Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Battling Burnout ~ 10 Tips for Helping You Overcome Writer’s Block

Ruthy here! Today I'm hosting guest blogger Emily Wierenga, and her words of wisdom about writing, faith, motherhood, family and balance... Emily is giving away copies of her debut novel, "A Promise in Pieces", and

a copy of her just published memoir "Atlas Girl".....

Join me in a big Seekerville welcome!

I pin the colored fabric as though savoring a mango, this slice of time so sweet, and the sounds of children splashing in the pool. And all I want is to rest. To open wide this moment and step into it, to sit on a beach chair and hold my babies and breathe in their skin, and funny how, once you get what you want, all you can think about is the other.

But I am learning to write, in spite of myself.

Because I want to honor the call.

But I also don’t want to miss out on my children. Nor the man I made them with.

And sometimes, I’m just plain worn out. I don’t have any more words in me, and hasn’t it all been said before?

So how do we do it? How do we balance the laptop with the laundry and the liturgy?

How do we still our souls in a world that never sleeps?

To know God, in the stillness. Less of us, more of him, and sometimes we think we have to produce when really, we’re slaves to no one. Christ calls us friends, and there is freedom in this. We serve God alone, and have nothing to fear. So, when we’re burning out, we need to quiet our souls.

Here, friends, are 10 ways to find that stillness:

1.       Turn off the laptop. I have made a habit of turning it off for the entire morning and spending those hours with my pre-schoolers. By noon, I’m normally more than excited to begin to write, and all of the fear of yesterday has fled in light of having a space of “me time.” Even if you turn it off for a full day, then return to it in the evening, let your mind, let your spirit, breathe. The sound of victory whooshing through your soul.

2.       Cry, and laugh, a lot. Experience that ALIVE feeling again. Remember: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a (poor) first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” ― Anne Lamott, Bird by bird: some instructions on writing and life

3. Read. Whether it’s a novel or a memoir or the Psalms in your pajamas, don’t
read the same kind of genre you’re writing in, or you’ll get your own writing voice mixed up with someone else’s. So if you’re writing fiction, read non-fiction, and vice-versa.

4. Take a bath with some Epsom salts and a candle.

5. Eat some dark chocolate. And then eat some more.

6. Write a letter to someone you trust.

7. Surround yourself with inspiration. My friend constantly mails me encouraging quotes and artwork; I have posted these quotes and pieces of art above my desk to provide visual stimulation.

8. Hug your kids. Because they’re your greatest story. It’s incredible to be able to make up stories but it’s even more incredible to live them. To hear the words tumbling from your child’s mouth as he talks about his favorite blue flashlight as you lie beside him in his bunk-bed. “Some flashlights are small, and some are big, and some are tiny and some are huge,” he says as he slips his hand into yours there in the dark.

9. Kiss your husband. Because he’s your biggest fan.

10. Pray. The kind of praying that finds you on the floor. The kind that feels like home. Pray as you write, as you edit, as you rest. Pray through it all. Because God is the Word. He gave you this calling. So trust him to work through you, even on days when the pool and the sunlight and the birds are calling. For in the end, it’s all about him. And if he doesn’t write through us, we write in vain.

Don’t be afraid to rest friends, because in doing so, you give OTHERS permission to rest. And in the stillness, we know God. We hear his voice. We hear him wooing.
So, KNOW when to write, and when to stop.

And if God is calling you to write, then know you’re engaged in a spiritual battle because this is what this writing world is friends: it’s a place to speak the truth in love. It’s a place to engage, sometimes, in battle. Our words are holy tools being used to carve out the tomb, to resurrect a God the world says is dead, to point and say–LOOK, he’s alive and he’s here in our midst and do we know Him?

Do our words know him? Do our families and our children and our husbands and our relatives know him? Does the man who delivers your mail know him? Does anything else matter?

I totally love, love, love this picture!!!!!  Emily's website is HERE: http://www.emilywierenga.com/

Visit there. You will love it. I promise. 

Now to the business of food!!!! We've got coffee and cronuts inside, I brought them back FRESH from Manhattan (okay, they have like a two-hour shelf life, so that's not GOOD 48 hours later, 'sall I'm sayin'....) Never mind the cronuts, we'll feast on God's love today.... and pastries from Financier on Williams St.

Monday, July 28, 2014

If the Shoe Fits...

In Cinderella, the glass slipper only fit Cinderella’s foot. As the story goes, of all the girls in all the castles in all the kingdom, the shoe fit her foot and hers alone. No matter how hard they tried, the other girls couldn’t wear the glass slipper.

Oliver Herford, Public Domain

Your synopsis is the shoe, your story is the foot. Stick with me now…

So, you’re working on your first (or next) Great American Novel. You’ve written the first few chapters, and you’re dipping your toes into contests and even getting brave and submitting to agents and editors. Or, you might even be selling on proposal, a short synopsis and a chapter or two.

If you’re at this stage of the writing game, then you’ve written the dreaded synopsis. There are great articles here in Seekerville and all over the ‘net to help you determine what goes into a synopsis and what doesn’t, so I’m not going to rehash that today.

But what I am going to address is whether your synopsis reflects the story you’re writing. Sometimes we writers—intentionally or maybe unintentionally— sensationalize our synopsis to the point that it doesn't even resemble the actual chapters, similar to the practice of padding a resume.

How many times have I dumped every conceivable plot device into my synopsis because a critique partner or contest judge suggested it, and I thought it would be cool? I wonder how many times I gave the "snake oil" sales pitch in the synopsis, but the story didn't live up to the synopsis and that's why contest judges and editors said no?

Some examples to make my point…

If I write a synopsis that sounds like a very dark 90K romance that deals with drunk driving, a family feud, long-lost love, and two main characters dealing with all this traumatic back story, but if my opening chapters feel and sound like a 20K novella, there’s a disconnect somewhere.

Or, how about this…

If my synopsis describes the lives of Bonnie and Clyde, but my chapters are the light-hearted, knee-slapping antics of Lucy and Desi, I’ve got a problem.

The best example I can give of my own writing would be my debut novel, Stealing Jake. Stealing Jake started out as a light, sweet novella and went through several rewrites that kept upping the tension.

If I had sent the lighter novella version of the story in with a synopsis detailing shipping street kids across the country in crates, sweat shops, a coal mine explosion, the traumatic incidents from both the hero and the heroine’s pasts, it just wouldn't have really worked together. And I’m afraid it would have tanked in contests, as well as been rejected by industry professionals.

It’s important to make sure a contest judge, critique partner, agent or editor gets the same jolt from the chapters as they do from the synopsis. Either the tension in the chapters need to be ratcheted up, or the tension in the synopsis ratcheted down. And, you, as the author, are the only one who knows which direction you need to turn the ratchet.

So, how do you do that?

Is your manuscript in the early stages or is it completed? If it’s completed, then you’re ahead of the game. Write your synopsis to fit the story and you're good. If you’ve just started this story, determine the genre and the tone. Do you write light-hearted contemporary romance, or dark historicals, or women’s fiction with snarky leads?

Read books that are similar to what you write, then describe them in your own words, just like giving a book report. See if you can hit the tone of these books. And, as an additional exercise, maybe look at some good professional reviews of those books. Do some of them describe whether the book was light, or dark? Do you agree with the assessment?

If you have a critique partner, let them read both. If they’ve worked with you a long time, they might be able to tell you if the two pieces are simpatico.

And, lastly, trust yourself. If you got it wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Just keep tinkering with it. Eventually, you’ll get it. This year I had the opportunity to submit proposals for historical romance novellas to Barbour Publishing. The proposals were extremely short, but I’ve been writing historical romance for a long time, and I’ve written a lot of proposals for novellas, and read my fair share. 

I knew enough about the process to keep the synopsis sharp, clean, and free of secondary plots. I sold FOUR proposals to Barbour because I nailed the synopsis. These novellas have a lighter tone than my full-length novels, and the one I’m currently writing (Shanghaied by the Bride) even has a slightly humorous tone, something that was clearly spelled out in the synopsis and is (hopefully) clear in the title.

Bottom line, know the story you want to tell well enough to make the synopsis fit.

Otherwise, it’s really gonna pinch.

Yep, that's us. Size 6 1/2 and 13 D

Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove the Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. www.pamhillman.com

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Weekend RWA Conference Edition

Missy Tippens and Myra Johnson

Today's Weekend Edition comes live from deep in the heart of Texas and the RWA #2014 Conference. We'll be adding photos from the Harlequin Party later today, and the RITA/GH gala Sunday, so stick around. For those of you who want to follow the live Tweets, check out #RWA14. And Tina Radcliffe will be Tweeting live from the Awards Gala at @TMRadcliffe

We've got so much swag we're picking FOUR WINNERS: Courtney, Tracey Hagwood, Donna Phillips and Olivia. Swag is en route from San Antonio and should arrive soon. Will mail as soon as it arrives.
We Have Winners

  Be sure to contact us if you are a winner (send an email to seekers@seekerville.net with your snail mail address unless email is specified). We don't have time to track you down. Do let us know if you don't receive your prize in 6-8 weeks. Rules are located here, on our legal page.

Monday Revell author, Julie Lessman was your hostess Monday with her post From Sweet to Swoon-part 2. The winner of any Julie Lessman BOC (ebook or print) is Sandy Smith.

 Tuesday we joined Sandra Leesmith as she talked about “Who Controls the Media Delivery System” and why that is so important to know. Winner of their choice of one of Sandra's books, audio, print or ebook, is Walt Mussell.

Wednesday we were delighted to have "A Visit With Margaret Daley." Did you know that Margaret has more than sixty books published?  Thank you to Margaret for her generous giveaways!! Wow! Emily wins an ebook copy of Deadly Hunt. Cindy W wins an ebook copy of  Deadly Intent. And Lee Carver wins a print copy of Christmas Bodyguard.

Thursday Seekerville was excited to welcome Harlequin Art Director Tania Pery. Tania gave us an inside look at how covers are designed and put together based on the book's plot, setting, characters and author and editor input. Winners are Marianne, Jackie Smith, Amber Schamel and Erica Vetsch. Winners will receive copies of His Montana Sweetheart and Her Montana Twins (when it's available!), both sprinkled with hugs and kisses from Seekerville!  

Friday we were live from RWA #14 San Antonio, Texas with Seeker Tina Radcliffe. She brought us photos from the Literacy Signing, and  parties and events she snuck into wearing her faux press pass badge. Winners of (in the words of Mary Connealy) the first known copies of her September release, Stranded with the Rancher are:Heidi Robbins, Marianne Barkman,Jennifer Smith, Jackie Layton and DebH.
Janet Dean & Senior Editor Tina James

Debby Giusti moderates the Editor Pitch workshop w/ Emily Rodmell and Susan Litman

Next Week in Seekerville

Monday: Sometimes writers—intentionally or unintentionally— sensationalize their synopsis to the point that it doesn't even resemble the actual chapters: similar to the practice of "padding one's resume", yes? Join Pam Hillman today as she discusses this interesting conundrum, why it's not necessarily a good idea, and how to avoid it.

Tuesday: Are you battling burnout? Bestselling author Emily T. Wierenga shares 10 tips for overcoming writer's block in addition to giving away copies of her debut novel, and her newly-released memoir, Atlas Girl.

 Wednesday:  Love Inspired historical author Christina Rich is our guest today. Stop by to chat with her and we'll give you a peek at her latest release, The Warrior's Vow.

Thursday: Harlequin Heartsong Presents author, Rose Ross Zediker has a quiz for procrastinators! How will you do? Take the test and leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a copy of Rose's next release Sweet on the Cowgirl. 

Friday: It's time for the August Contest Update! Only FIVE months left this year. Stay tuned for a special KICK BUTT edition and we'll introduce you to our August Contest Diva!
Seeker Sightings  

Congratulations to the 2014 Inspirational Reader's Choice Award Winners and especially Seekerville's own Pam Hillman:

 Long Historical

1st: Claiming Mariah by Pam Hillman (Tyndale House)

Not all the good news is coming from San Antonio!!! Ruthy Logan Herne has just signed a six book contract with Love Inspired books!!! She's finishing up her high-selling "Kirkwood Lake" series and then... GASP!!!... is doing a sisters trilogy to save the family business... Oh, imagine the fun of three sisters who couldn't wait to get away, coming home to help Mom and Dad... And then??? We start a new series Ruthy is researching now!  CHOCOLATE CROISSANTS for all!!!!  Happy dancing in upstate!

Jorie @ Jorie Loves A Story will be hosting Sandra Leesmith on Monday, 28 July 2014 whilst she reviews her novel "Love's Promises" which continues the showcase Jorie began earlier in the Spring. On 14 March 2014, Jorie hosted a Book Cover Reveal   and on 22 April, 2014 Jorie hosted an Author Interview. Please join her and Sandra on Monday for a lively discussion and fun. 

Heartsong Presents author Narelle Atkins brought us TimTams from Australia

Random News & Information

Why I Left My Mighty Agency and New York Publishers (for now) (Jane Friedman)

 Authors: 15 Tips To Increase Your Productivity (Molly Greene: Writer)

From #RWA14 Cindy Ratzlaff-How to Build a Platform, balance a personal life and create a best seller...

   Promotional Giveaways—Are You Legal? by Laura McClellan (Seriously Write)

The Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Writers (The Book Designer)

Unknown Authors Make a Living Self-Publishing (The Passive Voice)

5 Reasons You Procrastinate on Getting Your Book Done: The Solutions – Part 2 (The Future of Ink)

Pam Tracey, Missy and Lacy Williams at the Literacy Signing

Soon to visit Seekerville guest, Barbara White Daille

Mary at the Buckhorn Museum and Saloon with a stuffed Longhorn.
I'm the one in blue, shut up!

That's it for today. See you tomorrow with more pictures!
Karen Fleming. SOLD to Heartsong Presents!

LI author Leigh Bale and LIS author Laura Scott

In front L to R, Dana Corbitt, Sara Parker and Rachel Dylan-Love Inspired Meet & Greet

Lindi Peterson & Missy Tippens

Love Inspired author Meet & Greet, photo by Emily Rodmell

Senior Editor Tina James and Editor Emily Rodmell at LI Meet & Greet

RWA's Carol Ritter gave Mary Curry her Sold Ribbon and PAN badge.

Left to Right, front Janet Dean, Tina Radcliffe, Lacey Williams, Merrillee Whren, Mindy Obenhaus, Lori Robinson, Debby Giusti. Back Row, Missy Tippens, Myra Johnson, Mary Curry -READY FOR THE HARLEQUIN PARTY@!

Seeker pal, Annie Rains and Tina Radcliffe

Awards Night, Myra, Missy, Debby and Tina

Tanya Agler and Tina Radcliffe

Myra, Julie Hilton Steele and Missy



Mindy Obenhaus and Lindi Peterson

Tina Radcliffe and Janet Dean

Julie Hilton Steele and GH finalist Piper Huguley
And Carla Laureano wins the Inspirational RITA!!! Congrats to Carla!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Live From the 2014 RWA National Conference in San Antonio, Texas

This post is coming to you, LIVE FROM RWA SAN ANTONIO! It's a photo gallery of the fun and events so far this week! So grab your popcorn and sit back and enjoy the fun! Remember you can follow the events on Twitter at #RWA14 and on Facebook here.

First just to give you a peek at the noise level when 1000+ authors, editors and agents take over a hotel.  (Mary Curry and Mary Connealy)

Mary Curry & Editor Emily  Rodmell (Literacy Event)

Mary Curry & Holly Jacobs (Starbucks line!)

Missy Tippens & Dtr at Literacy Event

Chatting with Seeker friend, Tanya Agler

Tina Radcliffe and Debby Giusti at Literacy Event

Tina, Golden Heart Finalist Piper Huguley and our buddy Julie Hilton Steele

 Double RITA finalist Carla Laureano
Seeker bud and Avon author Anne Barton with Mary & Tina
Pam Tracy and Missy Tippens
Janet Dean, Shirley Jump, and Becke Turner

Amazon Party with Cowboy Jake, Anonymous, Missy Tippens and Lacey Williams
Our friend and Burroughs Publishing author, Marilyn Baxter
Love Inspired author Mindy Obenhaus

The RWA Autographing Event raised over $51K for Literacy!

Here's the update from the 2014 RWA AGM. 

The RITA contest rules have been updated! Check it out here.

The Golden Heart entry fee has been reduced to $30.

The Board is still discussing changes to membership tiers. Expect a survey soon.

Did you know?

Only 1/2 of membership belongs to a local chapter.

$186K was spent last year on RWA local chapters which generate approximately $10K.

49% of membership are neither Pan or Pro.

Seekers and Seekervillians at RWA will be in and out today, commenting.

Comment today for a chance to win your advance copy of my September release from Love Inspired (print only for now), Stranded with the Rancher. Five winners announced this weekend.