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Archive for March, 2012

Release the perfectionism and find your own voice as a writer

 

Of all the books I’ve ever read, the one that stands out as the most beautifully lyrical is Sting’s autobiography, Broken Music. Perhaps that can be explained by his years as lead singer and chief lyricist for The Police. I tend to think the British flavor of his writing is also a significant factor. However it came about, I was just so delightfully surprised by the book that certain details of his story still remain fixed in my mind, though I read it only once seven years ago.

Another wonderfully gifted writer is Ed Montini, columnist for the Arizona Republic, my hometown newspaper. His attention to detail and deft use of language enable him to spin word pictures like Rumpelstiltskin spun gold. That we still get to read him twice a week is a rare gift in a world of disappearing newspapers.

My writing, on the other hand — well, you can see it for yourself — tends to be proficient, but it’s no frills. “Just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe Friday would say. Back in 2004, I made my first foray into the 3-Day Novel Contest. Though I did not win, I received what could only be considered an exceptional rejection letter, a handwritten note at the top of the form letter that said, “Laura, Stan (my title character) made it pretty far into the process. Good dialogue. Good flow. Good job.”

Heartened by the feedback, I set out to enhance and expand my original 109 pages (pretty typical for a 3-Day Novel submission) into something that more resembled an actual book. After two years, I think I might have bulked Stan up to a hefty 150 pages. Convinced I needed help, I asked my friend, Carol Hogan — an amazing poet in her own right — to have a look at it. Her feedback, while truthful, was telling of my skill (to that point, at least) as a fiction writer: “It’s a really good outline.”

I still believe Stan has a lot of promise and plan to finish his story one day, perhaps weaving in some of Carol’s fanciful and creative suggestions. The thing is, I know I’m not a bad writer. But I make a significant portion of my living editing other people’s words, which usually means paring back, NOT adding to the original text. So the gorgeous descriptions that make delicious fiction so vibrant are notably absent from mine, if only because my creative process just doesn’t seem to work that way. I would venture that the same is true for most of my writing.

That said, I do recognize and appreciate luminous writing when I see it. Two blogs I’ve recently begun reading come to mind. The first I mentioned last week: the anonymous gal who writes Stopping the Wind, in which she elegantly chronicles her commitment to personal change.

The other is Sonja Haller’s Soulful Writing. In a recent post, Sonja wrote about ditching the pursuit of perfection to begin creating. I liked it immediately because it reminded me of a post I did a few months back about my mantra for procrastinators: Done Is Better than Perfect. However, while Sonja writes soulfully of her own experience, I target the reader with an in-your-face bit of advice.

From Sonja’s post:

And almost weekly I struggle when doing a bit of creative writing because I’m waiting for some version of perfect to appear. I’m waiting for the kitchen to be all clean. I’m waiting to feel fully awake and alert. I’m waiting for some inspirational or ethereal nudge.

From my post:

And next time you are tempted to rewrite your blog message before posting it, change your social media profile picture one more time, re-read and edit your e-mail blast for the dozenth time, spend another hour editing a video, or any other aspect of what can only be called busywork, catch yourself in the act and recite your new mantra: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.

The thing is that neither is right or wrong. We simply have different writing styles. Just because I have a deep appreciation for melodious writing does not mean that everyone appreciates that type of prose. Some people are probably naturally attracted to a more straightforward, unembellished writing style. I think the biggest thing to take away from this discussion is the importance of finding YOUR voice. What about your writing makes it unique to you?

May you find a way to relinquish perfectionism and discover your voice!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Other authors: Competition or collaborative marketing partners?

I’d like to emphasize that when a reader finishes a great novel, he will immediately begin looking for another. If someone loves your book, it increases the chance that he or she will look at mine. So there is no competition between writers. Another writer’s success helps build a larger readership for all of us.

— David Farland,
bestselling author of the Runelords series

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Human nature is frail, and one of the frailties almost any entrepreneur – including authors – seems to experience at one time or another is a lack perspective. This can show up dressed in any number of different ways:

  • “If you win, I’ll lose.”
  • “If someone buys your book, they won’t buy mine.”
  • “If you get invited speak, I won’t be asked.”
  • “If you get a good review, people will hate my book.”

If you’re honest, you can probably add a few of your own to that list.

Where does this nonsense come from? Well, as noted above, it stems from our human nature and the gremlins in our heads that tell us we’re not good enough. It comes from fear that the Universe is not magnanimous and generous and a failure to realize that there’s more than enough for all of us – whether in the form of money, sales, readers, fans, or opportunities.

That is why I love David Farland’s quote so much! “There is no competition between writers. Another writer’s success helps build a larger readership for all of us.”

So if we truly believe that another author’s success contributes to my success – and that there is no such thing as competition – how can we use that to our advantage when it comes to marketing? One great way is to get together with one or several other authors who write similar books and pool your resources for a collaborative marketing campaign. Put simply, this means you share the work, the expense, and the rewards.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Co-sponsor a book signing. Rather than just one of you footing the cost for the venue, food, etc., you share the costs and, more importantly, leverage your joint connections to reach a wider list of potential attendees.

2. Share collateral material like bookmarks, flyers, and business cards. If you print double-sided, one author’s promotions can appear on the “front,” while the other author appears on the reverse. Splitting costs might allow you to create a more professional product than either of you could have made on your own.

3. Interview each other on your social media sites. Again, this about sharing the wealth. If you’ve got 1,200 Twitter followers and your partner has 1,000 fans on his Facebook page, take turns promoting each other to your respective connections.

4. Create a joint blog. No one ever said that a blog had to be written by just one person. In fact, the large news and business blogs usually have many, many contributors. A joint blog with another author will enable you to expand your reach while saving you time and effort. If you each post twice a week, that’s double the effect you could have on your own in half the time.

These are just a few ideas to get you started – I’m sure if you put on your SBM* hat, you can think of many more.

You will want to take a few precautions, however. If the author you want to partner with is not someone you know, do your research and get to know them before you jump in with your partnership offer. Then, don’t be afraid to ask for references. Ask good questions to be sure that you’re both on the same page, in terms of your goals and willingness to do the work and split the cost. And always go with your gut. If you have an uneasy feeling about someone, listen to your intuition. Don’t just sign up because they’ve got lots of connections, or go along because you’ve already begun the process. Book marketing is your goal, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to look out for your interests, too.

Happy collaborating!

Laura

*Savvy Book Marketer

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Which came first, the book or the blog?

So far, my posts about blogging have looked at blogging from the perspective of an author who already has a book (or manuscript in process) and is looking for a solid, high-ROI way to get the word out there quickly. As you may have noticed, I’m quite fond of the blogging and think there’s no more direct way to make your mark online – provided you follow all the rules we’ve laid out again and again:

  • Quality content
  • Regular posting
  • Use of images with every post
  • Effective commenting

In Mason Stoller’s post, “Blogs aren’t books” for StayOnSearch.com, he advises bloggers not to write their posts as if they were drafting chapters of their books. Though his commentary is a bit snarky, there’s some good stuff in there, too – including the following tips for writing your blog:

  • Use easy to read features like bullet points, lists, quotes, etc
  • Make key phrases & ideas bold, italicized, underlined
  • Blend in images and video as your post runs on, this helps break the information and keep your readers interested
  • Don’t write longer than 5 or 6 sentences without a break, spacing helps the reader move through the words and concepts
  • Change font size to emphasize and point out specifics

Today, I want to flip the telescope around and look at the idea of a blog becoming a book. The good news is that quite a few blogs/websites have found book deals and been published as books, though from the reviews, that’s not always a good thing. Read a few of the reviews in AVClub’s November 2008 post, “Why buy the cow?” and FreelanceWritingGig’s February 2010 post, “13 Blogs that Became Books.” Please note, 9 of the better-known books are mentioned in both of these posts.

Then there’s Mashable.com’s December 2009 post, “Blog to Book,” that delves a bit deeper than the review posts mentioned above. Limiting its coverage to just 6 books (This Is Why You’re Fat being the only title here also to appear on the other two lists), this post takes more of an interview format, asking the authors questions about the blog-to-book process. Though the questions vary a bit with each author, each interview touches on topics such as:

  • Blogger name
  • Blog title/URL
  • Book title
  • Public reaction to the book and blog
  • Traffic-driving methods
  • Highest traffic point
  • How the book deal came about
  • Why the book
  • Which earns more revenue – the blog or the book?
  • Any future ventures?

The subscription site mediabistro.com has a multi-part video interview with authors and literary agents who have had books converted from blogs. In one segment of the video, several authors and agents are interviewed, among them, Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia. Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, author of Apartment Therapy, shared his experience, “The biggest challenge for me was finding time to go away from the online world. … There’s instant gratification with the online world. It’s a luxury – you don’t have that with a book.”

However, literary agent Kate Lee, who represents ICM, offered this piece of inspiration, “If you have a blog and you’re profiled in The New York Times, you’re going to get a nice book deal. … It’s not necessarily because you have a blog, but because you were profiled in The New York Times.”

So let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Will your blog become a bestseller? Wellllll – it’s unlikely that you’ll land a six-figure book deal from a major publishing house, but I have a philosophy of never saying never. If you’ve got an outstanding topic, fantastic writing, great traffic, and loads of subscribers and commenters, you might just want to put together a proposal and hit up the traditional publishers who work in your genre.

Let’s alter the question, though: Can your blog become a book? It’s definitely possible, particularly in this age of self-publishing! My goal is to help any socially conscious writer with a dream to see their book published – and then sell as many of those books as possible. Blog-to-book is a great way to begin because you’ve already done a lot of the writing!

Of course, a few things need to happen first – you can’t just slap all your posts into a PDF and call it done. You’ve got to go through the same process any author does when drafting their book. First – put the thing in some order. A couple hundred random blog posts does not a book make. Give some shape to it by making sure your posts have a reason to their order.

People often express concern that if it’s already out there in a blog, no one will want to buy it in book form. That’s a non-argument, in my opinion. Reading through one post at a time is not in any way the same as reading the information in one contained place: a book. Additionally, chances are pretty good you’ll need to do some further writing to get those posts manuscript ready. Are there gaps? People you need to interview or research you need to do? Are your facts and figures still current? Does every post need to be included? Have you learned something that’s given you a new perspective about a topic from your blog?

Next, you’ll need to have it edited. Of course I always advocate for spending the most money you can afford on the editing – but however you get it done, have someone else (preferably a professional) take a look at it for you.

Then you’ll need a cover and layout/formatting. The next step are the printing and distribution considerations, and all the other things that come with managing the self-publishing process. Of course, after all that, the real work begins: MARKETING your book, which is why you’re here in the first place, isn’t it?

If you haven’t started your book yet but you have a good blog going, it couldn’t hurt to think about turning it into a book.

MARCIE

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Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

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Please check out our new PUBLISHING GLOSSARY!

If you’re observant and have been reading our little blog for a while, you may have noticed we only had one page, other than the home page with the posts themselves: our About page. Well, today that changes! I’m pleased to announce our newly published Publishing Glossary and invite you to review it! It would probably be better titled Publishing and Printing Glossary, but that’s a mouthful, so I opted for the shorter, if less complete, version.

My reasons for compiling this glossary are twofold. Of course, we always want to include content that will boost our SEO rankings – hey, we’re the original SBMs* and we want people to read this blog as much as you want folks to read yours! Secondly, and perhaps the more important reason, is that many self-publishing authors are brand new to the whole publishing world, and everything is a bit unfamiliar to them. This is a VERY comprehensive glossary containing many words you will likely never need to know. But it also includes very important words that you will need to understand if you are to successfully self-publish your book.

Some of the most important terms my clients have not known before they got started include:

BACK and FRONT MATTER: The pages that appear before the main body of a book’s text and the sections following the text. These include such things as the dedication, acknowledgements, table of contents, endnotes, index, bibliography, author biography, and appendix.

TRIM SIZE: The finishued size of the printed material.

TRIM MARKS: Register marks indicating where to cut or trim the pages.

BLEED: Printing that extends beyond the trim marks on a sheet or page; pictures “bleed” if they reach to the edge of the page; this technique often is employed intentionally.

PERFECT BIND: To bind sheets that have been ground at the spine and are held to the cover by glue; common technique used for binding paperback books.

Crop marks

We tried to include useful images where they seemed important or necessary. If there’s a term for which you believe we should have an image but don’t, please give us a shout and we’ll see what we can do about correcting things!

Of course, this blog is really about marketing, so keep a lookout for the forthcoming list of Marketing Terms as well as a general list of Grammar Terms! In the meantime, please enjoy the publishing and printing terms. And if you feel we’re missing a term, please let us know in the comments section on the Publishing Glossary page!

Happy reviewing!

Laura

*Savvy Book Marketer

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Thinking we know everything on a topic is a pretty sure sign that we don’t

Much of this content was originally posted on my other blog on October 19, 2009.

This post was inspired by the newest follower of the Marcie Brock blog, a gal named Erin who writes a blog called A Poet’s Heart. In seeing the name of her blog, I almost immediately thought, “I wonder if she’ll get anything out of my posts because I don’t really know very much about marketing poetry.” Perhaps I have bought into the idea that poetry is difficult to market, and because I’m not a poet, I don’t know anything about it. Will have to ponder that one a bit – because I’m willing to bet I can come up with some useful marketing ideas for poets, both from my own creative well and by researching what other poets have done and are doing.

My next thought was that I’m not very good at poetry. This, too, is probably a belief I’ve bought into because I never really gave myself permission to delve into poetry. I realize as I type this that I also have a habit of telling people that I’m pretty good at dialogue, but I’m not much of a fiction writer. Wow – how our own thoughts can limit us!

I grew up a researcher, so nonfiction came naturally to me, which is perhaps why I got my degree in that aspect of creative writing. I do believe we each have gifts – natural leanings toward one genre or specialization over others. However, if you catch yourself thinking, as I have, “I’m not very good at __________,” PLEASE STOP! Don’t feed your brain junk food! If there’s a genre that interests you and you don’t know much about it, go find a mentor, read a book, take a class, or otherwise explore it. Just don’t tell yourself that you’re not good at it.

Which leads into our topic of the day…

Imagine being 21 years old and thinking you know everything. Perhaps it’s just a human right of passage, a phase we all go through. I have relatively few regrets in my life, but one of them is that I didn’t listen to my college advisor when he told me I needed to take more poetry. “No, sir, I don’t. It says right here in the course catalogue that I have to take only two poetry classes to graduate with my degree in nonfiction writing – and I’ve taken two poetry classes.”

My advisor put on his glasses and examined the line I pointed to with my know-it-all index finger and said, “Well, I’ll be damned.” He seemed to know he had lost the argument, but he tried valiantly to change my mind. His exact words were, “You will regret it later if you don’t take more poetry.”

And my smarty-pants response was, “No, I won’t.” I hated poetry and was terrible at writing it. I found it tedious and boring and I just didn’t see the point. So at the time, from my very limited vantage point, I thought I knew how I would feel in the future. Was I ever wrong!

Turns out, sometimes it’s a good idea to listen to the older, wiser advisors in our lives – particularly since this advisor was none other than Richard Shelton.

Richard Shelton is an Arizona writer, poet, and emeritus Regents Professor of English at the University of Arizona. He has written nine books of poetry; his first collection of poems, The Tattooed Desert, won the International Poetry Forum’s U.S. Award. His 1992 memoir, Going Back to Bisbee, won the Western States Book Award for Creative Nonfiction in 1992, became a New York Times Notable Book, and was selected for the One Book Arizona program in 2007. In 2000, Shelton received a $100,000 grant from the Lannan Foundation to complete two books. You can practically count the living poets who get paid well for their work on one hand – so this accomplishment alone is astonishing!

If that weren’t enough, Shelton’s poems and prose have appeared in more than 200 magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and The Antioch Review and have been translated into Spanish, French, Swedish, Polish, and Japanese.

Back in 1974, Shelton established a writer’s workshop at the Arizona State Prison, and a number of books of prose and poetry written by men in Shelton’s prison workshops have been published. His latest book, Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer details this experience. It won the 2007 Southwest Books of the Year award.

Subsequent to ignoring Professor Shelton’s advice and graduating from the University of Arizona, I have developed a fascination with poetry. I doubt it will ever be my best form of writing, but I have unending respect for the gifted poets who do it well, if only because they seem to make it appear so effortless. As a result, I can’t help but wonder what I might have learned from Professor Shelton if Id simply had the common sense not to think I already knew everything about poetry I would ever need to know. While he may not come to the top of my mind as one of the most influential people in my life, I really wish I’d heeded his advice back then: “You need to take more poetry.” (And I still regularly recall his pet peeve about the word lifestyle and have all but stricken it from my vocabulary.)

My life is wonderful now – but it could have been richer, fuller, more lyrical, and filled with much more beauty and joy if I’d hadn’t thought I knew it all when I was 21. The good news is that it’s never too late to learn something new! I think I see a poetry workshop on my horizon…

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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27 ideas for posts for your author blog

We’ve been talking at length about blogging for a while now and have covered some general ideas for the kinds of posts you might write for your author blog. Here’s a list of 27 specific ideas for posts that might interest the readers of your author blog, broken down into three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and general. If you have other ideas, please feel free to share them in the comment section below!

FICTION

  1. Give readers an inside look. Describe how you went about plotting your novel.
  2. Have one of your readers interview one of your characters, with you responding as the character.
  3. Fill in the back stories for some of your minor characters.
  4. Write a blog post in the voice of one of your main characters.
  5. Write an expert in your field into your story.
  6. Hand draw a map of your story’s setting, whether it’s a real place or completely fabricated. Don’t worry about how well or poorly you draw or whether it’s to scale. The goal is to spur reader interest. Give the readers a tour with your post.
  7. Describe the personalities of your characters and who you might have patterned them after.

NONFICTION

  1. Write about a case study related to your topic.
  2. Interview an expert in your field.
  3. Describe how you got started in your industry. Fill in the interesting part of your back story.
  4. Give readers an inside look. Describe how you went about outlining and structuring your book.
  5. Interview a reader or client about the subject of your book.
  6. Post a graph or create one from statistics in your book. Explain the stats in your post.
  7. Think back to debate club and write a post taking the opposite stance. If your book is about global warming, argue against it. If your book encourages women to take more risks, write a post defending the status quo of women. Note: make your satiric position clear by the end of the post.

GENERAL

  1. Do a Q&A with some of your readers via Facebook and post excerpts.
  2. Write about trends in your genre or subject area.
  3. Write about your favorite authors (especially those who write in your genre or field). Include their photos and a sampling of their books.
  4. Describe the origin of your book. How did it come about? What ideas, events, people, etc. inspired you to write the book?
  5. Describe your research methods for writing your book. Books? Journals? Google? Websites? Travel?
  6. Take folks on a tour of your Table of Contents, offering a sentence or two about each chapter.
  7. Review other novels/books in your field, especially from other lesser-known authors.
  8. Create a controversy by commenting on a news story, blog post, current event, historical event, website, or tweet. Say something outrageous and let the feedback rip.
  9. Share a joke from your topic or genre. Well-told jokes have a tendency to go viral.
  10. Create a glossary for your genre or topic. For example, define some of the key terms related to cryogenics, pottery, quilting, beekeeping, astrophysics, or whatever theme features prominently in your book.
  11. Share an interesting fact or statistic. Give your readers a few tidbits they likely don’t know about your topic, and include graphics that represent your facts. This can be a short blog, with questions like:

Did you know that a 2008 market study in Yoga Journal revealed that some 16 million Americans practice yoga and spend $5.7 billion a year on gear?

Did you know research is showing that yoga can improve your sex life and may even prevent and treat sex problems by increasing the overall health of your cardiovascular system?

  1. Offer advice about the things that have worked to help you overcome writers’ block.
  2. Describe your use of social media in researching, writing, and promoting your book.

As you may know by now, my main suggestion is just that you get started, even if you’re unsure of what to write or a little hesitant about how your blog will be received. Chances are it will be slow going, at first, but as you keep posting, more people will find and follow you. You may have a dearth of topics as you begin, but you will likely find unlimited topics to write about as you continue to post. Suddenly, everything that happens in life is seen through the lens of “that would be a good blog post!” As those ideas come, remember to write them down so you can keep your idea feeder well stocked!

Happy blogging!

MARCIE

__________________

Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

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Lessons and inspirations from the Arizona Women’s Conference

Today I want to share some of the lessons I took from the first – and hopefully annual – Arizona Women’s Conference held yesterday at Scottsdale Community College. (I learned long ago in journalism school that it is incorrect to say First Annual Event, as it can’t be annual until there is a second one, and you can’t know there will be a second event until it happens.)

The theme of the event was INFORM • INSPIRE • IGNITE, and I experienced all three of those things during the conference. Here are the highlights that stood out for me:

KEYNOTE

Julie Erfle, immigration reform advocate: Widow of fallen Phoenix Police Officer Nick Erfle, who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, Erfle gave an emotional, impassioned talk about the importance of finding our common ground on even the most divisive issues: immigration, healthcare, education. She writes a fantastic blog: Politics Uncuffed. She also advised against investing too strongly in future plans, because life so often throws us unexpected curveballs.

LEADERSHIP PANEL

Sheila Tobias, feminist activist: Leadership isn’t getting people to do what you want; it’s getting them to want what you want. It is essential to be able to provide accurate, actionable feedback to people you’re leading in order to steer them to live up to their potential.

Linda Shaffer-Vanaria, 21-year Navy pilot vet: It’s important to find balance between the team and the self. It’s up to you to step out to be known and understood, but that can only happen once you’ve decided how you want to be known.

Jan Gehler, Ed.D., president of Scottsdale Community College: It’s important to find balance in leadership, between who you are intrinsically and who leadership demands you become.

Roberta Mack, activist: There is immeasurable benefit in volunteering, probably more so than in working at a job for which you earn money. She also spoke of the essential need to build teams.

SHAPING MINDSET, PHILOSOPHY, AND INSTINCT, presented by Linda Shaffer-Vanaria

Transitioning from Navy pilot to coach, Shaffer-Vanaria understandably derives much of her philosophy from her Navy experience. My biggest takeaways from her presentation were: To what degree am I responsible for targeting my own mindset? What am I breathing in – what am I inviting in to my air, my space, my energy, my being? How do you move from 20/20 hindsight to 20/20 foresight?

IMPROMPTU SPEECH BY LILLY LEDBETTER, author of Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond

Far and away the most inspirational part of the day was getting to hear Ms. Ledbetter speak. Her southern drawl is delightful, but she’s a firecracker and determined as hell to get her important message across. She had originally planned only to sign and sell her books in the vendor room for the event, but someone offered her the mike at lunch, and she graciously accepted. I made a connection with her when I asked a question during the Q&A: “You have a roomful of women here. Which single action would you recommend we take in order to make a difference on this issue of pay equality for women?” Her answer: “Get educated and vote!” She admonished the room not to form our opinions based on TV ads or newspaper editorials, but to check actual records of the candidates and know what they’ve really done, as opposed to what they’re promising to do.

Later, when I stood line to purchase my book, she remembered me, thanking me for my question, and asking what I do for a living. “I help people who are self-publishing their books,’ was my answer. “Really?” she asked, her face lighting up. “That’s great!”I asked if I might leave my card with her, and she said yes. What she does with it next is anybody’s guess, but it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

DIGITAL STORYTELLING: Finding Your Voice through Story, presented by Linda Hicks and Rachel Woodburn

The facilitators showed a number of very short films made b y their students in which the students combined images and narration to tell their poignant and funny personal stories. The allotted time was far too short for the material they had to present, but I was encouraged to do more video exploration and to make more zines.

A delightful participant, Evelyn Guenther, shared that she’s working on a project to transcribe her grandfather’s diaries that began about 1908 and her father’s diaries that date back to about 1925 for her children. She’s not writing a book, just putting the diaries into a digital format for posterity. She described herself as a conduit between the past and the future.

Awesome quote shared by the facilitators: “My children listened me into storytelling,” by Jay O’Callahan, professional storyteller.

PERSEPHONE PRINCIPLE: A PARADIGM SHIFT FROM THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE TO THE PRACTICE OF HEALTH, presented by Natahsha Deonarain, MD

Though you’ll have to read her forthcoming book (which I will have the privilege of editing) to fully grasp the concept, Natasha delivered the seven steps to transition from the Western status quo focus on illness to a new paradigm: focus on health.

  1. Stop.
  2. Become aware.
  3. Be health (not illness).
  4. Cultivate curiosity.
  5. Channel creativity.
  6. Grow and renew.
  7. Heal, change, and thrive.

I loved this presentation! It’s so refreshing to hear a doctor, initially educated in indoctrinated into the status quo Western focus that keeps us ill, challenge and empower her audience to take responsibility for their own health by shifting their focus from disease to health.

In one exercise, she provided us a small sheet of 4 labels and had us write down four current health concerns, and then apply the labels to our clothing. Then, she said, “Rip off those labels. Those labels – the words you wrote on them – are NOT you!” As her presentation continued, I made label backing sheet into a tiny zine on which I wrote eight health affirmations. When I showed it to my husband last night, he said, “Now you just need to say those every day, right before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up.” I intend to do just that!

What’s in all of this for you?

  • When conferences come up in your area, make a point to be there!
  • Go with an open mind, rather than an agenda carved in stone.
  • Be strategic about which events you attend. Simultaneous to the Digital Storytelling presentation was a presentation titled How to Write and Publish Your Book. Would my prospective clients have been at that presentation? Yes. But I didn’t want to tread on the presenter’s space – and I figured I was more likely to learn or be inspired at the Digital Storytelling presentation.
  •  Get a vendor table, if it’s a conference tailored to your niche audience.
  • Take plenty of business cards, and don’t be afraid to use them. BUT – don’t just throw them at people. Make sure the connection is authentic before you hand your card to someone.

Laura

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