Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Talking Tuesday: Climbing out of the Pit of Procrastination

 Little Man conquering the brick stairs

Case Study:
On the same day, three male students enroll in the same online course.  All course work must be submitted within 12 weeks.  This is the only hard deadline.  

The first student, Mr. E. Z. Breezy, throws his curriculum packets into the back seat of his car with all the mail he has been meaning to get to.  The packet will remain here until the middle of week 11, at which time, Mr. Breezy will attempt to complete the entire course before the 12 week deadline.

When the second student, Mr. Wer Co Holic receives his curriculum packet, he returns to his apartment and begins immediately working on the course.  By ignoring the needs of others around him and all other priorities, Wer is able to complete the 12 week course in the first 4 weeks.  However, he has lost his part-time job, and his girl friend is now dating E.Z.

The third student, Mr. Cal I Brated, also gets his curriculum packet.  After he returns home from his full-time job, he kisses his wife and kids.  When the kids are fed, cleaned, and resting, Cal sits down at his desk with his planner and his curriculum packet.  He sets reasonable (soft) deadlines for himself, to prevent the work from becoming too overwhelming.  No priorities are ignored, loved ones are properly loved, and the course is completed at the end of the 12 weeks.

All three men approached the course in a different way.  Some of you may identify yourself in one of these approaches. Regardless of how you approach life, you certainly should be aware that a key skill in productivity is not procrastinating.  Deadlines can be motivating, especially when it leads to bad consequences when not met.  For those who write without deadlines, it can be hard to remain motivated.

I stumbled upon a useful article How to Motivate Yourself Without Hard Deadlines by Scott Young.  Mr. Young lays out a path to set and meet "soft" deadlines.  These are deadlines that do not hold heavy consequences.    He explains the the 3 keys to being the master of your to-do list are
  1. Set Reasonable Expectations : No too easy and too hard to meet within the time frame.
  2. Cycling Hard and Easy Days: After hard full days, reward yourself with a slower easy day
  3. Schedule Calibration: Train yourself to finish your to-do list no more no less.
If you can learn to follow these guidelines, you can become more productive while saving yourself much anxiety.  When it is time for breaks you can relax without guilt.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Writer for Hire

So last week I mentioned this new “writing gig” I’ve been doing. It’s not glamorous, it’s only marginally fun, the pay isn’t great, and I get no publishing credit for my work. So why am I doing it? Well, a couple of reasons:

1. It makes me write. The more you write, the better you get, right? And while it’s not the fun fantasy, children’s stories, or poetry that I love to do, it makes me sit down for at least a few minutes every day and hone my craft.

2. It pays. Well, it does. Nice to be able to contribute to the family income and put away a little bit for my future adventures.

3. It’s flexible. I choose each week how many articles I will commit to complete that week, so I can work as much or as little as I want, as long as I don’t bite off more than I can chew.

4. I’m learning. Not only do I get to research topics I never would have studied before, the people I’m working for have a super strict style guide. I have to make sure that each article conforms exactly to their specifications or else they’ll reject it. It’s causing me to look much more closely at the way I write!

So there you have it. I guess I’m a professional writer!

By the way, I found this job through Elance. Elance is a great place for freelance writers to find work. Maybe I’ll write about that next week... ;-)

Have you ever hired yourself out for less-than-enjoyable work, writing or otherwise? 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday So What:Teaching Self Sufficiency

Earlier this month I missed one of my posts. It's because I was so swamped that day and the week leading up to it. It was the Utah State Competition for Odyssey of the Mind. I was a coach for one of the teams from the local elementary school. Seven rambunctious 8-9 year old boys with half of them diagnosed with ADHD. I learned a few things in the 6 months leading up to the competition, one of them that I never want septuplets, the second that children in this day and age need to be taught creative and self sufficient skills.

The point of Odyssey is to form teams and give them a problem to solve during the school year. It usually requires them to produce a skit and build a structure or remote vehicle that can accomplish a task within a certain set of rules. Oh, and the kids have to do it by themselves. No outside help at all. Even coaches can't tell the kids how to do something, suggest a solution or glue a single thing. It's all kid powered.

At the start of the year, I was amazed at how little these kids could do on their own. It took them 3-4 times as long to complete a task as it would take me. It was horribly frustrating. I wanted to tell them what to write, how to build their tower, and move on to the next task. But I couldn't without cheating. So I had to work on my patience while the boys figured it out on their own.

This experience made me take a hard look at my parenting style and the other kids at my daughter's school. How many of us have been to a pine wood derby where there's a car that is the biggest and best-- and in no way possible done by a kid? I have known so many parents that "help" make their kids science fair project look better and more impressive. Sure, the backer board might get more attention, but what are they teaching their kids? Take the easy way, do it the "right" way, be the best. If you aren't good enough to be the best, get someone else to help you to be there.

I decided I really don't want my girls raised that way, but it's a challenge. My daughter looks ten times cuter when I dress her. We get out the door faster if I just tie her shoes for her. And the house is so much cleaner if I just put away the toys. But then, if I intervene for the sake of convenience or appearance, my child has learned nothing. But if I let her take the 10 minutes to tie her shoe, she has solved a problem. And there's a sense of pride that comes with it that can't be bought or done for her.

As parents, some times we have a set "right way" in our minds on how something should be done. I know I have a tendency to force my view onto my kids at times. Funny thing though, when I let me kids figure their own way around, they come up with a solution I never would have dreamed of. They can really be amazing. And hopefully, if I teach my kids this creative problem solving and self sufficiency (and patience for myself) then they can grow up knowing that they can do anything, solve any problem, be anyone they want to be.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Thank You Brandon Sanderson!

Some of you may know by now that my favorite books of all time are "The Wheel of Time" books by Robert Jordan. I started reading these books shortly after I got married almost 20 years ago. I've been a fan of Tolkien since my father gave me "The Hobbit" when I was 10 years old. So when I began to read "The Wheel of Time" books I instantly noticed that Jordan was able to create vivid worlds that transport the reader, much like Tolkien. The details and vibrant words instantly drew me in and I was hooked. The story is of three young men who grew up in a small village only to have their quiet life disturbed because people believed that one of them could be the hero prophesied to come forward and save the world. From this moment on, the struggle between good and evil ensues taking the reader into this world, exploring every culture and creature within it. The reader gets to meet so many characters that at least one of them is bound to be your new best friend. This is what happened to me. These characters became real to me and I couldn't wait for the next book. Each time a new book came out in the series, I would reread the series or at least the book before the new one coming out. For those of you that don't know, this series is 14 books long, and though Robert Jordan published the first book in 1990 and book 14 was just released this January 2013. This is a long time to be following the same characters, not knowing how their story will end. I think this is another reason why the characters felt so real to me. Because each time a new book came out it was like catching up with old friends to see what their life has been like while you were separated.
When my favorite author, Robert Jordan, passed away in 2007 I was devastated. Not only did the world lose a brilliant writer, but I thought I may never get to finish the story of some of my best friends. I felt many different emotions when Tor announced that the series would be finished by Brandon Sanderson. I had never heard of this guy before and while I was glad I would be able to finish reading about my friends, I was worried that anyone else could really continue to portray my friends and their story in they way that they deserved. So when the first of the last three books came out, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. There were only a few spots where I could tell the style of writing was a little different. I was able to meet Brandon Sanderson shortly after this book came out. My brilliant words to him went something like this, "I'm so glad you didn't screw it up!" (Yes, my speaking words are never as eloquent as my written ones.)
When book 13 came out, I could finally feel the difference between the two voices in that book. (You read my thoughts on that here.) My husband I just finished the last book in this series and my friends finally have an ending. I found parts of the book very satisfying and other parts not so much. But all in all I loved the culmination of events that led to the ultimate battle between good and evil and I felt truth and light shining through the lines in this story. Now was I disappointed that my favorite character from book one never got the wedding she dreamt about? Definitely! Though, being the good friend that I am, I will probably just throw her a wedding myself, it will be a private ceremony on my computer only of course, but I need closure! LOL!
This all brings me to my point. I want to thank the people responsible for making sure my favorite book series was finished. Thank you, Brandon Sanderson for taking on this monumental task and doing it so well. You were able to portray the characters in such a way that they stayed true to themselves. I can tell that they were your close friends too and this kind of makes us friends automatically! I'm so glad Tor chose you to finish this book, not only did you do a good job, but I have been able to read your other books and have gained a new favorite author.
I also want to thank Robert Jordan's wife, Harriet for her contributions to this series from the beginning. I know that my husband is my  partner in all things, including my writing. He is my sounding board and many times, my muse. I tell him all about my story and sometimes I feel he is more invested than me! I know that if I were in the same situation as Robert Jordan, I would feel good knowing that my husband could help another author to finish my story and keep it true to my vision. Thank you, Harriet for your devotion to this series and for keeping his vision alive even when it must have been so difficult for you. I truly admire the strength and love it took to see this project through to the end.
Thank you to Tor for publishing my favorite books of all time! It truly takes a village to build a book series as wonderful as "The Wheel of Time."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Good Writers Vs. Bad Writers

My post today is quick.  It's just a little thought - a little nudge of encouragement.  Don't give up. Don't ever stop.  You never know when what you have to say could make a positive difference to someone's life.  Here is a thought from writer Jeff Goins, on the difference between good and bad writers:

The difference between good writers and bad writers has little to do with skill. It has to do with perseverance.
Bad writers quit. Good writers keep going. That’s all there is to it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spot the the Mistake...

At my writing club last weekend one of the exercises was to correct all the errors (including poor sentence construction and badly worded phrases) in the following piece about a political rally:

When Tom Williamson came onto the stage the room changed atmosphere immediately. You could of heard a pin drop. Everyone's attention was riveted on the politician, they sat completely stationery and they didn't comment or even whisper; just listened.

Despite being his wife I was just as riveted as the rest of the audience. As he spoke I watched him, thinking he’s really handsome as well as smart. He wasn't holding any notes and didn't look once at the lap-top on the table, he kept eye contact with the audience the hole time.

“They want to sensor our free press” he said! “But only because they want to sensor me.”

I couldn't help myself I shouted “Here here” because he was right they had been trying to shut him up for years.

When his talk was finished I leapt off of my chair, ran to the front of the room, climbed onto the stage and threw my arms around Tom’s surprised body in a big hug.

Did you spot them all? I counted seventeen errors in just 160 words, and none of them were squiggly-underlined in either red or green by Word or Google. In other words if the author was relying on technology to correct his/her errors, then this was an epic fail.

Here's another sobering fact. All of these errors are copied from published books I have read recently. Four of them came from one particular book. It goes to show why editing is so important, and why no author should publish a book which hasn't been properly edited.

Did you spot five or more errors? Then you could of have helped out the author by highlighting necessary corrections where Word and Google failed. You don't need to be a professional editor with a degree in English Language in order to gently remind a fellow author about passive voice, using italics for reported thought, or the difference between stationary and stationery.

It's partly because we writers, who labour in splendid and lonely isolation, need to support each other in our endeavours that I have created a new Facebook group for authors who would be prepared to edit each other's work. It's called the Author's Editing Co-Operative. I hope you'll come along and join us. (Click on this link to do so.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Talking Tuesday: Why do I Write?

My messy Little Man at a horse show.

Most writers have their ups and downs.  One day you are on the top of the world writing the worlds best novel, the next day you are certain that pages of your writing are not even fit to wipe a bottom.  It can be hard to maintain the confidence to continue.  It awakes the question within us, "Why do I write?".

If you have not figured out what you are writing for, giving up is an easy thing to do.  Whether we like to admit it or not writing can get messy.  Sometime our first drafts would embarrass us more than messing our pants.  Don't give up in the early stages.

Hopefully, the answer you will find to the "Why do I write?" question is "I love writing, it makes me happy."  You will need to rely on that answer at the low moments when it is hard to press on.  I hope that you will find the joy in the ups and the downs as well.  Getting messy can be fun.   Just because we may not want anyone to ever read our rough drafts, doesn't mean we cannot enjoy drafting them.

Go write and have fun.
 Don't give up.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It’s a Big, Big World

(slightly rambling post this week, but it does have a point. I think.)

Ricardo, our delightful guide to Grand Bahama Island

One thing about life that absolutely fascinates me is how big and diverse our world is. I remember when I was watching the Olympics last summer, I was so taken by the fact that here were these people who have basically dedicated their entire lives to a sport that never really crossed my mind until I watched them fulfilling their life’s dream on television. Rhythmic gymnastics? Just not something I think about on a regular basis. But there were these competitors who eat, sleep, and breathe it day in and day out. How different their lives must be from mine.

As an American suburban mom within the world of Blogger, Pinterest, and Facebook, I often fall into the subconscious assumption that the majority of women out there are like me- we’re doing crafty things, trying to raise our kids to be good people, looking for new recipes for our families. But then I stop to really think about it. Did you know that Americans only make up 4.45% of the world’s population? And if you consider the fact that only half of those are women and even less than those are suburban stay-at-home moms...well, while we mommies might have a big presence on the web, don’t let it fool you. The world is big, friends. We are but a minute blip on the radar screen.

My husband always thinks I’m weird because this fascination with diversity leads me to watch National Geographic shows about remote cultures in places with unpronounceable names, and shows about drug addicts, people who want sex changes, and individuals with all sorts of other peculiar habits or viewpoints. I like to read books about all kinds of people too- celebrities, people in history, ordinary people who are changing the world (or their corner of it) and so on.

As I read and watch, I always find myself asking how I could put myself in that person’s shoes, and trying to find some common thread that links us. I guess I’ve always been an empathetic person (major believer in the “Can’t we all just get along?” philosophy) and closed-mindedness makes me crazy. I think that the more we seek to understand one another, the more love we can have for each other.

This desire for connection with others of the human race leads me to another passion: travel. I come by it honestly- my mom was a stewardess for PanAm back in the day and she and my dad met when they were both working for the airlines. They were both even travel agents at one time. I’ve always felt this need to see the world. I have a Pinterest board filled with photos of places I want to visit. I spend my evenings trolling travel deals sites and planning itineraries for pretend trips.

Any other fans of author Adriana Trigiani out there? Her books always make me crave Italy. Lake Como is breathtaking.

Sadly, the farthest I’ve gotten is the Bahamas. But while I was there, the one thing I did that I loved even more than the incredible beaches was the kayak tour. Our native tour guide told us the history of the islands and he was a wealth of information about the culture and ecology there (and he was really funny). One of my other favorite parts of the trip was the conversation I had with my masseuse during my massage. She was from another island and we talked about her family (she had young kids too) and what it was like to grow up there. When my husband and I went out shopping in the afternoon one day, I remember seeing all the school children walking home in their school uniforms, and something about seeing them just living their lives there on that tiny island was so fascinating to me.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, I recently got a writing gig that I’m hoping will help me close the financial gap between my home and the rest of this great big world. I’m putting away just a little bit each week in hopes that I can achieve my dream to become more global. I know a lot of it will have to wait until the kids are grown, but I also hope that we can give them the gift of seeing the world when they’re young so that they can develop a more global worldview. 

So now you know. Getting published isn’t my only big dream- how about you?

:-) Kasey

A quick side note: I remember when we were in the airplane flying over the islands I looked down at the incredible beauty below me and I was struck by how varied the landscapes of the planet are. I love how mountain ranges and grand canyons can be just as awe-inspiring and thrilling as ridiculously clear blue water and white sand beaches. Then I thought about how much I love to craft and use different materials and create different pieces. A huge grin crossed my face as I realized how much alike my Creator and I are. :-)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Can Do Great Things

     Last week while my dog was lounging around I noticed a dark spot on his side and my spider-sense began to tingle.  On closer inspection my fear was confirmed.  It was a tick.  A really big tick.  I absolutely hate ticks.  I hate them.  They are awful.  They creep me out.  I think they are disgusting and must be the spawn of Satan or something.  It took me a few moments to convince myself, but I knew I needed to remove it.  I started out trying to remove it via the "smother method."  It did not work.  At all.  I tried the match trick, it too failed.  I was feeling pretty desperate at this point so I sent out a couple texts and prayed someone would be able to help me.   A few moments later I was rewarded with a reply teaching me a good method to get the tick out.  It took me a while and a bit of screaming, whimpering, and yelling at my dog to hold still, but in the end I was able to remove the horrible creature. 

     You might be wondering what the point of my little story is, I assure you there is a purpose. 

     I struggled with that darn tick (mentally as well as physically) for about 15 minutes.  It was a really big deal for me, and after it was all said and done, it took about another 15 minutes for me to shake the heebie-jeebies.  But, once I recovered I was able to realize something.

I can do great things.

     OK, so removing a tick may not seem so great to you, but I promise it was a huge ordeal for me (I'm a mega-huge big baby when it comes to arachnids of any kind).  I was able to overcome an obstacle and do what needed to be done.  I was able to do something I didn't think I could do by myself.  This realization was kind of empowering, enough so that now I know if I absolutely had to, I could do this again.  I'm crossing my fingers that I wont have to, but considering where I live it's likely to happen again. 
I think we can all do great things, even if they're actually small in size.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday So What Spotlight: Mikey Brooks

I had a heck of week last time, that's why I messed up and forgot to post. Oops. I'll explain all next time, but for today I have a fabulous spotlight, a Facebook buddy who constantly amazes me-- Mikey Brooks, co-host of Authors' Think Tank, author and illustrator extraordinaire.

Mikey Brooks has a BS in English, emphasis in Creative Writing, from Utah State University, 2009. He author/illustrated ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures, 2013, Bean's Dragons, 2012, and Trouble with Bernie, 2012. He illustrated Lucius and the Christmas Star, by Jim Long, 2012, Bongo Flo and Ocelot Scott, both by Carolyn Quist, 2012. He's had various illustrations published for several authors and enjoys every minute he gets to create art. He’s had poetry and personal essays published in university sponsored literary magazines 2007-2009, and was awarded 3rd place for his personal essay, Waiting for the Morning Sun to Rise, in the Utah Arts 23rd Annual Writing Competition, 2011. Visit him at www.insidemikeysworld.com

Taking That Step Forward
By: Mikey Brooks
Often stories of triumph begin with someone chasing a dream. Why should mine be any different? I grew up in the southern part of Missouri in a rural town where our nearest neighbor was a mile down the dirt road. My grandparents had a farm that was surrounded by dense woods that for me became my playground. I remember one day stumbling across the remains of an old house. The stone steps and foundation was all the tornado had left behind. It wasn’t hard for me to believe that Dorothy visited Oz because I had seen her house. I had stood on those steps wishing I could step through the invisible doorway and find myself in a world of magic. I never did.
I began chasing my dream as most writers do—by wishing. Life happened and it wasn’t long until I found myself in my late twenties, married with a baby on the way. I hadn’t caught my dream, I wasn’t even close. Sure I’d written but those books were hidden away in the hard drive of my computer. Like Tracy Hickman had said, “a book doesn’t exist unless its read.” Self doubt and discouragement has a sneaky way of creeping in and taking over. It wasn’t long before I began to doubt that my chance would ever come. Part of me began to give up, to except what I’d become and live with it. The other part of me remembered that boy in the woods of Missouri.
I never went to a magical world because I’ll I did was stand on the threshold. I didn’t take the step forward. Who knows what would have happened if I had. Maybe I would have twinkled off into the Land of Oz or Narnia, or maybe I would have just stepped into the remains of a vanished house. The point is I’ll never know, because I did not step forward.
Triumph doesn’t necessarily come when the dream is achieved, mine didn’t. It came when I decided that I was no longer going to wish for my dream to happen—I was going to make it happen. In late February last year I declared to my wife that “I am a writer and I’m going to make my dream come true.” I stopped wishing and I started praying. I ask Heavenly Father to aid me in my efforts and he did. I believe he did because I had finally taken a step forward. I had passed the threshold of that stone foundation and entered another world.
What is the step you need to take in achieving your dream? Are you standing on the threshold to a new world? When you write your story of triumph remember that it’s not only the dream at the end that counts—it’s the journey in getting there. I’m no longer chasing, I’m no longer wishing—I’m making it happen. I took the step. Good luck on your journey and catch your dream! 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

Ever have one of those weeks where you just think - what are you doing, God?

Sometimes I feel like I'm in the wrong life.  Or on the wrong train.  Or just in the way.  I can't figure out what I'm suppose to be doing.

Our daughter is buying her first house.  It needs some work.  I called a carpenter, a builder, and an aluminum company for estimates on some roof work.  One called me back, two did not.   The one who returned my call referred me to the one who has not called me back.  Waiting....

We discovered a leak in our upstairs bathtub a few weeks ago.  Called a plumber, who recommended a new tub, along with repairing the pipes that drip water into the garage every time the shower runs.   We ordered a new tub and hired a tile guy to tear out the tub and attached tile.  (The toilet had to come out too, and now sits in my office.)

The plumber returned and announced the new tub is too big.  Apparently, new tubs aren't standard sizes for older homes.  Back online we go...will Home Depot take back the big tub?  Do they even make the size tub we need?  There are a few.  Not really what I want, but at this point, I just need something that fits.

Last week, I deposited in the bank a check from some stocks we had cashed in.  Six days later, I paid some bills online, and next day, we had not one cent in our account.  WHAT?

My husband contacted our bank, and we were given the rigmarole about the sizable amount of the check, how long it takes to clear, yadda, yadda.   We've cashed in stock before with nary a problem.  We'll check on it, we were told.  Waiting...

On Friday, my dad had some stroke symptoms and, upon admission to the hospital, it was discovered he had a small brain bleed.  He will be 90 in about two weeks.  They admitted him to ICU and scheduled surgery (burr holes in the skull to clean out the debris) for Sunday.  Everything stopped for about 48 hours.  Waiting...

Dad did fine with the surgery and was moved out of ICU on Monday.  Great relief.  For a day.  He now has a bladder problem and a lung issue that might keep him in the hospital longer.  Waiting...

Yesterday, I tried to catch Dad's doctor.  Sat with Dad, roamed the halls, got tea from the coffee shop, roamed some more.  No doctor.  I finally left.  He showed up shortly after that.  

I felt like I just keep missing the boat.  Or the peg hole.  No contractors, no tub, no money, no updates on Dad. 

Last night, I was thinking, I'll just hide out today and try to accomplish nothing.  Then maybe something will get done.  I didn't even go to the gym.  I stayed in my jammies until my husband announced he'd found a tub, here locally, that we could have delivered today.  Then, the bank called and said the stock money was fully available and they pulled all the fees we'd been charged due to a slow-clearing check from Merrill Lynch.  The aluminum company called and will assess our daughter's roof next week.  

Wow, I thought.  Sit around, and stuff happens.

Dad is still in waiting mode, but apparently I can't have everything. 

I don't really know the moral of this story, except this:  "Be still and know that I am God" has new meaning.    


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Read A Good Book This Spring?

The finalists for the 2012 Whitney Awards were announced in early February, and the Awards ceremony is just a few weeks away.

Just curious: I'm looking for a good book to read, and I'm wondering if anyone has read any of the finalists?  If you have, which ones do you really recommend?

Here is the link, if you haven't seen them for yourself:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fun with Reviews

A TV comedian joked that when she feels at a low ebb she goes onto the Argos website and reads the reviews of the batteries...

Reviews are great aren't they? Just today I went to Amazon and chose a new shopping basket for my bicycle - the photo showed a study wire mesh basket with a blue zip-up insert. It seemed a bargain at only £8, but when I read the reviews I found lots from angry people who felt that they had been misled because the item they received was only the blue insert  not the basket itself.  So, thankful to those reviewers, I will be cycling down to my local bike shop instead to see what they can offer me. It's not the first time customer reviews have prevented me from making an expensive mistake.

Book reviews are a little more subjective, because everyone has different taste. However I have come to the conclusion that five-star book reviews on Amazon should be ignored. Entirely disregarded. Any book which has only five-star reviews is instantly a bit suspect. I recently reviewed a book with twelve glowing reviews. One reviewer one had written "I hope this book does really well for you" (leading me to conclude that she knows the author), and three more had quite clearly never read the book. (I gave the book two stars.)

Amazon knows that this croneyism is a problem, and they are working on it, In the meantime I thought it's important to remember the good side of reviews. Not only do they help us in our purchasing decisions, but some are extremely funny. I hate Fifty Shades of Grey (not that I've read it, you understand) but I love reading the hilarious reviews. The one-star review by Lazycatfish is a work of genius. I'll never buy a book by EL James, but if Lazycatfish ever pens a novel I'll be first in the queue at the booksigning.

Then there are the reviews of Bic's ballpoint pens designed just for women. Over 500 of them, all extremely funny. Take a look.

We authors crave reviews, but also dread getting bad ones. I've yet to get a funny one. Go on people, knock yourselves out writing reviews!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Power of Words

I am a writer because I believe in the power of words. 

Watch this video and you’ll know what I mean. :-)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's Time to Focus

     I have had a whirlwind of a week.  I've been trying to play catch up from Spring Break the previous week with my husband out of town and new things popping up all over the place.  If I was a super organized person this may not be such an issue, but I have a problem...I am SO easily distracted.  The more I read other writers' blogs the more I realize I'm not totally alone in this.  In fact it seems that quite a few other moms, writers, or just people in general have a hard time staying focused on certain tasks. 

     I'm sure you've all heard some version or another of the story of a busy mom.  She starts her day going to check the mail and as she attempts to accomplish this seemingly simple task she is distracted by all the other jobs or obstacles that pop up.  Finally by the end of the day it seems like nothing has gotten totally finished and she never checked the mail.  This, I feel, has been the story of my whole week.  I had some goals set out and I was determined to meet them.  I woke up Monday determined to accomplish everything on my to do list.  I started out picking up all the clutter and toys that were left out over the weekend.  I didn't get far before I found clothes all over the girls' bedroom floor and toothpaste smeared all over the dresser.  From there the distractions continued to sneak up on me.  The dog's water bowl needing to be filled, the towels that needed to be put away, the dishes still in the sink, finding gum in the carpet, oh and my favorite, a clogged and very full toilet.  Monday night came and once again I felt like I accomplished nothing.  I ticked off in my head the jobs I did get done and realized I had done quiet a bit, even though it wasn't originally on my list.  As I dwelled on this I thought of the list I had written down.  I hadn't spent much time looking at it once my day started.  This was my stumbling block.  When I actually look at my to do list I get a lot more done, and a bonus -it feels really good scratching things off that list. My to do list really helps me to focus, however it only works if I look at it.  Otherwise I feel like I'm just floating bouncing back and forth like a wicked game of pinball through my day. 

     By the end of the week I had actually caught up on things and I had tackled a few projects and finished them.  It's amazing what a little focus and the reminder of a helpful little to do list can do. 

Good luck to all of you this week.  I hope life's not too crazy!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Introducing the Grammar Goddess!

In my ANWA critique group, we have the privilege of having a high school English teacher in our midst. We love when she shares her knowledge with us. Especially when it comes to grammar. I don't know about you, but sometimes I waste precious writing time just trying to figure out if I need a comma in a sentence or not. So after much cajoling my friend, Heather, has agreed to start putting her grammar lessons on her blog. Her very first grammar lesson is up! I'm hoping it will be just the first of many! Go to Heather's blog now!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Penny For Your Thoughts?

Now I know you religiously answer every comment on your own blog. It’s one of the ways you thank people for taking the time to read your work, right? ;-)  Commenters on your blog deserve to be thanked and responded to, because they’re loyal and interested...This is the first impression you make! Be present, be attentive, be responsive. Tell them you appreciate them by appreciating them!  Loudly and publicly.  You’re not just being polite when you engage with commenters in this way. You’re also able to gain valuable insights into what about your work interests, bothers or inspires them.
          ~ Author/Blogger Danny Iny

One of my weaknesses has always been replying to comments left on my blog posts.  I know I'm not the only one.  Some bloggers are fantastic at it, and I've had some good only conversations about writing topics via the comment section, or read those left by others.  But there have also been numerous times I've left comments or questions on a post that have never been replied to (and I don't say that in a judgemental way, because I'm the WORST at it!).  So are comment threads useful?  Is it important to respond to those who leave them?  Do they ever check back for a reply?

It's easy as a blogger to check for comments on the blogger dashboard.  There's a button totally dedicated to them.  But it can become difficult to check back to the dozens of blogs you might visit in a week to see if anyone replied to anything you said.  So while the Danny Iny quote above certainly made me stop and think, I wonder what the consensus out there is on its validity?  

What do you think?  (And yes, this means you have to comment :)  It also means I had better reply!!

On another note, the Canadian Government recently stopped manufacturing the penny, and is in the process of removing it from circulation.  I wonder what will become of the cliche phrase, penny for your thoughts?  Perhaps inflation has already altered it to be more along the line of 'quarter for your thoughts?'  Just sayin!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dear Americans, Please Come and Visit Me!

I've just got back from a lovely holiday ("vacation") in Florida, and I'm really missing America. I love corn dogs, Mexican food, water parks, sunshine, wide roads without potholes, huge buildings and having my groceries bagged for me. I love the larger-than-life characters who sit on a beach with their families (within earshot of a trembling pasty Brit) and say things like, "I've got a lot of weapons and Cheryl's a hoarder, so when it goes down we'll hold out as long as we can and then retreat to her place." (For more information about my experiences, go to www.annahitsamerica.blogspot.com.)

We were very well treated by the locals in Orlando and made to feel valued and welcome, so I'd like to return the favour and spread the love. Anyone out there want to come and visit me in England?

Admittedly there's not much to tempt you. Great Britain is a very cold, damp and grotty-looking little island. We struggle to squeeze 63 million people into an area smaller than Wyoming (population half-a-million), so the roads are narrow and busy. There are no theme parks and my house (perfectly average by UK standards) is smaller than our apartment in Florida. It also doesn't have a guest room so you'd have to stay at a hotel. But here's a taster of part of the itinerary I can offer you (feel free to Google all these places, especially images):

Day 1: Hadleigh Castle, Old Leigh and Southend-on-Sea
Hadleigh Castle is a ruin, but it's interesting all the same and the views are spectacular. It's just a five-minute drive away. Old Leigh, five minutes more down the road, is a beautiful ancient fishing village with a cobbled street, tiny houses, and freshly-caught fish still sold at the docks. Just a little further along the Thames Estuary is Southend, which boasts the longest pleasure pier in the world, plus very good ice-cream. It's just a little further down the road from Leigh. I would propose ending this day with a curry at the Tandoori Parlour. British curry is the best.

Day 2: North Essex, Audley End and Suffolk
My county isn't the best in the UK I'm sure, but I love it and parts of it are stunning. We'd travel through Battlesbridge, which is as lovely as its name, and stop to look at the antique shops it's famous for. We'd then go on to Thaxted and Saffron Waldon, both beautiful historic villages, and visit Audley End, an ancient stately home. On to Ipswich, taking in the village of Lavenham on the way. And if they're agreeable, tea with my parents in their beautiful cottage, built in 1491.

Day 3: London
The easiest way to take in all the sights is by sightseeing bus tour, or a Thames boat tour. London is stunning, and we'd stay late and take in a show in the West End.

If you like history and culture, it's something you have to experience. (If you like warm weather and theme parks, I recommend Florida.) So come on, when will you come to visit me?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Let's Blow It Up: David Farland/Wolverton Book Bomb for Ben

Whether you know him as David Farland or David Wolverton, you are most likely aware that he is an amazing author and HUGE support to the writing community. This past week tragedy hit his family hard.
In support, a book bomb has been organized to take place tomorrow, April 10th. Just follow the links in this post to learn more.

Facebook: A Book Bomb for Ben

Blog: Help Ben Wolverton

For tomorrow, you should know that anything purchased through these Amazon links for 
Nightingale and Million Dollar Outlines will help Dave. He gets a small percentage of anything purchased through those links. So, if you want to buy several other books or products tomorrow, with or without Nightingale and Million Dollar Outlines, please do. 
This event can really help out Ben and Dave so spread the word.

That being said, Nikki and I have also read the books that are being blown up in the bomb and wanted to share some thoughts.

Amber's Thoughts on Nightingale:

I purchased the ebook, not the enhanced version, so I will not be able to tell you much about the newer platform.  I can tell you that  I loved Nightingale.  The book is well paced and filled with mystery, excitement, and just a touch of romance.  I love the world that Farland created.  His characters were well developed, and the solutions to the many conflicts believable.  The ending is open to more books in the series that I will definitely be reading.  Nightingale is the first book I read by David, but it will not be my last. 

Nikki's thoughts on Million Dollar Outlines:

Last week, I bought David Farland's writing book, Million Dollar Outlines. Even before this tragedy happened with David's son, I was planning on giving a review of this book on Friday. Let me tell you why. I'm a pantser, which means that when it comes to writing I like to fly by the seat of my pants. This is a thrilling way to write. You never know what's going to happen next and each twist and turn leaves you breathless to write the next part. But editing a story that I pantsed, is not fun at all! When it comes to editing my stories, I often realize there's no plot, that the setting is lacking, I often have to add characters to flesh out the story, and my characters are usually one dimensional. Which means, I get to write the story again, and usually a third time, and a fourth time, the rewrites are pretty much indefinite. To say that this becomes tiresome is an understatement. This has led me to try many different outlining techniques. But I usually find them to be so formulaic that my creative side shuts down and doesn't want to proceed. In Million Dollar Outlines, David doesn't give me an outline to use. He explains the logic behind why people read books. Why do books relieve our stress, and make life just a little bit easier to handle? Why do some books do this better than others? Why do some characters jump off the page while others are little more than a rough sketch? These are just some of the many questions that David answers in this book that has completely changed the way I see writing. I'm not new to writing. I've been around this scene for a little while at least. Not everything in this book was like a new revelation to me, but the way he explained it all, turned on a light bulb in my mind. I learn so much better when I understand the why of what I'm learning. This is what David does in this book. He tells you why to put certain things in your outlines. Part of his outlining technique includes a way for you to visually SEE your plots all together before they are even written. I'm a visual learner, so this really worked for me. This book was well worth the price and I highly recommend that anyone who is really serious about writing, buy this book. If you don't, that's just less competition for me when my wonderfully outlined books come into the publishing world!! Just kidding, sort of.

Monday, April 8, 2013

One of the Ninety and Nine

The night before Easter I was doing my bunny thing, up to my elbows in jelly beans and plastic grass, when the phone rang. I answered and heard, “Sister Tross, would you be willing to speak in Sacrament meeting tomorrow?” 

Well, not being one to back down from a challenge, I accepted. And, oddly enough, I spoke in Sacrament meeting last Easter, and my ward got reorganized in the fall, so it was practically like a whole other ward anyway, so I thought I might be able to recycle some of my talk from last year. (Because really, who would remember what I talked about a whole year ago anyway?) And besides that, I’m practically an expert on writing Sacrament talks (remember my series of posts on that very topic?) so I had it in the bag, right?

Well, almost. See, I’ve been in something of a funk lately. You know what I mean? Like, haven’t really been reading my scriptures, been going through the motions with my calling. I’ve been praying, and I’ve been asking the Lord to kind of help motivate me to get out of my funk, but I’ve just been halfheartedly saying the words because I know I should. So, I knew it was going to be a little bit like getting into a cold pool. I needed to baby step my way down. But I only had a few hours in which to do it.

I decided to go back to a version of my talk from last Easter that I'd used for an Institute devotional on the Resurrection. As I was reading it, I felt prompted to look through my Institute journal to see if there was anything in there I might be able to use. In my journal, I found a note I'd made about a quotation I'd wanted to look up. So, I went online to look up the quotation and found a BYU devotional by Chad Webb. I decided it might help with the talk so I started reading it. And this is what I read:

"When do you feel least like praying and going to church? Isn't it when we make a mistake? Somehow we want to hide ourselves from Heavenly Father. It's incredible the fig leaves we make. We fill our lives with business, [with] trips, tangible, and temporal things, which aren't bad of themselves, but when we do this to hide ourselves from Heavenly Father, instead of coming to Him to have a quiet moment of reconciliation, we miss the incredible opportunity and blessing to rely on the atonement.... “
"God so loved the world, and so loved you, that He gave His only begotten Son that you and I could be forgiven, and when we make mistakes and don't want Him to notice us, a better response is to come to the one who loves us most, and be covered through the atonement of His Only Begotten Son. The greatest way to rely on the atonement is to trust God. He loves us and wants us to be clean. Not only to be forgiven but to be changed... Through the atonement of Jesus Christ He can help us become clean and to have a new heart by changing our very nature.”

Umm...wow. It was one of a handful of times in my life when I felt like Heavenly Father was speaking directly to me, and it was incredibly humbling. I was reminded of the words to the Michael McLean song, "Ninety and Nine”:

“I am one of the ninety and nine. I’m not perfect, but basically I’m doing fine. I have not lost my way, I have not gone astray- I’m just one of the ninety and nine. I am here in the heart of the fold. I’m not mindless, but I try to do as I’m told. I’m not tempted to run and become the lost one. I’m just one of the ninety and nine. So why is my Shepherd coming this way toward me? He’s searching to find me, and He takes me aside and sweetly confides these remarkable words in my ear: ‘You are one of the ninety and nine. Have you any idea how brightly you shine? You are safe in this fold and it’s time you were told that I know where you’ve been and I know where you’ll be, because all of your life you’ve been following Me. You are more than just one of the sands of the sea or just one of the ninety and nine- you are mine.’”

I’m still working on my funk- it’s a process- but this much I do know: He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. And He’s dying to tell you if only you let Him.

:-) Kasey

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Til We Meet Again

     I absolutely love General Conference.  I think each year I love it even more.  My spirit is touched and I truly feel nourished each time I listen.  I actually feel sadness when President Monson closes the conference until the next meeting, so I thought - let's keep that spirit going.  I would love to hear your thoughts or feelings about conference.  Perhaps there was a certain talk that you really loved, or a quote that spoke to you.  You could even link to your favorite talk if you so desire.  I can hardly wait to see all the cutsie quotes pop up on Pinterest and Facebook. It's exciting to know that we can send goodness out into the world.

I look forward to hearing about your thoughts!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday So What: Trouble's on the Menu

Around this time last year, my writing teacher - a well known non-fiction writer- brought me his fiction novel that he planned to sell along with his new Winter Gardening how-to book. It needed a little help. I joked that his MC, a young female artist, sounded like an 80 year old tea maven. I beta read and gave some suggestions, and the next day I had the entire manuscript in my inbox with a note begging me to rewrite all the female POV chapters and a new ending. Oh, and I had 2 weeks to meet the publishers deadline for the final manuscript.

After an editor/agent/publisher receives a book, time slows to a crawl. But now my few hard weeks of sleepless nights has paid off. The book comes out next week, and I get to share credit on the cover (and royalties). It's a fun book about a city girl, Hallie, who comes to a small town to settle her estranged husband's affairs after he dies suddenly. Instead of a box of paintings to sort, she's been left an old building - with crazy tenants that pay their rent in hay and milkshakes. The young, and really cute, mayor might be worth sticking around for, but he's got his own problems. Within days, they become Hallie's problem too. When she came to the backwater Montana town, she thought she was only losing a few days vacation time, but if she's not careful she could lose her property, freedom, and her life.
Since this is the companion book to Caleb Warnock's Winter Gardening book, there are recipe's from his winter garden at the end of Trouble's on the Menu. Since my way of making soup is Campbell's (don't microwave the can. I've lost a good microwave that way) I can only vouch for the yumminess of the recipe's end results.

Excerpt- Chapter 1

Hallie Stone held the brake pedal all the way to the floor well with her foot after the car skidded to a stop. Forcing herself out of the rented Yukon Denali, she fought her way through the biting snow to see what she’d just hit. Her designer heels slid on the slick road. A blast of Montana wind nearly sent her to her knees.

Maybe the blizzard was playing tricks on her eyes. Maybe it wasn’t a scooter she had seen, sliding toward the SUV. Maybe it had been only an animal. She’d been warned that moose roamed free up here as numerous as stray cats. But the blur was too small for a moose and too large for a cat. The best she could hope for was a deer.

Please be Bambi. Please be Bambi.

The headlights showed something sprawled on the snowpacked highway. Clutching her puffy jacket—the one practical thing she’d thought to bring from California to Montana—she stared down and saw . . .
A woman.

An expletive popped out of Hallie’s mouth—worth at least a dollar to the swear jar back home.
The woman on the ground was making high-pitched keening sounds. An awful grating noise, but at least that meant she wasn’t dead, whoever she was. Thank goodness.

Bracing in her snow-filled shoes, Hallie stepped toward the woman lying askew on the road. A crushed motor scooter straddled the woman’s leg.

“Are you okay?” Hallie blurted. The question was ridiculous.

Fumbling with icy fingers, she tried to find her cell phone in her coat. She had to get help. In the middle of her pushing the nine and the one, a man sprinted out of the darkness onto the road. Hallie wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or to reach for her pepper spray.

“I’ve called Tug and Jim,” he said, kneeling by the injured woman. “Where are you hurt?”

The woman groaned. “My daughter. She’s home.” She strained to speak. “Mayor, tell her . . . not to worry.”

“As soon as I get back to the house, I’ll call her,” he said. “Don’t worry about a thing.”

Mayor? Hallie looked at the man who couldn’t be more than a few years older than herself. Very young to be mayor.

“I’m so sorry . . .” Hallie wanted to explain how wrong her whole day had been—her missed flight, lost luggage, this behemoth of a rental car that was so different from her sporty Mustang. But the cold was freezing her brain, making her thoughts sluggish and foggy. She wanted to jump back into the Denali and drive home to her Malibu art studio. Or at least back to the airport.

Cutting through the void of the snowstorm, a siren’s wail announced the arrival of an ambulance. Slush sprayed in all directions from the approaching tires, soaking Hallie’s trousers. Seconds after the ambulance slid to a stop, two paramedics jumped out.

“If I had a nickel for every idiot driver in the world,” spat the ambulance driver.

“Oh, Tug,” the injured woman moaned weakly. “My leg.”

“Probably broken,” the ambulance driver said gruffly. “Do I even need to ask what happened?”

“She ran me over!” the woman on the ground cried out with a burst of strength. “I could be dying. I think I see a bright light.” She groaned dramatically.

Hallie probably turned a few shades whiter than the fresh powder.

“Naw, just the headlights on the snow,” the ambulance driver said matter-of-factly. “Don’t worry, Andrea. We’ll take care of you.”

The paramedics examined the woman and swiftly loaded her into the ambulance. As they drove down the lane, the swirling red lights danced away on the snowy drifts to music of the wailing siren.

Hallie was mesmerized by the light show and lost in her thoughts. On one hand, she was really worried about the women’s health; on the other, she was really worried about her own. They didn’t throw people in jail for a car accident, right? She was an outsider, though, who had just squished someone’s mother.
I am in so much trouble.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The A-Z Blogging Challenge

April 1, I became part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, created by Arlee Bird.  Arlee is a wonderful blogger/writer who encourages writer fellowship and support.

                                           A to Z Challenge [2013]

The premise is simple.  Write a post every day during the month of April (Sundays off), starting with the letter A.  April 1, write about something that begins with A; April 2, write about something that begins with B; April 3 is the letter C, and so on.  It's a marathon of posting, and reading the other 1900 bloggers who sign up.

The A-Z is a great exercise in discipline and creativity.  It's also a smart networking tool, because it's excellent exposure for your blog, which in turn introduces readers to your book, your product, your brand.  It's a very nice way to connect to bloggers with shared interests and goals.  

This is my second year in the A-Z.  Last year, I actually wrote my posts on the days they were "due."  I've since realized I can have all my posts written by April 1 and then spend my time visiting other sites.  Much better plan.

I've written posts for the A-Z that were stellar and posts that were lame.  On April 1, I love the A-Z challenge; by April 20th, I'm wondering what the heck I'm doing.  I've received comments on my writing that make me wince, and I've received comments that make me yell "Woo-hoo!"

The A-Z is the writing life crammed into one month:  assignments, deadlines, great stuff, crummy stuff, criticism, praise, wracking your brain, and getting up the next day to do it all over again. 

If you've never heard of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, check it out at the link above.  It's a frenetic, exciting, invigorating writing exercise that keeps you on your butt (at your computer) for one month.

Then you take a long nap. 

Tomorrow....F is for fluctisonous.


Check it out here:  ADVENTURES in the BALLPARK.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Rookie Mistakes

Thirteen years ago my first novel was being prepared for publication and came back from my wonderful editor covered in red lines and comments. I don't think a single sentence escaped her correction. I was a little downhearted, naturally, but Val (my editor) explained that this is normal, and in fact I have since learned that lots of red is a sign of a good editor, not a bad manuscript.

I've been reminded of this because I recently read a book for review which was excellent but fell foul of two of the most basic errors writers must learn to avoid as they hone their craft. I hope the author won't mind my using her book as an example as I go over these, but I will refrain from identifying the book itself just in case.

The most common mistake I made appeared regularly on that first manuscript as just three letters. POV. Getting the Point of View wrong is rookie writer mistake no. 1. Each scene can only be viewed from the perspective of one character. If you want to switch to another character, you need to have a clear chapter or scene division.

The book I mentioned was an example of just why this was so important. The main protagonist is a teenage girl with some strange supernatural power, but at the beginning of the book we don't yet know what it is. The book is written in the first person from the perspective of this girl. A few pages in a police officer visits her at home, and the narrator details exactly what he is thinking as he approaches her home and sees her. At this point I thought, "Aha! I've figured out her power! She can read minds!" It was several chapters later that I realised that I was wrong. Her ability was something quite different, and the fact that we see what is going on in the officer's mind was a POV error on the part of the author.

Your narrator cannot know what other people are thinking or experiencing, because in life we can't flit from head to head either. At the beginning of each scene you need to figure out whose perspective it is told from, and stick to just what that person can know or guess at. If you've got a first person narrator then nothing which doesn't happen in the presence of the narrator can be included in the book.

The second rookie mistake in this book was in the dialogue. We know that writing dialogue in the form of "he said", "she said" is quite dull, and it helps to introduce alternative verbs such as "he shouted" and "she retorted". It can be even more effective to leave out the attribution altogether, but if this is done then clues need to be put in once in a while to clarify who is speaking. One way of doing this is to have characters occasionally call each other by name as they speak.

The book I reviewed had a whole chapter of dialogue between the protagonist's parents in her absence (which shouldn't have been in the book at all - see POV) in which they used each other's name every single time they spoke. Paragraph after paragraph of "Alan" and "Julia" which made the whole exchange bizzarely stilted, not least because they are husband and wife and thus you'd think the odd "darling" or "honey" might have crept in. (I almost never call my husband by his name unless I'm trying to get his attention in a crowded room.) Similarly, they spoke eloquently and articulately whereas in real life people rarely do. Next time you're part of a conversation, imagine each line written down. You'll find lots of "erms" and unfinished sentences, repetition, and missed words. Rookie mistake number 2 is to write dialogue so that it sounds good and advances the story, but lose out on realism by doing so.

I'm trying hard (probably failing) not to sound like a pretentious twerp right now. I'm only on my seventh novel, so I have a lot to learn about my craft still, and I'm still making mistakes. But I hope I can help any would-be writers to avoid just a little of the editor's red pen by keeping close tabs on the point of view, and ensuring that dialogue is realistic.

What rookie mistakes did you make?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Talking Tuesday: CorrectingYour Focus

In writing and in life, it is quite easy to focus on the wrong things.  When I should be writing, I often find myself scrolling through facebook or pinterest.  Time gets away from me.  When it is time to fosuc on family, I am thinking about all the cleaning that should be getting done, and when it is cleaning time I turn on the TV for background noise, which leads to me sitting down.  My focus is easily pulled toward the things I should not be focusing on at that time.

This same problem can also sneak into our stories.  Instead of focusing on moving the action forward, we spend too much time telling background story.  Sometimes our side characters become more interesting than our main character. 

Whenever we find ourselves losing focus, we must make the appropriate adjustments.  It is when we can see things clearly, that we will progress forward with the things that truly matter.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Portrait of a Writer

You may have noticed that a few months ago my little photo on the sidebar changed. Or maybe you didn’t notice. Actually, chances are pretty good that you couldn’t care less….

Anyway, as writers, there often comes a time in our lives when we need a photo of ourselves. People like to see the person behind the words. So if you don’t have the budget for a high-fashion photo shoot, how do you get a decent headshot?

Well, I’m no expert, but here’s my advice:

1. Look good.

I know, kind of a no-brainer- if you want a good photo, do your hair and makeup. But it doesn’t have to be a major production. Before I took my photo I just happened to look in the mirror and notice I was having a pretty decent hair day, so I decided it might be a nice opportunity for a little photo shoot. I just put on some eyeliner and mascara and called it good (probably could have used some blush and lipstick too…but oh, well). I would recommend not getting too gussied up, though- you want to look good, but still look like yourself.

2. Lighting, lighting, lighting. 

For my photo shoot I decided to set up near a window. I do this when I want a good shot of my kids, too- sitting near a window provides lighting that is both flattering and interesting.

3. Nix the flash. 

I avoid the flash on my little point-and-shoot whenever possible. The flash does unkind things to your subjects. Most cameras have a button that looks like a lightning bolt with a little slash through it- that’ll kill the flash for you, even if you’re in auto mode.

4. Set that timer.

Using a self-timer will give you much better results than handing the camera over to your kindergartner or using your own hand as a tripod. (Classic duck face, anyone?) Set the camera up on a box or some books, take a few practice shots to make sure you’re not going to cut off your head and make sure you have enough time to settle into your pose before it snaps the photo.

5. Strike a pose. 

This part can be fun. Start out however you’re comfortable, but don’t be surprised if you end up looking stiff and awkward at first. Check each photo after you take it and evaluate and then adjust- do you need to tilt your chin down more? Would you rather have your hair tucked behind your ear? Try tilting your head to one side, then the other, looking into the camera and then away, add an accessory like a scarf, rest your head on your hands,  think of something hilarious one of your kids did and laugh out loud just before the camera clicks (or laugh because you feel ridiculous taking photos of yourself).  Take as many photos as you need to get a winner (or several winners). If you find a particular pose that you like, stick with it and take several shots in that position- that way you’ll have plenty to choose from.

6. Editing is your friend. 

Editing: it’s not just for your WIP. If you aren’t familiar with the photo editing program on your computer, then get familiar with it. Use it to crop your photos, adjust the exposure and white balance and (my favorite part!) remove blemishes. (Don’t go too crazy with that last one, though- you don’t want to look plastic!)

It takes some time and effort (and a momentary lapse into narcissism) but have a solo photo shoot once a year or so and you will always have a current, professional photo of yourself that you can feel good about.


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