Tag Archive for authenticity

Client Success: Eileen Cooley Guides Widows Through Relational Stress From Personal Experience

“After becoming a widow, I would come home from a social encounter or event feeling upset.  I found writing about these stressful experiences helped me manage them,” shared Eileen Cooley when discussing her personal essays.  “As I experienced social awkwardness, I realized that most of the other books on widowhood had failed to address these interpersonal stressors.”  A dozen essays in, she contacted me with the idea for the book.

Four years later, Newly Widowed, Now Socially Awkward: Facing Interpersonal Challenges After Loss includes 45 essays.  Utilizing her experience as both a widow and a licensed psychologist for over 25 years, each essay includes a subjective, first-person account of Eileen’s emotional response to a situation followed by her objective guidance in “What I Can Do For Myself.”

Divided into three sections which reflect changing needs and issues from the initial months through the first years, the book’s essays focus on specific topics.  For example, she found herself upset with others who offered “words of wisdom,” compared their prior losses to her own, and assumed she’d be back on her feet after a year.  She was also upset with herself for seeking too much sympathy, asking for help too often, and sharing the worst side of herself with friends.

“At first I thought my audience was focused solely on new widows.  However, based on the positive reactions I received from non-widows, I believe my audience is broader.  I now see the book as relevant to people experiencing any significant loss and to the folks who support them in their grief.”

The first in this expanded category was me.  I lost both my mother and brother back-to-back at the end of 2012 not long before Eileen and I began our work.  I found the essays’ guidance helped me understand my social discomfort at funerals and to other interactions beyond them.  When my father passed in 2015, I discovered I was more prepared to simultaneously handle my own grief as well as relate to the interactions with other mourners and supporters.  And in attending later funerals, Eileen’s advice to simply be present, and not feel forced to say something to those who suffered the loss, but, proved golden.

Having worked together in 2011 on Eileen’s first book, Why Do My Feet Say YES While My Head Says NO?, a children’s book published by Headline Books, we had an established rapport to build upon.  We easily communicated about the emotionality and gravity of the subject matter while keeping an eye on the audience experience.

“Wayne was my biggest encourager,” Eileen shared.  “Persistence is the key, and working with Wayne as a writing coach and editor helped me with feedback, direction, and commitment.”

Now as Eileen faces accolades and feedback, she is discovering a new awkwardness.  “It’s a little embarrassing to have some people read my book as it is very personal.  A few people have apologized for not being more sensitive to me after hearing my reactions to being newly widowed.”

Still, having the book published and out in the world is a big lift.  “It feels really great to complete a project.  Doing a project for myself that might be helpful to someone else is particularly satisfying.”

Guest Post: Author Ann Temkin and The New Term for “Book Marketing”

“The real work begins after the book is published,” Wayne said to me a year ago as he shared marketing ideas.

Don’t think so, I thought. I’m working like crazy now writing it. And besides, I despise marketing.

The day before Thanksgiving 2014, Sight in the Sandstorm: Jesus in His World and Mine was published. My book combines personal memoir with stories about the very Jewish, liberating Jesus living in turbulent 1st century Palestine ruled by the violent Roman Empire.

Ann.Temkin.book.signingOnce it was published, reality hit: I had to sell some. I wrote the book to say something, and over time I had even come to believe that what I had to say was important. So I wanted people to read it. Then there was the practical reality: I’d spent money getting published with fees for design, copyright, bar code, editing, etc., and I needed to recoup costs.

That meant getting the word out. But how?

For months I worked every day at something I didn’t call “marketing.” Nine months in, I’m still doing that, but not every day. Though Amazon and Kindle helped, I’ve found over 60% bought directly from me, and probably at least half those who purchased through Amazon did so because of some connection with me or with someone who bought a book from me. So, I’ve focused on four areas: book signings; book store events; webpage and social media; and what I call “wherever-I-go-the-book-goes.”

Ann.Temkin.Sandstorm.finalA solo book signing event where I have 45 minutes to talk about the book, read a brief section, partake in Q & A, and sign books is my favorite. Excited friends at two churches offered to host book signing parties right away. I sold and autographed 39 copies between the two wonderful events. I have some booked in the future and am exploring possibilities at churches, synagogues, and other spiritual centers by asking people I know. I’ve met great people and had wonderful conversations, and when people meet an author, they generally want to buy the book! Maybe two or three!

Bookstores haven’t been so great. Most bookstores won’t give a self-published author a solo, and I understand that. I have joined events with multiple authors where I get three minutes for “the sales pitch.” Though the owners were great and it was interesting to meet other authors, my experience was that most people come to these events looking for mysteries, romance, or children’s books.

Social media is a must to build momentum; I focus my efforts on Facebook. Everyone says you have to have a website and blog. In my case I haven’t seen a lot of results from these. Writing blog posts is a huge task, and I haven’t committed the time.

Ann.Gurney.Book.Sales“Wherever-I-go-the-book-goes” has been really fun and the biggest surprise. I’ve learned to carry the book deftly with the back cover facing people as close to their eye level as possible. Doing this casually takes practice! People see the picture and say, “That’s you! That’s your book!” and pretty soon I’m selling a copy and signing it for them. I’ve done this at meetings, professional organizations, even the dentist, but I pushed the farthest when I was at the hospital for a colonoscopy. There I was, lying on a gurney covered with a sheet, clutching my book—back cover up—on top of my stomach…and two nurses wanted it!

Most of “us writers” don’t like marketing. And in general we aren’t good at what we don’t like. So I deleted the term “marketing” from my brain, and I began to think “teaching” or “healing” or “having fun experimenting.”

What name would work for you in boosting your enthusiasm and confidence to get your book sold?

Ann’s book is available on Amazon, or pretty much wherever you happen upon her!

Love/Hate: Writers on Writing

5 Writers Respond to Dorothy Parker

On Writing’s Beloved Struggle

The members of the Creative Writers Workshop were asked to view the image and write a quick, honest and heartfelt response.  At 100 words or less, they could edit this, if needed, but not over think it.  Here are the results —

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Typing is a cumbersome, antiquated mode of transmitting words onto paper.

Did Dorothy Parker mean to say, “I hate typing? I love having written?”

Writing is to the book, as dancing is to the dance.

‘Having written’ permits the writer to proclaim, “I am a writer.”

If I asked Dorothy Parker why she hates writing but loves having written, she’d reply I haven’t suffered the bi-polar nature of writing:  A mad churning out of words, or comatose waiting for inspiration.

If I got to hate writing, I’d quit. Let the writers do it instead.   –Kim

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I laughed out loud at this! Dorothy Parker, as usual, says volumes in a few words. It makes me wonder how much she must have struggled with writing and rewriting to whittle things down to the economical sentences she’s known for—not one word is wasted. It reminds me also of another quote by a famous writer: “Sorry this is so long. I did not have time to make it shorter.”  Making it shorter and making it better comes after first writing sloppy or bad, which most of us hate to do! Shitty first drafts everyone, shitty first drafts.    –Karen

Note:  “Sorry this…” by Mary Jackson in the New English Review and attributed to Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, etc.  “Shitty first drafts” by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird

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I need to conquer this Goliath within me, this giant writer that rules over me.  Actually maybe not, because then that will be self-destructive. Maybe I’ll just harass her into a malleable acquiescence, use her to release my creative juices, go on dates with her, coax her into the silences of my soul, to find the words resting there and release them onto the page.  Because if this Goliath keeps ruling me in the same way, then no one will ever read my stories, and the pent-up energy will find other less satiable channels of expression.    –Hana

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I actually don’t hate writing at all – once it starts it’s sort of like what I imagine body surfing to be. Getting a start can be tough, especially if writing a book, can’t help thinking about the overarching storyline.

Don’t know about loving having written. Sometimes pleased, sometimes not, sometimes anxious about something in it, like “did I paint someone in an unfair light?” Today looked for the first time at all my chapters. Not going to look too hard, or I’d begin reworking, finding all the gaps that need filling, etc. Well, have to start putting something on paper for tomorrow – one of those times beginning a new part – always the hardest to get started!   –Ann

Dorothy.Parker.by.Kris.Heding

This irritated me.  Then I thought if I were DP, that nimble, clever broad, I’d rather be at the Algonquin with creative types loudmouthing and cackling, my brain firing on all cylinders, one hand gripping a cocktail while the other fluttered punctuating my voiced assaults.  In solitary with those fingers pounding keys, brain all alone, would be an utter bore.

I enjoy every part of writing, including talking and laughing about it.  Wish I could’ve met Mrs. Parker.  I’d ask ‘Can you really be that good at something you hate?’ then be on guard for the exploding wisecracker.   –Wayne

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Algonquin Round Table members

Please share your response in 100 words or less.
Consider joining a Creative Writers Workshop for all the fun and creative expression of the Round Table without the smoke, booze and attitude (at least in the room, though whatever happens on paper is celebrated).  Groups are forming now on evenings and weekends.  Each is limited to four writers.  Email me with your intention.

 

“Typewriter” — Dorothy Parker Facebook fanpage
“What Fresh Hell Is This?” — Libby Fife
“Book Page Collage” — Kris Heding
 

Sentiment on Sentimentality

Electrical stormThe thunder boomed directly overhead interrupting the writers’ group.

All five of us gasped, then fell stone silent before continuing with our review.  Soon, the severe thunderstorm played with the power, the electricity escaping each of three lights in succession before they came back to full brightness, went out again, then came back on.  The reviewer continued, stopping when one single light faded slowly to dark.  Spooked, we stared at it until it eerily flickered on.  Our nervous laughter was snapped when the power failed and lightning flashed.

Two of us simultaneously pulled out our phones and engaged the flashlight app, and then others followed.  Small circles of intense light fell upon pages on our laps, and the upward reflection illuminated us like ghosts as the symphony of driving rain and thunder bellowed.

With renewed urgency and focus, we spoke softly to allow concurrent listening for any hint of tornados.  As the storm waned, so did the phone batteries, our eyes adjusting as all facial expressions disappeared into shadow.

The final piece was from a writer who lost her father just two weeks before.  Drafted on the day after his death while she was alone in his house, she pondered if the writing was too sentimental.

In near darkness, we only had our words and our voice inflections to make the point clear:  the writing wasn’t sentimental.

Someone asked, “Why is writing sentimentally a bad thing?”  then I added, “So, what is sentimental?”

The answers came quickly: sappy, shallow, kitschy, gushy, soppy, syrupy, mawkish, cheap.

15400 - Copy - CopySentimentality reigns supreme in Harlequin Romances, soap operas or Douglas Sirk movies where, say, a couple goes from first glance to fiery love to marriage then bitter divorce through enlarged gestures in a flash.

“These days,” someone said, “we don’t seem to have time for development.  Subtlety is a thing of the past.”  Writers without patience create over-the-top, two-dimensional stories, yet most readers crave complexity, depth and wisdom in writing.

Sentiment is natural.  I encourage emotion-filled writing.  If someone’s emotional intelligence is low, I suggest getting beyond fear and heightening awareness through interaction or reading/watching good works.  Discover what subtleties speaks to heart and soul.  Find the myriad of shades of emotion between black and white.  Sentiment lives in the space on the inside whereas the danger zones of sentimentality occur on the extreme edges.

We want to write to illuminate, not manipulate.  We want to encourage the reader to experience, even awaken, their own emotions as they feel those of characters and their situations.  If emotions become inauthentic, the reader won’t resonate, most likely bringing them to disengage, even laugh or feel disgust.

In the peachy glow of the masked sunset, I commended the writer for her courage, then added, “sharing your raw truth at such a vulnerable time honored all of us.”  I was choking up, thankful for the dim light, yet I heard the honesty in my voice.

She thanked me and the group for allowing the safe space for her to do so.

Move beyond the clichés, and allow vivid characters and a rich plot express sentiment.  Let your readers into your safe space through authentic emotion in your written words.

Nature photo: Jim Reed.