Give ‘Em What They Want, Not What You THINK They Want

shop-vac-10-gallon-industrial-wet-dry-vacuum-925-40-100After fumbling around with social networking and reading every marketing article about it that I could get my hands on for the last year or so, I’ve distilled my promotional strategy down to a simple directive: give readers what they want.

I know that sounds obvious, but the tricky part is understanding the ‘what,’ especially once you realize that ‘what’ your readers want may not be the same ‘what’ that you THINK they want.  The key is taking ‘you’ out of the picture, so you can clearly see your reader without your own perspective distorting your vision.

It’s like reflective listening – you want to reflect back what the other person is saying without putting your own spin on his words, so you hear clearly what he said, and not what you think he said. Quick example of doing it wrong: my husband said he wished he’d taken music lessons when he was a kid, so I got him music lessons for Christmas. Two weeks into the lessons, he told me he didn’t want to continue.

“But you said you wished you’d taken lessons as a kid,” I reminded him.

“As a kid, yes,” he said. “But now I have other interests that I’d rather spend my time on. You interpreted my comment as a current wish, which it isn’t.”

Ouch. I should have gotten him the shop-vac he said he needed, which I thought was boring.

Same idea applies to your readers.

Pay careful attention to what they say, or in the case of social media, what they really like to see and with what they engage.

For instance, I thought that as an author, I should be posting on Facebook about my WIP or upcoming events. Those posts, I’ve found, get little notice.

But if I post a photo of me getting kissed by a French bulldog, or a goofy homemade video of me singing (badly) about the cold weather, I get comments galore. Clearly, on Facebook, at least, my writing news is not very interesting to my readers.

Writing news is appreciated very much, however, by my newsletter subscribers, so that’s where it now goes, along with on my website. As for LinkedIn, I post both events and business-related material, such as when my books get a rave review or included in an industry-recognized blogger’s post.

For Twitter, I post quick links to interesting material in my subject areas (birds, nature, dogs, humor) or retweet entertaining posts, because I’ve found that those kinds of communications are most appreciated by my followers. Because it’s a fast and short exposure, I tend to use Twitter more than any other social media platform as more of a shotgun approach – post and hope it spreads wide and far to get my name in front of a greater number of people, because that’s the first step to finding new readers.

My experience has convinced me that connecting with readers, followers, and networks is a necessary piece of expanding my readership, but once I’ve reached new folks, it’s time to shift gears and use social media to build relationships, not solicit sales.

That’s why it’s called social media, and not the shopping channel. Remembering to give the reader what they want is easy when it’s the same thing you want to give your friends.

How do you use the various social network platforms?

Embracing Your True Identity as a Writer

Photo/KarenJordanAs I watch my grandsons, Ethan and Zach, make silly faces dressed in their costumes, I realize how much I act like them.

At times, I pretend to be someone else, wearing a mask to disguise my true identity.

Masked crusaders. Zach and Ethan often pretend to be superheroes with superhuman powers, fighting against crime or evil. But even though they enjoy their make-believe world for a while, they soon shed their costumes. Bored with one adventure, they put on other outfits–such as pirate costumes–and search for a hidden treasure or sail off to conquer another ship. Later, they may be fully decked out in their new football or soccer uniforms.

True identity. As a writer, when I masquerade as somebody or something else, I tend to lose my focus on reality. And with this cover-up, I sometimes unintentionally deny my true identity.

I may be tempted to hide behind a cloak of self-confidence, trying to compensate for my weaknesses and failures. Or I try to put on another mask to temporarily gain acceptance and approval.

Self-deception. My self-deception always directs me down the wrong path, leading me down a new road. And I find myself in places that I never intended to go. When I choose an identity that God never expects me to wear, I make regrettable mistakes and commitments. And I focus on my faults, instead of my blessings.

I’ve tried on the masks of SuperMom, SuperNonnie, SuperWife, SuperTeacher, and even SuperWriter. And I’ve suffered from stress and burnout. Then, I feel like a SuperNobody. When I try to become any of those super-characters in my own strength–instead of depending upon God for direction and strength–I fail miserably.

As I continue my journey as a writer, I pray that I will embrace my true identity and remember who I really am “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3-14). As a Christ-follower, I am unconditionally accepted and loved by God because of what Christ did, not because of what I can do for Him or for others.

101031.gkids copyI also plan to model my faith and beliefs for my grandchildren, so they will also know when to put their masks and costumes away and discover their own identities “in Christ.”

What has helped you find your true identify as a writer?

Photos/KarenJordan

Help! My Life’s a Tilt-a-Whirl and I Wanna Get Off!

I watched the pink and orange eventide rise behind the bare-limbed trees lining our backyard.

The day was gone again.

Lost in a shuffle of orthodontist and doctor appointments, car pooling, awkward schedule changes due to the weather (again), blog posts and interview questions due yesterday, and a hopelessly floundering manuscript, life felt like a tilt-a-whirl and I wanted to get off.

How in the world could I keep the pace my life was going? How could I meet everyone’s expectations? How could I make sure I was being a mother and a wife first?

Through Me, I heard Abba whisper.

I’d recently forced myself to become diligent about reading the Bible again, after “forgetting” to make it a daily habit despite the five Bible applications on my smart phone and the three hard copies in a dust-covered stack on my bedside table.

No wonder I felt lost.

No wonder I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore.

I can’t.

Be still, He whispered again. Anything is possible through Me.

I can’t.

But God can.

IMG_0785Obviously He’s not going to write the blog posts for me. He’s not going to drive my kids to the orthodontist. He’s not going to bathe the five nonagenarians at the hospital for me during my nursing shifts.

But His power, through my heart staying centered on Him, can be made perfect.

And I can rest, knowing everything in His will to be done, will be done.

Eventually.

Writers or not, we all have times we feel lost and overwhelmed, insufficient and incapable. But if we keep our eyes on Him, He will renew our hearts. He will accomplish infinitely more than we can ask for or imagine (Eph. 3:20).

And best of all, we can rest in His peace.

 “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ … have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”

Colossians 3:15-17 (TMV)

Confessions of an Introvert Writer

crowded HallI have a writing conference coming up, and I’ve been trying not to think about it. Although I spend a good part of my work week happily among colleagues and teach big classrooms full of students with enthusiasm, I’m an introvert at heart, most content in front of my computer at home or out in my garden, alone. The thought of being among clots of strangers in some vast hotel lobby fills me with dread.

Anyway, I was thinking about how much I hate conferences and reminding myself of Crowded Wikimania 2009 welcome dinnerhow wonderful it’s been, on occasion, to stumble across a fellow God-lover among the strangers assembled there. The topic of faith comes up slantwise through some serendipitous comment about someone’s having read something in a church book club. Or maybe I notice a woman ducking her head briefly before lifting her fork to eat.

Such chance believers typically turn out to be quite different sorts of God-lovers than I am, which makes the encounters all the more thrilling. They refer to their pastor as “Father.” Or they go on about some pet business of politics important to their faith that I don’t give a rip about. Sometimes their God is barely recognizable as the God I know. Still, I want to sit next to them when I see them enter my next session and to eat my overdressed salad from a Styrofoam box at their table and to suck their occasional thoughts about God into my own.

FOUNTAIN_SQUARE'S__SITTING_WALLSYes, I’m that piteous stranger you meet sometimes at conferences whom you can’t seem to shake. Know this about me: I am in some sort of heaven, sitting there beside you, accepting the M&Ms you offer from the little bag you got out of a machine. We are siblings, you and I. We come from the same home.

I figure that’s how Abram the Hebrew—literally, Abram the Foreigner, the first instance of the word Hebrew in the Bible—must have felt that day after rescuing his cousin Lot and a bunch of other Sodom and Gomorrah inhabitants who’d been taken captive. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah come out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh, they bring along their friend Melchizedek, another king like them but also, we’re told, “priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18 ESV). Later, the writer of Hebrews will describe Jesus himself, repeatedly and at length, as a high priest “in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5.6, 5.10, 7.11, 7.17 NIV).

Melchizedek brings out bread and wine for them all to share—Catholics memorialize the event by mentioning Melchizedek during the Mass—and then he prays this prayer:

Abram, may you be blessed by God Most High,
the God who made heaven and earth.
And we praise God Most High,
who has helped you to defeat your enemies
(Genesis 14.19-20 NCV).

Wow. Imagine hearing that from a stranger! Imagine being a stranger among strangers yourself in the Valley of Shaveh, a place Abram’s never been before, a place where he’s so unlike everyone else, so alien to their values and practices, that people refer to him as “the Foreigner.”

Hearing Melchizedek’s words, sharing bread and wine with him, Abram must have felt himself, for a moment at least, at home. As a person of faith—which the author of Hebrews defines as one who welcomes God’s promises and acknowledges being a foreigner and stranger on this messed up earth—Abram suddenly finds himself, for a moment, where all the faithful want to be, in “a country of their own” (Hebrews 11.13-14 ISV). Not, that is, in “the land they had left behind” or even in the one in which they find themselves, but in “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11.15-16 NRSV).

Priests of God Most High. That’s who we are when we acknowledge God among strangers, whether at a conference or among our readers. And however strange and foreign we might feel ourselves to be, we are where we belong.

Living on Easy Street

Photo/TaraRossBut easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. (Phil. 3:19 MSG)

I used to think that I wanted to live on Easy Street. You know, where you could have anything you want, anytime you want it.

Thankfully, the Lord knows what I need, and it’s not always the way I want.

In fact, I’ve noticed many people who seem to enjoy all the material possessions that they want, but they lack what they really need. They may even boast that they “have it all.” But a closer inspection might expose the truth about their situation. Many of them pay a big price for riches, fame, and beauty.

Dead-end street. I’ve discovered that there is much more to life than focusing on myself. Talk about a dead-end street!

What if I could attain all the world has to offer? Can I take riches and fame with me when I die?

What if I could have a dramatic makeover and become the most beautiful woman in the world? Could I maintain that beauty forever as my body ages?

What if I wrote a best-selling book? Would that be enough?

Would any of those successes last for eternity?

Priorities. What do I need to focus on in my life? If I knew I had only a short time to live, how could I determine my priorities?

No one really wants to consider these provocative questions. But often, I need a reality check, so I can bring my head out of the clouds to focus on the right things.

So, I’ve decided not to dream about Easy Street any longer, because the most important things in life are not just about me.

Wisdom. Every stage in life brings new challenges, changes, and blessings. But not everyone gains wisdom with age. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (Jms. 1:5 NIV).

Do you need wisdom as you face the unfolding challenges of your life? Are you struggling to define your priorities and set goals? Would a new directive for your life help?

I’ve chosen to stop desiring Easy Street and focus on a new vision with an eternal purpose.

… there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him (Phil. 3:20-21 MSG).

How did you determine your priorities this year? How has your focus changed over the years?

Photo/TaraRoss

Failure to Freedom

DSC_0486Last year I flew with my co-writer and friend, Dena Dyer, to Indiana for a television interview. The Harvest Show interviewed us about our newly released book Wounded Women of the Bible. This was my first television interview and I had no idea what to expect. The night before, Dena and I walked through thoughts and questions, so I felt ready and prepared.

Our host helped us feel comfortable in every way. Once I stepped onto the platform, beneath the lights and cameras, I sank like a marshmallow in the heat of the sun. Someone should have blindfolded me or thrown a towel over the monitors.  I didn’t like my appearance on camera and fidgeted too much. I had too many pillows behind my back and stuck out like a sore thumb. Dena sat proper and polished while I sat like a huge lump on the couch. I smacked my lips and swallowed hard. I even needed a trip to the bathroom.

Dena’s eyes and beautiful smile said, “Stop fidgeting.” Confession: My thoughts not hers. I looked around for a brown paper bag, feeling I might hyperventilate, but then came the questions. I knew these stories. I spent twelve months writing about these particular wounded women in the Bible. I could share in-depth thoughts and notes on each one. I was ready.

The host said, “Tell me about Ichabod.”  Ichabod who? I completely froze. Blank. Nothing. Empty. I grasped at something to say. I couldn’t gather my thoughts or remember that Eli was Ichabod’s father-in-law. As if an eternity, a long pause of silence fell. I had no idea what came out of my mouth after that moment. Before long it was over and I drooped off the stage. Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased with my first television interview, but so grateful to have had the experience.

After Dena left the hotel to fly home, something hit me – I felt despair, inadequacy, and insufficiency. I would be lying if I said tears weren’t involved in that moment of self-pity. While packing, I turned the television on and flipped through the channels to find something to cheer my mood. I stopped on a well-known female pastor. The first words out of her mouth were, “Listen! God uses people all the time who have no idea what they’re doing!”

My heart leaped and the words slapped me in the face – starting with “Listen!” Leave it to God to reach through our self-pity and grab hold of our collars. I was reminded that life is full of experiences and God uses “the least of these.” If I hadn’t heard those words that day, I may have carried my feelings of despair (among others) home, placed them on a shelf, and allowed them to identify my character and abilities. God recognized my “stinkin’ thinkin’” (as my friend says) and burst forward with one bold statement: “He uses people all the time who have no idea what they’re doing.”

Sometimes we have those frozen cloud crowding moments when our mind appears broken. God understands and desires to free us of anything the enemy may hold over our heads. All we have to do is be willing to step into Him and God will teach, grow, and strengthen us, even when we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. God takes our offerings and uses them for His glory.

One other word of affirmation from God came when my husband, who is one of two men on Sheila Walsh’s launch team for her new book, shared a story she wrote. In her book, Sheila shares a story of one particular television interview. My mouth dropped as it mirrored mine! (But you’ll have to wait and read the story when her book comes out). As if what God shared through the television wasn’t enough, He said, “You see, Tina, even the big girls start out in similar places.”

Let me encourage you to never give up, push through those feelings of failure, and move forward with God at your side. God turns our failures into faith walks when we trust He can use every part of what we offer Him. May this year be the beginning of great things, especially allowing God to free you, and you freeing yourself, from any past failures.

A new dawn awaits.

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My Book is Published, Now What?

culture of numbers

These words, they urged me to somehow live them.

Since my small hand cupped my first #2, painted-yellow pencil, I’ve experienced life through story. Stories to entertain me, yes, but my mind also craved stories that taught life lessons (although I couldn’t comprehend or articulate that at five years of age.)

There’s something about story that somehow makes our lives better, easy to live.

It seems only natural that after (way too) many years of traipsing across the country in various marketing positions, I became a storyteller myself.

Matthew West is responsible. Well, somewhat—he did play an important role. About four years ago, Matthew released this song that flat messed me up. The song, The Motions, was about how we oftentimes live this complacent, ordinary life, how we fall into these stale daily routines unaware.

The song uncovered some stalled dreams, desires I had long ago tucked away.

For months, those dreams were stirred fresh. Seems each time I dropped into the driver’s seat and clicked on the radio, I heard, “just okay is not enough,” and “I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything instead of going through the motions?’”

So that’s how I spend my days now—giving “everything I have.” As a blogger and author, I share heart-stories that bring hope to women when their days are hard. Don’t we all have those hard days?

And that stalled dream, the one of crafting a traditionally published book that would make its way into the tender hearts of other women, it recently became a reality. About six weeks ago, When A Woman Finds Her Voice: Overcoming Life’s Hurts & Using Your Story to Make a Difference was released.

We shot streamers, and I won’t hide it, we shed a few joyful tears.

But then, reality.

Within a couple of days a very real responsibility leaned in, one of partnering with the publisher to now sell thousands of these books. And gut-honest here, I’m tired, because I’ve just spent the last six months sacrificing many nights and family events to pen this book. And while the book is packed with hope, it wasn’t an easy write.

There are those times a cord of hope runs a scarlet red.

Now I love painting hope thick, and I’m a connector who loves meeting women far and wide, but to feel the weight of sharing a book that I authored with others, and to (over and over again) suggest they purchase it? Not so much.

Soon I fell into conversation with a wise and trusted friend (who also happens to be a best-selling author), and we uncovered my true heart to market this book.

Serve the reader.

Yes, that’s right, serve, not manipulate. In a world of hype among thousands of new books released every year and a responsibility to a publisher who risked a partnership with me, my goal is to find my reader and serve her. To engage heart-to-heart with love, support, prayer, and encouragement. To be a trusted resource.To put her first.

From that sincere offering of mine, she can decide if she wants more of my hope-filled words.

There’s this awesome conference for bloggers, Allume, and recently I sat alongside hundreds of other storytellers as Ann Voskamp brought the room to a pondering silence when she posed the question, “In a culture of numbers, how do you kneel?”

This is it for me; this is how I’m learning to kneel. I’m feeding this desire, nurturing and cultivating this servant-heart in the hopes it will defeat the anxious fingers that numbers tempt.

How about you? Who is your reader, and what are some specific ways you can serve them?

The Trick to Becoming an Author

Pavillion_d'Armide_by_A._Benois_05The other day, a colleague asked me if I thought the burgeoning popularity of memoir-style books of the sort I had published had to do with the fact that the people who read them wanted to write such books themselves.

Reflecting on what he asked, it occurs to me now that—the underlying argument being that my writing’s appeal had nothing to do with my writing itself but only the envy of my readers and that the underlying argument of my readers’ envy being that anyone could write as well as I could—I should have gotten offended. But I didn’t. (Thanks, surely, to the Holy Spirit, who tries to protect me, usually in vain, from bouts of narcissism that make me think I’m a great writer and cause me to take offense at any reminder that I’m not.)

I didn’t get offended, too, because I knew, as anyone who’s ever published a book of any sort does, that what he said was true. We know it from the people who show up in our doorways wanting publishing advice. We know it from acquaintances who know about our good luck as writers and come up to us in the grocery store, or sitting at the vet’s office, or walking to our cars after church, and want to tell us their latest book idea. We know it from the mail we get when our books come out. Fast on the heels of a fan email, if not within the fan email itself, comes a question about how to get the fan’s own work published.

Everyone these days has not just a story in them, as they used to say, but a published book—even though it’s rarely written or even begun. All it takes to write a book, the would-be writer hopes or believes, is an idea and the need to tell it. What happens between that and getting something published is a trick they plan to learn from established writers.

But there is no trick. Just the arduous and time-consuming work of writing and rewriting and sending stuff out and waiting and trying to believe there’s a chance that someone who makes a difference in the world of publishing likes it and finding out there mostly isn’t (or, if you really are lucky, that there might be a chance with some major changes to what you’ve written) and then writing and rewriting again. That’s the part no one wants to hear or even know about. That to be a writer is to write. Period.

They’re like Simon the Magician, that guy in the book of Acts who—though Luke makes clear that he’s a genuine believer—tries to buy from the apostles the trick of touching people and thereby filling them with the Holy Spirit.

“Just teach me the trick of getting published!” EveryWriter begs. Often, as Simon does, they even offer to pay for the trick.

But there is no trick.

Sermons on Simon’s story often go on about how wrong-headed Simon was, thinking to buy the Holy Spirit, and sometimes they posit that Simon wasn’t really a believer at all, even if Luke says he was. But such sermons miss the point, I think—whether it’s the gift of writing we’re talking about or of imparting the Holy Spirit. Being a servant of the word, or the Word, is not a magic trick. You have to get out there and do it.

Hard Work--George Herriman 1907-11-24That said, I remember having had the same response to other writers’ writing—not just to their memoirs but to their novels and even textbooks. I’ve thought to myself, if they can do it, why then so can I. And so began this article and that book. So began my current writing project, a novel–my first. So began, indeed, my entire career as a writer.

If others can do it, so can you, but don’t sit around hoping to discover some trick to make it happen effortlessly. If you want to write, if you want to inspire others, if you want to fill them with good news, with the very spirit of God, you’ll just have to get out there and do it.

Choosing Thanksgiving

Photo/KarenJordanAs the autumn leaves began to fall this year, I had to admit to myself that I didn’t feel very thankful. So, I asked God to change my viewpoint as I focused on this Thanksgiving season.

In the past, I struggled with similar emotions, like love, forgiveness, and hope.

Love. After 40-plus years of marriage, I know that love must be a choice in every relationship. Our emotions and feelings ebb and flow with time. But as we invite God to intervene, He helps us navigate through the seasons of life.

Forgiveness. How can we release our anger and bitterness when we can’t forget the offenses? Impossible! That kind of forgiveness requires a divine source. But the Bible encourages us to offer ourselves and others the same forgiveness that Christ provides for us. And as we choose to remember what He’s done for us, He enables us to forgive ourselves and others.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13 NIV).

Hope. In the past, I’ve been guilt-ridden when shame covered me like a dark, heavy cloak. I lost hope and succumbed to despair and depression. But when I choose to seek God and embrace His Truth, I experience His hope and peace. Hebrews 10:23 says to embrace hope, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Thanksgiving. Today, I choose to give thanks. Often holiday seasons bring painful memories and cloud my vision of God’s blessings. But as I confess my ingratitude and ask God to change my focus, He always offers His promises.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, notice four powerful strategies that can help us when our circumstances and emotions distract our focus on God’s blessings: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

  1. “Rejoice always …” (16). First, this passage reminds us to rejoice, even if that choice seems impossible. In Mark 10:27, we observe the disciples struggling with a seemingly impossible teaching. But “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God’” (NIV).This message is repeated in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
  2. “… pray continually …” (17). The Bible also teaches us to pray all the time, in every situation. Philippians 4:5-6 reminds us, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
  3. “ … give thanks in all circumstances …” (18). Notice my emphasis of the words “with thanksgiving” in the previous passage. Again, the scripture tells us to give thanks in every situation.
  4. “ … for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (18). Why rejoice? Why pray? Why give thanks? This verse answers these questions for me. Philippians 4: 7 offers this promise, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Today, I choose to give thanks, even if my circumstances never change. And I plan to begin by focusing on my blessings.

YouTube/LoveOneAnother2011 (Laura Story “Blessings”)
Photo/KarenJordan

What strategies help you as you enter into this season of thanksgiving and celebration of God’s blessings?

The Hidden Benefits of Reading

Image

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I read in order to avoid writing. There. I said it. I read at stoplights often enough that my children have to point and say, “Green. Green! GREEN!” in increasingly frantic tones, just before the rude non-reader honks come from the cars behind us.

I read while I wait for my children and while I brush my teeth. Just last week, I read on my daily walk. While passing my oldest daughter’s home, I understand that she pointed out the window in disbelief. “Nick!” she called to her husband, “Is that lady really reading while she’s walking?! Oh. It’s my mom. Why am I even surprised?” Once, I even read 43 pages while in the dentist’s chair.

As it turns out, my reading habit might be one of the best things I can do for my writing.

Read to Inspire

We all know there’s nothing like losing yourself in a book whose pages are so magical, they fairly turn themselves. We look up and are surprised to find it’s not raining – after all, it was pouring in the story.

Start noticing which phrases delight you. Stop a moment and think about why they do. Chances are, it’s because this book unpacked a suitcase of fresh word choices, analogies, and dialogues. The clichés have left the building and we’re thrilled!

Read to Motivate

When I read about Stephen King being able to paper his bathroom with rejection slips, I am motivated. When I recall that both Stephen King and John Grisham had wives who believed in them (the infamous Carrie was fished out of a trash can by King’s wife; Grisham and his wife self-published his first novel when he couldn’t find a publisher. They sold it out of the trunk of their car; today, they are laughing their way to the bank), I count myself blessed to have a spouse who is my biggest fan.

Knowing that 80-something publishers rejected The Wizard of Oz and that Nicholas Sparks was a drug rep, putting out juice and donuts for yet another hospital sales pitch when he got the call regarding his mega-deal for The Notebook, I am reminded that there’s something to be said for both perseverance and the chance for a modern day fairytale. Hey – it’s a book! Anything can happen.

Read to Learn

I’ve been 40 for 7 years now and I still don’t know all there is to know about anything, much less everything.  So, when I embarked upon writing my first novel (after seven non-fiction books), I began to read even more fiction. I gulped down dialogue kings and drama queens. I devoured women’s fiction, swallowed romantic suspense, snatched up crime novels marinated in mystery, snacked on current secular best sellers and wolfed down articles, chapters, blogs, and books on the art of writing itself.

I’m currently serving myself a buffet of historical fiction; my master’s degree is in American history. As a full-time high school teacher and the mother of four blessings who also love to read, I’d love to write historical novels someday. As a writer, I take note of what works and what doesn’t. As a history lover, I treasure authors whose research renders their prose not just lovely, but accurate. As a police chief, my husband does the same for authors who justly portray the world of law enforcement.

Read for Fun

Make sure reading doesn’t become just another chore. Don’t be a book snob – read because you love that author, that genre, that time period, that gift for dialogue. Curl up on the porch swing, in the hammock, by the fireplace, or at the stop light, and savor.

And remember, since books foster dreams, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming someday it will be YOUR book someone is reading just for fun!