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Things that make you go…ummmm

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Thanks to C+C Music Factory for the title (just a little artistic license on my part). I was thinking about a game one of the local radio shows used to play during my morning commute. It was called The Um Game. The concept is deceptively simple. The host would give callers a topic and all they had to do was talk about it for 3 minutes…without saying um…and you’d win a prize. Most people didn’t make it past the first minute. Heck, some people didn’t make it past their first word.

DJ: Hi Rhonda, thanks for playing the UM Game. Tell us about your love of rutabaga for three minutes without saying Um. Ready?

Rhonda: Yes

DJ: OK, the clock starts…now.

Rhonda: Um

I would howl with laughter as one by one the contestants fell victim to the dreaded um. I’d tell myself that if I had the chance, I could do so much better than those poor saps. Then my company went through the first of many reorganizations and co-workers started getting laid-off. I kept hearing from them about the need for networking and developing your elevator pitch. Should be easy-right? Who knows what you do better than you do? I have struggled with the elevator pitch through each and every permutation of my job and it hasn’t gotten any easier. I should be able to disseminate the mysteries of my job in five minutes or less and without the hated um. I’ll let you know when I get it straight.

Okay, so I can’t discuss my day job, something I’ve been doing for the past eight years. Talking about my writing should be easier…not. I’m prepping now for a writing conference I’m attending in Boulder. To get me out of my comfort zone and to genuinely prepare me for pitching my YA novel, I’ve signed up for a ten-minute pitch session with an agent. A while back, I wrote about the query letter boot camp I took from Writer’s Digest. That was to get me ready for the live, in-person session in a couple of weeks. Hoo-boy, I am so not ready. I received good feedback from the WD boot camp agent I was assigned to and this session in Boulder is preceded by a critique of my written query. So far so good. I just need to fix what the WD agent said needed fixing and send it off for the critique and then I should be in good shape for the live, up close and personal pitch session…gulp.

Um, I’m going to need some more practice!

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Sleepless in North Carolina…or too tired to write.

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Are you getting enough sleep? Do you have trouble sleeping through the night? Do you find that you’ve just settled into your best sleep right before the alarm clock goes off? Do you have difficulty getting out of bed each morning? Do you find those happy morning people extremely irritating?

You’re not alone. The National Institute of Health states that at any given time, 30% of the population states they are sleep-deprived. Frighteningly, ten percent of these people suffer from noticeable daytime functional impairment. I’ve heard it said that driving sleep-deprived is the same as driving drunk.

Do you have insomnia?

People with insomnia either have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both. Symptoms of poor sleep are:

  • Fatigue/low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating at school or at work
  • Mood swings/Irritability
  • Depression
  • Behavioral problems
  • Relationship Issues

There are two types of insomnia, acute and chronic. Acute insomnia refers to those transitory times when we just can’t fall asleep. These are times like Christmas Eve, the night before a new job or the first day of school. Acute insomnia doesn’t persist. It may last for a week or so, but eventually without any effort on your part, you go back to your normal sleep cycle. Chronic insomnia is different.

What is Chronic Insomnia?

Insomnia is considered chronic when you experience poor sleep at least three times a week for a minimum of three months.  Studies show that people who experience chronic insomnia are more prone to traffic accidents, state decreased job satisfaction, take more frequent sick days and are easily irritated.

What Can You Do About Chronic Insomnia?

Assess your diet. Caffeinated drinks such as sodas and coffee can impact your ability to fall asleep. I find that I can’t have caffeine after lunchtime. Each time this past month that I’ve had a caffeinated drink in the late afternoon, I’ve experienced difficulty falling asleep. And by difficulty, I mean I can’t fall asleep.

Alcohol use can also negatively affect your sleep. Although alcohol is a known sedative, it interferes with your body’s ability to achieve a deep and restful sleep. Limit yourself to one glass of wine or beer each evening.

Review your life. Have any major life events happened recently? Have you moved, lost or gained a job, or gotten a divorce? Major life changes, good or bad, can throw us for a loop. These changes can wreak havoc on your internal clock and negatively affect your natural sleep rhythms.  Be kind to yourself and consider therapy. Recent research has shown that the only treatment that works to remove the CAUSE of insomnia is talk therapy. Medication can help in the short-term, but unless you want to take medicine forever, therapy is your friend. Look for therapists who specialize in insomnia.

And last, but certainly not least, talk to your doctor about your insomnia; there may be an underlying medical cause for your inability to fall asleep. When’s the last time you had a complete physical? Keep a sleep and diet log to track your dietary habits against your sleep cycles. By tracking my caffeine use, I was able to see the correlation between drinking tea late in the day and my lack of sleep that evening. You don’t have to live in the foggy state of the perpetually sleep-deprived. Work to get the rest you desire so you can live the full life you deserve.

Take care of yourself. Don’t let poor sleep keep you from achieving your goals!  I made an appointment with my doctor for next week.

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My Journey as a Writer-NaNoWriMo

Image courtesy of jannoon028 from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo this July and had a blast. I used it as a way to set a deadline to finish the first draft of my YA fantasy novel. I made my goal and was amazed at how hard it was to write 30K words in a month. November starts NaNoWriMo and the goal for all participants is 50K, that works out to roughly 1667 words a day (I think). I want to use this artificial deadline/goal to work on the first draft of the sequel to my book. But I don’t want to go it alone.

In Camp NaNoWriMo, they place you in “tents” (unless you know people) with folks who write in the same genre as you. In theory, it is an awesome way to create a ready-made support group. In my experience, it was a flop. After a few encouraging posts at the beginning of the month, my tent disappeared into the mist, perhaps they were eaten by bears? I don’t want to go through that in November.

So, I joined the regional group for NaNoWriMo and attended my first meeting today. It was wonderful being surrounded by people who have actually won NaNoWriMo (wrote 50K words) multiple times. They were full of great advice and best of all,  there was a session on plotting by Cynthia Cooke, a multi-published author.  Her graphical outline of plotting elements immediately showed me where my first novel is lacking and gave me insight to how I want to approach my second novel.

I encourage you all to look into NaNoWriMo as a way to achieve your writing goals.

http://nanowrimo.org

Write because you want to, write because you must!

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My Journey as a Writer-Query Letters

It’s day two of the query letter boot camp and that means we have to write our letter, get the first ten pages of the manuscript in tip-top order and submit to our assigned agent by 11PM tomorrow night. I have the pages formatted and will review again before I send it out and I have the letter basically written. It was synchronicity that caused an order of books to be delivered today. I had ordered a submission bundle from Writer’s Digest and expected it to take days to deliver. Surely only Amazon and Jimmy Johns have lightening fast delivery?

Anyway, when I got home from work this evening, a box was sitting on the porch…and it was heavy. Without my glasses on, I just assumed it was for my husband, a man who is single-handedly keeping e-bay and dare I say the entire American economy afloat. I picked it up and left it on the living room end-table. I then rushed upstairs to take part in the last half hour of the boot camp chat. When the chat was over, I made my way downstairs…with my glasses on.

Yippee, the box was for me and it was loaded with books that are sure to a big help with the submission process. It contained Weekend Proposal, Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, An Insider’s Guide to Publishing, The Author Training Manual, Formatting and Submitting your Manuscript and….Guide to Query Letters.  How amazing is that? Ok, not terribly amazing as I DID order the blasted books. What is amazing is that they arrived in time to be useful for this boot camp!

I know I said yesterday that there is a time to read books about writing and then you need to stop and JUST WRITE. Well, this is different, I know I have a writing book problem, but I don’t or didn’t have any books on prepping your manuscript and submitting. So really, this is completely different and I don’t have a problem…

The cool thing about this boot camp is that your assigned agent will read your materials and critique your query letter. I don’t expect anything further to happen from this exercise, the agent I was assigned to doesn’t represent science fiction/fantasy. What I’m hoping for is good feedback so I can craft an excellent query letter(s) to agents that DO represent my genre.

I’ll get the feedback sometime during the first week of October. I am excited to be on this journey.

Write because you want to, write because you must.

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My Journey as a Writer-July-August 2014

I took the plunge (financially and emotionally) and registered to attend Writer’s Digest summer conference in NYC. It wasn’t hard to make the financial decision as I was born in Brooklyn and look for any opportunity to visit. I booked the hotel and airfare in May and then sort of put it out of my head.  But emotionally, I still wasn’t taking myself seriously, though. Since I’m not published yet, and I have only seriously started writing since last November, I have trouble feeling worthy or like a real writer. I’m going to call this syndrome the Pinocchio effect.

To prepare myself for the conference (and to give myself a deadline) I participated in Camp Nanowrimo in July. I wanted to use it as a springboard to finish the flipping first draft of Once Upon a Times (working title) since I had approx. 30K words left to go. I met my goal and finished the first draft, which was a significant confidence boost. I’ve never written anything that long before. Even my PhD thesis was shorter, in that it was made up of an introduction plus several published research articles. So technically my dissertation was longer, although in reality it wasn’t one cohesive piece, so the novel wins:)

I’ve read many books on writing, my Kindle is jam-packed with them, plus I have hard copies as well. At some point you have to stop reading about writing…and actually write. One helpful bit of advice I got from several books was, LEAVE YOUR BOOK ALONE for at least a month or up to six weeks before you work on the second draft. I actually used that as encouragement during Camp Nanowrimo to finish the first draft. I’d given up TV, pleasure reading and pretty much talking to my husband in an effort to get the job done. I have a full-time job, so all I have is evenings and weekends…you get the picture.

I loved having my free time back and best of all, I didn’t have to feel guilty. Everyone says, you have to have distance from the novel before you tackle the second draft. I read, caught up with my family and friends and even snuck in a little TV as well:)

This takes me to the WD conference. It was amazing! Even though I didn’t know a soul and am hopelessly shy (unless I know you and then I’ll talk your ear off), I had a wonderful time and am looking forward to next year’s conference.  There were so many excellent sessions to choose from and I connected with authors I have read and met ones I want to read. It was pretty surreal.

I still struggle with believing I’m a real author–I’m attending a WD boot camp this week on query letters since the next step is to try and sell it. I’ll post on my experience with query letter writing next time.

Write because you want to, write because you must!

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