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Five Ways to Measure Growth as a Writer

This past Sunday, I gathered with my local writing community to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the group's founding.

What a full circle moment that was for me!

Five-and-a-half years earlier, on a Wednesday night in June, 2017, I attended my first meeting of Write Now Lancaster. I'd moved to Lancaster THE DAY BEFORE, knowing practically no one.

When we circled up for introductions that June evening, I hadn't even lived the ending of the coming-out-later-in-life story that I would eventually write about in GRAVEYARD OF SAFE CHOICES, my memoir that will be published in Fall 2023 by the University of Wisconsin Press.

Now, on this Sunday night five-and-a-half years later, I was one of the leaders of the writing group, ready to put the finishing touches on my manuscript before sending it off to my editors.

It's made me think a lot about growth. How we know we've grown. How we measure it. Whether we can see the growth in the moment.

Your kid wakes up one morning and he's 6'3" and...

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How to Combat Your Doubt Demons While Writing Your Memoir or Book

I'm nearing the home stretch with my revision of GRAVEYARD OF SAFE CHOICES, my later in life, coming out memoir, which will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press in Fall 2023!

Hooray!

I'm celebrating my good fortune and hard work!

But something less pleasant is also happening as I near the end of this journey.

The doubt demons are whispering in my ear again:

Your writing sucks.

You are really going to expose ALL this to the world?

Sure, you got a book deal but no one's going to buy your book except for your family and close friends. Because they have to.

You spent how many years of your life on what?

Here's what I do when the doubt demons creep in:

I come back to my WHY. 

WHY am I writing this story in the first place? Why THIS story? Why me? Why now?

The same questions I ask my memoir clients.

Like many memoir writers, I started writing my story because I felt like I had no other choice. I started writing first for ME—to make sense of a very confusing and...

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How Writing for My First NANOWRIMO Changed the Course of My Life

I've always been fascinated by the idea that a single moment can change the entire trajectory of a life.

Sometimes that moment feels out of our hands and controlled by "fate"—you catch the train or you don't, like in the movie Sliding Doors.

And sometimes it feels more like "agency"—you're at a crossroads and you make a choice to go one way or the other.

And you know what fascinates me the most? Those choices that seem insignificant but later you realize, they changed your life.

Here's one of my life-altering moments:

“I’m knee-deep in NANOWRIMO,” my friend Lisa said to me in early November, 2012.

“What’s that?” It sounded like a secret society.

“It stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month.’ You pledge to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days.”

I was an empty nester who felt a bit lost.

My youngest had just gone off to college, and I was trying to figure out my next chapter (pun intended).

...

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5 Tips for Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster of Writing a Book

You know the roller coaster I’m talking about right?

I wrote about how I felt riding the low point on the emotional roller coaster last week as the high from landing my book deal wore off and the work I have to do on my book—plus life—hit hard.

My clients hit some lows too:

  • "How can I draft a book proposal if I don't even know what my title is yet?"

  • "I'm overwhelmed so I'm not doing anything."

  • "How do YOU make time for writing?"

Here's what I told my writers & myself:

  1. The roller coaster is normal.

The Serenity Prayer that is often shared in 12 Step Meetings is a great guide for writers, even if you never intend to darken the door of a church: 

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Accept the fact that the roller coaster will happen. Don't beat yourself up when it does. 

  1. Life happens and it's okay to take a break. 

You...

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The Emotional Roller Coaster of Writing a Book

"Normalize the roller coaster" is one of the mantras of Dallas Travers who runs The Hive, a business mentorship program for coaches.

Ahh ... the emotional roller coaster.

One day you’re a coach or an entrepreneur flying as high as a kite! You've gotten a few new clients, have discovery calls lined up, and your bank account is finally looking healthy.

Everything is clicking on all cylinders.

Until it isn't.

One of those new clients backs out. On one of those discovery calls you were so excited about, the prospect challenges your prices. You start panicking about the money you're spending on your virtual assistant.

The emotional roller coaster isn't limited to coaches and entrepreneurs.

It happens to writers.

This week it happened to me.

Last week I was still flying high after getting a book deal! 

You can read about my book deal here.

But this week life happened and the high wore off.

My elderly mother fell and was sent by ambulance to the hospital.

I started my book...

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What Following Your Writing Dream Looks Like

 

In my early forties, I began noticing an almost supernatural glow on the faces of certain friends when they talked about a new project or work they felt passionate about. Work where their gifts and the needs of the world were aligned.

Truth be told, I envied them—I wanted to glow too.

I had left a toxic work environment as a corporate lawyer in my late twenties, and between birthing and raising two sons I'd been searching for the right fit career path.

After my kids left for college, I finally found that path.

I put a stake in the ground and claimed my call as a writer. I set aside time to write. Went to writers conferences. Joined a writing group. Hired a book coach—and later trained to become one myself.

I finished one manuscript and started another.

And in the process, my life changed, in more ways than one.

Nearly a decade after saying "I am a writer"—something I had known my whole life but had been afraid to say out loud—I...

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Don't Be Afraid to Dream Big

My friend Byron is a Southern gentleman with a wicked sense of humor and an equally wicked sense of style.

Like he would wear a made-to-order seersucker tuxedo to a black tie wedding.

And in that very dapper seersucker tuxedo, Byron asked me about my book.

Sidebar: If you're writing a book and you let people know about it, be prepared for questions.

ALL.

THE.

TIME.

What's happening with your book?

When's it coming out?

Where can I buy it?

But Byron isn't just a good friend; he's also a board member of a nonprofit independent press that focuses on Southern authors and stories. He knows a thing or two about publishing.

After I told him that I was "this close"—I was holding my thumb and forefinger a half inch apart—to being offered a publishing contract by a university press, he asked me how many copies I expected the press to print in their first run.

A question I frankly hadn't even thought about. A question I now know to research and ask about when I...

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Celebrate the Milestones in Your Memoir Journey

My heart nearly stopped when I read the subject line of the email:

Readers Reports: Graveyard of Safe Choices

The email from the university press I'd been waiting for all summer was finally here.

Catch up on the previous steps in my publication journey here.

I scanned the email:

Happy news.

Both readers recommend publication.

I put my head in my hands and started to cry. 

After 4+ years and I don't know how many drafts, it looks like my memoir has found a home.

It's not a done deal yet—there's still a couple of approvals left to go and one more semi-substantial revision to address the very helpful comments from the peer reviewers—but I think this thing is going to happen.

I'll shout it from the rooftops once I have a publication date—but I'm not going to wait to celebrate.

This is a big f**ing milestone!

Because there were days—many days—that I wanted to give up.

When I thought no one would care about my story.

When It felt too hard to revisit...

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The Writer's Life: Tools of the Trade & Setting Aside Time

the writers life Oct 18, 2021

The Writer's Life

Writers, let me introduce you to Dabble, my new best friend.

Dabble is a simple-to-use online writing tool that helps keep your writing organized.

It keeps you from spending hours hunting through hundreds of Word docs to find that one perfect scene you cut and now want back in your draft.

Dabble makes it super easy to play with scenes, moving them from chapter to chapter.

It’s like Scrivener without complications or frustration.

Sure, Dabble comes at a cost (there’s a monthly or annual subscription), but how much is your time and sanity worth?

As I wrestle with yet another major revision of my memoir, Dabble’s been worth every penny to me.

It’s funny what happens when you set aside non-negotiable time to write.

You get that chapter to your book coach.

You submit that essay and get included in an anthology.

You meet the deadline for submissions to an independent press and increase your odds of being traditionally published.

You actually get...

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The Writer's Life: Community & Accountability

the writers life Sep 20, 2021

Ironically with everything going online during the pandemic, many of us are now blessed with more writing community than ever before. Thank you Zoom! Online classes, online writing groups, online writing conferences, online co-writing dates—all good stuff and much of which I suspect will be available to writers permanently.

And still, there’s nothing quite like being with other writers in the flesh. The monthly writing group I attend is now meeting in-person outside. Hooray!

What type of online writing community worked for you? What didn’t? What in-person writing community are you most looking to resuming?

Having skin in the game helps keep me accountable. If I pay money for something, I’m more likely to follow through. If it’s a “free masterclass,” I’m likely to blow it off if something better comes across my desk. Maybe this is just because I’m “frugal” or as some say, “cheap.” Maybe it’s just...

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