7 Habits of a Highly Ineffective Writer

To be or not to be...writing vs. playing Angry Birds

Disclaimer: After reading this blog—which you are probably doing right now instead of writing your own blog or editing your own manuscript–you will better understand the problem areas in your writing life. I offer no cures. I think we both know there’s only one way to get those words on the page. Write.

Anyway, here’s everything you need to know to become a highly ineffective writer.

1.      Surround yourself with clutter.

By all means, do not write in a clean, neatly organized room, for if you do, you will find limited reasons to procrastinate. If there are no laundry to fold, no papers to grade, no toys to pick up, no dishes to wash, no books to read, and no dirt to vaccum, then the only thing left to do is to write.

I am a minimalist by nature. Honestly, I HATE clutter. I could live in a hotel room as long as a maid cleaned the bathroom and made the bed. Better yet, give me a rustic, clean cabin in the woods. If I see clutter, my obsessive nature kicks in. I can’t think about writing because all I want to do is clean.

2.      Place an object of temptation within your reach.

Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t think you’ll reward yourself for your 500 words by with a quick interlude of entertainment. Like to crochet? Put down the needle. You’ll only hurt yourself. Of course, you like to read, but that one chapter soon turns into two, and then before you know it, you’re engrossed, hooked. There are no intervention plans, folks. Withdrawal from a good book is killer.

My object of temptation? The guitar. My laptop is within an arm’s distance of two guitars and an amp. Even as I write this, I tell myself, “No. I will not pick up the guitar. I will not pick up the guitar.” But I already have.  True, one chord never hurt anybody. But I can’t stop at one chord. Now that I’ve learned how to move up and down the neck, I’m sliding over every fret. Dangerous.

3.      Participate in a pre-writing ritual.

What do you do before you fire up the laptop? Make a pot of coffee? Watch some reality TV? You’re not one of those fitness people are you? Tell me you don’t work out before you write. (If you tell me you do, then I’ll feel even more guilty. Not only will I have to admit to being a highly ineffective writer, I’ll also have to admit to being a lazy, highly ineffective writer.)

The point is if you become too focused on your ritual, you’ll place more emphasis on preparation than on production. Me? I MUST have coffee. But coffee is not enough. To clear my mind, I must go for a ride and
drink my coffee. When I get home, I’m usually tired. Then I need a nap. By the time I wake up, the day is done, and my writing is not.

4.      Stop writing; start researching.

You’ve set a goal. 1000 words? 2000 words? But the world of research calls. Do you answer, or return to the page? Research is fun. Research burns minutes. And hours. Even days.

I love research. Give me a name or a subject, and within an hour I can tell you anything you want to know about anyone or anything. And when I research, my mind wanders. And when my mind wanders, I think of new projects. But my old project never moves forward. Then I have TWO unfinished projects.

5.      Immerse yourself in a bottomless pit of social media.

By all means, get your name out there. Twitter. YouTube. Facebook. Google. But can you stop at one status, or do you find yourself wandering off to Farmville, Angry Birds or Zuma?

My downfall? I’m hooked on stupid Facebook quizzes, but I have learned so much about myself. If I were a vampire, my hidden gift would be to see into the future. If I were a Disney princess, I would be Snow White, but if I were a character from a horror flick, I’d be Chucky. What do my eyes reveal? I have a deep, dark secret I don’t want to share with others.

I wonder how much writing I could have achieved if I hadn’t been taking these quizzes.

6.  Become a jack of all trades, a master of none.

Your family needs you. Your church needs you. Your boss needs you. Your organization needs you. You have 24 hours in a day. By the time you’ve made the meals, served on three committees, spent an extra hour on the job, and organized a Boy Scouts fundraiser, you’re tired. You probably don’t feel like writing. But the real question is did God call you to do ALL of these things, or did you call yourself?

I’m one of those people who have a hard time saying ”no.” I believe I have a purpose, a calling to write. But so many other things pull me away from what I KNOW I’m supposed to do. While it is commendable to teach Vacation Bible School or to take youth on church camp retreats, I don’t believe God expects me to do everything that is commendable. I think he gave me the desire of my heart (writing), and I think He will give me the time to pursue it—if I’m not guilted into doing the things He’s not calling me to do. Unfortunately,I am the most guilty at making myself feel guilty.

7.  Never, ever forgive yourself when you fail.

Life happens. Deadlines for contests pass, and we don’t meet them. We rush a query letter to the post office, and then we realize the editor only accepts e-mail. We trade our 1,500 words a day goal to go play in
the park with our children. We lose the business card of a potential agent. Epic failures.

While we’re at it, we might as well condemn ourselves for ever sin we’ve ever committed, It’s so easy to make ourselves feel bad. It’s so hard to make ourselves work when we feel so bad about ourselves.

In the past year, I have suffered tremendous losses, and my writing success has slowed to a crawl. I feel like a failure because I lack the emotional punch to keep me going. Sometimes I fear I have reached a dead end, but I can’t stop there—even if it means turning around and finding another way out, another route to success.

We know what it feels like to fail others. Have you really thought about how it feels when you fail yourself? It  hurts just as badly. But just as we forgive others, we must forgive ourselves.

No one is perfect. We are all works in progress.

Dream on

Note: If my children read this, I will be in some serious trouble. But as they say, forgiveness is easier to get than permission.

Last night I treated my sons to a delicious meal at the Hong Kong Buffet. When the waitress brought us the ticket and our fortune cookies, Josh grabbed one and looked at me in horror.

“I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t open it. I’ll put it back.” And he pulled his hands away. It was too late. He had already touched it.

See, we have this “thing” in my family. I ALWAYS get to pick the first cookie. I choose my fortune. Michael ALWAYS gets the last cookie. His fortune chooses him. Whoever’s left gets what’s in the middle.

But since Josh had already touched it, I told him to take it. I chose another one, and Michael’s cookie chose him.

Michael’s cookie said he needed some relaxation time. My cookie told me to pursue my long-term goal, and Josh’s cookie predicted mystery and romance.

“Hey, these cookies went to the wrong people. I think Michael needs the mystery romance cookie.”

Michael balked at Josh’s words. He’s is in that “in-between world” of not knowing whether he should run to or from girls.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. We don’t put much stock into these “fortunes,” but we have a lot of fun with them—Michael, usually more than others. He likes to add the words “in the bathroom” to everyone’s fortune.

Try it. It’s fun—even though it’s obnoxiously juvenile. I always scold him when he says it at the restaurant, but on the inside I’m laughing.

I told Josh I believed his cookie was meant for him because the word romance didn’t necessarily mean “huggy, huggy, kissy, kissy.” And both of us proceeded to explain to Michael that romance also referred to adventure in a King Arthur kind of way.

I like to think both of my children are adventurous and romantic. When they were little, they became so caught up in their imaginations I had a hard time pulling them back to reality.

For eight years Josh was an only child, so he invented imaginary brothers and a sister—Kinder, Mark, and Folla. They road atop our van along with his imaginary uncle from England.

Josh went through a Batman phase. Even when it wasn’t Halloween, he used to dress like the superhero. I remember taking him into a Shoney’s in Knoxville. He signed autographs for the waiters and waitresses—as THE Batman.

He also created his own detective agency and made me print business cards for him.

Michael, on the other hand, has always been creative but in a different way. He’s always had Josh, so he didn’t need imaginary siblings. I could buy him expensive gifts at holidays, but there has always been one gift that enthralls him—pencil erasers, as long as they come in two colors so that he can create intricate battles between opposing teams or armies.

Isn’t that weird?

Michael also wants a golf cart more than anything else in the world. Who knows what he plans to do with it. For years he has pleaded with me. When Old Stone Fort shut down its golf course, Michael begged to go there so he could ask a park ranger for one of the golf carts.

Not going to happen.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days of my childhood. As only child, I spend nearly all of my waking moments in another world. It was okay back then. When you’re a kid, you can imagine all you want, and nobody thinks you’re weird.

I loved horses, so my mother’s brooms became my mighty steeds. My golden banana seat bike transformed into a palomino. I spent weekends at my grandparents’ hiding in the bathroom with my cousin Robin, my partner in crime, and we spent hours mixing Jergan’s lotion, Comet cleanser and other cleaning supplies into magical potions. Were we scientists or actresses in commercials? I don’t remember. We just had fun.

Sometimes I find myself drifting off into my imaginary world again, even as adult. When Josh read his fortune at the Hong Kong Buffet, I found myself drifting off again. I had a plan.

Josh is a journalism major and sometimes falls into media opportunities. There is a possibility he might work a major awards show in the near future. A possibility.

Sometimes these workers drive the celebrities to their appointments. If I recall correctly, one Steven Tyler showed up at last year’s event. Who’s to say he won’t come back this year?

So here’s the plan, man:

Josh finds a way to grab golf cart duty. He looks for Steven Tyler. He drives Steven Tyler in the golf cart, but he doesn’t stop at the awards show. He brings him to our house. (I don’t know what we’ll do with him once we get him—I don’t want to keep him. I just want to borrow him for autograph or a picture. Maybe a song.)

Mission accomplished.

If the plan works out, not only will I get to meet Steven Tyler, but Michael will get his golf cart. Josh will probably go to jail, but hey…he’s the one who grabbed the first cookie.

And it’s MY imagination.

Oh well. I guess I can just “dream on.”

Cat Whisperer

Stevie Ray

“Mom, if you keep talking like that, people will start calling you the Cat Lady.”

Brandishing his infinite wisdom, my college-age son once again offered his advice. And called me the Cat Lady!

Cat Lady? Visions of a deranged, lonely woman surrounded by hundreds of hungry, yowling felines invaded my imagination. Okay, the scenario is technically possible, but what my son doesn’t know is that I AM The Cat Lady, better known as The Cat Whisperer. I talk to my cat, and he talks back.

He doesn’t speak English. If he could, I think he’d prefer to talk like an Egyptian due to his breeding, but, nevertheless, he speaks. He just doesn’t use words.

He shows rather than tells.

Stevie Ray, named after the legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, is a highly intelligent tabby who communicates with subtle and not-so-subtle cues.

Stevie Ray is a free spirit. He comes and goes as he pleases. I don’t force him to stay. He’s a back-door man who taps on my sunroom’s glass door with his velvet paw when he wants to enter.

Stevie Ray is refined. He requires no litter box. He sits by the door and meows when he needs to excuse himself. If I don’t respond soon enough, he sharpens his claws on my potted plant and shakes the leaves until he has my attention. If necessary, he topples the plant, which is nearly five feet tall.

Other than the occasional tree toppling, Stevie Ray, never, ever, violates my home–which is a whole lot more than I can say for the Scottish terror who invades our  living room and kitchen. She, with her vindictive attitude and predisposition for stealing quesadillas on take-home Mexican Monday, is jealous of Stevie Ray. Given the opportunity, she sneaks into the sunroom where Stevie Ray and I hang out, and leaves a nasty “gift” on the carpet by my computer.

By nature, I’m a dog lover. In addition to Maggie, the Scottie, I am also the proud owner of a yellow lab and a Hellhound. I’m sorry. This IS a rated-G blog. But it’s true. The same college-aged son who accused me
of being the future Cat Lady once brought home a sweet little black puppy we named Scooby Dee. I relented and let her stay, never imagining what she would turn out to be.

Little did I know that this black puppy with the big paws would grow into a shiny ebony monster with a Cheshire cat grin that resembles a Capuchin monkey. She has a body that’s a cross between a black lab and a Great Dane and the face of a Pit Bull or some other flesh-gouging canine straight from the depths of ….

But she’s a sweetheart, despite her looks. Scooby talks too. Literally. She tries to mimic our speech. But I don’t understand her words. I have to watch her actions. When Scooby wags her lethal tail, she’s happy, so happy, she knocks me off my feet.

Lacy, her yellow sister, is the runt of a litter of 13, the baby. And you know what they say about the baby. She always wants attention. I enrolled her in obedience school, and the leaders almost kicked us out because Lacy was too social. She barked constantly and wanted to rub noses with ever pup in the place.

Nevertheless, Lacy SHOWS her affection by trying to snuggle in my lap. Nevermind she’s at least 50 or 60 pounds. She flops at our feel for belly rubs and shakes hands over and over again because she knows it makes me happy.

My pets don’t tell; they show. And that’s what effective writers do.

My juniors are preparing for the TCAP Writing Assessment Test. My goal is for them to show vivid examples, not just tell about them. We’ve been practicing this objective all week. I usually throw in a personal example like the one below to make a point.

As a naïve, young teacher I agreed to sponsor a band concert for Homecoming, not realizing that five-foot little old me would be the ONLY chaperone of 500 hormonal teens. And because it was a concert, the only lights available were on the stage.

I could tell you I was terrified. Better yet, let me paint you a verbal picture and show you.

Being the naïve young teacher, I feared two things: procreation and illegal drug use. I was moderately worried about the mosh pit, forming at the front of the stage.

I watched with hawk eyes, and then I saw saw it. The glow of a red light. My imagination soared. I had to save my students. I assumed some shady perpetrator had sneaked a funny cigarette into the theater. I flew into combat mode and attacked the unknown suspect, yanking him over the back of the theater chairs.

Can you say overzealous?

Ironically, the red light on the alleged smoke was actually a laser that beamed from a Rebel Canon EOS camera. I had just wrestled my newspaper cameraman to the ground. I didn’t recognize him in the dark. I think I scarred him for life.

Can you say embarrassed?

A picture is worth a thousand words.

The greatest piece of advice my mother ever gave me was, “Actions speak louder than words.” You can only truly judge a person’s heart by examining his actions. Some people are takers. They depend on other people to make them happy. They always want something and possess a “What’s in it for me”attitude. Other people are givers. They find their happiness in doing something to make others happy, even if it means sacrificing something for themselves.

When it comes to writing, readers want to get to know their characters. They want  to fall in love with the characters in our books just as we want to fall in love with the characters in our lives. Actions speak louder than words.

Being the hopeless romantic, my heart melts in the presence of a giver. And that’s what I want my readers’ hearts to do when they meet my characters. I can’t just tell my readers the protagonist in my book is wonderful. I have to show them. I have to make the character do something that makes the readers’ hearts melt. Actions speak louder than words.

Just ask Stevie Ray. If he flips his tail, he’s telling you to back off, but if he purrs, he invites you to enjoy his presence. Right now he’s sleeping at my feet—he wants to be near me. That’s how I know he loves me.

At least that’s what his actions say.

Character driven

J. T. Ellison kills people for a living. When she showed up to dinner one night at a nice restaurant and saw her victim alive and well across the room, she freaked out. Wouldn’t you?

J.T. Ellison is a writer, specializing in thrillers, and when she creates a character, she scans the Nashville society sections of the local magazines and papers to find the perfect victim. She just happened to run into one of those victims in real life—a person who was once just a face on newsprint. JT supplied the rest of the details from the depths of her imagination..

Oooooh, what fun!

Writers make the story real for us when they make the characters real to them. Sometimes writers need a visual prompt before they can imagine a character’s personality, predict their actions, know their tastes, feel their pain.

Some writers are plot driven, but I think I’m character driven. Soon after I read The Outsiders as a kid and fell in love with Soda Pop Curtis, I created my own character. He never appeared in any of my stories I wrote as a teen, and he wasn’t an imaginary childhood friend. But whenever I daydreamed, I imagined this person. Today that character is still very real to me. The perfect character. Maybe he’s just waiting for his story to be written.

When I first started my writing venture, I attended one of J. T.’s writing workshops, sponsored by the Tennessee Writers Alliance, and was giddy at the thought of creating my own character.

I wanted to try J. T. Ellison’s technique of building my character around a real person. Like I don’t do that anyway. I always write about people I know—I just don’t tell them. Taylor Swift and I have something in common. She writes about the bad ones, but I write about the good.

I considered perusing the society sections of the local papers, but we don’t have a society section. Too small town. Instead I trolled Facebook and MySpace and gawked at people I didn’t know. That just seemed too weird.

I even considered filling out a dating match for one of my male characters to see what type of girl would be interested in him. But I thought better of it. What if the real live girl thought she had found the match she had waited for all her life—only to find out it could never be?

Nooooo! That’s not my kind of story. My stories have happy endings. As the writer, I’m in control, so I can make it happen, at least in fiction.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m beginning to think I sound a bit deranged like one of those “characters” on Criminal Minds. Eeek. I hope profilers don’t read my blog and think I’m a serial killer. (It wasn’t even my idea to pull Tony the Tiger from the frosted flakes box. But that’s another story.)

I admire writers who create real characters. If I had to pick one of my favorite masters of character creation in addition to J. T., my choice would be Tyler Perry. The man’s a genius.

All of his characters evoke an emotion, but his Madea character is my favorite. Forever the hopeless romantic, I combine love and comedy. So does Perry, but Perry also uses his very real characters to unleash a profound message. He makes us laugh while, at the same time, makes us look dead in the eyes of truth.

That’s why Perry is one of my favorites. His characters are multi-dimensional. I feel as though I actually know them. They have an emotional impact on me.

What character is your favorite and why? What makes that character real to you?

For more information about J. T. Ellison, click on the book jackets to visit her website. You can also see her in person during the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville October 14-16.

Nobody gets outta this place without singing the blues

Adventures in Babysitting

Ten seconds.

Pick a movie that could be the story of your life. Mine? Adventures in Babysitting, starring Elisabeth Shue. If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t rent it. Buy it. I hear there’s a remake on the way, but I can’t imagine anything being as good as the original.

Adventures in Babysitting is the story of life’s little habit of going from bad to worse.

Cry or laugh. Either way we have to get through circumstances. Our earthly problems never fade away forever, and just when we think we’re cruisin’, that’s when get a flat—kind of like what happens in the movie.

Here’s the movie’s premise. Chris Parker plans a romantic evening with her boyfriend, but when her date backs out, she’s stuck babysitting three bratty kids. Chris’s crazy best friend goes off the deep end, runs away to the city, and then calls Chris to rescue her. What else can Chris do but load the kids into her mom’s car and take off on an adventure?

Along the way, the car gets a flat, and Chris and the kids hitch a ride in a tow truck but end up at chop shop. They befriend an amiable car thief, who tries to save them, but they find themselves moving targets of ruthless
thugs. Their only means of escape is to duck in a back alley door, the entrance to a hardcore Chicago blues club.

The four find themselves on stage, and as blues guitarist Albert Collins tells them, “Nobody gets outta this place without singing the blues.”

Sometimes that’s all any of us can do. When life goes from bad to worse, we have to sing. And sometimes the singing or the situation is so bad, we have to laugh to keep from crying.

Chris Parker and I have a lot in common.

Just recently I found myself lost in a big city with my crazy friend. I had signed up for a SCBWI conference as a writer and talked my illustrator friend into going to share the costs and the fun. We had Saturday evening free, so we signed with other conference attendees for a walking tour around downtown Nashville. We rode to the tour with one of the organizers, whom we had met moments before. She could have been a sociopath for all we knew.

The tour took us to several legendary sites, including the Capitol and the oldest church downtown. But then our guide led us to the notorious Printer’s Alley, the site where a man named Skull ran his business and walked his painted pink poodles until the day he was murdered.

Everyone in our tour took turns taking pictures of the entrance to Skull’s now defunct club. My friend I obliged several passers-by and took their photos so that they’d have a souvenir of their trip. We were so pleased to help others that we lost track of our group. They left us.


We were lost on Printer’s Alley with no clue how we got there and no clue how to get back to our hotel, which was too far away for walking.

But I remembered our tour guide saying the tour would end at the Ryman Auditorium. All we had to do was find it. My friend and I serpentined from one back alley to another and found our way to a main street. We could see our group standing in front of the Ryman, and we ran to them.

When we finally made it back to our hotel, we were famished. The polite man working the front desk showed us the hotel restaurant, the bar, and the tiny pantry/ convenience store. My friend headed straight for the pantry’s
freezer and Ben and Jerry’s.

But I was feeling rather sassy and proud of myself for having saved the day with my keen navigational senses. (My friend’s story may differ, but this is MY POV.) Anyway, when the man asked me what I wanted I slapped the
desk and smiled big and boldly said, “I want me some chocolate.”

Awkward silence. I cringed. I panicked.

For was it then I realized there was no smile on the man’s handsome, genteel dark brown face, emphasis on dark brown, the color of chocolate.

More awkward silence.

And then I babbled.

“You know what?” I said. “I really don’t think chocolate is such a good idea. I’ve had way too much chocolate lately. I like chocolate—don’t get me wrong. It’s just I’ve really been consuming the calories lately. I don’t
need chocolate. I don’t really want any chocolate. I think I’ll just skip the chocolate.”

I must have gone on and on for 15 minutes mumbling about chocolate. Every word that tumbled out of my mouth was the wrong word. I finally caught my breath and said, “You know what? I think I’ll just get a
bottled water.”

I crawled away from the counter, grabbed a Dasani from the pantry, dug a buck or two out of my pocket and crawled back to the desk.

“How much?” I squeaked.

“Go ahead. Take it,” the man said, smiling now.

“Really?” I squeaked.

He nodded. And I slunk into the elevator, where my friend awaited. By the time I explained the whole ordeal to her, we were laughing hysterically.

I was sooooo embarrassed. But considering all the other troubles life has had to offer, I have to admit, a little embarrassment is nothing—except reason for a good laugh. And who doesn’t need that every now and then? Rather than sweat the little situations, we should do what the man says—sing. Or laugh.

After all, nobody leaves this place without singing the blues.

Click on this Adventures in Babysitting clip for an added treat.

What movie is your “theme” movie? Please share your thoughts and a smile.

Tarred and feathered

2011 ACFW Conference in St. Louis

For the last month I’ve been preaching to my Motlow English students, “Voice, voice, voice. You’ve got to find your voice. We English teachers are KILLING your writing because we’re taking away your voice. We’re making you all sound the same with your generically proper English.”

Yes, I know my students MUST learn to write proper academic papers, but they are so concerned about not using contractions and not using fragments that they’re losing their voices.

Why is that a problem? Because when they write their scholarship essays, their essays won’t stand out from the others. They will all sound the same.

Well, duh. Smack me in the head with a Harry Potter book. Yes, I said Harry Potter. It has to be a BIG book because up until now I have been teaching it and preaching it, but I haven’t been “getting it.”

I attended two back-to-back writer conferences, the SCBWI conference in Nashville and the ACFW in St. Louis. I almost bowed out of both of them. I wasn’t prepared. The Nashville conference offered a contest to the first 25 entries in each genre.

I didn’t want to enter my old manuscript, so like a phoenix, I aimed to rise up from the ashes of my failures to try something new. So I wrote all night from the top of my head about a girl and a guitar. I wrote from my heart. I wrote with abandon and came up with a killer title I blatantly stole from a Matt Urmy song.

But I didn’t make the contest. I was too late with my submission. All that writing for nothing.

At that point I REALLY didn’t want to go to the conference, but I had already paid the fee. I felt defeated—again. I was just tired. Well, I wasn’t just tired—I was tarred. That’s how we say it in the South. That’s how we say
it when we aren’t being good and proper English teachers.

To make matters worse. I had paid for a writing critique. But what was I going to send?  On a whim, I packaged my newly penned WIP with the killer title and sent it off. I expected the worse.

When I arrived to the conference, I dragged myself into the critique session and awaited my sentence. I was doomed.

Then the oddest thing happened. The literary agent said she liked it. Most of all, she liked my voice, and she said my main character was very likeable and very funny. (She underlined very on my critique notes.) She also said my work was very marketable for the teen audience.

Woo hoo! Too bad I hadn’t finished it. Next time I will send a completed manuscript.

But I finally figured “it” out, “it” being the lesson I have trying to teach my students. Voice is everything. Voice
comes from the heart.

My voice is quirky because I’m quirky. My colleagues wear business suits. I’m more comfortable in jeans, yellow Converse sneakers with daisies, and vintage rock t-shirts.

For crying out loud, I have feathers in my hair! What’s wrong with me?

Okay, I can explain the feathers. I blame it all on pirates and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, a rather nice combination, I think. My older son dared me; my younger son BEGGED me, on his knees with a tiny little tear in his left eye, “Don’t do it, Mom.”

But I did it. I have four little feathers in my hair. How was I to know that every middle school girl in the county would get her hair did that way too? Oh, well.

But I’ve learned that jeans, yellow daisy shoes, and rock tees are who I am. Feathers too. And FYI, my feathers have been a great conversation starter. I’ve had several women my age and older ask me why, and I say, “Because these feathers remind me I’m not afraid to be me.” They smile and nod and say, “I think I might just get some feathers too.”

So FINALLY I am on the path to figuring it out. I can’t write with any other voice. I have to write with my own—as quirky and unconventional as it is. And I must, must, must write with humor. So I over exaggerate. So I sneak in quirky characters and ridiculous situations. Isn’t life quirky and unpredictable?

And tragic?

When I went to St. Louis, I met three women who set my writing wheels back in motion. I attended Morgan
Doremus’ workshop on author branding. She explained that an author’s voice IS a major element of her branding.

I attended Janice Thompson’s workshop “A Merry Heart,” and she said that a funny book, a reason to laugh, is
like an ointment that soothes the hurt in our hearts and souls.

I pray my words can be an ointment.

And I met literary agent Natasha Kern.

Ms. Kern asked me why I had signed up to meet with her. She didn’t represent YA authors. I didn’t realize I had signed up to meet with her. Her name appeared my conference agenda, and there we were—together. A mismatch.

It’s not that she would never represent YA authors. She might be interested if I were the next Jenny B. Jones. But  I’ll never be the next Jenny B. Jones. But I am, however, the now and forever Teresa Lockhart.

Then Ms. Kern pointed to her heart and said, “You have to write from here. Don’t write to please the
markets. Don’t let anyone change the way you write.”

Then she went on to tell me she was pretty unconventional herself. After all, it was she who sold her client’s
book about Amish vampires.

Okay. I like that. She’s a woman who’s true to her word.

So here I am, “tarred” and feathered, but I’ve got my compass in hand, and I’m ready to set sail on this writing adventure again.

Ahoy, mateys.


Deadline for commenting for contest: Midnight Friday, Oct. 7, 2011
Congratulations Mandy Hunt and Amanda Taylor, whose names were drawn from the “cyber hat.”
Please email me privately so that I can get your mailing addresses to send you your cards.