Saturday, May 30, 2020

Indie Publishing and Fear (Holly Schindler)

My first traditional book came out in 2010. I started indie (self) publishing in 2015.

I'm now officially a hybrid--publishing on both the traditional and indie platforms. But in all honesty, nothing has helped me conquer fears quite like indie publishing.

By committing to indie publishing, I know that all my books will be published. No more drawer novels that just couldn't find a home. The thing is, self-publishing isn't about not being "good" enough for traditional publishing. Often, it just means the work didn't quite fit publishing agendas or platforms. But by deciding that the book will go live one way or another, it erases the Is this ever going to see the light of day? fear. 

With indie publishing, you don't have one chance. If a book isn't selling, you can continue to work on it. Switch out covers. Change the blurb. If it's not hitting readers the right way, you can even take it down, rework the manuscript, and republish. Why not? Working on manuscripts even after they've been published has really diminished the fear of making some sort of mistake with a book. 

Indie publishing teaches you everything traditional publishing can't. With indie publishing, I'm making 100% of all the decisions. I design covers. I format the interiors. I write the blurbs. I handle marketing. I have an in-house editor who reads as I write; we bounce ideas and hone the manuscript. I do the copyediting. Because I'm making all the decisions, I learn more. And it informs how I write manuscripts I send to publishers. It makes me feel more confident about submitting those books. 

I've said it often, and I mean it: I think the best thing any writer can do is self-publish something. Even if it's under a pseudonym. It's really amazing how much you learn about the writing industry. And it gives you the kind of confidence that allows you to kick fear to the curb.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Isn't It Ironic- And Painful

by Charlotte Bennardo

It's #NationalSafetyMonth. I'm writing this post with my left hand because I fell off my bicycle and broke my arm in two places. Worse is that I forgot my helmet- required by law-and gashed my scalp. I have 6 staples holding my scalp together. It's the classic excuse kids give: 'I forgot.'

I'm going to spare you from the picture of the staples in my head.

A quick Google of Amazon for books on safety for kids shows a good percentage of them are about stranger danger and body autonomy. I saw one book on gun safety, one on bike safety, a few on fire safety and some on consequences. I didn't check all 35 pages, because some books didn't fit the safety description or were repeats of the same books. While my perusal was by no means exhaustive, clearly we need more books on safety subjects. I'm in no condition to write the books, so any middle grade authors who need a spark... write about the many safety issues kids face.

And always wear your helmet! I won't ever forget mine.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Worst They Can Say Is No

I was just telling one of my children that even when you're scared to ask for something you want, you have to at least ask...because if you don't ask, there's pretty much a 100% chance you won't get what you want. And if you do ask and they say no, the world probably won't come to an end.
 When I started out as a writer, I was afraid to pitch a story to Seventeen magazine. I mean, it was Seventeen! The guide to all things cool that we 80s girls awaited each month with baited breath! Who was I to think I could write for such an iconic publication? But then I figured, "Eh, the worst they can say is no." And they did. Many times. Until they didn't. And then there I was, a writer for the magazine I'd loved as a teenager.

I had the same fear when I pitched my first novel. I was so afraid to try fiction. What if I made a fool of myself? But then I figured, "Eh, the worst they can say is no." And a lot of agents and publishers did. Until one agent said yes and one publisher said yes. And then I was a novelist.
  One thing I'd always wanted to try was screenwriting. But for twenty-something years, I told myself the software was too expensive for something that would probably never pay off...that I had no idea how to go about learning screenwriting technique...that I'm just a woman in Alabama, so why would anyone in Hollywood want to hear from me? But finally, just this past year, I bought the software and some how-to books, and I wrote a screenplay. And it was pretty bad. But I kept learning and now I'm on draft six. Six! Am I crazy to put this much time into something I might never sell? Well, yeah, but as a fiction writer, I'm used to that kind of crazy.

Got a manuscript and a dream? Give it a shot. Send it out! The worst they can say is no.  And who knows? Maybe they'll say yes!

Ginger Rue is the author of the Aleca Zamm series from Aladdin and the Tig Ripley series from Sleeping Bear.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Creativity & FOMO

Everyone has heard of creativity, but not everyone has heard of FOMO. FOMO is the abbreviation of the "fear of missing out." It is defined as anxiety that an exciting or interesting thing may be happening somewhere else. This anxiety can be brought on by the social media posts of friends, acquaintances, and even people we don't know showing photos of all kinds of things we may wish we were doing.

Not everyone may be familiar with the term FOMO, but it is likely that most everyone can relate to the experience, at least from time to time, of the "fear of missing out." It's likely that, even those who have never heard of FOMO, may have that feeling occur a lot more than just from time to time.

Because FOMO anxiety is currently so pervasive in our culture, as soon as I began thinking about creativity and fear, FOMO is what came to mind. I imagine the reason for this is because when I think of creativity, I naturally think of my work as a writer. This work requires me to spend many, many hours alone. In order to spend all those necessary hours alone, I must be willing to face FOMO head on. The fact is, while I am working on a book, I am missing a lot of things - movies I want to see, outings I might want to go on, trips to the mall to shop and have lunch, or even books I might want to read. But the reality is, if I'm not willing to miss out on some of those things, I will miss out on cultivating my creativity. I will miss out on crafting that story about the characters who are running around in my head. And ultimately, I will miss out on finishing the manuscript that will one day be a book in the hands of middle grade readers.

So, do I have the fear of missing out? Sure. And many times, I choose to not miss out. I leave my office, even when I really should be working, to participate in something that I deem too-important-to-miss. But I know, as I work on a project, that being willing to miss some things along the way will be well worth it. Engaging in my creative work allows me to experience something interesting and exciting right at the desk in my office, and the fear of missing that keeps me at work behind the keyboard, keeping the creative juices flowing while I write my next middle grade book.

Happy Reading & Writing
Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy-Cat-Lady-Writer Thing

“I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I've been a resident of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann's Way. It's a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior. My second one is populated with characters slightly less eccentric, but supremely real, made of flesh and bone, full of love, who are my ultimate inspiration for everything.”  -Rory Gilmore, Gilmore Girls

My earliest memories of childhood include two main markers: Cats and books. There are photos of me as a baby, not even walking yet, hanging out with a large, black cat. There are others of me paging through Golden Books, examining the pages from all angles. I was raised on words and animals, on imagination and compassion. It is something I took with me into adulthood. 

I have always had a cat. I am nearly 40 years old. 

Boots appeared in my life, a tiny feral kitten whose mother had died, in my early 20s. The fluffball walked in off my dad’s porch one evening, bold as brass. Boots was sick, however, and getting sicker. He was not expected to live terribly long with a raging respiratory infection in his lungs, eyes and ears. He could not meow or trill or purr or play. I asked the vet to try to save him. I asked them to help me save him. It took more than two months of three-times a day antibiotics into a less-than-thrilled squalling kitten, but bit by bit Boots recovered. 

I remember the first time he purred. It is carved into my memory and heart. 

As a kitten, especially after being ill for so long, Boots was committed to living his life to the fullest. The vet said he likely would not live past 6 or 8 years due to the damage to his system. I said that was okay, I’d give him all the life I could while we were together. 

Boots was at least part-Siamese, though not in appearance. He was all black, tail tip to whiskers. Like a true Siamese, though, Boots was chatty and curious and whip-smart. He had a meow-baby-cry that asked where I was, a meow-ch that said he was hungry, a meow that announced he was bored, a trill that he wanted to play, an expectant purr when he wanted to be picked up, a yowl that assured he was on nightly patrol. The trills, all kinds of trills, went on all day as he’d be talking with me or narrating his day. Boots was busy and into everything - swinging from a curtain one moment and expertly navigating a ball around a set dining room table of porcelain with his paws. He liked a routine, waking me with a paw tap and loud purr and herding me to bed at the end of the day. He knew when it was breakfast time, snack time and dinner time and expected all to arrive on the tick. He favored orange catnip mice, sparklies and a tiny stuffed shrimp as his toys. We enjoyed playing hide and seek - Boots usually won. Each night, we played ping-pong with the catnip mouse. His paw-eye coordination was spectacular. 

It was Boots’ strong, engaging and charismatic personality that inspired my first middle grade novel, THE GREAT CAT NAP. He was sneaky and mischievous yet also clever and creative. I imagined what a cat like Boots would do given the situation he was a reporter or detective-in-training. What came to life were four novels (two yet unfinished) based on Ace the Cat - Boots’ doppleganger. When THE GREAT CAT NAP was published, I met cat person after cat person who read the book. Children and teens, adults and even the elderly. They loved Ace. 

They loved Boots. 

Boots, like Ace and even myself, was never entirely social or adept at parties or crowds or family gatherings. He was particular about who he allowed to see him, and very choosy about who could pet him. Many people didn’t even believe I had a cat, he was so elusive when they’d visit. There were six wonderful years Boots and I shared a senior rescue chihuahua, Lola, who was a great friend and companion for Boots and myself. We both grieved deeply when she died. 

While Boots adored my mother, and would visit and snuggle her, for 13 years, I was the only person Boots would sleep upon through the night or whose hand he would hold. The first time my boyfriend-to-be visited my house, however, Boots made a rare apperance. He scratched on his cat tree and nearly did acrobatics played string - showing off for Ryan. Engaging new people was not something Boots partook in lightly. Within time, Boots would allow Ryan to pet him. Boots would even choose to sleep on him (I admit my jealousy) and even hold his hand. When we moved in together, Boots was happy to herd us both to bed shortly before 10 p.m., share laps and hands and maybe a snack or two - powdered donuts or tiny bits of cheese and, especially, shrimp. For the first time, Boots deeply loved another human besides myself. 

Boots died last week. He was 15 years old. We were together just short of half my life, the longest I have had a companion animal. 

On his last day, we slept in - a rarity for time-managment Boots. We cuddled and he purred and held my hand. He slept on Ryan’s chest for awhile, ate more breakfast than he had for weeks. He trilled at the birds on the deck, watching them flit from feeder to feeder. He sat on my lap while I wrote about Ace the cat, as he did for all my writing about his counterpart. We napped together and watched our favorite show, Gilmore Girls.

To say I am soul-wrenched and devastated is a severe understatement. My heart is un-moored. I wander from room to room, place to place, unsure how to find my true north now that Boots is no longer here. For 15 years, our lives were irrevocably intertwined. During all that time together, Boots witnessed some of my best and worst and most vulnerable moments. Books published, my MS diagnosis, a beautiful niece born, a family member’s heart attack, writing awards, my nephew’s death and new homes and adventures. 
Boots has been one of the greatest loves, and absolute joys of my life. 

True love comes in many forms. True love stories go on and on and on. In books and in our hearts. Boots and me are a true love story. 

I have always had a cat. And even though Boots is no longer physically sitting beside me, I still have a cat. I will always  have Boots. He is safe. Inside my heart, where my other cats and dogs have gone until we can all be together again. 

"As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge, Clad in the light of a pole-star, piercing the darkness of time. You become an image of what is remembered forever.” -Rabindranath Tagore

Happy Reading,
AM Bostwick

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Walking and Creativity, by Michele Weber Hurwitz

This month, one of our topics is creativity and fear -- more specifically, how we push ourselves out of our comfort zones. I admit that for the last few months, I've seen my creativity lessen and my fear heighten. My work-in-progress is at a standstill, just like the world right now. On pause, right? But, like so many of us, I've been taking a lot of walks, and this has seemed to help.

Not only has it been refreshing to be outside, but I've always found that time away from my computer actually generates some of my best writing. It's then that the characters and plot and setting and dialogue that have been knotted up in my head seem to straighten out and make some sense.

I'm not alone in being a walking-writer, and I'm in excellent company.

"Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow," wrote Henry Thoreau. Writers who have extolled the benefits of walking include Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, Henry James, Thomas Mann, and Joyce Carol Oates.

So what is it about getting outside and moving your feet that helps get those creative juices flowing? 

Research has found that walking allows the brain to work in a different way. Walking has been shown to improve the ability to shift between modes of thought, increase attention and memory, and allow us to recover from mental fatigue, all of which are important when creating. 

And walking has another benefit -- it elevates our mood -- much needed right now!

The beauty of walking is that all you need are a decent pair of shoes. You don't need to take lessons or join a club or pay a monthly fee. And you can do it whenever! Hard to find an excuse, right? So get out the door and get going!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is excited for her fifth middle grade novel, Hello from Renn Lake, releasing on May 26 from Penguin Random House/Wendy Lamb Books. Read about it here: