NaNoWriMo – Tips for Success

by Nita Sweeney

When someone asks HOW to start writing, what they often want to know is WHERE to start writing, as in, “Where should my story begin?”

If it is November and they are participating in National Novel Writing Month, the annual challenge to write 50,000 words of fiction during the thirty days of November, about which I’ve written many times, the person’s question is premature.

Come to think of it, regardless of whether or not it is November or whether or not they are participating in NaNoWriMo, the question is still premature. In order to begin, a writer, new or otherwise, doesn’t need to know what words will follow the heading “Chapter One.” They just need to start writing.

But let me add a caveat. I write from my gut. I feel my way through. Not everyone is like this. Some people need to think a piece through or draft an outline. They may need extensive notes and research, especially for longer works. All that is fine, of course. But at some point, they just have to dive in.

That’s where writing practice saves me.

Decades of doing timed writing with no agenda except to put words on the page sidesteps the potentially paralyzing question of where the story should start. I figure it out by writing. I get in there and wallow around. Research or plotting or planning I’ve done ahead of time only serves me once my fingers are hammering the keyboard. I have to turn on the spigot and then, once the water is flowing, I’ll see what crevices it naturally wants to enter.

What is writing practice? It’s what I learned from best-selling author Natalie Goldberg. Timed writing. Set a timer and go. No thought. No crossing out or back spacing. No wondering if what I just wrote makes any sense. No stopping until the timer dings. It’s freeing and terrifying and the only way I know how to work. It’s the engine beneath everything I write.

And, it is just my way. I would love to hear about other ways in the comments.

Nita Sweeney
(c)Nita Sweeney, 2019, all rights reserved


Nita Sweeney is the author of the memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, which was short-listed for the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award. Her articles, essays, and poetry have appeared in magazines, journals, books, and blogs including Buddhist America, Dog World, Dog Fancy, Writer’s Journal, Country Living, Pitkin Review, The Taos News, Spring Street, Pencil Storm, WNBA-SF, It’s Not Your Journey, and in several newspapers and newsletters. She writes the blog, Bum Glue, publishes the monthly e-newsletter, Write Now Columbus, and coaches writers in Natalie Goldberg style “writing practice.” Nita has been featured widely across media outlets about writing, running, meditation, mental health, and pet care. She was nominated for an Ohio Arts Council Governor’s Award and her poem, “Memorial,” won the Dublin Arts Council Poet’s Choice Award. When she’s not writing or coaching, Nita runs and races. She has completed three full marathons, twenty-seven half marathons (in eighteen states), and more than eighty shorter races. Nita lives in central Ohio with her husband and biggest fan, Ed, and their yellow Labrador running partner, Scarlet (aka #ninetyninepercentgooddog).

Three Ways To Get Buzz For Your Book

By Paula Rizzo, author of Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You(September 2019)

A few short weeks ago, my newest book, Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You, was published! I’m super excited. 

Many of my clients are authors as well and I always give them the same advice when I’m media training or working on media strategy with them. 

So I’m practicing what I preach! 

Here’s what I’ve been doing to get my book out there before it hit bookshelves:  

Get Traditional Media Mentions: When it comes to publishing a book, I always tell my clients to get media attention well before the book comes out. If you’re lucky you could be like my friend Ilise Benun who got one media mention that brought her ten years worth of business! Check out my video interview with her here. 

I spent close to two decades as a television producer and the authors who got coverage were the ones that I already knew. That’s because they were already experts in my eyes and it was easy to say yes to someone who has already proven to be a good source for you. You want to be friendly with editors and producers well before you have a book to sell. It’s much easier to get their attention when they know and trust you already. 

As I always say media begets more media, so putting your name out there will create a ripple effect and hopefully bring new potential readers and media to your door. For more on what television producers specifically looking for check out my post on it here.

Here’s a recent interview I did with PsychCentral.com where I was interviewed about how to brainstorm better and be more creative. I took an example from my recent trip to Greece. Creativity is not a topic I typically would speak on but it worked and I got a mention for my book in there along with my quote. 

So that’s a lesson – don’t be tied to only talk about your topic. If you can confidently lend expertise in other areas do it – you’ll still get a mention for your book so it’s a win win! 

Also remember to never stop doing media. That’s a big mistake a lot of authors make. They only do media when they’re promoting. Make it part of your overall strategy. If you’re serious about this I can help – apply for a media strategy session here.

Produce Video Content: I may sound like a broken record with how often I encourage everyone to do video but that’s only because it works! 

When you’re seen on video the viewer gets to know you and like you. It’s a special connection that you can’t get through written word only. This is something you should be doing regularly. But for sure leading up to a big launch you should double your efforts.

There are so many topics that an author can create videos about. You wrote a whole book – pull from that! Remember to teach what you know and it will be much easier. 

If you want to learn how to create compelling video – take my free webinar “Produce Like a Pro” here

Plus, take your potential readers behind-the-scenes of your big launch. Let them see what you’re up to and they’ll get excited as well. For example, here are a few recent videos I’ve done as I prepare for Listful Living’s launch. 

VIDEO: Unboxing my author copies of Listful Living and seeing it for the first time!

FB LIVE: 30 Days til Listful Living Publishes

FB LIVE: Heading to record the audio book version of Listful Living 

Get Booked on Podcasts – Podcasts are so hot right now. You might be hearing that “everyone has a podcast” these days. They’re actually so popular that recording studios are the new must-have for boutique hotels. It’s true!  

So what better place to start getting your name out there? Podcasts tend to have a unique and niche audience so you can really target those who you think would be interested in what you offer. And you can even reach new audiences too. 

Also – podcasts are a good place to work out your material because they are usually between 20 minutes and one hour. So your answers don’t have to be as tight and concise as with television. 

Plus, here’s something you might not know, people who listen to podcasts buy books. Yep it’s true. 

Everyone thinks getting on the Today Show or another TV show means your book will fly off the shelves.

It’s simply not true. 

Podcasts are the ticket. 

In fact, I was just at a conference and a media expert said her client was on The Today Show and sold only 111 books from that appearance. But when she was on a podcast the numbers soared. 

Here are some of the recent podcasts I’ve been on to talk about my book – even before it is published!

Profitology Podcast with Kelly O’Neil – Crack the Media Code with Paula Rizzo. Even though this is about media I still got to mention my book. 

Good Life Coach with Michele Lamourex – How to Get Booked on TV and in Print. Same with this podcast and the host was so intrigued with my other expertise in productivity and list making that she wanted to record a second show just on that topic. 

Good Life Coach with Michele Lamourex – How to Use Lists for a Happier Less Stressed. 

Get Published with Paul Brodie  – How to Use Traditional Media Effectively. This one combines my journey as an author with strategies to get media attention.

available now and  

My book is available everywhere books are sold; if you’re the least bit interested I’d love if you grabbed a copy now: 

Amazon: http://bit.ly/ListfulLiving  

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/ListfulLivingBN 

Indiebound: http://bit.ly/ListfulLivingIndiebound

BONUS FREEBIE: Your message deserves the media’s attention. So how do you get out there in a bigger way? I’ve got you covered. CLICK HERE to grab my free “Checklist to Become a Go-To Media Expert.”


As a best-selling author and Emmy-award winning television producer for nearly 20 years, I’ve produced health, wellness, and lifestyle segments with a range of top experts, including JJ Virgin, Jillian Michaels, and Deepak Chopra. I served as senior health producer for Fox News Channel in New York City for over a decade. Today, I work with experts, authors, and entrepreneurs on how to position themselves for media (traditional as well as blogs and podcasts), build their lists, and engage customers and fans for their brands, books and businesses.

I’m also the co-creator of Lights Camera Expert – an online course geared towards helping entrepreneurs, authors and experts get media attention.

I created the productivity site ListProducer.com and am the best-selling author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed, which has been translated into 12 languages and has been featured on many media outlets including Fox News, Fox Business, Prevention, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Brides and made it on Oprah.com’s list of “Self Help Books That Actually Help.”

My latest book: Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You was published in the Fall of 2019.

I’m a regular speaker, and presented the keynote address for New York Women in Communications, and have presented at MA Conference for Women, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), American Society of Association Executives, and others.

 

Love it or Leave it?

By Angelica Shirley Carpenter |

On November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony voted in the presidential election in her hometown of Rochester, New York. Two weeks later a United States deputy marshal called at her house to arrest her for illegal voting. He offered to let her go to the district attorney’s office by herself. “Oh, dear, no,” she said. “I much prefer to be taken, handcuffed, if possible.” 

Her arrest and trial made national headlines. Some accounts were written and published by her friend Matilda Joslyn Gage, a fellow leader in the National Woman Suffrage Association. Gage traveled from her home near Syracuse to support Anthony; they organized separate speaking tours around Rochester. Anthony’s speech asked “Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?” Gage’s talk was entitled “The United States on Trial, Not Susan B. Anthony.” 

Their speeches were so effective that the Monroe County district attorney ruled they had tainted the jury pool. He changed the venue to Ontario County, where the two suffragists managed to stage another whirlwind of talks before the trial. 

The court case, by today’s standards, was a joke. The jury was all male. The judge, described by Gage as “a small-brained, pale-faced, prim-looking man,” ruled Anthony incompetent to testify (all women were considered incompetent to testify at trials). After two days of testimony and speeches by lawyers, the judge pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. 

“This was the first criminal case he had been called on to hear since his appointment,” Gage wrote later, “and with remarkable forethought, he had penned his decision before hearing it.”

“Gentlemen of the jury,” the judge read from his paper, “Miss Anthony knew that she was a woman, and that the Constitution of this State prohibits her from voting. She intended to violate that provision—intended to test it, perhaps, but certainly intended to violate it. . . . She voluntarily gave a vote which was illegal and thus is subject to the penalty of the law.” 

Without allowing the jurors to deliberate, or even to speak a word, he directed them to find her guilty. After instructing the court clerk to enter the verdict, he dismissed the jury and announced a fine for Anthony: one hundred dollars, plus court costs.

“May it please your honor,” Anthony said, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.” And she never did.

Later a law journal published a review of the case, offering advice to the radical women. Matilda Joslyn Gage responded in her newspaper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box: “The Albany Law Journal,” she said “. . . advised Miss Anthony and ourself if we were not pleased with ‘our laws,’ that is, laws made by men, to leave the country, to exile ourselves. This legal journal does not even recognize woman’s right of protest, but if for any reason, women are not pleased with ‘our laws!’ they are bidden to leave the country. Under such a monstrous perversion of justice, . . . cannot all women say We are Without a Country?”

This monstrous perversion of justice has echoed through decades of patriotic dissent. In the 1960s, people who protested the draft and who fought against America’s involvement in the Vietnam War received similar advice. Some did leave, but others stayed, and some even died in that war, believing that they could effect change from within. And eventually the country agreed: the United States had been wrong to attack that small, brave country. 

Today the demand comes from a white supremacist president, aimed particularly at women of color, to love this country or leave it. In solidarity with them, I’d like to echo the 60s: Hell no, we won’t go! It’s our country, too. We will stay and fight to make it better and to make it equal for all.


Angelica Shirley Carpenter is the author of Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist. Her website is angelicacarpenter.com.

Journaling for Problem Solving

By Debra Eckerling, author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals (January 2020)

Whenever someone asks me for writing tips, I suggest keeping a journal. You already have the material – your life, your drama, your observations – so it’s perfect for polishing your writing skills, as well as developing your style and tone. But it’s so much more than that.

While journaling is traditionally used for jotting down what’s going on in your life – tracking your actions, activities, and emotions – one of my favorite ways to use a journal is for problem-solving. 

Challenges come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re exploring a plot point, pondering a career choice, or dealing with a personal matter, you may find yourself mulling it over constantly … and sometimes to no avail. However, when you take pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – in your quest to work something out, you are much more likely to come up with an effective solution.

Want to gain more clarity? Need to resolve something that’s bothering you? Try my Directed Journaling technique.

Directed Journaling

Directed journaling is stream-of-consciousness writing spurts, focused on a specific theme, issue, or problem. 

Here’s how it works:

In your calendar, schedule between three and five 15-minute sessions over a few days. Be sure to set a reminder.

When you get the alert for your appointment, set a timer for 15 minutes, and start writing.

Note: While there are numerous benefits to writing by hand, if you are more likely to complete the process by typing on a computer, go for it!

During each journaling session, focus on the challenge at hand. 

Answer questions, such as: 

  • What’s the problem? 
  • How can I resolve it? 
  • What are all the possible solutions? 

Think outside the box; be as logical and as extreme as possible. These notes are for your eyes only. And don’t worry about repeating yourself. The trick is to get everything out of your head and onto the page.

Here’s the trick. Do not read any of these journal entries until you have done the process several times.

Once you have exhausted your thoughts on the subject, then you may read the journal entries. 

As you go through them, note the ideas you repeat – those are what you are most drawn to. You may also come up with solutions that seem to come from left field. That’s what happens when you allow yourself to babble on paper. 

When you open yourself to all possibilities, and look at them objectively, you are more likely to come up with a successful plan.

Final Thoughts

Journaling is truly one of the best ways to gather and organize your thoughts. Use it to log ideas for writing projects, gather character quirks from people-watching, draft articles and outlines, track your life, or solve problems. The options are endless. 

Enjoy the process … and know that you can amp it up when you need to. It’s just another tool in your writers’ toolbox.


Debra Eckerling is the author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning, and Achieving Your Goals (Mango Publishing, January 2020), as well as the self-published Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All AgesA goal coach, project catalyst, and founder of The D*E*B Method, Debra works with individuals and businesses to set goals and manage their projects through one-on one coaching, workshops, and online support. Note: DEB stands for Determine Your Mission, Explore Your Options, Brainstorm Your Path. She is the founder of Write On Online, a live and online community for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, as well as host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat (Sundays at 7pm PT) and the Guided Goals Podcast.

In Defense of Indie Publishing

by Pamela Feinsilber |

Book lovers have no doubt been delighted to see Barbara Lane’s new bimonthly Books column in the Chronicle. Years ago, I attended several of her conversations with authors at the Commonwealth Club and thought her a terrific interviewer. In addition, I’m a freelance book editor—so I found it doubly disappointing that she did such little research for her July 26 column, “Is it worth paying $7,500 to have your book published? Maybe.”

We all understand that it’s ever more difficult to get your work, particularly fiction, accepted by a mainstream publisher. Happily, there’s an ever-growing indie-publishing world out there, one that has nothing to do with the ancient, disparaging term “vanity press.” Even so, Lane—and many others, of course—still seems to think that “if your book is any good,” one of the “reputable publishing houses” will want to publish it. Anything less, she implies, is either intended for family only or the work of a vain and talentless hack. 

That kind of thinking, however, is completely outdated. I’ve worked with dozens of self-publishing authors, from well-known writers to first timers. So it grieves me that people—especially like those in this organization, putting so much time and tears into their writing—aren’t getting good information.

The truth is, more and more published authors are choosing to keep more of the process, and all the royalties, in their own hands. And like any writer, the first-time novelists, memoirists, self-helpers and others feel passionate about what they have to say and want to get it out there. Investing in their own work, perhaps instead of taking a vacation or buying a new car this year, is a way to make that happen. 

Some writers don’t care about earning the money back; they’re glad to have produced their one novel or memoir. And yes, every once in a while, a traditional publisher happens on a “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “The Martian.” That occurs, by the way, with less blockbusting books, too. Just thinking of my clients, Kevin McLean’s memoir “Crossing the River Kabul” was picked up by a university press and received excellent reviews. 

Literary agents are more hesitant to take on mid-list or less-commercial-seeming books these days, but that’s no reason not to persevere. Several of my clients have done just that and never looked back. 

“When It’s Over,” historical fiction by Barbara Ridley, was a finalist for six indie-press awards. Christine Volker’s “Venetian Blood” won the (May) Sarton Women’s Book Award in contemporary fiction, the Independent Press Award for Mystery and First-Time Published Fiction, and a Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for International Mystery. You can bet that this recognition, as well as their good reviews, will help both when their second novels are done.

Ego had nothing to do with Therese Crutcher-Marin’s persistence in getting her heart-felt memoir out. While Kirkus gave “Watching Their Dance: Three Sisters, a Genetic Disease, and Marrying Into a Family at Risk for Huntington’s” a strong review, she has focused on selling it at HD fundraising and other events. So far, she’s made almost $15,000. Imagine how much she’d earn if she tried to reach a wider audience.

Lane got the figure in her headline from (and gave most of her column to) She Writes Press, a hybrid press in Berkeley. When She Writes, which published the two novelists I’ve mentioned, accepts a manuscript, it does beautiful work for a fee of, yes, $7,500; but if the book requires editing—and what work doesn’t?—that costs extra. 

And She Writes keeps 40 percent of the royalties. That’s much less than the mainstream publishers take, but 40 percent more than if you become your own publisher, as Therese did.

After getting professional editing, many authors work with a graphic designer, who creates the cover, interior design, and print and e-books and—almost as important—gets their book into the IngramSpark catalogue. A longtime, well-known book distributor, Ingram added this excellent print-on-demand feature several years ago. Once bookstores know about your book, they can order copies through Ingram, just as with any other title. Doing your own marketing is key, but that’s true whether you have a traditional publisher or not. 

Lots of companies can help you create your book, but they won’t distribute it. You could work with Amazon’s KDP, but most independent bookstores won’t stock books created through Amazon.

Speaking of bookstores, the Path to Publishing program at Book Passage in Corte Madera will take you through all these steps, from recommending a mentor or an editor like me to suggesting a graphic designer and a publicist to helping you get an ISBN number to getting your book on its shelves.

Honestly, I could go on and on in exasperation that more hardworking potential authors haven’t explored this ever-improving option. I’ve worked with so many happily self-published authors. It’s a new world out there! Why not take a little time to explore it?

After working in the magazine world, most recently as a senior editor at San Francisco magazine, Pamela Feinsilber has for more than a decade been editing books. She’s at www.pamelafeinsilber.com.

How Not to Freak Out and Get Humiliated When Pitching to Agents

by Andy Ross |

Andy Ross

Andy Ross

When it comes to rejection, I’m a real wuss. I don’t think I could ever pitch my writing to an agent. I’m amazed at how courageous writers are, and I always feel shame when I know that I have hurt someone with a rejection. In my job, I get plenty of rejection letters from editors in response to my submissions. I estimate I have received over 5000 in my few years at this job. Sometimes it seems a little like my social life in high school. 

Many of my pitches are for memoirs and novels. Here’s what I can tell you about how publishers evaluate these genres. So many of the published memoirs are driven by celebrity. These are, in reality, book-like glitzy packages, usually written by someone other than the putative author. For those of you who like that kind of book, I refer you to Kardashian Konfidential, St. Martin’s Press (2010), written by God only knows who. For the rest of us, it’s almost impossible to find a publisher for a personal memoir.

Certainly there are some examples of family memoirs that have succeeded. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls comes to mind. Or The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr. These books rise to the level of high literature. They’re the exceptions though, and I can only imagine the difficulty they must have had finding a publisher. I’ve represented some very good memoirs. Yes. As good as The Liar’s Club. I couldn’t get them published. No dishonor. Just disappointment.

Similarly with fiction. And I have written about this as well in a previous blog post. Literary fiction is especially difficult to get published for the simple reason that it rarely sells enough to be a profitable venture. Most editors evaluate 200-500 novels a year. All of them have been heavily vetted by agents. Most of them are good enough to get published. An editor may acquire 10. And the rejection is usually based on marketing, not on aesthetics. (“This book is too dark for book groups.”  —  “This book seems too quiet.”) As a result I only represent a few novels a year. Most of the greatest novelists of our time have experienced these kinds of rejections.

Some agents are nice guys and have a warm and fuzzy vibe. Others may seem dour, forbidding, arrogant, or world weary. If you are fearful of laying yourself wide open to an agent, here’s what I recommend: Don’t even try to pitch your book. It’s probably more effective sending an agent a query letter and a sample when they get back to the office. Instead, just ask them some questions. Agents know about the publishing process and the market, and you can learn a lot by having a conversation with them.

Ask them what they are looking for when they read a memoir or a novel. Ask them what turns them on and what turns them off. Ask them for advice about finding the right agent. Try to find out what agents and editors are talking about with each other. Ask them what grabs their attention in the first paragraph. The information will be invaluable. And you won’t have to suffer the indignity of a face-to-face rejection. Of course, ask them at the end if you can send them a query and submission. More than likely they will put it at the top of their queue.

Most writers who attend the conferences, most writers who pitch to agents at any conference, aren’t going to find a home with a big New York publisher. But it’s important to remember that the writing, itself, is the end, not the means. It’s the journey that counts. And a few people will reach the end and receive the gold cup. More likely though, you will slip on a banana peel ten feet from the finish line. Ah, but what a trip it’s been. How much you must have grown in the process. Writing is a profound journey of discovery. Publication, well, it’s a business transaction.

Nobody said it better than Ann Lamott in Bird by Bird. She tells us:

“…publication is not all it’s cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do — the actual act of writing — turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

Practice the techniques suggested by Andy Ross and register for Pitch-O-Rama, March 21st. Just click HERE!

About the author: Andy Ross represents authors who write books in a wide range of subjects including: narrative non-fiction, science, journalism, history, current affairs, contemporary culture, religion, children’s books and commercial and literary fiction. He is eager to work with projects in most genres as long as the subject or its treatment is smart, original, and will appeal to a wide readership. In narrative non-fiction he looks for writing with a strong voice and robust narrative arc. He likes books that tell a big story about culture and society by authors with the authority to write about their subject. For literary, commercial, and children’s fiction, he has only one requirement–a simple one–that the writing reveal the terrain of that vast and unexplored country, the human heart. 

Tweet Success – I

Written By Cathy Turney 
with significant input from Cynthia Rubin, BestEditorEver

Cathy Turney, Tweet successIf you think Twitter is basically for the birds, I was once like you. Actually, as a child I had a succession of blue parakeets I faithfully nurtured that then mysteriously dropped dead—a portent of things to come? Recently, though, after spending countless dollars to promote my real estate tell-all humor book (with so-so results), my social media guru said: “You need 10,000 Twitter followers.”

Speaking as a right-brain creative technophobe, I was…speechless. I had collected 200 followers, and that had been a struggle. But if I couldn’t do better on Twitter, the alternative was to sign every paycheck from my day job over to marketing companies. Well, I sweated bullets and found workarounds—strategies that made me able to navigate Twitter and draw a big flock. Easy strategies that other right-brain Luddites, as well as the technologically gifted, can also use to make their writing soar into the Twittersphere.

And I think you might want to hear about those methods, if Brenda Knight, WNBA-SF’s MostExaltedPresident, is any barometer, which she is! At an WNBA meet-and-greet event at the Hotsy Totsy Club (“best happy hour in the East Bay!”), as I started to float another new book idea, she said, “Tell us about how you got 10,000 Twitter followers—that’s what we really want to hear about!” And just like that, my next book took flight.

Here are a few tips to show how you too can capitalize on Twitter. You don’t even have to buy my Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically! But if you do, of course, you’ll have my undying love and free technical support (right-brain version) forever.

Tip #1: Banner Content
Twitter success begins with amassing a large flock. People infer your “relevance” by the size of your following. To get followers, we need to engage and follow, follow, follow others. But how do you do that? The first step is to create an appealing banner, aka header, for your Twitter page with images that make it look like it would be interesting and uplifting to follow you.

Unruffle those feathers! You do not need to create the banner yourself. There are several services (I used Fiverr.com) that will do it for you for about $25, and the result will fit Twitter’s size parameters. If you’ve authored a book, include a picture of it. Don’t worry if you don’t have a book—it won’t be conspicuous by its absence; just tell the designer you want some graphics indicating that you write.

In my instructions to Fiverr I said I needed a colorful, upbeat Twitter banner that would attract book lovers, business people, and those wanting positive, inspiring quotes. The more avocations or interests you display in your banner, the more diverse a follower base you’ll attract. If you need ideas, look up other authors’ Twitter pages and see what they did.

Tip #2: Easily Target Those Who Want to Hear What You Have to Say
Many people will follow you back simply because they like your banner. But the key to exponentially bettering those odds is to target people who share your interests. If I want to promote my real estate book, I simply do a hashtag search for “real estate,” and Twitter shows me recent tweets from thousands of people about real estate. I follow the first several hundred people, and in a matter of minutes I’ve essentially invited them to follow me back. On a typical day, this step yields 30 to 100 follow-backs.

[Come back next week for the second part of Cathy’s post]


Cathy Turney is a member of WNBA-SF. Her book Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success won the American Business Association Stevie Award for Best Business Book of the Year 2015. Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically was published in 2017. She is a contributor to Huffington Post, tweets at @CathyTurneyLafs and blogs at www.CathyTurneyWrites.com

Tweet Success – II

Written By Cathy Turney 
with significant input from Cynthia Rubin, BestEditorEver

Cathy Turney, Tweet success[This is the second part of Cathy’s post. Read the first part here.]

Tip #3: Choose a Memorable Handle
By memorable, I mean easy to remember and identify (vs. too clever). On Twitter you have two names. First is your real name—the one your parents gave you (or you changed to your own liking). Twitter asks for that when you set up your account. But! They limit you to 20 characters. (I’m sure future parents will keep that in mind when they give birth.) So if your real name is longer than 20 characters you’ll need to shorten it without disguising it so much that people can’t find you.

Your other name is your “handle” which begins with an @ and is also known as your username. Your handle can be up to 15 characters, not including the @ sign. Here’s where you can be creative, but I caution you to still try to make yourself easy to identify. You are searchable by either of these two names, but the @ name is yours and yours alone so that, for instance, there’s no confusion if someone searches for Mary Jones, of whom there are dozens.

If you want to change your handle or account name later, you can do it at any time and still keep all your followers.

Tip #4: Incentivize Yourself!
Twitter is a quick way to stay up-to-the-minute on world events. Something exciting at the United Nations? Just search #United Nations, and you’ll hear about it firsthand. Want to know what’s going on at WNBA-SF? Just search “#WNBASF.” And do click “follow” once you get there because WNBA-SF is so follow-worthy!

Tip #5: Stumped About What to Say?
To be deemed follow-worthy by large numbers, you also need to tweet regularly—to inspire, support, and engage. Yikes! Who has time to do that, plus write the great American novel or go-to nonfiction book? I use a program called Social Jukebox, which only costs a few dollars a month. It automatically posts quotes and images that are so wonderful they even inspire me! I’ve actually had babies following me, it’s so great!


Cathy Turney is a member of WNBA-SF. Her book Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success won the American Business Association Stevie Award for Best Business Book of the Year 2015. For more tips and lots of screenshots, read Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers—Easily, Quickly, Ethically, published in 2017. A contributor to Huffington Post, Turner tweets at @CathyTurneyLafs and blogs at www.CathyTurneyWrites.com

How to Stay Sane When Your Book is Published

How to Stay Sane When Your Book is Published

by Nita Sweeney

The hotel carpet itched the back of my neck as I lay on the floor with my eyes closed. To persuade my back muscles to relax, I’d folded my legs in the Egoscue Method “static back press” across the seat of the stiff armchair and noticed my breath go in and out.

The morning before, our Dead Runners Society (DRS) group ran four miles through the Amish countryside of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. We dodged buggies and horse manure while enjoying views of white board fences, white-washed barns, bearded men, and dress-clad women toting tidy children.

That afternoon, twenty people gathered at a Lancaster, Pennsylvania bookstore to hear me talk about my running and mental health memoir. A few minutes into my presentation, a friend appeared. She had driven an hour and a half—one way—and I had to stop reading to clear the tears from my throat before I could continue. I signed book after book. My face hurt from smiling. After the audience dispersed, the store asked me to autograph ten more books. I thanked them profusely. I would have gladly stayed all day.

The next morning, our DRS clan ambled through the rolling hills across several covered bridges. I stopped to snap an Instagram photo of an immaculate farm in the open countryside and let my insides expand with warm sensations.

When I was a little girl, I loved books so much that I dreamed of writing my own. In May 2019, Mango Publishing made that dream come true by releasing my first book, the memoir Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink. The months since had been filled with book tour joy. Interviews. Blue skies. Packed readings. Emerald green fields. Expo and workshop appearances. Two or three puffy clouds. Podcasts. Good friends.

Standing in the Pennsylvania countryside, I savored this rare bit of calm amid the book promotion frenzy—my new “normal.”

Then I turned to rejoin the group, and my back went out.

Hours later, as I sprawled on the hotel floor, my spine now a sideways “s-curve,” I stifled a giggle (between curses) since laughter would surely send my back into another excruciating spasm.

“Welcome to the glamorous life of the published author!” I thought.

In Thunder and Lightning, best-selling author, Natalie Goldberg issues a “Warning.” She says, “I have not seen writing lead to happiness in my friends’ lives.” If I were to warn writers, I would simply ask them to expect the reality to be a bit different from the dream.

At times, being published is such a high (seeing 31 holds on 16 copies of my book in the local library). Other times, the low is stunning (writhing on the floor of that hotel room). While bipolar disorder mood swings always punctuate my life, the ups and downs of book promotion required me to add tools to my already brimming tool kit. That’s how I wound up lying on the floor with my legs on a chair. I needed more tools.

Exactly how does a compulsive person who desperately seeks outside affirmation stay sane after her book is published? Here are my suggestions, in no particular order: 

Cultivate Your Inner Cheerleader:

Talking to oneself is a hallmark of the writing profession. It helps to develop a sense of humor and an inner cheerleader capable of shaking pom poms at every tiny victory. Said pom poms may also work as magic wands to ward off painful moments.

Expect Happiness to be Stressful:

A friend reminded me that too much of a good thing can also cause stress. She didn’t go so far as to say I had brought this on myself by pursuing every possible promotion avenue all at the same time. She didn’t need to. I’d been thinking it for weeks.

Don’t Drown:

“What’s it like?” a friend asked, referring to my teensy bit of new-found, low-level fame. “Like drinking tasty liquid from a fire hose,” I quipped. Imagine your wildest dream coming at you at 175 gallons per minute. Lovely. Fabulous. Nearly enough to drown in. My back knew I wouldn’t stop on my own. It stopped for me. I recommend you stopping yourself.

Stop Raising the Bar:

Stop moving the goal. In racing, a coach will tell you to “run through the line.” A runner looks beyond the goal while she finishes. But if you suffer from chronic depression and have compulsive tendencies, it’s best to stay focused on the thing at hand. Right here. Right now. We’ve all heard the saying. But that is what needs to be done. Trying to get on a podcast? Contact the podcast host before you start thinking about which book should be next.

Invest in Self-Care and Other-Care:

That husband? He needs a kiss. That dog? She needs a walk. You? You might need to go for a run or take a nap or eat a vegetable or go to bed earlier or log off social media or leave your phone at home. If you let it (and have compulsive tendencies) your book promotion ambitions will suck you dry and pull you away from everyone you love. Push back. Take care of yourself. No one will force you to rest.

Expect to be Tired:

This is hard work. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. You really don’t know what you’re doing. You’ll have to learn as you go and ask for help. If you find yourself whining, remind yourself that a million other authors would give anything to be in your shoes. Then, go find a trusted friend to whine to (or scream with) in private.

Embrace Confusion:

Ask stupid questions. Don’t apologize. If you screw up, thank your publisher, editor, friends, family, and everyone else for their patience. This IS your first rodeo. You can’t learn to cope with something until you’re actually going through it. If you’re not already in therapy or on medication, this might be a good time to consider it.

Stop Checking Your Book’s Rank:

Stop grasping. It causes suffering. Sit still. Be with it. Be where you are. But wait, you ask. Don’t I have to go after what I want? Don’t I need to grab and grip and push and pull? No. Do the work. Follow all the leads. Ask for the opportunities. Meanwhile, develop a quiet place inside yourself where none of it matters. Meditate. Chant. Light candles. Trust the process. Trust YOUR process. You will find the right way. Compulsive checking of your book’s ranking gives you the illusion of control. Sorry, but you can only do the work; you can’t predict the outcome.

Push your edges, but not too hard:

This may seem to contradict my earlier advice, but you have to try scary things. Push your edges, just not to the point that you burn out. You don’t know how to make a PowerPoint since you haven’t had a day job since 1994? Find someone (your husband perhaps) to teach you. Then make one and practice (or, as in my case, wing it) and knock it out of the park. Do your best.

Embrace Your Audience:

Not everyone will love your book. Friends you thought would adore your book will not, while random strangers will fawn over it and say you climbed into their minds. Love them all.

Expect Questions:

Now that you’ve written a book, you’re an expert—in everything—in things completely unrelated to your book! People will flock to you for advice. People will ask you questions you can’t answer. People will not want to pay for these answers. Or, they would love to pay you, but you will not have the time to let them. Admit your uncertainty. Authenticity is contagious.

Expect Jealousy:

When the books of friends, acquaintances, and strangers receive reviews, awards, placement on high profile lists, mentions, and other successes, notice if you feel envy. You might feel a sinking in your stomach and a burning in your throat. If you know the author, congratulate her. She did the work; she deserves the glory. And be prepared for the opposite—others might envy your book’s success. Allow yourself to savor your glory even when others don’t.

Remember Your Purpose:

What was your original goal? Why did you want this in the first place? What did you think would happen? Chances are, in the midst of being blasted by loveliness, you have forgotten. 

Reclaim the Joy:

This may have sounded like an ungrateful rant. But it’s my truth. To counter the days when I forget why I’m here, I have developed a delicious practice. I spend five minutes, every day, holding my book. I take her in my hands and clutch her to my chest. I stare at her lovely cover. I read each blurb out loud. And I run my finger over my name. MY NAME. Then I croon, “Aren’t you just the loveliest thing ever?” I like to think she enjoys it as much as I do.

I’m home now and my back has almost returned to normal. While I would have preferred not to limp like a hunchback for two weeks, I took the experience as a wake-up call to rein in my stress, amp up the self-care, and refocus my efforts. 

I hope you don’t wind up lying on the itchy carpet of a hotel room far from home. But if you do, call me. We can laugh (and cry) together.


Nita Sweeney is the author of the memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, which was short-listed for the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Award. Her articles, essays, and poetry have appeared in magazines, journals, books, and blogs including Buddhist America, Dog World, Dog Fancy, Writer’s Journal, Country Living, Pitkin Review, The Taos News, Spring Street, Pencil Storm, WNBA-SF, It’s Not Your Journey, and in several newspapers and newsletters. She writes the blog, Bum Glue, publishes the monthly e-newsletter, Write Now Columbus, and coaches writers in Natalie Goldberg style “writing practice.” Nita has been featured widely across media outlets about writing, running, meditation, mental health, and pet care. She was nominated for an Ohio Arts Council Governor’s Award and her poem, “Memorial,” won the Dublin Arts Council Poet’s Choice Award. When she’s not writing or coaching, Nita runs and races. She has completed three full marathons, twenty-seven half marathons (in eighteen states), and more than eighty shorter races. Nita lives in central Ohio with her husband and biggest fan, Ed, and their yellow Labrador running partner, Scarlet (aka #ninetyninepercentgooddog).

How Personal is Too Personal?

An extract from Heart, Sass & Soul: Journal Your Way to Inspiration and Happiness By by Greta Solomon

The lowdown on online sharing 

Whether you resonate with the term or not, the fact is that we’re living in the age of authenticity. And personal sharing, in some form or another, has become a prerequisite for writers and authors. However, it can be a minefield when it comes to sharing personal stories online. 

It can be difficult to know how much to share. And many of us end up in a push-pull dance of being seen and unseen – we can alternately share too much and too little. My philosophy is that we need to resist the temptation to overshare. We can connect without putting all the pieces of ourselves OUT THERE. And in doing so, we prevent ourselves from becoming addicted to trading fear, pain and suffering for likes, comments, shares and follows. 

If a story makes you cry while you’re telling it, then I believe it’s too soon to tell it publicly. This is quite different from feeling all the feelings while writing and releasing tears through catharsis. And it’s also different from feeling nervous to hit publish because you feel vulnerable. ONLY YOU truly know what’s right for you and your wellbeing. 

Once a client came to me for a mini writing coaching session, where we explored her personal story. She wanted to use it in a talk she was giving to an organisation the following week. She told me an incredibly personal story, that moved her to tears. And then she admitted that she hadn’t told it to anyone before – not even her husband. But yet, she was willing to share it with a group of strangers. I explained to her that I thought the story was too raw to be shared publicly, and that she needed to properly process it. And if, in the future, she did decide to share it publicly, she needed to first tell her husband and those closest to her, as it was so sensitive and personal. 

And that’s the thing with intimacy. Sometimes it can be easier to talk to a stranger than the people closest to us. Usually a (non-therapist) stranger who won’t hold you accountable. They won’t really unpick the issues, and there’s virtually no chance of them now viewing you in a different light.  A stranger doesn’t know you anyway, and so judgement is often suspended. 

Once, at a blogging conference, I saw two women read out blog posts that made them cry. Their emotions were incredibly powerful, and they filled the room. But afterwards, I felt sad for them. I worried for their mental health, and what kind of support they had then and there, when they had just unpicked the scabs that were over their temporary healing. Their reading session was the last item on the agenda before everyone departed for a boat party. And I wondered how safe-footed they would feel, literally floating the night away when they were so ungrounded in their own personal power. 

This freeing feeling can become addictive. But it’s not real, and I don’t believe that it’s the true purpose of creative self-expression. We’ve got more work to do than that. Our stories need to be grounded in our lives, because we want to use them to make changes in our lives, not as an escape mechanism before we return to the same humdrum existence. 

The criteria for sharing isn’t just about the topic; or how personal it is; or who it involves. It’s also about whether you are sufficiently healed to tell it without wincing–so that you don’t have to pull off the plaster at all because the skin is healed. There may be a scar, maybe even an angry, red, raw one. But a scar indicates healing and for me that’s a great barometer for protecting yourself online.

So, what should you write about? 

The first thing to remember is that personal stories can be both light and dark. And don’t over-think or fall into analysis paralysis over what to write. You can and ought to write about anything and everything. It’s not an exam, and you don’t have to pick a niche, or make a business case for what you post. Just write. And make it as trivial or as serious as you like. Can’t think of anything? What was the last conversation you had with your hairdresser, best friend, or the lady on the checkout at the supermarket? Write about that. The things you think and talk about are the things you need to write about. 

When should you write? 

The key thing to know here is that you don’t need to be ‘in the mood’, and you don’t have to always rely on creative inspiration. Writing can be true and heartfelt, even when it’s carefully crafted and not divined from the skies. 

Creative inspiration is just one way to write a blog, or social media post. This is about getting yourself into an inspired state by walking, showering, chopping vegetables and doing other activities to switch off your conscious brain and activate your artist’s brain. 

For instance, a couple of years ago, I went to Vogue House in London to meet the new editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful. He had agreed to meet 100 people to do a meet-and-greet and sign special hardback copies of his inaugural issue of Vogue. For a magazine junkie like me, it was an incredibly exciting experience. That night, buoyed by the amazing day I’d had, a blog post, which I later published in the Huffington Post just flowed out of me. I was in the right ‘state’ to write an entire piece, which I only edited for typos and minor style later. 

A couple of weeks later, a friend asked me what I thought Meghan Markle’s then-engagement to Prince Harry meant for black people. She asked me this via email, and by answering her questions, I saw I had the germ of a blog post. 

This is another way you can write. By getting someone to ask you questions and by writing down your answers and then piecing them together. You don’t even need another person to question you, in fact. Write down the questions that spark your curiosity and then answer them. 

The third way of writing is to piece together all the information, thoughts and ideas you have–a little bit like a jigsaw puzzle. In this method, you write down everything you can think of, in any order and then get a pair of scissors and cut up all the sections. And then you piece them together based on how you think they best fit. Get some sticky tape and play around with this. You can also colour code all the similar sections. So that you find it easier to find which bits need to go where. So, if you were writing about leadership at work, you could colour code all the facts in orange and all the examples in green and then the quotes in blue–and, so on.  

The act of putting your personal words out there is amazingly transformative. Each time you share, you grow just a little bit more. And if you’re a professional writer, having a personal blog can support your career.

For me, a blog is a boat that a writer can rest in as they charter the choppy seas. Magazine pieces may be killed, or that amazing start-up you wrote for may suddenly go under, leaving your invoice unpaid. But if you have a personal creative blog–essentially, it’ll be for you. Sure, people will read it but it’s your agenda, free from editorial guidelines or style guidelines. You are the editor-in-chief, the publisher and content creator. And as a writer it’s liberating to have a vehicle that puts you in charge of your creative destiny. 

If you liked this extract, you’ll love Heart, Sass & Soul: Journal Your Way to Inspiration and Happiness. It’s full of writing exercises, tips, techniques and food for thought to inspire you to fully express yourself in writing, and in life.


Greta Solomon is a British journalist turned writing coach and the author of two books about writing. Her latest book is Heart, Sass & Soul: Journal Your Way to Inspiration and Happiness. In 2006, she discovered a talent for helping people overcome the blocks, fears and shame that stops them from fully expressing themselves. Through talks, workshops and online programs, she teaches real-world writing techniques and inspires others to live rich, full lives. Her work has been featured in Forbes.com, Writers Digest, Kindred Spirit and The Numinous. She is a published poet and songwriter, a psychology graduate, certified life coach, trained lifelong learning teacher and holds a specialist certificate in lyric writing from Berklee College of Music. She lives in London with her husband and their daughter. Visit www.gretasolomon.com to find out more.