Five on Friday: February 5th

Not much going on here but a whole lot of rewriting, about which I hope to have a post soon.

Lieutenant in slightly tubbier days.

Lieutenant in slightly tubbier days.

What I’m Watching: Madame Secretary (created by Barbara Hall, who seems to be a creative machine, and oh hey, we share a birthday) and American Idol. I know, dorky. But it is the last season. Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a fan of AI, but even more so of The Voice. Dean Wesley Smith maintains that watching The Voice is one of the best ways to understand what it takes to make it in a creative field, and I agree.

Who’s sleeping beside me as I write: My cat, Lieutenant.  His brother, Captain, is prowling the kitchen for food. Or plastic bags. Captain loves him some plastic bags.

What I’m interested in: Suddenly I can’t get enough of the presidential race. I’m fascinated with the interplay, if that’s what we’d call it, between Hilary and Bernie. As for the Republicans, well, buffoons.

What I’m reading: Fates and Furies, still. It is not a quick read. I’ll likely finish it tonight. And then I have a huge stack of books from the library to peruse.

What my favorite dinner was this week: Acorn squash stuffed with ground lamb, onion, sage, thyme and fennel, shared with my daughter and her family who ended up spending the night here, baby in tow, when the power went out at their house.

And that’s it, that’s all I’ve got.  What’s up with you?

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Otherwhere: A Bright Shiny New Month!

present-heart-gift-4077-lHey, its February! How about that? January went by in a blink, it seems to me I was just in Nashville.  I have it on good authority that this month is going to be a good one, full of new ideas and energy.  But first, let’s wrap up January with a look at some of the posts I read over the last week.

Contests, Submitting, Etc.

Okay, I was all proud of myself because I had an interview with the editor of the New York Times column, Modern Love. But now I can’t find the link. So I went in search of it and found this and this.  I think that last one was the one I originally had in mind–some good tips for submitting there.  And here are the submission guidelines from the Gray Lady herself.

If you’re interested in free-lancing, here’s an article for you.

Women’s fiction writers, here’s a contest for you!

Odds and Ends About Writing

Taming the green-eyed monster.  (Who me? Jealous?)

Finding beta readers.

Plotting. If you’re like me, its a big bugaboo. Janice Hardy offers good advice.

Comedy writing secrets. (Here’s a tip: its hard! My first novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, was funny, but that wasn’t entirely purposeful, its just the way it came out.)

What to do in the empty spaces between books.

Other Items of Interest

Knitting is good for you! (And thanks to Jenni for sending me this link.)

Breakthrough moments.  (And I got this link here.)

Achieve more by doing less (or, multi-tasking is bad for you).

Finally, I offer this link to the NYT book review of Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff.  I mentioned in my Friday post that I had started it and wasn’t quite sure of it. But now I’m totally absorbed and loving it.  The author plays with narrative structure and viewpoint in a way that is unique and would usually annoy me but for some reason doesn’t. Its a dense book, but one I think is really worth reading.

What have you been reading/thinking about/perusing this week?

Photo by plattmunk.

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Five on Friday: The Rain Returns

LT by computer

Lieutenant helping me write this post.

Well, actually, the rain never really left for long, but we have had a couple of lovely dry, warm days that have felt like spring is not far off.  And they were accompanied by birds singing! That’s the best.  But this morning it is soggy again. But I don’t mind, I really like all kinds of weather. My one complaint is that I’d like a tiny bit more snow. I know those of you on the east coast are groaning right now.  Here’s what’s going on this week:

Quote I’m loving: “That which you are seeking is seeking you.” I got this from a month-long program I’m doing with my friend Monica Kenton.  Her ability to build her shamanistic studies into a rip-roaring business is just the best.

What I’m Reading: I finished the memoir by Pamela Jane,  which I loved.  It’s a page-turner. Look for more info about the book and the author here soon.  Now I’m reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Gotta say, jury is still out on this one. I’m only about 30 or 40 pages in and so far I’m finding the style a bit hard to read.  Debbie bought it and got about 50 pages in before giving up.  Then she lent it to my daughter, whose book club was reading it. Annie loved it, in a weird sort of way, but reports that most people in the book club did not.  I’m struggling with it, and I have so many books I want to read that it barely seems worth it.

What I’m Playing: Spider Solitaire.  I used to be a huge Spider Solitaire player on my old computers, then I went over to the dark side and used a Mac for six years. Shockingly, there is not Spider Solitaire on the Mac–you have to go to very unsatisfactory websites to play it. Came to my senses and bought a PC last summer, which I love.  About a week ago, the thought occurred to me: I can play Spider Solitaire again! My friend, fellow writer and blog reader Jenni is a crack Spider Solitaire player, though she told me this week she’d gotten bored with it. So now I’ve taken up the cause.  I convince myself it is good for my brain. Ha.

What I’m Listening To: Nothing. At least when I write. I used to listen to movie soundtracks, but for the past few years I’ve written in silence. I now value silence a lot. When I drive, I no longer automatically turn on the radio or pop in a CD.  (I have an old car, none of that new-fangled technology wherein one can play their Ipod music or whatever.) I really prefer silence. Probably because I like to talk to myself. At home, I have a weird, old-school habit I inherited from my Mom. I have a radio playing all day long in the kitchen.  My daughter-in-law once told me she’d never been in our house when the radio wasn’t on.  I have listened to the same radio station for years–KINK FM. It’s actually one of the top stations in the country, known for making careers for some musicians and it plays an eclectic bunch of music that I like.

What I’m Working On: My rewrite.  Doing a rewrite is a strange and wonderful process. If I had more usable thoughts on it, I’d write about it. And I will one of these days.  The hardest part is getting organized and finding a way in.  I’ve finally managed that and seem to be rolling.  Phew.

What are you working on/enjoying/ excited about on this last Friday in January?

PS. Don’t forget, if you live in Portland, I’ve got an upcoming reading and an upcoming workshop on publishing. Read all the details here.

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A Writer’s Miscellany

AnotherReadThroughI kind of love the word miscellany, whose official definition according to the Google is ” a group or collection of different items, a mixture.”  It sounds charming and old-school and like it would be said by a schoolmarm wearing a Little House on the Prairie outfit.  And honestly? The word and all its implications is way more grandiose than the collection of items I have for you today.

Which all have to do with me. I hope that still makes them a  miscellany.  Anyway:

Thing #1: I’m doing a special love-themed reading in honor of Valentine’s Day at my favorite Portland bookstore, Another Read Through.  The date is February 13th, from 1:30 – 3 and I’m appearing with several other local authors. Since the theme is love, I’m pondering reading the sex scene from Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. (Which for reasons unknown to me is selling in the used section of Amazon for $58 and up, even though it is still available new.)

And since this is a miscellany, I’ll tell you a funny story about the sex scene, besides that it was the one thing agents commented on over and over when I was shopping the novel.  Anyway, my daughter and son-in-law have a habit of reading books out loud to each other in the evenings (at least they did, before they managed to produce two boy children).  It was Russell who read the sex scene out loud and when he was finished, put the book done and was silent for a moment, then said, “My mother-in-law wrote that. Not sure how I feel about that.”

But reading it out loud in the comfort of your own home and reading it out loud in front of a group of people are two different things. So I’ll probably chicken out.

Thing #2: The very next weekend, in the very same location, my biz partner Debbie and I will be presenting the second round of our workshop, The Ins and Outs of Publishing.  It is a day-long workshop with lunch provided and our first group loved it and learned a lot.  We cover the entirety of the publishing world and bring in our friend Angela Sanders to cover self publishing. You can read more here. But let me also add that the bookstore is a great spot to hold a workshop.  Elisa has a cool upstairs loft that we use and we sit surrounded by the mystery section. I dare you to attend and not buy a pile of books (since the bookstore is mostly used, you can go home with a stack for not that much money).

So that’s it, that’s my miscellany.  And now I am off to the bi-weekly writing group, loosely called Wednesday Writers, that Debbie and I torture run.

What’s going on in your writing world?

Photo from the Another Read Through website.

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Otherwhere: Last Week in January

dog with sunglassesYeah, it really is the last week in January.  Amazing.   And the sun is shining in my window as I write this–even more amazing!  Here are some coolio links for the past week:

Writing Stuff

In which genre do you write? Understanding how genre affects marketing is one key to success.

Every book needs a good editor, and if your publisher does not offer you one, you’ll need to pay for it yourself.  Here’s a post about how to lessen those costs.

One of the best things you can do in order to write gripping fiction is to torture your character.  This is really hard for most of us!  But Stephen Pressfield has some tips on how to make your hero suffer.

Method acting for writers. I’ve always thought acting and writing had a lot in common.  Thanks to Caroline Harrison for sending me this.

I’ve become more and more aware of diversity and trying to foster it in the fictional worlds I create. Here’s a post that talks more about it.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but it only gets harder (it being writing).

And in news unrelated to writing, check out this interesting idea, which assigns three words to every location on earth as an easy way to standardize addresses.

Also, I want to make this sweater.

That is all.  No wait, it isn’t.  I have a question.  Actually, you may not be able to answer it. But I’ll go ahead anyway. What days are you most apt to spend time reading a blog post?  I’m trying to figure out a consistent schedule for posting.  Monday, Wednesday, Friday? Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday? (Which has sort of been what I’m doing, except then I dreamed up Five on Friday so that gums everything up.) Any ideas appreciated.

The photo has nothing to do with anything. I just liked it. Credit: Duchessa.

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Five on Friday: Can You Believe it is January 22nd Already?

LatteMacchiatoWhere has this month gone?  I keep telling my husband we’ll blink and be sitting outside on the deck for Happy Hour. It is almost warm enough today to do that, and I’m so sorry for those of you buried–or about to be–under snow.  Actually, I’m kinda jealous.  At any rate, here are my Friday offerings.

What I’m Telling Myself:  You don’t have to know the answers. That’s why you’re writing.  I’m working on a rewrite of my macaron bakery novel (for an editor who is very interested–yay) and I’ve convinced myself I have no idea what I’m doing.  Then I remember, oh that’s right. I never do.  That’s why I write–to figure stuff out.

What I’m Reading: I’m excited because I just got the ARC of An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story, a memoir by Pamela Jane.  She is the best friend of my business partner, Debbie and I’ve heard about the writing of this book for a while now.  Stay tuned, because I’ll have either an interview or guest post with her soon!

I have a stack of at least 10 other books waiting to be read as well, and it is all the fault of our library.  We have one of the busiest library systems in the country, and the branch I frequent is one of the busiest in the city.  (Yesterday when I was there, I overhead a librarian telling a patron where she could find a quiet spot to study–at the coffee shop next door.)  I have a bad habit of putting a ton of books on hold.  As soon as I hear of a book I want to read, I go to the website and put a hold on it.   Then its like Christmas when the book comes in.  The only problem I haven’t yet figured out how to solve is the flow.  I either have no library books or they all come in at once.  And then of course, i go to pick them up and choose more.  Ah, me.  Such first world problems to have.

What I’m Studying: I’m a student nerd.  Or maybe that would be nerd student? Anyway, if it were up to me, I’d be in school forever. But, since I can’t do that, I sometimes devise courses of study for myself.  My current one is writing the mystery, and I’m starting with a study of the books and life of Agatha Christie.  I have a stack of books from, you guessed it, the library.  Of course, since I’m rewriting my novel and continuing with my client work, this little project may suffer from a lack of attention.  But the desire is certainly there.

What I’m Working On: Healing my body.  The latest in my continuing adventures with energy and body work is getting ashiatsu massage.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, as I was until I saw a Groupon, this is a technique where the massage therapist uses her feet.  It’s also called Oriental Bar Therapy because there are two parallel bars on the ceiling above the massage table that she holds onto while she tromps on you massages you.  In some places it hurts like the devil is poking your muscles, but it is also the most effective massage I’ve ever gotten.  Awesome.

What I’m Drinking: My new favorite drink is the Starbucks Latte Macchiato.  I’m sort of a fiend for their holiday drinks and when they are gone, I miss them.  So it is delightful to have a new favorite.  My daughter and I throw her boys in the car and go to the drive-through for them.  We get a dose of caffeine and the boys fall asleep.  A win-win.

And that’s what I’ve got today.  How about you? What’s up with you?

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Why Resistance to Your Writing is Sometimes Good

Burning Writing Of An Dark-Illuminated Paper Sheet

Here is one thing I have learned for certain in the gazillion years I’ve been writing: that resistance always has meaning.

Always, always, always.

It is up to you to figure out what that meaning might be.  But here’s the deal: once you do figure it out, then you can explore it.  And get over it.  You’ll understand more about how you approach your writing, and also your current writing project.  As far as I’m concerned, that covers pretty much everything.  So let’s look at both these categories.

How You Approach Your Writing

Your very own wonderful little self longs for expression.  And I’d venture a guess that for just about anybody reading this newsletter, that wonderful little self longs for expression through writing.  But sometimes that same wonderful self does things that are counter to that longing of expression.  Like procrastination, for example.  Or being a perfectionist.  Or being harshly self-critical. Or being all loosey-goosey and not discerning enough. (Sending out a first draft, anyone?)

You know which one is your own personal favorite form of resistance.  Mine is procrastination, and I’m very good at it.  I can even convince myself that what I’m doing when I’m not writing is critical to my well-being.  I can surf the internet and the whole time convince myself it is crucial to research for my novel. I can scroll through my phone and convince myself I’m doing social media (when really I’m looking at cool photos on Instagram).  And so on.  Insert your favorite distractions above.

But because I know this is my form of resistance, that this is likely how I’m going to approach my writing when things get tough, I also can call myself on it.  And the funny thing is, because I understand how I resist writing, I can also see how I resist other things in my life.  Like exercise.  Or gardening. Or cleaning the house.

It is important to not get all judgy on yourself.  At first, just observe.  Watch what you do and how you react and think of how interesting it all is, how clever a brain you have atop your body.  Next time, realize you’re doing it again.  And carry on.  After this happens enough, the observation of it will stop you—because you’ll grow weary of observing this pattern over and over again.  Trust me, watching oneself sputter and flail about does get boring pretty quickly.

 Your Writing Project

 The other aspect to resistance is your WIP (work in progress).   You may hit upon a scene or a chapter or a segment of it that you start to avoid.  You can be writing merrily along and suddenly something just isn’t working.   You marshal your forces.  You attempt to carry on as usual.  You forge ahead.

But nothing works.  The words fall flat on the page, the dialogue sounds wooden, the scene just won’t come together.

Okay, remember: resistance always has meaning.    writing-1560276

And in this case, something is wrong.  Here’s a handy checklist to divine what it might be:

Your setting.  Most often, this is it for me.  Maybe the scene is currently set inside and needs to be outside, or vice-versa.  Maybe you’ve set too many scenes in the same place.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changes the location of the scene and suddenly it comes alive.

 Your characters.  Are the correct ones in the scene?  Does your character need to confide in her best friend or her mother? Or maybe an old woman sitting on the park bench? Play around with the characters in the scene to see if you can’t get it going again.

Their motivation or backstory.  Perhaps you think your heroine is motivated by greed—but when you take the time to dig deeper you realize it’s the opposite.  Maybe you think your antagonist is a cranky jerk because his father died when he was young, but really, it was his mother who passed.  Etc.

The placement.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the scene, but where you’ve got it set in the plot isn’t working.  This is harder to figure out until you’ve finished a full draft, but worth considering.

These are just a few suggestions—I recommend looking at every aspect of the story until you figure out what’s going on.  And for my money, the best way to figure things out is to write about it.  I like to call this writing around, and I probably write about three to five times as many pages in writing around as I do in my current WIP.  It is how I figure out everything.

So, there you have it—proof that your resistance is a good thing.  The catch is, you have to deal with it.  But that’s much better than giving up writing for a week or a month or a year.

What are your favorite strategies for dealing with resistance? Please comment below.

Photos from freeimages.

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Committing the Cardinal Writing Sin

manzana_original_adan_241995_lForgive me, father for I have sinned am sinning.

I am committing one of the cardinal writing sins.

I am three-quarters of the way through the first draft of my next novel, and rather than writing all the way to the end, I am starting over.

I hear your gasps.  I see your open mouths.  I understand your shock and dismay.  Because I feel it, too.

Here’s the story.  I am known to expound on the virtues of the writing process loudly and often, at least among certain groups.  By the writing process, I mean this the following.  You do some prep work, such as character dossiers and a loose outline, and you write your first draft (also known as the discovery draft) from start to finish, emphasis on the finish.  And then you ponder and make notes and ponder some more, and return to the manuscript and write the second draft.  You rinse and repeat as many times as necessary, ending with the revision draft, in which you concentrate on word choice, deleting adverbs, and grammar.  All the little things.  Then, and only then, do you consider your manuscript complete.bulgaria_sinner_saint_51020_h

Any deviation from this process is frowned on in my world.

But here I am doing it.  I am planning to launch into the second draft before completing the first.  I have good reasons, I swear it! From the start, I’ve known this draft was lacking in everything a few things, such as, oh, voice and plot and interesting characters.  I started it on a whim while in France last year, and had written several chapters before I really started thinking about where I was going with it (do not try this at home).  I knew I had issues and yet I liked the main character and her arc a lot and so I plunged on.

But the antagonist was a soft, sweet Mama-bear type.  And the love interest was too perfect.  And I had a whole sub-plot going that really didn’t combine with the main plot.  At all. Sigh.  While in Nashville last week, I did a ton of journaling and writing about, which is my way of thinking through issues with my fiction.  And I came up with ideas that pop the whole story open and make it all sparkly and shiny.  Ideas that I love.  But my antagonist is totally different now, and the love interest’s imperfections make him a new character.  That stupid sub-plot is gone and there’s a whole new location.

Often, you can come up with ideas for big changes in your novel and keep writing as if you wrote the first three-quarters of the story with those ideas in place.  But the changes that I have in mind seem to me to be so innate that I need to begin again.

So that’s what I’m going to do.  HOWEVER, I just received rewrite notes from an editor who is very interested in The Bonne Chance Bakery and so I am setting everything else aside to work on that.  Maybe–just maybe–I will change my mind about starting over in the interim.  I have agonized over this a fair amount.  But I highly doubt it.

What is your usual process? Have you ever started over on a project before finishing it? Do tell!

Photos by intrusoft and KevinWalsh, both from everystockphoto.

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Otherwhere: January 16, 2016

6a00d8341cb7f353ef01b7c6cefc78970b-320wiFirst of all, can you believe it is the middle of January already? Geesh, time flies.  I guess being out of town the first week of the month made it fly all the faster.  By the way, my wise meditation teacher has a theory on why we think that time goes faster as we age: because we’ve done the same things so many times that we are doing them mindlessly.  And if we took the time to do them mindfully, time would slow down again. I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly struggling to be more mindful, so this is good impetus.

Anyway, there’s lots going on around the interwebs this month, even if it is January.  When I was a kid, I hated January.  It seemed do depressing and blah after the holidays.  Now I see it differently–and I love it.  The month feels clean and fresh to me, and the unlimited blank canvas of the year stretches before me.   I’m thinking up ideas for books and content, and getting inspired about things I can do.  Accordingly, I’ve got a mixed bag of links today.  (Oh, when do I have anything but a mixed bag? It is just the way my brain works.)

Writing

How to tell if a subplot is leading you astray, by the always-reliable Janice Hardy.

Stealing time.  We all need more of it!

Creating strong female protagonists.  Always a concern of mine.

The importance of play.

How to find the meaning of life through writing.  Victoria Mixon, author of this post, is listed on the link below.  Nice bit of synchronicity.

Larry Brooks on his rabid belief in story structure.  He will hunt you down and kill you if you don’t follow his method exactly. Or at least that’s how his writing comes off.  He drives me nuts, but he does make some good points, though his bombastic voice often makes me resist his advice.

A list of the best writing blogs.  Some of these are very familiar to me (and probably you), but others, not so much. I can’t quite figure out why they refer to all of them as “copywriting” blogs, though.  Ah well, its a great reference.

Marketing

Creating your author brand.  This relates four easy steps to take. I like.

How to boost your freelance income with a blog.

Making money from your poetry.  I’m still dubious, but the article has some good ideas.

Guilty Pleasures/Time Sucks

I’m in love with a mad Russian and his name is Eugene Kaspersky.  He’s the head of an international cyber-security firm and he flies around the world in his spare time, which is always.  Goes to obscure places (Kamchatka, anyone?) and takes tons of great photos, which he accompanies with wry commentary.

That’s it, that’s all I’ve got.  Have a great weekend and share any great links, writing-related or otherwise, you might come across–including your very own blog!

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Inspiration from Room to Write

800px-Tower_at_Scarritt_BennettI just got home from Nashville, where I co-produced the re-instituted Room to Write, along with Terry Price and Janet Wallace.   This event is not a writing conference.  Rather, as we like to say, it is a time for uninterrupted creativity.  While we did offer several talks throughout the weekend, they are totally optional, because the point of the weekend is to give you time to get away and write.  So we emphasize that if you’re in the flow with your writing, stick with it and don’t come to the sessions.

The event is held at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in the heart of Nashville, a gorgeous spot that is a former college. As such, it is dotted with cool old stone buildings and beautiful mature trees.  It’s a very popular spot for weddings. Each participant gets several meals in the Harry Potter-style dining hall and a room.  The rooms are, shall we say, spartan, and most of them share a bathroom.  When I say spartan, I mean spartan: one single bed, one desk and a chair.  I’ve actually grown quite fond of these rooms and am able to do some great writing in them–like I’m holed up in my own little writing cave.  But participants also have free run of the entire campus and many of us ended up hanging out in Lasky, where they serve coffee and there’s lot of places to sit and write.  I got a lot of good writing done up there, too.

I could go on and on about what a great time I had, including dinner with my student Norma at Epice and lunch with the beloved J.D. and Donna at Chuy’s, but my real intent here is to share with you some good info I gleaned from the presentations.

Labyrinth Walk

First up was Terry’s labyrinth session.  We met in a fine mist at the SBC labyrinth, which is based on the one at labyrinthsbcChartres Cathedral.  Terry is a labyrinth fiend and full of great information on them.  A labyrinth can be used a lot of different ways, but it is most often used for  spiritual or creative purposes.  It is one path with no tricks and no dead ends, unlike a maze.  You just follow the marked path (in this case, it is a grass labyrinth delineated by bricks) all the way through.  It will lead you to the center and back out again.  You don’t even have to think, and the point is not to.  It can be useful to ask a question before you enter the labyrinth and most often you’ll receive an answer before you depart.  Keep your journal handy!  I’ve walked the labyrinth many times and this is the first time I’ve failed to get an immediate answer, though it did come to me later.  If you would like to find a labyrinth near you, check out this site, which lists labyrinths all over the world.

Sustaining a Writing Practice Over the Long Haul

This was my session, and I had a great time.  Since we were a small group, I invited everyone to chime in with comments and questions as we went along and it turned into a great discussion about how to keep to the page.  I divided it into 4 segments: writing, doing something writing-related, doing something that will lead you back to your writing, or doing something that will support your writing.  The feedback that I got was that the ideas were very helpful and so I’ll probably work them up into a blog post or two in the coming weeks.

Creating From Wildness Through the Poetry of Rumi

This was another great session from Terry, using Rumi’s work to encourage wild, mad creativity in our writing.   It was a rich, deep session.  As one of our attendees said, “Terry is like blood pressure medicine,” and he is.  Very chill and calming and wonderful.  Here’s a snippet of the Rumi poem, I’ll Be Mad, to give you the flavor of it.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.

Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.

I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on, I’ll be mad.


Leaving the Writing Cave and Building the DreamJanet at Room to Write

Janet’s presentation on the mindset and marketing pieces we writers need for the business side of our lives was powerful.  She alternated between mindset recommendations and marketing advice.  Examples of mindset are: make peace with your desires, nurture your relationship with money, improve your gratitude, practice self-care of greater success faster, and nurture your relationship with time.  For marketing: write a personal manifesto, get clear on your ideal customer (or reader), use social media to build community and sell your books, find your tribe and continue to thrive.  Great stuff.  I took a ton of notes.

Besides the sessions and the blocks of time to write, another great aspect about Room to Write is meeting your tribe of writers.  We enjoyed an opening Happy Hour event to discuss goals and ended with breakfast at Panera on Sunday morning to talk about what we accomplished.  In between, there was much camaraderie over meals, a few spontaneous tarot readings, new friends and contacts made.  All in all, a wonderful time, well worth flying across the country for.  Of course, Nashville is my second home so I’ll head there any time!

Are you planning to attend any writing retreats or conferences this year?

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