Fair Trade…Fiction? A Different Take For Writers (and other artists)

As a consumer, I try to buy fair trade chocolate and other imports-from-countries-with-iffy-production-practices. As a writer, I never made the connection between that and buying people’s books (or other art) until I read this post by Author & Social Media Maven Kristen Lamb. What IS wrong with encouraging reading “consumers” to support the writers who provide their steaming daily cup of fiction? Nothing, right?

When you’ve read it, let me know what you think. Take it away, Kristen!

(Courtesy theoatmeal.com)

(Courtesy theoatmeal.com)

I think consumers could change publishing if we let them. If we stopped assuming they didn’t care, that all they wanted was cheap books no matter the consequences.

Source: Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction

Anne Lamott 2.0: Why I’m Starting to Dig This Blogging Thing

First of all, thank you to all who sent me kind words or plain ol’ “likes” on my last post. I was (obviously) feeling pretty down about my dog and my book and my responses to both. One wonderful response came from my friend Shan Jeniah Burton, who quoted Vulcan wisdom to me:

“You are very adept at listing the questionable decisions you’ve made. But there have been other decisions – many of them – that no one would question. ”

Thanks, SJ. I call her SJ. I have NO IDEA if anyone else does, because, see, we’ve never met. We were both prisoners students in Kristen Lamb’s blogging-for-writers class over a year ago (Hotel Californians, we call ourselves, ’cause we can check out any time we like, but…yeah). Now we’re soul sisters…remotely.

This is why I can say with perfect honesty, 14 months since starting that class in order to kick-start my reluctant, anti-blogging self into doing something I was pretty sure authors just needed to suck-it-up-and-DO, I like my blog. I like this weird way of connecting with people. I have made real–not “virtual,” but REAL real–friends this way. Not to mention how lovely it is to re-connect with existing friends through this medium. Way more room to roam than on Facebook.

Then there’s the “please help” aspect. Granted, this works on Facebook and Twitter too, but I’m thinking I’m going to get a much more meaningful and useful response if I try this here on Wing’s World.

Can anyone advise me on how to get in touch with Anne Lamott? Her own blog does not have a “contact me” button (for obvious reasons; she’s a famous gal!). I’ve tweeted her and left a message on her Facebook page, but never heard anything, and I don’t want to be a stalker about it.

See, I wrote a song that I really want her to hear. It’s based on her famous quote about having only two prayers, “Help me help me help me” and “Thank you thank you thank you.” (That was in her book Traveling Mercies. Since then she’s added a third prayer, “Oh, wow,” which I guess is detailed in her book Help, Thanks, Wow, which is on my reading list.)

I started to write a song about that, but the lyrics got intertwined with another story, that of a friend of mine who died of cancer at age 42, just after delivering a baby. I do not know if my friend actually said Annie’s prayers, but the way she lived in her final year made me think that she might have, and so I wrote the song that way.

Here’s my song, “Help Me Help Me, Thank You, Thank You,” from our little Chicken Biscuit concert on Lopez Island, October 2012. I’m backed up by my friend Bruce Creps, who’s a much better guitarist than I am:

I don’t want Annie Lamott to help me “market” this song. I have zero ambitions for a career as a singer-songwriter; my plate is full! I just want her reaction.

So, internet friends and friends-I’ve-already-met-in-the-flesh (’cause “flesh friends sounds REALLY nasty), here’s my question: Can you help me figure out a way to get this song to Anne’s ears? I look forward to your help, advice, or support in this endeavor.


Happy Blogday To Me: Once-Reluctant Blogger Reaches 100 Posts

(orig. photo courtesy commons.wikimedia.org)

(orig. photo courtesy commons.wikimedia.org)

Happy Blog Day to Meeee….Wing’s World turns 100 posts today. I should buy myself a card.

Actually, I’m only half-joking. Given the number of people like me, mostly over-30s (OK, let’s be honest, even more of us are old enough to be the PARENTS of the over-30s), who have dived into blogging recently, Hallmark & their ilk could probably make a killing selling “Congrats! You’ve Reached Your 100th Post” cards. “From Your Sister-in-Law on Your 100th Post.” “To My Darling on the Anniversary of Her 100th Post.”

The cards could feature a long fence line, you know, made of…wooden…yeah, alright, you get it.

But none of us new bloggers would buy a paper card, would we? We’d be too busy showing off our mastery of the ecard. “Look at me, doing technology!”

Half the time, that really is what it feels like. When I was a little kid, my parents used to let me have a sip of their wine at dinner sometimes. I only took that sip after announcing, “Look at me! I’m drinking wine!” (Yeah, guess who’s the youngest in her family?)

Why this sudden upsurge? Because, like Mt. Everest, the internet is just…there? For some, I’m sure that’s true–reaching out with their thoughts is just a natural extension of, say, chatting to a stranger on a bus.

For people like me, though, starting to blog felt like signing up for a colonoscopy. “Do I really hafta? I know, I know, this is supposed to be good for me…How about if I wait a year and then do it?”

So fine: I started Wing’s World. But…starting to blog REGULARLY? “What does the world WANT from me?? Why can’t I just say my piece once a month and then retire with my dignity intact?”

I’ll tell you what got me going, and what probably motivated a whole bunch of my bloggin’ cohorts: FEAR.

What if I wrote a book…and nobody came?

A painter can at least put her masterpiece in a window for people to walk past and see, even if no one wants to buy. But an author? We have to PUBLISH. We have to get individual books before individual sets of eyes.

And that means we have to attract those eyes our way.

But eyes, it turns out, aren’t enough. In fact, if all your eyes saw were a stream of advertisements, “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buymybookbuymybookbuymybook…” stretching off into the sunshine like a line of fenceposts…you’d look away.

So my job is to get you to feel like you WANT to buy my book, because…drum roll!…you think I’m an interesting person, and you like the way I write.

And that, my friends, is why I blog. Or why I STARTED blogging. But an interesting thing happened on the way to the 100th post.

I began to enjoy myself. Turns out I really like talking with y’all.

So, here’s to Happy 100. Here’s to the next. Here’s to you, for reading, and to me, for writing, and…to whatever comes next as the line of posts marches into the distance.

How about you? Do you blog, happily or reluctantly? How many other blogs do you read? Do you sometimes suffer from “blog overload?” Do you wish the whole blogosphere had never been invented? Let me hear!


Diving In: Publication, Here I Come

Self-published. Independently published. Whatever you may call it, I call it: Time to Make a Book.

I’ve already written one. Two, actually. The Flying Burgowski introduces Jocelyn Burgowski, whose only solace from a family crumbling around her are her breathtaking flying dreams–until, on her fourteenth birthday, those dreams turn real and she launches into the sky…only to discover that supernatural powers are not always enough to heal the damage of old secrets. Book Two, The Flying Burgowski Sister, finds Jocelyn pitted against an enemy bound to destroy Flyers and anyone else who challenges “normality.”

Both manuscripts have been critiqued and revised and beta-read multiple times. The only thing holding them back from their “book” destiny is, I have discovered…my own fear.

What if I’m giving up too early on traditional publishing? What if I tried a little harder to snag another agent? (Used to have one; we parted company amiably; won’t bore you with the details.) What if my beautifully-crafted book gets lumped in with all the other books that show, shall we say, a little less attention to craft?** What if I can’t handle the technology of self-publishing? All that scary uploading! Eeek!

[**I just read this on someone’s self-pub blog: “I would spend some serious time revising your manuscript. You could also pay someone to edit for you. I didn’t, but…I felt confident that I had caught all of my grammatical errors and when I read through the book after receiving my copy, I was happy about the work I had done. Also–the book still had some errors. I had gone blind to my own work.” Grammatical errors–are you kidding me? What about the book’s content? Yikes. This is what gives self-pub a bad name.]

But this is the week where I finally tell those fears to shut up. I’m in. I’ve done my research. I have a terrific support system: my writing group; Kristen Lamb the WANA Mama and my WANA-peeps at WANA.com (shout-out to my WANA113 fellow Hotel Californians!); fellow writers from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. And let’s not forget you guys, my loyal readers! You’re ALL going to help me. Thanks in advance!

Nine months ago when I signed up for Kristen Lamb’s blogging class, I made these goals:

By the end of the class, I will not only be blogging 2-3 times a week, I will enjoy it.

In one year, my first book will be published, if not traditionally, then independently.

I’m right on track.

I’ve done my research, and I’m planning to go with Amazon’s CreateSpace because techno-wusses like me seem to find it pretty user friendly and, more importantly, it makes actual BOOKS you can hold in your HAND. I’m contacting a professional book designer, having been warned by my friend Iris Graville against using homemade art for the cover. I’m talking to my local independent bookstore about selling my books. And I’m telling YOU GUYS, so you can cheer me on and be ready to embrace Jocelyn when she makes her debut.

The day I made this go-for-it decision, I went for a walk in the coastal woods near my house. After several hours lost in cyberspace, reading self-pub blogs and Twitter advice, I needed a little reality fix. And I noticed this madrona tree, which I have passed dozens of times.

tree 1

tree 2

tree 3







It’s supporting itself. That crazy branch makes a complete loop, then rests itself on its own coil, takes a breather…and keeps on growing upward!

I decided this was MY METAPHOR. After striving for traditional publication, after landing an agent only to see him lose heart in the shark-infested waters of New York, after quailing for so long at the potential stigma and the hard work of self-publishing…I have made that loop and I’m ready to support myself in growing on UP.

And you guys? You’re the minerals in my soil, ok, and the sun on my branches!

Seriously…Who do you count in your corner when it’s time to put on the big-girl panties and stride out into scary territory? Who are YOUR soil & sunshine? Or just let me have your thoughts on the whole self-publishing adventure. I LOVE hearing from y’all.

Kristen Lamb Envy: I Want to be a Maven Too!

First of all, I’d like y’all to meet my Blogging Guru, Kristen Lamb. If you haven’t been to her website yet, run, don’t walk. Here’s her latest:  http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/asking-what-if-exploring-the-unknown-a-final-word-on-writing-horror/

Doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or not–although if you are, Kristen has plenty of good advice for your craft. But if you need help or even just ENCOURAGEMENT dealing with social media, Kristen’s your gal–and along the way she’ll make you laugh so hard you’ll probably need to change clothes.

Don’t believe me? Check out http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/?s=panty+liners

Kristen’s been blogging since 2005, she founded WANA International, (“We Are Not Alone”), an organization dedicated to guiding writers toward their goal, and  she just published a book on social media. She’s all OVER the internet, and as a fellow writer and dedicated techno-wuss, I ought to have serious tech-envy of Kristen. But what I really envy is her title. Here’s what Author Magazine had to say about Kristen last month:

Kristen is the author, most recently, of the highly recommended Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, a prolific blogger, and a social media maven. 

Did you catch that? She’s a MAVEN. 

Merriam Online defines “maven” as “one who knows a lot about a particular subject; one who is experienced or knowledgeable.” It goes on to provide examples of both male and female “mavens,” but I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever heard the word used to describe women. (Wait, so…women are mavens and men are, what, experts? Hmm.  I’ll save my thoughts on that for another post.)

I want to be a maven too! Such a cool word, rhymes with raven, bears the cachet of sophistication…really, who wouldn’t want to be a maven?

So I’ve been thinking of what I could be a maven of. I was a damn good high school teacher, but there are plenty of Master Teachers out there, so Education Maven doesn’t fit. I know quite a bit about running and hiking, but Outdoors Maven? Nope–too many REI employees out there to kick my butt.

Here’s what I settled on: I’m a pie maven. Yup. I can tell you everything you need to know about crust and filling, and I can bore the pants off you with my history as a piemaker.

I got this. (courtesy npr.org)

I got this. (courtesy npr.org)

Pie Maven. I like the sound of that.

Gretchen Wing, Pie Maven (courtesy flikr.org)

Gretchen Wing, Pie Maven (courtesy flikr.org)

What about you? If you could be a maven of anything, what would it be? Or…maybe you already are one??? Do tell!

At Least We All Speak Yoda…

The comedian George Carlin, bless his soul, used to have a wonderful spiel about freeway drivers.

Paraphrasing: “Anyone who goes faster than me–what a maniac! Anyway who goes slower–what a moron.”

I’m totally stealing that for today’s discussion about cultural literacy.

I live on an island, ok? So I am not only isolated from popular culture, I am LITERALLY INSULATED. (Insula = island in Latin. Yup.) Here on my little isle, we call trips to the mainland “going to America.” I’ve already found myself resisting such trips.

Helen and Gretchen 2012

And I’ve only lived here full-time for three years!

Along with my new home, I have a new job that has almost nothing to do with teenagers–unlike the last 20 years of teaching, where I was marinated in surrounded by them. So you can see how I’ve begun to lose just a teensy bit of my once-awesome cultural literacy.

Recently my blog guru teacher, Kristen Lamb, posted this wonderful bit on her blog: http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/what-sharknado-can-teach-us-about-writing/

It’s a great post, as you now know since you read it. But when I did, the whole time I was thinking, “Sharknado??? Oh man, where have I been?”

And here I thought I was all hip because I kinda/sorta know who the Kardashians are.

Anyone else out there feel like the world of what-you-have-to-know-about-to-avoid- being-a-fossil is expanding at light speed?

Then a local (meaning island) friend of mine (who’s not all that much older) rescued me from my self-pity pit. Responding to an email I’d sent, he asked, “Yeah, what does [colon + parenthesis] mean, anyway? My niece writes that all the time.”

🙂 🙂 :)!!!! Hurray–someone less literate than I am! I got to teach him all about emoticons. And no, I did not call him a moron–any more than I’d call Kristen Lamb a maniac. 🙂

I told my friend I’d try not to sound too smug when telling this story. Then I quoted Yoda’s dictum: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Then I asked him if he knew who Yoda was.

He did. Definitely not a moron! But probably still wondering, as I am, how insulated fossils like us are possibly going to keep up. Maybe I’ll assign myself an hour of YouTube a day.

So how about y’all? What examples have you run into of folks who are hopelessly moronic less hip than you are? Or your own lack of hipness? Or are you the maniac on the highway of cultural literacy? Let us hear!

(Original photo courtesy Hexmar, WANA Creative Commons)

(Original photo courtesy Hexmar, WANA Creative Commons)