Friday, December 19, 2014

I Shall Live An Urgent Living

In the middle of the busiest street in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, a long and tall blackboard is erected for visitors and locals, anyone, to write down their Before I Die ... wishes. A quick net search and I find that there are other walls of its kind around the world.

This makes me sad.

I believe it affects me this way because of the recent death of my husband. He did not want to die; I did not want him to die; I do not want to die nor think of dying. I want to live.

Maybe it's just semantics. Dying gives a body urgency. "The end is imminent, so baby, you better get to the living and in a big way." Why do we have to have doom hanging over our heads to declare that, yes, we shall take advantage of this precious time we have here and now? I want to live.
My favorite tree in Portland, Ore.

I agree dying strikes fear. Dying focuses our priorities. When someone you love dies, many realizations dawn. Life is fragile. Life is short. Life is filled with unnecessary complexities. Life is the people you love and the love you receive and give. Life begets life. Death, I believe, does not beget life. Before I Die wishes do not inspire life. I want to live.

A lifespan opens a window of infinite choices and opportunities. We are limited by ourselves, by our fears. For some less fortunate, the immorality of others limits life's potential. It is easy to write these words. It easy to comprehend them and say we will live fully and embrace the passionate ways and reject the heaviness that can accompany living. It is entirely something else to practice urgent living. I want to live.

Urgent living requires a vivid, unshakable faith that everything shall be okay. There is phrase in one religious practice: All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well. Most of us do not believe or embrace this concept. Because, many times, the path is cluttered. My path is cluttered. I have bills to pay and burdensome tasks to undertake and sacred obligations of parenthood to live up to. I want to live.

So I shall. It will be an imperfect urgent living. I shall not write in chalk on public blackboards those things that death inspires me to do. I will live needful of filling myself and others with beauty and potential, anything that inspires my motion-filled body to love in the doing. I shall live.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Publishing Trends from the Trenches

Regarding publishing, here are my thoughts as we near the end of 2014. Mine is not expert testimony. My ideas/opinions are collected by absorption rather than concentrated research. But I want to share my notes from the Asheville Bookfest this weekend, where I participated in a panel alongside several in-the-know writer-types.
AVL Bookfest 2014

Good News for Writers:

There are more ways than ever for a writer to get published.

Bad News for Writers:

The “old” way is harder than ever and demands as much work on the part of the writer as self-publishing.

Your work is creative content and should be considered marketable on many different levels – screenplays, video games, merchandise, graphic novels, TV series, YouTube, anywhere a good story and characters can be plugged in.

Let’s talk about the good news…

Writers have a wide range of options for publishing their work. This includes …

  • Writing a blog (my blog is hosted free on Google’s platform,
  • Being creative and going rogue, like Homestuck, which my kids are obsessed with (
  • Building a website to start an online (literary) journal/magazine for your own work or the work of others (several ways to do it free, such as
  • Joining forums for fanfiction (, tagline is “unleash your imagination" and includes a category for anime)
  • Joining social platforms for writers (the largest of which is, which has a database of 35 million registered user and 75 million free stories)
  • And writers have a wide range of options for self-publishing a book (what used to be called vanity press); the list is long of service provider

Big Self-Publishing Service Providers

          CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing arm, and its ebook platform Kindle Direct, both of which are free, for right now (major caveat) 
, which published both print and ebooks; it has a link to Indie Books on its homepage
 and, two of the most established due to longevity
, which also is associated with CDbaby if you want to produce music or the audio version of the book
, which is launching a new site that won the Innovation Award from the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) at the 2014 BookExpo America (BEA)
          …and right in middle America, out of Bloomington, IN, is, which may be the only one of the self-publishing entities that allows writers the option of earning 100% royalties. (Recently merged with Book Country.)

Because of the tremendous choices writers have now to publish on their own and because ebook readership is going up, this has put intense pressure on the traditional publishing house (and some boutique/small presses) to become even pickier about taking risks on new or unproven talent.

1.    The market is saturated with more books (some not so good; in fact, dare I say, very bad, poorly edited and written)
2.    Big names writers are opting to go it alone -- they fight for their digital rights or self-publish
3.    This makes it difficult for traditional publishers to find books they think will sell -- like picking a grain of sand from a beach

One way traditional houses are finding new talent is from self-published best-sellers. Agents and editors are trolling the lists of popular self-published books and going after those authors with contracts and promises of broader readership.

For the writer, the mantra is becoming: A well-received self-published book is the new query letter. 

Why Trends in Publishing Put a Greater Burden on the Writer

If you happen to enjoy being discovered or building a relationship with a traditional publishing house, you will likely end up doing your own marketing or be expected to by the publisher. This means, in many cases, developing your own brand (the hated B word), which may require significant investments in: 
  • graphics, art, photography
  • creating newsletters and building email lists
  • developing avenues for exposure, such as teaching, workshops, manuscript editing and tutoring, book reviewing, how-to articles and books about writing, guest blogging, public speaking, youth tutoring, and volunteering for writers groups
  • building a web presence: having a blog and website and as many social media outlets as possible (the list keeps growing, ever heard of Ello or Vine?)
  • being your own PR machine – white pages, press release, radio and TV interviews, road tours
  • finding and cultivating reviews of your work, which can easily consume hour upon hour of research
And the ever popular ...
  • become a fab-u-loso blogger
  • or just be smart and follow Jane Friedman
Catch you later.