make sure you are posting as your author/writer page (click the gear shaped icon at the top right hand corner of the page and click on ‘use Facebook as’ your page).  Now use the search feature to search some authors that you know and like, and make sure to click like on their page.  Once you have searched authors you know, you can see who they like and like those pages also.



Liking a page is not actually befriending someone the way your personal Facebook profile does, it is simply following that page on your news feed.  Again, still ensuring you are logged in as your author/writer page go check out the news feed and feel free to like or comment on what you see.  This will increase your visibility and the likelihood that other authors will reciprocate and Like your page in return.  Congratulations, now you are connecting and being ‘social’ with an audience of literary peers and not just your aunt and neighbor.  This takes time, it will not happen overnight, but the more social connections you can make on your Facebook page, the more useful it will be when you want to attract more attention to your blog or when you are ready to release a new book and you want to get the word out to your potential audience. 

Did I mention - Please “like” me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LaurieWJN 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Finding a Balance

I just read a blog online giving advice about staying on track and getting things done.  I commented to my fellow blogger that the hardest part of my day is staying focusing on my writing.  As I continue to build my writing platform, work on my blog & network with other writers, I am finding it hard to maintain a good schedule of actually getting the writing on my book accomplished.  It is all a matter of balance

 
So far I have gotten into a routine of spending some time each morning catching up on social media, doing some author promotion & platform building, but if I'm not careful I can get lost in Facebook or Twitter for waaaay too long and suddenly realize that I have very little time left to focus on my actual writing.  As an emerging writer, I know that I need to network and have an audience, so when I do have a book to release I will have a network to share it with, but if I don't stay on track and plan enough time for the actual writing - I won't have a book to share.  Even working on my blog (again to build a following of folks who are actually interested in reading what I have written) is time away from my book.


I am happy to say that I have successfully adhered to my 500words a day challenge for 10 days so far (I promised myself 500 words a day for 31 straight days).  While I am counting blog posts in this challenge - I have been successful at adding over 2000 words to my book so far.  Being able to write, free from distractions, and feeling creative enough to really have something to say can be difficult to 'schedule', but setting goals for myself really do help.  Each day I allow myself to focus on 1 new marketing task.  Yesterday I focused on learning how to add a Facebook like button to my blog (and it was surprisingly harder that it should be).  I know that connecting my social media and my blog is a good thing - so I was willing to spend some time in that learning curve to accomplish my task.  Being able to set limits is important though, so after getting the Facebook info on my blog, it was time to get OFF Facebook and get back to writing.  This morning I spent some time (around a half an hour) exploring Google + and adding fellow writers to my 'circle of friends'.  I am excited to learn from fellow authors and I hope they will support me as well.  After working on this I made a point of working on my manuscript.  I am happy to admit I added more than my 500 words for today.  I may try to increase my daily word count to 1000 next month, but I want to make sure its realistic - so I am not setting myself up to fail. 

 Another area that requires balance for me personally is knowing when to close my lap top and be done for the day.  There are some times I am feeling much more productive than others – so I want to capitalize on my positive energy.   I also know that sometimes I have a tendency to obsess slightly, so I need an occasional reminder from my fiancé that it is time to ‘un plug’.  As I adapt to the working from home lifestyle, I am learning how to take time for chores and household tasks as a way to take a break from writing and help me refresh my focus, but I have to be careful that I am not purposely using these chores as a way to avoid doing the hard work of writing, especially when I am not as ‘in the mood’ to be creative.  Again – it is learning the successful balance. 

I will probably need to work on balance each and everyday - but each day I get better at it, and each day I am getting more writing accomplished. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dreaming of being a Travel Writer



I have always had what my Mom referred to as 'wanderlust', an insatiable desire to see basically everywhere.  A quick look at my Pinterest boards and you will see the many locations listed on my “Places I want to see” board and even more incredible pins on the “places I have been” board.  Travelling is such an incredible opportunity to take a very large world and make it small.  The more places we see, the more we understand others and the more we see that it is our similarities that bind us, not our differences. 

I am proud to boast that I have travelled to thirty-five states in my adult life (and by this I do not include things like layovers at an airport, but actually driving into or through that state).  Being able to see those last 15 states is a big goal of mine.  I can also boast that I have travelled to 14 different countries outside of the United States, but to be fair a few of those countries are pretty tiny (Vatican City, San Marino, Monaco, and Lichtenstein). 

In all of my travels, I have basked in the sights, smells and tastes of each of these unique places.  It does seem like I would be a good fit for doing travel writing, but it is not as easy as it seems.  I have begun to do a little research and so far I am on the right track. 

Some of the best advice for travel writing that I have found can be summarized into just a few main points;

·         Travel a lot – and document (blog or whatever works for you) all of the rich experiences of your travels

·         Find your unique niche in the travel market – there are tons of folks who would love to go to exotic places and sip tropical drinks for a living, so what makes you stand out from the crowd

·         Write your articles and make sure you write them very well; be clear in your purpose.

·         Network, both online and offline to get your story published

Spending just a few minutes researching online – it is obvious there are a ton of publication choices out there related to travel.  We have all heard of some of them; Conde Nast, Travel & Leisure, and of course the holy grail of travel magazines – National Geographic, which has a new National Geographic Traveler edition, but there are so many online choices today.  To find out submission guidelines you will need to scroll to the very bottom of their website and most often click on ‘contact us’ or a similarly titled button. 

You may get rejected, most likely you will get rejected several times, but if you love to travel as much as I do – it’s worth trying, that way you can hopefully join me on a beautiful beach somewhere, with a tropical drink in your hand and we can both be paid to write about our incredible travel experiences.


 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Have you discovered Pinterest Yet?


 
For those of you who haven’t discovered Pinterest, you are missing out on a valuable marketing tool and social media platform.  You are also missing out on some fun, but beware, once you start pinning – it’s hard to stop. 


Pinterest is simply a tool that anyone can use to keep or ‘pin’ items onto various personal boards.  You can pin pictures, web links, recipes, pretty much anything you can find online – you can pin it, just like you would pin something onto your own personal bulletin board.  I like to think of Pinterest as a virtual scrapbook.  The most fun part of Pinterest is that there is no limit to the types of things you can pin.  Pinterest will give you some ideas to start, but virtually any topic of interest can become a personal board. 
 
 
Getting started with Pinterest is easy enough, and once you get started you will not want to stop.  There are two basic choices when it comes to adding to your Pinterest boards.  You can go search the internet or upload your own items to pin, or you can follow what other people choose to pin and then simply click and re-pin that item to one of your boards.  This is where Pinterest has the most potential for book sales and marketing.  If you build a long list of pinners who follow your board and then decide to re-pin your book, and their followers also re-pin your book, the reach can be incredible.  Just like other social media – it takes some time and practice to build up your boards and your following.   Another great bonus, when you go on the Pinterest site, there is a live stream of items that are being pinned by strangers, so your pin may be viewed by hundreds or even thousands of potential followers. 

A key factor in the success of using Pinterest is making sure you have eye catching visuals, you have to get the attention of your reader if you want them to re-pin your post. 

I have created a Pinterest board appropriately titled “Becoming a Writer” where I share not only links to my blog posts, but loads of other helpful blog articles, images and tools for fellow aspiring writers.  I have built up a following of over 200 followers.  That number grows every day.

If you want to go check out my pins just click http://www.pinterest.com/azlaurie/

As I work toward increasing the reach of my blog and building a solid base of readership, Pinterest is another excellent tool that can help me work toward my goals. 
If you would like to read more about it, a great article with step by step instructions on how to use Pinterest can be found at http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/852875/pinterest-what-it-is-how-to-use-it-and-why-youll-be-addicted

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Believing in Yourself

 
No one ever promised that a career in writing would be easy.   Unlike other jobs, a writer must believe in themselves in order to be successful, but how can you do that?  Especially as a new writer, having the confidence to forge ahead with your writing career can be a struggle.

Here are some important ways that all writers can increase their confidence;

1.      Commit to what you are doing.  I realize that sounds overly simple, but it is essential.  To be successful you can’t halfway commit.  Show your commitment by publicly sharing your intent to write.  Tell your family and friends, list writing as your profession on your Facebook profile or other social media. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are working on a novel – most of the people you meet are wishing they had the courage to pursue their dreams.  Your courageous commitment can be an inspiration to them as well.  To be committed also means you are willing to work on it every day.  Show your commitment by continually practicing your skills; find whatever works for you and do it often, whether that’s journaling or daily blogging, find a way to keep getting better.  Practice, Practice, Practice.  I have committed to write at least 500 words every single day for a month, no days off and no excuses.  Some days will be easier than others, but that’s what commitment is all about – every day, whether it an easy day or a really tough one, and that commitment will help give you the confidence to succeed. 

2.      Celebrate every success.  If you read my earlier blog post about reaching your goals, I was bragging about making it to 10,000 words in my current book.  It isn’t that much, but for me it’s a milestone.  When you do something great, take time to celebrate.  Every milestone increases your level of confidence.   Shout it from the rooftops, and feel proud.  Each success will propel you even further.  I am so lucky to have an amazing set of cheerleaders every time I do something good, they help me celebrate.  My fiancé is so encouraging and my daughters are so supportive, plus I have a great network of friends.  I share what I am doing on social media and the positive feedback and reinforcement I get back is invaluable.  Use your family and friends to give you that needed pat on the back. 


3.      Constantly create.  Celebrate the creative soul that you are and trust yourself to share your words and ideas.  Don’t waste time second guessing, that’s what the editing process is for.  This may be the hardest part, but focus on being present and in the current moment.  Let go of everything else and just create.  Find the time and space that you need, put on your headphones, go outside, whatever it takes to get your creative juices going and let it flow.  The biggest confidence boost you can have is simply to believe in yourself and allow yourself to go for it.  Fear won’t magically disappear, struggles won’t magically go away, but if you can just get out of your own way, you will be astounded at all that you can accomplish.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

So in the words of the Journey song, "Don't stop believing"