Promoting One’s Writing without Losing One’s Head, Completing a Book and More

If—

BY RUDYARD KIPLING

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

 

I was introduced to this poem in high school English, and I never forgot it.  While I am not a poetry lover per se (sorry, sorry, I know that’s going to offend some of you!) there are some poems I love, and Kipling’s “If” has some amazing language in it.  The first two lines have always stayed with me, and I thought of them while writing this post today.

Lately when I’ve queried editors regarding submitting my articles for their consideration, it has been difficult for me to fully promote my work and “keep my head” as Kipling so eloquently states.  Of course good writing speaks for itself, but the writer behind the writing has to present well too!  I’ve been caring for two sick little ones over the past couple weeks, and that situation has not only distracted me; it has gotten me out of my writing groove and my writing confidence has been zapped as well.

Now my girls are well, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to return to my regular writing schedule.  But I’ve been procrastinating on certain projects and I’ve grown lackluster in promoting my writing to various outlets. I haven’t lost all hope about returning to “zestful writing” as the awesome author Elizabeth Sims calls it  – I’ve been through this dilemma before, and I know I’ll get back to where I want to be.  It’s just going to take more time than I’d like – time I hate to lose, because I’ve lost enough time since my 2007 bipolar diagnosis when my writing career stalled for oh, eight years.

Ironically, it’s much easier for me to promote others’ work.  Promotion was a skill I learned in my first “grown-up” job working at a special event production company.  We produced on average ten large-scale annual events in Silicon Valley.  I started out as the office manager and then was put in charge of more challenging projects, such as working with the media, talent agents, and vendors.  Our publicity consultant taught me how to write press releases, and I was interviewed about our events by prestigious newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News.  My boss had very high standards, and he had established a great reputation.  Before creating his company, he had founded the highly acclaimed Paul Masson Mountain Winery Concert Series and he worked with the greatest names in music.  Fortunately I was able to represent his company in a professional manner over the phone, in person and in writing, and while it was a stressful job, it taught me a great deal.

So yes, to reiterate, the bottom line is that when it comes to promoting my writing these days, I’m not as gung-ho as I’d like to be.   One thing I know for sure is that enthusiasm about one’s work (in moderate doses) is a wonderful quality, and I want to cultivate it to the best of my ability.

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As most of you reading this piece are also bloggers, I’m sure some of you know a thing or two when it comes to promoting your blog or anything else that you believe in, for that matter!  Recently I pushed past my comfort zone and asked an authority figure to publish my essay.  While I didn’t expect a resounding “no”, I didn’t exactly expect a “yes” either, as worthy as my article seemed in my eyes.  Well, that question, which literally took me less than ninety seconds to formulate, type out and email, paid off.  My essay was published and I got a strong response from readers that felt very validating.  As far as I was concerned, that incident was a sign that I must keep plugging away with my writing and don’t let the turkeys get me down.  (What a great phrase, eh?)

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I shouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket with any one contact, project or dream.  Believe me, at age forty-four, apart from my first job, I’ve dealt with promotion-related issues throughout my work history.  After I left the special event production company, I became a certified personal trainer.  I built up my own business at a popular gym whose members included the founder of Netflix and the editor of our biggest local newspaper – these people could afford personal trainers!  I advertised myself and my training services to prospective clients, and I was able to achieve a modest success.  After working in fitness for a couple years, I worked at three different non-profits:  Friends of the Santa Cruz Libraries, COBHA/The College of Botanical Healing Arts, and Friends of the Santa Cruz State Parks.

My jobs focused on administration and development, and I was required to help promote their numerous special events.   I was expected to be knowledgable and enthusiastic about each non-profit’s mission.  While I loved the public library system, botanical healing products, and our gorgeous local state parks, none of these worthy organizations captured my heart.  At these three workplaces I suffered from chronic depression and I wouldn’t be diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder until years later.

Even if I hadn’t been depressed when I worked with these groups of dedicated, talented people, I still would have been less than fired-up working with them because I wasn’t truly passionate about the causes – yes, even the libraries!

During my pre-bipolar diagnosis years, I always thought that if I could find the right job that inspired me, I’d give it my all and I would be successful.  Well, ever since I left the University of California at Santa Cruz when I was twenty-one, I’ve been writing, mostly without pay, because I love to do it.  (I know I’m preaching to the choir here.)  When I reached my late twenties and I achieved my dream to have my articles published in national magazines and I actually got paid for them, I realized that I could be a writer, but I still didn’t go for it and make writing my “real” job.

Now I finally do have the opportunity to “go for it” and complete my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.   I’ve written eighty pages so far, and I’m at an impasse of sorts.  I’m scared that I won’t achieve my dream to finish writing this book and I’m worried I’ll fall short of my two goals: for it to be interesting and #2) It will help people.  But, the old cliche rings true here – if I don’t give it a shot, I’ll never know.

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What matters is keeping up my habit of typing regularly (or putting pen to paper for some of you) and not giving up.  When it comes to writing, I’ve proved to myself that I am a slow-but-steady writer.  Slow is not always a negative trait – I witnessed my husband Craig Harwood complete his award-winning book Quest for Flight – John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West and have it published by University of Oklahoma.  It took him seven years to write his book, but who cares – he did it.  I’ve also been inspired by my friend the author Rebecca Moore, who wrote Moorestorms: A Guide for the Bipolar Parent and four other books.  She has the gift, along with my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle and L.M. Montgomery, of being a prolific writer.

Moore, L’Engle and Montgomery were able to keep their noses to the grindstone and complete numerous books in a timely fashion.  I wish they could bottle their talent and fortitude up because I’d be the first to buy it!

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When I do complete my book, I’ll promote the heck out of it.  I consider completing a book similar to having a child, and it’s an enormous accomplishment.  I have respect for anyone who finishes writing a book, whether or not it wins the National Book Award.  Just call me Dyane “Turtle” Harwood, because I will be crossing the finish line of completing Birth of a New Brain someday , and when I do, I’ll become a P.R. whiz.  Just wait and see! 😉

I’d love to read about how you promote yourself , your blog and your books – feel free to comment below…

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Great Blogs by Writers with Bipolar: L.E. Henderson’s “Passionate Reason”

Aside

photo51ZAAgPzzOL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Now that I have added a big chunk of daily writing time to my life, I have less time to search for new blogs and keep up with old favorites.  I’ll remain on the lookout, however, for extraordinary, compelling blogs that catch my interest.  I guess I can always get up earlier in the day to read them! 😉

I discovered a blog which met my stringent requirements through purchasing an e-book.  The blog is L.E Henderson’s “Passionate Reason”, and I bought Henderson’s book A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom: One Author’s Journey Through Writer’s Block and Beyond a few weeks ago for just 99 cents.  I’m finding her book fascinating and relevant to my own writing “trail”, especially since Henderson addresses how her bipolar disorder has affected her creativity and writing output.  (Note to L.H. Henderson: I would have paid $9.99 for this book in a heartbeat!)

I’ve only reblogged one or two posts over the past few months.  You could say I’m picky about what I select – I don’t just reblog anyone! 😉 I found it interesting how Henderson writes below about the intriguing dilemma of writers who find writing a tortuous process.  Her comments reminded me of a book I splurged on a few months ago, You’ve Got a Book In You! A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams by Elizabeth Sims.  Sims asserts that writing a book is “fun and easy”!   While writing my book has felt gratifying, due to much of the subject matter, it hasn’t been exactly fun nor easy.  In all fairness, I’m still reading Sims’ book, but at this point I think I’ll  reach a happy medium between fun/easy and tortuous, and that’s acceptable to me for the time being.  Who knows, though?  We’ll see.  I better finish Sims’ book soon!

Visit L.E. Henderson’s blog to read her other entries, and to learn about her published novel Thief of Hades based on the Greek myth.  Without further adieu, here’s L.E. Henderson’s post about the unearthing of her book Trail of Crumbs – enjoy!

From Creative Block to Creative Freedom: “Trail of Crumbs” UnearthedPosted: 15 Mar 2014 05:01 AM PDT

It has been about a year since I published my e-book A Trail of Crumbs to Creative Freedom. Though I consider myself primarily a fiction writer, its content was important to me. It was a record of my transition from depression and block to recovering creatively, which led to finishing my newest fantasy novel, The Ghosts of Chimera.During the time of publishing “Trail,” I was going through some monumental upheavals, which led to my move from SC to Florida, where I live now. It was not until I had a chance to settle down that I even thought to be bothered that my book, dropped into a lonely corner of cyberspace, had found few readers outside my family.And I literally mean a few. Writers, which were my target audience, were silent.No one was buying. No one was reading. No one was reviewing. But the book meant a lot to me. The lack of feedback was upsetting.I was used to getting feedback because of my blog articles, in which I reiterated many of the same points I had made in “Trail.” Whenever I submitted these articles to Reddit, the response was always overwhelming, with readers telling me that the posts inspired or helped them.I had written the book to be read. I considered that the price tag of 3.99 might have been the wall that was keeping people from buying. I actually considered giving the book away from free so that I could at least get responses, but I did not want to send the message that I thought it had no value when, in fact, the opposite is true.

At one time, when I was blocked and depressed, a book like “Trail” would have made a big difference to me. Recently I went back and looked at my book, and realized that I had changed a lot since the time of publication.

I went back and re-edited it to incorporate insights I had since first publication. I also thinned out some of my dashes.

During the time I wrote “Trail” I was a bit manic and cycling through punctuation obsessions. (See earlier post: “My Great Manic Comma Blizzard.”)

When I looked at my first edition, I could see that I had way overdone the dashes, overriding my poor editor, who had done me a great favor by thinning out all my commas, little prepared for the dash fiend I was about to become.

In the new version, my dash explosion is safely contained.

Since I released my updated version with a 99 cent price tag, a few copies have actually sold and I have gotten a response from a fellow blogger.

Dyane Harwood at https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/ had some kind things to say:

Henderson released this relatively short book (88 pages) for only 99 cents on Kindle. In Trail of Crumbs she analyzes the creative writing process and how her bipolar disorder adversely affected her writing. She ends the book on a high note in sharing how she was able to let her creative juices flow again. I just started reading it, and I’m finding it interesting and well-written, so it was quite a deal for less than a cup of coffee!

Harwood ran across my book while researching bipolar disorder for her work-in-progress called Birth of a New Brain. I was happy to have captured the attention of a bipolar blogger because the audience I originally envisioned were bipolar writers who were blocked and depressed the way I was.

But since writing is known for being a bipolar process, I thought my book would appeal to a more general audience of writers as well.

Bipolar or not, many writers speak cynically about their profession, describing writing as torture or a type of insanity. While these things are often said tongue-in-cheek, a grim reality underlies them. Writers are not known for being happy but are instead known for alcoholism, mental illness, drug addiction, and suicidal urges.

To make matters worse, the world of writing advice is ridden with guilt, fear, and self-punishment.  Typical messages, which I see in many writing blogs, are: Stop being so lazy and selfish. Put the reader first. Write what you think others want to read. Do not be narcissistic, preachy, affected, or self-indulgent.

By all means do not offend the reader. Do not use the words “very” or “then.” Do not use adverbs. Or talk about yourself. Just who do you think you are anyway?

In the popular understanding of what it means to write, writing is all about being careful. The true object of writing, which is to build, is side-lined. You would think that the arbiter of “good” writing was Miss Manners, when in fact the best writing is about honesty, not politeness; creating, not tearing down.

In writing my book, I wondered why so many professional writers hate writing and why we view writing as something we have to make ourselves do.

But it could be different. When I was in college, the writers I desperately envied were the ones who loved writing so much that they had to do it every day, like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. They defied the stereotypes. They viewed writing as a way to be happy.

At the time I had no idea how they had achieved this. I speculated that they were such geniuses that their minds and emotions were just better wired.

But after my experience of learning to enjoy writing again, I suspect not. More likely, they were people who were able to ignore cultural messages about how writing should be done and retain a sense of wonder that, for most people, burns bright in childhood and then fizzles out in adolescence.

So far I have avoided trying to sell anything in my blog. That is not its purpose. I much prefer to talk about other issues that interest me. But today I am making an exception.

My book costs the same as a dollar store spatula, less in fact. And although spatulas are wonderfully useful, I feel confident in saying that my book is worth more.

Not that my book is a “system” or a promise of magical results after 30 days, nor does it claim to be the only way that writers can work. It is a personal experience that mapped my transition from thinking I could never write again to my discovery that I could love and enjoy it more than I ever had before.

But for that to happen, I had to let go of conventional ideas about the writing process that I had absorbed over many years.

But back on point: If you are thinking about purchasing a spatula, restrain the impulse a little longer and buy my book instead. Your old one can hold out a little longer, until you are able to recoup your investment.

Then read my book, get back to me, and tell me what you think. I am eager to hear what you have to say. To any of you who have already bought my book, thank you!! And please tell the others that it is feasible to have spatulas and creative freedom, too.

With patience, Young One, all things are possible.

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Visit L.E. Henderson’s blog at :  

http://www.passionatereason.com/

To purchase the e-book on Amazon, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/Trail-Crumbs-Creative-Freedom-Authors-ebook/dp/B00IR002D0/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395061396&sr=1-2&keywords=A+Trail+of+Crumbs

The power of the internet for good and bad

imgres-1imagesOver the past few months I’ve learned more about the power of the internet.  I’ve discovered firsthand that what we put “out there” lasts a long, long time.

I knew about the maxims discussed in this blog intellectually, but I didn’t have direct experience with them until the last few weeks.  It has really hit home for me how important it is not to slander anyone because you never know who will read your words.  Here’s a (slightly) drawn-out example: some of my blog posts have discussed specific authors and their books.  Not one, not two, but three of these writers contacted me within just one week after my blogging about them.  They found me through the magic of Google alerts.

What is a Google alert, you may ask?  Here’s my non-techie definition:

One can use this feature to create different category “alerts” so that Google searches the vast internet daily (or more frequently, you can set the parameters) for any mention of these categories.  Google emails you the alert links so you can track them down yourself.  For example, you can set up an alert to find a mention of your name, a book title, and pretty much any subject under the sun!  I have Google alerts set for my favorite bands, postpartum bipolar, and my name.

Google has a better description of their alerts that I thought I’d add here in case you’re not familiar with them:

“Google alerts are emails sent to you when Google finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs — that match your search term. You can use Google Alerts to monitor anything on the Web. For example, people use Google Alerts to:

  • find out what is being said about their company or product.
  • monitor a developing news story.
  • keep up to date on a competitor or industry.
  • get the latest news on a celebrity or sports team.
  • find out what’s being said about themselves.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You enter a query that you’re interested in.
  2. Google Alerts checks regularly to see if there are new results for your query.
  3. If there are new results, Google Alerts sends them to you in an email.”

It was so much fun for me to get the following blog comment from the writer Cristina Negrón. She was alerted about my blog post which mentioned her wonderful book So Far.  She wrote, “Dyane: I was truly surprised and delighted to discover your blog post about my book. Thank you for your thoughtful, insightful, and beautifully written review. Being so close to the material (I couldn’t possibly be closer!), I didn’t know how it would be received by people who don’t know me. So your post, from an outside reader and a fellow writer no less, is especially gratifying. All the best to you, Cristina Negrón”

The other two author comments in response to my blog were written by  Martha Rhodes (author of the inspiring 3000 Pulses Later: A Memoir of Surviving Depression Without Medication) and Elizabeth Sims (the upbeat You’ve Got a Book in You! A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams).  Both of their comments were complementary.  Rhodes graciously offered to give me guidance with my own book and Sims’ message was funny and encouraging.

“I could get used to this awesome feedback!’ I thought.  I was also greatly relieved that I did not write anything harsh about them or their work!  Don’t get me wrong – I believe in constructive criticism, and I do like to be honest about the books that I read, but now that I know for a fact there’s a good chance the very authors I analyze could read my posts, I’ll be a little more cautious about what I offer to the internet.

After my warm and fuzzy week of author responses, I encountered the net’s darker side.  I was planning my daughter’s ninth birthday party, and I opened up my Evite account.  While reviewing my contacts list, I noticed that I had invited one of her classmates “Xavier” to a past party.  For the life of me I couldn’t remember who Xavier was.  There were no identifying details attached to his name except for an email address.  To satisfy my frustration at my inability to remember Xavier or his parent, I copied the email address and I plugged it into Google.  I honestly didn’t think I’d find anything, but I did.  Xavier was the son of “Cassia”.  Cassia had posted on a religious website many years ago, and my Google search located her comment almost immediately.

Cassia wrote that she was in desperate need of help due to a longtime disorder.  She added that none of her good friends were religious like she was, nor did any of them struggle with that specific disorder.  She noted that she was reaching out to strangers on the website because she didn’t feel like she could turn to any of her friends for support.

Finding this deeply personal information out about Cassia made me feel sad.  I felt that I knew too much about a stranger.  I was alarmed about running into her at a future party, because I realized our kids were in the same circles.

A few days later I spotted her email yet again on an Evite I had  received for a upcoming child’s birthday celebration.  I was concerned about running into her there, because I knew I’d be uncomfortable with the private knowledge I possessed, but obviously there was nothing I could do about it.

It’s one thing to write for the internet and reconcile yourself that you’re going public with whatever you contribute; it’s completely different when you are writing about highly personal, potentially damaging issues that are discovered by strangers within fifteen seconds.

I find the ease of finding such personal information sobering after what I read about Cassia – most of which I did not include here in the highly unlikely (but definitely possible) event she would read this blog post.  I’m a little freaked out about what I’ve sent out to cyberspace during times of mania, but it’s too late now to do anything about it.  I’m not going to spend much time lamenting about those emails because I wasn’t well.  I can let that one go for now, at least.  (It does occur to me that someday I may apply for a job in which my unsavory emails could be located, but I can’t worry about it…yet.)

After my positive and disturbing web experiences, I am simply going to be a little more careful about what I write.  I won’t select the “send” option glibly on my laptop, that’s for sure.  I don’t want to edit my writing to the point of it being monotonous, God forbid, but I don’t wish to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I can save the really angry, slanderous comments for my journal or therapist.  I’ve been naive all along about the internet, but my naivete is slowly but surely changing.  There’s also the added bonus that as I  get older (I turn 44 in one month) I just might be getting wiser.

Facing challenges with writing books when you have bipolar

That’s what’s on my sleepy mind this rainy morning – how authors with brain challenges have the ability to complete an entire book.  I wish there was a magic potion I could drink that would get me to sit down and finish the piece I’ve been working on (and mostly off) the past several years.  I’ve been thinking books-books-books all stormy weekend long.  I selected some of my longtime “friends” (I know it sounds schmaltzy, but I consider books to be friends) for my blog hit lists that I wrote over the weekend.

If you search Amazon listings you’ll find that a brand-new bipolar memoir is being published almost every day.  Many of these books are self-published, and they usually run the price of a small double mocha instead of twenty-five dollars.  As much as I’d love the author to make more of a profit, I love that affordability.

It’s getting easier and easier to get your work out into the world, which is wonderful.  I’ve noticed that more authors are using self-publishing companies such as CreateSpace and Author House.  While it’s a blessing that these organizations give writers the opportunity to share their stories with a worldwide audience, it’s also easier for mediocre or downright awful books to emerge.

Even if a new book is lousy, I still have so much admiration for the author; I’m also envious because I want to complete a project too.  Anyone who can focus enough to finish  a two-hundred page manuscript has made a remarkable achievement.  I’ve been wondering why I want to finish my book so badly.  The reasons are simple: I want all my suffering to help other moms with bipolar feel less alone, I want to feel productive, and I want to be able to tell people (and myself) that I’m a bona fide author.  It’s true am a writer – the fact that I’ve made a couple thousand dollars off my articles tells me that, but it’s different to have a book published.  A book is (usually) a true labor of love.  Writing a book was a labor of love for my husband Craig Harwood, who took seven years to write his book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West in his free time.

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(shameless plug!)

Yesterday I was working out on my NordicTrack elliptical.  While I’ve had phases where I’ve been an exercise purist eschewing magazines, lately I’ve been reading my Kindle on the machine.  The workout time flies by while I surf Facebook and read books on my Kindle and I still break a decent sweat.  I also blast the Pandora Disco channel.  There’s nothing like hearing the Bee Gees’ “More Than a Woman” or Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” while on an elliptical.

A couple days ago I was working out and Kindle surfing.  I spotted a book announced on Amazon that very day: Deborah Kaminski’s Bipolar and Me for just $2.99.  What caught my eye was the book cover – it was hard to miss, even with sweat dripping into my eyes:

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(There’s nothing quite like an eye-catching cover.)

The author describes her book simply on Amazon: “This book talks about my journey with Bipolar Disorder and has information for both those suffering and those who have loved ones who suffer with bipolar.”  Her self-publishing company is BookRix.  I had never heard of them, and their recent press release sounds too good to be true .  They “will no longer charge for their eBook-distribution-services, allowing authors to publish eBooks for free via BookRix and distribute them to all major eBook stores such as Amazon.”  When I observe books being published so frequently by these types of companies, I am reminded that I can just go for it.  I’ve seen books that are only fifteen or twenty pages long for sale on Amazon – to me that’s more of a chunky brochure, but I admire the writer’s resolve in getting her work out into the world.

Many people with bipolar have attention challenges and/or struggle with sedation due to medication side effects.  I have both of those issues, but I won’t let them stop me.  If others can do it, I can too.  I also realized that I won’t become a career blogger or a fly-by-night sensation who gains thousands of followers.  It’s a hard to give up the idea of hitting it big via a blog, but I can’t blog regularly and work on a book – at least not now.  I have two little girls who are my priority, and at this point I am not able to do everything I want to do.

However, I can still set out to accomplish my dream to complete a book project.  One of my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle had her infamous A Wrinkle In Time manuscript rejected by at least 26 publishers, because it was, in L’Engle’s words, “too different”, and “because it deals overtly with the problem of evil.”   She also went through an entire decade of getting rejection slips, which is hard for me to believe.  She describes that tortuous decade in her own writing in the book Two Part Invention – the Story of A Marriage. (It’s one of my favorite books.)

I’ll boast about this until the day I die, but none other than Madeleine L’Engle liked my writing, even though it was just a measly fourteen line sonnet I wrote with sweaty palms about dolphins.  L’Engle had me recite it at her writing workshop.  Take my word for it, she was not the type to lie about liking anyone’s writing.  She made that astoundingly clear at the two workshops I was lucky enough to attend.

There’s the famous saying that to be truly excellent at anything, one must practice for 10,000 hours.  I’ve been using this blog to get into the daily practice of writing, and I’m hoping it won’t take me another 9,995 hours to get where I want to be.  At least I have the aforesaid hope, and if I have hope, I can write a book – I really think I can.  I’m going to finish reading this:

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and hop to it!

I’ve selected March 1st as my start date to return to writing/editing my Birth of a New Brain manuscript.  (I have one hundred pages so far.)  I will devote at least a half an hour each day to writing.  My husband told me he spent twenty minutes every morning to write his book Quest for Flight.   He woke up before the rest of us each day to do it, which I can’t realistically do yet.  The three medications I take (lithium, Seroquel and the MAOI Parnate) make it so that I need to sleep as long as I can in the morning.  Then my girls get up, and we all scramble to get ready for the bumper-to-bumper schlep to school.

I’ll stick to blogging for the next couple weeks and try to shorten my posts.  I never thought I’d write overly long blog posts, but I figure you can skim it or maybe you’re hopefully a fast (and tolerant) reader!  Thanks for reading this from the bottom of my sleepy heart!

Meeting a Fave Author: SARK, The Inspiration Line & “Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper”

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Throughout this blog I have written about two authors who have influenced me the most during my life.  The writers are Madeleine L’Engle, author of the classic “A Wrinkle In Time”, and L.M. Montgomery, best known for “Anne of Green Gables”.  There is a third author whose numerous works have also brightened up my life immeasurably, and she is the artist known as SARK.  (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy)

While my mother bought my first copies of L’Engle and Montgomery books, I discovered and bought SARK’s book all on my own, which is symbolic unto itself.  I had come up to Santa Cruz to attend college and I majored in English and American literature.  One day in 2004 I was shopping in one of the artsy stores on Pacific Garden Mall.  I spotted the colorful, hand-drawn cover of “A Creative Companion – How to Free Your Creative Spirit” with the author’s intriguing name of SARK on front.  I recognized SARK’s unique art style from a poster she had created called “How To Be An Artist”, pictured above.  This poster was SARK’s first bestselling item and she handmade a whopping 11,000 of them in her “Magic Cottage” in San Francisco.  There are now over one million of them in print.  Since that time, SARK has become famous for her fifteen other books, posters and various products.

I was lucky to meet SARK before she hit the big-time and I knew she’d become famous in her own right, or write. (hee hee!) I think I’d be a great talent scout, come to think of it, because I have a sixth sense when it comes to recognizing star power.  Case in point: long ago I saw a little movie called “Mystic Pizza”.  I told my movie buddy at the time, “Someday that girl with the big teeth will be famous.”  You could say I was right about spotting Julia Roberts’ potential.  I spotted major talent in other actors and writers I encountered in their early careers as well.

SARK and I first “met” through the air.  I read in one of her books that she offered The Inspiration Line.  The Inspiration Line was a voicemail system she used to record a different message every few months, whenever she felt like doing so.  You could leave your own message for her to listen to (she claimed she listened to every message) or just hang up.  SARK has loved this 24-hour line so much that she still maintains it: 415-546-3742 (EPIC).   She used it to discuss her general observations about life and sometimes narrated sections of poems that moved her by poets such  as Rumi and Susan Posin.  I have never been a huge poetry lover, but SARK picked poems that were truly incredible and they never ceased to inspire me.

One day I listened to The Inspiration Line and left SARK a message telling her how much her work meant to me.  On a last-minute impulse I gave her my work number, never imagining that she would actually call me back.  I thought nothing of it after I hung up until one day at work the phone rang.  I picked it up and I heard someone giggling.  “Good afternoon, Santa Cruz Productions,” I said in my most professional, twenty-four-year-old office manager voice. “Hello, is Dyane Leshin there?”  inquired the giggler.  “Yes…” I said, wondering who this jolly-sounding person was.  “This is SARK!”  she exclaimed with glee.  I was totally in shock to have one of my favorite authors call me!  I wish I hadn’t been at work because I shared that one room with three other employees and we could all hear one another’s conversations.  I felt pretty inhibited, but SARK and I both spoke enthusiastically about our mutual love for Madeleine L’Engle’s writing.  Our talk was brief, but it’s a very happy memory for me.  I still call The Inspiration Line and I leave a message for SARK every few years.  I always leave my phone number just in case, but SARK hasn’t called me back except for work-related purposes.

I met SARK in person for the first time back in the mid-90’s before she became so well known.  Her longtime love for Big Sur and admiration for one of her favorite authors/Big Sur residents Henry Miller sparked her to host an art workshop at the Henry Miller Library.  Only twenty people attended the event.  We spent the sunny afternoon painting giant pieces of paper with bright colors and sitting in a circle discussing our creativity and dreams.  SARK was down-to-earth and very approachable.  It’s always such a disappointment when those we look up to are prima donnas or derriere-holes, and thank God SARK didn’t fit into either of those categories.  I had a blast!

A few years later I encountered SARK again in her adopted hometown of San Francisco at her special event.  It was an extraordinary weekend for me as I had literally just fallen in love with my husband-to-be.  It was so difficult to tear myself away from him, but I had a very good reason.  SARK was throwing a Pajama Party at a downtown hotel, and I had registered to attend it with my Mom.  In a gratifying role reversal, I had introduced SARK’s books to my mother and she became a fan, so she flew up from Los Angeles to accompany me. We chatted with SARK briefly, as she had many more fans by this time.  We were treated to a concert by an Aussie duo called “The Velvet Janes” and we all wore soft SARK commemorative pajamas. I forget which hotel it was, but the concierge service loaned us a bubble fish to keep us company in our room during our stay!

Years after that memorable weekend, I wrote articles for local, regional and national newspapers and magazines.   I was a loyal reader of our local weekly “Good Times”.  I never missed an issue as it had the best astrological column I had ever read by Risa D’Angeles.  I queried the editor about interviewing SARK about her latest book, and I was thrilled to be told to go for it.  I reached SARK’s business staff and they set up a telephone interview time for us.  Although I had previous interactions with SARK, I was nervous as hell this time around; my hands were icy cold.  I was grateful that I was not face-to-face with her – I’d probably faint or drool or do both.   I had prepared my list of questions and I made sure my little tape recorder worked and had fresh batteries.  I had my speaker phone at the ready.  Our talk went well and there was lots of laughter, to my relief.  I wrote a decent piece, which enabled me to do it all over again when SARK’s following book was released.

I am re-visting my SARK memories because I began re-reading her motivating book “Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper” last night, which focuses on…wait for it…writing!  SARK’s books are easy-to-read and they possess an almost-childlike format.  For me reading this book is like reading it for the very first time.  I don’t remember its content at all – whether that’s due to my poor memory I’ve had all my life, or because of the ECT I do not know ; it’s definitely not because her advice is poor!  I actually like the fact that the material is all fresh to me.  Between SARK’s book and my other unique, fun writing book by Elizabeth Sims (“You’ve Got A Book In You!”) I need to read them and “move the tool!” as SARK asserts.  I also need to stop browsing for other writing books and move that damn  tool…well, maybe I could buy just one more!

I encourage you to watch SARK’s awesome Ted Talk:

Her website (or websight as she likes to call it!) is:

http://www.planetsark.com