Are You a Dragon?

I came across this USA Today article about the Year of the Dragon and business when researching a blog for one of my clients. As I read its focus on small business, I thought about how it related to my writing career.

As many of you know, I’ve been thinking about taking the risk and moving out into freelance land. The last time I talked about this, I was very uncertain and didn’t think I could do it. Now, it is starting to feel more and more right in my gut. I have two fantastic freelance positions with steady work that I enjoy and take pride in.

So, I’ve decided I’m going to be a dragon. This is the year that I’m going to jump off the side of the building (with a safety net of course). Besides the obvious wealth that comes from the Dragon, ambition, virtue and change seem to be the most appealing virtues of the Chinese New Year for me.

I’ve been harnessing the courage to follow my dreams. I’ve been looking for more opportunities to give back to the community. And change, I’m planning a lot of it this year.

Are you are Dragon?  Gung hay fat choy!

Journaling: Just Thoughts on Paper?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has many definitions for the word journal. My favorite is:  “a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use.”

I feel that this definition is inaccurate. How many journals have we seen come to life in publication? Anne Frank’s diary may be the most famous.  What others can you think of?

I’ve been thinking about this lately as Jen and myself have been entrusted with the journal of a good friend of ours. We’ve read it and obtained a new understanding of the writer, who may I say is an excellent writer.

It may even serve as notes for me for a special project that I may be undertaking in the near future. I’m sure this task will be something I share with you in the near future.

I’m not quiet sure why we have been entrusted to hold onto something so dear and personal, but it is really an honor to be in possession of it.

Do you journal? If you do, do you do it the old-fashioned pen and paper way or digitally? Would you share you inner thoughts and feelings with others? Do you now? Let me know!

Toasting to an Already Busy 2012

Hello everyone! Happy 2012! I hope that your new year if off to the same busy start that mine is!

As I’ve gotten into the groove of balancing all of my freelance work along with my full-time job, my hope is that I will be able to post more content on this blog again! Look for more frequent posts.

I’m also looking for guest bloggers who want to share their love of writing with the world and for suggestions for my seven questions segment.  I look forward to continuing to share my writing experiences with you this year and I hope that you will continue to share your with me as well.


Thanks for a Great 2011

The 2011 year has been great to my writing career.

I joined the lovely gals at BookEndBabes, continued to write some great pieces for the Center Square Journal family, joined the HappyFanTickets team, and thanks to the lovely Samantha Abernethy, obtained the most awesome new contract position.

Most importantly, I started this blog. I want to thank my guest bloggers and seven questioners, you know who you are, for adding insight and inspiration to my blog since its inception in June. And to my readers, I wouldn’t be writing if it wasn’t for you!

My blog wouldn’t have been a success without you and your support. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart!

2012 is going to be a bigger and better year for Person of Letters. Look for some changes, new topics and more in the new year!

Nicki Moulton’s Journey to Publication

Today’s guest post is from Specialist  Nicki Moulton who recently published her book, Knit This Doll! Some of you may know Nicki as Michelle Timian’s twin sister and others as someone who serves our country. Check out this piece the U.S. Army wrote about her book and remember to Support Our Troops and say Thank You to those who serve our country.

The moment when you hold your first published book in your hands is a moment that is hard to forget.  It is finally in front of you, all polished and crisp and actually in book form.  Believe me, it’s quite surreal to see your book when it actually becomes a book.  Before that moment, it was an idea.  For years, it was a just ‘the manuscript,’ something that existed as little more than a Word file.  You spent years working on it, polishing it, opening it and closing it.  You searched for an agent, dealt with rejection after rejection until you hooked someone who loved your idea as much as you did.  Then the two of you searched for a publisher and tried to woo them to believe your book could be their book, too.  You spent months of going back and forth with edits, edits, and more edits – analyzing every last word, to see if it sounded right, if the words flowed correctly, if it all made sense.  And finally, you sent it off – the last moment it would be just ‘the manuscript.’  The next time you would see it, it would be that moment when you hold your book in your hands.  It’s not just the dream, the manuscript, or the Word file anymore.  It’s your book.

Many authors celebrate the publication in their own ways.  Book signings, maybe a tour if you are lucky, but at the least, a night out with friends and family.  Not too many people hold their book in their hands, freshly torn out of a mailing envelope, and have to rush back into a 206 person strong formation, standing at the position of attention, trying not to grin at the thought that your first published book is in your hands and you were promised an hour of personal time that night.

My journey to publishing my first book started just like anyone else.  It started with an idea.  My idea happened to be a knitting book based on patterns for dolls that I had been making for years.  I sent a query letter to a literary agent specializing in nonfiction, and more specifically craft, books – addressing what would make my book unique from any other in the market.

After I signed a contract with Epstein Literary, me and my agent, Kate, began to look for a publisher.  It was quite exciting, especially when both Wiley (the largest nonfiction publisher in the world, though their name never seems to ring a bell with people) and RandomHouse made bids for the contract.  Wiley won in the end, mostly because they were eager to give me a lot of artistic control over what I made for my book.  Then began the very long, and strangely very unfulfilling and frustrating, job of making my manuscript perfect.

Making a knitting book is different from say, a novel.  To get a novel published, you have to write the entire book and hope that you didn’t waste years of your life writing it.  For nonfiction, you basically sell an idea.  You need a few examples of what you want to do (I made three dolls for the proposal, but for something like a memoir, you would need a sample chapter and a projected table of contents), and then you just hope someone likes it enough to publish it.  It is a lot less ‘risky’ than when I used to write novels.  If someone doesn’t want to publish your nonfiction book (my second book ended up getting turned down by every publisher we tried to sell it to), all you really lost was the idea and the time it took to write a proposal.

Writing the manuscript was fun, but as I hinted at, editing a manuscript was like pulling teeth.  It’s a seemingly never-ending process of correcting and fine-tuning every last letter and word.  I looked at the manuscript so much that I overlooked the most obvious errors (like not even mentioning my Mom in my acknowledgments, or that I never mentioned the actual size of my dolls anywhere – thankfully the cover designer added it on the back cover).  Writing and editing the manuscript nearly took me a whole year to finish, and by the time I was done, I never wanted to open a Word document again.

To say I was excited to get my first book published was an understatement.  I talked to local yarn shops in my hometown of Chicago about book signings, and convinced one of my friends who owns an art studio to hold a book release party.  It was all going very normally, as far as publishing a book goes, but none of those plans would ever come to fruition.

My route on the normal-first-time-book-publication-road took a serious detour.  Anyone that knows me knows that I love to live life to the fullest.  I hate thinking that I might one day be laying on my death bed and say “If only I could have done that!”  So, I decided to do something I had wanted to do all my life.  It meant that I had to sell almost all my possessions, quit my lease on an apartment I loved, say goodbye to my husband who I wouldn’t end up seeing for nine months, and basically give up all notions of living my normal life.  I made one last look over my manuscript and got on a plane headed for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  I was about to start Basic Training to become a soldier in the US Army.

My book ended up in my hands about a month before I graduated.  For five months, I had been living in barracks with 200 other people from all over the world, waking up every morning at 4a.m. and struggling through some of the toughest, and most fun, challenges of my life.  For the first month, we didn’t even have ‘personal time.’  Every last minute of our day was in the company of a Drill Sergeant who told us what to do and never hesitated to let us know how badly we were doing it.

After that first month, we had an hour of free time just about every night during which we were free to take longer showers (our showers were about a minute long before that, and I do not even exaggerate on that point), clean weapons, talk with our new ‘battle buddies’ and write letters.  I had my sister mail me yarn and needles.  Although the Drill Sergeants teased me, I knitted even while in Basic Training.  After a few weeks, they transformed from the bullies you picture from Full Metal Jacket to mentors we were able to talk to and joke around with.  I’m even Facebook friends with some of them.

When I got to that moment where I held my first published book in my hands, I had no idea how short-lived the moment would be.  For the next week, a sort of game started where the Drill Sergeants would ‘secure’ my book from me, hold it captive in their office, and then call me down to get it.  They would sometimes call me down to the CQ just to answer questions they had about the whole process of publishing a book.  One of my Drill Sergeants was so freaked out by the dolls’ eyes that he refused to look at the book, keeping it under things and generally avoiding it like it was the plague.  Sometimes I had to buy it back with push-ups, but mostly the Drill Sergeants would just hand it back with bemused looks on their faces.  I have a feeling that I might be the first person to ever get a book published while in Basic Training.

Sure, deciding to attend Basic Training was a set back in a lot of ways.  Since I was in Basic Training when it was released – an environment where we got to call home for an hour once a week – I had no ability to promote it.  There were no interviews, no reviews in big knitting magazines, no book signings.  There was hardly a peep about it anywhere.  I had asked a friend to make a website for the book while I was in Basic, which never happened.  When I did graduate Basic, I had a week to gather my things before I got on another plane to my first duty station – in Italy.  Although there were plenty of yarn shops around my new house outside Venice, no one was willing to carry a book in a language they couldn’t read, much less hold a book signing.  Trying to get the book published in Italian never went anywhere, either, probably because the book was selling an average number of copies and it wouldn’t be profitable to make another printing in a different language.

The real danger to my writing career is the effect my decision to join the Army would have on my future projects.  A failure to promote my first book doesn’t look good on my ability to promote future books.  If my first book isn’t profitable for the publisher, then future books might not either.  It’s the consequences, whether I like it or not, of my decisions.

Yet, even if it would be the only book I would ever publish, I wouldn’t trade anything for that moment when I held it in my hands at last – surrounded by soldiers excitedly asking me if it was my book, and being happy I would have a whole hour to look at it before going to bed.

Writing + Personal Life = Overstimulation

Since I’ve started my new contract position, I’ve started to feel exhausted, but not tired. Let me explain.

I was talking with my dear friend Abbe and was explaining how exhaustion was a good thing. I’ve started to dive back into my creative self since taking on this contract position and have found that my mind wanders in 80 different directions because the content flows so freely from my head. Sometimes I type so fast that I what I wrote would make no sense to anyone if published without a good reread. I feel alive again.I feel motivated. I want to succeed. I’m overstimulated.

The only issue with this overload of words and ideas, is my mind continues to go on and on and on. The to-do list is my head is longer than the one I put on paper and I’m starting to feel like I’m juggling to much. Then I think about cutting back on something. And then I remember that almost everything I do now I love, and the one thing that I could cut is a necessity right now.

So I ask you, my readers, how do you deal with the juggling process? Do you write a super long to-do list and not complete it? How do you balance all of your balls in the air? Leave me your strategies in the comments below! I’ll share the best ones in an upcoming blog post!

Day One

This post is brought to you by confusion. My confusion.

Today is the first Sunday off I have had without a personal commitment in many, many years. My first instinct is to lounge around all day and do nothing. Then I remember why I have the day off.  WORK. My own personal work that will hopefully bring my career to it’s next stage. Work that I enjoy doing.  Work that exhausts my brain because it forces me to use the creativity that had been mostly tabled for so long.

I love this.

Today is day one of a new routine, which I am sure will be tweaked as the weeks go on. Having an extra day gives me more flexibility. I hope this will end the late night writing sprints. I hope it will give me the affordability to take on more of this work I love. Hopefully this will lead to bigger and better things.

But hey, I’m not one to put all my eggs in one basket, even when the chicken produces a lot of them.

The Season of Fall: Writing Style

Today’s post was written by Michelle Timian. To read more about her, check out my Seven Questions piece. I hope you enjoy her post.

In my office, I’m a little obsessed about my plant.  His card called him a Bonsai Fichus and says he likes his leaves to be misted.  During my 3-month leave of absence from work, I had to find a good, responsible coworker to watch out for him.  I call him Planty. 

With the seasons changing, I freak out a little.  He’s losing leaves.  Not orange and red ones; he’s not a maple.  They are green leaves.  Apparently healthy leaves. 

Leaves he’s not supposed to lose.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Right now, I am editing a little novel of mine called The Elevator.  I got the idea for it originally back in 2004, when I just decided to myself ‘Let’s make a novel!’  It’s easy to say I’ve been single-mindedly writing, promoting and pursuing publication for this idea since that moment.  I wrote the entire thing in a frenzy of binge-writing.  In four months I had a completed product that I sent to any agent looking for unusual “magical realism” adventure fantasy…or one of those things.  Anything was worth a shot.

With every rejection, I tweaked my query letter; I used any and all comments about the rejection to improve my draft.

In 2009, I thought I had it.  An agent was interested, requested my manuscript…I spent a very fretful five months waiting for the “I’m going to represent you!” response.  Instead, I got one politely telling me that the agent was skipping out on the whole representation deal.

Where did I go wrong?

It’s taken me a long time to take another look at Elevator, but with my fanbase clamoring to read the book I have been talking about and commissioning fanart for years, I have made the decision to start posting chapters online.  There was no chance I was going to put up the draft that’s been with me since the beginning.  Nope, I decided from the start that I would edit this thing.  After all, I hadn’t stopped writing altogether in 2009 and my writing since Elevator had changed quite a bit.

Which was when I realized what had happened back in 2009.

Let’s go back to Planty.  I had green leaves.  Writing I thought was perfectly acceptable, even wonderful.  Hell, these words of mine didn’t look brown and orange and red.  This was good stuff, right?

But with the years between, I saw that what I had written before just wasn’t good enough.  Not if I wanted to reach the wonderful realm of published authors.  I would need to edit, change, improve every line in Elevator.

That’s the rough part about writing.  Sometimes you just can’t tell when your writing needs to be edited.  As with Planty, green leaves – the apparently good stuff – aren’t healthy, living leaves.  They need to be lost as much as the brown and orange ones, the obviously bad writing. 

But this is the exciting part, too.  Finding out where you can get better, what you need to change to make the best bit of writing you can.  And isn’t that why we write in the first place?

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?