Part of Your Publishing World

Most people know I LOVE Disney music. Literally, I spent my childhood memorizing Disney movies, which really means Disney songs. Okay, so I’m referring to the greats composers from Mulan and prior. I went to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) this weekend where I stuffed my brain with knowledge and met some fabulous people. (including one of my heroes, RL Stine!!) I think all who attended left with nuggets to use in their writing. I know I came home super-inspired.

Since I am a singer, I often sing around my house…and tonight I randomly started changing the words to “Part of Your World” from the Little Mermaid. Now the song has to do with reading, writing, and a desire to enter the publishing world. I mean, who needs legs when you can publish a book?

In case you need a refresher on the melody so you can sing along below, here’s the link:

“Publishing World”

Look at these books, isn’t it neat?
Would you think my collection’s complete?
Wouldn’t you think I’m the writer,
The writer who has everything?

Look at these bookshelves, treasures untold,
How many stories can ten bookshelves hold?
Looking around here you’d think
Sure, she’s got everything

I’ve got Steinbeck and Ritchey and Tolkien,
I’ve got Pierce, I’ve got Christie and King,
You want Patterson? I’ve got twenty!
But who cares? No big deal,
I want more…

I want to be where my favorite authors are,
I want to write, want to share my stories

Selling my books in those,
What do you call ‘em again?

Self-defeating thoughts won’t get you too far,
Strength is required for writing, sharing
Using your courage to
What’s the word again?

Up where they read, up where they write,
Up where they spend all day editing!
Spreading the joy,
Wish I could be, part of that publishing world

What would I give if I could meet
That special agent
What would I pay to spend a day
With the right editor

Betcha’ at PPWC, they understand,
That you don’t ridicule young writer
Book is finished, sick of editing
Ready to publish

And ready to know what the agents know
Ask ’em my questions
And get some answers
What’s a social media platform and where does the time go?

When’s it my turn?
Wouldn’t I love, love to explore the publishing world?
No longer ‘aspiring’
Wish I could be
Part of that publishing world


Lunch with RL Stine at PPWC!


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Networking for Writers

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to do a series just for my writing friends on networking. I have experience networking from organizing networking events for small businesses (watch and learn!) and from working for a professional networking coach (who published two books on networking, one of which I helped proof). This first blog post is geared towards someone who is in the beginning levels of working on their social networking skills.

I noticed that there are no networking books out there specifically for writers, and writers are very different because most of us do not have ‘salesperson personalities’ nor do we network in the circles most networking books are centered around. I want to share these secrets with other writers, so that ‘networking’ can be fun for them too! There is so much to say on this topic, so let’s get started!


Honestly, I’d like to come up with a better word to use than ‘networking’ because the term has such a negative connotation. ‘Networking’ is often a word that conjures up fear and anxiety for many writers, When you think of ‘networking,’ does it bring up images of a business guy handing out his card, desperately trying to earn your business, caring nothing of you and what you really need? We inherently know this is not what good networking is and we don’t want to participate in it. Good news is we don’t have to!

So I propose calling Networking by what it truly is: Building Relationships. Not trying to be the person who gets the tallest stack of business cards by speaking to the most people in the room. And not trying to sell your product to every person you meet with feigned regard for their interests. We all want to develop mutually beneficial relationships with others in the writing community. Supporting one another is how we all thrive.

The topic of Introversion:

While I recognize that not all writers are introverts, I think a lot of us are. And even if we are borderline or even full-blown extroverts, we spend a lot of time working alone. So I think it needs to be said that just because someone is an introvert doesn’t mean that they don’t or can’t have the social skills to network. I have worked with Director-level introverts who routinely have to give presentations, run all day sections at a conference, and network with politicians and lobbyists. These people have very strong social skills while being introverts.

I really want to change people’s thinking that “introvert” means someone who lacks social skills and is not good with people (because it clearly doesn’t). I think things like networking just tend to come easier to extroverts because they are often more talkative. Plenty of extroverts don’t have true social skills – they just make it seem like they do by being more conversational.

I’ve done a bunch of research on introverts and extroverts, because the main character in my series Twins of Orion is an introvert and I wanted to learn what that truly meant. So, the main question to ask yourself on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert is whether you recharge from being around people, or being by yourself.

Until more recently, I used to be an extrovert – I thrived off being around other people – I got my energy from it. A couple years ago something switched and now I have joined the introvert crowd, where I recharge by being alone, rather than from groups of people. Where being around tons of people used to energize me, now I feel drained and look forward to my alone-time after an event. That could be the only ‘downfall’ of meditating and training my mind for the past several years…

A good pic to zoom in on

So why Network?
There are multiple reasons to network, here are three of them:

1) Networking is practicing talking to strangers. As a professional author, there are plenty of times when you’ll be speaking to people you don’t know, including fans, agents, editors, publishers, and other business contacts. It’s good practice because while researching for your book, you may need to interview other professionals in different industries and networking can help you build that confidence to approach them.

2) Publishing is not a solo-operation: This is such a big topic, but the publishing industry has changed drastically. My limited understanding is that if you write, publish and sell your book in a silo, your book will not likely sell well, even if it is the best book ever written. Readers need to be able to find your book amongst the overwhelming sea of reading possibilities, and that means having a writer’s platform, connecting both with others in the industry and your readers. For more information on this topic, please see Kristen Lamb. I recommend her book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. The faster we recognize this, the faster we can move forward in our careers in the new paradigm!

3) All professionals need sharing and collaboration to succeed: Networking is also about sharing the skills/knowledge you have with other people. Everyone has something to offer another through their own area of expertise and interest. If there is a way you can help a fellow author or even know someone who can help, this is valuable. As Kristen Lamb says, “We Are Not Alone.” She even backs this up with an online community she created for just for writers:

Prior to the Event:

Before you attend a conference or networking event, take some time to review any available presenter and guest list. Make a list of who you especially desire to meet. For example, if you know you really want to meet Larry Brooks, make sure you take his class! Maybe bring a book for them to sign (where appropriate). If it’s another guest, find a pic, so you can scope them out! Then learn about the people you want to meet – this is especially important if you plan on meeting with an agent or editor. A relationship with an agent/editor is not a one-way street, it’s important for you to know if they will be a good fit for you too, and this comes from learning about them. Of course, this doesn’t mean stalking people and Googling each person for hours, just enough to appear professional…which you are!

Quick note on business cards: I’ve found that people will ask for your email address, twitter name, or how to get in touch with you and it helps to have a business card to share with those who are interested. It doesn’t have to be something fancy, you can even print them yourself. Here is what I recommend you at least list on your cards: Name, (Pen Name if applicable), website, Twitter name, email address (if you have a professional one). Optional items include: title of your book(s), summary of your current work, and a small pic. I just made little ones to share because I have not published anything yet, and I liked how they looked. 🙂

Five tips to get you started on Building Relationships during a Writing Conference or other Networking event:

1) Presentation

You know what your style is and what you feel comfortable wearing. Dress sharp in a way that you will feel confident. It’s strange to think that what you wear can affect your attitude, but I’ve found it’s actually true! Practice feeling confident… ‘Fake it till you make it!’

Remember your handshake! Although it seems like a small detail, your handshake leaves an impression with the other person. It’s great to use networking events to practice your handshake so that you have a great, solid and confident handshake when you go to meet with an agent, an editor, a publisher, etc. Or even when interviewing for ‘day jobs!’

So what is a good handshake consist of you say? Clasp the other person’s hand firmly so it’s not wilted like a fish or bone-crushing like Thor. The timing is one down-up-down motion (or up-down-up); don’t hold the other person’s hand too long like it’s a life-raft and not too short like you are afraid of human contact. Take that moment to make confident eye contact, not gazing longingly like in a romance novel or with laser-beam eyes from sci-fi book. Best to practice with a friend until you get the feel just right. I have been told multiple times I have a good handshake by business professionals and I think this comes from lots of practice.

2) Recognize where you are in the Writing Journey:

Whether you’re new to writing, have a WIP, are in the editing stages, or have published novel(s), practice what you’ll say to other people when they ask about you. I know it’s weird, but I recommend practicing your personal spiel in front of the mirror. Feeling that uncomfortable edge in front of the mirror will help you feel that much less uncomfortable sharing about your story in front of another person.

And please, honor yourself for wherever you are in your writing journey. Many writers face the challenge of feeling insecure at conferences because they have not yet published a book which often makes these writers feel less than worthy from their fellow published authors. I challenge that this is not the case. All writers have gone through the various stages of a writer’s journey to get where they are now – even you.

Even the great Stephen King was once unpublished and received a multitude of rejection letters. Even the great Stephen King went through a time he didn’t think that he was good enough to be a published novelist. You’ll feel better and have a lot more fun if you can allow yourself to feel the freedom to be confident in sharing wherever you are in your journey. Honestly, the writer’s journey is something we all can relate to; it creates camaraderie between authors.

Image Courtesy of Benko Photographics,

3) Make the first move:

We are creatures of habit and tend to sit in the same area of a room, which is perfectly fine. (I always like to sit in the front row, for example). Just don’t limit yourself to only speaking to the couple people right next to you. This doesn’t mean to ignore them after you’ve spoken to them once or twice. Try to strike a balance of continuing to speak to people you’ve already met and meeting new people. The key here is to listen and never ignore someone.

For example: You can turn around and speak to the people sitting behind you. Invite someone you found particularly interesting to join you for lunch. Sit at different tables for meals so you can interact with new people.

Practice being the one to make the first move in a conversation. In the last three writing conferences I’ve attended, I have probably initiated 70% of the conversations. If I had not spoken to people around me, we would have sat in complete silence prior to the start of a session or after a session is over. (I tend to wait a little before jumping in to speak with someone, not always wanting to say the first words). Although awkward at first, the practice of starting conversations with strangers becomes a lot easier. I’ve met plenty of fabulous people this way and had a lot of interesting conversations.

If you need a pressure-less environment to practice this, try saying ‘hi’ to people in the grocery line. Just a simple hi. Be friendly with the cashier when you check out. Also, things like and volunteering can help you practice meeting lots of new people.

Talking to strangers is really someone anyone can learn. (Except for people with agoraphobia, but then those people are probably not attending writing conferences, now are they?)

4) What to say?

Come up with an introductory phrase and practice prior to the event. You will find a few phrases that are comfortable for you and fit your personality. Always be true to yourself. You are your own brand, after all. Here are several examples to help get you started that I found worked well at the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference in LA (August, 2014)

  • Hi, I’m Jennifer, what’s your name?
  • Hi, I’m Jennifer, what do you like to write?
  • Hi, I’m Jennifer, I see your name tag says “author,” what have you written?
  • Hi, I’m Jennifer, I see you’re from Colorado too! (Good for conferences outside of Colorado/your home state)
  • Hi, I’m Jennifer. I heard you say that you are a musician. I am one too – what is your instrument?
  • Hi, I’m Jennifer. I heard you write fantasy/sci-fi. I do too! What’s your story about?

PS. Please don’t say your name is Jennifer, unless it is. 😉

You’ll notice that these sentences focus more on asking the other person about themselves versus starting off with a spiel about yourself. Once you get past this initial introduction phase, I find people are generally interested to find out more about you and will continue the conversation. So, be prepared to answer those generic questions, ‘tell me about yourself?’ and ‘what do you write?’ and ‘what’s your book about?’ etc.

A critical part of Building Relationships is genuinely thinking about how you can help the other person. I’ve found joy in sharing a marketing tip I learned from one session with another writer who didn’t attend that session but wanted to know more. I think it feels good to help other people. When you start networking with other authors, you’ll find what makes you feel good in these interactions as well.

I’ll be honest, sometimes you (or the other person) may find you’re not interested in chatting more past the first few sentences and that is perfectly fine. Seriously not everybody has to like everybody. You won’t ‘click’ with everyone, so don’t expect everyone else to ‘click’ with you.

But after a conference where you may interact directly with 20-30 people, my guess is that you will come away with 2-3 really solid people that you want to continue closer relationships with. Of course, it’s good to follow-up with the people you meet, continue to think of how you can help them. But there will always be a couple that stand out in your mind that you may end up spending more time with.

5) Take Notes!

I don’t know about you, but I have a terrible memory. And thanks to Google, I no longer have to remember everything. You may leave with a handful of business cards and have a slight memory of the people you met, but not the specifics. Do yourself a favor and jot down a note to yourself about each person you meet. I did this on my iPad, but a notepad, back of their business card (if it’s not shiny), or your cell phone works too. I like to make a note about what they do, note if they are in my genre or have a similar passion, and any ideas I had of how I could help them.

Most of all: smile, listen, and have fun! 🙂

And finally, while it is important to meet other people in the writing community, most of your efforts should be focused on writing the best book you possibly can. The next blog post about Networking for Writers will be about following up with the people that you meet. Good luck and Happy Networking… I mean Building Relationships! 🙂

What experiences have you had at writing conferences? Any particularly helpful tips you found? If you are shy, what is the best tip you’ve heard that helped you come out of your shell? Anyone have any funny networking experiences you’d like to share?


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Have people become desensitized to the word “depression”?

This will be a short blog post today. I just wanted to share my own thoughts that have surfaced around the loss of someone who has been meaningful to me in my own life.

To me Robin Williams’ death signifies a loss of hope. I love Robin Williams’ work. I’m numb, can’t sleep and various things keep setting me off crying again and I know it’s more than him being one of my all-time favorite actors. He touched my life (and many others) with a friend-like quality. I think it shows the interconnectivity of the human race that I could have never met the man and still feel such profound grief at his passing.  Robin Williams had a way of connecting with people.

His suicide has sparked many a negative comment about depression. I even had a conversation with an acquaintance who was going on about not being able to understand why someone would take their life. They simply did not understand why they would see suicide as a solution. And this is someone who’s worked with health care for almost two decades who I would have thought would’ve had more understanding).

And at that moment it struck me how the word “depression” has become so desensitized in our culture. And that goes for “clinical/severe depression” as well. I hear all too often people giving generic platitudes to someone suffering from depression – words that don’t help. If you’ve never suffered from depression (and especially chronic depression), then you don’t understand that it’s not a simple switch to feel better. This is not me suggesting you ignore a depressed friend, just please don’t be one of those people who says things like, ‘get over it.’

Many people expect those feeling depressed to simply be able to ‘shake it off’ – like they’re consciously making the choice to go through such pain. They expect you to just ‘take your drugs’ and feel better, but it’s often not as simple as that  People who don’t understand what depression feels like erroneously think you can just take a pill and magically feel better. For me, it took several years of study, and meeting brilliant mentors to relieve my depression. And I still have to stay diligent and stay on top of my crazy mind so I don’t spiral down into depression again. I am lucky – I have wise friends who consistently help each other through this human experience.

Maybe I feel hopeless from Robin Williams’ death, but I do hope that his suicide will raise awareness that depression should be taken more seriously outside the medical community. The word should not just be merely ‘glanced over’ when it comes up in conversation. In fact, last week, in an effort to help our staff increase their cultural awareness around mental diseases, the Cultural Competency Team had us do an exercise – to put eleven diseases in order of how they impact daily life.

This exercise was based on a Western study that ranked the disability weight for several diseases into 11 Disability Classes.  You might be surprised to learn that “Severe Depression” was rated in the same category as someone with high level spina bifida and Multiple sclerosis (10th). What’s in that top 11th category you ask?: Schizophrenia, Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and Dementia. I want to make sure you read that right. Severe depression came in more impacting in a person’s daily life than “Stroke with Moderate Impairments”, Paraplegia and Severe Vision Disorder – to cap it off with Moderate Depression (7th) and Mild Depression (4th) also appearing. Wow. All three levels of depression made it onto a list of disabilities most impacting daily life. Proof “depression” is not a generic term that should be thrown around lightly.

Here is the link to the study if you are curious.


So what do you do when you find yourself depressed? Maybe you’ve found a psychologist who works for you, maybe you haven’t found that healer that suits your needs yet. Maybe you’ve found that special person, someone you trust to give you good advice and guide you on your path. If not, keep searching. I’ve personally found that the people I’ve surrounded myself with over the years have made all the difference. I would not be where I am today without those friends  – you know who you are.

If you are in that space where you are interested in resources, I am going to take this moment to share a couple books that have helped me through my own depression. I’m in no means telling everyone to go out and read these books – I’m just putting it out there in case they can help someone as they’ve helped me.

Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping [I STILL do the RF worksheets!]

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön [LOVE HER!!]

I want to be a resource for the people in my community. If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned here, or any of the resources, please message me. I’ve spent a long time studying and have would be happy to lend an ear.

If you feel depressed, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but there are resources out there. I want to spread these numbers, make sure people know they are available. If you or someone you know needs help please contact the National Suicide Helpline at 1-800-273-8255 or for young adult and teens to chat anonymously on and for a link of resources worldwide:!

I’m going to end this post with the beautiful mantra Namo Quan Shi Yin Pusa. (Quan Yin is the Bodhisattva of compassion and loving kindness).  If you are feeling in pain, or sad, or looking to feel more compassion for yourself and what you’re going through as a human, you may find listening to this and even chanting with it may bring you comfort. I know singing it myself last night helped me feel more peace.

Have you had other experiences with words people seem desensitized to? If you have ever suffered from depression, what tools have you found of use to you? Peace to you…

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Our Animal Friends

Our Animal Friends

So I’m going to tell you a story about my ferret friend Pinky, and it’s a true story.

One night in the heat of August 2012, my sister, our friend Ely and I came home to a spectacular little creature. I have a basement apartment with those high basement windows,  and there peeking through one of them was a ferret.

Sir Pinkerton peeking through my window (aka. “Pinky”)

We were all surprised. Ferrets are not wild here in Colorado! It wasn’t supposed to be out there, and yet there he was! My sister, who is very good with animals, convinced me to bring him in. We didn’t want him wondering around lost on his own, especially when his family was probably missing him.

As if I needed more convincing it was meant to be, before we even emerged from the back door, Pinky had crawled under the fence and was waiting for us in the side yard.  It was like he knew where we were going… So my sister took one step towards the ferret, and he waddled right up to her so she could pick him up. It was then that he wiggled into our hearts forever.

Honestly, I wasn’t allowed to have pets at that time, so it was only meant to be temporary until his owner picked him up. But no one ever came – I posted about my little lost ferret with no response. It seemed fate he was here in my life.

And that was a little sad too because it was obvious he used to have an owner. Pinky seemed so well-behaved (for a ferret) and had no trouble using the litter boxes (mostly). But it was obvious he had been missing for a long time since his nails were super long, and his coat was rough and itchy. He devoured the kitten food we bought him, and to this day, kitten food is his favorite treat. I also bought him omega-3 oils (for ferrets), which helped soften his coat and remove the itching.

“Ferret vs. Sock.”…His first night home!

It really was an interesting time for him to show up. I was having major health issues in 2012 and was really at my rope’s end. But here was this little monster who forced me to smile at his antics every morning. If only for a few minutes, he forced me to feel joy before I went to work every day.

Pinky is good for me, as I think a lot of pets are for their owners in all different ways. For me, someone who always feels the need to be productive, Pinky reminds me that it’s okay to have fun just for the sake of having fun! Really, it is!

It’s amazing how much impact a little creature can have on your life. Now I can’t imagine what it was like walking through my home when I didn’t have to worry about stepping on him, or racing up the stairs without trying to beat him to the top. He even curls up next to me while I write.

And when our little friends become ill, it is torture. Recently, I learned my ‘little man’ had an infection. Before I knew what was wrong with him, the anxiety was so bad it gave me stomach aches and I couldn’t eat properly. I know ferrets have short lifespans and tend to get illnesses, but I’ve only been with him a year and a half – he couldn’t be terminally sick yet. Too soon!

Luckily, after only 18 hours of medication, Pinky regained slight alertness and curiosity. His namesake pinkness returned to his nose. Now, after a full week of antibiotics, he is his normal hyper-self. Every ferret owner knows the joy that watching a ferret’s signature ‘war dance’ can bring.

I love Sir Pinkerton, “Pinky.” He is my friend, my little buddy.

Seriously, aren’t I the cutest little thing? I looked up at Jennifer like this and then she called me “Pinky.”

It’s funny how when I tell people the story of Pinky finding me, how often I hear of other animals literally finding their human companions. For example, another ferret found a friend in a hospital parking lot while a family member lay dying inside. And the lady at the veterinarian’s office said her ferret found her as well! And a dog jumped into my colleague’s raft to be with her.

I could keep going, but what about you?  Did you have an animal friend show up in your life in a unique way? Did your animal friend have a bigger impact on your life than you expected? I’d especially love to hear from anyone I know who’s loved a ferret before!


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Reading Joys: My Beginning

Welcome friends. I’ve thought long and hard about what stories I would want to share with the world, outside of my novels. At first I thought about making it a game, where people from my community would share three random words, from which I would write a short story – I enjoy this practice and thought it would be fun. But then I wondered if my readers would even find that interesting – I want to share more than a parlor game.

Which leads me to: Reading.

Pinky with Book Image Courtesy of Sarah Brabazon WANA Commons


I think we all remember those first books of childhood that touched us, that changed us somehow. In my early-teens, I’ll admit it: I loved reading Goosebumps, Lurlene McDaniel and oddly, anything about Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia I could get my hands on. (Weird, I know).

And then, I clearly remember one book that changed everything. One book that catapulted me into a different level of reading. One book that I will read over and over the rest of my life. And that book is: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi (1990).

You may wonder why a proud tomboy would ever even TOUCH, much less continue reading a book with such a girly title and cover. Well, it all started because a librarian recommended I read all the Newberry award-winning books. (Yes, I was always hanging out with the librarians…). I went out gleefully with my little bookmark, fully intending to start at the beginning, and work my way through. The first Newbery winner – the tome of The Story of Mankind (1921) was way too dry and boring for my younger teen self. Several others also looked too dull for my ADHD mind. It was looking like I wasn’t going to achieve my goal (which, I never have, by the way).

And then, I came upon this book. Sitting innocently on the shelf. I read the back. A ship – that seemed intriguing. And it had a Newbery honor award. That counted, right?

I still remember racing through to the end and the feeling of breathlessness when I read the final words. Just thinking of the feeling makes me want to pick up my copy and read the book all over again. Someone here, and I’m not going to say who, may or may not have had the author sign her copy three times over the course of 15 years. 

Is this a review for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle? No. I would say this is a shout-out to all the books that have so innocently touched our lives. The authors out there merely penning a story from their hearts that reached out and grabbed ours. I think that is what all authors strive for, to touch at least one person with their storytelling.

And where is the synchronicity in this, you may ask? Well, I had always enjoyed writing stories. But it was after finishing The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle that I felt more invigorated and inspired in my dream. A few years later, I finished my first ‘novel’: 72-handwritten pages. Looking back, it doesn’t seem like much, but it was my start. The beginning of my journey to being a storyteller.

I hope some of you will enjoy this journey with me, as I share in the journeys of my own friends. Here, I will be exploring the synchronicities in life.

What experiences have you had that touched you and changed the course of your life? Were there any books you read that touched you so deeply, you still cherish them years later? Do you remember an item or moment that launched you towards your dreams?

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