Why It’s Important to Stay in Touch with Your Network

In an earlier post, I talked about the importance of having a strong network and how my network has helped me gain new experiences. Yesterday, my network helped be secure a new contract position that has the potential to move my career in a new direction.
While my skill set, experience and desire to learn and write secured the offer (in my opinion), I would have never have found out about the opportunity without the help of Samantha, my former editor at Center Square Journal. She recommended me for this position and connected me with the right parties.  As a result, I interviewed and secured a new contract opportunity that has the potential to fulfill the desires I shared with you in my last post
I spent a lot of time this wk pimping friends & recommending them for paid gigs. We shld all do this more. @jeannevb
Keep in contact with your network and pay it forward. You never know if you can help enhance someones career by recommending them for opportunities. It can make a world of difference to them.

Taking Risks

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my writing career. I’ve been starting to formulate a plan for the direction I’d like to take next year. But a lot of it involves taking risks.

I’ve been toying about working for myself or working contract projects and then moving on. The idea of working for myself and controlling what kind of writing I do is an appealing idea. I’d be working more, but heck, it would be for something I 100% enjoy doing.

I would love to write a children’s book and I’d love to do NaNoWriMo. Those things involve time that I haven’t figured out how to incorporate into my schedule.

There is not enough time in the day to pursue the writing I’d like to do and that’s why working for myself seems like a great option.

But then my rational side kicks in. Why would I not want to have full-time job that provides some sort of security? What if I go out on my own and something happens and I can’t pay my bills?

I know a lot of people who are working for themselves and there’s a divide. Have any of you taken the risk and gone out on your own? What were your experiences? Were they worth it?

Seven Questions with your Favorite Writer/Blogger: Michelle Timian

I’ve always been curious about what inspires my favorite writers. Whether they are bloggers, freelancers, scriptwriters, TV writers or novelists, they have to draw inspiration from something.  I want to thank all of you who contributed your questions and I hope you enjoy this special edition of Seven Questions. If you want to see your favorite blogger/writer interviewed, contact me.

Name: Michelle Timian

Profession: Writer

Website: http://cursedthenovel.com/

Twitter: @michelle_timian

Her Impact on Me: Michelle and I have been working together for 3 1/2 years. Her dedication to her writing is insane as she continues to type ferociously on a daily basis. I’m proud to say I helped with the creation of this blog and I’m happy to help her celebrate it’s relaunch on October 24th.



Person of Letters: Why did you start writing/blogging? Was it for personal or for professional reasons?

Michelle Timian: There’s not a definite moment when I thought to myself, I am going to be a writer!  I’ve always known it.  I remember being five and making picture books for ridiculously swiping epics.  But it wasn’t until my disastrous first semester in college when I realized biology was not the major for me and that I really should change my major to English and Creative Writing.  That’s when I knew I had hit the “no turning back” point.  And it’s been great!  Since graduating college, I’ve been working on one project/idea or another. 

My novel CURSED, while it’s still a very new project (unlike some that’s been with me for years and several different format incarnations (comic books anyone?)), has been my greatest success so far.  A great deal of that stems from the cursedthenovel blog, which allows me to post pages of my novel online.  I’ve never created a blog before, so it’s been an exciting experience, especially seeing how many people have read my novel because of it.  My plan in the future is to use the cursedthenovel blog to talk about more than just page updates: I have ideas of discussing the inspirations behind CURSED, where the character’s names come from, what countries inspired Ladamay, etc. 

POL: How long do you think about what you are going to write before you write?

MT: Years.  Literally.  At least, that’s when I feel like I am writing at my best.  For my novel The Elevator, it took me about five years to reach the point where the heroes Jason and Samantha visit a character I’ve been planning since the idea for the novel struck me in 2004.  I really like getting a very specific plan for everything happening in a novel, which is essential when working on a long epic fantasy series like Elevator, and that takes a while (for me, at least!). 

For CURSED, things are different.  I’ve had the idea for this book in my head since March of this year before I started writing it in May.  I spent two months really plotting out the whole story, gaining an understanding of the emotional growth the characters go through, where I want the story to eventually end up at, and what needed to be done to get to that point.  So when I started in May, I had a pretty good idea where I was going.  An outline.  For example, when I planned the scene I will post on October 24th, my plan was “Treve and Leo are interrupted from talking; Treve goes to the prison temple.”  I had no clue how to get between these ideas until I was in the process of writing, and the answer was a huge surprise!

That really is the best part about writing.  I definitely love having a plan, but I also keep my expectations loose enough for the story to take me whenever it needs to go.  I like being as surprised and excited about my novel as the reader.

POL: Is there something you carry with you at all times to write ideas that may pop in your head? If so, what is its? A notebook, your smartphone, a scrap of paper?

MT: I have a creative journal with me at all times, but it’s not really vital to me; if I lose it, I won’t lose all of my ideas.  For CURSED, I have notes such as “Treve wears purple a lot” and “Remember the white mule.”  If these details don’t make it into the novel, it won’t be a catastrophe or create a plot hole…it’s just things that are so small that I might forget them.  Everything else is in my head. 

The only time I have gone crazy with taking notes was when I was traveling through the Slovenian countryside.  The moment I left Ljubljanain route to Zagreb,Croatia, I knew this was the landscape I wanted CURSED to be based in.  I kept writing down details I saw (such as the red, red soil and rocky meadows) and what buildings looked like and how the country people were dressed.  Pictures didn’t do it justice and I didn’t want to forget anything.  I mean, I wrote down what birds I saw and the color of trees.

On the far end of note-taking, I can never write out a whole summary before writing a novel.  To me, that’s like creating the whole story.  The thrill of creation is gone.  So I go over plot points in my head, over and over again, until it comes to the point where I write them.  It means I do a lot of thinking for my books, but I couldn’t have it any other way!

POL: How do you battle writers block?

MT: I let it run its course.  I never force a moment in the story if it doesn’t want to come, because I believe either something better is brewing in my subconscious or I just haven’t reached the point where I could write it.  I’ve never had a problem putting a story on hold to let it stew a while.  If I am desperate for something to write, though, I usually turn to something silly and pointless to get words on paper: stories that never get finished.  Eventually I get back to the “real” writing.

POL: What is your favorite book/blog? Do you draw inspiration from it?

MT: Hands down, The Lies of Locke Lamora.  For writers of any genre, but especially for fantasy writers, this book is simply amazing to get inspiration from.  The dialogue is the most sickeningly, wonderfully, well-crafted dialogue I have ever come across anywhere (except Shantaram, which is a lesson in making each character talk and sound completely different from one another).  His characters are so finely developed I have on several occasions felt afraid for their well-being.  The world-building is the best I’ve seen anywhere…to the point where I’ve noticed literary agents actually requesting works with as much flawless details as Lamora.  Plus, best part is…its fun.  It’s silly.  It’s hilarious, clever and so easy to get pulled into.  It’s about con men who aren’t really the nicest of people but they are so easy to root for. 

Any time I pick this book up, I keep analyzing it to see at what point I utterly believe in these characters, at what point they and their world become real…its amazing.  If I can ever achieve this level of perfection, I can call myself a good writer.

POL: Along the same lines of the previous question, which writers from the past have inspired you? (more points for naming obscure writers)

MT: One author I can never get enough of is Mervyn Peake.  He isn’t a favorite author of mine, but his novels are so incredibly whimsical, powerful and just plain bizarre (think Neverending Story soap opera) that I fall under his spell any time I pick up his books.  The world-building is so perfectly done, it’s fantastic.  I challenge anyone to read Titus Groan and not feel like you’ve actually entered some other world…everything Peake writes carries that kind of conviction.  I’m always inspired by it (and Lynch’s world-building too) that I would love to reach those same heights myself.

I am also a HUGE fan of Hergé’s style of adventure and always try to capture something similar in my own stories…something that can be just plain fun and exciting and sweeping without throwing too much angst into the mix, which is what turns me off of so many novels and comic books out nowadays.  I just want a fun book!

When I was a young writer, I really wanted to make something IMPORTANT and SERIOUS that would wow readers with how great my writing was.  I would only read the most literary books I could find and scoffed at anything that wasn’t a Pulitzer Prize winner or literature bestseller.  I read Roots when I was 11.  So you can imagine just how terrible and self-important my writing was back when I first started putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) in high school. 

Then I went to college.  After 4 years of reading nothing but classics and heavily important literary works and discussing all sorts of themes, I had enough.  I needed something light, fun, airy.  That was really when my writing turned around.  Some of the most eye-opening reads were William Goldman, T. H. White and especially Lawrence Block’s Hitman series.  Oh, and Wodehouse.  Which is a perfect read to start taking yourself less seriously.  It was almost a relief to find out that you can still make readers fall in love with the characters (Goldman), still have moral issues (Block) and still have an amazingly beautiful lessons to teach (White)….and still be silly.  Those are my goals for my own writing.

POL: Tell us something about you and your writing that we might not know.

MT: None of my characters have ever been based on real people.  You know, like cameos of friends, family, oddballs…  Instead, all my characters are based on myself.  I take some small aspect of my personality (good or bad) and make it a character’s defining quirk.  It makes it so much easier to write them!!

Book Review: Chasing Amanda by Melissa Foster

The following review originally appeared on Book End Babes, a website devoted to a love of reading and to learning about new authors.

I shared with you all how I love my Kindle in my last post. I was browsing through the top-100 section of the Kindle store and came across Chasing Amanda. I scanned the description and it grabbed my attention.  This was the best $.99 I’ve ever spent!

From the back cover:

Nine years ago, Molly Tanner witnessed a young girl’s abduction in the busy city of Philadelphia, shifting her occasional clairvoyance into overdrive. Two days later, the girl’s body was found, and Molly’s life fell apart. Consumed by guilt for not acting upon her visions, and on the brink of losing her family, Molly escaped the torturous reminders in the city, fleeing to the safety of the close-knit rural community of Boyds, Maryland.

Molly’s life is back on track, her son has begun college, and she and her husband have finally rekindled their relationship. Their fresh start is shattered when a seven-year-old girl disappears from a local park near Molly’s home. Unable to turn her back on another child and troubled by memories of the past, Molly sets out to find her, jeopardizing the marriage she’d fought so hard to hold together. While unearthing clues and struggling to decipher her visions, Molly discovers another side of Boyds, where the residents–and the land itself–hold potentially lethal secrets, and exposes another side of her husband, one that threatens to tear them apart.

This book reminded me of the show Medium in some ways. I love Foster’s use of pronouns, and generic terms like Mummy, which kept me guessing who the abductor was. Let’s just say I didn’t see it coming. I love books that keep you guessing and play mind games with you. It’s a great combination of mystery and thriller with a touch of paranormal activity.

The differentiation between characters and the mingling of the stories kept me turning the pages. I read this book over the course of a few days and then on two-hour train ride. I couldn’t put it down!

I’d love to share more of what I thought of the story with you, but I’m afraid I’ll ruin it for those of you who want to read it. You should. It’s a great book. I immediately downloaded her other book. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Everything’s Cyclical in Writing

When I decided I wanted to declare journalism (well at DePaul it was Communications) as my major in college, it came as a natural decision to me. I like to ask questions and I like to write. I also love sports. I put two and two together and voila, I’m going to be a sports journalist. I’m going to kick Jay Mariotti off the back page of the Chicago Sun-Times. Well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way.

I briefly started and wrote a sports section for Lawndale News and was lucky enough to sit in the press box on opening day for the White Sox a few years back. Those of you who know me for a long time know how much I love to tell this story. When I freelanced after college, I would always try to snag the sports-related stories, but nothing panned out the way I wanted it to.

I had moved on from the dream, focusing on other things than traveling the country following the Cubs, Sox, Hawks, Bulls and Bears. My writing became more community oriented, something else I discovered a love for in college. I had almost forgotten about my love for sports writing until a few months ago.

Someone in my network posted about a project she couldn’t take on and I hopped on it immediately. Tickets, I can do social media for a ticket company. I met with the founders of HappyFanTickets, presented my proposal and hopped aboard that day. And I never looked back. It’s been a few months now, and I’ve been a part of something special. Working with a company from the ground up is truly special; you get to watch it grow and know that you contributed to said growth.

This is more than a project to me. It took me back around back to my love of writing all things sports related. I’m lucky enough to create content for and shape the HappyFanTickets blog, thecornerofcheapandeasy. I get to write about sports, have intellectual spars with people from different educational backgrounds and learn new things.

Writing world, thanks for throwing passion back at me. I appreciate it!

Have any of you had an experience like this?

Moving Forward: My Decision to Break Out of my Comfort Zone

A lot of writers that I know have one (or several) side jobs that provide a sort of financial safety net. I have one of those too, but I made the decision this past weekend that it was time to move on; not immediately, but I set an end date that I plan on sticking to. I’m breaking up with my past.

Part of the decision comes from boredom. I’m tired of the routine and the fact that this side job takes up the entirety of  my Sunday. The other part of it comes from being frustrated with my writing, or lack there of.

I started to wonder two things: how my career would advance if I spent those Sundays writing and pitching and how much more money I could make that way.

Why I should I hold myself back from something that could be potentially better and totally awesome for the same routine I’ve had for the past five years or so. I believe that part of moving forward is letting go of the past. Here’s  hoping that it doesn’t backfire.

Have you made the decision to breakup with your past?  How did it work out for you? Let me know in the comments!

Seven Questions with your Favorite Blogger/Writer: Rachael Judd

I’ve always been curious about what inspires my favorite writers. Whether they are bloggers, freelancers, scriptwriters, TV writers or novelists, they have to draw inspiration from something.  I want to thank all of you who contributed your questions and I hope you enjoy the first of my new monthly Q&A series.  Look for this new feature on the first Thursday of every month. If you want to see your favorite blogger/writer interviewed, contact me.

Name: Rachael Judd

Profession: Copywriter, Blogger

Blog: http://mumblingmidnightmom.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @RachaelJudd

Her impact on me: Rachael has been one of my biggest supporters since we connected through Center Square Journal. She’s a frequently comments on this blog and is a talented writer.

Person of Letters: Why did you start writing/blogging? Was it for personal or for professional reasons?

Rachael Judd: I started writing for personal reasons, like most 20-somethings, I wrote for extra money.  City life, while exciting, was expensive.  With a college focus on English, writing was a logical way to use my skills.  I started taking freelancing seriously as a job possibility in 2008.  What was extra fun money now provides a part time income to help support our family.  Freelancing also inspired personal ideas and I took the the blogosphere in 2010 which has been a slow, but amazing, personal growth experience

POL: How long do you think about what you are going to write before you write?

RJ: It depends on the project.  Most projects have deadlines so you are limited to how much time you have to think things through.  My preferred time though is about a week of brainstorming.  It is great to talk to a client, get to know them and then begin to think through their business, their needs and their style.  While brainstorming a project or even a personal blog idea, you will find that the more time you have to think it through the more you can see the company/business/organization in every day life affecting you or someone you know.

POL: Is there something you carry with you at all times to write ideas that may pop in your head? If so, what is its? A notebook, your smartphone, a scrap of paper?

RJ: Notebooks – plural!  I am a disorganized thought collector to say the least.  I have a notebook in my purse (that is also a daytimer), a personal journal and I have a notebook at my desk.  Wherever I am I grab the closest item and jot down notes.  At the end of the week I collect these all electronically.

POL: How do you battle writers block?

RJ: Grabbing my personal journal and just letting it all out the old fashioned way – paper and pen!  It has been discussed here (http://personofletters.com/2011/09/01/whens-the-last-time-you-handwrote-something/) but I find sitting down to hand write whatever is on my mind helps clear the air.

I find that writers block isn’t generally a lack of ideas, but just the opposite.  I have the hardest time focusing on a single project or subject when there are too many ideas floating around.  Taking to my personal journal lets me put everything on paper,  personal and professional.  It clears the way for focus on the task at hand.

POL: What is your favorite book/blog? Do you draw inspiration from it?

RJ: This is a hard question! I am overwhelmingly inspired by writers who wear their heart on their sleeve.  But I find that writing, new via blogs or old via the classics, boils down to our relationships.  As a freelancer I want companies to connect with clients and as a blogger I want to encourage others in their every day life relationships.

That being said I am most inspired to write by Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility to be exact!).  Austen was a women who could translate life’s relationships in regards to work, love and even spirituality into comical, serious and inspiring words that ring true even now.

POL: Along the same lines of the previous question, which writers from the past have inspired you? (more points for naming obscure writers)

RJ: As I mentioned, writers of old are my greatest inspiration!  Here are a few to consider:

Herman Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (Das Glasperlenspiel) is a MUST READ for anyone that wants to understand the use of  metaphor intertwined on multiple levels. This book is a challenge.

Madeline L’Engle: Her fiction is world renowned, but her non-fiction is inspiring, check out Two Part Invention. Most authors are not what they appear.

Henri Nouwen:  A priest. A writer.  A sociologist.  A person of questions. Although Henri Nouwen is a spiritual guru to most, he still has more questions than answers like most of us.  Check out the Genese Diary.

Amy Tan: Writing fiction from our own history can run its course OR it can inspire a generation of people to look at life differently.  Skip the Joy Luck Club and get experimental with her novel Saving Fish From Drowning

POL: Tell us something about you and your writing that we might not know.

RJ: Although I make a living as a copywriter, I am most passionate about blogging and using my story to inspire others to positive action.  This is still a work in progress but right now one of my driving goals to keep writing. Hopefully my writing, whatever the platform, invokes in people a sense of self that is valuable, unique and needed in the world we live in.

I Admire Barnes & Noble For Their Note

I got this email from Barnes & Noble and scratched my head a bit at first. I was never a huge fan of Barnes & Noble, but my mom and I would stop there often to browse their offerings. Many of my books came from there as a kid, but as I started to buy my own books, I veered towards Borders because of their availability and their prices.

I loved Borders coupons and one of my colleagues used them ALL of the time. I miss Borders and I was saddened that the brick and mortar bookstores are going the way of CDs. I love that Barnes & Noble realizes this.  For those of you who didn’t get the letter, click here to read it.

But the most interesting thing to me is that Barnes & Noble has acquired Borders trademarks and that it’s included at the end of the letter. I’m a writer, not a business person, but it makes me wonder if we may one day see Borders again in a new format.

Like I said, I’m not the biggest Barnes & Noble fan, but the honestly of this letter and the fact that they are really trying to get my business, makes me want to go back into one of their stores. I think it’s cool that any Borders premium members get the Barnes & Noble premium experience for free.  What is there to loose?

Former Borders shoppers, will you be going to Barnes & Noble? Let me know your thoughts on this letter in the comments below.