Confessions of the Clueless, Part IV: NaNoWriMo Got You Down? Try WriBoYoWaWri!

You’ve heard of NaNoWriMo? (That’s National Novel Writing Month–an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November.)

Well, today this clueless author is celebrating something more personal: WriBoYoWaWri. That is… writing the book you (or I, in this case) wanted to write.

When I first published The Flying Burgowski, I told my writing group, “I wanted to write this book, and I did. I wanted people to read it, and they are.”

So later, when I ran into the brick wall fun challenges of marketing and book-selling, my writing buddy Iris Graville (whose memoir, Hiking Naked: a Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance was just published by Homebound Publications) reminded me of what I had said.

“You wanted to write this book, and you did. You wanted people to read it, and they are.”

Later still, when Book Two, Headwinds, came out and people would ask me that highly annoying perfectly innocent question, “So how’s your book selling?” I could always find my “happy place” by reminding myself about WriBoYoWaWri.

(Original photo: Abigail Porter)

You know: Write the Book You Want to Write.

These days, much to my surprise and DEEP gratification, both my sons are turning into novelists. And both are sharing their work, and their thoughts about their work, with me, their author-mama.

The other night, Son Two was stating his intention to end his book in a certain place. “That’ll make it very short,” I warned. “A novella. When I wrote mine, back in the nineties, all the agents I contacted told me they could never sell it.”

Son Two shrugged. “It’s what I…”

And I kicked myself and finished his sentence for him: “…wanted to write. Of COURSE. Do it. Don’t listen to me.” And I meant it.

Son One’s work will likely have the opposite challenge: length. Will I warn him about the difficulties of selling a long novel when your last name isn’t King or Stephenson?

No. No, I will not. I will joyfully chant, Write the Book You Want to Write. And I will MEAN it.

Writers, readers–your thoughts? Will you join me in WriBoYoWaWri? Don’t worry about November. WriBoYoWaWri lasts all year long.

Take Your Child (Or Just Yourself!) To A Bookstore Day

Okay, I added the “yourself” part, ’cause why should kids have all the fun on National Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day? This Saturday, December 5, run, walk, drive, bike, take the bus or subway or a rickshaw, but get yourself to your favorite bookstore, a REAL bookstore made of, and filled with, REAL materials of bricks and mortar and wood and paper. The only “virtual” things on the premises of these stores are the dreams their books kindle in children’s heads. And I do mean kindle, not Kindle.

Could there be a better National Day, especially in this terrible season of random violence? Books + Children = Hope. I can’t say it better than that.

Here’s the bookstore I’ll be taking myself to this Saturday, A Book For All Seasons in the sweet town of Leavenworth, WA.

Could there be a more adorable bookstore to take your child to?

Could there be a more adorable bookstore to take your child to?

Gotta admit, though, I won’t be taking a child. But I will be signing books for other people’s children! And, since I finally got sent the photo from the Chanticleer Review Awards Banquet from a couple of months ago, this seems like a legitimate place to visually brag on my book, The Flying Burgowski. Here she is, winning Best Contemporary YA Novel:

I know, the picture's me. But the prize is for my book!

I know, the picture’s me. But the prize is for my book!h

And while I’m sending shout outs to myself, here’s one for my own local bookstore, Lopez Bookshop: I love you guys!

So, everyone on board? Show some love to your local bookstore–and a child or two–this Saturday!

Attention, Tired Authors: Put Your Audience to Work

Sometimes my teacher training pays off (or maybe just my social-butterfly personality). When I applied to do an Author Event at Third Place Books in Seattle, and their application said, in essence, “Don’t even think of just standing there and reading; what do you plan to DO with your audience?”, I put that training (and that personality) to use.

I made my audience do all the work. 

First, I made everyone move to sit next to someone they didn’t know. They had to introduce themselves to their new seatmate.

Next, I made each pair play Fast Fingers. “Put your right hand behind your back. With your partner, count to three. On three, bring your hand out showing anywhere from zero to five fingers. First person to call up the total number of fingers showing wins that round. Best of three. Go!”

Five seconds later, my whole audience was laughing. Thirty seconds–relaxed, and ready for the next step…

…where I passed out discussion cards. I had four, and after each one, the paired discussion was followed by whole-group discussion led by people who wanted to share what they and their partner had talked about. Since my books feature a heroine who can fly, these were my questions:

  1. Have you ever had flying dreams? If so, describe them. If not…do you wish you had? Why/why not?
  2.  If you could fly, what would you do with that power? (Seriously!)
  3.  If you could fly, what would you worry about?
  4.  How might flying help solve any problems you have,or how might it have helped you in the past? How might flying create more problems for you?

Sure, after that, I read a couple of scenes out loud, and then I answered a few questions. But the main part of the Event was made up of a bunch of grown-ups enjoying the hard work of thinking and talking about “What if…?” No matter what a book is about, whether fiction or nonfiction, if you wrote it, you can easily think of dozens of thematic questions to pull an audience in. And you get to sit back and enjoy the discussion! Win-win.


So, that’s my tip for other authors, should you be one, or know any. Don’t let those nice folks just sit there looking at you–put ’em to work. (And then reward them afterwards with treats. 🙂 )

But while I have your attention: who says good audience questions have to limit themselves to a book store? How about answering some of those questions above? 

“So How Many Books Have You Sold?” Why Does That Question Make Me Tense?

Before I published The Flying Burgowski, the question that used to tense me up was “So, are you published?” Now that I’m an Official Author, this is the question that clenches my gut.

“So how many books have you sold?”

Insecurity? That’s just a guess. Like, there’s this Standard of Authorness out there, some random number of units sold, and I’m pretty sure I don’t measure up. Which means…uh-oh…maybe it was all a dream? My hard work doesn’t really count?

My response to this question has been to willfully turn my back on all those handy stats offered by my publishing service. Oh, I could answer that question if I needed to. But I prefer to stay blissfully ignorant.

“I think I’ve sold one to all my friends,” I reply cheerfully. “Luckily I have a lot of friends.”

I’m not a total baby. Of course I set goals for myself: be published by ___, have sold ___ copies by ____. I know I’m roughly on that track–definitely for time, less definitely for number. Turns out that’s enough for me.

for blog

Could I be doing more marketing? Couldn’t everybody? But only at the expense of all the other things we do in our lives. YES, I’m going to invite my community to a book launch party for The Flying Burgowski Book Two, Headwinds, with a dramatic reading and cookies. YES, I’m going to contact the same bookstores and libraries and schools–and add some new ones to the list. YES, I’m going to use the heck out of social media (at least my version of it: this blog, Facebook, and the occasional tweet).


 I wanted to write a story. I did. Then I wanted people to read it. They are. Lucky for me, I never counted on making money from this enterprise. Therefore: I declare victory and move on…

…to Book Three.

Feel fee to weigh in here if you think I need counseling. I will listen gratefully. Just please don’t ask me how many books I’ve sold!

…and for my 200th Post, I Give You: Book Two!

Didn’t plan it this way, but you gotta love the symmetry. Are you ready to get back into the sky with Jocelyn Burgowski?

What if someone hated you just for who you are?

I came around the house to see my brother picking something up from the back steps. “Is that a doll?”

Michael held the thing up. It was a doll, sort of. A soft, shiny one, dressed in a little red toga. With wings made of silvery fabric. “Oh, it’s a Cupid! For Valentine’s Day.”

“Duh,” said my brother. “But what’s it doing on our doorstep? And—oh, man. Look at that. That’s just not right.”

It wasn’t. Cupid has arrows, right? To shoot love through your heart? And this cute little Cupid doll had arrows too, a tiny plastic one set in his plastic bow, and two more in a quiver on his back…plus a fourth one, stuck right through the glossy fabric of his wings.

The chill of the air swooped into my stomach. I couldn’t stop staring at the fake-feather end of that little arrow, its point buried in the silvery wing-sprouts.

Because that was no valentine, to Michael or anyone. That doll was shot through the wings, not the heart.

On tiny Dalby Island, fourteen year-old Jocelyn Burgowski has a hidden enemy. Her flying power is no longer joyous and free—somebody wants to bring the Flyer down. But can Joss fight a force she doesn’t understand? Can she protect her powers without revealing her secret? And can she open her heart to the promise of real love when love itself could be her enemy?

(image by Lanphear Design)

(image by Lanphear Design)

Official Book Launch: October 25th! Stay tuned for more details.

And till then…keep flying!

Indie vs. Amazon: Like Bambi vs. Godzilla, Except Godzilla Has Such Great Products…

I’m supposed to be on Bambi’s side, right? I’m a WRITER. We’re sentimental.

This week I encountered another embarrassing enlightening hurdle step in the learning curve of Indie Authorship: getting my book, The Flying Burgowski, registered with Indiebound.

Oh yeah, Indiebound–isn’t that the site which helps you locate independent bookstores near you? I’d heard of it, supported it in a knee-jerk, theoretical way, but that was all. Then a bookstore owner with whom I’m in contact about doing a reading suggested that I link my book with Indiebound and put that upfront on my website. She was actually pretty nice about it, but I could tell what she wanted to say was more like



Like, “Duh, lady–you’re asking for my support, so how about supporting ME?”

So I registered my book with Indiebound. Just like that. Or not.

See, first of all I had to learn what it WAS, exactly. This bookshop owner is clearly a busy person, so she forwarded my ridiculously naive question to a nice person at Indiebound, who sent me this answer: is not its own ecommerce platform; it is a directory that will redirect potential customers to independent bookstores’ ecommerce platforms. So while you can’t sell the book on itself, you can list the book on and independent bookstores would be more able to sell it.


Aha! Got it. But…hmmm. My book is published via CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Why would Indiebound want to list a book published by the company that’s trying to muscle it out of business?

The Indiebound person was just as nice as the bookshop owner, because here’s what she didn’t say:



Nope, she said this:

Publishing via CreateSpace doesn’t necessarily preclude distribution through an indie, but, depending on each store and its ownership, you may encounter pushback to fulfilling an order for a CreateSpace title, since Amazon is indies’ main competitor. It depends on each store’s policy and approach.

So, yeah. Here I am, brave, stalwart Indie author, asking all my favorite Indie bookstore owners to please help me sell my Indie book that I published thanks to the Un-indiest marketing entity in the history of ever. (OK, no, I take that back–at least Walmart doesn’t have a publishing arm. Yet.)

Chapter Two of my novel is titled “Irony,” and there the protagonist, Jocelyn Burgowski, gives her favorite teacher’s definition: “Irony = 1 part ‘Ha Ha’ + 1 part ‘Ouch’.”

Feelin’ a little that way this morning. Luckily, the “ouchy” part is largely salved by gratitude: for a life which has allowed me to become an author, and for all the people who have helped me get here, including the ongoing guidance of people like the two women mentioned above, who were clearly not members of the NSS:


And, yes, gratitude for Godzilla Amazon’s CreateSpace. Which means gratitude for Amazon. There, I said it.

Anyone else feeling stuck in this big-vs.-small quandary? What situations make you feel like you’re choosing to put your money where your principles aren’t? (Don’t worry–I will be the last person to judge.)