So, this year marks my 55th trip around the sun. So far, it's been a fun ride. Every year as June 14th (my actual birth date) comes around, I sit back and reflect on where I've been, how I've grown, and I realign my goals for the next year. I tend to look into the reflecting pond at this time of year, rather than in January, with the rest of humanity for two reasons:
First, It's cold in January, and I'm usually still in hibernation mode, trying to keep the old processes warm, adding kindling to the fire that keeps the past year's goals breathing; no small feat. It's tough to keep things growing in the arctic frost. Drake tends to migrate during the cold of winter, so no great help there.
Secondly, everyone else on the planet seems to take that same month to reflect, and albeit with good intentions, I think, also with a foreshadowing of acceptable neglect. The people I've come in contact with, those that make "new years' resolutions", tend to choose things that they don't really want, so that they don't feel like failures when they don't achieve their goals; and they know they won't, because everyone else fails, too. It's rare for your peer group to rave with you when you celebrate a January resolution. Usually, they feign happiness for you, secretly, or not so secretly, frustrated that they couldn't stick to it. Regret is at a high premium in February... I think that's why Hallmark came out with Valentines' Day, so we'd have something to look forward to.
I simply don't like setting myself up to be surrounded by that kind of negative energy, or failure. So, I wait until I feel like my head is in a space where I can reflect and follow my goal setting path with conviction. I do this during a time when we least expect failure - both me and those around me. For some reason, when you announce to the world that you are going to do things differently, and it's not January, there is an energy shift that works to your benefit, rather than your detriment. I like taking advantage of that... the fact that my birthday just so happens to fall during a time of comfort and renewal doesn't hurt, either.
I've raised an amazing little person who has grown into an incredible man... I married an incredible man who has grown into an amazing husband... I've learned more about business than I ever thought possible in one year... I've started a new business... I've established a TV program... I've made a ton of new friends... I've reconnected with some old friends... I've said goodbye to a beloved dog and I've invited a new puppy into my life... I've written more words toward publishing more books... and I've read more words written by spectacular authors. I've spent time sharing with people I care about, and continue to be a cheerleader for those who sincerely want to move their lives and their creativity forward.
How does one celebrate another year? For me, it's all about zero stress. I escaped the "regular world" for a few days, choosing that time to live off-grid and nearer to nature. I feel most at peace when I'm at our little cabin in the woods. And even closer to peace when the rain lasts for hours, and the thunder reminds me of my insignificance. There's something refreshing about being reminded about my smallness in the world. It relieves the pressure of all I want to do, and allows me the energy to simply do what I can... well.
Over the decades of my introspective journey, I've tried to establish a pattern of living that includes this path:
Choose a Goal... Apply Intention... Make A Viable Plan... Research and Learn about what needs to be done... Take Action... Manifest the Outcome... Enjoy the Celebration... Rest... Repeat.
In the coming year, my focus will be on WRITING AND READING BOOKS! There are four writing projects that I have started, each (of course) in a different genre, and each with at least a five-digit word count already created. This indicates to me that Drake thinks they should be written. I've also amassed a TBR shelf that is about forty books long (and I'd really like to buy more). So, I'm resurfacing as a Writer and Reader for 2019. Sure, I'm also pursuing my business and community service work - but that's only because boredom and hunger aren't any fun. But primarily, my emotional energy - and that really is what we're talking about when we discuss re-evaluating one's direction in life - will be focused on writing and reading.
Each November, I try to participate in a program called NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The challenge, 30 days, 50,000 words. It's absolutely a challenge easily reached - it's just 1,667 words per day, after all. I do that in a blog post - sometimes in an hour. However, waiting until November each year messes with my intention and momentum. So this year, I'm doing what I'm calling, NaNoWriMo 365. Yes, I'm making a commitment to write a minimum of 1,667 words every day from now until June 14, 2020. On days when I miss, I'm making up for it on another day. I allow myself this little bit of wiggle room because sometimes life intercedes into our strongest intentions and derails our concerted action toward our goals. We become ill and need to recover... We need to celebrate the lives of others... Sometimes, we just need to sleep and recharge after a particularly grueling moment or two; and sometimes, the momentum is so strong that it's difficult to stop - that's when we can take advantage and move a bit slower on a day afterward. So, I've downloaded a word count tracker to my phone and I'm keeping a log of my daily word counts. I'm devoting Monday and Wednesday evenings to sacred writing time, and turning on the focus.
The reading goal is a little bit trickier. I spend so much of my time writing, that I don't indulge myself that down time I used to allow for curling up with a good book and a cup of cocoa on the couch. So, I'm allowing myself "old fashioned reading". What does that mean, exactly? Well, remember when you were a kid and your parents, or a teacher at school used to read out loud to you? We all still considered that reading - we were just doing it orally. We called it storytelling, and I'm embracing that again, now. Instead of criticizing myself for not actually picking up a book and turning pages whenever I want to, I'm allowing myself to read via storytelling... or as we like to say in the 21st century, audio books. Whenever I get in the car, fold laundry, or clean the house, I'm listening to audio books instead of being distracted by television, and my goodness, is it fun! Nothing passes the time like a really great story read out loud. In fact, I'm hearing some new vocabulary words I've not run across before - and when you consider the size of the dictionary, it's not a great surprise. So, just like being in class in second grade, I'm learning, too. Tone inflection, empathy of character, pronunciation, definition within context, secrets about craft that you can only learn from another's mystical practice of putting words to paper, and most curiously, a magical effect on time - from dull to exciting. It's amazing what oral reading can do for you.
Now, don't misunderstand, I am not abdicating printed books for the audio ones... I'm just doing both. My goal is to read two books each month, one orally, one from the printed page (or perhaps digital page). The pure joy of this is to acknowledge that we can get story into our heads in a myriad of ways now, and we shouldn't feel "less than" simply because we're taking advantage of all the methods at our disposal, rather than remaining vigilant to only one. Truth be told, there are some books that I simply haven't been able to find in physical form, but can find them digitally - so I think that's a win - a book discovered and read is wonderment, no matter the form of it's delivery.
So, two books read per month, and 1,667 words written per day, tracking both. I could use a good mutual accountability buddy in human form, but the truth of the matter is that I have yet to find someone with my tenacity for follow through, who can also be nice, as well as firm, with reminders. It's a rare combination. So, my digital nagging system will have to suffice, for now.
The rest of my energy will be spent with those daily "keeping myself alive and the household going" things, as always.
And we will see what my reflection looks like when staring into the pool of my 56th year.
Yesterday afternoon I did something that I never thought would be a part of my life... I hosted my first television series. It is a little strange, and yet oddly comfortable, simultaneously. I thought, television is something that "the big guys" do, not little start-ups... and then I remembered that the world has changed dramatically since I was a teenager, and truly, anything that I can imagine, can indeed become real. With all the advancements in technology, nothing is completely out of reach.
But enough waxing romantic... here's the thing... It is SO MUCH FUN to host a TV show! I worked in the theatre for several years in my younger life, and being in a television studio is akin to that experience... but with more advanced technology. The rush of the technical rehearsal is the same, and the excitement of "show day" is the same. The jitters of actually recording is the same as a live production. Simply put, it's just plain fun!
The show, hosted on CMNTV, a local station in Troy, Michigan, is called Indie Reads TV, and my goal with this program is to shine a much-needed spotlight on Independent Authors and other interesting bookish people. It's so difficult for indie authors to get the kind of exposure that the major publishers can offer, and I wanted to make a little dent in that disparity.
The long-term goal of the program is to produce one-on-one interviews with authors and those who support authors. I also want to also offer opportunities to bring more awareness to special bookish events happening in the community with remote shoots, and to provide additional in-studio programming for audiences like poetry and story slams, storytime readings for children, literary panel discussions, and perhaps even a literary game show. My vision is to utilize this magnificent outreach tool as a way to enhance awareness not only of our local authors as celebrities, but to also offer programming for viewers that encourages them to embrace literature, and get more enjoyment out of picking up a book.
My first day of recording went well, and I'm pleased with the production. Yes, newbies are certain to make a few mistakes... I blundered a few of my questions, didn't always have the "snappy" retort as I would have liked, and we experienced a few technical glitches due to my inexperience with the equipment... but I'm certain that will all get smoothed out the more shows I get under my belt. I hope when you watch, you'll forgive my foibles.
We've got four shows "in the can": Episode One features Donald Levin; Episode Two features Andrew Charles Lark; Episode Three features Brenda Hasse; and Episode Four features Kate McNeil. The broadcast dates will be revealed shortly, and the programs will be available for viewing on CMNTV channel 18 in local neighborhoods, on the CMNTV website, and later on the Pages Promotions website, our YouTube channel, and there will be links to the programs on our social media channels. There will be lots of opportunities for the public - YOU - to watch and learn about these fascinating authors.
I have upcoming interviews with Mel Corrigan from Scribe Publishing, Indie Author Wendy Thomson, Indie Author Andy Lockwood, and Bailey Lockwood of Just Ducky Editing Services. Also, I'm super-excited to take the remote equipment out into the field to film Donald Levin's book launch on Saturday, May 11 at Color & Ink Studios in Hazel Park, so watch for that program to be available shortly, as well.
Watch for broadcast dates and times to be posted shortly. And... come back to our website frequently for more shows and special appearances by People of The Book on Indie Reads TV!
If you're an Indie Author, in an industry (like editing, cover design, etc) that supports Indie Authors, an Indie Bookshop owner, or an English teacher... I want to host you on my program! Please visit the Indie Reads TV show page on our website, and complete the interest form. I'd love to get you on my production schedule.
Before I go... a BIG, HUGE, THANK YOU to CMNTV and their fabulous staff for making television accessible to the community! We appreciate your guidance and support in creating local television.
For many years, I believed that the energies of Fate and Kismet were far more important than the energy of Preparedness. I believed that things happened in my life out of some mystical and strange force from elsewhere unknown that controlled my life's flow. It made me feel less guilty about not achieving what I desired and deserved; but also less in control, and less happy when my life didn't progress as I expected.
As I got older and experienced more of the world, I came to understand that Fate and Kismet, though part and parcel of how life is contrived, are inadequate without a good strong dose of Preparedness. If I did not prepare my body properly, I would not become healthy. If I did not prepare my mind, I would not learn, and grow, and become adaptable to life's changes. If I did not prepare a plan for my future - in all areas of my life: parenting, working, loving, recharging - I would not be comfortable enough in my own spirit to rejoice in all that Fate and Kismet brought to my doorstep.
There is something, surely, to be said for being in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the right people. However, if you are not well prepared, all of those wonderful resources will be wasted space, energy, and communion. Scar sang of it in The Lion King, but he didn't heed his own advice.
Scar had what he thought was a good plan... kill the king, take over the pride, live happily ever after. The thing he forgot was planning for the future. He was far too short-sighted to realize that poor resource management would eliminate his ability to stay healthy; that isolation from his peers would inhibit his ability to lead effectively; that fear is not enough to keep a new generation from testing limits and making their own plan. Scar was caught unawares and it became his banishment from a life he thought he had well in hand. He was incapable of maintaining his own security and stability. He had grown toxic, and no one came to his rescue.
I must not only collect the best tools and surround myself with honorable friends to assist in my plan - I must also have a plan! I need to Prepare a plan that will take me from step one to step one thousand and one - until my goal is reached. My plan must remain fluid, and designed with empathy and humility, with strength and conviction, with morality and accountability. I need to plan with a seven-generation view, abscond with tunnel vision, and become accountable to life's tracking mechanisms. I must never stop learning more effective methods of planning and doing, continuing to surround myself with those who support my goals and offer counsel without the consorts of fear and humiliation.
I must remember these points, and apply them to my desire to all attain my goals and dreams. If I do not Prepare myself in mind, body, intellect, and spirit to achieve the outcome that I most desire, it will never be, no matter how much I believe Fate made me a victim, or how much I believe Kismet conspired against me. If I am not prepared to adapt, change, and plan... my goals will become banished and I will become toxic; irrelevant in my own existence.
I love the English language. It is by far my favorite thing about having a brain. It is my soap box when I am feeling righteously indignant. I can stand on the eloquence of my forefathers and spew from the top of my lungs my political incorrectness and socially acceptable stances on such subjects as gun control, hunter’s rights, tax reform, higher standards for education, and health care reform. Whether my views and opinions are readily accepted by the masses or deflated with the fervor of another’s soap box; my voice can be heard in all its 26-letter glory.
The English language is my pulpit when I am feeling the moment’s expectation to preach compassion and equality to my fellow man. I can quote from parables and prophets; I can recite song and verse all toward the ultimate goal of bringing about a kinder, gentler approach to friend and foe. I can ease into confrontation with mutual respect and an acceptance of the right to free-flowing idealism.
It is also my podium to teach. It is my opportunity to enliven discussions in areas that I have special knowledge and experience. It is also the place from which I raise my hand with an inquiring mind and an eager soul. It is my chance to demonstrate my strengths and learn from my weaknesses. It is my gateway to remembering history and my toolbox toward not repeating it.
Nouns, adjectives, verbs, conjunctions… they all give me the eloquence to gently comfort a child in a moment of sadness and to celebrate with that same child in a moment of triumphant jubilation. The words, these phrases we use, offer us keys to unlocking the mystery of a perfectly delivered punch line and an equally revealing climax to a ghost story told by campfire light.
English language prose allows me the freedom to create new worlds, interesting characters, and captivating scenes to put them in. Story lines drip from my imagination in sentences and paragraphs leading readers down a murky path of intrigue… through the confiding vulnerabilities of a love triangle gone horribly wrong … or entangled with rapture through the under-the-table dealings of provocative political conspiracies.
There is no inherent leniency to what can be written… no limits to what can be said. No moral obligation or rule of law that dictates if we are to speak or to be silent. We are certainly fortunate to have this wondrous gift.
So, with all this wealth of communication at my disposal, tell me, why is it so difficult to find just the right words to comfort a dear friend who has just been devastated by the mangling of his heart after twenty-five years of devotion and loyalty? Which are the right words to express my deep sympathy and simultaneous rage?
Where is the manual of style that permits me the strong supportive nurturing phrases while gently denying my complete disdain for the wrong perpetrated against him without slandering the one he loves? The simple phrase, “I’m so sorry” just doesn’t seem to convey enough of the emotional fortitude due him. My mastery of the English language suddenly reveals itself to be weak in its conveyance.
Yes, I am completely enamored with the English language. Yet I have discovered there are still many of its nuances left for me to discover and punctuate. And so, disappointingly, “I am so very sorry” will have to suffice … for the moment.
When I was a youngster, in our utility room pantry lived an old five-pound coffee can filled about three-quarters of the way up with keys. There was every style key imaginable in there...small padlock keys... medium sized house keys... skeleton keys from who knows where... car keys from automobiles that I'm sure no one had owned for at least a generation... and tiny luggage keys. Truly, any key you can imagine lived within the depths of this can.
It sat there for weeks, months, years, waiting for someone to need a key, haul it to the kitchen counter, and dump it out... searching for just the right one. Silver keys... Gold keys... Black keys... some had little paper tags attached with faded writing that you could no longer decipher... some had masking tape over them, again, with worn lettering... and some had little plastic pieces attached, color-coding them to one day reveal some deeper meaning that was all too frequently, never discovered.
When the day came when someone in the family found a lock of some sort... perhaps an old bike padlock... or a piece of luggage that held a tiny little lock on it's zipper... or when the teenager's car keys went missing and that teenager needed to find the duplicate... out came the can. It was dumped upon the kitchen counter with a great CRASH! Key's are loud!
Then the fun would begin. We started out by sorting through all the keys that were obviously not the right fit... too small... too big... the wrong shape... and they would get unceremoniously plunked back into the can. The remaining keys were spread out on the counter, as we went through each one... one by one... checking if a particular key fit the lock in question.
If the key fit, then, TA DA! The quest was over and the remaining keys went back into the can and the can was replaced on its shelf in the pantry.
However, if the key didn't fit, it got plunked back into the can with all the other misfits, and another key was tried in the lock. This process continued until the moment of TA DA! and the key was found.
My whole life, this is the parable I used to teach myself, my son, and my friends about rejection, especially in my writing life.
Sure, it can be frustrating when you can't find the right key as soon as you'd like... but the adventure of seeking out that special key for your special lock is well worth the time. Imagine all the really cool keys that you would have never known existed unless you went on the search! And later, when you come across another lock... you will already have some idea of what keys might fit, thereby perhaps shortening your search.
Seeking out the right key is never a personal thing... well, it kind of is personal because finding the right key for your lock is a pretty personal thing. No one is ever going to care about finding the right key as much as you are... but remember, you're the only one who will ever care THAT much about finding THAT key. If you don't find the correct key right away... don't sweat it. It's not a personal attack on your lack of matching skills... or a statement about your lack of intelligence to discern the proper features of the key you're seeking. It's just not the right key... YET.
Have faith... bank on your tenacity and never give up. Soon, you will find the key that fits your lock... and when that day comes, and you get to proclaim TA DA! it'll all be worth the deep digging into the can to come up with the key... YOUR key! And then you can sit there, at the kitchen counter, cup of cocoa at the ready, latching and unlatching the lock as often as you like, knowing that for at least this one lock, you have become a complete success!
Celebrate! You deserve it! Share the moment with friends, family and your community of supporters. And then... when another day comes when you discover a new lock without a key... rejoice in the adventure of seeking out just the right fit!
It was an interesting eighteen months at The Grey Wolfe Scriptorium; filled will joy, chaos, and good friends. I learned a lot along the way, and had some ideas and concepts validated, too. It was by far, the best "learning experience" my life has offered, outside of raising a child.
I relished in every day at the shop. There's nothing quite like having a dream held for forty years finally realized. I was fourteen when I took my first job at a small bookshop in a shopping mall. I remember begging my mother to sign my worker's permit so I could do it... working age in Michigan is sixteen at the time, but I really wanted this job. I didn't need it for the money, or for something to do after school and on weekends... I wanted to be with the books. When my mother said yes, I was over the moon with joy. I remember my first day, learning that bookshops were organized like libraries - by genre - which meant that I was already a pro (if only in my own mind). I'd spent a great deal of my childhood in libraries, and this seemed like the next logical step. I remember being entranced with each book as I stickered and shelved it, being a little sheepish about entering the "adult" section behind a red curtain (I kid you not)!
As an adult, the wonderful world of bookshop management was heavenly - for the most part. I loved every day surrounded by the sanctity of the written word, in so many of it's forms; hardback, paperback, even a few audio books on CD. I loved meeting new people and learning their reading preferences, how they read, why they read. It seems, no matter the genre, we all read for the same reasons... escape, education, entertainment, relaxation. The regular customers became new friends, and the new customers became welcome additions to my growing understanding of humanity.
I learned a great deal about small business management, too. I'd worked in the corporate world for years, and even run a small business before, but never a "brick & mortar" shop. It was a new experience for me. So often, we think, "I'll open a shop, it'll be fun"; and it is... but we don't always realize all the other stuff that keeps that shop afloat, aside from the fun. There's a great deal of responsibility and even a little bit of stress... paying bills, managing staff, inventory, maintenance, marketing, and always being the one who fills in when a staff member can't make it. It's a huge undertaking, sometimes an encroachment on personal time, and a lot of work. But my goodness, was it ever fun! When you love what you do, there can be challenges, of course; but it never really stops being fun... until the day you discover it must end, and you realize you have no control or influence over that decision. That, most assuredly, was not fun.
As I studied the metrics one must when one manages a bookshop, I was thrilled to discover that the trends are bringing us back to books - in a big way. We saw more customers come through the door each week, and each customer was spending more money on books, and they were doing it more often. E-readers have had their fifteen minutes of fame, and the book is back with a quiet persistence. In my experience, what I discovered was that those readers a generation older than me relied on "real" books more than e-books, although some used e-readers when they traveled, most regaled me with stories of where they were when they read a favorite title, how they felt comforted when diving into the pages, how it reminded them of their childhood when they turned each page and lived with the characters for a little while.
Readers of my generation said that although they loved audio books because it meant they still got to "read" when they were busy driving or attending to tasks that required their hands, or e-books when they were traveling; they still preferred "real" books. "I just love the feel of a book in my hands", they would tell me. And they passed that love to their children. The kids corner at the shop was frequently visited by parents and grandparents who would sit with little ones at the tiny table and read, choosing just the right book to take home with them that day. It was joyful to see.
I am grateful for all the customers who visited and found comfort in selecting books by authors they had discovered years ago. I am equally thankful for those who also took a chance on Indie Authors who were new to them. It's because of the readers continued support that those of us who live in this wacky literary world get to do what we do. We are humbled by their encouragement of our work.
The best part of my time managing a bookshop, though, without question, was the opportunity I had to meet and support so many Independent Michigan Authors. The diversity of their storytelling... the richness of their imaginations... the comfort of their presence... it was what I looked forward to most when opening the shop door and turning on the lights every morning. Launch parties and signing events, workshops and writing groups... so much happiness shared with people who loved books as much as me. From childhood, I knew that the literary tribe was where I belonged... it was nice to learn that what felt right for all those years, actually was right.
I feel honored that so many authors entrusted me with their books. I only provided a foster home for them until they found their forever shelves in readers' homes; but it felt fantastic to know that I had a small hand in connecting authors to readers. I was so thankful that these exceptionally creative people allowed me to gush about their books at events, and never once looked at me like I had three heads. Michigan really does have some amazing writers with stories that will blow you away! My TBR shelf still has yet to be conquered, and I'm okay with that. Certainly, I will always enjoy the classics... who doesn't love Poe or Shakespeare. And I will forever dive deep into the well of the bestsellers, just for the fun of discovering what a familiar author can do next. But there is an unmatched surge of excitement for me when cracking the spine of a book written by a friend. My own writing career is emboldened by their courage and creativity.
What's next for me? New stuff... four novels that need to be finished, three more that need to be transferred from outline to complete sentences, a new business with a goal to support more Indie Authors, and a little bit of travel - mostly to bookshops. I will always look back on my time at The Scriptorium with fond memories of friendship and learning. I was fortunate enough to visit the mystical realm of the written word, and live there for a time. For that, I will be forever grateful.
New literary adventures await! Huzzah!
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