Archive for category Writer Wellness

Losing Robin Williams—The Dark Side of Those Who Make Us Laugh


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Suicide. It’s a topic that’s been on most of our minds as of late. I was BROKEN when I found out about Robin Williams. It’s like this bright shining star just snuffed out, leaving only a black hole of crushing emptiness behind. I feel terrible for taking him for granted, selfishly assuming he’d always be around.

I haven’t yet cried because I’m afraid I might not stop. My fondest childhood memories involve Mork & Mindy. Growing up, I’d watch Williams’ comedic acts over and over and over, studying his timing and how he could do what he did, because to me? It was MAGIC. In fact, I can honestly say he was my earliest mentor. I learned to laugh and make others laugh, and, since home and school were living nightmares, laughter was my lifeline.

I’m no expert aside from having suicide issues in the family. Also, years ago, I suffered horrific depression after being on the phone with my father when he unexpectedly died. No one realized he had cancer until after the autopsy, because he was always making everyone laugh, always smiling and making us smile…until he was gone.

While I won’t get into a discussion regarding suicide and depression, I’d like to address some reasons many were so sideswiped when Robin Williams took his life. Obviously I can only speak from my own perspective as a humor author and chronic class clown.

Humor is Birthed From Pain

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Ever notice the high mortality rates among comedians? Self-destruction is common. One reason is that humor is an amazingly powerful defense mechanism. I switched high schools six times and was poor, thus the target of every group of Mean Girls (which come standard). In my freshman year I turned inward and fell into terrible depression. Then I learned how powerful humor could be. It could be a weapon.

The right turn of phrase could decimate an attacker.

Humor can also be body armor. Funny people use laughter to minimize pain so we can cope. Maybe we come from a background where we aren’t allowed to express hurt, pain, sorrow, disappointment, and so making jokes becomes a way of staying sane. Or maybe there is so much pain that humor is the only way to keep from overloading. This is common among police officers, soldiers, doctors, and any profession bombarded with tragedy.

Gallows humor.

Never Let Them See You Sweat

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Yep, my family, LOL.

I’ve been guilty of this (being the comedian of the family). I love making others laugh and never lose my sense of humor. When I was admitted to give birth to The Spawn, the attending nurse crashed every single vein trying to get an IV in me (until I politely asked if my mom could do it—she is an RN). The nurses missed inserting my epidural (the needle that goes into the spine) seven times. Yet, to the end and through every contraction, I had everyone laughing, even though I was in agony.

When I was 22, I finally had to have four impacted wisdom teeth removed. I couldn’t afford an oral surgeon and so the dentist gave me the anesthesia and proceeded to chisel all four teeth out of my jaw. My roommate who brought me said all she could hear from the room was the staff laughing to the point of tears. Apparently through gauze and anesthesia I was still a riot.

Laughter has been there to help me contend with the fear and pain, but this coping mechanism has a dark side.

False Assumptions


Making light of my broken nose. Hey, it was kinda funny…

I know it’s my own fault others don’t necessarily take me seriously when I’m hurting. How could they? I’m cracking jokes and making everyone happy. I’m a giver. I don’t know if life is worth living if we aren’t laughing. And if we’re going to be in pain, why not bear it with a smile? People & circumstances can take away anything but our attitude, right?

The problem is that others see that smile and might not understand that we do need help and likely aren’t going to ask for it. Or us being “funny” might make it seem we’re not in as dire of a situation.

Just ask the people who tried to get me to an ER last week when I had my first violent reaction to peanuts.

Givers love to give. Comedians live to make others laugh. We love it so much we’re often blind to when we are empty and the darkness is there to pounce when we’re at our lowest. As a community, one of the things we can all do is learn to be better at actively listening. WANA was built on this principle—WE ARE NOT ALONE.

I’ve been doing this myself. Talk less, listen more. Joke less, hear more, be honest. Listen for subtext. If we ask someone, “How are you today?” at least stick around long enough for an answer. Ask the next question.

Lack of Boundaries and Rest

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I find it interesting how the corporate world expects to be able to reach us 24/7. Meetings and “work” creep into our Saturdays and even Sundays. But how would our job feel if we showed up with our kids to work? What if we read a novel or took a nap?

Oh, what? No quid pro quo?

My husband gets business calls before we are even awake. 99% of the time, it’s over matters that could wait. We’re interrupted at dinner, on weekends, during church. When are we going to say NO? I now turn off my phone on weekends. I just…can’t.

Most of us—even the funny folks—are running around on fumes. This is when depression sets in even if it isn’t clinical. Humans were not designed to run fill tilt 24 hours a day. Those of us with a gift for making others laugh likely just don’t show symptoms as early or at all. A lot of us “don’t want to bother” anyone.

Also, a lot of us jokesters have set up expectations in others that we will always make them smile. When we can no longer do that—when we are too spent or hurting—we retreat. We don’t want to disappoint.

Situational Awareness—Take It To H.A.R.T.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons. Bansky's "Peaceful hearts Doctor" courtesy of Eva Blue.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons. Bansky’s “Peaceful hearts Doctor” courtesy of Eva Blue.

Are we hurting, alone, resentful, or tense? In this go-go-go-go life, we should be mindful to stop. Take a break so we can check our condition. We wouldn’t drive a car and ignore red lights flashing. CHECK ENGINE. FUEL LOW. NEED AIR. Why do we do this to ourselves? And for the other funny folks out there, joking about the CHECK ENGINE light is no laughing matter.

This is why I’m so tremendously grateful for all you. I might hurt, but I’m never alone and you guys keep me company so a lot less tense.

The hurting? Yeah. Covered in hives and want to scrape off my skin with a carrot peeler (go to doctor in an hour). Resentful? Benadryl kinda making me resent everything, including sounds, light and those annoying air particles that insist touching me. PERSONAL SPACE! And bugs farting. How are the spiders and fruit flies so flatulent?

What are your thoughts?

Do you do tend to minimize by joking? Maybe laugh off things you shouldn’t? Do you retreat if you can’t be entertaining? Do you feel desensitized to pain because of coping so long with humor? Do you have friends of family who are like this? Maybe that you need to watch more carefully?

I miss Robin Williams. The world is a far darker place without him. I hope he’s somewhere he can see how much we all loved him and how devastated we are to be without him.


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Is Your Life Out of Control? What Can We Do When Nothing is Going Right?

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

One of the things I’ve strived for with WANA, this blog, my teachings is to offer practical lessons, honesty, tools for growth and change and support. Change is tough, right? I love to serve, to help, but I’m challenged daily to live the life and walk the talk. I have good days and bad days and OH DEAR LORD IS THERE A REWIND days (been having A LOT of those recently).

I believe our character will impact our dreams, our relationships, our well-being. And I would love to tell y’all I’ve got it all together, but I’ve been struggling…a lot. And I have some seriously clever excuses involving alien abduction, but….sigh. Tempting as it is, I won’t go there.

The Infestation

I remember a dream I had in 2008, and it’s been such a guide in cleaning up my behaviors and attitudes. I dreamed I inherited a beautiful cottage-home. From the outside it looked almost perfect. Just needed a little bit of paint…


So in the dream, I begin to paint and notice the wood is loose. I know I can’t paint bad boards, so I pull them back with a pry bar.


Vermin everywhere. I scream, get them cleaned out and prepare to paint. But then I open the cabinets. WTH? OMG! You guessed it. More rats, roaches, termites. I’d just about get it pretty then see another layer and another and another. I couldn’t even DO any of the fun stuff—painting, decorating, picking out cute curtains—because what was “beneath” was infested and rotten.

My subconscious knew me better than I did. Pretty on the outside, but LOTS of problems on the inside.

It sounds strange, but I’m happy I’ve had to earn things the hard way when it comes to being an author. Growing up, I was naturally smart, the person who didn’t study and made As. As much of a blessing as it was, it was really a curse.

I could cruise through “appearing” to have it together, but it created a lot of BAD habits and rotten attitudes and behaviors. I’ve cleaned out a lot of the “infestations” but there are always more. Also, even if we do rid our “homes” of rats, mice, roaches, termites, we have to be in a habit of keeping the place clean so we don’t invite in new unwanted guests.

Cute but DESTRUCTIVE little buggers.

Cute but DESTRUCTIVE little buggers.

Living Mindfully

There are dumb things we can do that can have serious consequences. For instance, out at our ranch, one of my relatives forgot a bag of feed corn on the porch. When we got out there, there was CORN EVERYWHERE. You couldn’t open a drawer, a cabinet, a closet that there wasn’t some well-fed family of mice with a lovely stockpile of corn. The mice chewed through wiring and the hoses on the dishwasher…which then spewed water all over the floor.

A momentary lapse of mindfulness created hours of expensive, dirty and dangerous work. Not only that, but guess what LOVES to snack on mice? Rattlesnakes. Snakes that normally would have been quite happy out on the property discovered there was a SWEET buffet at the Lamb Ranch if you hung out on the PORCH.

Hubby and I spent an hour trying to coerce a rattler off the homestead property. I have this hysterical video of Hubby flinging a very annoyed rattler through the air. And yes some people would shoot the snake, but why? We invited him for dinner. Snake was just doing what snakes do.

And there is one brain-damaged snake now wandering our property with head trauma and a grudge.

Which is to say that life is always moving forward. We think life is a static picture like a magazine, but it isn’t. The kitchen will always need cleaning, there will always be more laundry and more bills. We need to shower more than once in a lifetime, and this also applies to our attitudes and habits.

If we slow down (and I am LEARNING) we can be more mindful about where we commit, what we start, or what we need to finish. Give ourselves grace, but be brave enough to address small problems early before they rage out of control.

Name It and Claim It

We can’t change what we won’t face. I have a saying. Name it and claim it. To offer a bit of insight, this has been a rough couple of years. It’s like everyone in my family is getting sick, ill, injured or dying. We’ve lost four family members in just the last year. Five in the last two. FOUR major surgeries, three of them life-threatening. As a person who loves and honors family I chip in to help the best I can.

I’m sure you guys have been through seasons like this. It’s as if life DOG PILES you and just about the time you come up for air, you get hit again.

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

But the thing is this is life. When I became published, no cute forest creatures showed up to style my hair and help me clean.


Times of trial can be crucibles that reveal our weak points. I used to be a MAJOR WHINER. Oh poor me. I just about get going the right direction and SOMETHING happens. I was at the mercy of situations.

What these recent life events have shown me about myself are embarrassing, but I have to face these flaws even though truth stings.

I need to be better at communicating. For some weird reason, I will work myself half to death before I think, “Hey, I could possibly ask for HELP. Whouda thunk?” I’ve come to see that I overcommit. That is a BAD habit. If I give my word, I need to follow through because I want to be a person of integrity. This means I need to strive to be better at saying, “Let me get back to you.”

I’ve also developed this awful habit of cramming my schedule to the point that I can DO everything…so long as everything goes smoothly and the planets perfectly align. They WON’T. We NEED margin. If the Internet goes out, the weather goes nuts, the car breaks down, the business hits a rough spot, the kid gets sick, a spouse loses a job, it will affect everything else.

I’m working diligently to be more honest and realistic. Sure, I want to help people, but if I just flake out, forget, lose stuff, I’m doing more harm than good.

Yes, I need to give myself grace, but I can always seek to come up higher, too.

We NEED a Support System

Stress is a lot like being drunk. Our bodies default to limbic brain. We run on adrenalin. As a survival mechanism, we cannot harness our higher thinking centers. Apparently pondering Nietzsche while running from a bear is BAD. Yet, in modern society, we have the equivalent of bears all the time (and they look a lot like the unfinished WIP, piles of toys, a stack of bills and the IRS :D ).

This is why we need the similar equivalent of a Designated Driver. We need people who love us and are honest enough to say, “Go sleep. Say NO. Finish what you promised.”

Jay Donovan is a fantastic friend. Why? He encourages me. He is there for me. But, he’s also unafraid to send me a kind but scathing e-mail when I need my butt kicked correcting. I have a looong list of stuff to finish, but baby steps.

You guys have been an amazing support team and I’m so grateful. When I was up all night with The Spawn in the ER because he knocked out all his front teeth, people on-line were there to keep me calm and offer prayers, love and support. Same with the deaths, etc. You are the voices that make the world more lovely and never lonely.

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

WANA Lynn Kelly, really is a superhero.

But last week I had a major revelation. My husband, The Spawn and I are too isolated. We have family, but no one who lives nearby. I have no one to lean on when I am sick, worn out, overloaded or on the verge of just crying for a month. We’ve lived in this house for almost five years and know none of our neighbors. We don’t have any friends in the local community.

Last week, I stepped out of the comfort zone. I needed more. I NEEDED people close who might let me have a day where I can take a long nap. I can’t run forever on sheer force of will. As much as I love social media, it can’t be our only resource of support.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a GREAT resource, just like chainsaws are AWESOME for cutting up trees downed in a storm (but not so great for hanging pictures on the wall). We need to diversify our relationships. I need to as well even though I am an introvert. On-line friends are far less terrifying than talking to…*shivers* neighbors.

But, Suck it up, Buttercup.


We aren’t robots. We live, laugh, love, screw up, start over, do better, blow it, then try again. I do. And there is a blessing to being weak. It offers others the gift of being strong for us. When we allow others to help us, we are giving them a gift. We feel good when we can help others. Why would others be different? So many of you take time to comment, encourage, offer help and you guys make me better each day.

We are not alone ;).

What are your thoughts? Do you feel like renovating your attitudes, habits, behaviors is overwhelming? Do you get discouraged too? Are you bad about overcommitting or not stopping to realize maybe you could kinda-sorta-maybe use some HELP? Are you hesitant to make friends with neighbors? Do you work your schedule off plank time? LOL.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.

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Myth-Busting—The Real Difference Between Introverts & Extroverts & Meet the Ambivert

Actual photo of Kristen in high school (Image via Flikr Creative Commons wwarby)

Actual photo of Kristen in high school (Image via Flikr Creative Commons wwarby)

I made it home on Monday afternoon from presenting at the Tuscon Book Festival, one of the largest book festivals in the world. To meet me at the conference, one would never suspect I’m actually an introvert. Yet, even after two days of sleep, I’m shaking from fatigue. This morning I had to get Hubby to bring The Spawn to school because I simply don’t have enough energy to be safe on the road. I spent all of it at the conference giving (what I hoped) were unforgettable presentations.

Many believe the extrovert is the ideal speaker, yet introverts have a way of channeling energy from themselves to others. When people leave my sessions, they often feel supercharged, like they can take over the world. I love that. It’s what I’m going for…but this comes at a cost for me. I must unplug, get quiet and recharge. Crowds drain me faster than a toddler using an iPad.

BIG crowds? As in a quarter-million people? AHHHHHHHH!

As humans we tend to think in very black and white terms, but as writers and artists, we are wise to remember that people have many dimensions. What we see is not necessarily accurate, especially when it comes to labeling others as “introvert” or “extrovert.”

What Does It REALLY Mean to Be an Extrovert or Introvert?

Introversion and extroversion are very  commonly misunderstood. Just because someone is shy, doesn’t mean she’s an introvert. Someone who is bubbly, gregarious and the life of the party can, in reality, be an introvert. The difference between introverts and extroverts is simply this:

Where do we gain or lose energy?

Introverts are drained by people and need alone time to recharge.

Extroverts are drained by too much time alone. They need human interaction to recharge.

Meet the Ambivert

Truth is, most people fall into what is called an ambivert, meaning we exhibit traits of both. If you want to learn if you might be an ambivert, there are cool tests on-line. I’d google them for you, but this post is all I’ve got left.

People who read this blog and who meet me all believe that I am the very definition of extrovert, yet that’s far from the case. As a child, I had to be forced to go play with others. I was very happy alone in my room reading, drawing and copying articles out of my set of encyclopedias.

I was frequently chastised for bringing a book to family events and made to interact with others. Yet, when I did, I was the life of the party. I was fascinated by standup comedy and, being blessed with an eidetic memory, I could perform the standup routines of all the famous comics, down to facial expressions, timing and gestures. My family was particularly fond of my freakishly accurate impersonation of Sinbad.

Yes, Kristen was the precursor to the DVD.

In school, I didn’t want to play at recess. I wanted to read and draw unicorns.  But I loved debate and speaking in public. When it came to presenting, I had no fear and, again, I was funny. Being funny helped when you changed schools every six months. BUT, in high school I was shy to the point of probably needing medication. The stage was far less terrifying than the lunchroom.

Before I was married, I would go shopping at two in the morning, because I couldn’t take the crowds. To this day, I don’t like concerts, amusement parks, crowded clubs, conventions, big parties or sports events. I love attending writing conferences because I love writers, love teaching and presenting and I DO love people…but when I get home, I practically slip into a coma. Also, I am okay on a stage presenting to an audience but please don’t make me be a part of a crowd.

As much as I LOVE people, as much as I adore people and making them laugh…they exhaust me.

I work from home and, if I never had to leave, I would be okay…so long as I had Internet connection. One of the things I love about social media, is it allows me to interact, connect, chat, entertain…but at my pace. It keeps me from flatlining myself.

I’ve had to learn from bad experiences that I need to pace myself at conferences if I want to maintain that powerful, positive energy.

The Myth of the Extrovert

There is another common misunderstanding about the whole extrovert thing, and it’s done a LOT of damage in the corporate world (and when it comes to author platforms for selling books).

Companies spend all this time shoving introverts into being extroverts. They hire mega-extroverts for sales, and yet mega-extroverts are some of the WORST salespeople. I witnessed this back when I was in sales, myself.

I recall sitting at a table with a customer and a mega-extrovert salesperson. The mega-extrovert was so busy talking and being entertaining, that he never SHUT UP long enough to listen. He didn’t stop and ask the right questions. In fact, he didn’t ask ANY questions.

That’s a problem.

One time, I was at an annual marketing meeting and the company was putting  together the agenda for the next year. They kept going on and on about price, and how we needed to be cheaper. I was brand new, but bold.

I raised my hand and asked, “Has anyone asked our customers if this is what THEY want? Is price the biggest factor?” The table sat in stunned silence. Then I recommended we brainstorm twenty areas where we could serve the customer better and then get them to take the survey.

Price came in at #4.

Customers actually wanted faster lead times. Our product was the type of inventory the customers never thought about…until they ran out. A better plan was to rent cheap warehouses in the areas near our major clients and stock them with the most common sizes ordered. Then we could have offered same-day or next-day delivery….which the company refused to do and still focused on price and lost a crap-load of business and it’s a sore subject with me.

Why did they do this? The mega-extroverted marketing and salespeople controlled the agenda, and they were lousy listeners.

We All Have Strengths and Weaknesses

This isn’t to pick on mega-extroverts. All personalities have strengths and weaknesses. As an ambivert, I do have some mega-extrovert tendencies. I’ve had to TRAIN myself to be a better listener and to ask others about themselves…instead of making them laugh with my Sinbad impersonations.

Awareness is Key

The point of all of this is we need to be self-aware so we can focus on strengths and buttress weaknesses. It is good for the introverts to get out. Too much alone time with the imaginary friends makes us a bit weird…ok, weirder.

Social media can be very beneficial for introverts. It forces us out of the comfort zone and we can interact at a pace that doesn’t put us in a coma. Extroverts get to practice willpower and self-discipline, to shut up, get off Twitter and get back to work.

Ambiverts? We get to do both *head desk*

No Excuses

But the good news is this. This notion that mega-extroverted salesperson is the most effective salesperson? PURE MYTH. This is one major misconception that TERRIFIES most writers into being afraid of social media or makes some writers try to change their personalities….which is just weird and kinda creepy. Be YOU. YOU is awesome :D.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Here’s an article that displaces the myth that mega-extroverts are the best salespeople, and explains why it’s actually ambiverts who hold the advantage.

Talk to people, listen, ask questions, and let them talk. Be authentic and kind. We don’t have to be super entertaining all the time. Really ;).

For those curious, THIS was my family’s favorite among my vast comedic repertoire:

So what about you? Are you and extrovert? An introvert? Shy? Do you feel misunderstood because you’re a shy extrovert or a people-loving introvert? Do you think you might be an ambivert?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World

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Author Branding—Harnessing the Power of Digital Age Storms

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ahhh, the new buzz word, BRAND. What exactly is an author brand? Great question. Branding has gone through a major transition over the past decade. The globe is more interconnected than ever in human history and this trend is increasing exponentially. We’ve seen the fall of major gatekeepers and a complete shift in consumer buying patterns, making discoverability a nightmare in The Digital Age.

Proper branding is one of THE most critical elements of author success. Brands that are outdated, boring, rigid, abandoned, fractured, negative or nonexistent are not only unhelpful, but they can spell disaster to our career and eating earning potential as artists. An author brand has to fit in the new paradigm. If we live in a world that’s changing hourly, our brands have to be able to bend and move and shift with changes.

Being a total history nerd, this makes me think of that definitive battle between the Spanish and the English when King Phillip II made an unsuccessful attempt to invade Elizbethan England. At the time, there were major tactical and technological shifts regarding the way that battles at sea were conducted.

The Spanish Armada was the shining example of traditional sea warfare—towering ships that were more like floating fortresses. The galleons rode high out of the water, making them slow, not very maneuverable and difficult to sail.

On the other hand, the English captains (in particular Francis Drake and John Hawkins) relied on a new form of “race ship”. “Lower in the water, with a long prow and much reduced fore and after castles, these sleek ships carried more sophisticated forms of rigging, enabling them to sail closer to the wind, making them faster and more maneuverable than the Spanish ships.” ~BritishBattles.Com

Long story short, the English ships could take advantage of the elements (high winds, rough seas) and were far more maneuverable. The Spanish fleet was too bulky, and, when battered by North Sea storms? Very expensive gold-plated splinters. Spain lost almost their entire fleet and this defeat of the Spanish Armada marked the rise of the English Empire.

Why do I give this story? Other than it is COOL?

Brands in The Digital Age are encountering the same tactical and technological changes. We are no longer part of the rigid, massive, virtually immobile TV-Industrial complex. We need to be innovative, creative and build a brand that can harness change instead of being splintered by change. Algorithms shift constantly. Social platforms come and go and change tactics. Trends shift. Tastes shift. We need to be able to use these changes to power momentum.

As you know, tonight is the beginning of WANACon (details below) but we always launch with PajamaCon, which is FREE. We are going to hang out in jammies, have fun and I am going to talk about what it means to create an author brand.

• What is an author brand?

• How has branding changed in The Digital Age?

• Outdated and ineffective branding approaches.

• How much time should we invest in branding?

• What are ways to keep a brand flexible?

• Practical ways to grow our author brand.

WANA is all about helping authors, so PajamaCon is our gift to you. I’ve done all the dumb stuff so you don’t have to. There are ways to brand that will make you cry and end up curled in the fetal position with a bottle of tequila. It’s much better to start building properly than to have to rip down to the foundation and start all over. Brands take time to build, so even if you’re just now working on that first book? BEGIN TODAY.

Yes, branding is critical, but a good book is as well. I can tell you as a long-time content editor that it can be VERY costly. This is why I have added in some killer prizes for attendees.

You, me, your book, bandages and suture-kits. Either I can help you fix a book that’s not working or plot one with you that WILL. So if your book is on life-support, DOA or you’re lost and can’t find your original idea? I can help. If your brand/blog makes you want to hurl yourself into a leaf-chipper (been there), here’s your chance to get one-on-one time with moi for some help.


So, WANACon is here. PajamaCon is a gift  (CLICK HERE FOR INFO) and gives you a chance to make sure your computer is set up properly if you choose to join us for the conference. If not? Still a fun time and a chance to learn. SIGN UP for WANACon HERE. Also, AGENT PITCHES are available. You can SIGN UP HERE.

Since my goal is to see you guys succeed, I am offering three BIG prizes for WANACon Attendees. Grand Prize is The Book/Brand Combo. I will personally consult to either assist in plotting a new book or fixing one that doesn’t work. I will also consult you personally on your brand and give you a plan for SEO, content, everything. Book Prize is I work with you to plot or fix a book. Branding Prize is I personally consult you on your brand, teach you about SEO and lay out a plan.

EVERYONE who attends WANACon automatically gets ten entries. Encourage a friend to sign up and you earn 25 additional entries and the friend who signs up gets 15. Just make sure to tell us who referred you. WANA is committed to helping you realize your dream.

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Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

One of the reasons I am SO HAPPY you guys take the time to comment and share your thoughts is your insights often highlight areas I might not have thought to address.  A commenter Mr. Dandylion replied to my publishing predictions for 2014 with darker thoughts, which included this phrase:

“A new author will commit suicide after a sustained online bullying campaign, most likely stemming from Goodreads; it will cause major headlines and public anger.”

Those words hit home and made me think. Granted, as a writer, I’ve experienced my share of trolls and (gratefully) only two LOONIES. But I have too many author friends (including NYTBSAs) who’ve been victimized by flash mobs of cyber-bullies. I’ve also had blogger friends who wrote on very innocent topics randomly victimized by gangs of trolls for seemingly no reason.

Oddly, when I tried to research bullying and bullying resources for yesterday’s post, I was taken aback at how most of the tips were for kids, teens and parents. The problem is that (as MANY commenters shared yesterday) bullies don’t go away. They grow older and often more vicious.

Often these creeps are on-line, in church, in critique groups, clubs and in the workplace. After six years in Rotary, I left because of bullies. They had stolen all my joy for public service…so I took my passion for helps elsewhere.

Their "future boss." Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Their “future boss.” Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Another commenter, Lloyd Lofthousel was thoughtful enough to share this link in the comments; a NY Times article about the study of aggression and how the actual makeup of the brains of aggressive teens is vastly different from those of non-aggressive teens. Aggressive teens demonstrated heightened activity in the pleasure centers of the brain when shown images/films of acts of violence and cruelty (images that would have repulsed the rest of us).

Granted, this is a very small study but it, again gave me food for thought. This study made me think of a recent article in Discover by Dan Hurley; Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes (which I highly recommend you read in full).

Is DNA REALLY at Fault?

Before we go too far, I am not in the camp of “Blame DNA or Blame Mom.” We are humans not holly bushes and we have the power of choice. But neuroscience and genetics might offer insights and tools for how we as a culture can feed the good and starve the bad, so to speak.

According to the article, Moshe Szyf, a molecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal and Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist married their theories and work and pioneered a new area of study, which came to be known as epigenics.

These two scientists posited that nature and nurture were highly integrated and also that humans might carry genetic memory through generations. I confess I am no scientist and this is a Spark’s Notes for discussion, but it is fascinating. As a blog, this IS immensely reductive, so forgive me. But the theory is interesting for debate.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

According to this new research, we all have DNA (duh), but what Szyf and McGill noticed was our spools of DNA required something “extra” to activate certain genes. One of these extra elements is the methyl group, which, “works like a placeholder in a cookbook, attaching to the DNA within each cell to select only those recipes — er, genes — necessary for that particular cell’s proteins. Because methyl groups are attached to the genes, residing beside but separate from the double-helix DNA code, the field was dubbed epigenetics, from the prefix epi (Greek for over, outer, above).” Discover, Hurley

In English, right?

Originally, epigenetic changes were assumed to happen only during fetal development. But Szyf and McGill wanted to probe further. Could grandad’s experience as a POW during Vietnam affect a grandson’s DNA?

“According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.” Discover, Hurley 

Of course, what was really interesting about this article is it gives us good reasons to believe we aren’t at the mercy of DNA or methyl groups. Methylation apparently can be changed. Just like a diet of fried Twinkies can activate cancer genes, growing up in a stressful, neglectful household can similarly activate traits for suicide, depression, aggression, etc. by methylating those parts of the DNA.

This, I feel, is how we can see either generational traits continue or cease. In my own experience, I grew up in a Jerry Springer household. Fighting, yelling, abuse was the norm. I remember visiting friends’ houses and being blown away that there wasn’t non-stop crackling tension and arguing.

Thus, when I grew up to become a parent, I made it a point to maintain peace and consistency.

Whereas I was a high-strung, neurotic, fearful child, who suffered night terrors and sleep issues for years, The Spawn is happy, calm, gentle and can sleep anywhere. Yet, as parents, we have ZERO tolerance for people who want to infuse stress and chaos into our lives. This has meant terminating old friendships and even avoiding contact with certain family members.

Is Our Society Birthing Bullies by Tolerating and Ignoring Them?

I probably love watching Discovery ID more than is healthy (hey, I AM a writer). But one common theme does emerge when studying criminals and, specifically, serial rapists and killers. They often begin small. If they aren’t caught or properly counseled/punished early in the cycle, they grow increasingly emboldened.

This lack of consequences fuels a growing narcissism that “they can get away with anything” (generally until they are finally apprehended or grow bored and turn themselves in so they can write books from prison and be rewarded for being psychos).

BTK Killer Dennis Rader. Image via Wikimedia.

BTK Killer Dennis Rader. Image via Wikimedia.

I feel when we don’t stand up to bullies, when we give children advice like “ignore them and they will go away” this feeds the rush bullies so enjoy (and crave). The rush then only bathes the DNA in more of these methyl groups because the bully has been able to create chaos and upset and get away with it.

***NOTE: I feel we aren’t teaching children how to properly ignore bullies. We need to guide children how to remain peaceful, happy and continue life, not hide in a library and stop participating in school out of terror. This only FEEDS more intense bullying.***

I am making this arm-chair assertion based off the article, but according to this research, those who have a proclivity for violence—when subjected to (or allowed to create) stressful, chaotic and aggressive atmospheres—only get worse. The negative environment increases the methyl bath that continues to activate certain negative genetic traits.

To extend the logic, when major blogs allow trolls to rant and throw furniture in the comments without censure, it’s gasoline on the fire of what’s fueling them to begin with. When bullies can make someone retreat from the Internet, stop blogging, hide, they WIN…and grow even MORE emboldened and continue searching out even more targets to terrorize to feed the rush.

When the office bully can attack someone at the copy machine and not be fired? This emboldens the bully and, like any addiction, it generally requires larger doses for the same high.

I think this is why ignoring trolls in the comments, deleting them and refusing to feed them does often work. They aren’t getting the desired response that gives them the dopamine rush of “winning.” It’s also why I believe they disappear when faced with a wall of loving, caring people who support the victim. Their positive energy disrupts the chaos and fear the bully craves.

It is also why arguing or fighting with an on-line bully generates the opposite effect—it makes trolls CRAZIER, because we’ve chosen the wrong form of confrontation. When we “fight back” we give them the negativity they need.

Not all confrontation has to be aggressive ;).

The Counterpoint—Can Victims Be Healed?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ben Swing.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ben Swing.

Methy groups (according to the research) don’t only affect those who are aggressive. Methylation can also activate depression, anxiety, codependency, etc. Often dysfunctional families are made up of aggressors and victims (I know that was my case growing up).

For every family bully, there are passive members dancing around trying to appease The Great Volcano from erupting. Clean the house a certain way, don’t have an opinion, be invisible and cater to every need Mt. Volcano has and he/she won’t blow.

Which is crap, btw, and for another blog.

Yet, one of the interesting observations I’ve made as the WANA Mama is that many shy, frightened, even victimized writers have found tremendous healing by being part of a large group that focuses on love, support and service. They’ve become brave enough to blog, to post, to write, to publish, to *gasp* have FUN because there is a different kind of family offering a very different type of energy.

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach...

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach…

When authors have life beating them up? They have a safe place. When an author’s family, spouse or friends are being cruel or critical? They can come to us. When a troll mob is on the attack? The WANAs can step in and diffuse the hate. Darkness can’t help but retreat when faced with light. Love is more powerful than fear.

What Can We DO?

Regarding this discussion on neuroscience, I believe we can change behaviors. Deny the hateful the chaos they seek and provide the love and tranquility for those who need it. Changes in environment can make the aggressive more empathetic and the cowed more confident.

But how?

Rethink Cyberspace

I feel there are many areas of life where certain behaviors are simply NOT tolerated. As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, Amazon, Goodreads, Huffington, Yahoo, etc. are on-line, but they ARE places of business—not a free-for-all-forum where anything is permitted.

Amazon sells, well…everything. But major blogs count on ads to thrive and grow. If people grow fearful or weary of trolls? They’ll move on to blogs where they aren’t afraid to comment. This means the site will have lower hits and no one will want to advertise…and then the site goes away.

We all have rights. But my RIGHT to swing my fist STOPS where your nose begins.

I have the right to complain. I DO NOT have the right to scream, yell, shout obscenities, and stalk and abuse the staff. If I went to a restaurant, I have the right to complain about the food or the service. But, if I screamed obscenities and attacked everyone in range verbally, do you guys think the manager would say, “Oh just ignore her”? NO. He’d toss me out on my butt and call the cops if I refused to behave or leave.

And if I gathered all my hateful friends to mob-attack the restaurant, would I be allowed to continue with this behavior? NO. I’d be sitting with my jerk friends in jail.

Take Charge of Our Blogs—Moderation is Paramount

I think as bloggers, we can be diligent to not allow abuse on our blogs. I guest-posted for a big author one time and a commenter was just INSANE and going for my throat…and the author allowed it because of “freedom of speech.” I never blogged there again.

Big blogs like Huffington, etc. need to increase moderation and have a Code of Conduct for commenting AND STICK TO IT. People can disagree, but they cannot act in any way that would land them a ticket or in JAIL if this was in person. If these blogs don’t take moderation more seriously, businesses won’t want to advertise there because the clientele (readers/commenters) has been sacred off.

Strength in Loving Community

Those of us who want to enjoy the Internet need to find a community of friends and support. WANA is of course an option, but there are surely others. Start your own. Be the light ;).

Positive Confrontation

Boundaries are crucial for any healthy relationship. Refuse to tolerate hateful comments on social media. I delete people who are offensive or out of control. I then politely message them and tell them I am happy to leave their comment if they can rephrase respectfully. If they refuse to stop peeing on the digital furniture? I report and block them or unfriend.

Be Professional

We cannot please everyone. Art is very subjective. We can never write a book everyone loves. Bad reviews happen, and, as professionals, we need to put on our Big Writer Pants. We cannot endure, let alone succeed in this business if we have the skin of a grape.

Yes, writers need to feel safe to publish, but reviewers also need to feel safe to review. Just because they don’t like a book doesn’t automatically make them a bully or troll. If we get too many bad (but thoughtful and respectful) reviews? We might have jumped the gun and published too soon. Maybe we need to pull the book and rerelease with better editing. Or try again.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mark Roy.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mark Roy.

I know as an editor I’ve had writers go NUTS because I didn’t say every word was unicorn glitter. This is a profession not a playpen. When I was a neophyte, I got a lot of bloody noses in critique (but they were right). Honest feedback is what helped me get rhino-skin and become a better writer. It happens. We grow.

We can’t grow if we aren’t open to critique. Also, there comes a point when we have to brush things off. People have the right to an opinion (and they aren’t always correct). We don’t have to listen to and follow every opinion or we will end up with crappy books-by-committee.

So what are your thoughts? I don’t think we are at the mercy of nature or nurture. I believe we still have choice. But do you think we can change the future, no matter our genetic predispositions? Do you think we as a society or greater community could help drive that positive change? That maybe we could deflate bullies and rehabilitate the abused? What are for thoughts on nature-nurture? Were you from a crazy family too and yet managed to break free with your own kids? I like to think we can change the world, but blind optimism is my superpower :D…

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

Will announce December’s winners Monday. I have a lot to go through. Good problem :D.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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Lesson of Confession–“I’m Drowning. Help.”

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 8.23.46 AM

This past six weeks have been a real beating, including the death of my grandmother. She’d no sooner passed away when I had to step in and care for my sister-in-law who was having major surgery to reattach both retinas. I was in go-go-go mode and I thought, if I could just get some rest, I would be okay.

Well, after taking a week at the ranch, I’m not okay. I didn’t want to move or write or sleep or eat. I felt surrounded by a deep malaise, like blows in the dark yet no idea where the pain was coming from. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but then an old lesson resurfaced.

Confess the Real Emotion—Name It and Claim It

One of the first things that helped me tremendously was when I learned to confess the real emotion I was feeling.

This was over ten years ago, but I recall one day that I just couldn’t seem to get out of bed. It was a really dark time for me. I had lost my career in sales due to a misdiagnosis (doctors thought I had epilepsy), and I was on the verge of eviction and facing having to move in with my mother. I had no energy and no real desire to do much of anything. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was cry.

Some of you may be able to relate to my upbringing. I had a single mother who was doing all she could to keep us afloat. Thus, my brother and I were never angry, disappointed, discouraged, or overwhelmed. We only had two feelings; we were “sick” or we were “tired.” Being ill or needing more rest would never make my mom feel guilty. Thus anything negative we ever felt ended up getting pigeon-holed into one of these two categories.

It was a really bad habit to get into.

So years later I found myself still only having two “emotions”—sick or tired. My mother came over to check on me. It was like ten in the morning and I was still in bed. Not sleeping. Just staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the reasons I was a total and utter failure. My apartment was a disaster and I couldn’t bear to ask anyone for help.  I knew I needed to pack, but I just couldn’t seem to move.

My mom stood in the door, crossed her arms and asked, “Kristen, are you depressed?”

I sat up and said something that marked a moment of change in my life. I said, “You know, Mom. I’d like to tell you that. I have every reason to be depressed. I have no job, no money. I am afraid of my mailbox because it is full of all these bills I can’t pay. But that isn’t it.”

“What is it, then?”

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m drowning. I don’t know where to begin. You know what else?”


“I’m heartbroken.”

By naming the specific emotions I was feeling, I had unleashed tremendous power. I had opened a way to make a plan. As long as I was sick or tired, there was very little I could do to remedy either. And, to be honest, I wasn’t sick or tired. I was just so out of my depth that it was making me sick AND tired…all the time.

I’d lost a lot in three years—4 deaths in 6 months (including my father), my career, my health, my apartment, my dreams. And it was bad enough that I had lost those things, but then I never properly grieved any of those losses.

How could I? I was only sick or tired.

But this day was different. For the first time…I was heartbroken, overwhelmed, discouraged. For the first time I felt connected back to that intimate part that was…me.

This simple lesson was the first major step. Once I admitted that I was overwhelmed, it was easier to break big problems into manageable bites and get busy—-fix what was broken, grieve what was lost, let go of what needed letting go. Once I admitted out loud that I was discouraged, it freed me to dust off and try again. Suddenly, it was okay to be disappointed. I could grieve, feel the pain and then start anew. I have found that life is lived best in forward gear.

From that point on, I made it a habit to name the real emotion. It was too easy to hide behind, “Oh, I am just tired.” It took courage to say, “I am disappointed. You said you would help me with this project, but you haven’t been doing your share.”

It was scary, and still is. I will also point our this is a lesson we are always relearning.

Again, today, I was talking to my Mom. I just wanted to run away, change my name, hide under the covers. Then I realized I’d fallen into an old bad habit. When Nana died mid-October, I got busy. I stepped in to care for my SIL. I cooked, I cleaned, tended the toddler and SIL’s two boys, the dogs the laundry. I did every thing but…cry.

I was drowning and didn’t even see it.

In our fast-paced world, what is the allotted time for sadness? Do I take a day off? A week? I’d been so caught up being there for everyone else, I’d never stopped to cry, to admit I miss my Nana. I didn’t get to see her before she died. I didn’t get to attend her funeral. And I never stopped for five minutes to admit I was hurting.

Just walk it off….

Anyway, sorry if I have depressed the heck out of all of you. I’m doing better. I think there is just something about the three-week mark when there’s a death. It’s like we are so caught in the shock blast of losing someone that our brains and emotions take some time to catch up.

I know when I broke my arm in two places I didn’t feel any pain. ANY. I recall it being so surreal. My arm was in the shape of an “S” but nothing. Doctors later told me it’s because there is SO much pain, the brain kind of short-circuits. It’s only until the pain starts to lessen and the shock wears off that we FEEL what’s happened. I think death is much the same.

We all experience loss–death of a loved one, a relationship, a dream and this is all part of life. But to everything there is a season, even a season to just sit still, cry and admit we are sad and that it is okay to be sad. I know once I did that today, once I had a good cry, I felt a LOT better.

So yes, I am still here. Still alive. Tired and a bit battered but better :D. Thanks for your love and support through all this mess. It is VERY appreciated.

What about you? Have you ever been through a loss and yet it never dawned on you to just call it what it was? To grieve? To get angry? To cry? Were you so caught up in the routine of life that you had a hard time giving yourself permission to just sit? To mourn? To notice you were drowning and needed help?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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Focusing on the Positive and Why I Think DELTA Airlines Should No Longer Burn in HELL

Image via Flikr Commons and courtesy of Andrie Dimofte

Image via Flikr Commons and courtesy of Andrie Dimofte

I generally am a Pollyanna. Yes, it gets me in trouble sometimes, but I feel joy is a choice. I needed to remind myself of that yesterday. I’ve just returned home from Florida, and OY VEY what an adventure. I love my job, and helping you guys never feels like work, but the traveling can be…interesting.

A Tale of a Chronic Procrastinator

I knew I was going to be speaking in Florida, but in working my tail off to finish my new social media book, traveling, bed from hell.…buying my ticket was, er, um…put off. At the last minute I scored the cheapest ticket I could find on American Airlines. Ah…but there were two problems. Okay three.

Ticket was over $600. BUT it was with American Airlines. I’ve had a long-standing grudge against DELTA and have refused to give them ANY business. In fact, I’d kind of hoped they’d sink into Hell and burn. So I buy this horrible ticket. DFW to New Orleans, to Atlanta, finally to Melbourne, FL. Return flight? Same in reverse. Melbourne to Atlanta to New Orleans to DFW. Much to my horror? Once I arrived at the airport, I realized two legs of the trip were via Delta.


Why I Hated Delta

Years ago, I suffered barely controllable complex partial seizures (and that is a long story and I am perfectly healthy now). Yet, at the time, I was essentially epileptic.  My health was deteriorating, my father had suddenly died, and Christmas was painful without him, so I decided to join some pals and go to the Bahamas for the holidays instead. The Bahamas were, blech, but on the return flight home, our plane had mechanical difficulties and had to be redirected to Atlanta.

Being a naive traveler, I’d packed my anti-seizure medication in the checked luggage (stupidly believing I’d be home in three hours). As we were being ticketed for other flights to get us home, I asked the ticket person if there was any way I could get to my bags. I could feel the anti-convulsive medication was wearing off and it was beginning to get a bit scary. She was NASTY to me and not only told me “No, but hell no. And go away for making me do my JOB.”

I went to complain to a supervisor, not only for the way the woman treated me, but that I REALLY needed my medication. The nasty ticket agent, knowing she’d been way out of line, stepped in and lied and told the supervisor I was drunk and combative and needed to be banned from any flights.

***I never drank alcohol, namely because it was contraindicated in the anti-convulsives.

Yes, my behavior probably seemed strange, namely because I was starting to have SEIZURES which made my balance off and I was slurring. So instead of taking pity on someone who was disabled?

DELTA stranded me in Atlanta, Georgia with no luggage, no meds, banned from flying and no way home.

An elderly couple found me crying in a hallway and took pity on me and made sure I got back to DFW. By the time I got home? I was in full seizures AND had pneumonia (because DELTA rerouted me through a FREEZING New Orleans with no jacket and no meds and I slept the night on cardboard boxes (from Christmas decorations) to stay warm.

I was ill for almost three months after this. Pneumonia is no picnic.

I wrote DELTA a letter telling them how I’d been treated and…nothing. Since then? I have had MANY opportunities to fly, but would rather take 16 connections through Trinidad Airways than give them any money. Thus, I was a tad ticked when I realized my oversight with my Florida purchase.

I’d have to fly with the Devil, um DELTA.

Twelve Years Must Make a Difference

Ironically, the DELTA flights were the best ones. In fact, on the way home, my connecting flight to New Orleans had mechanical issues and it was clear I’d miss my connection to DFW. What did DELTA do? They promptly and KINDLY put me on a direct flight to DFW. The crew was HYSTERICAL. I’ve never had a safety briefing that FUNNY. They went above and beyond and, I suppose after over a decade of hating their guts?

I forgive them…mostly.

I am generally not a person who holds a grudge. I have the memory of a tsetse fly with people. But with BUSINESSES? Hell hath no fury. For TWELVE years I’ve told anyone who’d listen NOT TO FLY DELTA THAT THEY WERE EVIL.

But I suppose people change and thus I suppose businesses change too. This last experience helped me forgive them (mostly) and I’ll maybe even give them another try. In fact, it was wonderful that the plane experienced mechanical difficulties and I was given a direct flight because, when I made it to my car?

The battery was dead.

Had I been delayed (not getting the direct flight), I have no idea how late I might have made it in. Hubby would OF COURSE come to the rescue, but would it have been ten or eleven at night (with a baby)?

And I’d like to say I handled the dead car in triple digit heat with grace. I didn’t. I cried. But once I calmed down and Hubby arrived, I realized what a rare and strange gift DELTA had given me. I made it in early enough for the problem to be resolved far more easily.

So, in all of this, I learned, happiness is a decision, not a destination. Forgiveness can come if we are open to it (AT&T doesn’t count). KIDDING! Life is all about perspective and which one we choose. Focus on the negative? Expect more.

My Tante (Aunt) Christine told me a fabulous parable.

A man wanted to move from one village to another. He stopped a resident of the new village and asked, “What kind of people live in this place?” The resident replied, “Well, what kind of people lived in the last place you lived?” The man replied, “Oh, they were terrible, cold and mean. They left me out of everything and were uncaring and cold.” The resident replied, “That’s the same kind of people who live here.”

A few days later, another traveler approached the same resident wanting to move. The resident asked, “Well, what kind of people live in your village?” The traveler replied, “Oh, everyone is SO nice. They are kind and caring and I always feel welcome.” The resident replied, “That’s exactly the kind of people here.”

Thus, I suppose the lesson is we get what we look for. Setbacks and delays can be terrible, but often? They have a silver lining. We create the world we want to see. DELTA did me very wrong, but they made it right this time and I’m open to forgiving them and giving them more business. Yes, my car was dead, but Hubby could be my hero and all of us could go to dinner together.

What are your thoughts? I prefer to keep things positive, but is there a business that so WRONGED you that you were their best BAD advertising…but then they made it right? Have you ever experienced a setback or tragedy, but in retrospect? It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to you?

I love hearing from you!


Since it was such a HUGE success and attendees loved it, I am rerunning the Your First Five Pages class SATURDAY EDITION. Use the WANA15 code for 15% off. Yes, editors REALLY can tell everything they need to know about your book in five pages or less. Here’s a peek into what we see and how to fix it. Not only will this information repair your first pages, it can help you understand deeper flaws in the rest of your manuscript.

My new social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU. If you REGISTER NOW, you get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE (and all recordings) for $119 (regularly $149). Sign up today, because this special won’t last and seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

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Vogue Can Go to Hell–Can I Make Peace with My Thighs?

Benelli is my fashion accessory...

Benelli is my fashion accessory…

Those of you who read this blog know that I am always very upbeat and positive. I believe there are few things in life that can’t be fixed with a smile and elbow grease, but these days I’m losing my sparkle. As we enter into the holiday season, there are all kinds of goodies and treats and we all know that January 1st will be here soon enough. Most of us will be back on the treadmill, vowing that this time and this year things will be different.

The problem I have is this. I have no idea what normal looks like anymore.

I have been battling my weight my entire life. If I didn’t have an exercise routine that rivaled a professional athlete, I was always 30-40 pounds overweight. Even with said exercise routine, I rarely got down to what the charts said I should weigh. In fact, I remember sitting in the plus section of a department store and crying.

Six years ago, I found out I had severe food allergies (gluten, casein & soy). No wonder I’d been fat since the 80s, when all the “experts” deemed meat as evil. You shouldn’t be eating that meat! Have a bagel. Now THAT’S healthy. The healthier I’d tried to eat (low fat, whole grain, skim milk) the more I was poisoning myself.

Once I pulled the offending allergens out of my diet, I finally shred the weight I’d always carried around. I was 130 pounds with very little effort and I looked and felt amazing.

Then I got pregnant.

I had the world’s best pregnancy. I ate gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and organic. I worked out twice a day, six days a week. Even into my 9th month, I was swimming a mile a day and doing step aerobics (even though I could no longer see my feet). Over the course of my pregnancy, I gained 30 pounds. I had a super healthy baby and bounced back to feeling great in no time.


Three years later, I still have those thirty pounds (plus 10 for a total of 40), no matter what I do or how well I eat. If I train hard and don’t lose, I am told “You’re working out too much.” So when I drop the frequency, I get told, “You need to work out more often.”

My diet is mostly lean protein and green veggies. I only use strict amounts of healthy oils like olive oil or coconut oil and eat only good carbs, and am very strict about them, too. I’ve had alcohol on only 4 occasions since July. I don’t eat sweets, drink soda, or use artificial sweeteners.

But none of that matters, at least when it comes to my weight. I am healthy, have beautiful skin and hair. I have enough energy to power a small city and am never sick, but I am still a size 10-12 and 170 pounds.

Why is it no one looks like me?

When we look on TV, we are confronted with extremes–super skinny or clinically obese. We are calling anorexics “beautiful” and calling dangerously obese women “curvy.” We are an a country that is dying because of euphemisms. I hear parents call morbidly obese children “husky,” “big-boned” or “muscular.” We have retailers calling anorexics “curvy.” Take a look at some of my favorite selections:

This is why I will never give Eddie Bauer another DIME.

Someone throw this model a sandwich...

Someone throw this model a sandwich…

Can someone explain to Eddie Bauer what "curvy" means?

Can someone explain to Eddie Bauer what “curvy” means?

Or NY & Company

Curvy Skinny Jean? WTH?

Curvy Skinny Jean? WTH?

I wrote Eddie Bauer AND New York & Company letters. I received a nice form letter about “how much my opinion is valued.” Yeah.

Talbots did only slightly better in my Tour of Curves…

Okay, well at least she looks like she ate...once.

Okay, well at least she looks like she ate…once.

Everywhere I went, I tried to find models who looked like me. I’m not super skinny, but I am not yet plus-sized, either. I was shocked at the models retailers used in their catalogs. My favorite models were at THIS site. Lucky Brand you got LUCKY! Their models are so thin they look bow-legged.



Screen Shot 2012-12-03 at 11.07.35 AM

Give me a BREAK.

Shame on you, retailers.

At Old Navy, they are kind enough to have Plus size clothing, but they don’t use actual models, because we all know fat girls aren’t pretty.

Fa la la la la la la la FAIL

Fa la la la la la la la FAIL

Apparently no woman exists who is between HER:

Screen Shot 2012-11-30 at 5.46.47 PM

And HER…

...and HER.

Barbie Didn’t Make Us Fat…

I constantly hear this silly debate about how Barbie is to blame for girls (and later, women) having body issues.


High Fashion Dysfunction

We did, however, watch the fashion industry and television and film continue to elevate women who were thinner and thinner and dangerously thinner.

I played with Barbies my entire childhood and felt great about myself. In fact, I never had issues with how I looked until I was fourteen and started reading Seventeen Magazine…and no one looked like me. The girls were all over 5’7,” less than 110 pounds, and ONE body type—the stick.

Girls these days have it even harder. In the remake of the hit 90s show 90210, most of the actresses were frighteningly thin. At one point Jessica Stroup weighed in at 100 pounds, yet she is 5’8″. Shenae Grimes (5’3″) weighed in at 90 pounds.

Fashion Needs to Take Responsibility

It really irritates me that people can blame a plastic toy, but fail to keep the fashion industry accountable. The fashion industry has always been the thought leader when it comes to what we as a society consider beautiful.

In the 1950s, if you weren’t Caucasian, blonde, with blue eyes and curves, you weren’t pretty. It was the fashion industry that started breaking the rules, who started highlighting women of different races, who started showing skinny girls as beautiful in a world that valued the Marylin Monroe body type only. It was the fashion industry who took a risk on a woman with a gap between her teeth (Lauren Bacall), and women of color (Iman).

There was a time that fashion led the charge to opening society’s definition of beauty, yet now when we have reached a crisis point they want to claim they aren’t doing anything wrong and their models aren’t that skinny (Karl Lagerfeld). And, yes, Vogue claims it will tsk tsk the too-young and too-skinny, but I’m not overly impressed with the change. The models still look like bony Amazons in need of a sandwich.

Hey, Vogue! Want to be interesting? Don’t put a bird cage on a woman’s head, put some meat on her bones! You think you are art, when all you are is predictable.

Gee, another anorexic Amazon with poofy lips.

 *shock face*

Retailers are Responsible

One might give high fashion a bit of a pass, since no woman is going to wear a birdcage on her head and a bra on the outside of her clothes (and not get carted off to the loony bin), but retailers? Gap, Lucky, Abercrombie, NY&Co, Eddie Bauer ALL use models who are far too thin. Look at the pictures above. If the camera adds ten pounds?

I’ve tried writing letters, but that hasn’t gotten me very far. I feel frustrated. I’ve had all the blood work and I am a perfectly healthy woman…who is a size 10-12.


Can I Make Peace with My Thighs?

I don’t know. That’s the best answer I have. I feel that, if I were African American, I’d be the perfect size and shape. In fact, when I went to get my thyroid tested, the phlebotomist (an African American female) thought they’d written something wrong on my chart.

You’re here for OBESITY? Girl, you look FABULOUS!

We live in a world of magazines that hail how beautiful and curvy Beyonce and Mariah Carey are at a size 12-14, but then the same magazines call Jessica Simpson a cow for being the same size 12-14.  Women of color can have curves, but us white gals need to look more like Posh Spice. We can never be too rich or too thin.

I feel like I am at the mad Hatter’s Tea Party where nothing makes sense. No one looks like me, and every ad, every movie and television show is a reminder of how I don’t measure up, how I’m not trying hard enough. I try to buy clothes, and Target has 23 different new “skinny jeans.” I can’t buy clothes because nothing in the Misses department fits a woman with thighs, but I am too small for the Plus size department…

…so I live in yoga clothes, which is fine because I live at yoga and in the gym anyway. We no longer even make clothes to fit normal people anyway.

Where Have All the Size 8s Gone?

Those of us in the middle just seem to have disappeared. I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t at the heart of this nation’s disease. Back in the era when the size 6 and 8 were ideal, we didn’t have near the obesity rates. Have we elevated an impossible thinness and that has made our nation fatter than ever?

My Personal Protest

I decided long ago that I would no longer purchase fashion magazines. Additionally, I refuse to shop from any store that uses only super skinny models. I think if enough women did this, the industry would change. I would say write a letter, but I didn’t get that far.

I know there are naturally thin and small women out there. I never said retailers shouldn’t use skinny models at all. But they shouldn’t be using bone-skinny models to the exclusion of everyone else. If this was a race issue, the fashion industry would be in court by now. If they only photographed Caucasian blondes to the exclusion of Latinas and African American women, they’d be in trouble (and should be). But these days we are facing a different kind of discrimination and it is costing our girls their self esteems.

Out of Control

I have never believed in crash diets or fad diets, but I have gotten to the point that I feel my attitude about food has gotten out of control. I can’t dedicate this much time thinking about everything I eat and do.

Is it non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free?

Did I have enough carbs? Too many carbs?

Enough protein? Too much protein?

Enough exercise? Am I overtraining?

The NEW New Year’s Resolution

I’m healthy. My blood tests prove that. For this I am very grateful. I eat really well and have the hair skin and energy levels to show for it. I will work on focusing more on what I do have than what I don’t. Vogue can go to hell. I vow to find a way to make peace with my thighs and somehow learn to love being a size 10-12.

What about you? Do you think this country is out of control? Do you think the extremes have something to do with this? Do you have a hard time accepting yourself as beautiful? What do you struggle with? Have you made peace with your body? Do you have any advice or suggestions?

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ADD, Word Count & Why Dead Bodies are Good for the Living

In this paradigm, social media is—OOH! SQUIRREL!!!!

Today, I want to talk about something that is vital to success. REST. In Western society, we have this warped sense that we need to be productive 24/7. In fact, one of the biggest challenges I face as the Social Media Jedi is that writers believe that, if they are having fun on social media, then they must be doing it incorrectly. They mistakenly believe that all that time chatting about life, hobbies and family is somehow not as good as “marketing” their book and blitzing out non-stop promotion, yet nothing could be farther from the truth.

Contrary to what one might think, that “fun time” on social media will actually create the most resilient parts of our platform—relationships. When people connect with us emotionally, they bond and they become part of our “tribe.” These more primal instincts are what will create long-lasting love, loyalty and passion for our brand.

But writers believe if it is fun, then it mustn’t be work.

As a craft teacher, I run into the same issue in a slightly different form. I can tell in two pages if a writer reads a lot of fiction. It is simply shocking how many people want to write a book, but then they believe that reading fiction (or watching movies) is a waste of time. Everything becomes about pounding out more word count and the quality of the stories suffers.

I run into many writers who are so fried and burned out working on their novel that they can’t remember the last time they had a creative thought. Yet, when I suggest resting, reading a book or watching a movie, I might as well have handed them a crack pipe.

What? READ? Who has TIME?

I must confess that I suffer from the same problem. I work and work and work until I am ready to drop when the best thing I could do for my creativity and productivity is to STOP. I believe a lot of this goes back to my childhood, and is also a product of Western thought and culture.

History and Some Armchair Shrink Time

If you study the Industrial Revolution, you will see that the formation of public schools went hand in hand with industrialization. Schools were charged with creating a literate population, sure. But one of the main reasons so many philanthropists like Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Rockefeller supported schools was that schools were there to train the workforce of the future.

Schools teach us to sit still hours at a time, take instructions, and not to question authority. We learn early on that creativity is punished and conformity is rewarded. I was constantly in trouble in school because I never could work linearly. Sitting still? Fuggetaboutit.

They were constantly claiming that I had a hard time focu—OOH SQUIRREL!!!

Where was I?

Oh, yes…

I remember one time the teacher assigned a complicated maze. I started from the end and worked to the beginning, solving the maze without hitting any dead ends. She gave me an F. Why? The goal of the maze was to solve the maze, right? Why did she care HOW I got the answer so long as I did it myself and didn’t cheat?

But she did care. Yeah, Mrs. Foster kinda hated me. I spent most of my third grade year sitting in the hall. Fun times :D.

I was constantly in trouble for how I looked at life, that I didn’t do it like everyone else and so every report card was marked with: DOESN’T USE TIME WISELY.

Of course, looking back, I was a creative personality, with probably a touch of ADD. We live in a world that punishes those of us who don’t do it the way the manual states, and this can really affect our relationship with time. Creative people, when we walk barefoot in grass or watch cartoons or look at pictures on Pinterest, we ARE working. We can’t help it. We are always creating, but we live in a world that has told us that, because our “work” can’t be measured with “metrics” (I.e. word count) then it must be goofing off.

It isn’t. Learn to ignore those voices.

Back to the dead bodies. Kristen, what is with you? More zombie stuff?


Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter know that I regularly do Bikram yoga, which is 90 minutes and 26 postures in a room that is around 110-112 degrees. It is fabulous for detox, for the joints and the back, and the heat gives an amazing cardio workout and helps prevent injury because warm muscles are pliable muscles.

Anyway, there is a pose called savasana, or Dead Body Pose (or Corpse Pose). When I first started doing Bikram yoga, my biggest challenge wasn’t the poses or even the heat. It was sitting still (and shutting up for 90 minutes, but that is another blog). Seriously, I could not sit still.

I felt too guilty.

I ran through my grocery list. I thought about plot points. I went over research. But just being still and relaxing was making me twitch. The second half of the class was really tough, namely because every pose had a 20 second savasana after it. Pose, then dead body, pose, then dead body. You got it.


Please, let me at least take my iPhone in here. Then I can play Angry Birds and improve my eye hand coordination. SOMETHING!

All I could think of was the words of my third grade teacher, Kristen just doesn’t use her time wisely.

*twitch, twitch, twitch*

No matter how hard I tried I had a hard time resting. But then a weird thing happened. I decided to do the Bikram Yoga 60 Day challenge. 60 days of Bikram in 60 days. I happened to notice that I did great in every class but one. There was one instructor I HATED.

I didn’t hate her, just her class. She was a sweet, sweet lady, and I couldn’t understand it, but, every time I took her class, I felt like CRAP. I kept having to sit down. I didn’t have energy. I felt sick, winded, drained and this didn’t make any sense to me because every instructor says the exact same words. They have a 90 minute script that guides the class through the pose. It shouldn’t have been different. Same script, same poses, same room.

I could NOT figure out what was going on.

I drank more water. I took extra electrolytes. I thought maybe it was because she taught in the evening, so I took her in the morning to see if I could make it through. Nope. Still tanked. I thought back to childhood and wondered if it had to do with some unresolved Mommy issues I hadn’t located. Maybe my lack of energy was passive aggression on my part to sabotage her class (Hey, I’m a writer. We over-analyze everything).

No matter what I tried, nothing helped. And I wasn’t the only one who was struggling. I noticed other people in the class having to sit out or rest, because they couldn’t keep going, people who normally were fine.

WTH was going on?

Then, one day while in this instructor’s class, it hit me what was going wrong. In the second part of the class you are supposed to do a pose. This is an extreme exertion of energy. After the pose, you are to lie still in savasana, like a dead body (hence the name). Not only are you supposed to lie still like a dead body, but you are to lie there for TWENTY seconds. Yet, this instructor was rushing. She was only leaving us there for SIX seconds. We didn’t have enough time to rest and recharge, and it was drastically affecting every pose we did.

This was a powerful lesson for me. FOURTEEN seconds. What difference did FOURTEEN seconds make? It made a world of difference. Instead of having energy and doing every pose with confidence and ease, I felt like I was going to vomit and had to keep lying down. I LOST MORE TIME BY NOT TAKING TIME.

How many minutes of the workout did I lose because of those missing fourteen seconds?

How much of your productive time are you losing because you won’t take a day or two days to rest?

Dead bodies are good for us. Lie still. Do nothing. Dead bodies don’t have grocery lists and kids and deadlines and day jobs. We must have balance, Yin and Yang, light and dark, cookie and cream filling. The Force must be strong with you so chill the heck OUT!

I know many of you likely have a Mrs. Foster in your head telling you that you aren’t using time wisely. Ignore her and don’t feed her your attention and energy. Things we don’t feed eventually die, even the sour-faced elementary school teacher trapped in your head.

When we rest and recharge our work is better and clearer. Creativity is like a battery and it runs out of juice. Recharge that imagination. Play, relax, go to the park, finger paint, play Twister with your kids. Laugh. The world needs creative people to keep its humanity. If all of us are just efficient little workers then Skynet wins.

So go enjoy your weekend…after you comment. I will be grading, and those of you who don’t leave a comment are not using your time wisely. SLACKER!


So do you have a Mrs.Foster trapped in your head? Were you in trouble for not sitting still and for failing to use time wisely? So you have trouble resting? Have you overcome being a workaholic and have tips to share? Do you—OOH! SHINY!

I LOVE hearing from you!

Quick Announcement—I have a cool new class I am offering ACHOO! The Writer’s Guide to Going Viral. Also check out the new classes at WANA International. We have classes about global domination using Facebook, how to turn your book into an audio book, how to build a WordPress site of your own. Tons of cool stuff taught by WANA instructors hand-picked by ME (but please do not hold this against them :P).

To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of October I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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Writing Conferences–Beware of Crossing Deer

Happy Good Friday! I hope everyone has a restful holiday. We are entering the conference season, and there are a lot of large conferences coming up soon. So, today I’d like to relay my disaster experience with my first conference and then offer the powerful lessons I learned.

Remember, I made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to.

I have to say that I have attended quite a few conferences, and the DFW Writer’s Workshop folk have been one of the best (It was also my first, so it will always hold a dear spot in my heart). This year the keynote speaker is New York Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins. The DFWWWW Conference has a history of selling out early, so seriously, buy your slot NOW.  You’ll thank me later. DFW offers an amazing variety of classes, taught by some of the best talent in the industry.

I mean, I am teaching there, right? :D

Ouch. I got a cramp patting myself on the back.

It is so interesting looking back now at my first conference. A lot has changed. I am a multi-published, best-selling NF author represented by one of the top agencies in the world, S.G.G. Literary, as opposed to a hopeful wanna-be fiction writer. I am a speaker, not an attendee.

It still feels very surreal, and I still keep thinking one day the gig will be up and they’ll realize I was on the list by accident. But, hey *shrugs* we’ll party until they figure it out, right? :D.

Anyway, looking back at my first conference is sort of like being out of college and looking back at that time of trial and testing and thinking…I am so much smarter now. Or, thank God I am not still THAT stupid. In my case, it’s a close tie which.

My first conference was back in February of 2008. I was an overachiever and got Swine Flu a year before it swept the world. For most of February, I had 103 fever and wanted to die…then burn my own ashes (again) because I was pretty sure I was so sick that even my cremated remains would have body ache. I nearly didn’t make it to the conference (which was DFW).

I was so sure that 2008 would the year I got an agent. All I needed was an agent and then my life would be on Easy Street. My biggest concern was what to do if the agents started fighting over me. How would I choose which one to go with? Would it make future cocktail parties in NY awkward?

Yes…I was a wee delusional, and sadly, I cannot blame it on my fever.

And, to make it worse, I should have known better, but I didn’t. I had been on the editing side and had many, many acknowledgements in published books from grateful authors who professed publicly that they would not have been published without my help. I’d run a well-established critique group for 3 years and had even been teaching some social media. I felt pretty confident that I knew my stuff.

I find it funny how I had been in “the publishing industry” for so long, yet was still pretty clueless. I think I was like the computer programmer who believed he could kick butt in software sales. I knew so much, but in my pride and relative isolation, was unable to see how much more I had yet to learn.

Conferences are vital for showing us how much we really don’t know (but then they give us the tools to remedy that, too).

So, anyway, that Friday night, the agent-author social went really well. I was charming and fun in my own mind, and managed to make it through the entire night without tucking my dress in my pantyhose. I think that was the last thing to go right for the next 24 hours.

First, for those who do not know, I have a zillion food allergies. I might even be allergic to myself. I would live in a giant bubble, but I can’t get cable. So keep this in mind.

Hey, can somebody order me gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, preservative free pizza? Please? Anyone?

The Friday social goes well, but that night I get no sleep. None. I was too excited. I was going to be an agented author by this time the next night. My future was so bright, I was fairly sure it had caused permanent retinal damage.

The next morning I peeled myself out of bed and drove to Grapevine, TX, which was about an hour away. I looked stunning in my new suit, but I was so fried that I forget to grab the food I’d packed the night before. I arrived at the conference half-starving already and it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. That entire morning, I barely paid attention to any of the craft classes because 1) I was exhausted 2) I was starving and 3) I had my agent pitch right after lunch…which I could smell and it was making me half-mad.

I dodged out of a class early to talk to the caterer and asked if he had anything that was gluten and dairy free. He said “Yes.” The angels started singing. YES! I could get something to eat. I grabbed my meal and began wolfing it down prison-style, knife at the ready to stab any of the kitchen staff who might decide to take my plate before I had eaten the garnish and the Sweet & Low packets (fiber).

I finished eating before the other writers were even let out of class. I was feeling great. The writers filed in. I started socializing to take my mind of the pitch that I knew would catapult me to fame and fortune.

Candy Havens stepped up to do her keynote and…

My heart rate suddenly kicked up to 150 beats a minute, and felt like I was having a heart attack. I felt dizzy and my fingers and feet went totally numb, along with part of my face. I struggled to stay conscious as I watched Candy’s speech. I couldn’t get up and interrupt her, but I was terrified that I was going to pass out right there. My peripheral vision was soon gone. Black. And I could tell I was inches from blacking out. Clearly I got into something I was allergic to. I chugged every glass of water at the table trying to dilute whatever foul element I ingested.

I hung on Candy’s every word…waiting for the last one. The second people start clapping I dove out of the banquet hall and stumbled to the bathroom. I was in bad shape. A couple of the speakers happened to be in there and apparently it was clear to them that something was definitely wrong with me. They wanted to take me to a hospital.

NO! I had come too far. I could do this.

I still had an hour until my pitch session…the 15 minutes that would change my life forever…although I did grant permission to call an ambulance if I passed out.

During that hour, I drank another gallon of water and the symptoms, blessedly, started to subside. About a half hour after I staggered into the restroom, another woman stumbled into the bathroom with a screaming migraine. Apparently the caterer forgot to mention the liberal amounts of MSG (monosodium glutamate) in the broth used to cook the rice. We were both in pretty bad shape.

Thus, I missed another craft class trying to be at least coherent for the agent pitch. I got into the room and my beautiful suit is all rumpled and my hair is flat on one side (from leaning on a chair trying not to die).  I am also pretty certain I only had makeup on one eye.

I sit down and begin to talk, but have no idea what point I am trying to make…and now I have to pee. Like BAD. Like 12 seconds after I sit down I am now aware of the 6 gallons of water I drank. So now I am wiggling and trying to think, but all I can picture are waterfalls and sprinkler systems and babbling brooks and speaking of babbling, what the hell was my book about anyway?

It was a disaster.

But, an hour after the pitch session, I felt better and I finally got to do what conferences are all about. I made loads of friends and connections, and took some great classes to improve my skills. I learned so much at that conference and met some of the most AMAZING people who are my friends even to this day. Candy Havens is still one of my all-time favorite people, and it is really cool to now be one of her peers instead of this strange neophyte-stalker.

Okay, I am still strange and slightly a stalker but she now doesn’t jump when she spots me in her shrubs.

Anyway, I look back and wonder if I would have just lightened up and gone for the conference for the right reasons, would I have had my near-death experience? I was so keyed up that I made one dumb decision after another, which was probably fueled by stress and sleep deprivation.

I gave myself Deer in the Headlight Syndrome. You know what happens the deer caught in the headlights? They get creamed, flattened, squished.

Hopefully, I made my point. RELAX! ENJOY your conference experience. Making the decision to attend a conference separates the wanna-bes from the professionals. Conferences are the best, and they are the greatest investment you will ever make in your writing career, but NOT because of that 15 minute pitch session.

The pitch session is not a career make-or-break situation. Seriously, agents (I have heard whispers of rumors coming from the caves) are HUMAN. More importantly they are humans with the sole job of finding writers to represent. They are not the enemy. Also, the only person with the power to make or break our career is….US. Agents do not hold that power. If we write excellent stuff, agents will want to represent it. Period.

Also, we can talk to agents outside the pitch session. I don’t recommend sliding your query letter under the bathroom stall, and try not to ambush them outside the Ladies Room door, but here is a little understood secret. Agents go to conferences to network and to…. Are you ready for this? FIND CLIENTS.

We can talk to them. In fact, agents expect writers will talk to them. To think otherwise is like thinking it would be rude to offer a designer a fabric swatch at a trade show. Agents go to writing confernces to meet writers and, hopefully, out of aaaallllll the hopefuls, find someone with content that they believe they can sell.

We are in control of our careers, which means that yes, agents are important, but connections and classes trump agents any day of the week. The more connections we have, the more doors of opportunity will come our way. The more we listen to others and learn from them, the faster we grow and mature into the type of writer an agent is dying to represent.

In the end, after all of my suffering, did I get an agent? No. I got a form letter with the wrong name on it. But, it was probably one of the most valuable experiences of my career, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Top 5 Tips to Maximize Your Writing Conference

1. Go to all the craft classes you can.

Trust me, no matter how good we think we are, we aren’t even close to how great we COULD be. Go to more than just agent panels and “How to Land an Agent” classes. Take this opportunity to grow into a better you. Grab hold of that opportunity to learn from those doing what you want to do. Ask questions. Take lots of notes. Team up with friends and take all the classes and then share notes. Often there are tricks and techniques shared that we can’t get out of a book.

2. Network

Also, at conferences, we get to network with authors who are where we want to one day be. We can make hostages mentors out of them. I stalked Candy Havens…okay, I still stalk her. But she is an AMAZING human being and five minutes listening to her will make you feel like you can take over the world. She is the only person I know who can simultaneously kick my @$$ and make me grateful for it. I have a conference to thank for knowing her. Candy challenged me to come up to a higher level and she STILL does. This is worth more than what you will pay for the conference. TRUST ME.

3. Talk to all the agents.

Not necessarily to pitch your book, but just to be nice. You might see them at another conference and they will recognize you. Now you are forming a relationship. This also helps you see they are really blood-sucking werewolves human.

You can talk to agents other than the one assigned in your pitch. The pitch session just guarantees us a particular agent’s undivided attention. It doesn’t mean that the other agents will take out a restraining order on you if you say “hi” and ask to give your elevator pitch.

4. Have FUN!

Conferences aren’t cheap. Squeeze every bit if fun out of every little moment. Get your money’s worth.

5. Go out of your way to form memories.

This is like high school or college. We can either have a blast in our “learning years” and take lots of pictures and have lots of fun…or we can rush through it and fail to enjoy our “writing youth” because we are to busy wanting to be “writing grown-ups.” We only get to be Baby Writers once. Enjoy the moments of magic before this becomes a job. Enjoy the youth because you will soon have to let it go.

So what are some of your conference experiences? Good or bad? Some of my closest friends are people I met at conferences. Do you have any advice? Tips? Pointers? Want to recommend a conference? Want me to come speak at a conference in your area? Put it in the comments. I love hearing from you.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Due to the tornadoes, I am behind. Will announce last week and this week’s winners on Monday. Thank you for your patience.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.



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