The Power of Book Revisions and Patience

Sometimes book ideas come to me out of the blue. That's what happened two weeks ago. "Wow, this is a good idea," I thought to myself. Impulsively I emailed a publisher, met with the Director of Publishing, and she was excited about my idea. She tweaked the title a bit and then I was off and writing. I've been in the writing zone or two weeks now, encased in the world of words. In two weeks I created a basic book outline, a detailed outline, a marketing plan, and written 16,000 words. While I'm writing I think of James Michener. Most people don't want to be writers, Michener once said, they want to have been writers. Instead of doing the work these people want to walk into a book store and see a large display of their books. If only writing was that easy!

I've revised my manuscript three times and checked headings to make sure they're helpful and clear. The manuscript pages are piling up and so are the resources in my bibliography. Each revision makes my book better and brings me close to my dream of another published book. Writing is hard, challenging, and exciting work and I love it. Without writing I would be a different person.

Are You Fighting or Collaborating with your Book Editor?

Working with a book editor is a learned skill. Acquiring this skill takes time and practice and patience. I've been a freelancer for more than 35 years and, during this time, learned to work with editors. Instead of viewing my editor as an enemy, I think of him or her as my biggest booster. A book editor has your best interests at heart and wants you to have the best book possible. You may be working with your editor now. Here are some tips from my experience. 1. Leave your emotions at home. Concentrate on facts: organization of your book, writing style, punctuation, typos, writing clarity, and marketing. 2. Listen carefully. Make eye contact with your editor and let him or her finish a sentence before you speak. 3. Take notes to back-up your listening. Jot down the editor's key points in a small notebook. 4. Be courteous. Just like your mother told you, manners count in the real world, and especially the book business. 5. Thank the editor for his or her time. 6. End with an action statement, such as "I'll revise that section and email it to you."

Yesterday I hadmet with a director of publishing who is also an editor. I used all of these tips. I also followed her advice. At five o'clock in the morning, I got up and revised my preface to match her recommendations. It's much better and I'm grateful for her help. Collaborating with an editor helps you and helpd your book.

My Husband, an Amazing Father and Grandfather

On this Father's Day I think of all the years I shared with my husband. When we had our two daughters I saw his gentleness and kindness and these attributes continue today. We have been married almost 56 years and he can stll surprise me. I enjoy talking with my husband at dinner time, sharing ideas and opinions. He is my biggest booster and I hope I am his. The past six years have been challenging, to say the least, with four deaths in the family, including his father and our eldest daughter. Sometimes we wondered if we would survive such tragedy. But we have survived and come out stronger and more devoted than ever. My husband knows me better than I know myself. I rely on his wisdom and ability to cut through details and go straight to the heart of a problem. Most of all, I admire his steadfastness, a quality I recognized when we married so many years ago and a quality that continues to this day. I wouldn't be the person I am today were it not for my husband. He made me a better person, that's for sure. We -- my husband and I -- are a team and always will be.

Your Presentation: What Makes a Good Handout?

I'm getting ready to present two conference workshops in Boston. Because I'm a former teacher, I always have handouts. But some speakers aren't giving attendees handouts and choosing to post the handouts on their websites instead. While this decision saves money, it may disconnect the speaker from his or her audience. Fact is, attendees feel better when they are holding information in their hands. There are many advantages to providing handouts. It makes giving a presentation easier for you, the speaker, because you can always refer to your handouts. You don't have to worry about forgetting a point because it's cited in your handout. When attendees return home, they will remember your talk and you, thanks to handouts. Handouts may also contain information not covered in a presentation.

Handouts fall into three general categories, uncompleted handouts, where the attendee adds information, outlines, which are also called skeletal handouts, and worksheets. However, I have another category to add and it's publicity. I've developed a list of the grief resources I've written for conference book stores, bascially a publicity handout. Over the years, I've also developed a "must have" list for handouts. You may find this list helpful. 1. Use simple words and avoid jargon. 2. Make sure the handout "fits" your presentation. 3. Add visuals, photos, clip art, or symbols, to every handout. 4. Copyright the handout in your name. 5. Add your phone number, email address, and website address, if you have one. 6. Color-code handouts so attendees may find them easily.

Your handouts represent your presentation and they represent you. Good handouts "speak" for you long after your presentation is over.

Two Books in Production -- Hooray!

Starting a new book is exciting and writing it is also exciting. This month I have two books in production, one about walking for heart health and the other about recovering from grief. Having two books in production involves lots of detail work. I have to check the index page numbers, for example, and look for sentences that may have dropped out. Marketing is also something I have to consider. I've written a press release for one book and am relying on Amazon exposure for sales. I've created a mini poster for the second book, and will display it at a national conference in Boston. For the walking book, I've arranged a virtual book tour, with exposure on various websites. Since I've never done this before I don't know if it will generat sales.

During the last month I've written 10,000+ words a week, a feat for any author. Now I'm letting my creative well fill up again, though I still write short articles. Catching up on household tasks is also on my To Do list. While I was in an office supply store, I suddenly had an idea for a new book. I'm letting this idea percolate for a while to see if it is a real possibility. A writer's work is never done!

Nothing Like a Book Contract to Brighten a Day

Authors like me can have book ideas, but our ideas are only as good as book contracts. For some time, a book idea had been swirling around in my mind. One day, without any advanced warning, I sat down at the computer and wrote the book outline. Two days later I was writing the first chapter. The book progressed so quickly I contacted my current publisher. I talked with the Executive Director, gave her my two-minute pitch, and asked if the company might be interested in the book. "Of course," she said. This spurred my writing and I became obsessed with the book, so obsessed that I wrote more than 10,000 words a week. I kept the publisher informed of my progress and requested an author agreement. A week later she emailed the agreement to me and I was relieved. Now our agreement was official and my book was really sold. Writers should not send a manuscript, printed or electronic, to a publisher without an agreement. I learned this lesson the hard way and have never forgotten it.

I signed the writer's agreement immediately and was excited for the rest of the day. It is rewarding to know my book will be published. Though I have many other published books, the one I am working on always gets the most attention. Judging one's own work is difficult, but I think this is one of the best books I have written. Seven experts in the field have agreed to review my book and I am grateful for their kindness. Hopefully, they will like the book and if they do not, I guess I will start another one. Another book idea is rattling around in my mind and I do now know what will happen. All I can do is wait and see.

When the Writing Muse Strikes

Several weeks ago I had an idea for a new book. The process of going from an idea, to an outline, to writing copy, happened iin record time. I was consumed by the by the book idea and writing it. When I awaked in the morning I was was already revising paragraphs. While I was cookingI was generating new copy. After dinner in the evening, I jumped up from the table and returned to writing. That is the way it is with writers. When the muse strikes we answer the call and give it our best. Believe me, I am not complaining. Rather, I am grateful for every new idea, whether it works out or not, and the ability to string words into sentences, and for every published book. Some of my books have almost written themselves. During my career I have met many people who said they wanted to be writers. None of them was working on anything. If you really want to be a writer, or are already one, you know when it is time to sit down and write.

We can't keep the muse waiting.

Advice from One Freelancer to Another

I have developed a series of grief recovery talks that build and expand on the books I have written. One talk has been received really well, so well I decided to expand it into a book. I wrote a draft of the outline, revised the draft, found resources, and started the actual writing. The book was progressing so well I decided to contact my publisher. The executive director listened patiently to my two-minute pitch, paused a moment and replied, "We already carry a book with that title." What a disappointment. Still, I did not let this disappointment slow me down and resumed my search for a good title. I brainstormed for a day, started a list of possible titles, and kept adding to it. Then I put a star by the one I liked best and logged into Amazon. To my dismay, this title was there on the screen, and worse, there were nine books with this title and different sub-titles. Sheesh! It was back to brainstorming.

Not only did I have to find a title that represented the book, I had to find one that matche the book's structure. Again, I made a list of potential titles. I entered these titles into the computer and tried out different fonts to see how they would look in print. I ranked the titles and chose the simplest one. When I logged into Amazon I was thrilled to see ththe message, "We cannot find a book with this title." The title was mine! I logged into a royalty-free website and looked at thousands of photos that might represent this title.

After printing out eight photos, I discarded several because they were too busy, and several others because they were obtuse. I kept discarding until I was down to one photo, an ideal match for the title. Now that these tasks are done I am back writing and loving every minute of it. But I have some advice for other free: Check Amazon before you choose your title.

Rogers and Hammerstein Describe Hate in ther Song, "You've Got to be Carefully Taught"

The terrorism at the Boston marathon got me thinking about hatred. From the outside, the terrorist brothers looked like Americans, dressing like everyone else, participating in sports, and hanging out with friends. Their inside personalities were a different story. Apparently these brothers had been taught to hate. Years ago, Rogers and Hammerstein explained hate simply in their song, "You've Got to be Carefully Taught." The lyrics say you need have to be taught to hate and fear others, taught to "hate all the people your relatives hate." The lyrics of this song seem to apply to the Boston terrorists. Someone, or a group of people, taught them to hate the nation that welcomed them, gave them asylum, and in the case of the younger brother, awarded him a scholarship. Still, these young men were seething with hatred and building bombs to maime and kill. The Watertown, MA Chief of Police thinks the young men intended to set off more bombs and kill more innocents. As Americans, I think we need to become more aware of the hatred in our midst.

I was a very young child during World War II, yet I remember the slogan, "Loose lips sink ships." The slogan was on a poster and the posters were everywhere -- in grocery stores, on store fronts, and lamp posts. Our new slogan has become, "See something? Say something." This isn't a time for political correctness. Rather, this is a time for Americans to take care of each other, be alert, report unusual/odd behavior, take cell phone photos, and use social media. Instead of teaching hatred, we can teach fairness, respect, and tolerance. We can come together as a nation and cherish the freedom we have.

Creativity: What's Age got to Do with It?

I have a book in production, write for three websites, contribute to blogs, and volunteer in my community. Yesterday I received a phone call from a colleague about the organization's newsletter. She needed someone to serve as editor, a long-term commitment and something I was unwilling to do. I told her I was in my late 70s, extremely busy, and couldn't sign up for this commitment. At first, my colleague congratulated me on my age. Later sge said she didn't realize I was that old. Well, I am.I've celebrated many birthdays, am a grandmother, and been married to the same marvelous man for 56 years. I'm an active older adult. You won't see me sitting in a rocking chair, marking time, and waiting to die. Certainly, my creativeness hasn't died. Today I am more creative than I've ever been and have more writing ideas than I can pursue. Maybe that is nature's plan. If we fail to use the gifts we've been given, we will gradually lose them. Experience has taught me the value of persistence, of keeping at it, of challenging myself, how to accept rejects, and celebrate a book sale.

There are more articles to write, more book ideas to consider, more organizations that need my time and experience. What's age got to do with creativity? Plenty. Like fine wine, we get better as we age. Older adults like me understand what we can do and what we cannot. We're kinder to ourselves and laugh a lot. Best of all, we savor every moment of life. Despite all the sorrow I have experienced, I am a happy person and I am blessed.

Internet Book Marketing: A New World for Me

Just because a publisher has posted my book on its website doesn't mean it will sell. It publishes grief resources and only those who know about the company will visit the website. Clearly, I need to get better at Internet book marketing. Guess I'm slow on the uptake, but I'm just beginning to understand the power of the Internet and how it can spark book sales. At the end of this month I'm participating in an online book "tour." The fact that it is called a tour amuses me. In addition to the tour I'm posting on a blog about writing. Of course I'm posting on Facebook.

Many authors ask people to write reviews of their books and post the reviews on Amazon. While this is a good idea, I was reluctant to do it. However, I did ask one expert to post a review and she was kind enough to do so. As soon as my latest book, Walking Woman: Step-by-Step to a Healthier Heart, appears on Amazon I will update my website. I try to keep it current, but every update costs more than I think. Still, I've received emails from several people complimenting me on the quality of my website and I am grateful for their emails.

Recently I updated my Amazon profile and I will add regular updating to my To Do list. I also continue to write articles for an Internet website that posts my bio at the end of each article. I'm not the only author who is discovering the power of Internet marketing. An author friend of mine is making similar discoveries and she has given me some leads. Both of us are working hard and both of us wrote our books because we wanted to help others, not make money.

Making a Memory Cook Book: 10 Tips for You

I've made several memory cookbooks and putting them together is fun. The first one I made was a Christmas gift for members of my extended family. It was in memory of my mother-in-law and contained favorite recipes from her recipe boxes. When I typed the recipes I followed each one just as she had written it. If a recipe referred to a family member I included the reference. This last week I've been working on another memory cookbook, a going away gift for a friend of mine. Each club member submitted two recipes that had been served at meetings. Some members, including me, submitted an extra recipe or two. The recipes were as diverse as the club members. Putting this gift together made me think of ways to get the best possible results. My tips may help you.

1. Set a theme. The book I'm working on now includes recipes for foods members have shared together. You may create a book that represents a specific heritage. 2. Strive for a minimum number of recipes. I am working towards two dozen and have almost reached this goal. 3. Determine how the recipes will be displayed. A three-ring binder works best for me because it fits the standard paper size. Narrow and wide-spine binders are available at office supply stores. 4. Choose a suitable font. I surprised myself by choosing a font called Berlin, which has an art deco look about it. 5. Use a consistent format. For example, I decided to type recipe titles in Berlin bold, 18 point. The recipe instructions are 14 point, which makes them easy to read. 6. Include personal information. Was this recipe served on Christmas Eve? Has it been handed down from generation to generation. 7. Give credit where credit is due. If the recipe came from a cookbook, please cite the title and author. 8. Protect the recipes with plastic page sleeves. The good thing about them is that you don't have to punch holes in paper. Instead, you just slip each recipe into its sleeve. 9. Divide the book into sections. These divisions may depend on the number of recipes you have. The gift I am working on now only has two sections, Sweet and Savory. 10. Stick a photo on the cover. I used a photo of club members that was taken in front of a member's home. It's the perfect beginning to a memorable gift.

Does Your Book have Lazy or Savvy Layout?

This morning I am expecting a call from my publisher regarding the layout of my book. In preparation for the call, I looked through my manuscript, and compiled a list of layout suggestions. Notice that I said suggestions, not directions, because I am not a graphic designer. I am, however, a person with a graduate degree in art. Though I've never laid out a book, as I am writing ,I can see the cover and interior design in my mind. To get an idea of what is selling, I look at published books that have eye-catching covers and layout. Why am I drawn to the book? Are there design elements I could adapt? Dense layout -- too much copy on the page -- is something I want to avoid. The reader should have white spaces to rest his or her eyes and headings that draw guide them through the book from beginning to end. The layout should also support the book's purpose. All I can do is make suggestions. The final interior design is up to the pros. You may have a book in production now. If so, think long and hard about the layout. You want your book to look its best.

Being Snowed In Develops Character

In the last two weeks we've been snowed in twice. My husband and I weren't snowed in for long, but we couldn't go anywhere. A huge drift covered the patio door, and when we opened the garage door we realized we couldn't go anywhere. Though we have plowing and shoveling service, we have to wait our turn. Right after the driveway was plowed the city plow came along and pushed a four-foot wall of snow across the driveway. So we had to wait for the plowing service to return. What did we do with our time? I wrote several articles and polished a manuscript. My husband paid bills and worked on the mail pile, which is always huge at our house. Fortunately, we were able to throw lots of mail away. Being snowed in made us slow down and we enjoyed many coversations over coffee. I did some baking as well. All in all, we decided we were grateful to have a warm house, enough food, and each other.

Proofreading Online Requires Patience and Good Eyesight

I think of myself as a detail person. When I'm writing a book, I try to keep track of details such as spelling, indenting, and typos. The last few days I've been proofreading an electronic version of my latest book. Saving paper is the main reason I'm doing this. Each day, when I sit down at the computer, I find more errors. Some are left from text editing and sometimes I change a word because I like it better. Having older eyes also slows me down. Though I wear bifocals, I take them off when I'm writing and proofreading. Days have passed and I am still proofreading. To to a good job I feel like I need the eyes of a hawk. Next week I hope to submit an electronic version of my book to the publisher, so I have to keep at it. A proofreader has already gone through the manuscript once and I'm working on consistency, citing articles, newsletters, and books in a uniform way. Proofreading isn't for the lazy, that's for sure!

The Excitement of Having a Book in Production

Nothing is like having a book in production. After working on a book for a year or more, in one case a dozen years, I can finally see the results of my labor. I love everything about the process: writing the back cover copy, submitting design suggestions, approving the interior layout, and working on the cover design. Seeing the cover for the first time is always exciting. Because I have a graduate degree in art, I can visualize the cover and interior pages in my mind. A local graphic designer created the covers of my last six books. He is sharp, talented, and stays up-to-date on treds. I've been so pleased with his designs I asked him to create the cover of my 32nd book. For hours, I looked at potential cover photos on a royalty-free website. In all, I must have looked at 1,000 photos and narrowed my choices down to four. The designer will choose the best photo and I can hardly wait to see which one he selects.

Now I'm proofreading my manuscript for the upteenth time, looking for stray periods, incorrect commas, spelling and layout errors. It's a tedious process and I need total quiet and concentration in order to do it. One of my friends, who has eagle eyes, also proofed the manuscript. Between us, we should catch the errors. Other authors, especially first-time ones, will understand the excitement of having a book in production. Many have likened the publication of a book to giving birth. Though it isn't really like that, the publication of a book is similar. I can hardly wait to hold the book in my hands.

The World of Books and Book-Lovers

I belong to a volunteer organization that helps the public library. We pay dues, catalog thousands of books donated by members of the community, work at holiday book sales, and volunteer in the organization's book store. This organization is vital to the economic health of the library. Last year, the organization donated more than $50,000 to the library, proceeds from various sales and fundraising events. Yesterday I worked at our winter book sale. Thousands of books (and I'm not kidding) were displayed on long tables and the boxed extras beneath the tables. Despite bad weather, a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow, a surprising number of people came to the sale. We sold books for 50 cents each or five dollars a bag. Book-lovers of many ages -- toddlers, senior citizens, a man in a wheelchair -- came to the sale and hundreds of books went out the door.

Setting up for the sale takes days and boxing books at the end of the sale takes muscle. Leftover books are picked up by an oganization that sells them and gives some away. I helped to box hundreds of books that were to be donated to the local food bank. When I got home I was tired, but it was a good kind of tiredness. I enjoyed meeting people, helping parents find age-appropriate books, and helping out in other small ways. Book-lovers are a special breed and I'm one of them. We enjoy looking at books, touching them, inspecting the design, and looking for books about unusual topics.

I think a child can have too many toys, but never too many books. One of the best things you can do for a child is to foster reading. Whether books are printed or electronic, a love of books will help your child all through life. Intellectual curiosity will sustain your child as well. So I salute the world of books and book-lovers everywhere. We are in good company.

An Organization's Minutes: Taking Minutes People will Read

I've been secretary of many organizations. Taking minutes is a secretary's main job. The purpose of these minutes is to legally protect an organization. Minutes also document an organization's history. But I've seen many sets of minutes that contain too much and are too wordy. Instead of documenting actions, these minutes contain opinions, comments, discussion, wordy accounts, and in some instances, inflammatory words. When minutes are long and involved, members are reluctant to read them. What should minutes contain? Minutes should begin with the vital facts: name of the organization, type of meeting (board, committee, sub-committee, special event, etc.), date, time and place of the meeting. You should also cite the name of the person who is presiding and the names of those who are present. It isn't necessary to state the names of those who second motions; the person who proposes the motion is sufficient. And it isn't necessary to summarize reports that are filed because they are on file. In short, minutes are a record of an organization's actions.

I've been adding something new at the end of my minutes, a summary of the motions that were passed. This enables the officers, members, and auditors to get a quick view of what the organization has been doing and its plans for the future. To foster reading, I list each agenda item in bold and I try to take succinct minutes. "Thanks for the short minutes," a friend said. "They're all I need." If you're the secretary of an organization, resist the urge to include names because people like to see their names in print. Resist the urge to make comments. Attach officers' reports, committee reports, and other correspondence.

These minutes will be documents people want to read.

An Author's Talk Should Expand her Book

For me, speaking requests seem to run in cycles. After a dry spell, I'll receive a flurry of requests to speak. I've seen authors talk about their books on television, heard authors speak in person, and these experiences taught me something. I've decided my talks will never be a rehash of a book. Recently I heard an author talk about his book and, at the end, I felt like I had listened to a commercial. This isn't what people want or need. Everyone is busy these days, and busy people want reliable information and they want it quickly. If the information is interesting or humorous or both, so much the better. I've had some training on how to speak on radio and my instructor advised me never to use the phrase, "in the book." Instead, he said I should say the title several times so audience members could remember it. I've followed his advice.

I've also followed my own advice. My book talks expand on a point, add new stories, or updates on research findings. Many authors have computer presentations to go with their talks, but I just talk. Since technology has failed me several times, I avoid it, and have handouts instead. Speaking is easier for me without a PowerPoint presentation. Plus, several people have told me they're sick of them. When I'm asked to speak, I give the organization or church group a list of titles to choose from, including:

* What can You Say to Someone Who is Grieving? * Affirmation-Writing: Boosting Yourself and Your Life with Words * Affirmation-Writing in the Workplace * An Inside Look at a Freelancer's Life * Writing to Recover from Loss and Grief: You can do It!

Is your group looking for a speaker? If so, please contact me. My motto: Have talks, will travel!

Becoming Empty-Nesters Again

After my twin grandchildren's parents died in separate car crashes, my husband and I became GRGs, grandparents raising grandchildren. We accepted the task gladly, for we had raised teenagers before, and loved our grandchildren dearly. As the years passed, and our grandkids progressed from 10th grade to 11th, 11th grade to 12th, and graduation, we were protective of them, respectful of them, and loved them more each day. Then our grandkids left for their separate colleges and the house became quiet. Too quiet. We actually missed the drum practice, trumpet runs, rock music, choir music, and teenage laughter. Right now, we're the home our grandkids come home to during college breaks, so the house is alternately quiet and noisy. But things are changing. My grandson is spending the second half of his junior year in Argentina, too far away for home visits, and we're not even sure we can call him. My granddaughter leaves for Thailand in May and will be gone a month. Only one more year of college and our grandkids will be gone. We will have an empty nest again. I think my husband and I will adjust, but I don't think we will adjust quickly. We will miss our grandchildren terribly. We will worry about them. We will wish them well. We will back off and let them experience adulthood. Maybe an empty nest the second time around is a badge of honor.