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Archive for the ‘Writer’s Digest Conference’ Category

Note: All of my notes from the Saturday and Sunday sessions are forthcoming. Here’s what I’ve been able to put together so far. Also, since you’ll only be seeing summaries of the sessions I attended, the WDC staff said that there will be some sort of summary on all of the sessions posted on the conference site at http://www.writersdigestconference.com/ehome/27962/home/?&. I just checked, and they don’t have anything posted yet, so mine will have to do for the moment. ūüôā And I will get them up for you as quickly as I can.

Saturday, January 21–Session #1: E-Book Publishing 101–Jane Friedman, Media Professor and former editor of Writer’s Digest Magazine (This session was of huge interest to me because, even though there was a bit of agent interest in my nonfiction book during the Pitch Slam, I’m still leaning heavily toward the e-pub option for at least that next book. Not only am I excited about the potential of that option, but I really want to learn firsthand what’s involved and how it all works.)

E-pub vs Print on Demand (POD)–author has full control of pricing, cover, etc. with E-pub.¬†Author control varies and can be very limited with POD.

What about author rights with e-pub?

  • Copyright is secure
  • Author has full rights re: publishing & distribution except for new Apple rules (covered below).
  • Authors are not killing future chances with traditional publishers if they go e-pub. Might have been true in the past, but no longer.
  • All rights are the writer’s to sell.
  • Caution re: possible exception(s)–Authors previously published with traditional publisher need to check their contracts for rights on existing titles.

Major e-book retailers, devices & formats

  • Kindle (mobi format)–50-70% of the market
  • B&N Nook (epub)–20-30%
  • Apple iPad & iPhone (epub¬†& the newly announced iBookAuuthor, which is only readable on Apple devices–more later)–less than 20%

These three are the main devices and formats. The others on the market are:

  • Sony (epub)
  • Kobo¬†(epub)
  • Desktop/Laptop (PDFs)

Writers going the e-pub route are working with distribution channels and retailers rather than with publishers. Distrib/Retailer options:

Single Channel (Fomatted to work on only one device) versus  Multiple Channels (Push books out to all single channels)

  • Kindle¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†BookBaby (This one looks really interesting, by the way.)
  • B&N¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Smashwords
  • iTunes¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† PublishGreen
  • iBooksAuthor*
  • GoogleBookStore
  • Scribd

*The new iBooksAuthor will only work on Apple devices. More in a minute.

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Most distribution services and retailers will accept Word documents.

  • Smashwords: takes MS Word. Free to publish. Author keeps 85% of the net. No Kindle distribution, however. Would need to publish on Kindle separately.)
  • BookBaby: Free¬†conversion from Word, HTML, RTP, Apple Pages, plain text. $99 to publish plus $19 annual fee to sustain. Author keeps 100% of the net.) Also offers print service option plus add-on services for ISBN and cover design.
  • PublishGreen: Converts from MS Word, PDF,¬†InDesign. $399-$999 for “full service” package. Author keeps 90-100% of the net.

When is it better to prep your own e-book files? When you:

  • have text-driven work.
  • are not scared by HTML, CSS, and/or MS style sheets. (Guess this answers the question for me. ūüôā )
  • plan on offering PDF versions¬†of your book.

Formatting & Conversion Definitions 

Conversion is an automated process and = exporting files from one format to another without any editing or styling.

Formatting is a manual process and = editing & styling to “look good” on e-reading devices. Process also corrects things that got messed up during the conversion process.

If you’re comfortable doing these things yourself, here are recommended¬†programs: SIGIL¬†for Formatting and CALIBRE for Conversion. (I am definitely not going to be¬†worrying about this. I’m looking at BookBaby. They had an exhibition table at the conference, and once I get through the last of my treatments, I’ll be following up with them for more detail.)

DIY (Do It Yourself) Formatting Tools:

    • Scrivener–$45
    • PressBooks–free. WordPress based, exports e-pub files.

iBooksAuthor. Newly announced by Apple. Limited to iOS¬†devices for both reading as well as sales (iBook format). Free but limited to Apple products and can only sell through Apple bookstores. Beautiful program, easy, drag-and-drop. But exclusive to Apple products and distribution. Industry had hoped that iBooksAuthor¬†would also create e-pub format. Didn’t turn out that way. If you’ve already created a book for sale/distribution elsewhere and then decide to use iBookAuthor¬†for your e-book, you can continue to sell that book everywhere. But if you use iBooksAuthor¬†for your first effort to publish a given book, your Apple agreement will state that you cannot sell that book through any other channel that iBookstore.

  • VookMaker–forthcoming. Not an Apple product but will be similar¬†to iBooksAuthor¬†in terms of being user friendly¬†with drag-and-drop, etc. But this one is expected to support multiple sales channels.

Again, if you opt to do your e-book with a company like BookBaby, you don’t have to worry about any of these Conversion and Formatting tools and programs.¬†

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Three biggest factors affecting e-book readership base: (These all seem so obvious that I’m wondering if I missed something.)

  • Price
  • Cover
  • Readership Base

Kindle currently represents 60-70% of all ebooks.

An author’s Amazon Page may very likely be the first and only page a reader looks at. Reference: www.DigitalBookWorld.com¬†— see article by Carolyn McKray on optimizing an author’s presence through their Amazon Page.

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“Sweet-Spot” Pricing for Novels:

  • 99 cents drives volume and Amazon rank, for which Amazon pays 30% royalty.
  • Amazon pays 70% royalty on books prices from $2.99-$9.99.
  • Authors who are getting the hang of things will switch off their pricing between 99 cents and $2.99.
  • The lesser known the author, the less you should charge.
  • If you have a series, consider starting with a loss leader (99 cents to start).

For nonfiction, study what your competition is charging. Go to the Kindle store and drill down to your category to start your analysis.

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Cover: First and most important impression. Needs to look good in thumbnail.

ISBNs:

  • Not mandatory for Kindle.
  • Required for distribution through iBookstore.
  • If you’re going the full DIY e-pub route: ISBN.org to buy ISBNs–$125 (cheaper per unit the more you buy).

Online marketing is critical for e-pubs. Draft a marketing plan and include an in-depth online and social media presence.

Some resources to further pursue research on the e-pub option for your book(s):

Here’s a link for a copy of this entire presentation: http://bit.ly/2012wdc

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Well, there you have it–one of the reasons I’m taking so long to get this stuff out to you. But since this particular topic is of such intense interest to me, I’m hoping that some of you will feel the same way, and I want to make sure I’m sharing as much detail as I captured. And because this one is so extensive, I’m going to publish this post separately, finishing up the other Day #2 sessions in another post. (They’re all shorter, by the way.)

P.S. I entered Separation of Faith¬†again today in the latest Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition, which began accepting entries today. Last year the book made the first cut.¬†We’ll see what happens this time around. If you’re interested, this is really a fun contest, and it’s free! Check out the details at: http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Novel-Award-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=332264011.

Hope your week is off to a good start! See you again soon.

 

 

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Writer’s Note: This morning I did get up at 6:00 to write my post on yesterday’s conference sessions. But I didn’t finish writing/editing before I had to get ready for the first of today’s sessions, which started at 9:00. Then the day turned out to be¬†nonstop, without a single break except for the half hour we had to eat our box lunches. I stepped outside for a quick moment to take the promised pictures of the snow, but the snow had already stopped falling, and all of the¬†streets had been salted. So there wasn’t anything pretty to capture. And this afternoon I decided to pitch my nonfiction book after all in the three-hour Pitch Slam. I’ll give you the details when I post about today’s stuff. Needless to say, I was really exhausted when I returned to my room shortly before 5:00. But I want to finish yesterday for you. Then I’ll grab a little dinner. Once I’m ready for bed, I’ll work on the post about today, which I can hopefully publish before tomorrow starts. ūüôā

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Early Saturday, January 21, 2012

Good morning! Weather update: Although the sun isn’t up yet (6:00 a.m. as I start writing here), the view from my 27th floor window at the midtown Sheraton is magical. The snow is falling, and the streets below are definitely white. TV weather-casters are all acting like kids. For the past several years, by January 21 in this part of the world, people have been grumbling¬†about the snow, and local towns have typically been running low (or out) of their snow plowing funds. But this year, we’re having our first storm, other than the Halloween weird show. So almost everyone who speaks is excited. This being Saturday helps with the light-hearted reaction!¬†I’m anxious to talk with a lot of people at the conference. There are 600-700 of us¬†in attendance (lower than last year), and we learned from one of the organizers last night that the world is represented–several places in¬†Europe, South America,¬†and 40-some of the United States, including Hawaii and¬†Alaska. (I feel fortunate that I only had to drive across the river, which took a mere 20 minutes yesterday!) I’ll take pictures of the snow outside during our breaks this morning and will upload them for you later.

Well … enough of the weather report. Here are my notes from the sessions yesterday afternoon. I’ll be abbreviating and using incomplete sentences in the interest of time, and I’m not going to focus on putting things in bold.¬†So please forgive the imperfections.

My Choice of the Options in Session #1. Writing About Yourself in the Digital Age–A.J. Jacobs, Author (and contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?)

Jacobs has written three books that I’d never heard of but that I will now bring into my Kindle–The Year of Living Biblically, a NY Times bestselling¬†humorous memoir about what happens when someone tries to follow every rule in the bible, and The Know-It-All, one man’s¬†quest to learn everything in the world by reading the encyclopedia from A-Z. Jacobs referenced¬†both books at the beginning of his talk as a basis for how to write about yourself if no one knows who you are and/or if you think no one cares who you are.

Lessons he learned about how to make people care about who you are and what you have to say:

  • Be expansive. Write about the world, your surroundings, “the setting and the characters” you encounter, in addition to yourself. Create vivid pictures for the reader and give them added value rather than just the rudiments of what you originally outlined.
  • Be compassionate and mindful of others when you’re writing about them in the context of your own story. Remember that once something is up on the Internet, it’s there forever. Maintain a “generosity of spirit,” and don’t¬†use real names. He gave an example of¬†his using a college classmate’s real name in one of his early books while telling a story that painted her as elite¬†and self-indulgent. When he recently ran into that classmate at¬†a reunion, she cornered him and said that his comments are the first thing that comes up when her name is Googled. So, be honest with your story, but be sensitive enough¬†to use¬†fictitious names.
  • Don’t tell every single detail.¬†Memoirs can get bogged down (and thus make readers not care) when the level of detail and the number of story layers is excessive. The importance of¬†omission is as critical as that of inclusion,¬†and what you leave out can be as significant as what you tell.
  • Be totally honest. Readers appreciate (and thus fully engage) when writers have the courage to fully open the kimono. Letting the reader in on sensitive issues/events adds to your authenticity as a writer and is a risk worth taking.
  • Recognize and accept the fact¬†that our job as writers no longer just includes writing. Whether we like it or not, being a writer¬†has become an entrepreneurial business. We need to establish a brand/presence for¬†ourselves, and we need to embrace the marketing elements as part of the creative process. For example, when his book about the bible came out, he wrote several articles for publication that drew from the bible as part of his promotion. One article for Glamour magazine was on sex and love, and another was for an MTV publication on music and dancing, both articles citing¬†biblical passages. Whenever possible, he¬†makes his promotional responsibilities part of his creative endeavors.
  • He views Twitter as a “creativity booster.” He didn’t tell us how he approached this, and the¬†Q&A session didn’t afford enough time for me to ask him. He did reference a book, however–The¬†Future of the Book, by Sam Harris. If I see him walking around this weekend, I’ll get more detail because I’m also trying to¬†improve my Twitter activities. If I don’t see him, I’ll send him an email.

Suggestions for “getting noticed”:

  • When querying, make the first line of your letter/email the hook/lead.
  • Meet the people you’re targeting in person whenever¬†possible.¬†Don’t become a stalker, but be persistent. Tenacity can actually work (over time). And use compliments liberally (but authentically). Being a “KA” can also be very effective.
  • When writing a memoir, anyone can make him or herself fascinating and vulnerable with vivid language and great storytelling. You don’t have to be¬†“famous or important” in order to make readers care about you and your book.

Creatively, Jacobs believes that this is the most exciting time to be¬†a writer. Financially, not so much. Writers need to keep their fingers in every medium possible–blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and anything else you can manage. Self-promotion is a necessity. We just need to learn how to put ourselves “out there” in a manner that makes readers care about us.

My Choice for Session #2. Writing the 21st Century Novel–Donald Maass, Literary Agent & Author. (If I’m not mistaken, one of my blogging buddies–Jacqui Murray, www.worddreams.wordpress.com¬†— had the amazing experience of reviewing one of Donald Maass’ books, Writing the Breakout Novel. For the record, I find him absolutely amazing. Pitched to him at a couple of conferences about five years ago, before Separation of Faith¬†came together. And as I said last night’s post, his mission in life appears to involve an authentic passion about helping new writers create great novel. In person, the stuff just sort of oozes out of him. If you ever have a chance to see him in action or to pitch to him, don’t let the opportunity pass!)

Maass¬†began his presentation by explaining the inspiration behind his 21st Century Novel book, which will be published by Writer’s Digest Books later this year. He said that over the past several years, he’s been noticing that a number of literary novels and unspecific genre books have not only been hitting the NY Times Bestseller list but staying there for as long as one or two years. The Art of Racing in the Rain¬†was one example he cited, and that book just happens to be¬†one of the best novels I’ve read in decades, or perhaps ever! Totally turned me into blubbering mush. Maass¬†shared the emotion, which is created¬†by other novels that had been catching his attention. So, he decided to begin doing research on the specific reasons why books like Racing in the Rain hugged the bestseller list for such unbelievable lengths of time when other genre-specific novels far more acclaimed and being developed into movies did not have the same bestseller list staying power. The result of his research turned into Writing the 21st Century Novel, and books like Racing in the Rain¬†became what Maass now calls “high impact fiction.”

Summary of Maass Conclusions:

  • There’s a rise in cross-genre fiction.
  • Straight genre fiction is declining and is being replaced by “high impact fiction,” which is a hybrid–telling a great story that reaches readers in powerful ways while also using old-fashioned, classically beautiful writing.

He then walked us through several plot and character development exercises, asking us to use/visualize elements of the novels we’re currently writing. He said that his 21st Century Novel book will contain close to 400 of these exercises, and he gave us a good taste of what those would be like. Even though I’m¬†focusing on my nonfiction book right now instead of my third novel, I found his exercises very effective and invigorating. Made me want to get to work on that novel sooner than later. Can’t wait to see what else will be in his book.

Summary of Maass comments as he was putting us through the exercises:

  • “High impact fiction” writers are writing from a place of personal experience, revealing things that are “hard and difficult” through the characters.
  • Author authenticity reaches through to readers’ hearts.
  • Make character emotions big.
  • Excite reader imagination and emotion with something different, something not only unexpected but big. If you think the climax of your novel is aready big, jolt the reader by creating something even bigger.
  • Create an inner-journey story where true change [in characters] takes many steps. Deepen the character. Think “flawed,” “human,” “brave.”
  • Things need to happen in a novel!
  • Recommended reading: The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard. Author intentionally put the biggest event she could think of in the middle of the novel so she could outdo herself at the end of the book.
  • What fiction lovers are willing to pay for in this tough economy¬†is the combination of great stories powerfully told with incredibly beautiful writing.
  • The focus on the craft of writing is back! (Yay!)
  • Authors are what make a novel great, not any promotion or marketing. (Yay again!)

My¬†Choice for Session #3.¬†Pitch Perfect–Chuck Sambuchino, Agent, and Editor of Guide to Literary Agents (This was a basic/beginner session, especially useful for those who’ve never pitched before. But there weren’t any other choices during this time slot yesterday afternoon. The choices started today, which you’ll be receiving later … ūüôā )

A “pitch” is basically a spoken query letter (or what you find on the back of a book jacket/movie DVD box. (So, this summary can work for you/perhaps help you, if you’re dropping into this blog and just¬†happen to be¬†focusing on querying right now.)

Basic beats of a pitch:

  • 3-10 sentences in length
  • For fiction (which includes memoir in terms of¬†pitching), do not reveal the ending. Peak the agent’s interest.
  • Do everything possible to cut down on confusion. Whether fiction or non, open with a) genre, b) book title, c) word count, d) whether or not the book is complete.
  • State your “log line”–Your story described in one single sentence.

Next:

  • Intro main character(s).
  • Intro something interesting/unique about protagonist, or what that character wants.
  • What is the inciting incident (the event/issue that propels the story into motion)?
  • What happens next?
  • Present the stakes (what happens if the character fails).
  • What other “wacky” things happen?
  • Describe the character arc.
  • Present¬†a non-specific wrapup (not revealing the ending, but creating a sense of intrigue).
  • Remember that the entire pitch should only be 3-10 sentences in length.

For nonfiction:

  • Start with the same “basic beats of the pitch.”
  • What is¬†the book about?
  • What are the author credentials?
  • Present the author platform. Visibility as an author, including blog, Web site, speaking engagements … ¬†What concrete abilities exist right now to sell the book?

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Okay, that completes my notes from yesterday’s three main tent sessions. My promise to you is that, before the weekend¬†is over, you’ll also have my notes on the three sessions this morning, the Keynote Address right after lunch, my¬†details about the Pitch Slam this afternoon, and then the three sessions tomorrow morning as well as the Closing Address. The stuff is really interesting and, I believe, of great value to us as we each pursue our literary journeys. So, my notes are extensive, and I don’t want to shortcut the transcription for you.

Since I don’t have any pictures of the snow, I’m closing with a shot of me in my room after I came up from today’s sessions. Have a great night!

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Hi, everyone! And greetings from the Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan! The weather is extremely cold here as we brace for our first snow storm of the winter (except for the weird one we had on October 29). Tomorrow (Saturday) we could have as much as five inches, with more across the Hudson River in New Jersey where I live. Natives who usually complain about the winters are actually excited because a winter here with zero snow seems oddly wrong. I’m excited too because I’m one of the strange people who truly loves the snow. And being in the city during the storm will be especially fun.

Meanwhile, I arrived at the hotel just as the conference was getting underway. Had to really push my body through the lingering dizziness from treatment #5, a successful push eventually made possible by my mind, which was excited¬†like a kid about coming here. The sessions began at 4:00 p.m., right on the scheduled dot, and did not conclude until 7:15. Upon returning to my room, there was no heat, and within a few minutes I was shivering. So, they had to call an engineer, who was working somewhere else at that moment, and I waited in the lobby bar where I had a club sandwich and a cranberry juice (missing my favored wine and calamari but pretending). By the time they switched my room, it was almost 9:30. Then I settled in (the new room is great–bigger, newly renovated, and a nice reward), washed my face, took off my hair ( ūüôā ), and sat down to transcribe my copious notes for you from the three sessions. But I’m too tired to do a good job for you,¬†so I’ll get the notes out to you first thing in the morning before I report for duty at session #1 at 9:00.

Here are the three topics and presenters, though, as a tease:

  • “Writing About Yourself in the Digital Age” — A.J. Jacobs, Author
  • “Writing the 21st Century Novel” — Donald Maass, Literary Agent (extraordinary)
  • “Pitch Perfect” — Chuck Sambuchino, Author, and Editor of Guide to Literary Agents

All three sessions were outstanding, although my favorite was Maass. And since I was sitting at a table up front, he sat there too for about fifteen minutes ahead of his presentation. I’ve pitched to him at previous conferences, and he just oozes the desire¬†to help writers. A¬†young fellow next to me had never pitched anything to anyone before (and I think this is his first conference). After a couple of questions from the young man, Maass¬†just instinctively and automatically asked him to give the pitch and then began giving him suggestions. Maass¬†used his last-minute prep time for his own presentation to help an aspiring novelist instead. And that just might turn out to be the most impressive event during these three days. We’ll see.

As an update, I’ve decided that I will pitch my nonfiction project tomorrow. Passing up the opportunity to receive input from a bunch of agents would be fairly stupid, I’ve concluded. Unlike last year, I have absolutely no expectations other than to learn something. You will naturally be updated.

Meanwhile, this weekend¬†is definitely not going to be disappointing. I can already tell. Stay tuned for my early Saturday¬†morning post on today’s sessions. Then there will be four more sessions ahead of the three-hour Pitch Slam in the afternoon. My energy is low but happily uplifted by the inspiration and motivational charge I always get from this conference. Can’t wait to share the details after a little sleep.

Have a good night! I’ll take some pictures of the snow during lunch. Sweet dreams to all!

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In a Nutshell, Three Elements to Launch 2012’s Writing Year:

1. The third annual Writer’s Digest Conference begins tomorrow (January 20) at the Sheraton in Manhattan, and I am extremely excited, as usual! Those of you who are familiar with this blog understand my affinity for this particular conference and the impact that the first conference in September 2009 had upon¬†my publishing decisions relative to my second novel (Separation of Faith). That first conference¬†also marked the motivating moment for the launch of this blog, among other¬†social media outreach activities.

Throughout the multiplying years in which I’ve been pursuing this literary dream, I have no idea how many sizes and shapes of conferences I’ve attended. A bunch, for certain! And a number of those were actually produced every year by Writer’s Digest¬†in conjunction with Book Expo America (BEA), the publishing industry’s annual convention event. But Writer’s Digest broke away from BEA in 2009 and began holding their own conference. And that’s when everything changed for me. You can¬†read about the reason’s for the metamorphosis in this blog’s Launch posting (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/hello-world/).

Since then, the WD¬†conference¬†has become¬†the best one out there, in my opinion. For writers¬†in search of the truth about the publishing world and practical information/tools that¬†help us navigate through that world, this conference is “the” place to be. If you’d like to explore the conference agenda and sessions, here’s a quick link: http://www.writersdigestconference.com/ehome/27962/52254/?&. And for those of you with a sustained interest, I’ll be blogging throughout the three days, giving you the inside scoop from the sessions I attend and from other attendees and presenters with whom I have the opportunity to chat.

Regarding the Pitch Slam session on Saturday afternoon, I’m not sure yet if I’ll be pitching. Part of that decision will depend on how I’m feeling (see point #3 below). If I do pitch, I’ll be focusing on my nonfiction project, which isn’t finished (nonfiction books don’t need to be finished before pitching, but I’d prefer that mine were). Still, if I’m feeling empowered by Saturday afternoon, I might run the project by a few of those agents just for the practice.¬†At this writing, I’m fairly certain that I want to move forward with that project on my own, publishing an e-book first followed by print options. I’ll know more about that direction once the conference is over, since I’m attending several sessions on how writers can navigate the wild and ever-changing publishing world on their own. Stay tuned for my blog posts on the subject as the conference unfolds.¬†If you happen to be¬†at the conference yourself, please let¬†me know so we can connect somewhere!

The opening address will begin at 4:00 p.m. EST. You’ll be on my mind! ūüôā

2. New Year’s Inspiration can be found almost everywhere we look as writers.¬†People¬†in my life are¬†constantly telling me about someone they know who’s in some sort of jam that could be tweaked and woven into a novel’s plot or subplot. And I recently sat at the pharmacy for 90 minutes where I observed no less than¬†a half dozen¬†interpersonal scenarios that¬†could be spun into fun stories. If we’re alert, there will never be a shortage of material. But as 2012 gets underway and we are all still focusing on our resolutions, I’d like to share a few links I’ve been collecting that I hope will offer you a nudge, an idea, or a little inspiration, if you’re in search of such things.

Please let me know if you find anything helpful in these lists. Since creating consistency in my writing routine is one of my 2012 resolutions, I have the “Reboot” list posted on the wall close by.

3. Where Am I in the Treatment Part of My Life? Currently, I’m in the middle of Round #5 (of 6). The effects became noticeably cumulative, beginning with Round #4, so I’ve been struggling a bit, especially through the holidays. But the good news is that #6 will happen on January 30, followed by the standard three weeks of not-so-hot, which will then be followed by … nothing else! Yay! When this process began with Round #1 on October 13, today’s point on the calendar looked like a millennium away. And yet, here we are, about a month away from being completely finished with the process. And I’m going to the Writer’s Digest Conference, which I wasn’t sure I could make even a few days ago. Lots of blessings to start the New Year!

Two more photos are attached, both of which were taken a week before Christmas. These images seem to be a good way to mark the progress of this journey within a journey.

All the best to each of you as the New Year becomes fully launched. Wishing for each of you that your dreams come true in 2012! Talk to you soon from the conference!

Holiday Thoughts & New Year’s Wishes

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This past Monday, November 28, turned out to be an extraordinarily long day.

And yet much progress was made on the new book!

Although the arrival time for my chemo appointment on Monday was a couple of hours earlier than normal–which would have led one to believe that the day might end an equivalent¬†number of¬†hours earlier–alas, that was not to be. Because last week was Thanksgiving, lots of people like me opted not to have treatment on that Monday or on Thanksgiving Thursday (the only two days of the week that chemo is administered). Instead, a whole gaggle of us shifted our¬†appointments to this week. That, as you might imagine, led to a backup of gargantuan proportions. I arrived shortly before 10:00 a.m. and left¬†the chemo suite that night at 7:30.

Adding to the unusual nature of the day was the fact that this¬†was the first time I’ve gone¬†through the process alone. Normally, my daughter is with me. But she had an unmanageable conflict at work, so I went solo. Admittedly, that is not my favorite way to experience the experience, and yet I was able to make good use of the quiet time by writing a substantial portion of the chapter on¬†the “hair thing” associated with chemo. Of course, the part I wrote during the 90 minutes following the¬†IV bag of Benadryl¬†wasn’t completely intelligible … or even exactly legible …¬†since I had been making notes earlier in a spiral binder and decided, for some unknown reason to keep writing instead of plugging in my mini. But those pen strokes (and, believe me,¬†I use the words lightly) marking up and down (and across and sideways) on the page did make me laugh. And then I got serious when the Benadryl began to wear off and the chemo¬†drugs started infusing. In fact, I wrote for the entire four and a half hours of the infusion process.

Given my previous¬†blog comments on the subject, there¬†won’t be¬†any surprise to learn that this “hair thing” is a huge component of chemo–at least for me.¬†And the more women I meet at Sloan-Kettering, the “huge-er” the subject becomes. Each person handles the trauma differently. And some, amazingly enough,¬†don’t even use the word trauma.¬†Yet all are deeply affected by this particular side effect, which hits every part of the body, not just the head. Eyebrows, eyelashes, everything–nothing is sacred. Consequently, the manner in which women come to grips with the situation has become increasingly fascinating. And this¬†chapter is extraordinarily¬†important to me, because I’m hoping to¬†offer a small measure¬†of help to women who might be feeling alone or isolated in the midst of the decisions they have to make and those things over which they have no control.

My goal of having this book available on Kindle, etc., by the end of December seems attainable at the moment. And I’m especially motivated now that I’ve enrolled in the January Writer’s Digest Conference (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/happy-thanksgiving-wishes-for-peace-updates/) where I’m hoping to practice pitching this¬†new work to agents, just for the heck of it.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of¬†photos of me and my new hair taken with my Webcam¬†in my office tonight. Thank goodness for the blessing of this thing on my head, because without it¬†I look like a bald man! Seriously!¬† ūüôā¬† (Behind me is the glass wall separating my office from my living/dining room, in case you’re wondering about the reflection.) Hope you’re all having a great week!

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Priorities

All too often, with the legions of tasks and issues filling up the minutes of our lives every day,¬†the truly important stuff can be momentarily overlooked or even forgotten altogether for embarrassingly extended periods of time.¬†In the crush of 2011, I know this has been true for me. So, on this Thanksgiving–and not just yesterday on the actual holiday, but at frequent intervals throughout the entire four-day weekend–I’m making a point of reminding myself¬†of how extraordinarily grateful I am for the following:

  • Despite a somewhat challenging list of health issues with some of us,¬†key members of my beloved¬†family are all still here.
  • And¬†I am still here.
  • So are my cherished friends–some going back 20, 30, 40 years or more, and others who’ve come into my life in the last decade.
  • Memories of family members and friends who’ve gone ahead remain strong and empowering.
  • In these times of heavy financial stress, all of those I love have a roof over their heads and food on their tables.
  • So do I. And given the millions of people across our country who are missing one or more of those life essentials, I am unbelievably grateful but also feel the need to do something to help those who are suffering. Each of our communities offers a range of options for any of us looking for a way to “give back.” I’m grateful for those individuals who devote their own lives to keeping such options available.
  • Personal medical challenges are being met with the awesome skills of my physician team coupled with amazing advances in science. (And I pray that the time will come soon when every single person will have equal access to the same skills and advances. No one should suffer needlessly, die prematurely, or go broke because they get sick!)
  • My writing continues to unfold, and I still have great hope for happy surprises in 2012! To all writers out there: No one is going to live our dreams for us, so we can never stop or give up. Whatever we can see in our imaginations, we can make happen. But if we stop because we’re discouraged and/or tired of the drill, the dream stops too. So, the first thing we need to say to ourselves each day is, “Write today! Write something today!
  • There’s a¬†little voice inside my head–which can be incredibly annoying–that is never silent and keeps saying, “Get up! Keep going!” And, in those moments when I feel like saying, “Why don’t you¬†get up, if you think it’s so easy,” I somehow discover that my feet are on the floor and I’m moving forward. Such strength comes from a different source or place for each of us, depending upon our individual beliefs. Acknowledging that strength and power will not only keep us going as writers but as participants in life as well.¬†I’m very grateful for that realization and immeasurably humbled as well!

Happy Thanksgiving once again to each of you and to those close to you as we now move officially into the holiday season!

NEWS FLASH! 2012 Writer’s Digest Conference¬†Scheduled in New York City January 20-22!

Those of you who’ve been following this blog for awhile know that the first Writer’s Digest Conference¬†held independently from¬†Book Expo America¬†took place¬†in New York City in September 2009 and¬†was the source of my original epiphany. The entire direction for publishing my second novel changed as a result of that conference, and this blog was launched¬†on November 4, 2009 as a direct consequence of what I learned there.

If you’d like more detail on that epiphany, please check out the Blog Launch Posting at https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/hello-world/.

During last year’s conference (WD‘s second), I blogged while I was there.¬†If you’re interested in my bird’s eye view and perspective, you can find those details beginning¬†at https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/writers-digest-conference-day-1/¬†and then in the eight consecutive posts thereafter.

Is your interest peaked? I honestly believe that this is one of the best, if not the best, conferences for all writers, but especially for writers in search of both the truth about the publishing business as well as guidance. Here are some links for you to explore about the highlights of the 2012 conference coming up this January:

Despite the fact that¬†I will still have one chemo round left to go and might not be feeling at the top of my game, I wouldn’t miss this event! And I’m already registered! So, if you decide to attend, please let me know. I’d love to meet you while we’re there!

Progress on My Write-a-Thon to Complete My Next Book’s Draft in 26 Days

Well … I cannot tell a lie. (This is for my nonfiction project centering around my breast cancer.) I was supposed¬†to begin the actual¬†writing part of the process on November 1 (see initial details on my 26-day project in my post at https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/publishing-cancer-journeys-merge-in-earnest/). However, I actually began the writing-the-book portion¬†on November 13. And I haven’t been following the “script”¬†line for line each day.

Before I began this project/method/experiment, I had¬†already written four chapters of this new book, and I had outlined¬†my vision of how the chapters would flow. But the excercises in the first half of Write-a-Thon¬†by Rochelle Melander¬†helped me look at the work I’d already done from a different perspective. Consequently, when I began focusing on the book, I realized that a lot of organizational changes needed to be made. Some of the chapters I’d envisioned were no longer relevant (or, more importantly, interesting), while other topics emerged¬†as significant.

For example, I had not planned to spend any¬†time at all on treatment options, because every woman’s situation will be different and, more importantly, I’m not a doctor. (The primary target audience for this book will be woman who’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer.) However, I am now going to spend a chapter on chemo–not on the chemo itself but on the impact that the process of going through chemo can have on the woman’s life and on the lives of those around her.

Making this even more complicated is the fact that I did not have chemo for my breast cancer. Instead, I’m on a drug called Arimidex for five years (three and a half more since I’ve already been on it for almost 18 months). But I am going through chemo now for this newest cancer (see info on my weird situation in my post at https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/publishing-cancer-journeys-merge-in-earnest/ )–and I’ve discovered that what women go through as a result of chemo is fairly universal, regardless of the type of cancer she’s fighting.

On that note, one entire chapter of this new book will be¬†about hair! ūüôā Without giving anything away, just let me say OMG! This entire¬†“hair thing” has, without question, been the worst part of the whole¬†experience for me to-date. My own hair is now completely gone, and although you’ll never see a picture of me bald, I am including at the end of this post a few photo angles¬†of me with my “new¬†hair.” You can compare this “updated me” with the last photo¬†I posted of me with my real hair at ¬†https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/new-take-on-where-do-you-see-yourself-in-five-years/¬†(scroll to end of that post). And, in summary, the minute I was able to look at myself in the mirror and see “me,” my emotional equilibrium returned, and I felt immeasurably better. The many steps along that journey will be in the book. Just let me say at this point, though, that I had no idea how unprepared I was for that aspect of chemo–and I’m hopeful that what I’m writing will help at least one other woman navigate those steps with substantially less trauma than I put myself through over almost two months.

Another Interesting WSJ Article on Self-Publishing

On October 31, one of those cherished family members I mentioned at the beginning of this post sent me a link to “Secret of Self-Publishing: Success” by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg in the Wall Street Journal. Any writer considering/exploring self-publishing as an option will find this of interest, whether you’re a new writer trying to decide which way to go for your first book or whether you’re an established writer who’s curious (and brave).

This is just the one more perspective now that self-publishing has become a legitimate path for authors of all¬†genres to get their work into the hands of readers. I’ll be interested to hear what you think: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203554104577002230413747366.html.

Okay–Here Are¬†My “New Hair” Pictures

Keep in mind that none of this is growing out of my head!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” and putting up my tree! ūüôā

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