Are Writers…Gasp…Entrepreneurs? 5 Tips For Beginning Authors

A friend of mine, Liz Schulte, said something to me a while back that has got me thinking. She said, “To be a writer, you have to be an entrepreneur, too.” Considering that this chick is a successful author and a book-writing-machine and a pretty awesome lady anyway, when she gives me advice, I generally listen.

The word “entrepreneur” at first made me cringe a little. I find that’s not uncommon with writers. Marketing yourself and your work sounds like too much drudgery. We want to be writing, not marketing. We want to be creating, not selling. However, Liz is right. There is an idea among much of the writing community that publishing equals an automatic “in” with readers. Like once you’ve got that finished piece, that wonderful book you’ve spent so much time on and poured so much of yourself into, it will magically be brought to the attention of a vast majority of people. In reality, no matter what publishing rout a writer takes, if the writer doesn’t market, if the writer doesn’t build some kind of platform, the book will not usually sell well.

Now, let me clarify. If you are a writer who writes only for self-satisfaction or only for the art of language, good for you. If you are satisfied with that, by all means, write your heart out and save that stuff for generations of your own family to read and enjoy. That is perfectly okay. I’m talking about writers who write, maybe for the same things, but also for more. I do write for self-satisfaction and for the creative outlet. I love the process of writing a book. But I write for other reasons too. I’m a writer because I love the relationships I build in the writing community. Other writers simply understand something about me that *ahem* normal people don’t (we writers are weird; we have to stick together). I write to be read. I want people to read what I write and hopefully come away with something they didn’t have before, maybe ask questions they didn’t ask before. I want people to read what I write. And yes, I write, because eventually, I hope to make some money doing the thing that I love. And so, for writers like me, I think it’s true: we have to be entrepreneurs.

How do we do that? How do we take entrepreneurial steps to set up a good foundation for our writing careers? The closer I come to beginning the process of publishing, the more that question seems to hover over me. There is a lot more to this than I know. A lot more that I have to learn. But here are a few suggestions that I’ve been given by various writers, applicable especially to writers who are where I am–on the road to publishing, but not there yet.

1. Take tips from small business owners and entrepreneur magazines.

2. Learn from writers who are already there, who are selling books and making money. How did they build a platform? How do they connect to readers? What kind of marketing tools do they suggest for newly published/almost published writers?

3. Have an online presence. Do you enjoy blogging? Could you have an author’s page on Facebook? What about an author’s website? Twitter? LinkedIn? There are so many options in social media that can serve to help build a platform for when your books are published. And who knows? Maybe you’ll start a blog for that purpose and find you actually really enjoy it!

4. Make up a business card. Business cards are awesome for when you are at writer’s groups or conferences. If you don’t have one at a conference, you’ll be writing your information on napkins and the backs of other people’s business cards all day long. Or you just won’t make any lasting connections and will have missed a major opportunity. Plus, it just feels cool to whip out a business card and be like, “Yeah, I’ve got one of these. I’m legit.” 🙂

5. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur, or at least an entrepreneur in training. It’s kind of the same thing as: you’ll never be a writer if you don’t think of yourself as one. You won’t see opportunities or have the confidence to make any steps forward if you are afraid of that word. And you’ll certainly never make a living as a writer.

Now, I’m in the beginning stages of all this. Does anyone have any more suggestions for how to be an entrepreneur in the beginning before you’ve published?

 

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5 Tips for Being a Diabetes Friendly Family (most of the time)

My husband was diagnosed with diabetes a while back. It’s a difficult thing to adjust to, and we haven’t always done the best job of making it easy for him to eat diabetes friendly foods. But we have made a lot of changes over the years for the better, namely that we have pretty much eliminated starches from our regular menu. Rice, bread, potatoes, noodles…these are all foods that my husband should basically avoid (and unfortunately, ingredients most families use to keep grocery costs down). High carbohydrate foods are bad for him, so we try to keep it generally lower carb around here. We do pretty well when it comes to what we have around the house (although there is certainly room for improvement, and we haven’t mastered how to make the best choices when we are out and about). Here are a few changes we’ve made that have stuck with us, things that weren’t too hard to change but make a difference:

1. Use spaghetti squash instead of noodles. We have spaghetti squash at least once a month. We would have it more except the darned things are kind of expensive (about 4x the cost of noodles). However, they taste yummy. Actually, now that I’ve eaten spaghetti squash for a while, I kind of prefer them to noodles. They go great as substitutes in dishes like spaghetti, casseroles, and alfredo noodles.

2. We buy either Healthy Life bread or Sara Lee 45 calorie bread. This one took a little more for my husband to get used to because the bread is noticeably thinner than the big thick slices of speciality bread he prefers. However, they have lower amounts of carbs and a higher amount of fiber. This has been a healthy, positive exchange for our family and has allowed us to forgo giving up bread altogether.

3. We eat the meat that’s on sale. Tonight I cooked 4 pork chops that were delicious and cost only 3.50. They were on sale at our local supermarket, Gerbes, which actually has great sales on meat pretty regularly. Whenever I see some good meat on sale there, I buy it up and stick it in the freezer if we won’t eat it all. Being as how those lower priced starches and grains are out of the question for us most of the time, finding meat (and veggies) on sale is important!

4. Find creative recipes for salads. You can only eat so many chef salads, people. They get boring, at least for us. We’ve made strawberry chicken salad, taco salad (without any crunchies), and lots of others. You have ditch the croutons and find or make dressings with fewer carbs (which means the super sweet kinds are out). This is another area I’ve been surprised to find I actually prefer to, you know, taste the vegetables in a salad and have it seasoned with berries and some kind marinated meat instead of it being drowned in a heavy dressing.

5. Breakfast, for me, has always been the main struggle. I love bagels. I love cereal. I love pancakes and waffles. I love english muffins. I could eat breakfast foods all day every day. But all those things I just mentioned are pretty much off limits when it comes to being diabetes friendly. At first, the only options were eggs. Lots of eggs. And bacon, which was the silver lining. However, sometimes you have to figure out something else. There are cereals like Fiber One Original that are pretty good for you and won’t agitate a diabetic too much, but most cereals are really, really bad for a diabetic. So, we do quiches and omelletes when I get the chance. An apple for a quick breakfast. But, seriously, I miss me some bagels. 

Trying to be lower carb as a whole family can be tough. We don’t go all Atkins-20-carbs-per-day, but honestly, keeping carbs to around 50-100 per day can be challenging, especially at first. Especially if you include fruit in your diet, which is high in carbs, too, and yes, even too many carbs from fruit can cause problems for a diabetic. 

However, the changes are worth it. My husband is better off for these changes, and so our kids. And so am I. We could do better. We don’t always adhere to our standards when we go out to eat and we don’t always do so when we are at someone’s home where there are healthy and unhealthy options. We could use artificial sweeteners a little less. But I think we’re getting better, and we’re learning what works best for us all the time. 

Has someone in your immediate family been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes? How do you handle the restrictions in diet?

Makin’ Progress Always Feels Nice!

So, this past weekend, I finished the first draft of the second book in the series I’m writing!!! Woo-hoo!!! I had some kind of burst of energy once I realized I was in the home stretch and wrote 10,000 words in a total of about 8-9 hours of writing time on Friday and Saturday. I’m thinking I’m going to try to get the third done between now and October, with the bulk of it in July during Camp NaNo. Then I really want to finish the fourth and final book in November for NaNoWriMo. Then, I can go back to the first one and do a major overhaul/edit/some rewriting and I can start having some of my writing buddies critique it along the way. Originally I was going to take a break and edit the first one now, but I’m so excited to finish the series! I wish I had time to do both. It makes me wonder, what do you all who work on series and write more than one book at a time manage to go back and forth between the books? How do you manage to find the time? I’m guessing if you are full time, that would make it easier. But any tips for someone who can only find a few hours on some weeks to work on writing projects?

(And just a little shout out to my husband, who is awesome: When he found out I finished the second book, he wanted to celebrate just as much as me. And then when we were out, he asked me what my goals were and he wanted to know if he could help out any more, which he can’t. He’s already so supportive. All I need is for him to keep being awesome! I feel so blessed to have a marriage where we can both count on each other to support one another, and we both really believe in each other’s dreams and aspirations.)

Top 5 Reasons We Homeschool

I never would have guessed that I would be homeschooling my kids. I went to public school. Elementary school was pretty awful for me on the social front, but hey, all my teachers liked me. I don’t have anything against public schools. Without them, lots of kids would go uneducated. But as our kids got a little older, my husband asked me to consider homeschooling our kids. I was resistant at first. I was kind of looking forward to that time when I would send the kids off to school. Maybe I would get a part-time job and bring in a little extra income. Maybe I would be able to volunteer somewhere. Maybe I could have more time for writing. But those hopes were all me focused, and once I started thinking in terms of our whole family and what would be best for my kids, I started to warm up to the idea of homeschooling them, at least through early elementary years. Here are the top 5 reasons my husband and I decided to homeschool:

  1. We believe homeschooling strengthens our family dynamic. My kids are closer to each other and closer to us, their parents, because we are together all the time. I don’t believe that this will always be the healthiest thing for our kids. One day they will need to branch out and become independent. Even now, through play groups and church, they have a place, for the most part, to be one their own. Soon my daughter will be old enough to be on a sports team or in dance lessons or karate or something like that. There is a good chance that we will send our kids to school for things like art class, since our public schools do allow homeschool students to participate in some classes (or so I’ve been told). And eventually, unless our kids don’t want to, they will probably be attending school somewhere else, public or private.
  2. We believe our children will learn better with curriculum chosen just for them and lots of one on one attention. My daughter loves paperwork. She loves following directions and getting things done. But my son…yeah, he’s a little different. He wants hands-on-learning. He wants to jump and be loud sometimes. He does not want to sit still. They both need something different. And with homeschooling, I can choose curriculum that fits them. I can also add in subjects, like Bible, that our family find very important.
  3. We love the flexibility. We aren’t bound up by school days. We can learn anywhere. We can take a break anytime. We can go on vacation in November and it’s alright. We can visit family and take school with us. We can take a Tuesday to do something else and make it up on Saturday. Homeschooling is so flexible.
  4. Our kids, and our family, are free to pursue our interests. What if my daughter is really, really good at math? Well, I can incorporate that into our field trips, into our learning in unique ways. Our family likes road trips and history. We can, at any time, take a road trip to visit a monument or museum. What if my son is really interested in farms? We can take a period of time to study farms, maybe even take him to one. What if one of them loves art? What about music? Mechanics? Whatever interests pop up, whatever skills shine through, we can work with and incorporate into our learning.
  5. We can, at any time, if we believe it to be better for our kids and our family, put our kids into a private or public school.  Yes, I love homeschooling. Right now. Right now it is best for my kids. But I’ve learned over the years that what is best now can change later. Our lives may change. Our kids may change. And if that happens, we will enroll them in a school.

So, those are the reasons we believe homeschooling our children is the best option for now. A lot of thought and prayer went into this decision. Before having kids, I never would have guessed the amount of effort that goes into making decisions like this. How to educate our kids? How to feed our kids well and keep them healthy? How to foster kindness? How to discipline? These things don’t come naturally, at least not to me. Every parent has a lot of decision-making to do, and I know that we rarely do it lightly. All we can do is what we believe is best.

Top Four Uses for Writing Prompts

I have decided that starting this month, I will be posting little flash fiction pieces here and there. I think it will be good for me to take a step out of the writing process for my longer works and have a little bit of fun. So, I went in search of writing prompts. Why? Here are my top four reasons for using writing prompts instead of just winging it:

  1. Practice. I need to practice writing. The more I write the better at it I will get. It’s pretty simple. Not everything I write has to be top notch, publishable, or awesome. A lot of it will probably be pretty average, run of the mill, at least at first. But regularly putting up fiction pieces for others to read will, I think, help me in a lot of ways.
  2. Writing prompts give me ideas of which I would never consider. Using other people’s ideas to inspire my own helps me to learn to think outside my own little box. I write out of my own experiences and out of the experiences of others I have seen play out second hand. Writing prompts that come from people living differently than me, with different thought processes and experiences, is a great way for me to consider stories that wouldn’t have even crossed my mind otherwise.
  3. The opportunity to write something different. I have never tried to write a mystery or a thriller or an urban fantasy. But using writing prompts may give me the opportunity to try my hand at a different genre or subgenre. Writing out of my comfort zone will help me to grow and develop as a writer.
  4. No pressure, just fun! Writing using writing prompts for me carries less pressure. I’m not going to submit these stories anywhere (unless, I guess, something really awesome comes out) except for maybe this blog. I’m not in it for any other reason than to learn and to have fun. Sometimes writers like me get pulled into finishing a book or finishing a short story and looses a bit of the fun that can come through writing.

Here are a few websites I found that have great writing prompts:

www.writersdigest.com/prompts

www.creative-writing-now.com/story-starters.html

www.workingwritersclub.com/creative-writing-prompts/

Health Problems Killed My Good Habits

For over a year, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I ignored it as long as I could, hoping it would go away. Then, about 8 months ago, I began seeking medical help when what had been annoying became increasingly painful. After lots of tests and a very uncomfortable internal ultrasound and lots of questions and tracking when the pain increased and decreased, I was told that I had Endimetriosis. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I’ll try to sum it up for you. Basically, the tissue that normally grows on the inside of the uterus begins to grow outside of the uterus and all over the pelvic region–on ovaries, bowels, etc. Sometimes it spreads higher. The tissue grows, thickens, breaks down and bleeds throughout the menstrual cycle. It hurts. During the worst of it, I was spending three weeks out of the month practically useless. I could barely walk for the pain, and once I was given painkillers, I would spend my days in pain until my husband could come home at which point I would take the painkiller and sleep for the rest of the evening. My husband even worked from home several days during that period of time because I was in such an enormous amount of pain, I couldn’t get out of bed.

Thankfully, we figured out what was wrong, and it was an easy fix. My doctor put me on birth control, and for me, that brought me down to only three or four days out of the month where I am in pain, which is much more manageable. Apparently my hormones and crazy cycle had a lot to do with the progression of the disorder.

Anyway, during that time, all the good habits I had spent years building evaporated. I didn’t care what I ate. I hardly ever had the time or the energy to make healthy food. We ordered out a lot. I stopped going to the gym. I could barely walk. No way I could get on an eliptical. I gained quite a bit of weight. It was just an all around bummer.

So, now that I am doing better, and (I think) will continue to get better, I would like to establish those habits all over again. And I have begun the process by eating better. I’ve been cooking healthy meals and we’ve been eating out much, much less. I still have to tackle the job of getting back into the habit of going to gym everyday. But all of this, both with experience and a little wisdom gained from getting a little older, is done with the goal of keeping my body healthy. I don’t even care about my weight anymore. I will keep track of it, but only once a month, on the first Friday of the month, and only to help guage my efforts. I spent a short time of my life thus far experiencing what it’s like to feel very sick for an extended period of time, and I don’t want to experience that again down the road because I chose to live an unhealthy lifestyle.

What’s more, my husband, who has been diagnosed with diabetes has been feeling worse for the wear. This is our chance to help our children develop good habits before they are all grown up and in the same positions we are. For the first time, I think our family is ready for a change. I’ve tried to make lifestyle changes in the past, but let’s be honest, if one person in a family decides to eat better, to do better with health, and the others don’t, it usually doesn’t last long. This time, I think my husband and I are in this together. We both want our entire family to be more healthy. Not to loose weight. But to live longer. To live more fully. I don’t care if I live until I’m 95 but am considered overweight my entire life (and believe it or not, that happens).

So, once a month I’ll give an update on health and what’s going on there. I’ll post a recipe or two that I’ve found that we like as a family. We are going to shoot for a lower carb, heavy veggie meal plan. Maybe blogging about the experience will encourage me to stay on the ball, and hopefully encourage someone else to make healthier choices.

Scared out of my mind!

Yesterday I got a very frightening call from my Mom. My niece, who was three days old, had been throwing up blood. My older neice, they had just found out, had a viral infection and had been with the baby. I was so scared I was literally shaking. Everything seems magnified by a thousand when talking about the ailments of newborns. I can imagine what my sister was feeling; it probably felt a lot like when I had to rush my little boy to the emergency room because he couldn’t breath. I’ll never forget his little face turning blue. It was awful.

Anyway, after she was rushed to the children’s hospital, the doctor’s were able to find out what was wrong. Apparently, there was blood in the breast milk. The blood couldn’t metabolize, so it formed clots in her little newborn tummy and she eventually threw them up. I didn’t know that could happen; I’ve never heard of it. But I’m so glad that’s what it was! It’s an easy fix. My sister just has to pump and get rid of the breast milk until there’s no more blood in it and give my smallest niece formula. This is another instance where I am so grateful to live in a place and time where formula is easily accessible. I am so grateful to live in a place and time where there are doctors and hospitals that can help us with things like this. We are so blessed, people!