Author, Behind the scenes, writing

The Anniversary Challenge

the-anniversary-challenge

Well here we are, November 2020. This month makes one year since I started this behind the scenes blog! Cue the balloons and confetti. Play “Tony! Toni! Toné!’s “Anniversary” (remember that iconic song of the 90s?). Yeah, I often think in songs and TV or movie lines. 😊 Anyway, this anniversary creeped up on me. Much like other people feel in this strange year, I can’t believe it’s November already. So, I want to share my thoughts on taking chances and being open to opportunities as a way of leading to pleasant experiences.

If you have followed me from the start, you know I started this blog because I was asked to contribute to a friend’s blog. I hadn’t thought about writing a blog of my own, even when asked to submit to the other blog. Once I started writing, however, I felt that it may be something fun to do, especially to write in a different manner than my fictional books. Plus, blogs are a million times more instant than novels to get out to the you, the public. I can write and get it to you at the speed of a click, unlike my novels. The Difference is being published in 2021 and began the process last year, just to give you an idea.

Also, to write monthly for people who care about what I have to say, who want to know my experiences of being an author, and for those who love to read about behind the scenes of artistic endeavors (with a psychotherapist twist of course) started to become enticing once I shared my guest blog post and received a large positive response. But I still wasn’t a “blogger.” That title seemed to reserved for younger and cooler people. I have never been cool and I am a middle-aged woman, yet I thought “Why not? I’ll just try it.”

There have been other times in my life that I took a chance and it paid off. My first career job as a therapist was with the population of children. When I was in graduate school, I ruled them out as a desirable group to counsel. I just didn’t have an interest. I wanted to work with adults only. Well, life had different plans for me…for 13 years. I ended up LOVING child therapy. Now I do work with adults, but I wouldn’t give up that time with kids for anything. The experience I gained formed a solid basis for me to understand where adults begin their concerns. There’s more of course, but that’s for another day. Or another blog. Lol

So have you had an anniversary of something you never thought you would do in the first place? I think many of us do. All of these anniversaries would require taking a leap of faith to begin. Think about what times in your life include taking that chance. Go on. Think. I’ll wait.

Here are some questions that may help if you are struggling to remember:

  • What was something you REALLY did NOT want to do, but had to do? (Something you ended up liking and being happy you did)
  • What was something your heart said to do, even though your mind was yelling NOOOOO? (But you did it anyway and liked it)
  • Who did you give a chance to and they ended up being one of the closest people in your life, romantically or friendship wise? (Anyone you, dare I say, disliked at first)

It’s not only fun to think about these times in your life, these growth opportunities I would call them, but also to then notice the outcomes from your choices. Here comes another pop culture reference. Did you ever see the movie “Sliding Doors?” The idea is that one slight change can lead to a whole different life. One action or event can mean completely different outcomes, those of your choice or not. I often think about this idea when I am stopped a red light I was hoping not to encounter; “Oh, maybe I would have [insert horrible thing] happen if I caught the green one, so I’m glad I am staying here.” Yes, I know that is extreme, but that’s my thoughts sometimes. Think about the bigger picture, though. If you didn’t take the chance with the circumstance or person you thought about a paragraph ago, how different would your life be now?

It-is-well

If you haven’t thought of something yet, no worries. That just means you can make that choice in this present moment. In the next month, I anniversary challenge you to take a chance on something. And if you already have thought of something you did, why not do something else? I mean, I did add widget of a monthly blog catalog on the side of this page, taking a chance of messing up my website, just saying. It sounds silly, but every time I hit publish on here, I cringe then sigh from relief once all is well. See, it can even be something “small.”

Some mental health benefits can arise from challenging yourself. See if you notice these (or have noticed them when thinking about a past action):

  • Increased confidence
  • An improved self-image
  • Increased pride
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Gratitude
  • A new quality/talent discovered
  • A new identity

Taking the minimal risk of attempting to blog monthly was scary for me, but I am glad I did it. I now have monthly interactions with beautiful people. I feel supported by you rooting me on in my author journey, I feel inspired by your comments and stories, and I adore when you get inspired for your own paths. And don’t forget my new computer skills (ahem, the widget).

I hope you are glad I jumped and began this blog. If you feel brave, share your anniversary challenge in the comments. Let’s cheer each other on to gain new positive experiences. I know you can do it.

go-get-em

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Behind the scenes, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Routine and Self-Care Are Your Friends

Routine

Routine. Who responds with excitement and who has a negative reaction to this word? I’m sure there are both reactions out there, along with a variety of in between reactions. I personally love routine and thrive with it. I like to leave freedom in my activities within my routine, but generally, even for my artistic expressions (which may sound counterintuitive, but I’ll explain), I have a routine of some sort. I think it’s grounding. This year, more than ever, I know we can all use a sense of feeling stable with predictability, so let me help you to get there, with intentional self-care thrown in for good measure.

I’ve known about my proclivity for routine for a long time of course, but recently it hit me with how valuable it is for my writing career. I’ve been working on my second novel, which is set in contemporary New Orleans and about an Italian American woman’s journey with trust and allowance of help from her community. I started in July and now have a first draft. It only took three months! The Difference (coming in 2021) took five years. Yes, you read that right. Now let me tell you, it was due to a variety of factors, with the biggest being that writing was a fun hobby back then. I did it as my mood shifted toward that creative outlet. After signing with a publisher and getting into the author world more, writing has grown to be another career for me (I’m also a psychotherapist). I prioritize writing and working on my craft consistently. This blog is part of that consistency, by the way so thanks for being a reader/follower. 😊

During the unknowns in this wild year, I think my Sunday writing routine helped me to have a loved task to look forward to and one which I could depend on weekly. As you know, when you have a passion you will make sacrifices for it. Giving up other interests, needed tasks of the week, or even quality time with my husband on Sundays was what I chose to do so I could get that book out of me and into the world (well, at least in my world right now). It gave me a sense of control in my life when the events around me were yet to be determined. I knew when the quarantine happened that I wanted to make the most of my “down” time and this new book is a huge goal I can check off as accomplished.

With routine there is another necessary factor, I think. It’s almost the flip side in my mind. The way to keep a routine consistently is to keep yourself energized and ready to go. How does one do that? Well, I do it with self-care. That’s kind of a buzz word now, so it may have different meaning to different people. But self-care, to me, means doing activities that bring joy, relaxation, and comfort to you so that your mind and body can recharge for the next step/activity/day. Oh, I hope you know that included in self-care are basic human needs like healthy nutrition and enough sleep. I need to make sure to say that since they are extremely important but are often overlooked.

There are obviously different ways in which people can gain a sense of relief through self-care. I personally do not love to be physically active (but do it because I should for my health and blah, blah, blah), but can sit on my butt for hours reading, crocheting, drawing, and anything else artistic. I love vegging out with TV, movies, and social media too. But you may have different needs. View my list below for some ideas for your self-care.

Physically driven people (If you love moving/outwardly expressing to feel relief)

  • Walking or running
  • Bike riding
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • Playing instruments
  • Yoga
  • Talk to a friend

Mentally driven people (If you love staying in a resting position and reflecting internally to recharge)

  • Arts and crafts
  • Reading
  • Listening to audio books
  • Taking a bath
  • Movies and TV
  • Puzzles
  • Journaling

I can literally go on and on. But those are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning. What do you think? Any seem enticing?

So, let’s make sure you choose a time in your day to do a little something. Maybe just one tiny thing, even if it’s drinking a cup of tea or smelling a fragrant candle. Imagine when you can integrate this into your life. Right now. Go on, do it. Ok, continue reading. 😊

Set a routine for the self-care! Maybe it’s before you get out of bed, before you go to bed, at lunch time, or for 5-10 minutes in the morning or afternoon. Let’s make it happen. I know you can do it!

I hope that this blog post sparked some ideas for you to flourish even more in your life. I’m happy when others feel inspired and motivated by reading my blogs, newsletters, and social media posts. Of course, my books are the biggest tools for conveying these themes, so I can’t wait for you to read them as well.

Always feel free to share ideas this gave you, ask me for input, tell me how you worked routine and self-care into your life, or even how you plan to do so on the near future. I love hearing about your intent and success. Happy routine and self-caring!

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Behind the scenes, Debut Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Dedicated to the One I Love

support-people-quote-misty-copeland

Did you know that an author needs more than good ideas, the ability to write well, and the hard (oh so hard!) work that it takes to make it in the publishing world? There is one other HUGE factor that sometimes is forgotten. We need the support of loved ones in our lives. For me, the biggest part of my support team is my husband, Jason. I also have friends and other family around me that continue to lift me up, keep me motivated, and help me out with advice. I know I couldn’t be where I am without any of these people, but this blog post is dedicated to my partner in life for almost 20 years. 😊

When I made the decision to write my first book, The Difference, I didn’t know it would affect my husband. Silly right? I have many artistic hobbies, so how is this one different? Oh yeah, because it involves not only creating and having fun, but building a business. Yes, authors, it’s true that our writing is a business once you share it with the world and intend on making money. Anyway, I didn’t want to or couldn’t think that far ahead because, quiet honestly, it would freak me out, which I have told you in past posts. I didn’t know what needed to occur to get my book published, but I knew I would get it done (and it’s coming soon! Eek, so excited).

You may be wondering how another person is affected by having an author in the same household. Let me count the ways. First of all, he experienced my hours upon hours of writing my book. As I got more serious about my craft, this took away precious weekend time. We both work full time, so weekends are the times we have all day together to relax, travel, see friends, and even run errands (which we think is fun to do together- yes we are weird). He always understood the need for me to spend the time working on my book, but sometimes it was hard to give up the “fun” time. Don’t worry, though, I gave myself breaks. 😉 Now he’s used to the time needed to write, especially since I’m in a routine of weekend writing. With the quarantine, we are working from home daily anyway, so we have plenty of time together. That’s something great to come from the world issue this year.

He’s also had to grow his patience with my social media needs. I’ve always been a photography lover. Wherever we go, especially in travels, I take about 5 million pictures a day. No joke, I have about 30 albums (yup, I’m old school like that). I LOVE to capture everything so I have lots of memories to look at and reminisce about, but now my habit has grown to also keeping an eye out for content to post in my feeds or stories. Since I post daily, I’m always on the lookout, even without being fully aware. My poor husband has had to wait so many times for me to get the perfect angle of something. He especially needs patience when I ask that he take a picture of me in a special location. My approval can take many photo attempts and I know it’s not easy for him (we are all our own worst critics, right?). Sometimes the writing of my post even takes away from what we are doing in the day, although briefly, but he understands it’s part of the gig.

Then there came the querying. This is when authors send their manuscripts and other content out to publishers and agents so they can get a publishing deal. My husband reaffirmed me every time I got a rejection. Every. Single. Time. He never gave up the hope with me that a deal would come. Some days the loss and need to try harder affected me more than others, of course, but he was strong for me, leading me to always be 100% sure someone believes in me and my work. I knew that already, but it’s comforting to hear in those moments. This graphic describes how I feel:

husband-qualities-happy-wines-club-book-quote

More sacrifices you ask? Well, this may be the biggest of all. As my business grows, I have added many responsibilities. There is this blog, my newsletter, marketing and promotion for my book, and writing my second book. Every step of the way, he has heard me talk about it nonstop. People, this is not an exaggeration. If you know me personally, you know when I have such a strong passion for something that it’s almost all I think about most of the time. It’s also a majority of my conversations with him lately. Whoopsie, I didn’t realize that until he pointed it out. And remember we are working from home daily together…all day long…every day…24-7? Oh yes, think about that one for a second. He hears me talk endlessly about every bit of my processes. Rarely does it bother him, so he’s basically a saint.

Along with all of the above, he has taken on many household chores that I usually did during our relationship. He gives me time to write by doing more than his share around the house, despite my rising guilt at times. I seriously couldn’t do it without him and I’m so lucky to be able to devote time needed to my writing. It’s because of him.

Do you have a major support person in your life? I sure hope so. Everyone needs a cheerleader. I know I’m privileged to be in this position. I also know the road ahead is still long, especially since I plan a prosperous and lengthy career of writing (I’m putting it out into the universe). My husband and I will remain a team for this goal of mine because it benefits us both. Have you ever heard “happy wife, happy life?” LOL, just kidding, but honestly, our individual goals become a couple goal all the time. I’ve supported him with his goals and will continue to do so, as will he for me. What more could an author ask for?

Venice-Italy-with-Husband
Jason and I- Venice, Italy

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Author, Behind the scenes, writing

Living in Two Worlds

Two-worlds

Have you ever felt like you need to be in two worlds, two places, or to think about two concepts at the same time? In today’s world, I know a lot of us experience being torn between multiple responsibilities. Multi-tasking is a way of life for most of us. It’s difficult to be fully invested in anything if you don’t feel grounded in the task of the moment, though. Needing to shift between tasks can be challenging. Obviously, this applies to many roles in our lives (employee, wife, friend…), but specifically for artists I think it can be challenging to switch mindsets and heart. Oh yes, my heart and soul is part of everything I do as an artist/writer, as you probably know by reading my past blogs. I think most artists feel the same way.

Specifically for my writing (since this is a behind the scenes blog of my author life!), I’ve noticed I work best when totally ingrained in the world of my story. I need to be inside the minds of the characters I am writing. I need to be imaging myself in their shoes, walking around in their setting I created. I can feel them with the emotions of the narrative and scenes. This is simply how I work. I see the story and the characters in my mind’s eye, mostly from the main character’s perspective, but I also have to get into the supporting character’s minds when writing their dialogue of course.

When writing my first novel, The Difference, I had a different luxury than currently; I could focus on one story. Don’t get me wrong I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to be able to have a writing career, but it takes a mind shift for a writer who works from total emotional investment. See, now I also need to keep moving forward with other stories I want to tell you as my readers. So I need to go back and forth between my novel I’ve worked on for years (for editing) and a new novel I am writing. It’s an incredible blessing but can be challenging. I tried to wait until edits were completely finished for my first novel before starting this WIP (work in progress), but I couldn’t wait any longer. The story was nagging at me to be told. Writers, you feel me on this, right? So now I’m officially living in two imaginary worlds. This picture of me at the Prime Meridian line shows how I feel sometimes, with each foot in a world I created.

split-at-prime-meridian

When I sat down to write my new story for the first time, I almost felt like I was cheating on Rachel, my main character in The Difference. Speaking as Mary in my current WIP took a little getting used to. Although I had her mapped out as a character on paper, to speak like her in my writing required me to keep viewing all the details I set out for myself on paper. I heard Rachel’s voice popping through a few times, but kept redirecting my thoughts to Mary. I had to essentially keep repeating “I’m speaking as Mary now. Mary, Mary, Mary!” I know this may sound confusing (because it is), but this is how it went for me. And I’m only involved in two manuscripts! How some authors can work on more than that at a time is beyond me. But anyway, what happens to me when I write these novels is that I feel I get in a state of flow, and this is helping me to stay in the world I need to be in at the moment. Have you heard the term flow?

Flow state was developed by the positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and he described it as being “in the zone.” He said in a TED Talk that “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity… [and] a sense of time disappears.” Friends, this is the magic part. This happens to me every time I’m writing fiction. I am a Type A person, but when in an artistic process, the rules and rigidity float away, and my concentration is at its height, yet is effortless. Before I know it, I have 1,000 words on the page. Flow state is where my best art comes from.

Now, I want to know if you have felt the flow state. I think it requires a few points to reach it, so if you haven’t felt it yet, maybe I can help with how I think it happens for me.

  • First, are you doing something you love? This is required, people, required. It has to be an activity that brings you joy, peace, and excitement. Remember, these thoughts are from my perspective so you may disagree.
  • Second, try to eliminate distracting noise. Can you have on music? Sure, if that is what you love to work with, but if you need silence, make that happen. I know it can be hard when you have others in your home, so it may take some negotiation or deal making for your needs.
  • Third, make sure you have a large chunk of time. I would say at least an hour, minimal. For me, it takes a little while to transition from the normal thinking to the creative thinking to the flow state. I view it as a meditative state in a way. So I need to allow time for the transition of total alertness to outside noise (typically beta state) down to more of an internally alert state (typically alpha state). Remember I am also a therapist, so I know this stuff, lol.
  • Fourth, go to it! Do your thing. Just let it…wait for it…flow. It will come if you are open to it. Just be. Be in the moment.

There you have it. Now we can all be in our own little worlds and never be present again. Um, just kidding. But we can be in our different creative zones and be in the flow state when we engage in our art. How exciting, right?

As I continue to work on my WIP, I have been leaving Rachel’s story in the back of my mind a little bit. I’m not releasing her or it, but just holding the story differently. Believe me, when I play writer games on Twitter (which is what we do in the #writingcommunity) and am asked to talk about my WIP, it’s the strangest feeling for me not to be talking about my first book. The moment I started referring to my new manuscript was jolting. Again, the cheating on Rachel! But I’ll be talking about The Difference the rest of my life, since that is what happens when you write and promote a book (especially so meaningful as my first published book). It’s okay that this new world of Mary’s is calling. And I have to tell you, being in the flow state again feels amazing. I haven’t experienced that in a while with writing because editing doesn’t allow that state for me (it uses more of my logical brain).

So, being in the two worlds is working out okay! Strange at first, but I am getting used to it. And as I dive into my different worlds of creation, I’m constantly thinking of more stories. One has been speaking a little more to me and may turn into a short story. I’ve never done that, and it may be fun to try. But, oh no, that’s a third split for me! I guess I’ll know I can handle it now. I look forward to the differences in character views, settings, and possibly the most enjoyable part…the flow. Immersing in multiple worlds isn’t so bad after all.

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Author, Behind the scenes, Women's Fiction Author

The Art of Taking a Break

take-a-break

Does anyone find it ironic that nowadays we have to be conscious of taking a break? If you don’t, I admire you! I have to make sure to keep relaxation in mind so that I don’t overwork. See, I have a problem; I’m a workaholic when I’m passionate about something and my writing fits that category. My mind never stops running for ideas, things needed to be done, and planning for the future. “It’s a gift and curse,” as a favorite TV character says (anyone else love Monk?). This part of my personality allows for me to accomplish a large amount. It allows me to have success in my life, to never stop until I reach my goal…but it also tires me out at times. Finding a balance is important. I know this, but putting it into action can be challenging at times.

Recently I took my birthday week off because my husband and I planned to go on a vacation. Well, as you all know, that wasn’t a possibility this summer, so I decided to have a staycation. Although I have been working from home for my day job for the last 4 months, I knew it would feel different to actually be off the clock, even when in the same location. Somehow being home for work, where I don’t have to commute two hours a day, still doesn’t mean I can get everything done that is on my mental to-do list. Yeah, that’s because that list is endless and unrealistic. I know that yet still try time after time. Anyway, I told myself that week I would relax, breathe, chill out. Putting it into action was harder than I thought.

I did a good job overall with daily leisure. I saw a couple friends (safely of course), I drew and painted, cooked, read some books, played my ukulele, watched TV, and enjoyed swimming. But you know what’s coming…oh yes, I did a little author work as well. Of course I was interacting on my social media daily, but I don’t count that because it’s fun (and needed, yes). But, how could I have a week off and not do some of my author related tasks? That’s just ridiculous. I ended up starting my second novel. Yup, I spent a day getting my outline ready, formatting, and actually writing the first few pages. And you know what? It felt good! I had a weight lifted off of my mind by starting it and also had fun writing. That has to be acceptable, right?

I have to admit, though, I felt guilt either way, so I went ahead and was productive. At least that way I moved forward on my goals. Although I did all those fun and relaxing activities, I had that little voice in the back of my head telling me “Shouldn’t you be doing something writing related?” I had to keep reminding myself that it was vacation for me. I had to fight against my workaholic spirit to free myself to engage in the fun activities. And I did, except for that one day. Hey, I think that’s pretty good and will give myself a pat on the back, thank you very much.

Who else experiences this push and pull of the guilt? I think a lot of us feel it, especially in this unique year. So, does taking a break require a special skill set? Is there an actual art to it? I’m an artist so that should come easy to me. There is that word again, though; should. I try not to use it as much as possible because I’ve learned it creates more guilt. I help my therapy clients with avoiding that mindset as well, but it’s hard to apply to myself sometimes.

Back to the art of it, though. Maybe the art is simply having a balance. Maybe it’s just knowing when I am at risk of being drained. Burning out will be counterproductive in the end, so I don’t want to reach that place. Living where I can work and relax must be the way to go. Instead of push, push, push, maybe I need reminders to pause, pause, pause. Balance for the opposite ends of the spectrum is needed. I need to live in the gray and not the black or white, so to speak. That’s a fact. I know this, but sometimes my overachiever spirit tries to quiet the thought.

Okay, here’s the plan to lessen guilt by taking breaks routinely. I have a few realistic (key word for me) author tasks to complete each week, so this week I started to make a list of them. Checking them off as I finish them feels satisfying, which is a bonus to the completion of the actual task. I am making sure to also have a choice of 2-3 hobby related activities I can choose from each weeknight and on weekends. I work well with structure, but this is just enough to feel like I accomplish something and also hold myself accountable for down time. I’ve accepted that I require mental organization for even down time. I’m not a person who can “just relax.” My relaxing requires my mind to be as free as possible from the to-do activities, so having a plan is key. I work well with limits and rules., even when I make them for myself.

Look, there is always more to do. There is always a way to do better and be better in any area of life. That opportunity excites me, but I need to pace myself, my gosh. I do believe things come when the time is right, so it will just happen when meant to be anyway. What is in my control is taking care of myself, which means rest. That is how I will be my best for myself and everyone else.

Your art of taking a break may look different than mine, but that doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. I love learning from others, so always feel free to tell me how you do with the balance of work and play. Let’s all take care of ourselves during this year especially. It’s a great lesson to learn for the rest of our lives.

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Author, Debut Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

New Roles, New Growth

Lately, I have had to get used to more differences in my daily life than I ever imagined, and I’m sure I’m not alone. This year has brought all of us many shifts in the way we live, work, and play. I feel like I am constantly trying to adapt to the newest change. Have you felt like that too? I think more than a few of you are probably thinking “Yes, yes, my God yes!” And all of this shifting doesn’t necessarily have to do with the world situations occurring, for my author life at least. So, guess what; I’ve realized these adapting times are bringing thrilling changes, which have brought me incredible chances. It’s only one small letter variation between the two words, but one large opportunity.

In reflecting on the first half of 2020, I realize how many roles I have taken on in the most natural manner. Just as I have said before, my artistic expression influences more artistic expression, but I never knew my art would extend to aspects like, say, marketing and promotion. Whoa now, that is pretty business-y, but still inclusive of my art and a way to explore creativity. Oh yeah, it’s also a necessary part of author life. One role has led to another in my journey and I seem to be collecting them as I go along. I know many of you have also taken on new roles this year, often ones we never expected, so you can most likely relate to my surprise and intrigue, as well as the satisfaction that you can accomplish the task at hand.

Ok, what are these roles I speak of? Two began before this year, but I still need to state them. Well, the first, most important, and starting role is obvious; it’s the novelist role. Ta-da! This remains my most important role, no matter what else develops from it. I write because I have stories to tell. I love to express myself in this art form and to have others enjoy my tales as well. I’ve always been fascinated by creating something of beauty from nothing. Words creatively placed into phrases turn into books that remain forever. That carries huge meaning for me.

What came from writing was, of course, the next step of getting myself out there in the world; my website and social media. From here, other roles emerged. When I started engaging in this manner, I never thought this blog would stem from it, for example, but here I am…and loving it. I have the opportunity to write for my behind the scenes lovers and have a more frequent outlet for my writing expression. Plus, you guys get to see more of my writing style. It’s a win-win situation.

Next came my newsletter, earlier this year. When my publisher said I need to think about having one, that was all it took. I want to do anything that will help my name get out there so more people experience The Difference and my future endeavors. See, newsletters help an audience to stay connected. They allow me to send you news and fun info. Being the first to know what’s happening is exciting so I want to share it there first, with my biggest fans. I feel privileged to be able to connect with people in this manner because they are trusting me to provide quality content and they specifically want to hear from me. They took the time to sign up, after all, and I’m flattered. So, there I went with yet another role added on in my life.

Now I started to be a newsletter writer and role carrier of 3 categories, all with a lot of learning on my end. Anxiety, check. Fear, check. Questioning what I am doing, check. Just to have a newsletter I needed to find a site that can provide the service of sending to a list of people, connect it to my website, and create the “campaigns,” or emails to my audience, as they are called. Whew. Who knew all the IT knowledge I would gain just by being an author?! It’s not just the writing, my friends.

My personal and professional growth continued to happen in a burst with my Pitch Party Prosperity program that I released last month; role 4. This is a variety of services for writers who want to pitch their manuscripts in pitch parties on social media, most often on Twitter. During the party time, agents, publishers, and editors can show interest for the writer to send their material to them by liking their post. This is challenging for us writers because the pitch needs to be within the 280 characters Twitter allows, as well as leaving room within that range for the genre and other identifiers. I found that the 2 times I participated last year I had success; the 2nd being how I obtained my publishing contract. So, why not support others with this challenging process, right? I’m a helper by nature, so my intuition told me to move forward with paying my knowledge and experience forward.

I ended up developing a variety of packages for people interested in my help, including an eBook with step by step guidance for writing the pitch and how to manage the party, personalized pitch evaluation, and coaching services for those that want longer term assistance. I also have a free tip sheet for those that sign up for my newsletter. Offering these services included coordination of 3 more programs with my website. Wow, huh? It looks so simple when you view that page on my site, but so much behind the scenes work goes into every decision. Guess what though, it is paying off! I have already helped people in pitch parties and they are having large success. In one party alone someone had interest from a huge agent and another had 24 industry pro likes, including 3 of those from large names. My mouth literally dropped open when I read that news. This is why I do it! I want others to flourish with me. That is what us writers do; we uplift each other.

So, do you think my roles stop there? Nope. Those are the main ones, but you can say I also can add marketer/promoter to my list. Besides using social media and word of mouth so far, I did an interview this month and will have more press type events in the future. I added an Events and Media page on my website to track book signings and many more events that will occur. My roles continue and I continue to learn and grow in my varied skills of being an author.

The changes that have evolved in my writing career have allowed me the chance to grow as a person. Last year at this time, I didn’t even have my publishing contract yet. I had a basic website, a query package, and a publishing dream. I have proven to myself that I can do this! I can write a novel (that others want to read!), I can build a website, I can do a blog and newsletter, I can keep up social media, I can create a supportive business for writers, and I can market and promote myself and my brand. I’m learning as I go, but I. Am. Doing. It. I have even more roles I want to take on in the future, but they will happen when the time is right. My passion for my art and my helping heart drive me, but I think I have enough to keep me occupied, don’t you?

I hope you embrace your chances for change, especially during this unusual year. You never know the wonderful places they will take you and make you. Thanks for coming along for my ride.

***

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Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Unexpected Gifts from the Online World

When I began my author social media sites, I never imagined where they would take me. I just knew that they are a must nowadays in the writing world. An author needs to build a platform so readers and industry professionals can see more about them, as well as see what products they are marketing. That’s pretty straightforward, so bam, I started them. I thought how I will post pictures and content related to subjects pertaining to my brand (you know by now that means writing, reading, Italy, and inspirational topics basically) and see what happens. Well, what happened includes a depth and meaning in my life I never expected.

See, I’m an only child. Yes, I am going wayyyy back. I know the phrase “only child” conjures up many stereotypical thoughts for most people, and you are not completely wrong, but I also don’t fit that entire mold. I didn’t grow up wealthy with getting anything and everything I wanted. But the qualities I did gain from this birth situation is that I am independent and a leader (when my shyness doesn’t get the best of me). I had to function on my own, entertain myself, and pave my own path in the world. Nobody was there to show me, including the big feat of going to college because my parents did not. I always had to find my own answers. Entering into the online world for my authorship, why would I think I needed or wanted help from others? Let’s continue.

Don’t get me wrong, before I established my social media and website, I did ask for help from trusted people in my life. I had three outstanding beta readers for my book, The Difference (I know I can’t do everything alone, sheesh). But, I know these people. I didn’t meet them online. They are safe for me and are long-lasting friends, so it wasn’t scary to let them help (beyond being vulnerable about my creation and worried about any and all thoughts, but that’s a given). Also, I obviously looked to other authors or experts in the field who have gone through the stage I was in at the moment, including researching articles, podcasts, and you name it. That’s expected help along the road in this field, as well as doesn’t include any risk of sharing myself. It’s a one-way deal.

Cue the two-way online relationships. I started to have comments on my posts from people I didn’t know in my personal life. So, I dipped my toes in the water of communicating with strangers. Slowly, I conversed with a few followers; mostly at this point fellow authors. Many times, I found their posts and comments helpful, insightful, and inspiring for my own journey. So here I was commenting, responding, and learning. And guess what; some people didn’t remain strangers. How wonderful to feel that someone else feels the same as me about certain topics, wants me to succeed, and is going through, or has gone through, the same things in this crazy business. Hmm, comfort started to build. And hmm, I needed their opinions and experiences sometimes.

I remember one day, shortly after establishing my account on Twitter, a kind soul posted to the “writing community” (people who follow hashtags like #WritingCommunity) how I was new to the platform and to give me a follow. How could someone who didn’t know me want to offer help like that? Just out of the blue! This was the first hint that online relationships can be…relationships. They can be special.

When I did my 1st pitch party on Twitter, my online relationships flourished even more. One person I had gotten closer to was there to answer a question as the party started. She was experienced and knew how to help me. And during that day, I had the privilege of SO many members of the “writing community” help me out by retweeting my pitches (side note, this helps get them seen for industry pros). See, I need other people! And some I still communicate with often.

I stared at the screen in awe and shock that day, feeling a sense of love from…strangers. How could this be? Yes, I would share their pitches also, but the fact that they took the time to help me out filled me with tingles and chills, you know, the good kind. I had felt touches of this camaraderie before this pitch party here and there, but this day sealed the deal. It also brought joy to know they feel the same as me as far as us not being in competition with each other. We can all bloom. If anyone has seen this famous quote in Zen Shin meditation, you know what I mean:

The cheering on of others continued in the grandest way in the next pitch party I participated in (the one where I got my publisher!). A friendly follower decided to not only share my pitch that day but wrote a little about what I told her my book is about, then tried to get her friends/followers to retweet it. This occurred each time I had a new pitch that day (3). She continued to check in on status and offer support. Well, now my mind was blown. How can someone I hardly spoke to, online, spend so much of her own time and effort on little old me?! I’m convinced her efforts contributed to my publisher seeing my tweet.

My heart was filled with gratitude to all of these sweet people, followers, and now…friends. What? How could I use that term with someone I never met in “real life?” I am a Gen X woman, so the idea of meeting people and trusting them when only having met online didn’t come easy for me (not to speak for my entire generation, but you know what I mean). And then the next circumstance shook me up even more, yet led to yet another impactful part of my life.

The person who helped me during the 1st pitch party developed a private group with her closest Twitter friends. One day she messaged all of us and said she felt that we needed to all be connected. Wow, was she right. Of course, my first instinct was to leave immediately due to fear. I only knew her and (ironically) the person who went above and beyond for me in the 2nd pitch party. There were 8 other women in the group who I never even saw on Twitter. But, I trusted my friend at this point. I allowed myself to be open to staying in the group. Thank God.

Months later, I can’t imagine not having these intelligent, beautiful souls who just happen to be writers as well in my DAILY life. We started talking shop, you know, writing stuff, but quickly expanded our topics of conversation. You name it, we talk about it. I check in usually multiple times a day and look forward to chatting with them. We read each other’s work, offer guidance any anything industry related, and give each other heads up for events in the field. We root each other on constantly. So, not only are they there for me no matter what, as I am for them, they continually inspire me, motivate me, help me with my confidence, and best of all, make me laugh hysterically. We help each other get further along in our goals and have a bonus of unconditional love and support that I would have never dreamed of… all online. We have never met in person (yet).

Being an only child (and Italian), my friends are my family. I have heard that many only children feel this way. Once you are a good friend who I can completely trust, I will be loyal to the end. These women in my private message group are in my heart forever. They, along with a few other amazing people I’ve met online, are people I never knew I needed. Not wanted, needed. The writer world can be harsh, so why not get a little help from your friends. It’s a time of people helping people in the world, and the author world is no different. As one of my favorite shows of all time has in their theme song, “I’ll be there for you.” And I am forever grateful for my friends I’ve met over the last year or so. Let’s keep helping each other, building friendships, and remaining open to possibilities. I know I am.

***

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Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Vulnerability: Steps and Lessons 

If you follow my social media (and I sure hope you do! 😊), you know that I just submitted my first round of line edits back to my publisher. During this process, I started to think about the amount of vulnerability that is needed in the author world, as well as lessons I have already learned. Let’s look at the meaning of the world “vulnerability” before I go any further.

Vulnerability- the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. (Oxford Dictionary)

These words strike me especially strong at this time in the world. They are powerful, anxiety provoking, and just plain scary! What is your reaction? What have you been vulnerable with or are being vulnerable about right now in your life? (Pause for self-reflection, lol…but seriously)

Okay, you’re back. So, I’ve given deep thought to the concept of vulnerability in the past, due to my role as a mental health therapist. I’ve thought about it for my clients and in my own life, but never as much as lately. I’m happy to share some insights here, in hopes you can connect to them for your own benefit. But first, a slight backstory. You know that’s how I work by now!

From the moment I opened myself up to the public as an author, when I started my website and social media platforms in December 2018, I had to get more comfortable with the risk of others’ thoughts, responses, and opinions…risk meaning the possibility of something negative or hurtful. I hoped and thought that most people would be kind souls, but you never know. “Attack” is always possible. That was level one for my vulnerability, in my mind, as I reflect back. It’s a constant threat, as I open up my heart every single time I post something or respond to other people’s posts. Of course, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Just as the next steps.

Level two came as soon as I sent my first query letter in June 2019. Now, you see, I was not only exposing myself to the public, but specifically to experts in the publishing field. Cue the racing heart and flood of second guessing my work. But I persisted. I had to in order to meet my dream of getting published.

The stakes kept rising with each risk I took; the pitch parties I participated in, the interactions with agents and publishers, going to classes, and joining webinars to build my skills. Every bit was allowing a piece of me to escape, without knowing where the piece would end up. This is wayyyy out of my comfort zone, let me tell you.

But then came the call with my now publisher. Level three was in action. She already knew I had not published books in the past, but during this call she mentioned a popular website I hadn’t heard of, which I told her I didn’t know, and I’ll never forget her response. She commented on me actually being a newbie to the field (not in a rude way at all, more like a “oh yeah” moment). The comment stayed with me because I always want to be known as knowledgeable and intelligent (that’s just a part of my personality). I love to be as prepared as possible for any circumstance, but can’t be, obviously. Also, what stuck with me was that it was okay with her that I was new. It wasn’t an issue at all. In that conversation, nor in future correspondence, did she ever have an issue with my past experience.

From that point on I felt a large increase in comfort with being able to be myself during our work together. The lesson of “honesty is always the best policy” is one I abide by and it was reinforced from the start of my relationship with my publisher. There is always going to be a first time for people. We all have to start somewhere and thank God she is giving me a chance.

The next lesson I learned from the requirement of being vulnerable in the author domain is that my desire to learn works for me and my success. Although I want to know everything I can, I know I don’t. Even if I was one of the experts in this field, I still wouldn’t ever consider myself an expert. I have a mentality that I’m always learning. There is always better and more I can do. I love to learn, as written about in last’s month’s blog, so why would this journey be any different? I know I need to listen to my experts (editor and publisher; also, another lesson) to make my book the best it will be. Otherwise, I may as well have self-published.

As I have read through the editor comments in my manuscript these last two rounds, I always try to keep an open mind. I need to be flexible and be able to ponder other people’s opinions of my writing, in order to make it shine. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I don’t agree, but that is okay. We can have conversations about both of our thoughts and go from there. Sometimes though, it may be that I first don’t agree, think about it more, come back to it at a later point in time, and then see the opinion is correct. Sometimes, even after thinking about it, I come back and still don’t agree, but change the issue anyway, just to see what it would be like. Then, magically, it does work better. Most of the time, the editor is spot on, in fact. It’s not easy to see some things within your own work; you need others. When your art includes your heart, which it always does and yes I rhymed on purpose, it can be difficult to know what can make it better. Even some published books can still be better, I’m sure. The experts are there for a reason, so let them help you. They are on your side. Defensiveness or ego be gone. They won’t get you anywhere, in my opinion.

Maybe the steps are endless in my journey, as I continue to embark on new and exciting aspects in the author world. I know I will be expanding in the future for areas in marketing and such, so there may be a hundred steps of vulnerability. Who knows? What I do know is that as I continue to open my heart and soul, I am becoming a stronger person. This gift is earned and takes time. I’m curious and excited to know all the steps and lessons that are to come in my future as an author.

Tell me if you can relate to being vulnerable at this time and any teachable moments you have had, below in comments. Thanks for reading!

***

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Author, Italian American Author, Uncategorized, Women's Fiction Author

A Time of Learning

Let me tell you a little secret; I’m a big nerd. Yeah, I said it. I don’t mind yelling it from the rooftops at this stage of life because it’s so darn true (unlike in my youth, but we won’t go there). I am a nerd in multiple ways, but one of the ways is that I love to learn.

I’ve always adored knowing everything about everything. Even things I don’t care about, I care about, if you know what I mean. It’s just for the sake of knowing more that thrills me, so sometimes the subject doesn’t even matter. I know I drove my mom crazy as a child with my million questions of “Why?” and “What does that mean?” She would try to answer until I got her to the breaking point, though that was not my intent. As I got older, I realized it is just that my mind doesn’t stop. Imagine a marathon of the mind. That’s me. Don’t even get me started on taking a multiple choice or true or false test. I could go on for hours for each answer’s possibility if time allowed.

So, this brings me to the present. The endless wonder I have within has done me well in life overall and continues to help me succeed in the author world. My lust to learn has allowed for a continuum of necessity and pleasure in my years, from retaining countless useless facts about topics of interest (hey, you never know when a Titanic fact may come in handy in conversation though), to providing me new worlds of hobbies (teaching myself the ukulele for one), to succeeding academically and in my therapist career, and navigating the publishing world to get my book in all of our hands. I thought last year was a year of major learning for my book and its process from how an idea goes to eventual physical book, but boy was I wrong. Last year only included writing, although learning to write to get signed as well, which I have told you is a whole different animal. This year of 2020 is only 3 months in and has 2019 almost matched, so I expect it to surpass last year.

Now, let me just say, because it would be strange not to address at this time, that I typically do not post on social media or put out on my website anything negative in any way, even in my personal accounts. I am a believer that what you put out comes back, so I want to say and write what I want to happen or just about spreading joy in general, be it through actual inspirational/growth quotes, travel pictures that are related to reading and writing, or Italy/Italian posts. That’s why you may have noticed my topics for posting include these themes, which I believe all have a cheerful vibe. Right now, in the world, there is a health challenge, so I had to decide recently whether to continue my inspirational path, when it would be easy to post only about the difficulties of this time. I don’t think people want or need the sadness and negativity (ahem, plain old reality) all the time, so I learned to listen to myself and the path I set out on over a year ago when interacting with the public. I am continuing to learn to keep that boundary, but there is a fine line sometimes. I do not want to ignore what is on everyone’s minds, so I find creative ways to address it and try to uplift others (which I sometimes need myself of course, and I appreciate when others do this as well).

So, there is the unexpected learning that has occurred from the world health issue at this moment, including the above and how to continue the focus on my writing with swirling changes in work and personal life. Then, there is the straight up learning for the editing and marketing process for my book, which was expected, although still has its surprises. What does that include you ask? Well, let me tell you what I’ve been up to since the last blog.

I have exciting plans for my website, all of which include a lot of, you guessed it, learning for me. Changing anything on my website was always scary for me because if it works, I don’t want to mess with it…except that I have to mess with it! Not being a web designer, these things are scary to an author, ok? Although I love learning, I sometimes have to push through fear, as I am sure you understand. But, I wanted to and did add new pages (a super secret writers page with upcoming fabulousness and a newsletter!). Go me! I also had to use an external app to get the newsletter mail list working; yet another layer of discovery. I secured my new and tighter domain name as well (no WordPress name appears in it anymore). This all sounds pretty simple, but for a Gen X’er new to this web creation world, it isn’t so cut and dry. But I did it. And continue to do it. Stay tuned for more website changes as we get close to my debut in Fall.

I am also learning more about marketing, including getting a logo and working with a graphic artist. Yup, I’m also not a person with a degree in marketing or graphic art! Go figure. And it seems like this career of being an author requires knowledge of many different fields. Thank God for knowing geniuses in the various fields. Specifically, being part of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association has been one of the best decisions I have made in my author career because their webinars are outstanding. The amount of marketing tips and ideas I have complied just from some of their expert talks is pages long.

Nerd Alert: All of these roles I have had to learn about and semi-take on has me even more excited about my path for my novel. It’s just that I didn’t realize 2020 would include all of these tiny pieces. A writer just has the idea, writes it, and then goes totally out of their element to get out there in the world (which seems to be the majority of us introverts anyway). It’s an interesting combination of knowledge to acquire, which continues to draw me in. I am not one for the same old boring job day in and day out, so this author life keeps me on my toes…and I love it.

Who knew (not me) that I would get to experience all of these interactions with others as well, be it in social media or otherwise? My main person in this whole process is my publisher (and I’ve learned so much from her already- she’s amazing). I have had some discussions with her for setting up my editing schedule recently, right through to a tentative release date (yet another I-can’t-tell-you-yet, but will soon enough). Right now, I am moving into the second phase of editing (out of 4; refer to my last blog for a nifty little guide picture), called line edits. This phase examines and fixes any issues with sentence structure and wording (so I don’t repeat something 5 million times; you might get tired of that, right?). While this is happening, cover design, the start of the marketing plan, and finding a narrator for the audio book is beginning as well. I am listening to actress voices to see if anyone feels like the right fit for The Difference. All this learning, all of the time; it’s wonderful. Keep it comin’!

I hope you enjoy your learning about the writing process from my behind the scenes posts. Don’t let me stand here alone in my nerdiness, please. I know I’m not alone! So let’s keep rolling with learning from life’s changes together, as well as this whole making my book a reality thing. 😊

***

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Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Behind the Scenes of a Book’s Life

Have you ever thought about what goes into getting a book in your hands? I have had a fleeting thought about it in the past, but must admit, I never put much thought into it…until I decided I wanted to write a novel. But, even at that point, my knowledge was low. My method was just to write and figure out the next step later. I knew that I would freak myself out with the requirements of the process if I looked it up any sooner (you know, the whole actually getting it ready to be published part, AKA the most important part). So, I just wrote the first draft of The Difference and when starting edits investigated the process. Thank God I waited because anxiety may have gotten the best of me.

Recently I finished my first round of content edits for my publisher. Content editing means analyzing anything that needs to be changed to make sure the story makes sense developmentally, including deleting, pulling a switch-a-roo with parts, or adding to the story. During my edits, I thought about how I have to share this behind the scenes experience with you! So, now you will know a little more of that burning question of “What is a book’s life before I read it?” I bet you always wanted to know.

Let me give you a general overview of the process, or at least my process. I created the manuscript, edited, revised, asked what we call in the writer world “beta readers” to read it (mine are 3 close friends who also are brilliant for various aspects of what I needed in a reader), continued to edit, oh and then edited again. Basically, think about continuing edits infinitely, or until publishing, but more on that in a second.

Once the draft was sent to my beta readers, I started working on establishing my website and social media. This is a necessary component of the process in this day in age because agents and publishers want to see more about you, want to see how many followers you have, and the platforms also show how marketable your book may be if they sign with you (more followers = more interest, logically at least but not always in reality). I am glad I started when I did because it does take a long time to build the connections. I’ll have to write another blog on this topic because I have had some fascinating and surprising situations.

Anyway, I then created my query letter, which is a cover letter in the general world, but it has a specific format in writer world. Us writers call this part “querying.” Letters need to include the word count of the book (oh yes, different genres have different word counts and they REALLY matter), a hook-type description that states the central theme and stakes of the character if they don’t solve some sort of problem, and anything of note about you as an author (awards, past successful novels and such). The letter must be 1 page, usually, and written in the tone of the book. Writers need to make sure the person reading it wants to continue reading, meaning the synopsis of the book the writer may have included or some of the first pages (submissions all have different requirements).

Speaking of the synopsis, writing that was next…and the absolute hardest part of my whole process to date. This document needs to be 2 pages max (sometimes 1) and tell the main points of the story, without any flare of fun in it (straight up facts only). Fitting a novel into this amount of space was a nightmare. Part of my outstanding beta readers’ help was reading the query letter and synopsis, oh, a thousand times (Nah, really 999).

So, once all of that was done, guess what. I edited and edited (and edited) the documents. But also, I listened to the beta reader feedback and edited my manuscript more. During this time, I also started to build a list of agents who I wanted to submit my documents to in the future. At that point, I wasn’t open to going straight to publishers (usually an agent helps you navigate the field, but going this route also means a writer needs to be ready to add yet another step. Publishers need to accept the mauscript from the agent “selling” it; so that’s 2 people to say “yes”). Luckily, my next step brought me to where I am today.

I decided to do a pitch party as another means of querying. These parties take place online where writers could pitch their book to gain agent and publisher interest, usually on Twitter. If the industry professional hearts (likes) the tweet, a writer can see their submission criteria and send them their documents. Many more rules exist, but that’s the gist. There are a few different pitch parties out there, but for my Women’s Fiction genre at the time, only PitMad was an option. So, I worked diligently on my 280-character pitch. Let me tell you how difficult that little task was, BUT extremely worth it. The tiny tweet needed to convey the hook and stakes of the character, plus leave room for comps (comparable books in some manner; topic, writing…), hashtags for the pitch party (#PitMad), and elements of the book, such as if it is a story including mental health (#MH).

I was all ready to go on the first PitMad date on June 6, 2019, having newly “finished” my manuscript (I had be ready to send to industry people right away if requested). I received wonderful interest that day, my official first day of querying. How exciting that my new Twitter friends helped me by retweeting my 3 different pitches I carefully crafted ahead of time, as well as real-life friends signing on for that day only in some of their cases. But, after sending my materials to the interested parties, I got the dreaded rejections.

I ended up sending my documents to more agents in the field, not just the people from the pitch party requests, but continued to receive a big fat “No.” I am sure I can write more on this specific section of the process in the future, but for now, I’m going to keep moving…as I had to do last year in querying. Like that transition?

So, I continued to, you guessed it, edit and query agents. It wasn’t until the second PitMad that my eyes opened to more possibilities for my book baby. Well, I actually took a webinar with the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and learned about the different publishing paths. The combination of the two events allowed more flexibility in my thinking. By the second time I participated in PitMad, September 5, 2019, my lucky tweet from the first time around brought even more of a gift to my life; my current publishing contract. Here’s the golden tweet:

EAT PRAY LOVE feel + SHOPAHOLIC quirkiness: Rachel has “it all” but feels empty. Going on an ancestry journey to reveal a family secret has to also bring fulfillment (right?) or she may lose her relationship and worst yet, herself. #PitMad, #A, #WF, #CON, #IMM, #MH

I submitted to the requests I received and then waited for the rejections, but held out hope for a resounding “Yes.” Both results came from the interest from PitMad day, but all that mattered was that I got an offer from one of the requests; a small publisher named Kindred Ink Press, which turns out to be a perfect fit for me. I only queried 5 months total, so in the author world, that is nothing! I expected years of querying. I had put in so much time and effort by that point so don’t get me wrong, I worked for it, but also did not expect publication to happen so fast. I definitely feel blessed.

And after the signing of the publishing contract, on November 15, 2019, I’ve been in the true publication process. My content edits came last month, and I submitted the corrections in the manuscript a week ago. Now, I will have more rounds of edits until publication later this year. Yup, it takes a year to get in your hands from the point of the publisher contract. That doesn’t even include all the other elements I laid out for you above, plus many more details and querying paths, if you could imagine. Here are the main areas of editing:

(I’m in step 1)

Yet another topic of a future post (or two or three…) will be marketing my book. That’s a huge part of bringing it to you, obviously. And that part of a book’s life is open ended with boundless possibilities. But there you have the life of a book before it gets to you as a reader. Can you believe the amount of steps and hard work involved? Can you believe I will be starting it all over again with a second book? LOL! Well, what can I say; the writing bug has captured me. I’ll catch you soon with more of my journey, you know, between edits.

***

*Please follow and share my blog if you enjoy reading about my author journey. 

  1. Just click on the “Follow” hover button in the bottom right corner. You will be emailed when new posts are created. 
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