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Countdown to Selling a Christmas Story

Guest blog by Paul Navarro, author of The Gift Giver 

Time, time, time. My biggest sin is time—I have treated it with callous disregard. Let me tell you how. 

I wrote my children’s Christmas story, The Gift Giver, years ago, maybe three. And before that, it had been in my head for about a decade. So that’s 13 years I had to come up with a marketing plan for The Gift Giver. Thirteen years to secure media time, schedule appearances, do a real build up to Black Friday (when most people start their Christmas shopping). But, I didn’t do any of those things.

In my defense, it’s been a hell of a year.
1)    I finished polishing up my middle grade novel, The Incredible Misadventures of Zadora Zane, so my agent could start sending it out;
2)    I finished up an application to a prestigious grad program (getting together all the materials was no small feat); and the biggest thing of all;
3)    I got married.

So, it didn’t appear like the optimal year to release a book, especially when you factor in the fact that I’d never self-published a book before. But I’m nothing if not optimistic.  

Mounting the self-publishing mountain
I came back from my honeymoon at the end of October bound and determined to have this children’s book out by Thanksgiving weekend. Yes, looking back that may have been a little too ambitious. Doing all the illustrations myself and rewriting the manuscript about a dozen times, I finally had a draft I was proud of by the end of November. It then took me several days to figure out how to upload it to Amazon with all the formatting intact, all the while the number of shopping days until Christmas dwindling away—just like the song. (Is there a song for that? Well, there should be one.) Anyway, I did it. I got my book listed in all the major eReaders with a print version on Whew!

But what now? 

Nightmare before Christmas
With only three weeks till Christmas, I’ve managed to squeeze myself into one writer’s fair to sell some books. It was a lot of fun and got me pumped up to really start plugging my book. This was when I realized there’s a lot more to publishing a book than just publishing a book. Somehow you’ve got to let people know it’s there and make them want to buy it. But how?

I turned to my writing friends for help. Some interviewed me for their blogs, some had me write guest posts (like the one you’re reading now), and others suggested independent book stores in which to sell my stocking stuffer. But in the midst of all this pre-Christmas chaos, what I’m struggling with is time. I need time to visit these book stores, time to write blog posts, time to go to book fairs. If I as independent publishers am to be successful in my literary endeavors, I must allow myself time to plan, time to execute my plan and then time to follow up after the execution so I can keep sales soaring. I’m going to assume that this is part of the reason the big ships like Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins buy books so far in advance—to give themselves time to build a strategy. 

I don’t make resolutions; I make plans
I, for one, will not commit the sin of taking time for granted again. Next year will be different. I’m going to start in the summer so by Thanksgiving I will have people lined up to buy my book. I may even create a special edition with more illustrations. In 2012, I will prioritize and give myself the gift of time. You can, too. Your book deserves it. It deserves your full attention and the entire weight of your creative brain. Let my story be a lesson to you and believe me when I say that your three biggest assets when marketing your book are time, time and time.

The Gift Giver is available on Amazon, Nook, Kindle and Lulu for the iPad.

Self-Publishing -- Lessons From the Trenches

The Gift Giver by Paul Navarro

Self-publishing is growing in popularity and many new authors are finding literary success in the world of online publishing. However, along with being your own publisher, you need to be your own marketing department. 

In the coming weeks, I'll be exploring the many ways to promote your self-published novel. In the meantime, who else is better to learn from then those who are forging ahead in this new frontier.

On that note, I'm very pleased to host my first guest blogger, multitalented writer Paul Navarro. Paul is the author of The Gift Giver, the story of a seven-year-old girl who learns the true spirit of gift giving at her class' Secret Santa party. It's available in print at Amazon and also on all the major e-readers. Paul will be sharing his experience and challenges in promoting his children's book in time for the holidays.

Willamette Writers Conference

How to start your conference day on the right note

For those attending this year’s Willamette Writers Conference, August 5 – 7, here’s what you can expect when you arrive, along with a few more tips to get the most out of the conference.

Come to the Thursday night events
There are a number of advantages to starting your conference experience on Thursday night, August 4.

1) Avoid the Friday registration rush.
You can breeze in and register Thursday night or if you are pre-registered you can pick up your registration packet. The registration area is open from 6 – 9 p.m. on Thursday.

2) Review the workshops.
In your registration packet, you’ll find the latest information on workshops. There are often changes from the original conference brochure. Select your top one or two choices for each time slot so you won’t have to spend time at the conference deciding. Better to spend your time meeting fellow writers and enjoying all the conference has to offer.

3) Double check your badge.
The front of your badge will state the days you are attending and whether or not you are booked for the Saturday night banquet and the type of meal you requested. If there are any questions, go to the registration area.

On the back of your badge you’ll find the consults you have purchased. These are the one-on-one and group pitch sessions. If you have any issues, the consult desk will be open Thursday night to help you resolve them.

4) Orient yourself.
If you’ve never been to the conference before, Thursday night gives you an opportunity to leisurely stroll around the Sheraton and familiarize yourself with where the various events are taking place. If you are pitching, note that the area for group pitches is different from the area for one-on-one pitches.

5) Attend Pitch Practice
You can attend Pitch Practice with the Pros from 7 to 9 p.m. in St. Helens for literary pitches and Mt. Hood for film pitches. If you want to pitch in front of agents and be critiqued, come early as it fills up fast.

Arrive early on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Give yourself enough time to arrive at the conference, find parking, have breakfast and get to your first workshop without having to stress. If you can’t find a parking spot at the Sheraton you can park at the Hampton Inn next door as they are owned by the same company.

1) Register first.
If you didn’t register or pick up your conference registration package on Thursday night, do this first. The registration area, consult help, and information desk are all at the south end of the Mt. Hood Foyer.

2) Have breakfast and mingle.
You’ll find a full breakfast buffet in the Mt. Hood Foyer served from 7:30 until 8:45 am. Grab a plate, a cup of coffee and head to the Mt. Hood Ballroom. If you sleep in, the breakfast buffet usually stays out longer. But breakfast is a great time to mingle and meet other writers.

If you have time, wander over to the Silent Auction area for first dibs on a wide variety of great stuff for writers.

3) Get to workshops early.
Workshops start at 8:30 am. Popular workshops fill up fast and can run out of seats, so get to the workshop at least 10 minutes early if you need a seat, even earlier if you need a place to plug in your laptop.

4) Take advantage of all the conference has to offer.
Don’t forget to sign up for the two free events: Manuscript ER and Pitch Practice. See my previous post for more information. They both run from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday.

See you at the conference!

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Six Steps to Prepare for a Writer’s Conference

Part three of a three-part series on how to maximize your conference experience

Here are the last two steps for preparing for the Willamette Writers Conference or any writer’s conference.

Step Five: Polish your professionalism
The most important aspect of attending a writer’s conference is to present yourself as a professional. Being a professional writer has nothing to do with how much or how little you’ve published or how much money you’ve made as a writer. A professional writer is one who writes regularly and attends writer’s conferences! If you do everything described in steps one through four and have your business cards in hand, your research completed, and your pitch polished – you’ll be taken seriously by fellow writers, speakers, authors, agents, and editors.

Now complete the package with a professional look. Pick out three business casual outfits for the conference and have them pressed and ready to go a few days before hand. And if you are traveling to the conference, bring something that doesn’t need ironing. Conference days are long and the last thing you want to be doing is pressing when you could be practicing your pitch or getting your beauty sleep. Although it’s nice to look like a “creative,” going to the extreme will only distract the person you’re talking to and pull attention away from your pitch and you as a person. I find one outstanding accessory can add that creative touch to any outfit. Dress light as it will probably be a hot day, but bring a sweater or jacket in case the air conditioning is blasting.

Step Six: Pulling it all together

Here’s some odds and ends to help make your conference experience a great one.

Bring your materials
Remember I mentioned that some of the workshops will read the first pages of your manuscripts, or hear a pitch. Have those double-spaced and professionally formatted; and print out a couple copies of each. You may also want to bring the first five pages of your manuscript to show to a prospective critique partner. A simple exchange of pages can tell you instantly whether you’ll be a good fit.

If you are taking advantage of the free Manuscript ER (see my previous post) and I highly recommend you do, then bring printed copies of your opening pages, query letter, synopsis, or any part of your manuscript you are struggling with.

What you don’t need to bring is your entire manuscript. Never foist a hardcopy of your book at an agent or editor. Most are traveling a distance and don’t want to be saddled with a stack of manuscripts to schlep back to the office. If an agent/editor is interested in seeing your work, you’ll receive a business card and/or instructions on how to submit.

Notice for the Bulletin Board
If you’re looking for other writers to form a critique group, the bulletin board is a great place to connect. It’s usually in the main lobby of the Sheraton. It’s not too big, so best to keep your notice to the size of a 3 x 5” index card.

Tote bag
The conference doesn’t supply tote bags so you’ll want to bring something lightweight for carrying your conference materials.

Your laptop, netbook, or pad and paper
This is a personal choice. I brought my netbook last year and will again. It’s light, has hours of battery life, and fits in my tote bag. I can’t read my own handwriting, so taking notes is a waste of time for me unless I have my computer. If you need to plug in your device, outlets are usually available in the back of the room. Just remember to mute the sound on your computer before you leave home. Another benefit to bringing a computer is that many of the workshops have impromptu writing exercises. I find it faster and easier to write and edit on the keyboard than in a notebook. To each his own. Just be prepared in the style that suits you.

The conference offers a full breakfast, lunch, plenty of caffeine during the day along with water and juice and some type of satisfying and fattening yummy in the afternoon. So no need to pack any snacks, but if you have dietary restrictions and can’t eat those afternoon fresh-baked goodies, you might want to bring your own snack. The conference offers gluten-free and vegetarian meal options, but you must specify those options when you register.

Check back in a few days for “What to do when you arrive at the conference” and the advantages of arriving on Thursday night.

Six Steps to Prepare for a Writer’s Conference

Part two of a three-part series on how to maximize your conference experience

Wow, my todo list for the Willamette Writers Conference is growing. Now that I know what I want to accomplish at the conference and I’ve done my research, the real work begins.

Step Three: Gather your networking gear

Even if you haven’t finished your first book, it’s never too early to start networking. No matter what your objectives for attending the conference might be, you’ll need:

Business cards is a great resource for free and very low cost business cards. Make your cards memorable by including on the back of the card a description of your writing, a mini bio, a short summary or logline of your book, or details about the service you offer. Bring plenty to hand out. If you are offering a service to writers or promoting your book, you can place some of your cards on a table just for this purpose, usually located in the hallway outside of the Garden Room.

Elevator pitch
What are you going to say when the person next to you at lunch asks, “What do you write?” You need to be able to answer clearly and succinctly. Who knows, that person could be your future agent. Although she probably doesn’t want to hear your whole novel pitch, be ready with a one-line elevator pitch about you and your writing.

You might want to talk about what you’re seeking at the conference. For example, “Hi, I’m Sue, I write urban fantasy YA and I’d like to find others YA writers to start a critique group.” Or, “I’m Bill. I’m looking for agency representation for my steam punk novel, Derailing Victoria, about the queen’s plan to sabotage the first high-powered steam engine train.” Practice your pitch on everyone you can find, even your dog. Practice till it flows naturally and enthusiastically from your lips. If you’re a little shy, like me, you might want to practice asking “What do you write?” It’s a great ice-breaker at any conference and you just might meet the critique partner you’ve been seeking.

Step 4: Grip the ball and get ready to pitch

Whether or not you plan to formally pitch in one-on-one or group sessions with agents or editors, you still need to be prepared to talk about your writing. Even in the early stages of writing, condensing your story into its essence can help you see where your story needs to go.

Long Pitch
In one-on-one pitch sessions you have ten minutes with the agent and editor. Keep your pitch to around four minutes and this will give the agent time to ask you questions and vice versa.

Short Pitch
Most, but not all, agents and editors will be taking short pitches at the group sessions. Keep these to one minute. That means three short lines at the most. Check the agent, editor, film bios to see if the agent/editor will be accepting group pitches.

Print your pitch
Although it’s bad form to read your pitch from a piece of paper, I like to have it there as a security blanket. I never know when the fear factor will wipe out my memory bank and leave me gulping like a guppy out of water. I print out long and short pitches for each of my works in a large font so I won’t need my glasses. It also helps to refer to the paper as you practice one more time waiting for your pitch session.

Practice, practice, practice
Read your pitch to anyone who will listen. Practice your pitch until it rolls off your tongue effortlessly. See my previous post about pitch practice sessions offered by the conference.

The final steps will be posted on Wednesday: “Polish your professionalism” and “Pulling it all together.”

Next year in July, I’ll be teaching an online class on preparing for the Willamette Writers Conference. So sign up now in the top right box to receive this and other important announcements.

Six Steps to Prepare for a Writer’s Conference

Part one of a three-part series on how to maximize your conference experience

There are less than four weeks till the Willamette Writers Conference, August 5 - 7. It’s time to put my conference todo list together. This will be my sixth year at the conference and I find the more prepared I am going in, the more I take away from the experience. My six preparation steps are geared towards the Willamette Writers Conference, but most of these tips can be applied to any writer’s conference you attend.

Step One: Write down your objectives

Why are you going to this writer’s conference and what do you want to take from the experience? There are so many activities and choices at the conference; it’s important to determine your objectives upfront, so you’ll target the activities that serve you and not be distracted by those that don’t.

At this year’s conference my goals are to:
• Find writers who are working in a similar genre who can become critique partners
• Meet and pitch new agents and editors who will hopefully be interested in receiving a query letter and pages on my two novels
• Learn about the latest trends in traditional and self-publishing
• Discover new ways for fiction authors to market their work
• Promote my developmental editing and marketing services for fiction writers
• Find guest bloggers for a new online business I’m starting

You may be interested in:
• Finding writers to form or join a critique group
• Meeting and socializing with writers in your community
• Learning more about your genre of writing
• Gaining valuable tips on the agent submission process
• Increasing your understanding of craft
• Meeting authors and purchasing signed copies of their books
• Shopping for holiday gifts at the Silent Auction (this is one of my goals too)

The conference is only three days and it goes by fast. So prioritize your goals and prepare to meet them.

Step Two: Do your research

Review the conference brochure
Take another look through the brochure to be sure you take advantage of all the conference has to offer. Or review the conference website. I talked about two of my favorites in a previous post.

Check the website for updates
Speakers, agents, editors, and workshops change, so visit the Willamette Writers Conference website for the latest information.

Choose your workshops
With almost a hundred workshops and multiple sessions happening at once, it’s not always easy to decide which workshop is for you. Don’t waste time at the conference reading over the descriptions. Do this now. You may also want to read the speakers’ bios and look at their websites. I like to select my top two workshop choices for each timeslot. That way if one workshop is too crowded or isn’t what I expected, I can head to the other one. Workshops and presenter bios are listed in the conference brochure and are also on the website.

Another reason for planning your workshops ahead of time is that some instructors will select participants’ work to read: opening pages, query, pitch, or synopsis. This year I see two workshops requesting the first few pages, and one requesting your pitch emailed ahead of time. “Conference Basics” may let you pitch if time allows. It never hurts to be prepared. Have your materials professionally formatted (double-spaced) and print out two copies so you can be looking at it while the instructor is commenting.

Research agents and editors
No doubt you’ve done some reading up on the agents and editors you plan to pitch. You've selected ones who represent and/or are looking for your genre of writing. I urge you to dig a little deeper. Review their website; look at the authors they represent; see if the agent/editor has a blog. Sometimes a quick Google search can yield a wealth of information on the person. The more you know going in, the more prepared you’ll be to talk intelligently with the agent or editor, ask the right questions, and look like the professional you are.

Write out your questions
Agents and editors at group and one-on-one pitches will usually make time to address your questions, so have one or two ready to ask. This is your opportunity to get a feel for the agent and sense whether or not the agent and the agency is the right fit for your career.

Next steps will be posted on Monday: “Gather your network gear” and “Grip the ball and get ready to pitch.”

Two Not-to-be-Missed Willamette Writers Conference Events

Leverage these two high-value conference freebees

If you’re attending this year’s Willamette Writers Conference, be sure to take advantage of Manuscript ER and Pitch Practice. With all the conference has to offer – almost 100 workshops, one-on-one pitches, group meetings, book signings, guest speakers, silent auction – these two free and high-value offerings can get overlooked.

Manuscript ER – Here’s an opportunity to sit down one-on-one with a professional editor and receive immediate feedback. These pros have helped me with fine-tuning my query letter, synopsis, and opening pages. They’ll also look at your book proposal or any other areas of writing where you need help. This is not the same thing as the Advance Manuscript Critique, which you have to pay for and submit before the conference. Manuscript ER is free with your conference registration.

Pitch Practice – The first time I signed up to pitch to agents and editors at the conference I was a nervous wreck. I’d spent weeks writing and rewriting my pitch and practicing it on anyone who would listen. But I’m so glad Pitch Practice was there so I could sit down face-to-face with someone who’d been through the pitching process. Her feedback helped assure me my pitch was delivered in an upbeat and succinct manner. I went into my first agent pitch feeling more relaxed and confident. The writing pros who volunteer for Pitch Practice are there to help you hone your pitching skills and answer any questions you have about pitching at the conference.

Both Manuscript ER and Pitch Practice are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday. When you arrive, have breakfast, then head for the Garden Foyer to sign up for your free15-minute sessions.

You can also take advantage of early registration on Thursday night from 6 to 9 p.m. and drop into Pitch Practice with the Pros. Come early, as it’s on a first come, first serve basis and fills up fast. Or just come and hear others pitch. You can learn a lot by listening to the feedback other writers receive.

The Willamette Writers Conference

Five Reasons for You to Attend

The 42nd annual Willamette Writers Conference is the weekend of August 5, 6 and 7th. This will be my sixth year at the conference. Here’s why I think you should attend too.

The Willamette Writers Conference offers:

1) Close to a 100 workshops geared to every type of writer at every level. There are workshops for developing your craft: “Dramatic Dialogue” and “Creating Three-Dimensional Characters.” And workshops for specific genres and types of writing such as “Picture Book Pacing and Poetry,” “Anatomy of a Magazine Article,” and “Blogging 101.” There are agent panels and workshops on the business of writing from “Catching an Agent’s Attention” to “Using Twitter to Grow Your Business.” Wherever you are in your writing and whatever style of writing you do, you’ll find the information you need to take your career to the next level.

2) A golden opportunity to pitch your manuscript to agents and editors. Over forty literary agents and editors, plus Hollywood film managers, agents and producers will be there to hear your pitch. You have a choice of meeting with them one-on-one for ten-minutes or in twenty-minute group sessions. What better way to meet an agent and establish a relationship.

3) Networking with other writers. Where else are you going to meet over 900 writers who are serious about their craft? This is one of the largest writing conferences in the world. At last year’s conference I met several writers and we started a critique group.

4) The latest information, news and trends in writing and publishing. The ever-changing industry has even the most established writers shaking their heads, not knowing which way the winds of change will blow. The Willamette Writers Conference puts you on the front line of the publishing industry. Agents, editors and instructors discuss trends they are seeing, what’s hot and what’s not, and the most recent developments in e-publishing and Internet marketing. Keep your ears open and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Instructors, authors, producers, agent and editors are there to help.

5) Inspiration. Probably the most important thing you’ll walk away with is a renewed “fire in the belly.” There is something about being in a room with over 900 fellow writers. The energy is electrifying!

Whether you’re just starting out as a writer or you have a manuscript ready to publish, the Willamette Writers Conference can help you achieve your dreams.

Registration opens soon. See the Willamette Writers Conference home page for more details and to register. If you plan to pitch to agents and editors and/or film producers, I encourage you to sign up as soon as possible as these slots fill up fast.

Attending a writers’ conference is a big investment in your career. In the coming weeks, I’ll share tips for maximizing your experience at the Willamette Writers Conference – everything from what to bring to how to prepare your pitch. Join the mailing list (in the upper right hand corner of this site) so you don't miss these important posts!

Enter a Writing Contest

A winning solution for sharpening your marketing tools

I recently submitted my women’s novel to The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest (ABNA) and this week I entered the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. If I win I’ll receive accolades, exposure, and money. But submitting to contests is time consuming, a lot of work, and the odds of winning are slim. Some might say, why bother? What I’ve discovered is that the true benefits of a contest do not come from winning, but from the process of entering the contest.

If you take the time to submit your work to a writing contest, you’ll accomplish five goals:

1) A fine-tuning of your opening pages. In contests, it’s usually the quality of your writing that’s being judged, not the overall story and character arcs. Submit the first pages of your manuscript and use this opportunity to carefully edit your work. Check the rhythm and flow of sentences. Make every verb powerful and every metaphor enhance the imagery of your story. These are the pages you’ll be using to attract an agent’s or editor’s attention and now you’ve made them even stronger.

2) A streamlined draft. Contests generally have a page limit, yet you want to give readers enough to see where your story is headed. It’s also important to end your submission at a critical point where the reader is left wanting more. So maybe it’s time to jump into the story sooner and leave the flashback and character descriptions for later. The process forces you to do a major cut, eliminating unnecessary words, reducing back story and even secondary characters. The result of this trimming is a tighter, honed manuscript.

3) A succinct synopsis. Contest submissions are one more opportunity to look at your synopsis with fresh eyes. The synopsis is an important tool for marketing your work to an agent or editor.

4) A stronger query letter and pitch. Writing my pitch for ABNA took it to a whole new level thanks to input from critique partners and colleagues. My pitch became my new query letter, one that is far more descriptive of the characters and plot and uses fewer words.

5) Motivation. If you’re like me, the greatest benefit of all is having a deadline. That contest ending date is the motivation I need to get my butt in the chair and stay focused.

I hope this inspires you to enter a contest. Poet and Writers is a great place to find writing contests, grants, awards and fellowships. Good luck!

Five Writing Resolutions for the New Year

A new year offers a fresh start with infinite possibilities

Before moving full-steam through the year ahead, I want to pause and reflect on the past year. Did I achieve my writing goals? And if not, why? What do I need to change to be more productive in the New Year? My pondering led to five writing resolutions.

1) Spend more time doing what I love – writing.
Here's the simple truth: to meet my writing goals for 2011, I need to write more. And the only way to produce more writing is to spend more time with my butt in the chair. (Unless of course I buy a standing desk.) So how do I create more writing time? The answer is in my next resolution:

2) Make writing my first priority.
I find that if I don’t write within an hour or two of waking, I often don’t write at all. The day fills with so many other tasks. There’s emails to return; listservs, e-zines and emails to read; facebook to scan; tweets to write; calls to make; bills to pay, emails to return, errands to run. Suddenly the sun is setting and I haven’t written a word on any of my writing projects.

From this day forward, writing comes first – right after coffee, a quick glance at my emails and twenty minutes of meditation. When it’s writing time, I shut off the cell phone, close my email program, and don’t answer the door. Avoiding distractions is part of my next resolution:

3) Stop the distractions and focus only on projects and tasks that serve my higher purpose.
If you’re like me and have a lot of interests and enjoy writing everything from greeting cards to plays, it can be easy to lose focus. This can lead to a wasted afternoon down a bunny trail on some topic of writing I’m not currently doing.

From now on, if the information doesn’t forward the course of my top goals for the year, I’ll bookmark it, file it, or delete it. Every email subscription, listserv, and blog I follow must serve my main goals for the year or I’m unsubscribing.

BTW: I sure hope this blog is serving you. If so, please join the mailing list (see the subscribe form in upper right of this page).

4) Set achievable short- and long-term goals.
I love to set writing goals – lots of them. I believe in dreaming big. But along with the goal of being a best-selling author, this year I’ll set more short-term, achievable goals that will lead me to my ultimate goal. Such as, I’ll spend four hours a day working on my novel; I’ll send out ten queries a month. I will also make my goals realistic and compatible with all the other personal and professional demands in my life. Putting too much on my plate at one time only leads to frustration.

Reaching a short-term goal makes me feel productive and gives me a sense of accomplishment. This year I’m going to throw in a little reward for each significant short-term goal I achieve, such as a Friday afternoon at the movies or a hot bubble-bath with a good book.

As writers it’s up to us to give ourselves the strokes and that’s what my final resolution is all about:

5) Be good to myself no matter what.
I will remember that there are only twenty four hours in a day and in addition to writing there is invoicing, bill paying, marketing, researching, blogging, tweeting, querying, emailing, reading, reading, and more reading. And did I mention that there are only twenty four hours in each day?

My best-laid writing plans can go awry when a friend needs a shoulder to cry on, I catch the flu, or the toilet backs up. Shit happens, sometimes literally. I will not beat myself up about not achieving a goal when an unexpected emergency arises or when a more important deadline has taken precedence.

No matter how many rejection letters and emails I receive, no matter how few pages I’ve written – no matter what – I will be good to myself. I will treat myself with the same love and compassion I give to others. I will take good care of my mind, body, and spirit by eating well, exercising, going for a walk, meditating every day, and making time for friends and family.

If I may sneak one more resolution in, it is this: To feel grateful every day that I get to do something I love and which brings me joy. BTW -- I'm talking about writing, not eating chocolate.

Whatever your goals and aspirations are in the New Year, I wish you good health, good writing, and good tidings – from agents and editors, of course.

Love and light,