Mardi Gras Monday

I grew up in the land of parades. The weeks before Lent meant dressing up in homemade costumes, piling into our station wagon, meeting cousins on the roadside, and fighting for throws from floats decorated with scenes from mythology or the Wild West. Now I live in a place where Mardi Gras is a relatively foreign concept, but I wear beads in purple, green, and gold to honor my heritage. I am wearing them now, as a matter of fact.

When I was a kid, Lent meant giving up something: potato chips, chocolate, coffee. (What? I began drinking coffee when I was five years old. First day of kindergarten = first cup of cafe au lait.) As I grew older, I grew out of that Lenten tradition of sacrifice, but it’s in my blood to do something in the weeks between Mardi Gras and Easter, as winter moves into spring.

A project that reflects renewal works better for me, particularly since giving up coffee is no longer on the table. A few years ago, I did 40 straight days of book reviews. Last year, I did 40 days of submitting my work. The book reviews were meant to promote writing by women authors. The submissions were meant to promote my writing.

This year, my winter-into-spring blog project is for you, the working writer. For the next 40 days, early in the morning, I will post 3 writing questions. Each day’s questions will examine some specific aspect of writing or the writing life. The questions may be very specific or quite broad.

Grab a notebook or open a document, and each morning spend a little time thinking about these questions and how they apply to you. You can answer as briefly or in as much length as you wish. There are no grades, no feedback, no judgment. You can post your answers as a comment or keep it as private your teenage diary. Consider it a free mini-course in examining where  you stand as a writer, or in your writing, for the next 40 days.

I’ll also post some pretty pictures, to combat the end of winter doldrums.

Mindful tree

The questions begin on Wednesday. For tomorrow, Happy Mardi Gras!

What’s your wheelhouse? A quiz for creatives.

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgA wheelhouse can be defined in three ways: the pilot room of a steamboat; a batter’s power zone in baseball; a person’s area of expertise or interest.

I have no real interest in steamboats, and all I know about baseball is that there is no crying in it, so the focus of this post is the third definition. What is your area of expertise or interest as an artist? Continue reading “What’s your wheelhouse? A quiz for creatives.”

SAD in the Studio

RamonaGravitarAnd on the 7th day, I got depressed.

 It’s raining as I write this post, which is a departure from my usual how to, what is, or inspirational ramblings. In the past, a rainy, cold, dark January morning would say “perfect writing day” to me. I’d have lit a candle or two and spent the day in relative darkness, writing away. Not today. A few minutes ago, I strung a length of white Christmas lights across the windowsill in front of my desk. A lamp is shining down on my keyboard. A soothing aromatherapy candle is burning on the shelf to my right. Continue reading “SAD in the Studio”

Renew Your Writing Vows in 2015

RamonaGravitarI spent most of 2014—and 2013 and 2012—writing about love.

My recently completed novel manuscript addresses falling in love, second time around love, old people in love, disappointments in love, unconditional love, and steadfastness in love. There’s also a bomb scare, dog antics, and a poetry reading in the story, so don’t think all I did was write characters who spent 350 pages giving one another moony looks. Continue reading “Renew Your Writing Vows in 2015”

Be Yourself Promotion

RamonaGravitarLast week, I was informed I was no good at BSP.

For those who don’t know, BSP stands for Blatant Self Promotion. It’s a term among authors who must publicize their stories in addition to writing them. BSP  means plugging your signings, appearances, awards, guest posts, and anything else that draws attention to your work—and yourself as an author.

Not all writers enjoy BSP, but as PR departments shrink and more writers self-publish, promoting yourself is a reality in today’s world of publishing.

Being good at BSP means you boost yourself with dignity. Being bad at BSP can mean one of two things: you are too pushy, or you are not pushy enough. Finding the right BSP balance means recognizing the difference between effectively highlighting your achievements, being obnoxious, or being too shy.

My efforts at BSP include this blog and website, a personal Facebook page, a Facebook Editor/Author page, a Twitter account, listings in various artist registries, membership in professional organizations, and a few online writerly list- serves and author groups. There are many other options. These are the ones I’ve chosen to utilize.

Why did someone say I was no good at BSP? Because last week, when I won an award, I posted this short status on my various places:

“So…this happened + a smiley face” followed by this link to the announcement.

What I should have done was post something more Blatantly Self Promoting, such as: “Attention, everyone! Great news! I was named by the Delaware Division of the Arts as the 2014 Cape Henlopen Writers Retreat Fellow! Woot!”

I am not being sarcastic. I am THRILLED to have been selected by the DDoA for this honor, but I thought “So…this happened + a smiley face” was a cute way of making the announcement–not too braggy, not too timid, but just right. The Goldlilocks approach to self-aggrandizement. Maybe it was a little less brazen than a PR firm might like, but I don’t want to be the BSPer who is pushy or obnoxious.

We all have limits to what makes us comfortable. Do you see the words “award winning author” on this website? No, you do not. That’s not within my comfort zone. Additionally, because some of the works I’ve edited have won awards, I could hawk myself as an “award winning editor” but I don’t do that, either. That would be stealing the light from the author and perhaps a little misleading.

Do others describe themselves as award-winners? Of course. Maybe I am bad at BSP, but I keep Goldilocks in mind and do what feels right.

All that being said, and no matter how squirrely BSP makes me inside, it must be done. Over time, I’ve come up with my own rules of publicizing myself and my work. I call it Be Yourself Promotion.

Here are my 5 Principles of Be Yourself Promotion:

1. Be Myself. If I had to describe myself in three words, they’d be goofy, passionate, and curious. I have a silly side, so what I share on social media can be wacky, or it can be an enlightening piece about writing. I enjoy current events and don’t fear voicing my opinion. I mention my family, but don’t air personal problems online. I ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. In other words, I’m a person so I act like a person, not a writing machine.

 2. Respect my clients. I never discuss my clients’ works or the condition of their books when they appeared to me as a first draft. I won’t disparage a student’s homework or efforts. If a client wins an honor or award, even if I participated in the editing process, the award or honor is theirs, not mine to share or horn in on.

3. Don’t rag on a working author. If I dislike a working author’s work, I say nothing. I don’t care how famous, or infamous, an author may be, if he or she is writing to make a living, I will not hurt their efforts—publicly. Privately, of course I tell my friends if I think a book stinks, or a writer phoned one in or make a bad choice. In writing or in public, I keep that to myself. Why? In part because, if I wanted to offer a critique, I’d do that in a proper review, and I don’t do reviews. Second, any author you trash is sure to sit next to you at a panel at a conference. Uncomfortable!

4. Never trash entire genres. If I don’t like a certain type of story, I don’t read it. There is no need to announce that to the world, and certainly no reason to put down another genre or tell others what you perceive to be all wrong with it. The reasons people give for disliking another genre usually reflect badly on the person, not the genre.

5. Be encouraging. Was I a cheerleader in a former life? Maybe. I want everyone to succeed as a writer. This is why I write How To posts on this blog, why I start a Sprint at 7:00 Thread every single morning on Facebook, why I Tweet helpful craft articles and submission opportunities. My proudest online creation might be Good News Friday. I mean every bit of the rah-rah, too.

Those are the operating principles of my Be Myself Promotion: Be authentic, respectful and encouraging, and skip the ragging or trashing.

 Do you have a set of professional principles you live by? Want to share?

 Oh, and to prove I am not 100% sucky at BSP, have you Liked my Facebook Editor page?  Checked out my Awards & Honors? Read some of my writing?

There. That should satisfy Goldilocks for a while.

10 Questions on Becoming a Better Writer

RamonaGravitarThe first step in solving a problem is recognizing you have a problem. Writers are often big quaking masses of insecurity, but zeroing in on a weak skill can be that first step in enacting change.

Take the quiz below. Answer honestly.

Continue reading “10 Questions on Becoming a Better Writer”

50 “How To” Writing Posts on Craft

RamonaGravitarIn May of 2012, I announced a blog project for the coming month: I would post a How To craft post every day for the month, Sundays excepted. My month of blogging resulted in 27 posts about writing log lines, avoiding typo blindness, breaking the that habit, curing overpopulation, introducing characters, writing thematic statements, and so on.

Eventually, I put together all of those posts in a How To collection, which can be found under the FOR WRITERS tab. I continued to write How To posts in a more sporadic fashion, when the need or an idea arose.

Continue reading “50 “How To” Writing Posts on Craft”

How to Make the Most of a Writing Hour

RamonaGravitarIn October, I participated in a workshop series at the Havre de Grace, MD, public library on preparing for NaNoWriMo. A month of intense writing with a high word count goal can’t be undertaken willy-nilly. My talk covered the range from psychological pep talks, the mid-month slump, and learning to love your crock pot.

Writing for an hour a day may not require the extremes of November, but if you are carving out a new hour in your day, your daily schedule will shift. If you have the hour available without much pain to the rest of your life, great. Either way, today’s post will address how to best use the hour once you’ve found it.

Continue reading “How to Make the Most of a Writing Hour”