What is Thanksgiving Season for you? This Thanksgiving found me continuing my tradition to help at a homeless shelter. It also gave me a new tradition; a time to be with family for our first holiday dinner together in 29 years. Yes, my life is vastly different in a (very) good way than before I set roots here in my community. And keeps getting better. For me, it is a time of gratitude, in traditions old and new.
Yesterday, Thanksgiving, and same as the
last few Thanksgivings, I joined friends to serve dinner to the residents of
Tender Mercies in Cincinnati. Tender Mercies is a supportive and transitional
housing environment in our Over-The-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, not far
from my Northern Kentucky home. We served dinner to not only the residents, but
also others who came in for a warm and friendly dinner. In all, we served, oh in
a rough guess, about 100 people.
This home is but one of several shelters in our greater area. Many shelters have certain strengths to reach and help persons with specific needs. This particular place states their mission as: “Tender Mercies transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home.”
These residents, each in their own way
thanked us for their dinner. And once dinner was served, I stepped outside to
smoke, where a resident joined me for a few minutes in a shared moment of what
life is like for each of us.
Though these folks were grateful, I thanked them for: —inviting us into their home —for letting me give back to my community —and for a spirit of heart-felt connection.
If you haven’t read my memoir yet, but plan to, then this here is an update or an added chapter to the “end of the story.” I suppose our story never truly ends. There is always room for growth, for new understanding, for relationships to begin or be renewed.
I volunteer at Tender Mercies periodically to help in their dinner hour. Returning on Thanksgiving, I was greeted by residents who I’ve come to know; some, even if only by their smile, and some by picking up where we had last left off at in our chit-chat.
Earlier in my day on Thanksgiving, I shared it with my baby brother and only sibling. (I think of him as a baby brother although he is nearing 50 years old.) Knowing my brother is, well, is a new thing, different from the familiar faces in my volunteering. My brother recently left his home in Southern California to stay with me, here in Northern Kentucky. The last holiday my brother and I spent together was Thanksgiving 1990. I’ve had no holidays with relatives since that time in 1990.
I had been his long-lost sister. My debut book and published memoir is aptly titled, “Out of Chaos.” No longer living in chaos, life is bright and often new. Or, as with my brother and I, a chance to renew life. Thus far, we are not reliving what got us to this point. Rather, we are creating a new point. My story of chaos has ended. Our story of a renewed life is continuing to unfold. For this, I am grateful.
As we move into a new day after Thanksgiving, there are ongoing needs in our communities.
Link to Homeless Shelter Directory of Helping the Needy: If you are in other parts of America and need a resource to point you where help is needed, this website is user friendly. It opens with a map of the United States—click on your state and from there, find out where to go and who to contact.
Link to “Your Family.” I have no experience in using this resource, nor do I know of anyone who has. You may find this website useful if you are looking for a lost loved one, as I was once the long-lost sister to my baby brother. It provides a bulletin board for postings and links to further resources.
Happy Thanksgiving Season, my friends.
I am so very grateful that you are in my circle of supporters, allies, and friends. Together. we can create a loving community for everyone; family, friends and new friends, alike.
What are your Thanksgiving Season Traditions and why? Is there a new Thanksgiving Tradition you hope to start? Please share in the comments.
If you like what I post, please join my reading community by subscribing to get blog post updates. Link here.
With the promise of crisp days on the horizon, a sense of nostalgia welcomes me into this autumn season. It seems a variety of holiday bazaars, indoor craft sales, and book fairs are plentiful for the taking this time of year.
People are getting into the festive
spirit and are looking to buy craft items, baked goods, and stock up on
homemade treats. They are looking to find perfect unique holiday décor, gifts,
and simple pleasures for when cooped up inside on cold days.
Many of these events are a traditional
fundraiser for schools, churches and synagogues, charities and other nonprofit
organizations in the community. Even public libraries find that by supporting
local authors with a book fair, it encourages people to keep coming back to the
Nostalgia suffuses social media, from online
shopping to Instagram to Facebook. It provides opportunities for communities,
which for logistical sakes can’t be offered year-round. It gives us an
opportunity to meet the people who handcrafted these items, home-baked these
goodies, or who wrote the book that you are dying to read.
Last fall, I shared my then just released book, Out of Chaos at the annual book fair held at the public library in Burlington, Kentucky. This fall, I look forward to reconnecting with readers.
Let’s Go (to a book fair)
I have two scheduled book fairs this
fall. If you are in the area, I hope you will stop in and get to know the
authors in our community. If you are outside of the greater Cincinnati and
Northern Kentucky area, I hope you will visit the book fairs near you.
Attending book fairs far surpasses any
Amazon shopping experience. You know, the feel of holding an actual book, the
smell of ink on paper, and the sound of pages turning. And, it is about the
personal connection to meet the author and to hear in their own words why they
wrote the book or what it is like to share their story with you. It’s just
too good to pass up.
Other great reasons to get to the next
book fair are:
Book fairs offer a terrific assortment of books to choose from for yourself or as a gift.
Often, books are offered at a reduced price from the bookstore sticker price.
It is a meaningful way to support these authors and let them know you care.
It is a welcoming opportunity to make new friends with people who, likewise share a passion for reading.
You can get a signed copy of a book– that excitement of actually meeting an author and having them autograph their book for you.
book fairs can be an important role in developing the habit of reading books,
in garnering community connection, and to spread culture, education and
knowledge. It changes our outlook on life and widens our domain of learning.
If you can, please join me at these soon upcoming book fairs:
First Area Writers Festival Saturday, October 5, 2019 (12:30-4:30 p.m.) Miami Township Branch of Clermont County Public Library 5920 Buckwheat Avenue in Milford, Ohio.
Local Author Day and Book Fair Saturday, November 9, 2019 (1:30-3:00 p.m.) Boone County Public Library, Main Branch 1786 Burlington Pike in Burlington, Kentucky.
Unbound and other Events:
Unbound: A Display of Reentry Stories Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Main Branch 800 Vine Street in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This Unbound Project allows voices and stories to be heard, and promotes a deeper understanding of the obstacles that so many of our neighbors face as they return to our communities [after incarceration].
Sometimes the Joy of Reentry Comes Slowly: Forty-seven Birthday Candles, written by me, is found among the diverse and brave collection in this display. Unbound is currently available for viewing—visit the library for viewing.
If at any time you are wondering where I will be next in my writing journey, you can find out by visiting the Events tab on this website. I appreciate every opportunity to connect with readers.
Other recent news in sharing my book are:
Podcast Guest with borrowed solace literary journal. In their Author Feature, I talk with the journal’s editors about creative nonfiction. My essay “When They Came” was published in their inaugural issue two years ago, September 2017. This thirty-minute podcast went live earlier this month. From the Events Page here on my website, you can link to listen to it.
Guest with the All Author Blog. Here, in an interview style, I share my passion for writing. It went live last summer. Again, visit my Events Page to link to their blog post.
Rubber duck races are used in family-fun fundraising events by organizations worldwide. This event is a fun way to get involved in the fight against hunger; a problem that inflicts our communities and is well, not fun, but downright scary to many people who find themselves in dire need. You, too, can get involved and help raise awareness in this ongoing challenge.
HOW IT WORKS
People, like you and me, donate money to the community organization who is putting on the event. In exchange, we get a rubber duck for the race. Behind the scenes, before the event, volunteers put a bar code sticker on the bottom of each rubber duck. These bar codes tell who paid for the duck. Donated monies go to the fight against hunger. Sponsors (big corporations, usually) donate prizes for winning ducks. This is an incentive to purchase a duck. Although, I question why we need an incentive to help those in need.
PREPARING FOR EVENT DAY
Last weekend, I was behind the scenes in this effort. Me and many other volunteers showed up at their warehouse, putting those bar code stickers on the bottom of the ducks. Cincinnati’s Rubber Duck Regatta is the largest race in the northern hemisphere.
According to Game-Fundraising, a resource for fundraising, The Freestore Foodbank is one of Ohio’s largest food banks serving 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. They distribute 27 million meals annually through a network of 450 community partners including food pantries, shelters, community centers and more.
ON EVENT DAY
These rubber ducks are then dumped into a waterway. The first rubber duck to float past the finish line wins the top prize as sponsored by an area business.
Here, in the Cincinnati area, the 25th annual Rubber Duck Regatta will happen tomorrow, Sunday, September 1, on the Ohio River off the Purple People Bridge. People will watch the race from both sides of the river, some in Kentucky and some in Ohio. Those on the Kentucky side of the river will gather at Newport on the Levee; and those on the Ohio side of the river, at Sawyer Point Park. Rubber ducks will race toward the Serpentine Wall.
AFTER THE EVENT
Rubber ducks are pulled out of the waterway or river with fishing nets. Each rubber duck has a buoy to keep it afloat. Of interest, the same rubber ducks are used worldwide. When one community is done racing the ducks, the ducks are shipped or trucked to the next location for their next race. (Wow! These rubber ducks sure swim a lot, working hard in their fundraising efforts.)
In Cincinnati and the greater area, this is the largest fundraiser for The Freestore Foodbank. Each duck purchased (at $5) and raced provides 15 meals for a child or family in need. (Wow! $5 goes a long way.) It is also a big help to offset to the cost in preparing power packs, which are given to children who are on the Free Lunch Program. I’ve had my hands in these Power Packs, having volunteered to help put these together.
We can be a real part of our community. I hope you will consider supporting the Rubber Duck Race in your area. It is a family-fun way to think of others and to help those in need, ultimately helping the whole community.
Please share about the Rubber Duck event in your community. You can drop your comments below, in reply to this post.
Attending my first writer’s workshop was a leap of bravery for me, intermixed with excitement. Since then, other events for me have followed. Here, in the final part of this blog series, I’ll give you 10 tried-and-true benefits for getting out of our zone of solitude and into the rooms with others who share in the same great passion.
The first workshop I had ever attended was in the spring of 2015, when in the early days of writing my memoir. Most recently, I was at a three-day writing workshop with Midwest Writers (July 22-24, 2019). And it was the furthest away from home that I’ve ever traveled for such an event. Yet, well worth it, in that it broadened my awareness, courage, and inspiration as a creative writer.
Time and again, the emphasis at these events have been to expand our individual skill-set in creativity. Whereas, what to write is up to each individual. A question that came into my blog during the posting of this series centered on questioning the trust in and working relationship to others also at the event (I’m paraphrasing the exact comment/question). However, this concern seems nonexistent to me. If anything, the support shared among writers increases the power in my words.
For example, learning under the guidance of author and journalist, Michael McColly, I came to understand that as I develop the book I am currently working on—a biography of my maternal great-grandmother, a changemaker during the mid-20th century—I need to not only describe what she did, but also describe in detail what society was like during this era. McColly can’t write these words for me. It’s up to me. In my smaller publications, I often write about homelessness and how we can help others. McColly can’t describe what it is like to be homeless any more than I can describe the AIDS epidemic in America and in Africa in which he journals about from his personal experience. However, coming out of his classroom, I can understand how to write to reach readers when describing my own experiences and interests.
If you missed the prior posts to this blog series, you can link to them here: Part 1 It is well worth it for us to get out of the usual solitary routine by joining forces with others. Here I share about my attendance at the Midwest Writers Workshop (or MWW, for short.) Part 2 Break-out sessions with industry leaders and authors, Michael McColly, Matthew Clemons, and others. Part 3All day intensive session with Jane Friedman, author. Part 4 Logistics of getting to a writer’s workshop and what to do when there.
10 tried-and-true benefits for getting out of our zone of solitude and into the rooms with others who share in the same great passion:
1. You will meet other writers.
(I know, duh, right?) Yet, this is the place to meet lots of people who are at varying stages in their writing careers. Wherever you are on the road to success, you will meet others who have been there before and who are ready to help you. I find that writers as a group are very supportive. If you make an effort to say hello and to sit next to people you don’t know, it is easy to meet others who can help you take the next step in your writing. It is also an opportunity to share your own experience, strength, and hope with others.
2. You will get energized.
It’s revitalizing to be with other people, all excited about the same thing. Like a pep rally from high school, when with others with the same goal, you can’t help but get the desire to write more or better than you ever have before.
3. You will feel good.
It is a motivational booster to be with others in unity. My entire experience in attending MWW, from traveling from home (and learning to drive a late model rental car) to meeting new people to seeing new sights was eye-opening for me. Any new experience which brings positive awareness amps our endorphins—it is a feel-good thing.
4. You will learn
Part of the reason I write is that I enjoy reading and gaining knowledge. We are hardwired to get excited about learning new things and writer events are full of ideas and insights about the craft. Sessions can be just as interesting as college classes—the only difference is that there are no tests.
5. You will find practical information for immediate use.
No matter where you are in your writing path, you will gain some nuts-and-bolts knowledge that you can use to make your writing better. Workshops can vary in their goal. My attendance at the yearly workshops with the School for Creative and Performing Arts came with a focus to bring community members closer together through the writing craft. Whereas, the focus at the MWW event was to expand our skillset for writing.
As varied as our writing is from writer to writer, so are the focus at these events. You could learn how to write for magazines and journals, how to use dialogue or create a story arc, how to develop a social media presence, how to zero in on your specific genre of writing, how to learn a new genre of writing, and the list goes on. You could gain feedback on your current manuscript. You could learn about the publication process or how to put together a query package when seeking publication. (Preparing my memoir for publication consideration involved writing a synopsis, a marketing plan, and defining my readership, and more.)
6. You may gain new
And you may discover writers to follow. On day one at the MWW conference, I browsed the swag table, complete with books for sale from other authors also attending the event. While I appreciated having a spot to display and sell my book, all the more fun, was to find the author behind a book I bought. I kept asking around if anyone knew who Carol Michel was (the author of the book I bought.) On the final morning, I sat down at a table and introduced myself to the gal next to me. Guess who she was? Yep, none other than Carol, the author behind my new great find.
7. You may find a new market for your writing.
Conferences attract writers from many walks of life. Some of them will write for markets that you haven’t considered yet. They might know of a journal or other publication seeking the kinds of things you write. They may know of a publisher who is looking for a book like yours. And you may be able to pass on what you are aware of, to help others. (It’s a community thing.)
8. You will improve your professional effectiveness.
Like other professionals, from doctors, salespersons, schoolteachers, and others who attend continuing education conferences, so too, is this our way to learn more. Joining other writers at these events are an excellent way to for us to continue our education and improve our knowledge about our craft. If you are serious about your writing, then your attendance at such an event will prove that you are committed to your chosen profession.
9. You will make new connections.
Connections could be in the way of editors or agents who show up looking to meet up-and-coming authors. Connections could be newfound writer-friends that you will see time and again at future events. Exchanging business cards and email addresses is great way to not have to say “goodbye” but instead, to keep in touch. And be sure to do just that, by visiting their Facebook page or dropping them a note through email or even mailing them a card if you have their mailing address.
10. You will get inspired.
If you go with an ear to listen, there will be speakers who seem to be talking directly to you. Some have overcome great obstacles in order to succeed. They may be able to give you hope or encouragement or that little push that you need. Either way, you will find the courage to keep on writing.
Every time I join forces with other writers, I come out of it renewed and refreshed with benefits far outweighing what I can accomplish all by my lonesome. It takes action to get out of my zone of solitude and into the room with others. This action, time and again, is my reminder that I am a very real part of a community who values writing and who also consider the art of writing to be as essential as living and breathing.
What about you? Have you attended any events with others who have a shared interest? If so, what can you confer from these benefits? In the wrap-up to this blog series, I hope you too have gained a greater love for your potential as well as the inspiration to be found and created with others.
If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.
I love writing workshops. I love the awesome speakers,
the swag bags, the great connections, the food, and getting to know others—all
of it. However, most people I know can be like me—a bit uneasy when it comes
to, well, to just getting out and doing it.
How do you sign up? What do I do when walking into a session? What should you wear? What, exactly, should we do during break time? And doesn’t it cost money?
Well, here, in Part 4 of this five-part blog series, I’ll show you what it is like for me and how to make the most of your time there.
This blog post series explores my recent attendance at the Midwest Writers Workshop (July 22-24, 2019), held at the Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana (or for simplicity sakes, MWW.) In part one, I expressed the gratitude found in going to a workshop, conference, convention, or the like. In parts two and three, I shared about the break-out sessions when at this event with MWW.
Learning from professionals in our chosen
craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way to
continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills.
You can find out about upcoming events, workshops,
conferences, conventions, and the like by doing an internet search. Best yet,
it’s often easy to hear of these events from your friends and other people you
hang out with.
When you learn of an upcoming event, do some research.
Find out what this get-together is about, where it is, who will be speaking,
and if there are sessions, which sessions you’d be interested in.
With MWW, I was already following Jane Friedman’s blog
and had already met her in person. When I got word that she would be teaching
at this event. I dug in and learned more. Wow! — the break-out sessions to
choose from with the presenters offered what I needed for advancing my
researching and writing skills in the current book I am now working on. And
yes, I was down for a full day with Jane Friedman.
In prior events I’ve attended, one was the Writer’s
Digest indie-lab, right near me in downtown Cincinnati (September 29-30, 2018).
I chose that one for its close location and for one of its speakers, Amy
Collins who has been an integral part of my book marketing. One thing awesome
about it was that on the first morning, Amy and I met for breakfast— it was a
time to get to know each other outside the centered scope of my book.
I also went to the annual writing workshops with the School for Creative and Performing Arts (or SCPA), also here in Cincinnati. Those were once a year in the spring up until they were recently discontinued. I went to each one except the first one. It was awesome in that it joined community members with their students for an intensive weekend of creativity. And it was free, only requirement being to pre-register. Following each workshop with this school, our works from the weekend get-together were compiled into a published anthology. When I first attended, it was in perfect timing for my writing career—that was in the spring of 2015, when I was in the early days of writing my memoir.
Once you know you want to go and what parts of it especially interest you, it is time to sign up. Nearly all events, whether it is a workshop, conference, or convention have an online registration form for you to complete and submit. Do this as soon as you can. The hosts of these events most often want to make the registration process easy-friendly and will include who to contact with questions. Don’t shy away from emailing or calling if you need more information or help in this process. They want to see you at their event!
Getting to It
Attending MWW involved a different mode of
transportation for me. I couldn’t just hop on a city bus or in a taxi and go.
When first signing up, I wasn’t even sure if my old and ugly pick-up truck
would get me three hours down the highway.
But, as the saying goes—where there’s a will, there’s a way. I had registered nearly three months before event day which gave me time to figure it out. As the time neared, my pick-up truck became a goner. In Plan B, I made arrangements with a rental car agency. Now, for those of you who know my story, my driving a late model car was going to be a brand-new thing for me. (Ask me about hitchhiking and I can tell you about that part of my past, but driving, well, I’m not much of a driver.) A good friend went with me to get the rental car and then gave me a crash-course in driving. By the time I returned the car, I had not only learned so much at the workshop but also how to work a key-less car.
As far as lodging went, MWW posted hotel suggestions right on their registration page along with discounts. Here, I did more research. And more. In the end, I settled on a different place- a motel with lower rates, no frills, and high reviews found online. And it gave me a two-night reduced rate. I left home on the morning of the workshop, checking in to the motel later that day. I checked out of the motel on the morning of my final day, the day with Jane Friedman. Each night I was too tired to even think about a swimming pool at the higher-end hotels.
For events further from home, again, look into the travel options to decide if you’d rather drive or fly or perhaps even carpool. There may be discounts available for airplane flights, either on their website or through a certain membership you have. AARP got me a discount on my rental car. I think AAA offers discounts too. Research to find what works for you.
Survival Kit: Print out and take with you any registration receipts, agendas and the like. Also take a notebook for notetaking and pens or pencils. If you take your lap top computer or tablet, also take your charger for it. Your phone charger as well, needs to be in this survival kit.
Clothing: The fewer items you can take, the less bulky packing will be. Anywhere you can mix and match will work well. Be sure to pack a sweater for layering as temperatures can swing and vary in different parts of the country as well as in different rooms at the same event.
Not sure what to wear—whether to dress up or not? If the event you’re going to is an established one, browse their website or other social media page, perhaps from their prior events and find pictures to see what people are wearing.
When attending MWW, I dressed up more than my usual day-to-day attire, if only because it is a good feeling for me. You see, on my library job, I do work that puts me in between public floors, which can be dusty and dirty. Switching from jeans at work to dressy pants is my reminder that I’m getting out of my zone and doing something great.
Another thing for the survival kit is to include your business cards and if you have a published book, then, that too.
Upon arrival at MWW, I knew from their website that
parking was free right out front of the alumni center where it was being held.
Most often, the registration process will let you know ahead of time as to
where to park. If you are unsure though, contact them before arriving to find
out the parking logistics.
Once parked and first walking in the building, there is most likely a welcome table. That has thus far always been so for me in the events I’ve attended. Here, you can introduce yourself and the person who greets you will likely make you feel welcomed. That person will give you a packet of important papers and other goodies for you to help yourself become acquainted with the layout.
At MWW, I was right away greeted by the event host, Jama, and from her, I knew I was in the right place. I knew her name and picture from registering on their website.
Again, the registration process will likely have informed you which meals, if any. that the event includes. Where meals are included, this is a great opportunity for meeting new friends. So, I recommend staying off your phone—while it can seem intimidating to be in a room where you don’t know anyone, and a phone is an easy distraction, engaging with people instead leads to much greater things. Even if your goal is as simple as having a five-minute conversation with one person over the lunch break, that’s better than being a wall flower.
Presentations and Sessions
If the event has several sessions to choose from in
each time block, I suggest choosing a topic that interests you and of which you
have yet to learn more about.
Don’t limit yourself to familiar speakers. There’s time in between sessions to say hello to those familiar faces. Instead, meet new leaders and listen to ideas unfamiliar to you. Our investment in time and money is our opportunity to expand our horizons.
Talking to Speakers and Panelists
Talking to the people presenting at the event,
especially when they’re surrounded by a gaggle of fans can also seem
intimidating. But making these connections is crucial to our networking.
Industry leaders tend to pop up at several different events, so the next time
you see them, they will no longer be strangers. This was the experience I had
with Jane Friedman at MWW after first meeting her at the Writer’s Digest
And don’t just go after the well-known speakers. If someone spoke eloquently and is lesser known, these people generally have more time to talk to you and can be fountains of knowledge.
When you see “Break” on the agenda—well, it’s time to
get to know others, even through a casual meet and greet. Making conversation
with strangers can seem awkward at first. However, unlike where you’re thrown
together in a room with little or no context, this workshop or event gives you
one topic you already have in common—the event itself. This is also a good time
to ask for their business card and to offer yours.
To start chatting with someone, it’s as easy as
starting off with a question about what sessions they attended or what speakers
they liked the most. From there, it feels more natural asking that person what
he or she does for a living and why they are also there.
Most people at these workshops or events are there to mingle with like-minded individuals, so don’t be afraid to chat with others and make connections.
Don’t underestimate the power of using social media (live tweeting, following the event hashtag and liking posts) during the event. This “social currency” can keep you connected after returning home. Some of my bonds with fellow writers and well-known authors are strengthened through online means which keep us connected well after the event.
Reach out to those who you met. Ask how they are doing
with what they learned. Shortly after attending MWW, I emailed a fellow memoir
writer. In her reply email, she exclaimed “Oh, my first table buddy.”
And talk about the event. Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram or have a blog, show your love for a conference online. Personally, I have enjoyed writing about this conference and what I learned. If mingling in person days afterwards, share your experience with attending the event. Encourage others to get out of their zone of solitude and into their community.
I hope this blog post series is helping you. I returned with so many ideas and concepts swimming around in my head, meant to be processed. Sharing with you has helped me gain focus. Reaching out to those I met at MWW has strengthened my connections and has given me more opportunities to be there for others. It’s a community thing. Together we can make our communities great.
Look for the final part in this blog series coming at you in a week from now. It will be an overall recap. If you have any feedback pertaining to this series, please let me know in the comments and I will try to include those in Part 5.
If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.
As promised from my prior blog post, here is Part 3 which dives into my final day at the Midwest Writers Workshop. I wrote this post for readers who are curious about my journey and for fellow writers who would like a greater insight into the business of being an author. This is my experience and not heavily weighted in note taking.
My all-day intensive session with Jane
Friedman was aimed at published authors and my best guess at how many authors came
together to hear Jane teach was, oh, about forty authors.
Rather than a variety of break-out sessions in this workshop as before, this was bootcamp with Jane Friedman, an author and industry leader. I’ve been following Jane in her blog posts and social media sharing since the early days of writing early drafts to my memoir, now published. I had first met Jane in person when attending a writer’s conference, here in Cincinnati. For anyone who is aspiring to connect with their readers, I can’t recommend her enough.
For starters, she had us break up into small teams, each team to a table. Teams were based on genre or the category we write in. At my table, were three other creative nonfiction authors. Going around the room, we had teams in sci-fi, self-help, inspirational/religion, young adult, mystery, romance, children’s, and a few more. With much of our work for the day being dependent on writers helping writers, teaming up with authors in our same genre worked well.
In teams, we discussed the SWOT analysis. SWOT is the acronym for strengths – weaknesses – opportunities – and – threats. I was already somewhat familiar with this business tool, having learned it when in a work-related training at my job place, the public library.
Jane takes this acronym one letter further: SWOTF and no, I don’t think I can pronounce that acronym, although she did, somehow. In SWOTF, the F is for fears. It’s a framework for taking an inventory to identify and analyze the factors which can impact the viability of a project, product, place or person—or an author’s book and outreach to readers.
We discussed the importance of having a
landing page for readers to discover us and our books. For me and many others,
the landing page is our website. Jane asked for three volunteers to share their
website. I was the first volunteer. On an overhead projector screen, we watched
her go through my website, discussing the strengths in navigating it. From her
analysis, I learned where and how I could either improve or change things up.
Slowly but surely, you may notice some changes in my website and some, as
subtle as they are may go unnoticed.
For one, I removed the huge (huge!)
picture that my website template defaulted to when setting it up. This gets rid
of clutter and moves you, the website visitor directly into what I want to
It was suggested I use a pop-up window
for inviting people to subscribe. I might do that. As it is now, it is a bit
obscure, found under my Contact and Media Page.
It was suggested that on the menu for my
blog, I give a detailed blurb of what my blog is about and why I blog. I plan
to do this—once I learn how the techy hands-on work to create that.
I updated my bio as found under the About tab.
OUTREACH and LISTENING
Jane shared the many ways we can engage
with readers, from on-line to in person. And taking it further, we discussed
how to share and what to share, especially when it comes to a world of
strangers on the internet.
Regarding listening, our readers are who we care about. Before anyone read my book, I could describe it, but my words of kudos no longer hold their weight. Rather, it is what readers have to say about my book and their words are the most important tools I have for sharing with those who haven’t yet read my book as to what people think of it.
Going a step further, we discussed who comparable authors are. I kind of already knew this, from when I was looking for a publisher— that’s one of the things publishers want to know—who can we compare you to? One of my comp authors is Brianna Karp, author of The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir. Jane took us through some online exercises, which in part had us look at what readers of comparable books are saying. This information can be helpful in broadening our outreach.
Jane also shared hidden gems with us, from helpful links to other resources. Again, watching on the overhead projector, we followed along as she took us through tools we can use to amp up our exposure as authors.
Learning from professionals in our
chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way
to continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills. This means
getting out of zone, which is often one of solitude or at best small with only
a handful of other like-minded friends. It means showing up to a workshop,
convention, conference, or the like and meeting new people.
Look forward to Part 4 of this five-part
blog series, coming next weekend. In Part 4, I will share my experience in the logistics
of getting into the rooms with others. Then, Part 5 will be a wrap-up.
To get out of our zone and into the
rooms with others is an invaluable way to build upon our strengths. Together,
we can create a better community. Please share in the comments any suggestions
or experience you have for joining others in a common goal and what this
connection can or could mean to you.
If you like what I write,
please subscribe to get notified of new blog
We can build on our skilled craft and interests. It takes getting out of our zone, which can often be one of solitude, and into the rooms with others to join forces in a shared unity. Recently, I attended the annual Midwest Writers Workshop (July 22-24, 2019), held at the Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana. This is Part 2 of a five-part series as I share what it was like for me to go to this event.
from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another
art, is an excellent way to continue our education and improve our knowledge
I was reminded of the privilege of not only being a writer, but of being a very real part of a community who values writing and who also consider the art of writing to be as essential as living and breathing. Midwest Writers Workshop was a full three days with break-out sessions to choose from, led by an array of industry leaders and authors, all so giving in their time and expertise.
Chronicling Social History Writing Creative Nonfiction with a Social Justice Lens Michael McColly
I believe I’m not alone to say I was drawn
into the sessions led by Michael McColly, author and journalist. He had a full
house of about twenty people in his room for each session I attended. In
conversational style, we discussed the seriousness in our role as creative
nonfiction authors to educate our readers in the social construct of our
communities, whether it is to bring awareness of current social injustices or
whether it is to take people back in time to when things were different in
order to explore how we got to where we are today in our societal norms.
By his own experience in writing, McColly
explained in detail that our narrative reflections speak volumes to our
readers, bringing issues out of our own cultural experiences to create a
historical account. These issues are often ignored, overlooked, or are
considered too controversial to bring to light. Yet, we have a story to tell
and we must tell it, uncovering misinformation and unveiling immoral efforts.
McColly succinctly states (quote) “….we
can use our skills to inform, educate, inspire, and hold people in positions of
power accountable for their failures to act.”
My own nonfiction writing often centers on what it’s like to be down on our luck and how we can help others and overall our communities. McColly has shown me that I am on the right path and that I mustn’t let go of my passion to encourage others to see a different way of living, whether through empathy or action or both. He and others have taught me skills in research, descriptive characterization when writing and so much more. I will go on to use these tools in my personal narrative essays.
Research: The Truth That Makes Your Lies Believable Matthew Clemens
This break-out session gave me insight for
the development of the work I am doing to bring my second book alive. You see,
Clemens is a fiction author with several mystery and crime books. He also works
in collaboration with one other writer to bring the TV hit show, CSI to its
With animation to his energetic gait in
facing the classroom, Clemens shared that for his fictional stories to ring
true, even though they aren’t true, he first does research. He visits locations
and cities in which places in his stories will resemble or accurately portray. He
talks with people as he goes about his day-to-day activities. By experiencing
people and places, he is then able to give credence to his narrative stories.
The book I plan to bring you next is a biography of my maternal great-grandmother, Marie (1904-1987). For those of you who read my memoir, Out of Chaos, you may recall she was an interwoven and integral person in my true story. Marie was a changemaker in a time when women were typically homemakers. Clemens has shown me I must dig deep into the events which shaped our society during the era in which she lived.
Switching gears from the depth found in McColly and Clemen’s sessions, Ashley Hope Perez presented the light-hearted Get Inspired: Find Time to Write and Be Happy. Under her guidance, our class explored how to overcome obstacles in our writing life. Obstacles fall into two categories, emotional and logistical, and can vary for each writer.
Aside from Michael McColly, Matthew
Clemons, and Ashley Hope Perez, many other authors were among us to share their
expertise. One was Dianne Drake, who gave a presentation which centered on her
career with Harlequin Romance Books. Drake’s presentation closed out my second
day of break-out sessions. Come evening hour, we all gathered in the assembly
room for keynote speaker, John Gilstrap, award winning author of thriller
On my schedule for the next day, my final day, was an intensive bootcamp with industry leader and author, Jane Friedman. In next week’s blog post, I will dig in and share about my time with her.
get out of our zone and into the rooms with others is an invaluable way to
build upon our strengths. Together, we can create a better community. Please
share in the comments any suggestions or experience you have for joining others
in a common goal and what this connection can or could mean to you.
If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified
of new blog posts.
Do you sometimes find
yourself all too comfortable in your zone, wondering if it’s worth it to do
something different? I can assure you that yes; it is worth it and much more.
Writing in solitude—or from my easy chair with my pet birds chirping and cheering
me on—can and often seems to be the norm for me. However, it is well worth it
for us to get out of the usual solitary routine by joining forces with others
in a shared unity over our creative potential.
Recently, I attended the annual Midwest Writers Workshop (July 22-24, 2019), held at the Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana. After my return, I attended the next scheduled meeting with a local writers group I am in (“A Private Writing Circle”). In our meeting, I was encouraged to do a five-part blog series to explore and share my experience in this workshop.
Today is Part 1 of this series. Next weekend and then the following few weekends, I’ll post again, moving from Part 1 to Part 5. Here’s what to look forward to in the coming posts:
Part 2: Details from the workshop sessions (or “break-out sessions”) in which I gained valuable insight from Michael McColly, author and journalist, from Matthew Clemens (CSI TV crime show writer), from Ashley Hope Perez, young adult author, and from others.
Learning from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is
writing or another art, is an excellent way to continue our education and
improve our knowledge and skills.
Part 3: My bootcamp experience as taught by industry leader and author, Jane Friedman. This was an all-day intensive session for authors and couldn’t have been more enjoyable had it not been presented by Jane Friedman.
Part 4: The logistics of getting out of our zone or easy chair and into the rooms with others. This will include some basic how-to in registration, lodging, and more.
Part 5: An overall scope of the benefits in attending a workshop or a conference or seminar. If you go with an ear to listen, there will be speakers who seem to be talking directly to you. Some have overcome great obstacles to succeed.
We, too, can find the courage to succeed!
Attending Midwest Writers Workshop
In essence, my
attendance at this workshop reminded me of the privilege of not only being a
writer, but of being a very real part of a community who values writing and who
also consider the art of writing to be as essential as living and breathing. Of
the themes I noticed which kept being voiced by attendees and presenters alike,
is the need for diversity and to use our writing tools to make a real positive
change in our communities and with the people who make up our home towns.
Throughout the event, I
was ever meeting new people, and often exchanging contact information with new
friends made. One such friend was excited to hear me reach out to her a few
days out from the close of the event. I smiled when reading her reply email,
“my first table buddy.”
In the days following
the workshop, I couldn’t help but notice a renewed spirit in me; an
appreciation for this greater writing community. It is something that nurtures
me as a person and helps foster the written work I create.
I look forward to sharing more with you. Look for Part 2 next weekend on this blog. For now, please share in the comments as to what it is like for you to get out of your norm. Also share any questions you may have that you’d like me to answer as I explore this five-part series.
If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.
The weather is usually warm, as it is right before the summer heat. Some families visit grave sites with flowers for their lost loved ones. This time and these moments invite our stories and make us think about preserving our family legacies, some who had died in war or in service while safeguarding America.
FAST FACTS OF THE HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY :
The practice of a day of memorial started in ancient times, long before America.
Way back in 431 B.C., soldiers killed in the Peloponnesian War were honored with a public funeral and speech given by Greek statesman Pericles. It was likely the first communal ceremony of recognizing those who had given their life in war. Year after year, ancient Greeks and Romans hosted similar commemorations.
Early memorial celebrations in the United States….
One of the first “Memorial Day” celebrations in the United States was by newly freed slaves. On May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, following the end of the Civil War, members of the U.S. Colored Troops and others honored the dead with flowers, prayers, and honorary moments of silence.
By the late 1860s, many Americans had begun hosting tributes to the war’s fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and flags. States and organizations stepped up in action to pause and remember those gone. In 1886, the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia resolved to commemorate the fallen once a year. This day of memorial became commonly known as “Decoration Day.”
The Poppy Flower
In the spring of 1915, a Georgia teacher and volunteer war worker, Moina Michael began a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of tribute to all who died in war. Her action was in response to bright red flowers (poppies) being planted in the ravaged lands of France, war-torn by The Great War (WWI). The poppy remains a symbol of remembrance to this day.
The day of memorial becomes Memorial Day.
Later, in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. At first, it was but a three-day weekend for federal employees to pause in their work and honor those who died in war. Three years later, in 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday for everyone in America.
*Historical facts above, in part, were retrieved 5/27/2019 from History Channel, online.
As we gather with family and loved ones this Memorial Day, let’s regard our family legacies with sweet remembrance and a moment of honor, carrying their stories through our generations to come. If we don’t tell our story and the story of our ancestors–and our own story–who will?
My father, Robert Wells (1943-2015) served a two-year tour in the Navy during the Vietnam War. If only I could remember him, however I am honored he fought for America.
I remember my maternal
great-grandmother, Marie (1904-1987). My current writing project, a biography
of Marie, involves research in archived newspapers which documented her achievements.
Marie was an active participant in the American Legion Auxiliary. Her
membership began in the 1940s and she served as Chapter President for her local
community and later as District President for her greater area.
As the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, this auxiliary has many committees which voluntarily serve to help war veterans. One is the Red Poppy Committee. Only today, in preparing for this blog post, did I come to understand the correlation between my research discoveries of her and why poppies are a symbol for this national holiday.
What is there for you to learn about your family legacies? For those who have read my debut book, Out of Chaos: A Memoir, you may remember my maternal great-grandmother, Marie, or Nana as I called her. When I was young, I struggled to live up to her standards, and am now, through my research coming to a better understanding of who Marie was.
There are many ways to keep your family memories alive, not limited to writing a biography as I am. I have a friend (his name is Andrew,) who, often writes a letter about his remembered loved ones, and passes it on to his many friends—I get his postmarked letters in my mailbox.
Please share in the comments how you can carry their stories forward to future generations.
Tomorrow, Saturday, May 11, please help to stamp out hunger.
What is the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive?
It is a food drive led by our post office mail carriers and supported by people like you and me. It happens once a year, on the second Saturday in May— Donations to ease hunger in the winter months, like near Thanksgiving and Christmas, tend to spike. Now, six months later, those donations have dwindled. Mail carriers pick up our donations from our homes when they deliver our mail. Next, they deliver our donations to community food pantries.
Stamp Out Hunger is the nation’s largest single-day food drive. This is its 27th year.
When is it again?
Tomorrow, Saturday, May 11. The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is held each year on the second Saturday in May. For me, this is easy to remember—my birthday is in mid-May—each year as I look forward to, or otherwise am aware my birthday is soon, I make the connection that so is this national food drive. For you, it may be easy to remember that it is at about the same time as Mother’s Day.
Who does it help?
It helps anyone in need, regardless of circumstance—the homeless, the working poor, persons who have recently suffered loss from losing their job, or perhaps a house fire or natural disaster, and women and children who have fled from domestic violence, among others.
How do I help stamp out hunger?
While canned foods are a good option, another option, if not better, is dry goods. I like to think of our mail carriers who not only carry our mail but will be carrying these sacks of food. When it comes to gathering food, I didn’t make a special trip to the grocery story. Instead, I opened my cupboards and pulled out a few things, same as I would if someone came to my door in need. The box of pumpkin stuff, I bought on sale, thinking it would be tasty, yet you know what? I never bake, so add that in. I will be okay without a box of rice and so on. What can you be okay without to help someone out?
Put the food items in a bag and and set it out by your mailbox in time for the mail delivery tomorrow, Saturday. You may have received a postcard in your mail this past week that looks like this:
If so, tape it to the sack. If you don’t have this post card, mark your bag accordingly so the mail carrier doesn’t miss it.
Our donations are tax-deductible because all the food collected in this food drive is given directly to non-profit charity food agencies in the community where the food was collected. However, when itemizing your taxes, the proper credit goes to your community agency that will distribute the food—you can find out which agency this is from the website for National Association of Letter Carriers.
Why Help in this Food Drive?
It’s a community thing. Together we can
make our community better. Together we can help those who need a helping hand.
I help because I used to be on the receiving end—today I am on the giving end.
For me, this opportunity of giving causes me to think of the good works my maternal great-grandmother did in her community. For those who have read my memoir, you likely already know a little about her, as I struggled when a young woman to live up to her standards.
She (Marie) was quite active in her community, and in the 1940s and 1950s spear-headed an organization, Polly’s Pantry, to help those in need. She wrote a weekly column for many years, titled “Needs of the Needy” in Lebanon, Oregon, in which she encouraged community involvement to help the needy.
In my current writing project, I am
learning more about this remarkable woman, my maternal great-grandmother. Each
day I dig in to archived newspaper articles and other resources that documented
her community volunteer work. This research is not only expanding my
understanding, but also lending credence to my next book, a biography of Marie.
She made a difference. We can make a difference—you and me, by joining in this food drive to stamp out hunger. Please share in the comments about your community involvement to help those in need.