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2013-10-30 picture 4  My last few months have been filled with speaking engagements and book festivals, along with conversations and meetings with other writers and a myriad of people in the publishing industry. Somewhere in one of those conversations, and I don’t remember exactly where or who asked the question, but the question was asked.  What are three words that describe the theme of your writing and who you are as a writer?

It didn’t take me long to answer. All I had to do was think of my books that have been published or are in the process of being published: From a Grieving Mother’s Heart; For a Grieving Heart; and my debut novel, Family Inheritance, and my three words were clear: Relationships, Connections, and Overcoming.

As I thought about it, those three words pretty much cover the gist of who I am. My relationships with the core people in my life are what keep me grounded and glad to be alive. My connection with my Higher Power, the energy of those who have passed away, and the endless possibilities of life are what help me understand my purpose and the impact I’d like to leave when I am gone. And I believe that overcoming is one of the greatest opportunities that life consistently offers to all of us. I give credence to the approach, “Don’t tell me it can’t be done, tell me what it’s going to take to do it.”

It amuses me that three words can meld together all of the different facets of me and my writing and paint a pretty strong picture of what my books and I are all about. That is the wonderful, amazing power of words. With the correct word, we can convey a legion of thoughts, ideas, and emotions. With the right word, we can chisel a character’s personality. With the appropriate word, we can set the tone for our story. Oh, what power and responsibility to be someone who is choosing and stringing together words to inform, entertain, and move people.

What about you? What are three words that describe you as a person, and if you’re a writer, describe your writing as well? It’s an interesting exercise and an eye-opening one as well.

 

 

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We all have those relationships in our lives that one day are absolutely fabulous, and the next day we wonder why we even bother. Well, I’m having one of “those” types of relationships with social media. I didn’t grow up with it, don’t have a natural affinity for it, and just about the time I think I understand it, it changes on me.

I know that in today’s world, social media is important, especially for a writer and new author. It’s one of the best ways that we can let a wide variety of people know who we are, what we write, and why they just might want to check us and our book(s) out. But, as simple as that sounds, it sometimes isn’t that simple for me.

My biggest challenge is allocating the time away from my writing and my day job to keep up with social media. I know that every serious writer needs to spend at least 15 minutes, preferably an hour or better, on social media each day, but it’s a mindset that I’m having a hard time developing. During that allocated time, my mind keeps wandering to my overloaded “to do” list, the beauty of the outdoors outside my window entices me, I think of a myriad of other things I would rather do, or I’m just tired of sitting at the computer—period. Plus, social media “conversations” come in small bites, and I’m having to train my mind to think in small chunks while at the same time making those small chunks interesting, thought provoking, informative, or a combination of all three. Days like that are my “bad relationship days” with social media, and they do pop up.

Then, there are those days when the interactions come easy, I’ve connected with someone really interesting, my social media friends encourage me, or I read a quote or tidbit of information that is just what I needed at that moment in time, and I really get it. On those days, I’m thankful for the amazing minds that created these formats of connection and communication that allow us to reach out across cities, states, and even countries to discover and relate to a wide variety of people with varying thoughts, cultures, and ideas. It is on those days that I love social media and the whole virtual kind of existence that we now have available to us.

Then on other days I find out that Facebook is changing its format, I get behind on my tweets, or I’ve got a looming deadline for a blog, and my mind gets fuzzy from trying to make sense of all the data and requirements that are being tossed at me. On those days, I think my daughter and grandchildren wonder what planet I came from because social media comes easily to them and is a strong part of their daily existence.

On the good days, I relish discovering new ways of connecting and new people to connect with, and I’m excited about being a writer and author in this fabulous time when the entire world can absolutely be our oyster. I love that I have the ability to chat with writers and readers from all over the US and in countries like England, Australia, India, Italy. . . and the list goes on. My world is expanded and my mind is stretched, and new concepts and stories are forged into my imagination. I love those good days between me and social media. They are the reason that I continue this relationship through the not so good times.

Today, social media and I are on very good terms and I’m glad I’m in this relationship.

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Terri Ann Leidich at the Roanoke Reg Writers ConfereceYesterday, for the second year in a row, I had the privilege of presenting at the Roanoke Regional Writers’ Conference. Today, my body is exhausted, but my mind and soul are twirling with exhilaration. Being surrounded by writers—people whose minds are ever circling with thoughts, ideas, and possibilities—is enriching, enlightening, motivating, and inspiring. One writer speaking to another doesn’t have to explain the phrases like: space beyond the mind, my characters spoke to me, asking for inspiration from my dreams. . . We all speak the same language, at least some form of it, and we’re all hungry for more thoughts, ideas, inspiration, and motivation.

A great writers’ conference, like the one in Roanoke that is created by Dan Smith and hosted by Hollins University, absolutely buzzes with energy. My mind was busy absorbing knowledge from others and teaching what I know. Competition is left at the door as writer mentors writer, and people who are part of the support team that a writer needs, willingly guide us on writing, editing, social media, photography, and things that we need to know that we didn’t realize we needed to know.

Wrapped, for a day, in a cocoon where creative minds meet and thrive, it takes me twenty-four hours to assimilate the experience before I step back into my routine where my writer’s mind reluctantly returns to bouts of scheduled writing surrounded by periods of “have to do’s”,  “to do” lists, and schedules.

Tomorrow I’ll willingly step back into my wonderful world that is a blend of right and left brain thinking, but for today, my exhausted body is recovering as my mind floats in a state of exhilaration.

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While reviews are an essential part of being an author and building the fan base we need to sell and promote our books, reviews can also be swords that cut right into our hearts and leave us bleeding and gasping for breath. For me, the balancing act of being a published author is reading each review with respect for the person who wrote it and being open to constructive criticism that will help me become a better writer without taking the bad reviews so seriously that I want to crawl into a hole, never emerge, and certainly never write again.

I was recently reading the reviews of another author with whom I work closely. The majority of her reviews are great with people enthusiastically enjoying her characters and stories. Yet there in the pile of all those glowing reviews are those prickly, pointy ones that not only slice her characters and story apart, but blast her editors as well.

I’m a realistic person. I understand that not everyone will like everything that an author has written — no matter who the author is or how famous he or she may become. And, I realize that from a marketing perspective, there is no bad review because anytime someone has taken the time to read and review a book, attention is given to that book and author. In fact, a bad review can often bring as much attention to a book as a good review because other readers want to see if they agree with the review.

For most authors, our brains know all of that, but our hearts have minds and emotions all of their own and whether or not we tell ourselves that we will take the bad reviews in stride, they stick in our minds like rubber cement, not wanting to let go.

Every author deals with reviews in their own way and perhaps the famous authors who have dozens of books in the marketplace hardly pay attention to the bad ones. But for those of us who are new to the marketplace and the spotlight of other peoples’ opinions, reviews can have us jumping around with glee or hovering in an emotional dark corner questioning not only our writing but our very existence.

 

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That’s a question I’ve started to ask myself on a pretty regular basis as my book goes through the processes of getting ready for the marketplace. There are millions of people who dream of becoming successful authors, and a good portion of them don’t sell more than a few hundred or a few thousand books, no matter how they’re published. Why? What makes the difference? And am I ready to do what it takes?

While it’s a good dream to think that my book will be published, get into the marketplace, and be a best seller without any effort from me, it’s far from reality, especially in today’s world when hundreds of thousands of books are entering the marketplace every year. As I began putting together my marketing plan, there were many pieces that I just wanted to skip over: contacting book stores is scary, networking is not my forte, websites are not my area of expertise, social media feels like a foreign language to me. I like writing and speaking . . . can’t I just do those things and forget about the rest?

It sounded like a good plan for about three seconds until I realized that it would be like planning to bake a cake and only wanting to beat the eggs and sugar together because I didn’t want to sift the flour, measure out the rest of the ingredients, or put the cake into the pan to bake. I might have a good time beating the eggs and sugar and they might look really good when I was done, but just that step and those two ingredients wouldn’t turn into the cake I wanted.

Sure, I can sit back and expect my publisher to make me a success. But then I look at authors like Nicholas Sparks and Anne Rice who have great websites, a constant presence on social media, do newsletters, make appearances, attend book signings, and all of the various things that an author needs to do to be successful. I’m sure these successful authors have people to help them, but they didn’t start out that way. I remember hearing a story that John Grisham sold his first 1,000 books out of the trunk of his car. Am I willing to do that and all of the other things that these well known authors have done and continue to do? How big is my dream and how much of myself am I willing to put into creating that dream?

“Creating the dream” is exactly what we are called to do if we want to become successful authors. Someone else can’t create that dream for us, no matter how much we want them to or how much pressure we might put on them to “make it happen.” So, I continue to ask myself “How serious are you about becoming a successful author?” And, the answer differs a bit from day to day because I’m human and life can emotionally and mentally punch me around a bit, but my overall intention is clear: to be a good writer and do everything within my power to create my dream and become a success.

Exactly what “success” will look like for me is yet to unfold. Not every author makes it to the New York Times Best Seller List and not every author makes millions on their books, even though I’d be happy to be a part of those numbers. Yet many authors touch lives, change hearts, and bring smiles to readers all over the world. That kind of success is definitely something I am willing to work for.

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