Scribbling

Clothesline Notes in Jack London's Country Cottage

Courtesy Jack London State Park, Google Images

Here in Northern California, we’ve been experiencing a spate of wildfires (15 statewide total) that have all but drained our firefighting resources. A local news station did a Special Report on the damage inflicted by these wildfires, including land, homes and lives lost. Terrible. As they looked back over the past seven years to show how fires have increased in frequency and size, they focused on the 2017 Tubbs fire, the most disastrous fire in California history. They talked about how it nearly decimated the Jack London State Park in Napa County. For those of you who grew up reading great classic authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, etc., Jack London was a prolific writer and adventurer who settled here in the Napa/Sonoma region in the early 1900s. In fact, it was much of his worldwide adventuring that lead to the writing of some of the best works of the 20th century, including my personal favorites, White Fang and The Call of the Wild. 

The newscasters shared details on how State rangers packed up his personal belongings in order to save them in case the fire reached his home and property (it came close, but thankfully missed), storing them all the way out here in Sacramento for safekeeping. Now returned to its former glory, his writing room still contains all of his writing instruments and materials, his desk, and other accouterments: the twine strung across a closed-in porch, with a multitude of little notes clothes-pinned to the line. Jack scribbled these notes on small square pieces of white paper whenever something came to him (which was daily, evidently). He pinned them to the line for later use in his books. And did you know that Jack London wrote ONE THOUSAND words EVERY DAY, BY LUNCHTIME

The closest I come is a notebook marked “Write What You Know” on the front and it’s where I scribble when I need to unload. It’s not a journal; it’s simply a place to jot down whatever is rumbling around in my mind at a certain moment in time instead of pinning them around my house and looking like a crazy person. It’s where I scribbled the first chapter of my novel (I mentioned this in an older post), a dark short story, and some senseless meanderings I tore out. But I have never come close to a thousand words a day and likely never will. I’m not that motivated, even in a good month.

Out there on the world wide web you’ll find a plethora of expert advice by professional writers telling you to write daily. That’s nice if you’re fortunate to be earning a living from your writing, but what if you aren’t? And does it really matter if you write daily? I think not. I think we each should adhere to whatever writing principles fits our lifestyles, since one size surely does not fit all. Jack, like many famous writers, wrote daily (what else was there to do in the middle of a jungle at night?); I think it’s because he had so many stories in him to share it was the only way he could get to the next book. Do we have any less stories? Perhaps, perhaps not. Some of us don’t travel or adventure as much as folks did back then, when it was easier and more affordable; you didn’t need a passport (until WWI), so moving between countries was much easier. And we’re busy working full-time jobs, part-time jobs, raising families, caring for parents, finishing a college education, etc. We have (modern) lives to live! Which brings me back to the point of the title – those lives give us fodder for our stories. So if you’re not scribbling daily, that’s okay; but it’s probably a good idea to at least have a place (notebook, clothesline, etc.) for you to scribble your ideas – the good, the bad, and the ugly, so at some point you, too, can turn them into a cohesive work. Like Jack.

Scribble on!

 

From Blog to Book: Turn Your Knowledge into Profit

I recently unsubscribed from a book publisher’s blog because I wasn’t getting much from it. So I took a chance and subscribed to Joel Friedlander’s blog, The Book Designer, and haven’t regretted it. Joel is an experienced book designer, writer, and publisher, and I highly recommend you check out his blog.

In his most recent blog, Joel offers his new book, Book Construction Blueprint, for FREE. That’s right – all 225 pages – for FREE. But that’s not the point I want to make. Something in his blog got me thinking about all the writing I’ve done over the years: alt med newsletters, articles, and a nutrition book, plus two other non-fictions sitting in my computer at the moment. He wrote that his latest book is really of compilation of all the free blogs he’s written for so many years. He wrote that this is actually his second book based on his blogging that he calls ‘booking my blog’ (I like this phrase). Joel writes on his recent blog:

This is a good example of “repurposing” material that was originally free when it appeared on the blog into a financial asset that will produce income for years to come.

If you’re a blogger with specialized knowledge, and you write in logical categories, you should be able to do the same.

It got me thinking: what if I took all that information I’ve shared over the last twenty years and put it all into a book? It could be a collection of some of my best work; most of the information has remained the same, albeit a few updates. I have to spend more time working out the details but I feel renewed from this recent post.

If you have specialized knowledge, why are you not doing this? I have a friend (come to think of it, I will send him this blog immediately) who writes weekly blog articles with intelligence and a wry humor. This would be perfect for him, since he once tried to recruit me to put together a book of his blogs (it didn’t pan out at the time).  Why aren’t more people doing this? Sharing the wealth of their accumulated knowledge and specialty training? Get started now by going through your blog posts to see which ones would make it into your book. Start an outline, see where it takes you.

Copyright Tidbits

I’m a bit surprised at the lack of likes on my most recent post (A Lesson in Futility). I guess not everyone gets my sense of humor (though most of you usually do). It was meant to be a humorous look at the writing process for writers who struggle with choosing the right words (I can’t be the only one). So back to the serious writing advice, this time on copyright issues. There are some great tips provided by Joel Friedlander on The Book Designer website. Initially, I included the article here but was immediately contacted by an administrator of the site, giving me the impression I shared the article without their permission (even though I properly credited Joel and his website, and included the link to the actual article). 

Mea culpa

I still have much to learn about copyright issues, whether intentional or not. Instead, I’ve updated this post to include only the link where you can find the complete article. It’s a good read and it never hurts to be reminded of these important points. The Digital Age has certainly made copyright issues a bit more of challenge, I think, and many of us (including me) will make unintentional mistakes from time to time when sharing good information.

My apologies to Joel Friedlander and his admin and thanks for pointing out my copyright snafu!

 

http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/01/6-copyright-page-disclaimers-and-giving-credit/

 

Free Publicity: Exposure and Perhaps More

In early August, I wrote a blog on getting exposure for your work via trade journals. In continuing with this theme, Sandra Beckwith of Build Book Buzz recently followed her first blog on this subject with a second and just as informative blog on getting trade journal publicity. I admit, since my last post on this topic, I have not increased my trade journal exposure. But it’s probably due to the fact that I was a crime victim and have been focused on protecting my identity and life (update: so far, so good, but I still want my Curacao pen back).

Sandra is quick to point out that publicity is NOT advertising (duh), because you can’t buy it or control it. But it is free exposure (currently in my price range) and you do sort of have to throw caution to the wind and cross your fingers at the same time. She offers six great tips (plus two bonus tips for getting and responding to interview requests):

publicity2

1) Review several journals and issues of those journals to find out what kind of content they use. Look for a ‘news brief’ section where book announcements can be added, or whether they utilize guest columnists. Do they review books? Maybe they’ll add yours to the list.

2) Check out the editorial calendar – you can find it online or request it from the editor. That way you’ll know what goes in the publication and when it goes out to the public.

3) Make a list of how you can contribute to the publication’s content. Personally, I’m not much of a list-maker so this one won’t get me far. I’ll know whether or not I want to write for a publication once I review its contents.

4) Find out who the contact person is for a specific topic/department (if applicable). Last thing you want to do is send an article to a person who doesn’t handle the section/topic you write about. Check the masthead (also called the impressum) for the necessary information.

5) Map out your strategy – this includes a press release or an offer to send a review copy (again, make sure you have the right contact person). In her article, Sandra offers a link for writing a press release.

6) And finally – send your pitch (okay, this is the one I need). If you’re pitching an article or guest column, make sure you know what they want (subjects) and what they use. Again, a cool link on how to email a press release to a journalist/editor.

Bear in mind that there is no guarantee from this endeavor; however, I’m willing to roll the dice and see how it plays out. I got lucky with one trade journal and perhaps I will again. Sometimes you just need to be patient and build momentum.

Showcase Your Work: Trade Journals

I don’t know about you, but I’m overwhelmed by all the internet options for marketing books. Where to begin? Which to choose? How much to spend? On a weekly basis, I scour newly discovered sites hour after hour, page by page…then I’m back to feeling overwhelmed, because there are far too many options. I’m driving myself crazy with agida (see this  post) while trying to keep track of all the marketing options and whether or not they’ll work for me.

Then a book blog I subscribe to sent an interesting post this week on marketing our work in, of all places, trade journals. What a great idea! idea light bulb

Why didn’t I think of that before? Oh, wait…I have…at least once…which is why my work (actually, an excerpt of my nutrition book) is currently published in Qi Journal magazine. Based on the blog’s suggestions, I opened my ‘ideas notebook’ titled “The best way to get something done is to begin” and started making a list of trade publications in my field. Why didn’t I think of this before? 

 

Qi Journal Summer 2016

All too often, I get caught up with and excited by the new opportunity and forget to continue down that same road to increase my chances of success. Do any of you experience this? You know, the can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees kind of thinking? Or maybe the internet is finally frying my gray cells to the point of no return from all the TMI (too much information)…

My trade journal list is a work in progress; I have to do a bit more research but am hopeful of the success I will have, based on my good luck with Qi Journal. When their Summer issue came out, a fellow acupuncturist contacted and informed me that she loved the article/excerpt and purchased a copy of my book. It was the validation (from a professional colleague) I sought for work well done. And it has provided the confidence to submit my work to other journals in my profession.

If you don’t have a ‘profession’ to speak of, don’t be afraid to send your work to trade publications that are related to your subject matter, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. Take a chance on an area where your target market is already defined – and ripe for the picking.

 

 

 

 

Subliminal Messages and The Call of the Word

Do you notice how your writing takes on a life of its own once a project is started? Do you wonder how you got started on it to begin with? I only recently realized that happened to me. After completing the grueling self-publishing process of my nutrition book (Agida/Agita No More), I thought about writing another  book on Chinese dietary therapy, detailing how foods can heal specific Western diseases. Then I summarily dismissed it. I was exhausted mentally and felt I did not have it left in me to start another painstaking journey down the nonfiction road. 

Everywhere I went, people asked me, “How do you treat disease X, Y, Z?” when I talked about/marketed my book. I wondered if perhaps it would make sense to write a companion book, to clarify how to eat to heal Western diseases from an Eastern perspective. Once again, I quickly dismissed the idea and bristled at the thought of going through that process again. Something nagged at me – it happens to a lot of writers, I will assume – and ideas formed in my mind about how I could actually write the book that so many seem to have hinted they needed.

As I write this blog entry, I’ve already completed chapters one and two of the new nutrition book and am now working on chapter three. So much for avoiding agida. But the call from so many turned out to be a subliminal message that I finally heard (okay, so I’m a little slow on the uptake). I have found this book a bit easier to write since I’m keeping the formatting style from the first book. That means all I have to do is plug in the information, as some of the information is repeated from the first book. I love the copy/paste function! 

It was a great release to finally get the myriad rambling ideas out of my head and onto paper (though more continue to take shape since I’ve made room up there). Subliminal or not, it has occurred to me that, simply put, writers must write. Regardless of the subject, we must give in to ‘the call of the word’. 

My advice: Pay attention to the hidden messages all around you. Let them be your muse, let them inspire you to answer your ‘call of the word.’

Success and Failure: The Yang and Yin of Writing (& Life)

I’m more than a bit of a fatalist. I start each day at my computer by checking a particular set of websites: my blog (Mestengo Books), my Fan pages (ROWT, 5 Element Nutrition), and my LinkedIn page. Before I do all that, I check my “fate” for the day at ifate – I leave it up to the Universe as to which type of fortune-telling card shows up (I-Ching, Tarot, or Runes). Today, it was an I-Ching reading that I found relevant and is my lesson for the next twenty-four hours: Hexagram 47 (this link provides a fuller explanation).

In summary, the lesson of Hexagram 47 for today is about oppression and hope – that even during difficult or bad times we must dig down deep, not fear failure (the inevitable downswing of the life/writing-cycle), quietly embrace it, and carry on with the understanding (hope) that all will be better again (the inevitable upswing of the life/writing-cycle). Does that sound like your life or your writing? It certainly does mine. 

It got me to thinking – since I’m licensed in Chinese medicine and I see the world through the lens of Yin/Yang relationships (Universal Law of Unity of Opposites) – that oppression, defined in the hexagram as “a form of troublesome worries,” is a kind of Yin/failure that sooner or later will turn into Yang/success in the cycle of life/writing. Some days the words flow, other days they don’t. Today I struggle with finding the right words for this blog while I wrestle with a work-related decision that must be made. I can’t wait for that upswing…

I’ve also been struggling with marketing my new book (due mainly to budget constraints and lack of marketing acumen) and am looking at non-mainstream options. I know it won’t be a NY Times bestseller and I’m okay with that – it’s not what I really want anyway, because it’s not where I fit. It’s been a slow climb. Recently, however, I’ve had the good fortune to be published in Qi Journal, a wonderful publication highlighting Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Chinese medicine, martial arts and Chinese culture in general. As a result, sales of my book increased. And I’ve been invited to publish with them again (and possibly ongoing). It was a chance email I’d sent to  them inquiring about writing an article for them (because I was looking for different avenues for book marketing) and ended up with the opportunity to publish a portion of my book. Talk about Yin moving into Yang!

Failure  happens to everyone. It’s how you handle the failure. Ride it out, like a big bump in the road and you’ll come out the other side wiser, and perhaps, more successful. In whatever way that means for you.

failure should be our teacher