Life in the Slow Lane

Contemplating life, faith, words, and memories

What Do Your Readers Want to Know About You? — October 8, 2013

What Do Your Readers Want to Know About You?

Heart of Forest by Wojtek Kowalski via Google under Creative Commons license
Heart of Forest by Wojtek Kowalski via Google under Creative Commons license

Twice this week I have read or heard something that made me sit up and take notice. In both instances, some of the discussion centered on our readers and the importance of placing the focus on them.

In other words, what is at the heart of your blog? Why are you blogging? What do you want people to know? AND what do your readers want to know about you?

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The first incident was while reading a post by Joel Friedlander in which he talks about the importance of an author maintaining a blog. After he has provided a list of things to include in your blog, Joel moves into a discussion of the “origin story,” basically where you are coming from.

In other words, our readers deserve a bit of our background and experience in order to trust that we are qualified to be writing what we write. We must share where we come from, our background, and our experience — the things that qualify us in their eyes.

Joel closes with a great example of how he used this himself after taking a course on blogging. He calls it his Publishing Timeline, an overview of the places where he had gained experience in publishing, the topic on which his blog is based.

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The second time I came across a similar reference was in a webinar presented by Joe Bunting of The Write Practice and Story Cartel. The subject of the webinar was building a platform for creative writers.

I know none of us like hearing any more about “platform,” and I understand most of you reading here are nonfiction writers, at the moment. I signed up for the webinar to learn a bit more as I have two historical fiction projects waiting in the wings. And I did pick up some good bits of information.

During the webinar, Joe talked about creative writersplacing their emphasis on writing about the genre they are writing in, others writing in the same genre, and books published in that genre than about how to write.

Granted Joe’s comments were directed to writers hoping to publish creative fiction and therefore he points toward writing about the writer’s chosen genre rather than so much about his “origin story.” Joe also pointed to sharing the story you are writing. He pointed out that Tim Grahl of Out:think says 40% of a book can be given way to some people but not everyone. A good example is James Patterson who gave away approximately 19 chapters of his last book.

Therefore, sharing your story on your blog is an effective way to begin building that platform, for capturing your readers’ interest now and when it’s time to publish, you have a following already interested.

Afterwards I thought to myself, “Well, you don’t have to tell me twice!” Usually hearing something repeated, or something similar, impresses on me that these are ideas worth remembering.

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Both Joel and Joe emphasize the impact these actions will have on building platform, drawing readers, and making our image known giving us a stronger reference point when we are ready to publish that next big book! As writers, our blog readers may become our book readers and our most valuable marketing tool.

?4U: What do you see here that will help you improve your standing with your readers? What do you want to start doing to implement either of these ideas? Join the discussion below!

Revisiting Simplify — May 7, 2013

Revisiting Simplify

Credit: Global Political Awakening
Credit: Global Political Awakening

Near the first of the year I posted on the word “simplify.”  Rather than fall victim to the idea of resolutions, I had chosen the word “simplify” as the focus of my year.  We had just spent 18 months travelling extensively and life had somehow gotten out of control.  I felt at loose ends and unable to write.  I needed to take control of life once more, and I hoped by simplifying my life I could find a sense of purpose and control.

Now in April I have just completed two, not one but two, challenges:  the A to Z Blog Challenge and Sue Mitchell’s challenge issued at An Untold Story to write 10 minutes each day before engaging in the Internet, emails or social media.  WHAT????  How did this simplify my life some have asked.

Unbelievably, I accomplished both, and in so doing learned some things about myself.

Click on image to visit A to Z Challenge 2013
Click on image to visit A to Z Challenge 2013

First, I really can write every day.  Yes, every day.  In the A to Z challenge, participants must write and post 26 times in the month as well as read and comment on others’ posts.  I selected a theme to give focus, calendared the letters of the alphabet, and worked ahead so I could schedule posts.  This worked well for me.

Sue Mitchell, The Memoir Muse at An Untold Story
Sue Mitchell, The Memoir Muse at An Untold Story

The second thing I learned is that the Internet, emails and social media can wait.That’s right — I said they can wait.  And for 30 days they did.  I no longer sit down and immediately get caught up in the social networking that I used to do first thing each morning.  I am so grateful to this challenge for helping me break this habit.  The time I spent on social media and networking previously gains about two hours or more a day.  No wonder I wasn’t getting any writing (or housework) done!

Gaining these new habits and strengths have simplified both my writing life and my other life. I sense accomplishment and a greater feeling of confidence in managing my time.  I have developed new habits, which continue to need some effort and work on my part.

Looking around, there are more things I can do to simplify, and I will.  It just takes time and more thought.  As we travel in a week or so, I’ll have time sitting on the train to think and ponder the other ways to simplify.  I certainly feel I have gained momentum in the last 30 days toward becoming a more focused writer with a simpler approach in my writing and my life.

I’m glad I selected the word “simplify” for my 2013 reflection.

How about you?  Are there things you do to simplify the world around you and your life?  

Adopted Reality, A Memoir by Laura Dennis — April 22, 2013

Adopted Reality, A Memoir by Laura Dennis

Laura Dennis‘s Adopted Reality, A Memoir opens with riveting and tense words:

“I’ve successfully infiltrated the Illuminati’s West Coast cell.  I suspect they’re onto me.”

Although the reader senses in these words a psychological thriller, Adopted Reality Adopted Realityis so much more.  Dennis writes with authenticity the raw truth of her many-sided life. Always searching for love as affirmation of her worth, she tells a story of personal perfectionism destroying happiness, how our flawed humanness is a natural part of each of us.  Unwittingly, through this drive for perfectionism, Dennis alienates friends and acquaintances leaving her feeling all alone.

The author effectively shares three life episodes in Adopted Reality:  her adoption, meeting her birth mother, and experiencing a bipolar episode after the events of September 11th.  Using flashbacks and smoothly crafted transitions in her writing, she pulls the reader into her story as if reading a novel and not a memoir.  This book is a page-turner not to be missed.

Reading Adopted Reality opened my eyes to two issues our society often fails to take note of. First, the dualistic life of adoptees.  Searching for answers to family history and background, tracing medical histories, hoping to find and meet birth parents, and the constant hope for a life of love and happiness while balancing unanswered questions and mysteries about who you really are is enough to create the environment for mental breakdown.

Second, the author shares her experiences with an episode of bipolar disorder.  Stories like hers need to be told  because unfortunately, despite advancements in medical science in many areas, very little has been done to provide better care for our citizens suffering from any one of a variety of mental illnesses.  And these stories bring a greater awareness to our society of the needs in this area.

Not only does the author tell us her story, she provides a guidepost for others writing in the memoir genre.  It is a pure example of the characteristics of a finely written memoir.

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I received a free copy of Adopted Reality, A Memoir from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.
One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir: Surviving Life with Undiagnosed ADD by Bryan L. Hutchinson (A Review) — February 20, 2013

One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir: Surviving Life with Undiagnosed ADD by Bryan L. Hutchinson (A Review)

Bryan L. Hutchinson has written a book for all parents, teachers, physicians and counselors as well as any adult diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (“ADD”) to read.  Hutchinson spent his entire youth and young adult life wondering what made him different, unacceptable in some settings, and caused his difficult relationship with his father.

One Boy's StruggleIn One Boy’s Struggle: A MemoirHutchinson shares his highs and lows, ups and downs, successes and failures, and how he finally came to understand himself and the world around him.

What this book is not:  

  • A manual of technical terminology explaining ADD in detail
  • A scientific explanation by a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist or other clinician
  • A medical textbook
  • An immediate fix for your loved one who suffers from ADD

What this book is:

  • An honest look at one individual’s life spent coping with an undiagnosed condition, ADD 
  • A sharing from the heart so that the reader might understand why a child behaves as he or she does, or why a spouse is behaving as she or he is, or why a co-worker is behaving as he or she is
  • A book detailing how one person finally found out what was causing his life struggles
  • A helpful look for parents, teachers and counselors in our schools at the ADD personality and behaviors in simple terms from someone who knows
  • And so much more!

As a grandmother of an 18-year old soon-to-be-graduate from high school, I found so much of my grandson in the pages of this book.  Not to mention a better understanding of his mother, my stepdaughter, who remains an undiagnosed ADD victim.  Fortunately, her son had the attention of teachers and his other grandmother in early grade school and has received some help along the way.

Hutchinson has offered a gift to the world of ADD patients, their families, teachers, physicians, and employers.  A handbook written by someone who knows firsthand what ADD is and how it feels to be the person living with it.

If you are in any way interacting with someone you know who has ADD or you suspect may have it, you must read this book.

One cautionary statement:  Hutchinson’s writing style mirrors the speech patterns of our grandson.  This is not to say that he isn’t a good writer — it is to say that he writes as he thinks, or as an ADDer thinks.  Rapidly, in long thoughts, and this can cause his writing to be disconcerting at first.  For some this may make reading the book seem difficult at first. Be patient and give Hutchinson a chance to help you understand him and many others.

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I received a free copy of One Boy’s Struggle from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.

Story Cartel — Making a Connection —

Story Cartel — Making a Connection

A few months ago Joe Bunting and Jeff Goins launched Story Cartel, “a site to help authors share their stories with readers.”sc-round-logo
Joe and Jeff set out to build a community where writers and readers would come together to share the stories they write.

One benefit to being a part of the Story Cartel is the ability to receive free books in exchange for an honest review.  I’ve just read my first book for Story Cartel and in the next day or two will be posting a review here.

I urge you as writers to visit the Story Cartel’s site to learn more about the sharing of stories and reviewing of books by other writers, the courses offered, and the many other opportunities Joe and Jeff will bring to the community in the future.

Don’t forget to come back to read my review of a Story Cartel book.

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