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Archive for the ‘creative coaching’ Category

I am posting another doodle prompt for Alison Hertz’s Doodle Day July.

Today’s prompt is from a workshop I took many years ago. The workshop was based on the book “Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God” by Sybil MacBeth. I must admit that I have not read the book. I have chosen to title this doodle prompt “Wishing in Color” so that it fits all people regardless of their religious beliefs.

As with all doodling, this method is a way to quiet the body and still the mind. It is a simple process. All you have to do is focus on what you wish for and doodle. In the examples below, I mostly doodled with wishes for loved ones. The doodle with the word “home” was my wish for all our troops to return home unharmed. Some portions on the doodles examples have been covered because I didn’t want to publicize full names.

I hope this doodling process brings you the connection and peace that I found as I doodle-wished for my loved ones.

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OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT FIND INTERESTING

Mandala-Doodle Samples

Including Art Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts

Twelve Methods for Coping with Rejection

Failing Your Way to Success

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There are some weeks where it makes more sense to let other people do the blog writing.

I’ll start with Marcie Flinchum Atkins and her “We’re All in This Together” series. This month, the subject is motivation. Part One features stories and tips from Sue Heavenrich, Carol Munro, Vivian Kirkfield, and Marcie Flinchum Atkins. Part Two features the one and only ME. In this guest post, I offer ten common obstacles to staying motivated to write. I follow each one with suggestions for overcoming that obstacle.

Carol Munro continues the motivation theme in her guest post for Donna Martin’s “Writerly Wisdom” series. The title of the post is “Dealing with Deadlines.” Carol gives tips for keeping deadlines for both professional and personal writing commitments. These tips on meeting deadlines crossover to staying motivated to write.

Earlier this month, I mentioned Alison Kipnis Hertz and her “Doodle Day May” challenge. Today, I am excited to share that Alison will be continuing Doodle Day May in July. The challenge is to doodle every day in the month of July. Each day, Alison will post a doodling prompt, and all the doodlers in the group do their best to find time to doodle that day. The next day participants share doodles on the Doodle Day May Facebook page. This time around, Alison has asked for help coming up with prompts. I am happy to say that I will be contributing three prompts in July. At the end of this post, I have shared some of my favorite doodles from May. I tend to get carried away at times, so some drawings may seem like more than doodles. But the perfect thing about this group of doodlers is that there are no judgments, just lots of support and encouragement. This challenge was extra fun for me because my daughter and granddaughter did the challenge with me. Thanks to technology, we were able to share our doodles across the 900 miles that separate us. That reminds me, this challenge is open to all ages. It is the perfect thing for children who need something fun to do while out of school for the summer.

My last share of the day is Kristen Fulton’s “Nonfiction Picture Book Week” challenge. For one week, participants will be challenged to perfect, hone and produce great Non-Fiction Picture Books. This includes True Non-Fiction (Biographies and Historical events; How-To books and information or reference books); Faction (Facts presented in a fictitious way); and Historical Fiction (totally fictitious story based on real people, real events or real places). Kristen is offering some outstanding prizes to those who participate.

I posted this without sharing my doodles from Doodle Day May. If you would like to see them you can find them here.

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I am happy to introduce today’s guest blogger, Steve Kemp. Steve is the publisher of my picture book “Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa,” and he is my husband. Unlike me, “the author,” his impetus for Blue Whale Press was to build a company that published books – looking solely upon the opportunity to publish my book as any investor would.

After my interview with Kathryn Otoshi, some people commented that they had no idea how much was involved in independent publishing. Steve’s post sheds more light on the trials and tribulations of bringing a book to market as he sees them. His post appears below.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A PUBLISHER?

by Steve Kemp, Publisher, Blue Whale Press LLC

Most writers want to be published. But how many actually want to become publishers?

When asked for my views on what constitutes the difference between “publishing” and “self-publishing,” my immediate reply was patterned after David Letterman’s Top Ten list: “You’ll know if you are a publisher when . . .”

  1. You focus on building a company, not a book. After all, your long-term intent is to publish more than one title. Because you are establishing a foundation, there is a lot to be done, including web construction (with perhaps a mechanism for payment); development of an automated database for inventory movement (and possibly financial accounting); compliance with local and federal laws (including incorporation and obtaining an employee identification number, or EIN); and things like “the name.” You put a lot of thought into “the name” because it needs to stand out and be unique, especially in today’s world of search engine optimization (SEO is something you later get to learn a lot about as you develop your corporate brand and market your books). While most of this sounds complicated and possibly even tedious, look at the bright side: You’ve gotten to create a really cool logo that is your very own and, when done, puts significant reality to the fact that you are “in business.”
  2. You focus on the money. That’s right, money matters. Every business needs to pay its investors back and then some. Making a return that is sufficient to return the initial investment and, with luck, reward you for your risk and effort is a necessary function to the process. If you didn’t know something about Excel for building business plans and QuickBooks for sales and shipment accounting, you will probably want to learn them. While many, many businesses have operated for centuries without these tools, few accountants in this age will appreciate you walking in the day before taxes are due with a shoebox full of receipts and a smile.
  3. You build solid relationships with those whom you depend upon for sales. Unless you plan to become a bookstore instead of a publisher, you focus heavily on third party distribution that can scale your sales (Blue Whale Press does this to the exclusion of all retail outlet and consumer sales, Amazon.com excepted). You start with inclusion into Bowker’s “Books in Print,” at which point you pony up the couple hundred dollars for a block of ISBN assignments (one title can minimally consume three ISBNs if it is printed on paper as well as the two common e-book formats). You do this early, as it requires time for your company’s name and books to become visible to buyers. Once done, and you have a vehicle in which to advertise your title(s) (e.g., a “tear sheet”), you start getting the major book distributors onboard. This is tough when you are new, but certainly not impossible. It is important that distributors know you are in it for the long haul, particularly when unsold copies come flowing back in (and they will at times).
  4. You learn how to negotiate intellectual property contracts. This is key: Unless the publisher is also the sole illustrator and author, rights and payments need to be clearly understood and fully agreed to in writing by all parties before production. It is best to obtain the services of an attorney versed in media and intellectual property rights for this. Clearly, a self-publisher using a vanity press (e.g., Brown, Tate) doesn’t get involved in this except to the extent that a contract is reached between the author and the publisher assigning rights and transferring consideration. Going this route carries certain advantages in that you are relieved the headaches of figuring out how to layout your books, print your books; store your books; ISBN procurement and assignment; and filing each edition with the Library of Congress, as well as updating all your marketing materials. However, you will pay for this service, and you are never fully relieved of the marketing responsibilities (more on that below).
  5. You learn how to negotiate and manage supply agreements, possibly with overseas printers. While print-on-demand presses (e.g., Book Surge, LuLu) can take care of the printing for you, this will eat into your profits immensely. As a rule of thumb, you need to be able to sell your books for fifty-five percent off the published list price (the “net price”) while remaining price competitive and making a profit. This generally requires volume production. Beyond the cost of goods sold (about $2.50 for the typical children’s picture book, depending upon the print run size), you’ll also need to tack on monthly storage and shipping (yes, you are the one who generally pays for shipping, and no, you probably don’t have the climate-controlled storage space necessary for something the size and weight of a Volkswagen Beetle). Furthermore, you’ll need to tack on web hosting, phone service with a fax (surprisingly, a very popular distributor still employs that method); and the litany of other expenses that come with running a business.
  6. You become knowledgeable in pre-press operations, including book layout, type selection, and production. If necessary, you spend several thousand dollars on this alone using the services of an outside contractor. It is vital that the printer get files of the right specification. Knowing how to layout a bound book using Adobe’s InDesign and studying Pantone chips for hours isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you are thankful for the experience once you’ve acquired it.
  7. You focus the remaining fifty percent of your time on marketing and sales, recognizing that the six steps mentioned prior are already consuming one hundred percent of your time. To be fair, much of the upfront work is done while your author and illustrator continue to refine their product. However, the publisher must still be involved when continual revisions are sent back and forth to the suppliers you’ve contracted for both editing and proofreading. You insist upon a second and third set of eyes because people are all-too-often capable of overlooking their own mistakes. I recommend maintaining both an editor and a proofreader in your supply chain, as you will overpay for editing if only proofreading is needed. Moreover, you will also want these talents to review your marketing materials and website content, including helping you to master the ability of saying as much as possible in the minimalistic word count Google AdWords and others allow.
  8. You take every opportunity no matter how small to promote your titles by entering as many contests and submitting to as many reviews as you can, likely spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the process. As the old adage goes, “Fifty percent of my marketing budget is a waste. Unfortunately, I don’t know which fifty percent.” Initially, you burn through dollar bills or euros at a very high rate. But you need the exposure. Whether you do this, or a vanity press does it for you; it needs to be done. You can have the greatest title in the world, but it will be wasted if no one knows about it. Regardless of the cost, there is a lot to be said for that feeling you will get upon winning your first award or seeing your first review.
  9. You take nothing for granted, and you check everyone’s work down to the last detail. Quality is paramount because it reflects upon you and the company. After many excruciating reviews, a punctuation error was found in “Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa” – while the galleys were sitting on the press! The reality is that most publishers would have let a couple of poorly formed ellipses go once the offset printers were inked to go. But not this one. A quick ten minute phone call at midnight with our wonderful overseas partner, who was fourteen hours distant in time zones, and a PowerPoint markup resolved the issue. A good read on how attention to detail makes a difference can be found in “Inside the Magic Kingdom” by Tom Connellan. While the book is nearly twenty years old, the principles inside it are just as relevant to running your business today as they were in 1996. I advise any new business owner and marketer to read it.
  10. You likely get to do some of your own writing from time to time, but it is restricted to marketing and promotion material because YOU run the business. Your job is to ensure the business’s sustainability, which during the first couple of years often means investing more of your personal savings instead of hosting the company’s sales meeting on some exotic island. You focus on improving operational efficiency so you can spend more time on promotion. For example, automate the sales and distribution processes as much as possible (web driven) so manual processes and bookkeeping aren’t all-consuming. Also, unless you want to play with bubble wrap in between daily trips to the post office, you outsource the packaging and shipping. Figure out what works – and as importantly, what doesn’t.

In addition to the above, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the vast amount of help that is available at guru.com. It is a tremendous resource when you need to find specialized talent and don’t know where to start (although a cautionary note is advised when it comes to website development, and you can find my personal comments on that at the Blue Whale Press design page.

Lastly, keep in mind that the world of publishing is evolving rapidly. According to the Association of American Publishers and BookStats, e-books comprised 20% of the trade in 2012. Much of this was attributed to adult fiction and early readers. So, where does this leave children’s picture books?

It is this publisher’s opinion that pad technology will evolve over the next couple of years to avail more durable and much lower-cost devices to younger audiences. You’ve likely seen how quickly children have adapted to the iPhone/iPod and its Android brethren as they play with mom and dad’s smartphones in the grocery store or restaurant. They instantly “get it.” As a result, this publisher fully expects to see Amazon, and possibly Hasbro or Mattel, introduce the e-reader to younger audiences over the next couple of years. When that happens, the production of children’s books will no longer be just about writing, artwork, and printing; it will be about content development (specifically animation), electronic distribution, and digital rights management. And, hopefully, some of these new operating and production costs will offset the constantly increasing costs of storage, distribution, and printing that makes publishing such a tough business to make money in to begin with. Because of this, Blue Whale Press has re-evaluated our business model going forward and has already decided to forego further paper printing. The impact on submissions is that we are now only looking at author/illustrators who can produce a compelling product within a new digital world that borders on application development.

I wish the best of luck to each of you. Whether you decide to become a publisher, self-publish using another publishing house, or are fortunate enough to land the contract of a lifetime, I hope you enjoy the journey.

SK

Steve Kemp

Publisher and Member Manager

Blue Whale Press LLC

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Before I get started on my social networking post, I would like to give a shout out to Alison Hertz and her Doodle Day May challenge. During the challenge, Alison offered a doodle prompt every day in May and we doodled. Then we shared our doodles on her Doodle Day May Facebook page. It was inspirational and fun. I will be posting more about this in the future, but I wanted to mention it today because it truly has been a great experience.

Now on to my intended post. . . .

Have you ever felt like the main character in a horror story titled THE SOCIAL NETWORK MONSTER THAT ATE AN AUTHOR? (And we are talking the author as main character, not the monster 🙂 ) If you have ever felt like the main character, it might be time to reevaluate how you are spending your time and energy.

A while back, I read a Facebook post that went something like this: When I am about to die and my life flashes before my eyes, I’m afraid all I’ll see is Facebook and television. I thought the post was pretty funny. However, as I once heard a famous comedian say, “There is humor in tragedy.”

Back in February, the featured guest blogger for Donna Martin’s Writerly Wisdom series was the award-winning author, Donna M. McDine. The title of this post is “Social Networking Enough Already . . . When It Hinders Your Writing.” Following is a quote from her post.

“Do you want to concentrate on honing your writing skills and writing the best manuscript possible or have hundreds of thousands followers on your social networks with no concrete publishing credits to show for your efforts?”

I made a note of the above quote because I wanted to remember it. I believe it is a good question for writers to ask themselves periodically.

In my January post, A FULFILLING LIFE IS ONE OF BALANCE, I offered an exercise using the Writing Wheel for Creating Balance. Today, I’m wondering if I should have included categories on the wheel for Social Networking and Energy. One of the categories I did offer on the wheel was “Time.” Time is critical in a writer’s life. Time and energy are valuable and limited personal resources. When these resources run dry, so does the opportunity to accomplish our goals. How can a writer maintain balance in life or as a writer if s/he squanders these resources by spending excessive time on social networking?

I feel like I must disclose that I sometimes find myself distracted by social networks and media. After all, I am human. Like time and energy, social media and networking are extremely important and valuable to writers, but if we are not careful, we can be swallowed by the monster and never see the light of a writer’s day – earning concrete publishing credits. Time spent not writing and submitting is time spent not meeting our number one goal.

How are you spending your time?

LET YOUR YEAH MEAN YEAH AND YOUR NO MEAN NO 

When it comes to how we spend our time, one thing we all seem to have in common is an abundance of life choices. We have a never-ending supply of things we feel we must do and things people expect us to do. Then there are all those things that are just too good to pass up. One of the consequences of over choosing is we often end up spending our lives expending ourselves as if we are unlimited, and we are not. When it comes to life choices, one of the most empowering skills we can learn is the ability to say no. The ability to say no to the boss; the spouse; the friends; the TV; the overtime; the recreation and social engagements; social networking and to ourselves. I am not suggesting that we say no to everything. I am suggesting saying no to the combination of things that will create balance when we let them go.

Saying no is a learnable skill, but it is one of the most difficult skills for some women to learn. However, it is one of the most valuable skills because learning to say no becomes a way to honor your values and yourself. Saying no involves choice because when we say no to one thing, we say yes to something else. It is all about choosing to say yes to things that make us more alive and saying no to things that suck the life from us. It is as simple as asking yourself: “What do I want more of in my life?” and “What do I want less of?”

When you first start exercising your right to say no, you might have worries: But saying no is rude. Saying no means, you are not a team player. Saying no means, you are selfish, and on and on it goes. It is important to remember that for every yes you say in life, you are saying no to something else. For example, if someone says yes to working late hours every day, she might be saying no to family and rest. She might be saying yes to her fear of losing her job and yes to powerlessness. Or maybe she is saying no to serenity and yes to security. If someone says no to getting up and exercising in the morning, she might be saying yes to feeling warm and cozy. She might be saying yes to an extra ten pounds or getting more sleep. When a writer says yes to excessive time social networking, she might be saying no to writing. She might be saying no to submitting. And she might be saying no to publication. On the other hand, she might be saying yes to I need a break and a little friendly chatting or learning.

Where and when do you respond with an automatic yes? When and where do you respond with an automatic no? When do you say yes when you really want to say no? When do you say no when you really want to say yes? When does saying yes drain you and saying no energize you? When does saying yes energize you and saying no drain you? Following is a worksheet that might be helpful in evaluating what you say no to when you say yes and what you say yes to when you say no.

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This week’s post touches on three things.

1. My exciting announcement

2. Using the word titled versus entitled

3. Marcie Flinchum Atkins’s great blog series “We’re All in This Together”

EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT – COMING SOON! INTERVIEW WITH AWARD-WINNING  AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR KATHRYN OTOSHI

Kathryn Otoshi is the author/illustrator of many picture books, including the highly successful picture books “One” and “Zero.”

In a question and answer format, Ms. Otoshi shares what it is like to be an extremely successful independent publisher. She gives tips and shares her experience as an author, illustrator and independent publisher. You won’t want to miss this interview.

TITLED VERSUS ENTITLED

I just saw it again this week. . . . “Thank you for considering my story entitled, Bla-Bla-Bla.

Over the years, I have seen the word entitled misused all over the place. I have even seen it in published books about writing. To make matters worse, in one book, the error is in an example of a query letter. This means that anyone following this example is sending a letter to a publisher or agent with a writing error that was passed down by an expert. I think it is time I stop letting this bug me by sharing a bit about it on my blog. By the way, in the above example the word entitled should be titled. “Thank you for considering my story titled, Bla-Bla-Bla.” or you could drop the word “titled” all together. “Thank you for considering my story, Bla-Bla-Bla.”

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I offer links to three articles on the subject below. Happy reading!

Purdue.edu – AgComm: Agricultural Communication – “Grammar Trap: titled vs. entitled”

Daily Writing Tips – “Titled versus Entitled”

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing – “Titled or Entitled?

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

About a month ago, Marcie Flinchum Atkins started her blog series, “We’re All in this Together.” Marcie and a group of other talented and experienced writers share many inspiring and enlightening personal stories and tips related to the topic of the week. I believe after this week, the series will become a monthly post. Each post makes for a very interesting read, and I encourage you to visit Marcie’s blog, if you have not done so already.

Here is a list of the first four topics posted.

1. Rejection

2. Making Time to Write

3. Revisions

4. Books that Impact Writers

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catch that babyOne day, I was studying Nancy Coffelt’s picture book, CATCH THAT BABY! Illustrated by Scott Nash (Aladdin 2011). I realized Nancy must have had to write a lot of art notes for this story. If you give CATCH THAT BABY a read, you will see how I came to this conclusion.

I had the good fortune of having Nancy as an instructor for my advanced course with The Institute of Children’s Literature, and we have continued to stay in contact. I emailed Nancy and asked her if she would have time to share with me the proper way to submit a manuscript with art notes. Not only was she gracious enough to help me out, she is also allowing me to share this information with you.

This year, Aladdin released a second Baby Rudy book UH-OH BABY! Also written by Nancy Coffelt and illustrated by Scott Nash. To give me examples of how she handles art notes for these “art note dependent” books, Nancy has shared a VERY EARLY draft (she wants me to stress “very early draft”) of UH-OH BABY! What I am sharing today is a work in progress. The fun thing about this is if you read the final product, you will be able to see the evolution of UH-OH BABY! from rough draft to published book. UH-OH BABY 2

Before I offer what Nancy shared with me, I want to clarify a few things.

  • What I am presenting is the actual manuscript format that Nancy uses. I kind of see it as being more of a script. This format works best for her art note dependent stories.
  • “Off screen” means the character that is speaking is not visible to the reader.
  • “Panel” or “panel sequence” means several panels of illustrations on one page or spread.

Now for Nancy’s email to me. Although she sent me the complete manuscript, I have opted to share only a portion of it.

(email) Alayne, I am pasting a very early draft of my latest book UH-OH BABY! Everything that is in brackets is an art note. Since I already had a working relationship with this editor, she understood that the bracketed areas were art notes. But if this were a new relationship I would have made it clear that’s what they were. A cover letter would be a good place to state that information. Perhaps under the title on the manuscript a brief note such as: Art notes are in brackets–might be a good idea as well.

Page 4-5: [half title]

[Page 4: Mom opening present.]

Mom: It’s wonderful!

[(panels) Rudy looks on. Rudy runs off.]

[Page 5: Rudy finds ladybug.]

Page 6-7: [Title page, panel sequence, Rudy runs back to family.]

Page 8-9: [Rudy presents Mom with ladybug.

Mom: Hello Rudy! What do you have?

[Ladybug flies off.]

Mom: Oopsie, Rudy!

Rudy: No oopsie! Wonderful!

Page 10-11: [Brother walking past, Rudy holding blocks]

Brother: Hello Rudy! What are you doing?

[Rudy looks at blocks and then frenzied Rudy building action. In all the frenzied action scenes, no one is watching so the outcome is always a surprise.]

Rudy: (off screen) Wonderful!

Page 12-13: [Big reveal-amazing block construction. Mom and brother are so impressed]

Crash! [Buddy crashes into block tower and it collapses: no dialogue; like a comic book]

Mom: Rats!

Rudy: No Rats! Wonderful! [off to the next one…]

Page 14-15: [Rudy and Buddy in the backyard.]

Dad: Hello, Rudy! What are you up to?

[Rudy looks at flowers and then frenzied Rudy garden action]

Rudy: (offscreen) Wonderful!

Page 16-17: [Big reveal—Rudy briings in a flower sculpture of Buddy? Mom and Dad are so impressed]

Slurp! [Buddy jumps on Mom, muddy footprints everywhere, sculpture flies apart]

Mom: Icky, Rudy!

Rudy: No icky! Wonderful! [and off to the next one… Can Rudy look a little less enthusiastic with each exit to show he’s getting either discouraged or frustrated?]

Page 18-19: [Sister painting]

Sister: Hello, Rudy! What’s going on?

[Rudy looks at art supplies and then frenzied Rudy art action]

Rudy: (off screen) Wonderful!

Page 20-21: [Big reveal—amazing collage type painting of Mom. Mom and sister are so impressed]

Whoosh! [A gust of wind blows the pieces of paper all over]

Mom: Shucks, Rudy!

Rudy: No shucks! Wonderful! [off he goes…]

A big thanks to Nancy Coffelt for giving us an inside look at her creative world.

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ABOUT NANCY 

Nancy Coffelt began her career as a fine artist and soon branched out into illustration and writing for young people. While she is known for her bright oil pastel imagery and humorous picture books, Nancy’s young adult work has an edgier side. Her books have garnered praise ranging from starred reviews from Kirkus, Horn Book and SLJ as well as her FRED STAYS WITH ME receiving an ALA Notable mention as well as the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award.

Nancy lives, paints, writes, teaches and obeys the whims of her family’s two small dogs in Oregon.

Here are links to Nancy’s books currently in print.

Catch That Baby!

Uh-Oh Baby!

Fred Stays With Me!

Aunt Ant Leaves through the Leaves

Pug in a Truck

Big, Bigger, BIGGEST!

SOME OTHER EXCELLENT POSTS ABOUT ART NOTES

Susanna Leonard Hill: Oh Susanna – How Do You Handle Illustrator Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts?

Picture Book Den: How do you present a picture book text to a publisher? By Ragnhild Scamell

Tara Lazar, Writing for Kids: Art Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts

KidLit.com: Should You Include Illustrator Notes in Your Picture Book?

PLEASE SHARE: HOW DO YOU HANDLE ART NOTES?

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My friend Marcie Flinchum Atkins has started a blog series for writers titled WE ARE  ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Each week, Marcie’s blog will feature a different topic, and her writer friends will share their thoughts on the subject. This week’s topic is REJECTION. Marcie has shared some of my thoughts on her blog. I decided I would have a little more fun by offering additional thoughts on my blog. Following are twelve ideas on how one might cope with receiving a rejection letter. I want to warn you in advance that some are tongue-in-cheek fun and others are a little more serious.

1. Scream, cry, and swear. Wad the rejection letter into a ball, throw it at things and stomp on it. When you are done, if you still don’t feel better, consider using it for toilet paper 🙂

2. Print out a photo of the agent or editor who sent the rejection. Draw a mustache, beard, bushy eyebrows, and scars on his/her face. If she/he is smiling, black out some of her/his teeth. If you still don’t feel better, try drawing a target on the photo and throwing darts at it.

Now that I have had a little fun at the expense of agents and editors, I have to say that their jobs are also difficult. They must weed through tons of submissions and make tough decisions. Yet, many of them are kind enough to let us down easy and sometimes even offer helpful suggestions. They are instrumental in forcing us to grow as writers, so I can’t beat them up too much in the name of fun.

3. Grow more bitter with each rejection until you hate anyone who gets an agent or a contract. Really, really hate the writers who are so successful that it seems they have a new contract every time you turn around. Really, really, really hate the ones who have books going into their third printing and are being published in twenty different languages. Hate until you are so green with envy that you are mistaken for an alien. Hate until you can’t stand yourself.

4. Tell yourself that you have no business writing. Tell yourself that you are worthless when it comes to writing. Tell yourself, “What’s the use in trying. I’ll never get anywhere. I give up.” Then stop writing.

5. Once you give up on writing, spend the time you used to spend on writing and submitting by sleeping, staring at the television (on or off) drinking wine and/or eating the most unhealthy foods you can think of. Of course, there is always the old standby . . . eating ice cream straight from the carton.

6. Journal about your feelings or vent to a friend, then get back on that writing horse and write.

7. Meditate or pray until you are at peace, then get back on that writing horse and write.

8. Write a poem or prayer of release, then read it aloud as you burn the rejection letter (or something that represents the rejection). Let it go, and get back on that writing horse and write.

9. Collect rejections as badges of honor. They honor your hard work and dedication, your resilience and your courage. If a writer plays it safe and never submits, a writer cannot possibly get published. Each rejection is proof that you are one step closer to publication. Remember, there are no publishing ninjas sneaking into writers’ homes in search for the perfect story.

10. Keep all your rejection letters in a nice box with a ribbon or some other place that makes them feel like treasured memories. When you get published, you can encourage other writers by sharing how many rejections you received before your first book was published.

11. No matter how many rejections you get, love every person you know who gets an agent or contract. Really, really love the ones that are so successful that it seems they have a new contract every time you turn around. Really, really, really love the ones who have books going into their third printing and are being published in twenty different languages. Love until your heart is so full of joy that you are viewed as a happy and successful writer. Love until you are so encouraged and inspired by these published writers that you believe it can happen for you.

12. Change your perspective. As weights are important to the body builder’s growth, rejections are important to the writer’s growth. With the right perspective, rejections can build your writing muscles and thicken your skin. You can become stronger. And as you become stronger, you will find that each rejection can energize you and push you to work even harder. You have a choice. You can prove those who have rejected your work to be right, or you can prove them wrong. The only way to prove them wrong is to get back on that writing horse and keep writing until you have reached your destination.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES

1. What funny things do you do in response to rejections?

2. What self-defeating things do you do in response to rejections?

3. What positive, strength building methods do you have for coping with rejections?

I plan to offer more posts about rejection and perspective. Today I will leave you with the thought that there are many reasons manuscripts get rejected. A lot of them might have to do with personal tastes, requirements, and sometimes even the mood the editor is in. However, sometimes rejections are based on things that the writer can change or improve. Here are a few links that discuss reasons for rejections and one blog post about looking at rejections from a positive perspective.

Marcie’s WE ARE  ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Jessica P. Morrell’s 25 Reasons Why Manuscripts Get Rejected

Susie Yakowicz, Writing for Kids: 10 Reasons Manuscripts Get Rejected

Romelle Broas, Rejection Letters – From a Positive Perspective

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Where do you draw the line when it comes to changing your story based on critiques and edits?

A few years back, I shared with my six-year-old granddaughter that my writing instructor wanted me to make drastic changes to one of my picture book stories.

I said, “If I make the changes that she wants me to make, it won’t be my story. . . .”

My granddaughter finished my sentence. “It will be hers.”

At the time, I thought, Wow, this is a no-brainer. Even a six-year-old can see it. I ignored my instincts and changed the story anyway. In this case, I think it might have been for the best. I love the new version. However, things did not go so well for another one of my stories.

I loved this story. It tugged at heartstrings. It was action-filled. And it was technically sound. Then the edits started. I made my first edits based on suggestions from my critique group. The next edits were steered by a professional critique editor’s suggestions. A copy editor made the final edits. For the most part, I was still happy with my story. However, the word count haunted me. It was around 1,000 words. After having “500 words – 500 words – 500 words!” drilled into my head by the writing community, I figured this story didn’t have a chance unless I word-chopped it to pieces. Instead, I left it as is and turned it in for a writing assignment.

My instructor helped me edit the story down to 650 words. I was thrilled until I realized that we had word-chopped the heart out of the story. It was a skeleton of “my” story. I ignored my instincts because I was excited that I finally had a short picture book. After all, that’s what “they” say will sell.

Although my instincts told me something was missing, I trusted that my instructor knew best and ignored my inner voice. I started submitting the story. With each rejection, I ignored my disappointment and instincts. I continued submitting until an editor sent me a rejection with two sentences that helped me see where I had gone wrong.

She wrote, “. . .  Also this story does not have enough scenes for a book. It is more of a length for a magazine piece.”

I immediately became defensive. First thinking, I know what I’m doing. Of course, there are enough scenes for a book. I would never submit something so messed up.

Then I found myself speaking aloud to no one, “What! Not enough scenes? You’re crazy!”

I had to prove that crazy editor wrong. I opened my document, studied the scenes and paginated the manuscript. It was a push to get twenty pages out of the manuscript. Now, feeling a bit crazy myself, I did the only thing any self-respecting author would do. I went back to my original, action-filled, heartstring-pulling story. It had 29 pages worth of scenes. It had a tighter beginning. And it was “my” story not “theirs.”

My disappointment and anger at the editor has since transformed to gratefulness. What a great wakeup call.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. Do not lose your focus on ANY aspect of your story telling. I was so focused on 500-words that I forgot the basic elements of picture book writing.

2.  Do not get lazy or overconfident and bypass using a dummy book to test your scenes and pages. Always test the final manuscript before submitting. I had initially tested my manuscript with a dummy book. However, I never realized how drastically it had all changed in the end. If I had tested the final product, I could have saved myself this embarrassment.

3. Do not trust others more than yourself. Even though the story no longer felt like mine, I continued to ignore my instincts. I forced my authentic self to write what I thought they wanted. If you try making changes others have recommended and your instincts tell you it is better for you, follow your authentic path and see where it takes you. However, listen with respect if your instincts scream, “This does not work for me!”

4. Rejections are not all bad.

It took me a long time to get over the embarrassment of submitting something “so messed up.” I had to work hard to make peace with the fact that I presented that manuscript to the agents and editors that were gracious enough to read it. I initially saw these submissions as blown opportunities. Now, I am viewing them as opportunities to learn.

You can bet it will never happen again.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE STORY?

I put it aside, trusting that I would know when to pick it back up.  Recently, I considered what the editor had said about it being better suited for a magazine. I decided to cut even more words from the story and submit it for the 2013 Highlights’ Fiction contest. In addition, it is still there awaiting its return to a touching, action-filled picture book (otherwise known as “my” story).

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My last post encouraged you to exercise your right to change your mind. This week’s post is about exercising your right to be imperfect, make mistakes and fail. By exercising this right, you open yourself to learning, growing and succeeding.

Some writers perceive rejection letters as failures. This can create a sense of fear each time we go through the submission process. I say embrace these fears and perceived failures. Why would I suggest we embrace fear and rejections? Because each time we muster the courage to submit, and each time we receive a rejection letter, we have an opportunity to learn and grow. The following quote demonstrates how one might grow from being imperfect. Just like Michael Jordan, we can fail our way to success.

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game’s winning shot . . . and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why . . . I succeed.”      — Michael Jordan

The next time you fear submitting a manuscript, or you become frustrated or sad about receiving a rejection letter, remember that these are merely steps along your personal road to success.

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Before, I start my ‘Chooser’s Remorse Clause” post, I want to do a quick check in with my blog followers. I have been wondering if my Life Balance blog series is time well spent on my part. This is important to me because I want to find the best possible use for my blog, and if I am not moving in the right direction, I need to know. I am considering dropping the Life Balance series. I would appreciate comments or email if you have been following this series and if you have any interest in seeing it continue. Thank you in advance for your time.

Now, on to the post!

People often fear making the wrong decision. This fear can grow to such proportions that it prevents people from taking any action, and they remain stuck in place. There is no formula for revealing the secret choice that is just right for you, or which choice comes with a guarantee. At some point, you must consider all the information you have, along with all your options, and then make a decision.

At one time or another, all of us have difficulty selecting among our many life options. When this happens, we can think in terms of choices rather than decisions. Some people think this is just playing with words, but there is more to it than that.

A choice is a selection of one thing over another – a preference. Deciding involves passing judgment, forming a definite opinion or arriving at a conclusion.  If we drop the “de” from the word decide we are left with cide. That’s the same syllable found in suicide, genocide, and homicide. With it comes an image of killing something. Sometimes, deciding can feel like a kind of murder – a killing of alternatives.

Some people, when faced with a decision, react with thoughts such as . . .

“Well, I don’t want this. I don’t want that. So, I guess, all that’s left is this.”

With that type of reasoning, they have killed off the alternatives and assumed their decision is final. The thought process goes something like this . . .

“If I decide this, I will have to live with it forever. My fate is sealed.”

No wonder deciding is tough. Thinking we must live with our decision forever is pretty scary stuff.  Deciding in this way is not a freeing experience. In fact, it might feel like entering prison. However, choosing instead of deciding can change everything.

Choosing is a process that leaves other options intact. The scenario changes when we choose instead of decide. Now, the process goes something like this . . .

“Let’s see. What do I want to do? I could do this, or that, or this. Hmm, I could even do this! Well, I’m not sure, so I’ll just choose this, for now.”

This person has left her options open. She can opt for one thing now and reconsider her choice later. At the time of reconsideration, she might choose something different. Or, she might even come up with a totally new idea. Either way, there is no harm done.

The key feature of this choosing process is that no killing takes place. Not only do the alternatives escape unharmed, they are in robust health waiting to be considered at another time. Choosing “for now” does not rule out choosing again in the future. Our options remain alive.

One tool that promotes this process is Dave Ellis’s “Chooser’s Remorse Clause.” This is similar to an early effort at consumer protection called “The Buyer’s Remorse Clause.” Such measures date back to the days when some door-to-door salesmen used tricks, manipulations and half-truths to peddle a year’s supply of soap or enough cutlery to require a mortgage on your home. In response to this trickery, some states passed laws stating that within, say, three days, you could change your mind. You could return the items and tear up the sales agreement. You owned nothing, and you were not obligated to pay a penny.

A chooser’s remorse clause is much the same. The advantage of using one is that it offers you the freedom to experiment.

“Well, I’m not sure which option to pick.” You can say. “But today, I feel like this one.”

After choosing that option, you can sleep on it. You can also talk to other people about it and see how it feels after some hours pass. And, if that choice does not sit right at the end of your remorse period – whether that’s three hours or three weeks – you’ll know it. Then, you can choose again with no penalty or guilt.

When you exercise your right to change your mind, some people might accuse you of being fickle. “I’m not fickle.” You can reply. “I’m merely exercising my chooser’s remorse clause.”

Even when a choice makes it past your remorse period, you can still review it later. After you have chosen, you can review that choice every month or every year. At those times, you can step back, get the big picture, and see if your choice still makes sense.

Note that invoking the chooser’s remorse clause is not the same as being wishy-washy or uncommitted. We can be fully committed to trying an alternative or experimenting with a strategy. We can play full out, even as we keep our options open.

This is your life. You have the right to choose and to change your mind along the road to fulfillment.

What keeps you from exercising your right to change your mind? How can you overcome that obstacle and make the choice that is best for you at this time?

The information in this blog post is modified from the book “Human Being: A Manual for Happiness, Health, Love, and Wealth” by Dave Ellis.

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