I posted this many moons ago, but I thought it was worth repeating…
I am a writer. I have met a lot of writers. Most of us are very hard on ourselves. Working in solitude affords us the time to self-reflect, which often leads to self-loathing.
For many of us, our goals start small…finish a novel, get a book published, get a review, etc. Unfortunately, rather than savoring the small fruits of our labor, we are compelled to reach for the next branch. The following New York Times article is a fitting reminder that those clusters of fruit, we take for granted, are a delicacy some will never taste.
As the Eagles proclaimed, “…Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get
Don’t quit your day dream. Pull up a chair, heap your plate full, and enjoy your fruit-no matter how small.
By HARLAN COBENNOV. 28, 2014
RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — THANKSGIVING weekend in 1990, I spent two hours at the loneliest place in the world for an obscure novelist — the book-signing table at a Waldenbooks in a suburban New Jersey mall.
I sat at the table smiling like a game show host. Store patrons scurried past me, doing all they could to avoid eye contact. I kept smiling. I straightened out my pile of free bookmarks for the umpteenth time, though so far none had been taken. I played with my pen. Authors at signings like this get good at playing with their pens. I pushed it to and fro. I curled my upper lip around the pen and made it into a makeshift mustache. I clipped it to my lower lip, pinching said lip in an almost masochistic way, and was able to click the pen open by moving my jaw and pressing it against my nose. You can’t teach that skill, by the way. Practice. At one point, I took out a second pen, rolled up a spitball, and then let the two pens play hockey against each other. The Rollerball beat the Sharpie in overtime.
During the first hour of my signing, a grand total of four people approached me. Two asked me where the bathroom was. The third explained his conspiracy theory linking the J.F.K. assassination with the decision by General Mills to add Crunch Berries to Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal. The fourth asked me if we had a copy of the new Stephen King.
I kept smiling. Four copies of my brand-spanking-new first novel — Waldenbooks knew not to order too many — stood limply on the shelf behind me. I missed the Barcalounger in my den. I longed for home and hearth, for stuffing my face with leftover turkey, for half-watching football games in which I had no rooting interest. Instead I slow-baked under the fluorescent Waldenbooks lights, the Early Hipster booksellers glaring at me as though I was some kind of pedantic squatter. I had become the literary equivalent of a poster child — “you could buy his book or you could turn the page …”
Time didn’t just pass slowly. It seemed to be moonwalking backward.
Then, with maybe 15 minutes left before I could scrape up the scraps of my dignity and head home, an old man shuffled toward me. He wiped his nose with what I hoped was a beige hankie. His eyes were runny. Odds were this was going to be a where’s-the-bathroom question, but this guy had all the makings of another conspiracy theorist.
The old man’s gaze drifted over my shoulder. “What’s that like?”
“That’s your novel, right?”
He gestured at the four books on the shelf behind me.
“Right,” I said.
He shook his head in awe. “That’s my dream, man. Seeing my book on a shelf in a bookstore.” He lowered his gaze and met my eye. “So what’s that like?”
I paused, letting the question sink in, but before I could reply, the old man lifted his eyes back to the bookshelf, smiled, and shook his head again. “Lucky,” he said, before turning and walking away.
He didn’t buy a book. He didn’t have to.
Posted by Michelle R. Eastman in amwriting, author, blogging, book marketing, indie author, inspiration, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, writers' blues, writing, writing for kids Tags: amwriting, author, blogging, self-published author
Traveling the indie publishing road can be a daunting and lonely journey. For the novice, there are plenty of opportunities to take a wrong turn, stumble, or lose sight of your destination. The entire experience practically begs you to throw yourself an occasional Pity Party, or two, or three.
I have hosted some killer woe-is-me celebrations. Instead of a hangover, these blow outs always leave me in a funk. My last, and most impressive, fete was a month-long celebration after the rush of my book launch abruptly came to a halt. I won’t liken it to post-par tum depression (not out loud anyway), but it was pretty miserable.
Everything leading up to the launch of my book was exhilarating. I had the launch party to plan, books to order, swag to buy. The launch party was a huge success. I sold hundreds of books that month and scheduled a handful of author visits. I received scads of 5-star reviews, and my book was featured on a few blogs. People were buzzing about my book, and I was on cloud nine. Then…crickets. Nothing happened. I went from living and breathing my book to staring at a pile of them. Cue the Pity-Party music and back-up dancers.
Gloom and Doom became my BFF’s. I beat myself up for not selling more books. I couldn’t think of anything to write. And, to make matters worse, I had spent a lot of money on self-publishing a book I was sure would never again see the light of day.
Since I couldn’t write, I read. I went to the library. I started reading picture books again. I found solace in the kid lit community. I read blog posts and articles, tweets, and memes.
One of the articles I stumbled upon helped me kick those heifers, Gloom and Doom, to the curb.Tah-tah ladies.
The author’s message helped me alter how I perceive my success and allow myself to appreciate the little moments as much as the big ones. That paradigm shift removed a huge roadblock in my writing career-a roadblock constructed by me.
My Pity-Parties are now (mostly) Pinch-Me Parties.
Instead of complaining that only 5 people showed up at my Barnes and Noble author event, I pinch myself. I look around and think, “OMG! My book is on the shelf at Barnes and Noble!” Rather than beating myself up that my online sales are not in the thousands, I take pride knowing a book I wrote is in the hands of hundreds of people around the world.
Not that I’m a masochist, but I kind of like this whole pinching thing. It seems the more I do it, the more “pinch able” moments come my way. My books are on the shelves of several book stores and libraries (pinch). I’ve been interviewed by our local TV and newspaper (pinch, pinch). I was a guest on Matthew Winner’s “Let’s Get Busy Podcast” (turbo-pinch, he typically interviews NY Times Bestselling authors). And I was one of KidLitTV’s Featured Members. The Horn Book Magazine reviewed a collection of indie books for the first time in the history of the magazine, and my book was included (bad pinch on that one-Roger Sutton is not a fairy fan). School children in the UK chose to dress up as Dust Fairies (complete with matching dust bunny dolls) for World Book Day (pinch). My book has been a #1 Kindle on Amazon (pinch). I started a successful literacy initiative, #PBPiO #MARCHingBookstoKids and we’ve collected more than 350 books for children of incarcerated parents (pinch).
But, the best “pinches” by far, are all of the incredibly kind, gifted, generous people I have met on this journey. Thanks for your inspiration, humor, and support.
I love hearing from you. Tell me your best pity or pinch party story!
We know what happens “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie”…but what happens when you give a mom a blog?
If you give a mom a blog, she’s going to sit for hours, staring at a blinking cursor.
She’ll probably realize that she needs some help.
Then, she’ll venture out into cyberspace looking for advice.
When she looks for advice, she’ll notice that there are some really cool pins on Pinterest…
3 hours later, she’ll remember that she was supposed to be looking for advice on starting a blog.
When she remembers that she was supposed to be looking for advice, she’ll realize that 9:00 am has become 2:30 pm, and it’s time to pick up her son from school.
When she looks in the mirror, she might notice that she’s still in her PJ’s and hasn’t bathed…again.
Which means, she’ll need a quick change, a spray of perfume, and a Diet Pepsi for the road.
And chances are, as she passes by the computer, she’ll notice, from the corner of her eye, the blinking cursor.
When I began the journey to self-publish my own children’s picture book, I had no intention of starting a blog. But, start one, I did. My foray into blogging and social media has introduced me to a wonderful community of like-minded Indie authors. I am grateful for their advice and support, especially when the cursor is blinking, and we’re out of cookies.
How did your blogging journey begin? How’s it going?
I posted this piece a few months ago…
Writing is a solitary vocation. I spend a lot of time alone, pondering and reflecting, constructing and connecting. Most recently I connected my life, as a writer, to a well-known poem by Robert Fulghum. http://www.robertfulghum.com/ In the poem, Fulghum reflects on his days in kindergarten and how those lessons prepared him for life.
As I read his words, I began to ponder how becoming an author has enriched my life. I may not have learned “All I really need to know”, but I am constructing my journey one keystroke and lesson at a time. Here’s what I know…
All I really need to know…I learned writing kids’ Books
Give back to your fellow writers. Share articles and resources. Share your failures; they matter too. Lift someone up; show him the way. Give your books away to kids in need. Give back to your community.
I have dues to pay, like everyone else. There are no short-cuts or secret formulas to getting your books published or noticed.
Don’t hit people-
over the head with book promotions. It’s a fine line we walk when we promote our books. When in doubt, less is ALWAYS more!
Put things back where you found them-
Being an organized writer leads to being a productive writer (took me a long time to accept this one). This rule also applies to cats sleeping on your lap while you write. If you must disturb them, return them to your lap immediately.
Clean up your own mess-
I am a better writer when I can see the top of my work space (fought this one for years). Cats sitting on your work space are exempt.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours-
Whenever you quote or reference someone else or his/her work, give him/her proper credit.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody-
For me, this pertains to my husband. He is often on the receiving end of my writer’s block crankiness and endures my need for isolation when the block gives way.
Wash your hands before you eat-
A good practice on those rare occasions when I pry myself from my WIP to eat.
Sometimes I have to let go of an idea that is not working to create space for a new one.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you-
And they make for delicious refreshments at book signing events.
Live a balanced life-learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some-
Okay, I’m still working on that one.
Take a nap every afternoon-
My cats handle this one for me.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together-
I am blessed to go out into the kid lit world, holding hands with some of the best people I know. Winding our way through the streets of the publishing world; we stick together.
Be aware of wonder-
Without wonder, how would we create anything new?
Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup; The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup-they all die. So do we-
The wonderful thing is that, as writers, we can make these moments matter. And what we write can matter to someone in a profound way.
And remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned-the biggest word of all-LOOK-
My greatest joy, as a children’s author, is seeing my words reflected through another person’s eyes. In that book, for those few moments, we look at the world together.
What has your writing journey taught you? I’d love to hear about it. Don’t be shy, leave a reply.
Posted by Michelle R. Eastman in #MARCHingBookstoKids, #PBPiO, advice, amwriting, author, indie author, inspiration, new author, Picture Book Pass it On, Self-Publishing, writing, writing for kids Tags: #booknerd, #kidlit, #PBPiO, amwriting, author, blogging, kids' books, self-published author, self-publishing
I wrote this post over a year ago, but it seems as timely as ever…
Authors, indie and otherwise, are some of the most resourceful, tenacious people I know. They are also among the most generous, and kind bunch of folks you’ll ever find. I am one of those people, so why am I so freakin’ mean?
To myself, that is.
Brain research tells us that we have anywhere from 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, and up to 80 percent of those thoughts are negative. Why are our brains such Debbie-Downers? Apparently, they are wired to pay more attention to negative experiences. It’s a self-protective characteristic. We are scanning for threats from when we used to be hunter and gatherers.
Okay, I get that. I understand that it is human nature to focus on the bad stuff. I also get that I can’t really help myself for wondering what Donald Trump is thinking with that hair.
I also get that writers are self-critical beings. We spend a lot of time in our own heads and a lot of time alone. We are our work’s toughest critics.
But, can a girl catch a break once in a while? Can I learn to be a little kinder to myself?
I can try…
Donald Trump aside, I’ll leave you with this anecdote about a young woman who woke up one morning and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.
“Hmmmm,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” She did, and she had a great day.
The next morning she woke up and saw that only two hairs remained on her head. “Well,” she said, “I’m going to part my hair today.” She did, and she had a really fun day.
The following morning she awoke to only one hair on her head. “Oh,” she said, “I think I’ll wear my hair in a pony-tail today.” She did, and her day was wonderful.
The next morning she awoke to find that she did not have single hair on her head. “Yea!” she said. “I don’t have to fix my hair today!”
A big part of what keeps me sane on the days I’d like to pull my hair out is the company I keep. I am blessed to be a part of this online community of bloggers, authors, and other creative people. Your encouragement and support is ever-present and contagious. Thank you!
Posted by Michelle R. Eastman in amwriting, author, blogging, indie author, inspiration, Self-Publishing, writers' blues, writing Tags: amwriting, author, blogging, self-published author, self-publishing
I would like to reach out to kid lit authors and book bloggers to get quality books into the hands of deserving kids.
Throughout the month of March, I am collecting new children’s books to benefit children of incarcerated parents. Authors, I hope you will consider donating signed copies of your books. Book bloggers, please help us by sharing this information with your readers.
I am a children’s author, teacher, and mom who is passionate about children’s literacy and the power of children’s books. When I learned nearly 2/3 of children, living in poverty, DO NOT own books, I was moved to act. I founded the literacy initiative, Picture Book Pass it On, to raise awareness for literacy issues and get books to kids in need.
Three years ago, the Picture Book Pass it On initiative grew to include a month-long book drive called MARCHing Books to Kids.
Throughout the month of March, MARCHing Books to Kids collects books (ages birth-17 years) for the VNS of Iowa Storybook Project.
VNS of Iowa volunteers travel to The Iowa Correctional Institution, in Mitchellville, once a month. With the aid of volunteers, mothers select one book per child to read via a digital voice recorder. The audio CD and book are mailed to the child to keep. The mission is to strengthen the bond between parent and child, during incarceration, while promoting reading and literacy.
Since 2015, MARCHing Books to Kids has collected more than 1,500 books. Over the years, the drive has received donations from notable children’s authors such as Robert Munsch (Love You Forever) and Nick Bruel (Bad Kitty series). Last year, more than 30 children’s authors donated signed copies of their books. Owning a book, let alone a book signed by the author, is a joy most of these children have never experienced.
I believe that every child’s Bill of Rights should be indelibly inked with the right to have books read to him/her and to own their very own books. Many of us take for granted the sacred ritual of cracking open a book and cuddling together while the words and pictures collectively take us away. You can probably recall having been read to by your parents or caregivers. You likely hold a special book, from your childhood, close to your heart. And, until now, you’ve probably not given much thought to how profound that experience can be…Imagine, never having that.
To participate in MARCHing Books to Kids, please follow the 3 calls to action:
#1 Pledge to donate a new book/s to Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Storybook Project. Authors are invited to sign their books.
When packing your book/s, please include a note stating that your book is part of the MARCHing Books to Kids initiative. Books may be mailed to:
VNS of Iowa, Storybook Project
c/o Tabby Kuehl
1111 9th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50314
#3 Pass it on. When you post about your pledge, challenge one or more friends to join your #PBPiO giving chain. Encourage them to take the pledge and keep passing it on…
I appreciate your help spreading the word. Thank you for making the difference in the lives of children and families in need.
Posted by Michelle R. Eastman in #MARCHingBookstoKids, #PBPiO, author, authors giving back, blogging, charity, families, giveaway, helping, https://www.facebook.com/PBPiO, illustrator, indie author, inspiration, kidlit, kids in need, Literacy, moms, Picture Book Pass it On, poverty, reading, Uncategorized, World Book Day, writing for kids Tags: #PBPiO, author, children's book, children's picture book, kids' books, MARCHing Books to Kids, self-published author, self-publishing
Okay, so I have been blogging for about a year now. But, most days, I feel as clueless as when I began-still bumbling my way around this curious space.
I’ve tried a few times to develop a weekly theme or topic. So far, I have not hit on one that has stuck.
One thing that has remained constant is the positive, inspiring community of bloggers I’ve come to know. Your talent, generosity, and openness is incredible.
So, with that in mind, each Thursday, I’ll share a favorite thought-provoking quote, and a thank-you to someone in our online community. Here are my “Thursday Thoughts and Thanks” for this week:
My thank-you goes out to blogger Send Sunshine who always seems to find time to do just that.
My Thursday Thoughts and Thanks would be even better if you joined in the fun. Please feel free to share a favorite quote and/or tell us about a blogger who you feel grateful to know. Thank you!
Posted by Michelle R. Eastman in amwriting, author, authors giving back, blogging, indie author, inspiration, Uncategorized, wordpress, writing Tags: amwriting, author, blogging, community, thursday thoughts and thanks