Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ray Bradbury on Writing Persistently

Something to be said (from a master) about writing for ourselves. Turning that corner to writing from exteriors to creating from interiors; our experiences, all so unique and divine in their own ways. No two stories alike, not lived the same, experienced the same or told the same.

I'm looking forward to reading his book, "Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius in You." I just KNEW there was a creative genius in here. She's just been held hostage by that devilish inner critic~ like the guy in France who wears a disguise, helps himself to gourmet food by topnotch chefs and then swings his magic wand (from behind closed screens), holding sway over how many others order from said chef's menu.

My creative genius has been trapped under years of heavy baggage loaded with molting, overripe cheeses~ like the kind friends once tried to send home from France, which got lost and arrived months later. Needless to say, all of the stinking cargo had to be thrown out. My guess is the bag went as well!

Time to throw out the old, moldy footschtink that's been festering for decades and allow the creative goddess to play, dance, create to her wild heart's content.

Now if I could just find my lined paper...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Teaser Tuesday!

Here we are again with Teaser Tuesday, hosted by MizB at brought to me by way of Ms. Lucy at Enchanted by Josephine.

Here's how to play:

*Grab your current read,
*Open to a random page,
*Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page,
*Please no spoilers!
*Share the title & author.

Here's this week's Teaser:

From Catherine MacCoun's "The Age of Miracles."

"The first snow of the winter weighted the clouds and made the town quiet. Though it was still midafternoon, lamps burned in the shops and houses. Night would be falling even before the church bells rang vespers. The heads of his children, like gay gallant flames, made people smile as they passed."

(I prefer to add 4 lines. Makes things more interesting!)

Your turn!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday is 'Missing Paris Day' ~Loire

Shot in the Loire Region of France outside one of the chateaux (Azay le Rideau, I believe). Picturing myself there now, walking through rooms teeming with history, the air heavy with the dust of mingled sighs long since expired; lives of people and customs long since past.
Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen

Friday, May 22, 2009

Book Giveaway by Amy

The fabulously well-read Amy at Passages to the Past is hosting another book giveaway. Pop on over and comment on the post or sign up as a follower to enter to win. (Giveaway ends May 27th. Winner announced May 28th!) This is one author I should really have read by now. So here's hoping...

Will be upriver this weekend~ working, reading, writing, and soaking in hot mineral waters while watching the cool river drift by.

Happy Holiday Weekend to all!

River Photography copyright: Kirsten Steen

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

Ok, I'm playing.
Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should be Reading. And I got the idea from: Enchanted by Josephine.

*Grab your current read and play along. Let the book fall open to a random page and *Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
*Please also share the title of the book from which your “teaser” comes from.
*And please avoid spoilers!

My "teasers" are from John Berendt's "City of Falling Angels".

"Venice could be a disorienting place, even for people who lived there and thought they knew it well. The narrow, winding streets, together with the serpentine course of the Grand Canal and the absence of any landmarks visible from a distance, made it difficult to keep one's bearings. Ernest Hemingway described Venice as a 'strange, tricky town'; and walking in it as 'better than working crossword puzzles'. To me it occasionally felt like walking through a funhouse, especially at times when, twenty minutes after having set out on a course that I had thought was a straight line, I discovered I was right back where I started."

So I put in 4 lines. Call me a rule breaker!

Happy Teaser Tuesday!

Monday, May 18, 2009

'Missing Paris Day' again~Champ de Mars

Another Monday wishing I was sitting on a bench in the Champ de Mars with a pad of smooth, lined, white paper and a softly flowing pen, watching the flowers make their robust appearance~children playing along the fountain~ lovers smooching, limbs entwined, on the other green benches nearby.

On one visit a few years ago, I had flown in on an October weekday by myself and while my sister and 'brozer-een-love' worked, without having the usual shortstop by their place for a quick shower and "just resting my eyes" nap before going out into The-World-That-Is-Paris, I walked to the Champ de Mars nearby to have my nap on a sun-drenched bench beneath the Eiffel Tower.

I had barely closed my eyes when I heard the distinct holler of a popping champagne cork near me. I looked over to see 3 middle-aged women in party hats singing 'Bon Anniversaire' and pouring their Nectar of the Gods (or 'fun-serum') into plastic flutes. I sat up to watch the party and my open eyes somehow put me on their radar. I was immediately hooted, hollered and waved at to come join. My smile and I sauntered over, were handed a plastic flute and asked our name.

They were from Canada and on their last day of a 3-Day-Birthday-Weekend for "Helen" who had just turned 50. We toasted 'Helen', Paris, Turning 50 and my luck at having relatives in Paris, after hearing my story. They were spending their last day doing a museum and dinner, after champagne, of course.

We polished off the bottle in short order, chattered awhile and then they were off, each of us thanking the other for celebrating together!

I settled back down on my bench for that nap, and between sunshine, jet-lag and champagne, had no trouble drifting off under the trees. I'm betting my smile was still awake during that nap!
While I'm certain that champagne is not the best antidote for jet-lag, my smile and I sometimes share a giggle over the memory of once having been a 'slightly-tipsy' bum sound asleep on a park bench below the Eiffel Tower.
Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Guest Blogger: Christina Katz

I picked up a copy of Christina Katz's book recently: Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform. One of the things aspiring authors (like moi) need to know these days is how to get started~ beyond writing that is. And Platform is one way to do just that. The problem is that many newbies don't know exactly what Platform means. So here to explain exactly what this entails is Guest Blogger: Christina Katz.


Interview with Christina Katz
Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on “Good Morning America.” Christina teaches e-courses on platform development and writing nonfiction for publication.

Her students are published in national magazines and land agents and book deals. Christina has been encouraging reluctant platform builders via her e-zines for five years, has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. A popular speaker at writing conferences, writing programs, libraries, and bookstores, she hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon. She is also the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books).

Q: What is a platform?

CK: Long story short: Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform.
A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Get Known explains in plain English, without buzzwords, how any writer can stand out from the crowd of other writers and get the book deal. The book clears an easy-to-follow path through a formerly confusing forest of ideas so any writer can do the necessary platform development they need to do.

Q: Why is platform development important for writers today?

CK: Learning about and working on a solid platform plan gives writers an edge. Agents and editors have known this for years and have been looking for platform-strong writers and getting them book deals. But from the writer’s point-of-view, there has not been enough information on platform development to help unprepared writers put their best platform forward.
Now suddenly, there is a flood of information on platform, not all necessarily comprehensive, useful or well organized for folks who don’t have a platform yet. Writers can promote themselves in a gradual, grounded manner without feeling like they are selling out. I do it, I teach other writers to do it, I write about it on an ongoing basis, and I encourage all writers to heed the trend. And hopefully, I communicate how in a practical, step-by-step manner that can serve any writer. Because ultimately, before you actively begin promoting yourself, platform development is an inside job requiring concentration, thoughtfulness and a consideration of personal values.

Q: How did you come to write Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: I already had a lot of momentum going when I got the deal for a very specific audience. I wrote a column on the topic for the Willamette Writer’s newsletter. Then I started speaking on platform. When I gave my presentation, “Get Known Before the Book Deal,” at the Writer’s Digest/BEA Writer’s Conference in May 2007, Phil Sexton, one of my publisher’s sales guys, saw it and suggested making the concept into a book. Coincidentally, I was trying to come up with an idea for my second book at that time and had just struck out with what I thought were my three best ideas. My editor, Jane Friedman agreed with Phil. That was two votes from people sitting on the pub board. They converted the others with the help of my proposal, and Get Known got the green light.

Q: Why was a book on platform development needed?

CK: Writers often underestimate how important platform is and they often don’t leverage the platform they already have enough. At every conference I presented, I took polls and found that about 50 percent of attendees expressed a desire for a clearer understanding of platform. Some were completely in the dark about it, even though they were attending a conference in hopes of landing a book deal. Since book deals are granted based largely on the impressiveness of a writer’s platform, I noticed a communication gap that needed to be addressed.
My intention was that Get Known would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference, and that it would increase any writer’s chances of landing a book deal whether they pitched in-person or by query. As I wrote the book, I saw online how this type of information was being offered as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can even ask your library to order it and read it for free.

Q: What is the key idea behind Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: Getting known doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take an in-depth understanding of platform, and then the investment of time, skills and consistent effort to build one. Marketing experience and technological expertise are also not necessary. I show how to avoid the biggest time and money-waster, which is not understanding who your platform is for and why – and hopefully save writers from the confusion and inertia that can result from either information overload or not taking the big picture into account before they jump into writing for traditional publication.
Often writers with weak platforms are over-confident that they can impress agents and editors, while others with decent platforms are under-confident or aren’t stressing their platform-strength enough. Writers have to wear so many hats these days, we can use all the help we can get. Platform development is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Anyone can do it, but most don’t or won’t because they either don’t understand what is being asked for, or they haven’t overcome their own resistance to the idea. Get Known offers a concrete plan that can help any writer make gains in the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive publishing landscape.

Q: What is the structure of the book and why did you choose it?

CK: Writer Mama was written in small, easy-to-digest chunks so busy new moms could stick it in a diaper bag and read it in the nooks and crannies of the day. Get Known is a bit more prosaic, especially in the early chapters. Most of the platform books already out there were only for authors, not writers or aspiring authors. To make platform evolution easy to comprehend, I had to dial the concepts back to the beginning and talk about what it’s like to try and find your place in the world as an author way before you’ve signed a contract, even before you’ve written a book proposal. No one had done that before in a book for writers. I felt writers needed a context in which to chart a course towards platform development that would not be completely overwhelming.
Introducing platform concepts to writers gives them the key information they need to succeed at pitching an agent either via query or in-person, making this a good book for a writer to read before writing a book proposal. Get Known has three sections: section one is mostly stories and cautionary tales, section two has a lot of to-do lists any writer should be able to use, and section three is how to articulate your platform clearly and concisely so you won’t waste a single minute wondering if you are on the right track.

Q: At the front of Get Known, you discuss four phases of the authoring process. What are they?

CK: First comes the platform development and building phase. Second comes the book proposal development phase (or if you are writing fiction, the book-writing phase). Third, comes the actual writing of the book (for fiction writers this is likely the re-writing of the book). And finally, once the book is published, comes the book marketing and promoting phase.
Many first-time authors scramble once they get a book deal if they haven’t done a thorough job on the platform development phase. Writers who already have a platform have influence with a fan base, and they can leverage that influence no matter what kind of book they write. Writing a book is a lot easier if you are not struggling to find readers for the book at the same time. Again, agents and editors have known this for a long time.

Q: What are some common platform mistakes writers make?

CK: Here are a few:

They don’t spend time clarifying who they are to others.
They don’t zoom in specifically on what they offer.
They confuse socializing with platform development.
They think about themselves too much and their audience not enough.
They don’t precisely articulate all they offer so others get it immediately.
They don’t create a plan before they jump online.
They undervalue the platform they already have.
They are overconfident and think they have a solid platform when they have only made a beginning.
They become exhausted from trying to figure out platform as they go.
They pay for “insider secrets” instead of trusting their own instincts.
They blog like crazy for six months and then look at their bank accounts and abandon the process as going nowhere.
I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say that many writers promise publishers they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver.
My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them. Get Known shows writers of every stripe how to become the writer who can not only land a book deal, but also influence future readers to plunk down ten or twenty bucks to purchase their book. It all starts with a little preparation and planning. The rest unfolds from there.

Q: Couldn’t any author have written this book? Why you?

CK: I have built a career over the past decade empowering writers. I’ve developed and built my own platform as a writing-for-traditional-publication specialist, and I’ve worked with others as a writing and platform-development instructor. Many of the people I’ve been working with are landing book deals and while the other hundred-or-so writers I work with a year are developing their skills, I notice patterns of behavior—what leads to success, where writers get stuck, and how I can be helpful in these rapidly changing times in the industry.
I’ve witnessed too many writers, who were off to a great start, hopping online and quickly becoming very lost. I started to write about platform in Writer Mama, How To Raise A Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, but I quickly noticed that more details on platform development were desperately needed. My platform is based on helping others. I have a vested interest in seeing the people I work with—and those who read my book—succeed. Writers are my tribe.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Another Monday~'Missing Paris Day'~Le Seine

Shot looking back at Notre Dame near one of our favorite cafes along the Seine on the Ile St. Louis, Le Lutetia (which was Paris' original name dating back to Pre-Roman times). Many a Kir and Chocolat Chaud have been blissfully sipped at one of their outdoor corner tables here rain or shine. Under the eave for protection from the sun or with the outdoor heater over us, only the drink depends on the weather!

Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Wishing a Happy Mother's Day to all those caring, giving, selfless beings out there who have made us who we are! And that includes the Mother Ship!

Image by Nasa made available from PD

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday is 'Missing Paris Day'~Chartre Cathedral

While spring rain is presently melting my enthusiasm here in the Pacific NW, memories of France in the spring keep my fire delightfully crackling away.

These were taken in May a couple of springs ago at one of our favorites: Chartres Cathedral just a short drive or trainride out of Paris. Enjoy!

Throughout and between the maze of Mays, we all need a little rejuvenating.

Alors, moi,
...while fighting a wee sore throat this wet day of May...

I plan on cozying up to the fire with Andrea Lee's intriguing collection of short stories, "Interesting Women". Some fine writing. Happy Spring to all of you lovely and interesting women (and men of course)!
Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My Very First Blog Award

First ever! A huge thanks to Ms. Lucy at Enchanted by Josephine for her mention and blog award! Both mean a great deal to me (and don't miss her blog)!

And since these are meant to be passed on, I'd like to gratefully bestow these fabulous bloggers with this award as well.


Relyn at Come Sit by my Fire
Anita at Castles Crowns and Cottages
Vicki at French Essence
Polly at Sotto Voce
and Medieval Muse

What a wonderful community of women I have blessedly stumbled upon! I bow to you as I pass this on.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy May Day (& Beltaine)!

Happy Beltaine everyone! Wishing you a joyous weekend and prosperous future with all the magic and wishes anyone could hope for!

(Photo courtesy