Saturday, October 18, 2008
Just a quick note. Last night my husband and I spent our evening playing freeze tag, hide-n-seek, follow the leader and duck-duck-goose with two of our granddaughters, Paisly and Zella. It was a time of joy, laughter and this overwhelming conformation that we are two of the wealthiest folks on the planet. With the economy going crazy and a wild and frustrating Presidential election ahead of us, and winter winds threatening to blow the fall leaves out of our yard faster than I'd like, this sweet moment in time made it all fade. Wall Street will do what it will do, after all the votes are in somebody will be elected , and winter...well it will come no matter how much I don't want it to. The important thing is the most important thing...family, friends and faith. And folks, I am blessed beyond measure with all three.
My family are my points of light. My friends are my icing. And my faith is the foundation of it all..."I can do all things through Christ who strengths me..."
I'm going to stop worrying about stuff and I advise you to do the same. And if you're having trouble, might I suggest a rousing game of duck-duck-goose with a couple of pre-schoolers...
Friday, October 17, 2008
The other day I got an email from an editor asking me to tell them what my brand is as a writer. I had sent them a non-fiction proposal a few days before and I guess they have a little interest in me or they wouldn't have emailed me that question, right? Let's assume I'm right, okay. My ego is a little too fragile right now to think otherwise.
So if you were me, what would you have said? I've heard two schools of thought on this. The First School Of Thought comes from my friend and writer Jim Denny. I quickly wrote him the other day when I got this question and asked him what his brand is. Jim has written a whole bunch of non-fiction collaborative books with Pat Williams and many others. He told me he doesn't think non-fiction writers should have brands. He said and I quote, "I guess you can say my brand is that I am a writer who only writes about things that interests me and everything interests me."
The Second School Of Thought is that all writers even, non-fiction writers should have a brand...or must have a brand before they are marketable.
Oh, I misquote myself...there are THREE Schools Of Thought on this...the third being...fiction writers need a brand and non-fiction writers do not.
Oh, wait, I misquoteth myself again...there are FOUR Schools Of Thought on branding...the fourth being, non-fiction writers need a brand and fiction writers do not.
See why writers are nuts?
So what is a brand? I've been told it is that SOMETHING that sets you apart from the pack. It is that THING that when readers see your name on a book that can count on.
Okay... one agent's blog on brands said I should start with thinking about location and background and how that would color my writing. So, I tried that. I was born and raised in the south, but have spent the last 30 years or so living in the North. So, what if I said my brand was something like: "I have Southern skin with a Northern spin." "My right brain has a Mason Dixon line." "I talk like a Southern but think like a Upper?"(pronounced YOOPER for those Southerners who haven't lived in the North for the past 30 years or so like myself.)
Anyway, I had a deadline from the editor so I made up something I thought sounded as writerly as I could about my brand and sent it off to her. But to be honest, how does a writer who has only written one published book so far know what her brand is?
My first book was written out of an interest in telling a certain story in a certain way. It had nothing to do with being a Southern or a person who likes brats (pronounced BRAAT if you have a Upper accent). I wrote a book that was a joy to write and one which made me cry to write in parts and one that made me smile when I wrote other parts. It was a book that touched me profoundly as I wrote it and left me changed. If it did any of that for the 50,000 or so folks who have bought it so far then I guess I did my job...brand or no brand.
I'll let you know if my editor person liked my brand well enough to take a chance on me and this next story. If she does...great! I'll be on top of the world. If she doesn't...well...
Saturday, October 11, 2008
A couple of weeks ago I attended my first American Christian Fiction Writer conference. I've been to the writer's conference at Mt. Hermon and the Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College. All three of these events are wonderful. They offer opportunities to meet other writers and to connect with editors and agents. And if you are a writer like me trying to get your work 'out there', that meeting editors and agents thing is important.
But you know what the most important thing is at these things...at least for me? It is that giddiness that comes when I finally feel like I'm with my 'own kind'. By that I mean, these are the people who understand why I'm still writing after being rejected by publishers more times than I care to tell you. These folks understand what its like to sit in front of a computer and wrestle with which word is best to describe the smell of a wet dog. My kind get that. Regular people don't. When I tell non-writer people that my first book was rejected 29 times before it was finally picked up by Howard Publishing, they look at me like they would a sad little duck who has been tarred and feathered...by choice. But folks at those conferences get it and nod their heads with that little gleam in their eye and say, "Well, there you go!"
Another gift was that I got to room with a dear friend and sister-writer, Phyllis Nichols. We had met last year at Mt. Hermon. We became fast friends in California almost the minute she entered our little cabin pulling and tugging her suitcase and said, "Hey!" We both have southern roots and connected with the first "ya'll." (I've posted a picture of us taken at the awards banquet...I'm the stunning silver-haired one.)
I went to this conference with a list in my head of people I felt I needed to connect with in order for this conference to be a success for me. I had favorite writer's I wanted to meet and thank them for their books. I had writer's who I had only met online and wanted to hug them in the flesh. I had a couple of agents and editors I wanted to introduce myself to, etc., I prayed over this list and asked God to calm my spirit and to help me listen and let Him lead. And wouldn't you know, every single person on my list either came and sat beside me at a meal, or all of sudden were standing in line in front of me, or we'd meet face-to-face in the hall as we were running to our next class, or whatever. Every single one of them! Isn't that something?
I came home refreshed and inspired to keep at it. I had an agent ask for my full proposal as did an editor...plus I was encouraged by writer's more published than I who sat and prayed with me about priorities, patience and listening to God's prodding.
Sometimes God speaks in a loud voice and sometimes He simply whispers. A couple of weeks ago at the conference, I experienced both. He spoke so loud I could do nothing but giggle, and at other times His whisper brought me to my knees. Blessings, friends. My hope for you this week is that you prepare yourselves to giggle and bow.