The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘positive psychology

I’ve made it through a major writerly milestone. Last week, I had my debut book reading and signing for Reenu-You at McIntyre’s Books. It was a blast and went very well.

However, there was still a lot to learn!

I thought I was ready. I thought I knew all there was to know. I thought I was prepared. How long had I been attending book signings? How long had I been visualizing myself conducting a reading and signing books? Longer than I can remember.

But, there was still a lot to learn!

I’m passing on some tips and lessons learned.

-Ask for help. Mobilize your writing peeps!

Doing an author signing and book reading requires some coordination, especially if this is your first time. I decided to serve drinks, food and organize a giveaway. I also had to order books because Book Smugglers distributes their books through IngramSpark and most bookstores will only order a few copies (because of the no return policy). Therefore, authors have to order books and bring them to the store. So, I needed help with lifting books, setting up the food, etc. Mobilize your community and ask writer friends for help on your big day. They’ll be happy to help with moral support, too. I’m glad I flexed my usually underutilized “asking for help” muscles. I had fantastic help and support that day.

-Promote and advertise your event at least a month beforehand. And, don’t just rely on one or two promotional strategies.

I used Twitter, my Author Facebook page, my personal Facebook page and blog to promote the event. I posted a month before, three weeks before, two weeks before and a few days before the event. McIntryre’s Books created a Facebook event page. The only thing that I didn’t do that I will do next time is to also invite people through email. I had a fantastic turnout, but several close friends weren’t there. These are folks that don’t regularly check Facebook. I over-relied on the Facebook event and my personal page for promotion. I also didn’t want to “bother” people by posting too much. Given that it takes several “touches” for people to get something on their calendar, and you never know what people actually see and when they see it, it’s better to post often. Next time, I know that it’s better to cover all the bases one can, including good old email. I also forgot to email my newsletter list!

a lovely audience

a full house!

Practice what you will read and time yourself. Do it over and over until you feel confident.

I received good advice from some writers on Twitter when I asked about tips for doing a reading. Many stressed to pick the highlights and sections of the book that pop. Most of Reenu-You moves between two narrators, Kat and Constancia. I decided to read brief snippets of when we first meet them. They both have distinctive worldviews and use of language that made those snippets very fun to read. I reminded myself that I just needed to provide an appetizer to the audience to entice them to want to read more.

Get rest the night before.

I was restless and didn’t sleep that well the night before the reading. That morning I got up and did some gentle yoga and meditation which was extremely helpful for getting grounded (as they always are).

Eat something beforehand or have an energy bar with you.

You’ll probably already feel jittery, hunger will exacerbate that feeling.

Take cough drops with you.

I know writers who carry cough drops in case their throat gets dry before a reading. I didn’t carry cough drops, but I did use Nasya oil which is a medicated oil that lubricates the nasal passages and promotes concentration. Nasya is a cleansing technique used in Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic science that originates in India. I swear by this technique during fall and winter when the weather is more drying and one becomes susceptible to colds and flus. Doing Nasya is also very grounding.

Food is always appreciated at an author event.

I had a nice spread of snacks, cheeses, fruit, lemonade and sparkling wine. Also a friend made great cupcakes which garnered kudos and became the second star of the day. She tried to match the frosting colors to the colors on Reenu-You’s cover. I think she did a great job.

I loved seeing people connecting and talking about writing while eating delicious food.

I splurged on food and wine as I wanted this to be a celebratory moment. When I do future readings, I will probably keep it simple-just cupcakes and champagne!

Consider offering a door prize or two. People find them fun and it contributes to the festive environment.

I absolutely love receiving door prizes at events! I decided that I wanted to give away some door prizes for my reading. I gave away my book and The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn. I’m a huge fan of Joanna Penn’s work as a podcaster, author champion and writer and I wanted to encourage the writers in the audience with her words of wisdom. I also gave away Nisa Shawl’s novel, Everfair. I met Nisi when I was a graduate student and lived in Ann Arbor. She worked in a used bookstore and somehow I discovered that she also loved speculative fiction and also wanted to be a writer. It was always a joy to visit her as we would talk endlessly about speculative fiction. She was the first person of color I knew that also wanted to write science fiction! When I was telling this story to the audience, I reminded then that although now everyone seems to be talking about Afrofuturism, Octavia Butler, writers of color in speculative fiction and Black Speculative Arts, twenty-five years ago this was not the case! In the early 1990s, I knew of Octavia Butler and Samuel Delaney, but I didn’t have a community of people who looked like me that I could talk about speculative fiction or being a writer in the genre. Nisi was a wonderful informal mentor and friend. I am thrilled for her success with Everfair which is a alternate history novel that re-imagines what might have happened in the Congo, during colonization, if its inhabitants had access to steampunk technology.

My friend Sam won Nisi’s book! A perfect fit as he is a literary and film scholar and is interested in speculative fiction.

Bring a great pen to sign books.

Your first event will probably bring a lot of people that you know. I found myself wanting to write much longer notes in the book which slowed the line. Also, they’ll want to chat a bit which is fun. Remember that energy bar? You might need to take a few bites in case your energy flags some.

Pete, one of the booksellers gave me a Sharpie to sign books with. I had meant to bring a special pen, but that detail totally got lost while preparing for everything else. I was terrified of messing up with that Sharpie, but I didn’t’.

I’ve seen other authors have a slip of paper with them and they ask people to write their names down. This ensures that you don’t spell someone’s name wrong which would be a big bummer.

Savor this feeling—allow yourself to be celebrated.

I am so grateful to folks who were able to make it to McIntyre’s Books. I looked out into the audience and saw former students, academic colleagues, community folk, writer friends and new faces. It was a real delight to experience the fullness of that moment. The writing journey is that much sweeter when you can share some of the peaks with friends.

So much fun seeing friends and holding up my book!

The time really flew by. At moments I found myself saying, “It’s all happening so fast.” I remember hearing from a coach that in order to get our brain to really “take in”, or anchor a positive experience, we have to focus on it for about ten seconds. Otherwise, it just slides by and gets drowned out in the noise of life.

I kept trying to remind myself to let the amazing feelings sink in. And, I whispered to the universe, “Thanks universe, more experiences like this, please! I’m ready!”

 

 

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I know many authors that choose to not ever look at their reviews. I’m not there yet! My new novella, Reenu-You has been garnering some lovely reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and I am super happy. Check in with me on the day I receive a 1 star review and I am sure my tune will change. Until then, however, I am celebrating.

I’m grateful to writing buddies (and customers) who have taken the time to write an honest review. Writing a review is such an important way to support an author. And, they don’t have to be long! Most people take a peek at reviews before purchasing a book. Reading others’ reviews can generate excitement for the book. Also, from what I understand, having lots of reviews (preferably good ones), helps with the algorithms Amazon uses to promote books.

Also, since editing the novella and getting it into production took longer than either the publisher or I expected, we didn’t get a lot of time to generate early reviews. So, again I’m pleased that reviews are starting to come in.

Below, I’m highlighting two reviews that appeared on blogs:

Nice review @ Black Girl Nerds–they did my cover reveal in May.

Engaging review @ Fraser Sherman’s blog. Fraser Sherman, is a writer and prolific blogger. He runs a fantastic blog that reviews speculative novels, movies, comics, and films both past and present. And, he writes about many other topics.

If you’re a speculative fiction lover and interested in reviewing Reenu-You this summer, drop me a line at mtb@creativetickle.com and I’ll get an ARC to you.

How do you renew and refresh yourself? What are the kinds of activities that supercharge you?

Most of the writers I know write a lot. Most write daily.

The creative professionals I know are doing it all, all the time—writing, creating, supporting other creatives, marketing, honing their craft, etc., in addition to living a full life. Demands continue to expand. Many creative professionals I know are skirting the edges of burnout.

A few years ago, I decided to stop waiting for week-long vacations to take a break. Those kind of vacations are great, but for me they usually only came once a year. And, by the time I went on them, I was so mentally and physically fatigued that I usually spent a chunk of it in bed or sick. A bummer! Also, I found myself putting so much emotional energy into ‘having a great time’ that it put unrealistic expectations on the trip.

New research suggests that shorter breaks throughout the year may leave people feeling happier and more productive.

When friends recently invited me to hang out with them, for a few days, at the beach, I jumped at the chance.

I also did something rare for me. I didn’t bring my computer. This was huge! My computer and I are usually inseparable. I’ll often bring it along on a vacation to do creative work.  My amazing partner, Tim, was the one who suggested that I take a break from writing on the computer

Take a break from writing on the computer? The suggestion almost caused heart palpitations. He is a wise man, however, and I decided to follow his suggestion. I old schooled it—bringing a journal and some books.

I love being outdoors in just about any kind of setting, but the beach is the place I unwind the best.

Three nights and four days was a great gift. Hanging with friends, playing games, taking long walks and doing nothing was a balm for my body, mind and spirit.

Filling up the creative well is an important component of living a creative life.

 

This daybreak beckoned to me. I spent some time drinking in the morning light and then grabbed my journal and started writing.

 

An amazing flan to end a great day at the beach.

 

Key Lime Krush, Purple Rain, the Slim Shady and Butterfinger Bash were some of the offerings at the suggestively titled ‘Wake N Bake’ Coffee and Donut Shop. If you’re ever driving through Carolina Beach, check them out.

 

More offerings from Wake N Bake.

As it turned out, by taking a few days off, I was able to break through on some writing projects that were stuck. I even plotted out what I hope will be a coquel (yes, I made that word up) to my current sci-fi novella, Reenu-You. Our imagination gets all fired up when we experience new things and get out of our typical schedule!

I have never hunted for ‘ghost crabs’ before but a friend suggested we do it one evening. It was so much fun! We flashed our lights on this guy.

Do you have a short break coming up this summer? Where are you going to stock your creative well?

It’s so easy to talk ourselves out of submitting our work. Rejection is painful. Even though I am a coach and a creative writer, I, too, find ways to ‘self-reject’ my work. It’s never a good idea. Always get your work under review, submitted, in the pile, seen. It’s a simple fact that if we creatives want to have an audience, someone has to read, see, or hear and experience our work. The only way we can do that is to submit our work to others.

In January, I taught a workshop called ‘Charting Your Path to Publication: Tips, Techniques and Lessons for Writers.’ An amazing group of writers came out to learn how to beat the odds of rejection when submitting to journals, magazines, etc. We talked about strategies to submit our work, the courage to send it out and the perseverance to keep going in the face of rejection.

I shared how inspired I was by a great interview with the writer Laurence MacNaughton on Mur Lafferty’s “I Should Be Writing” podcast. He shared that he struggled for many many years getting his fiction published. He had many cardboard boxes filled with rejection letters. When he moved into a new home, he decided to open up those boxes and count his rejection letters.

He counted and stacked up 100, 200, and 300 rejection letters. As I listened to the story, I held my breath. So many questions ran through my mind. How many did he have? Where was he going to stop? How many rejection letters did I have a decade ago? He kept on counting and found himself at 500, 600, and then 800 rejections. He stopped when he reached a 1000 rejection letters. He stopped counting them even though he had more letters! He felt so bad about it that he stopped temporarily writing. He felt like anyone who could amass 1000 rejection letters should not write.

He said that that not writing was really hard and that he soon came to the realization that writing was essential to his mission and purpose on the planet. It’s what gave him joy. He decided to write, no matter whether he was published or not. He kept submitting his work and soon after that sold one of his novels. He’s now a full-time writer.

I was very moved by this story as it reminds us that all we can control is what we send out and although we will inevitably get rejected, we have to submit our work. And, we have to find joy in the writing itself, no matter what the outcome. As Laurence says, “Rejections mean you are doing what you need to do, you just need to keep going.”

Recently, I almost talked myself out of submitting work.  Last fall, I saw this call:

Octavia Estelle Butler was born on 22 June, 1947, and died in 2006. In celebration of what would have been her 70th birthday in 2017, and in recognition of Butler’s enormous influence on speculative fiction, and African-American literature more generally, Twelfth Planet Press is publishing a selection of letters and essays written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans.

I got goose bumps reading this call. Octavia Butler is one of my favorite authors. I teach her work and her nonfiction essay, “Positive Obsession” is one that I credit for inspiration in pursuing my writing life.

I put it on my calendar to submit, but as the deadline approached, I found myself saying:

“Every prominent speculative fiction writer is going to submit something—I can’t compete.”

“I want to write about the impact of her nonfiction on me and her use of affirmations to boost her confidence. The editors probably won’t be interested in that.”

And on…

I was about to talk myself right out of submitting due to fear. I was going to self-reject. Thank goodness a writing friend messaged me with the link and said, “Hey, I know you’re a Butler fan, you’re submitting to this right?’

That little encouragement got me in gear. I decided to write the essay. I told myself, if it gets rejected, I can pitch to the speculative fiction magazine. Someone could want this essay.

I sent it off, pleased with the essay, but not expecting anything.

I’m thrilled to say that my essay WILL appear in the anthology. I am so honored to be in this collection. See details below.

Always give others a chance to evaluate your work. Never self-reject!

We are excited to announce the contributors of original letters and essays for Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. There are letters from people who knew Butler and those who didn’t; some who studied under her at the Clarion and Clarion West workshops and others who attended those same workshops because of her; letters that are deeply personal, deeply political, and deeply poetic; and letters that question the place of literature in life and society today. Essays include original pieces about Butler’s short story “Bloodchild” and whether we should respect Butler’s wishes about not reprinting certain works. All of these original pieces show the place that Octavia Butler had, has, and will continue to have in the lives of modern writers, editors, critics and fans. Our contributors include:

Rasha Abdulhadi
Raffaella Baccolini
Moya Bailey
Steven Barnes
Michele Tracy Berger
Tara Betts
Lisa Bennett Bolekaja
Mary Elizabeth Burroughs
K Tempest Bradford
Cassandra Brennan
Jennifer Marie Brissett
Stephanie Burgis
Christopher Caldwell
Gerry Canavan
Joyce Chng
Indra Das
L Timmel Duchamp
Sophia Echavarria
Tuere TS Ganges
Stephen R Gold
Jewelle Gomez
Kate Gordon
Rebecca J Holden
Tiara Janté
Valjeanne Jeffers
Alex Jennings
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Kathleen Kayembe
Hunter Liguore
Karen Lord
ZM Quỳnh
Asata Radcliffe
Aurelius Raines II
Cat Rambo
Nisi Shawl
Jeremy Sim
Amanda Emily Smith
Cat Sparks
Elizabeth Stephens
Rachel Swirsky
Bogi Takács
Sheree Renée Thomas
Jeffrey Allen Tucker
Brenda Tyrrell
Paul Weimer
Ben H Winters
K Ceres Wright
Hoda Zaki

Luminescent Threads will also include reprints of articles that have appeared in various forums, like SF Studies, exploring different aspects of Butler’s work.

Luminescent Threads will be published by Twelfth Planet Press in June 2017.

 

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Dear readers,

I’ve missed you. It’s been more than a month since my last post—extremely unlike me. I will have lots of wonderful writing updates to share shortly—which will explain my absence. And, I expect to resume my weekly posts. In the meantime, I am excited to share the interview below.

***

In 2016, I became a fan of Jake Bible, a writer and the host of the ‘Writing In Suburbia’ podcast. Writing In Suburbia is geared toward pro-writers, but is chock-full of great information for writers at all levels. The podcast is irreverent and speaks to the less glamorous side of the writing life (e.g. embracing housework chores of the day). Jake’s a prolific writer across many genres. He typically writes a novel a month. You read that right, a novel a month!

One of the features that Jake hosts on his website is ‘Friday Night Drabble Party’. Drabble was a new term to me. A drabble is a 100 word story. He writes a new one just about every Friday. I enjoy reading his drabbles and that got me interested in microfiction.

I’m grateful that Jake is always encouraging writers to look at our self-limiting beliefs and challenges us to prepare for success. Check out his ‘Prepare for Success’ episode on WIS.

I didn’t believe that I could write a drabble, or rather a good drabble. But, I decided that such a belief was really limiting. What was it based on anyway? I had never even tried to write a compressed story. So this spring, I challenged myself to write several drabbles a week for fun. I read a lot of micro and flash fiction and got very inspired. I got into a rhythm with writing drabbles and thought some of them were good enough to submit. One has already been published in the Thing Magazine and another has been accepted for publication (news forthcoming). This happy turn of events would not have happened with being inspired by Jake’s fiction and podcast.

When I heard that his new novel was in a genre he hadn’t written in before and with a new publisher, I figured that he would have valuable insights to share.

Jake Bible is a Bram Stoker Award nominated-novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel. Jake is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series set in Asheville, NC, the bestselling Salvage Merc One, the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash) and the Mega series for Severed Press, as well as the YA zombie novel, Little Dead Man, the Teen horror novel, Intentional Haunting, the middle grade scifi/horror ScareScapes series, and the Reign of Four series, which he calls “medieval space fiction” for Permuted Press. As of 2017, he also publishes with Bell Bridge Books and will be releasing three books, starting with Stone Cold Bastards.

I’m delighted to welcome Jake Bible to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

jakebibleauthor2016-72dpi

-Tell us about your new novel, Stone Cold Bastards. What inspired it?

The title. I came up with the title one night and wracked my brain trying to figure out what story would go with such a cool title. It came to me eventually, since it’s kind of in the first two words: stone and cold. What are stone and cold? Gargoyles!

-Can you tell us about some of the characters that we meet in this work?

The novel centers on a rag tag team of misfit gargoyles that have been tasked with protecting the last of humanity from the demon-possessed hordes that have taken over the world. This is a novel that has a lot of characters. You have the gargoyles, you have the humans being protected, you have demons, you have other survivors out in the ravaged landscape. My favorite of them all has to be Mordecai. While not the leader of the gargoyles, he is the one the others turn to when things are about to go down. He’s kind of the rock of the group, no pun intended. He’s a gruff bastard and constantly has a cigar clamped between his stone teeth. Yet despite that hard exterior, he does have a soft spot inside for the humans he’s been given the impossible task of keeping alive. He works his stone butt off and takes his job very seriously. I really dig Morty.

-You’re known as a writer who crosses many genres. This novel is urban fantasy, a genre that you hadn’t written in before. What did you learn about yourself as a writer while completing this novel?

I learned that while genres matter, and make a difference in the tone and setting of a novel, in the end all novels come down to the story and the characters. Once I got into the swing of the story, just like I do with all the novels I write, the setting fell away and I was able to concentrate on the characters. I was able to focus on action and dialogue. The fact that it was a new genre was more daunting in the beginning, but after a couple of chapters I said to myself, “You’ve got this. It’s just another novel. Do your thing.” So I did my thing and was able to relax into it.

stone-cold-bastards-final

-What aspect of the writing craft felt the most difficult for you to understand and execute when you were a beginning writer?  How did you overcome this?

The mechanics of writing was tough for me. I do not have a college degree. I didn’t go through a creative writing program. I am 100% self-educated, so I had to apply everything I’d learned as a reader to my writing. Simple mistakes in grammar that sound good coming out of my mouth, were not so good on the page. I had to unlearn a lot of my verbal affectations so that my writing could come across as something other than illiterate garbage. The way I overcame this was to write my very first novel in a drabble format. A drabble is a piece of micro-fiction where the entire story is exactly 100 words, no more, no less. I wrote Dead Mech in 100 word sections. That forced me to go back over what I wrote and edit on the spot. I quickly saw my mistakes, fixed them, tightened up the prose, and moved on to the next drabble. By the end of the novel, I was a tight writer. The grammatical mistakes I was making when I started were corrected by the end. I’ll never write another novel that way again, but it gave me a crash course in the craft that I’d missed by not going to college.

-If you could invite three living writers to a dinner party that you’re hosting, who would you invite and why?

Living writers? Yikes. Uh, Cormac McCarthy because Blood Meridian is one of the greatest horror novels ever written even though people call it a western. It’s not. It’s horror. Robert McCammon because he has been a huge influence on me as a writer. Also, I want to pick his brain about going from a career writing horror novels and into writing historical mystery novels in his Matthew Corbett books. Jeez, picking a third writer is hard. All my heroes are dead. Maybe Christopher Moore. I love his writing and the guy is hilarious. He’d help keep the dinner talk from getting too morose and serious.

-What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Never quit. Sit your ass down and do the work. Writing is work. The vast majority of people who are not writers think it’s fun and being a writer must be a dream come true. It is fun and it is a dream come true, but the fun and the dream happen because you sit in your chair and work until you can’t work anymore. Then you do the same thing the next day. And the next. You never quit. You do the work and keep doing the work until you get to where you want to be.

 

Born Jacob David Bible pre-Microsoft in Bellevue, WA, Jake was whisked away to the Beaver State when he was three and raised fundamentalist pagan. Fed a steady diet of Doritos, Fritos Bean Dip and Chinese herbal tonics, Jake had so many vivid hallucinations that he was writing and binding his own books by fifth grade. True story.

He grew up fascinated with the speculative and the macabre. He spent many summers on his grandparents’ lake reading a leather bound, Franklin Library Edition of The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. No, it wasn’t a haunted book. And, no, it wasn’t a haunted lake. Yes, his grandparents were actually re-animated corpses that had been accidentally murdered and then raised from the dead when a cocktail party got just a little out of hand. And they drank gin and tonics. True story.

Jake currently lives in the Asheville, NC area with his wife, two kids, and two dogs. And although he writes about zombies and cannibals, Jake does not eat of the flesh himself (that means he’s a vegetarian, son. I say, I say, stop bein’ so dense, ya hear?). But, he will eat the non-homicidal animal foodstuffs because pizza is its own food group and soy cheese just ain’t gonna cut it.

True story.

Visit him at https://jakebible.com/

 

We’re two weeks into 2017. Have you already broken one of your New Year’s resolutions regarding your creative life?

If so, you’re in good company as studies show that at least one third of people break their resolutions within the first week of making them. And, almost half of all people who make resolutions break them within a month.

Most of us don’t reach our creative goals without structure and accountability.

Doors are almost closed on my signature ‘Tone Your Creative Core™’ Program.

I have added a NEW BONUS just for you:

On Sunday, January 15th, I will host a LIVE group coaching call. I’ll be talking about what needs to be in your creativity start-up kit to set you up for success in 2017. I’ll do a powerful visioning exercise and share a few ways to “hack your brain” for increased creativity. The majority of the call will be me answering YOUR questions. Have questions about publishing, finding motivation, getting past the inner critic? ASK THEM and get helpful answers. I want to support you in dreaming about what you want to accomplish in 2017 and to planning how you will do it.

Check out the details here. A small investment with a big payoff.

What I’ve discovered in my coaching practice and my own writing life is that are four key challenges that keep writers from writing:

  1. Finding TIME to write
  2. Lack of structure and accountability to support Goal Setting
  3. Untamed inner critics that make us feel UNWORTHY. The result is that you don’t write consistently or get more of your writing out into the world.
  4. Limiting beliefs about MONEY, ABUNDANCE and PROSPERITY

I talked about debilitating nature of these 4 things on the ‘Affirm the Writer in You’ webinar. Go here for the replay.

I’ve opened the doors for my signature program ‘Tone Your Creative Core™’ Program which helps creative people deal with the universal blockers of time, money, self-worth and goal-setting that ALL creative people, especially writers struggle with.

‘Tone Your Creative Core™’ teaches you how to bust through these common blocks so you can ‘smackdab’ in the middle of your busy life.

I have a special FAST-ACTION Bonus— if you act by 11:59 Jan 3rd you will ALSO receive a personal coaching session with me!

I can help you create a plan of action for your writing life in 2017.

The program begins January 10, 2017.

This program is available for a limited time for $67!

Imagine what it will feel like to conquer blocks that have thwarted your writing success for so long!

Check out all the program offers including the FAST ACTION BONUS and other bonuses here.

 

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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