Someone with knowledge could save this wreck of a tree, planted back when water seemed limitless and rain fell with some regularity. This old Russian Olive remains stubbornly productive, giving off leaves and shoots and and anemic branches. Still, it is beautiful in the way resilient things are. Defiant, the tree makes its imprint on Father sky, an ‘I’m not done yet’ statement, that encourages me to say the same.
It is clear there is more to covid than scientists realized with its evolving variants. Now we have something called Monkeypox, which somehow indicates it comes from contact with monkeys. And it does, sort of. To be better informed about Monkeypox, check out this article from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
I am not going to embark on a discourse about viruses and their dangers/impact on society. What I want to ramble on about is uncertainties we all face and how we are changed for better or worse by circumstances beyond our control.
In the recent fires in our area, we were evacuated for eight days from our home. Not because the house and property were in danger, but because the air quality was so dense, we could scarcely breath. And we didn’t know our house would be unharmed, especially when we looked to the hills behind the house and saw great plumes of grey smoke and flames leaping in blended slashes of orange and red and yellow heat.
We’re weeks past the declaration of containment and we should feel at ease, but we don’t. We know many people displaced by loss who are further devastated by flooding that takes destruction to a new level.
And it’s not these destructive fires and floods that weigh on us. It’s the unsettling mountains of shifting dialog about where to go for help and whether or how much help will be available. In the middle and immediately following the fires, the outpouring of love and support were beautifully staggering. Food. Hot meals. A place to stay. Clothing. Resources galore. As time has marched on, the tragedy of many has been left behind. The kindness remains but it is woefully disconnected from the specific needs of those most impacted by the devastation.
The thing is, we have all been hit with multiple tragedies: covid, the deaths of loved ones, illness, a senseless and devastating war in Ukraine, people at our borders struggling and suffering, Monkeypox for crying out loud, violence at every turn, mass shootings, an insensitive and cruel political environment, global warming/climate change… I could go on, and so could you. In a recent sermon, Pastor Katie Palmer likened it to Russian stacking dolls. See a summary here. We are individually at the core of layers and layers of influences over which we have no control, but they affect us in unimaginable ways. No wonder we’re edgy.
The other side of that are the acts of generosity and neighbor helping neighbor, strangers stepping up to help, a community taking in those in need, powerful acts of kindness unselfishly given.
One thing we can agree on: thanks to firefighters and first responders the response to the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon fire was phenomenal and kept a horrific situation from being worse. The community took them in as well.
Personal loss is just that – personal. Typically, most of us have a support network to see us through dark times. Where do we go when so much in the world seems to be so wrong?
It may sound simplistic, but live as best you can. Help in the ways you can. Go to the polls come election time and vote.
She stands in the middle of a war-torn street, Ukrainian flag in hand, angel wings over her puffy coat, donned for warmth, no protection against bullets and bombs. I weep for her innocence and pray for her protection.
Life is a quilt, one created over time, one square, one stitch placed just so over weeks, months, decades. Sometimes the stitches knot up, tangled in unexpected life events: death of a love one, divorce, too much of this too little of that. And then it smooths out when new bonds are made, babies are born, life goes on. The quilt spreads, covering the span of life, bringing comfort and protection. The quilt of life, the connectedness that bridges divides.
There, clouds riding high
in a brilliant blue, blue sky.
Further along black birds cluster,
feathers flap with wicked bluster.
A shedding tree bares its limbs,
dropping leaves like floating gems.
A pumpkin here, scarecrow there,
a ghostly presence to give a scare!
The air is fresh with a little bite,
wood smoke smells of fireplace alight.
Oh, the joy of an October walk,
listening to Mother Nature squawk and talk.
This is Day 175 of my 365 day self-imposed poetry challenge, which will culminate at the end of April (poetry month) 2022. The photo is one I took today, which inspired, in part, Walking in October.
Every author I know, or know of, wants to see her or his books on bookshelves and available for purchase by readers. Southwest Books’ expansion at Rough Rider Antiques (501 Railroad Ave.) to include a local author section is an amazing opportunity. The bookstore section is set up and ready to take in new inventory.
Owners Carol and Dennis Ditmanson couldn’t be more excited.
They are looking for any book written by local authors in San Miguel and Mora counties, and open to any genre. Stocking books by local authors starts immediately. For more information, contact Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.
Book signings and readings won’t be available in the immediate future, partially because of Covid, but Carol is open to the idea.
Creating this opportunity for local writers to reach new readers appeals to Carol on several levels.
“I recently retired from Western National Parks Association. I worked at and with 10 of the National Parks in New Mexico. Our book sales in the Parks were a passion for me and I tried to promote local authors as much as I was able to. The review process at the parks can be a bit challenging. Now, with this opportunity, Dennis and I can approve and carry local authors in many genres.
“I admire the arts and the heart and effort that goes into creating, that includes paintings, sculpture… well, all arts, and of course writing, which I consider an art. And finally, I am a military brat. It was instilled in me by my parents that I should give back to the community I live in.”
As a writer, I’m delighted at the prospect of getting my work before the eyes of potential buyers. Rough Rider Antiques’ proximity to the Castaneda Hotel is a benefit not to be ignored. I plan to submit my books for consideration. Carol and Dennis will buy books outright at an agreed upon discount.
Carol said Southwest Books at FrankieAnnTiques on the Plaza also continues to carry a wide array of books, including local authors, as does Nancy Colalillo at Paper Trail on Bridge Street. The new section of books at Rough Rider Antiques offers an expanding marketplace. Thanks to all Las Vegas booksellers, for your commitment to local writers.
I am an indie author, a writing entrepreneur. The following comments are based on my experience and are in no way intended to discourage anyone from self-publishing. I get – and occasionally sign up for – “helpful” blog posts about how I can make a six-figure income using my writing skills. I want to laugh with all the derision my body can muster.
Maybe someone can do that, but not me, at least not up to now. Maybe? Someday?
Let’s start with the cold, hard truth that, according to a Bowker report, nearly four million books were published in 2019, 1.7 million of which were indie-published. For those who don’t know what Bowker is, you can find out more about it here. In a nutshell, Bowker provides tools to help authors promote and sell their books — and resources, such as the Books In Print® database — to help make their titles more discoverable. Bowker, a ProQuest affiliate, is the official ISBN Agency for the United States and Australia. (From Bowker’s website).
There are countless self-publishing platforms. Countless. Researching what each offers is straightforward. Most list different levels of what is available through their platform. The more you pay, the more services you get. If you’re able to go for the gold, or premium package, you will get a ton of help. That does not guarantee success for your book.
These platforms have one goal in mind: selling you services. There’s nothing wrong with that, these are businesses operating from a proven business model. Ultimately, selling your book is not what they are designed to do. Yes, these platforms will give you helpful hints about revising, uploading, editing, publication and marketing, but in the end, it’s your book and selling it is your responsibility.
Everyone wants to help you, for a price. There are many writing gurus who have wonderful ideas about how you can sell your book. Wonderful ideas. All you need do to get this magic formula, is pay a small fee. It could be $27, $67, $87, for a course that would normally cost $367, or $587, or any way higher price you can think of. What a bargain! Well, no, it’s not. If you want to take that course and glean from it what you find helpful, go for it, but it is not a guaranteed path to a best seller.
To be an indie author, you must believe with everything you have in you that your work is the best thing ever written. If you don’t believe that, you will spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself. Equal to that, your responsibility is to make sure it is technically the best thing ever written. Bad grammar, poor spelling, sloppy writing, all these factors will turn a reader off. Fiction authors will want to pay particular attention to plot, character development, and story arc. And believe me, folks, that’s a short list!
Writing entrepreneurship is a business and you must treat it that way. If you aren’t comfortable with self-editing, find a reliable editor with references. It will cost, but worth the expense. Unless they are professionals, don’t rely on your friends and family to review and make suggestions. Even the most honest will hedge in favor of not upsetting you. The cover is your book’s most important marketing tool. Invest in a qualified designer. Cost varies. But it’s not just the image on the cover; it’s the typography, the title, and the book’s back blurb – the first thing readers look at to decide whether your book is worth their time. These critical details done right, will build your confidence in the work you have created.
And, speaking of business, keep track of sales. I know, sounds like a no brainier, doesn’t it? Find a method that works for you, but keep track of sales, where the books were sold, and your earned royalties or margin. Also keep track of books you buy for resell. Your accountant will tell you all this, but in case you don’t have one, it’s a sound recommendation that you’ll find useful over time.
This should read “A Day in the Life of THIS Writer, and it’s just ONE day in the life of this writer. Everyone approaches how they write in different ways. Disciplined writing and scheduled writing are a bit of a myth for most of us. Published authors with a following and books that have hit the best-seller list, likely treat writing as the business that it is. The rest of us – or maybe I should say most of us – struggle with getting our books or articles or short stories or poetry before an audience. But we keep trying.
A day in the life–
2:30 a.m. Jolt awake with a story idea – It’s there. It’s brilliant! The characters are falling all over themselves to be noticed. The plotline begs to be written, but it is 2 freaking 30 in the morning!
7 a.m. Stagger out of bed. The idea? What was it? Was the protagonist the woman with red hair or the one with a scar? Scar? Was there something about a scar? The plot. Yeah, the plot. This woman – maybe with a scar – goes in to have her teeth cleaned but the dentist is really…
7:05 a.m. Oh, right teeth, morning routine. Shower away sleep fog and think about the story. It was so damned brilliant! A best seller for sure. Notebook and oatmeal side-by-side on the breakfast table, think about the story that woke me at 2 freaking 30 a.m. … … … … It’ll come to me… … … … I’ll let it marinate while I tidy up.
7:30 a.m. Morning chores with notebook handy. Write down anything remotely recalled from brilliant idea. Chores complete, notebook depressingly empty.
10 a.m. Writing time. Butt in chair, start fresh or return to what I was working on yesterday. The Brilliant Idea has gone stale, but what I’ve been working on has promise. Stick it out. Get it done. Write.
2 (or 3 or 4) p.m. Review and revise, maybe even think about submitting. The work finished two weeks ago has mellowed like fine wine (maybe). Time to look it over for errors, possible revisions, and overall readability. Can it be saved, or is it time to chuck it? Or is it time to (hyperventilating here) send it out in hopes it will be accepted for publication?
It often feels like there is no endgame for writers. Life interferes with writing. The above example doesn’t take into account daily emails and texts, other projects demanding one’s time, unexpected life events, coffee with your mate, a wild hair that takes you down a divergent path. Which takes us back to discipline. I’m reading Waymarks for Authors, by Chris Lewando. She makes the point that as writers, we make a choice each day, to write or not to write. It’s up to us. No one is forcing us to write. It’s the individual writer’s decision, day-by-day, whether she or he will put pen to page or fingertips to keyboard. This should be a given, but face it, we’re often guilted into believing we have to write every day or treat writing time as sacrosanct. At what point does the thing you enjoy stop being joyful and become drudgery? That fine line is drawn by each individual.
I love to write. I do it every day. That’s me. That doesn’t have to be everyone. Just me.
Am I successful as a writer? It depends on your measuring stick. I’ve been published in the local paper and regional papers; in a state-wide and a couple of regional magazines, certainly on my personal website, which – yes – I do count, and I have indie published six books and two chapbooks of poetry. So, in that I am a published author, I count that as success.
Financial success is a different measuring stick and for many, the only one that counts. I’ve always been paid for my work as a freelance writer. Success. The books I’ve written have not gained traction, at least to the point of financial success. I’ve sold enough to pay for printing and a tad more. That’s it. Is it enough? I keep writing, so, I guess the answer is either yes, or, it doesn’t matter; I’m going to keep writing anyway.
My Personal Poem a Day Challenge is only in its sixth day, but I’m pleased to say, I’ve written a poem every day since May 1, after having written – along with a bunch of other writers – 30 poems in April. The May 6 poem was inspired by the aroma of cut grass and dandelions that wafted through the window as I drove home from town.
SPRING HAIKU The smell of cut grass
shot color into my world
and my whole self smiled.
Being inspired in this way reminds me of the recent Dreams and Creativity seminar featuring Jan Beurskens sponsored by the Las Vegas Literary Salon. Writing inspiration comes from many experiences. Dream symbolism is something I’ve been trying to explore since the seminar, but I have yet to remember a dream after the fact.
Sight, smell and emotional response to something seen or experienced is more likely to get my brain firing with ideas.
Mary Rose Henssler, one of the Lit Salon team members, wrote a great “kick-in-the-pants” article on the Salon website. Sometimes, that’s what we need, a little jog to get our writing out of a self-created rut.
Prompts are great ways to stimulate one’s thinking. You might not even use the prompt, but it’s food for your fertile brain so you can come up with something more, something different. If you are stuck, Google ‘writing prompts’ or ‘poetry prompts’ and be ready for the deluge of websites that have tons of them.
I know, daunting, isn’t it? But when you run through these, you see they represent a myriad of life experiences or ideas you’ve probably already had. It becomes doable to give the basic idea legs by adding your own experiences or creative thinking to the mix.
Writing is most often spurred by simply sitting down, and going at it. Writing is work. The more time you put into it, the better you get. You can spend a lot of time getting down the basics of grammar, plot development, character profiles, who’s the good guy and who’s the bad girl (or vice versa), but until you sit down and pound away at the keyboard, all that know-how will be for naught.
The greatest deterrent to writing is – I hate to say it – being afraid your work will never see the light of day, or laziness, only you can decide.
So, write, but after that – or in the process, look for outlets for your work. I have a writing friend who doesn’t believe writers should give their work away, that payment represents validation. “If you don’t value your work,” she says, “how will anyone else?” She has a point. And her next point is as important: getting published is hard work and you have to work hard at it.
Why am I writing a poem a day for 365 days? It’s writing practice, but my plan is to indie publish the best of the poems in a collection. Entrepreneurial publishing is gaining ground and I already have experience in the field. See my author page on this site. Click on the Books tab in the menu for links to the books I’ve written.
It matters not what you’re writing – fiction, nonfiction, poetry – the satisfaction you derive from creating a work from start to finish, is a reward all its own. Avoid apologizing for what you’ve written after the fact. You did it, maybe you made some errors or your work didn’t get the recognition (sales) you hoped for, let it be. Move on. Learn from your fumbles so your next project is an improvement over the last. Every new book, or article, or poem, or short story is its own creation.