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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Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Creative Connections

Over the last month, something spectacular occurred regarding my continued work as an author. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I wonder what does the phrase “creative process” mean to you? Pause and think for a second… Have you ever thought about it relating to anything that you do in your life? If you engage in any type of art, you may have thought about it, but even if you don’t, I’m sure some of you have reflected on what led you to an outcome at one time in your life. Maybe it was a dinner you had to make for your first major holiday celebration, and you had no idea how to pull off multiple dishes needing to be ready at the same time. Maybe it was succeeding in a work project that ended up to be the complete opposite of where you thought it would conclude. No matter what the situation was, your creativity led to an accomplishment of some sort and you can still feel proud of it to this day.

Well, I’ve been thinking about my own creative process more lately for two reasons; because this blog is about the behind the scenes of me as an author so the creativity behind my work is emphasized for me at this moment and how as I get older I become more at ease with actually identifying outwardly as an artist (more on that in a future post I’m sure). Now, if you have read my last post (and I hope you did!), you’d see that I talked about my blogging process. This post is not all about process per se, but yes, I am including the word “process” once again because it’s the overall category for my topic of today. It’s that important, I guess. Or, maybe it’s just my new favorite word.

So, let me tell you how wild it is to me that without me purposely trying to think of an idea for my second novel, the characters and storyline started to come to me in a procession of glorious little tidbits (much like my first book, which completely surprised me because I was not an author at that point, but felt that I had to write it; more on that back story in the future). The details just kept and still keep on unfolding almost daily in the last two months. The way this keeps happening fascinates me because when I work on a visual art project, I have the outcome in my head and then I work toward that end picture or result. Does anyone else relate to that? But with both books now, the ideas come to me in fragments first and then I put them together to make the finished product. The puzzle easily goes together for me but why is it a puzzle in the first place? It’s completely the opposite of the way I’ve created anything in my entire life! Something about the writing artist in me works differently than the other artist selves within me.

The second book idea started to come to me when I was speaking to one of my best friends on the phone about an idea she had for a business. Out of nowhere I started to literally see pieces of a story I wanted to create. As my friend spoke, her passion about her business must have sparked a creative fire in me (and we do have a 30-year connection so that makes sense). I saw images from this new story as if they were familiar already. It continued to happen so much during that inspired phone call that I wrote down ideas I thought of immediately upon hanging up the phone, after divulging what just happened to her of course. Over the next few days, I had details about my main character, where she lived, and what she did as a career written on various scraps of paper in an accumulating pile. My main character’s personality and the actual plot have uncovered themselves to me as recent as last week. It happens when I least expect the thoughts to come, which I love. It’s all coming together in an organic way. I wouldn’t want it to be forced, after all. That’s not how I roll.

You may have seen my post this past weekend on social media where I revealed the location of this second book. Get excited because it’s happening in good old New Orleans, LA (NOLA)! Okay, I have to take a side note here. Being an Italian American author, you may be thinking that it is a strange choice to choose that city because there doesn’t seem to be any Italian heritage there. Well, that isn’t the case. When I had researched my own family history, I saw that there were immigrants from Italy that settled in NOLA (I never knew!). It’s a place with a rich history in general, plus it’s where I saw my main character living in my mind’s eye right after that notorious phone call. NOLA is a perfect next location for me for many other reasons as well; it’s a place I love to visit, there’s an emotional tie to another best friend, there is a French influence so it pays honor to another ethnicity of mine, and the Italian history there isn’t as well-known as say, the history of immigration to the northeast so that brings more of a unique aspect to it, which I thrive on. It’s screaming to me to write about it. I guess I’ll have to take another trip there in the future, you know, for research purposes.

Getting back to my creative connections now, remember also in my last post I talked about art forms informing other art forms? Well, my friend’s creative idea for her business ignited this story idea in me, so her art influencing my art occurred. Then soon after that conversation, I was listening to an audiobook about a completely different topic than my story and wouldn’t you know it, more ideas came to me almost every time I got in my car and listened to that book. I often had to use voice to text to make notes to myself for my concepts because I didn’t want to forget before I got to my destination. Somehow there was some feeling from the book that fed my NOLA story in my mind. How in the world does that makes sense? It doesn’t. It’s just how art goes. Apparently, it’s my creative process for writing.

What have I learned from this chain of events? I never know where my inspiration will come from. I never know how I will get my story ideas; be it through music, stories other artists have told, or other stimulating people who want to see their passion come alive. What I do know is that I’ll take it! I want to continue to allow the art to fill me up and lead me to what it wants me to say. I have to listen to the art that wants to be expressed because it gives me purpose. I also hope the stories I tell give other people insight into themselves, or maybe even lead them to find their purpose. I enjoy this alternate artistic experience that comes as an author. It’s unexpected, but thrilling.

I welcome you to tell me any of your stories in the comments below. I love to hear about your creative processes. You never know, it may inspire me or another reader.

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Italian American Author, Uncategorized, Women's Fiction Author

The Behind the Scenes of the Behind the Scenes

Okay, remember how I said part of the reason I am doing this blog is to open up my behind the scenes aspects, AKA my life, to you as the reader/audience/follower? Well, hold on to your seat because it’s going to get very meta on you for today’s post. I know you can handle it, so let’s go.

After starting to write the last post, something strange happened to me. As soon as I started to write, the content seemed to take on a life of its own. Somehow, I started the post as a different topic than it became, but the words just kept going in that new direction. It’s boggling my mind that I could write the last two posts so easily. How could that be? I’m not a blogger (or am I?), so this doesn’t make sense. I write novels; novels that have a predetermined purpose and timeline of details. Then, blogs should be the same in my mind, logically speaking. And, just letting my hands take it away without my brain having confirmed their message ahead of time is completely un-C. D’Angelo-like. That is not my style at all when writing for the public…right?

All of this makes me think about a little word called process. As a mental health therapist in my day job, ‘process’ is an extremely familiar word to me. It’s therapist jargon for sure and is thrown around almost daily as an essential part of the therapy process. See, there I go again. Process, process, process.

So, let’s break it down. The word process, when used as a verb in the therapy world, means to explore, to dissect, to search through the topic (in my words, not a famous dictionary version). In therapy notes, I sometimes write “Client and therapist processed [fill in the issue].” Processing is an actual intervention involving action. But it is also a thing (remember the whole person, place, or thing = noun?); a process. The word’s versatility is what makes it interesting to me at this moment because I am currently processing my process of writing blogs. Like, right now. Right as you read this paragraph. That’s process. And, that’s very C. D’Angelo-like. I’ll analyze anything to death, so let me keep going.

You may be wondering why it’s important for me to write about this blogging process though, or rather my blogging process. I think it is because I am still getting my feet wet with this new world. My writing in the past has only been for me, but now I am writing for the public to view as well. That means my inner-most thoughts are laid out for all to see, anytime they want! Forever, online! Oh gosh, I can’t think about that too much or I would never post anything. But, that’s why I thought it would be more difficult to blog than to novel write. I know, writing a page or two vs 400 being more difficult seems counter-intuitive, but that’s how my mind works.

My new identity of a blogger (okay, I’m slowly starting to own it), in addition to a sort-of new identity of being an author is, well, something I am still grasping in my mind. Also, the way I write has been pretty steady for my debut novel, which includes strict planning, including outline, characters, and storyline. My blogs have been less formal, which is freeing in a way. I only come up with a topic and let loose. I feel free when writing my books, but it’s a different kind of free. That’s a free through someone else’s eyes; my character. It’s somehow safer. It’s just me and my characters in the room. These blogs are through my eyes in a more direct manner. It’s me in a direct connection to the world. No publishing process is inserted between the two. Both novel writing and blogging are creative expressions for me, but the novel writing is more designed than these blogs. Both of the past blogs have been main ideas that developed as I wrote, into the finished product. That is thrilling to me. It’s a what-will-happen-next type thing even for me as their writer.

In the therapy world, I use expressive arts therapy as one of the theories I work from with clients. This process reminds me exactly of the main tenant of that theory. The art used by the client can go from music making to painting to dancing, for example, and all contribute to the overall movement and healing of the person. One art form informs the next step; it cannot be planned out. That is what has been happening with my blogs, apparently. They have flowed from the beginning of my writing adventure (the novel) and that art has led to this art form of expression (the blog). It’s almost like I’ve been in another state of mind when writing during the blogs. That happens with the novel writing as well, but again, in a different format; a more structured and formal state of mind. I shall continue to analyze this forever of course!

I guess it just comes down to writing is fun for me in different formats. I also achieve a state of flow for multiple arts in which I engage. Maybe I’ll experiment with another genre someday or a different format, such as short stories. Who knows? I thought blog writing would feel like a task (sorry to say) but it never has felt that way and I intend to keep that up. When my writing comes from a place of a need to create, a need to express, and a need to share, I can’t go wrong. You know the difference when it comes from someone’s heart filled with joy vs a forced place. That’s isn’t how I operate for any of my arts.

I never thought that blog writing would allow me to learn more about myself, but here I am learning even in this post as I…wait for it…process. I wanted to allow people to know me more by blogging, but look at what happened instead. It goes both ways. So, this lack of planning beyond topic may bleed into my next novel. Maybe I will just see what happens from the start with absolutely no planning at all. Um, nah…I’ve already started planning. But maybe I will at least be less of a planner and can see where that takes me. We will see. I’m excited for this new art form to inform the next. That’s what I know now. Thanks for helping me to evaluate myself; what every author therapist loves to do apparently…or at least this one.