Tag Archives: business

Are You Wanting to Start a Business? Here’s some inspiration…

When people advertise on my blog, I like to champion them, especially when they have created something powerful from pain.  I’d like to introduce you to Renee at Monogram Mama who will be advertising at These Here Hills.  Click on her great ad (right side bar) and go check her out.  What a great example of reinvention.  I am inspired.

I grew up terribly terribly preppy– pink monogrammed sweaters, monogrammed towels, gave monogrammed boxers to my high school boyfriend– heck my mother’s CAR is monogrammed…  And so Monogram Mama feels like an old friend.  Here’s to some shopping therapy.  To all of you who want to start a business but it seems too daunting…here’s her story.   May it inspire you to live your dreams and dream your life:

 

LM:  How did the idea for your business hatch?  What made you go from hatch to fledge?

MM: In the Summer of 2011 my husband decided he wanted a divorce.  I had not worked full time in 10 years because I have been raising four daughters.  Honestly, I was so frightened that I would not be able to support my children.  I read
your book and became inspired.  I took a hard look at my life and what dreams I had been pushing to the side.  One of those was to own a business and the other was to live at the beach.  But how was I going to do it?  For over four months I researched existing businesses to buy and I came upon a company that sold retail websites.   I had an idea to create my own and I hired them to create the site and teach me the ropes. I love monograms!  So, Monogram Mama was born and I am very proud of what I have created. And this month I am moving to the coast.  I finally can see the light at the end of the tunnel of my heart healing and my soul at peace.

LM:  What inspires you?

MM: Hands down my daughters are my inspiration every day.  There have been days that I have been crying so hard that I didn’t think I could take another breath but then I think of them and I push forward.  They look up to me and they believe in me.  All five of us realize that this is my time to soar and succeed.  I want to teach them to believe in their dreams and make them happen.

LM:  Did you experience any negative self-talk around creating your business? If so, how did you move through it?

MM: Every day!  In those first months after my husband left I didn’t think I was capable of even boiling water!  But I began to journal and I would print inspirational quotes and put them on the wall in front of my computer.  My girls also continued to
push me forward if I started doubting myself.  We are definitley a house full of strong women!

LM:  What is your vision for your business?

MM:  I want Monogram Mama to be one of the Top 3 monogramming sites in the country.  I plan for it to support me and my children and allow me to begin fulfilling my dreams of traveling to Africa and India.

LM:  Do you have a mission statement? If so, what is it? If not, what would it be?

MM:  I don’t have a mission statement.  What makes my site different from the others is the fact that it’s personal.  I want the customers to know “Mama”.  I hand pick each item on the site, I respond personally to any questions and I blog about other ways to bring a monogram into your life.  I don’t want to lose that personal touch.

LM:  What advice would you give other people who want to create something but are stuck?

MM:  The biggest thing I believe we all need to do in our lives is to listen to our inner voice. For years, I was ignoring mine and it was trying to tell me my life was out of balance.  It has not been easy to be still and listen.  Honestly, listening has changed my life.

LM:  What has been the best part of starting your own business?

MM: Meeting all of the amazing women! The company that built my site is owned by a woman who is not only smart but very strong.  She has built her company from the ground up, employs only incredible women and is a breast cancer survivor!  Also, the majority of the merchandise that I carry is created by women.  It has been a blessing getting to know them and their stories.  I appreciate each day being surrounded by them and learning from them.

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A Lifeline for Writers

If you want to skip my rant below, just go here for the LIFELINE!  http://everythingyoushouldknow.com

 

Platform?  Say What?

For all you writers out there, here’s the deal– with a golden solution at the end:

(The news as it was delivered in June, 2009…and what happened when I paid attention)

“What’s that you said?  Platform?  I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you right.  Must be the truck that just ran me over.  Could you come again?  I think what you said is that it’s practically impossible to get my books published in today’s market without a Platform.  Is that correct?”

Big-time New York publishing-world person responds.

Turns out I heard right.

“I need to sit down.  I think I’m going to throw up.”

Big-time New York publishing-world person says something about it being good news.  That I don’t have to throw up.  That social media is the new frontier and it’s full of Platforms.  Exclamation point.  Smiley face.  Like she’s just come back from a blogger’s convention or took a hit of Ecstasy or something.

“Good news?  It’s just that…well…I was under the impression, nay delusion, all these years that if you want to write books…uh…you write books.  In the wee hours while the children sleep.  During your break at the restaurant on the back of bar tabs.  On your hand in the car.  In hiding over Christmas break in your childhood closet.  And if you’re lucky, at a proper desk with inspirational quotes around you and a dog at your feet.  Sometimes for eight hours straight forsaking all others, even your sick mother.  And at least for what it takes to get you five pages.  Double-spaced.  Times New Roman.  12pt.  Every day, no matter what, for years and years.  And years.  What a fool am I.”

Daunting list is delivered in what sounds like a cross between Pig Latin and Sanskrit.

Shallow, rattled, authorly breath.  “Huh?  Blog?  Social media?  Brand development?  Promotion?  These words aren’t even in my dictionary.  I’ve been neck deep in narrative drive.  Plot points.  Characterization.  Dramatic tension.   Empathy.  I need an aspirin.”  I hang up less politely than I’d like.

I take to my bed with the covers up to my chin and stare at the ceiling for a good long time watching my future flicker past in Blue Ray, and of course, I don’t know how to turn it off because of course, I’m a techno peasant, as my friend Lee Woodruff likes to say.  But I don’t know her yet.  I don’t know that I’m going to be published in a few years and meet fabulous people like Lee Woodruff.  All I know is this:  It’s true—I’m never going to get published.

Then I call big-time New York publishing-world person back.  She answers; uses a tone I strike with my children when they’ve had a nightmare.  She is kindly prodding me to join the world of the living breathing adult 21st century writer.  But I’m not exactly there yet.

“What do you mean no one will publish my books and short stories and essays and poems because, wait say it again—I just need to make sure I heard you right:  I don’t have a Platform?  Like a train platform, where lovers leave and re-join each other in tears and blowing hooded capes?  Where soldiers return from war and businessmen and women go to and fro with briefcases and cell phones, tipping hats, politely nodding?  Or like platform shoes?  Tall and ankle-breaking and sure to go out of style?  Or like platform tennis—a cage with hard paddles and balls that don’t bounce?”

Her voice is the voice of the adults in Peanuts holiday TV specials.  Suddenly I want a Dolly Madison doughnut.   Instead, I sit up and try to become mature.

“Okay.  Platform,“ I say like I’m swallowing that aspirin, not that Ecstasy.  “Could you please tell me just what the F*** you mean by a Platform?  In the nicest sense of the word F***.”

And I learn.  I learn fast.  Because this is like an intervention and I realize I’m going to have to go to writing rehab and I know that if I don’t go, this writing dream might die.  Here’s what I learn:
If I want to get my books published…it would behoove me to build a brand.  To be an expert at something.  To get on the speaking circuit.  To have a website and to have something to sell there like a course on something.  I have to blog.  I have to Tweet.  I have to Facebook.  And I’m not gonna matter to anyone unless I have 20,000 followers who are waiting with baited breath for my monthly newsletter.  Among other things.  That’s what I hear for now.  Nowhere is there any mention of novel-writing.

“I miss my typewriter,” I say, pulling the covers back up to my chin, grieving all my book babies who will likely never see the light of day.  “What’s the world come to?  What would John Cheever and Raymond Carver and JD Salinger do?”

She plays hardball:  “Well you could try to send something to The New York Times.  Or The New Yorker,” knowing full well that the chances of that something getting published in those somethings is thin.  “But the social media Platform is easier to navigate.”

Good Lord.  Say it ain’t so.

But if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a quitter.  I know I have to at least investigate this modern world that I inhabit.  In the traditional sense of the word, a platform is sturdy, if I think of it that way.  A launching pad.  A place for new beginnings.  A place where helicopters land and take off.  A place where triage happens.   And my books are in critical condition.

So I start a blog and I find I actually have something to say.  And a few people actually read it.  I actually even like writing those posts.  They’re short and great writing warm ups and usually have a photo in them.  I love photography and I’m very visual so this genre sings for me.  Not sure if anyone’s listening but at least I’m in control of getting my work out there wherever there is.  At least I’m on a Platform.  And I join Facebook and Twitter and I realize I’ve been really alone all these years in this office, writing books about made up people in made up lands.  Social media is so…well…social.  I actually like this Platform thing.  I write something and I put it out there and people read it.  Wow.  Wow wow wow.

All-too-quickly the honeymoon is over.  Because I learn that there is no Platform band wagon.  You have to build it brick by brick and it takes time.  Lots of time.  A lot like writing a novel.  But there isn’t really time to write a novel with all this finding friends on Facebook and Twitter, and blogging and newslettering…and why bother anyway, because apparently no one’s buying books by unknown authors and no one’s reading them.  Even though I read them.  But apparently I’m not “normal.”  I am beginning to build up a whopping dose of resentment.  Resentment is bad.  I take a pause and go back to a novel I was working on before the Social Media witch landed on my house.

And then it happens.  I get in some power tools and large machinery, and my platform is big and bright and shiny…because one afternoon, I decide to put my forehead on my writing desk and weep.  And in total surrender, I write the short version of a memoir I finished a few months prior…and send it, yes, to the New York Times.  The Modern Love column, to be exact.  And the next day, I get an email:  they want it.  They actually want it.

The morning that essay hits the newsstands, I have three hits on my blog.  By the end of the day I have 3,000.  Major national television calls my home phone.  I’m not even listed.  My agent goes out with the full length memoir.  In forty-eight hours I get a book deal at a major publishing house.  And my whole life as a writer changes.  The Platform works, turns out.

But remember, I’m an English major type with absolutely no business experience, never mind sense.  Two seconds ago I didn’t even know what a W-9 form was.  Or an LLC.  Or what the word fiduciary or even fiscal mean.  And here I am, me and my Platform, and just like I didn’t know how to build one in the first place, now that I have one, I have no idea what to do with it!  I learn the hard way.  I learn alone.  I hire my ex-nanny to be my assistant.  We limp along together in the world of Platform and heck—we do okay.

And then I meet a woman called Arielle Ford.  A writer.  A publicity whiz.  Here are a few of the people whose careers she has helped launch:  Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch, Debbie Ford, Wayne Dyer, Gary Zukav, Dean Ornish, Joan Borysenko, Louise Hay, Jorge Cruise, and don Miguel Ruiz.

Arielle generously teaches me a thing or two and after a few years and a lot of hard work learning how to do triage on my Platform…I have the honor of participating in what I consider to be the singlemost helpful tool kit around when it comes to actually making sense of all this stuff writers are supposed to be doing when we’re not writing—pre-book and post-book.  This tool kit is Arielle’s way of shining light on what feels like utter darkness for most of us writers.  Oh how I wish I’d had what I am about to introduce to you years ago:

It’s called EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD KNOW and it’s an extensive course on the publishing world with pearls of wisdom from top-selling authors and speakers.  I am thrilled to be able to give you this lifeline and I am honored to be one of its interviewees.  Please…if you are in the dark, struggling and stubborn like yours truly.

Click here now:   http://everythingyoushouldknow.com/. 

It very well may be the best money you’ve spent on your writing career.  Conferences, retreats, lectures, how-to books all serve their purpose, but this is GOLDEN information that you won’t find anywhere else.  I am not a salesperson.  I get nervous laughter when I’m in that position.  But I am so blown away by the power of the tools in this marvelous tool box Arielle has created, that I am happy to be a megaphone for it.  CHECK IT OUT and tell all your writer friends that they don’t have to be in the dark!

Also, I’m GIVING AWAY two free tickets to Arielle Ford’s 21st Century Book Marketing live event in San Diego on October 14-16, just LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW on this blog post. This is a $994 value that I’m giving away for free! Two days of learning how to use everything she teaches you!

Go here to explore the video and EYSK.

Here’s to changing the tortured artist paradigm!  Here’s to empowerment…and light where there was darkness.

Yrs.
Laura

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On The Road: (or Where am I?)

You may think the road is glamorous…but think again.  There are lessons in limos that you might not expect…

Origninally published in Author Magazine

I’m home now after two months on the road promoting my book, and every morning, I wake up with a start: Where am I?
I could be anywhere. I could be in a Hampton Inn in Dayton, Ohio. I could be in a Ritz Carlton in downtown Los Angeles. I could even be in my own bed. And it’s an interesting experiment lying there, daring the early morning birds, living into that not knowing.

I’ve known exactly where I am when I wake for many years. I am in my bed in Montana, once again waking to the same cool celadon green of my walls, the same mahogany antique desk that I’ve ruined with hot tea mugs, the rings to prove it. There is a stack of books covering those rings, and I’ve read too little of those words, and so usually, I awake to guilt. Guilt in the rings and books and inevitable dust—a dead fly or two on the window sill. I feel guilt, but I feel comfort. I am the keeper of these inanimates.

In My Dinner with Andre, Andre has to climb mountains to know that he exists. Wallace Shawn is happy to wake up to the cold cup of coffee from the day before in his New York City apartment. In both cases, these are proof that they are alive. I have been alive then in dead bugs and low grade guilt. But I’d like to have kinder proof, so usually I try to think of a few nice things to say to myself. Sometimes I think of people to whom I want to send loving kindness. Either way, there is always this butterfly flicking around in my rib cage: when do I get to write? That question is what quells it all. And it is with that question that I get out of bed and enter my day. It is in answering that question, that I know where I am.

I had a friend who spent a lot of time and money getting her masters in creative writing. At the end of it she realized she’s not a writer. “I dreaded every minute of it,” she said. “Really,” I said. “I feel like a little girl getting away with something every time I sit down to my writing desk.” It felt that way in 1988 when I realized I am a writer and it feels that way in 2011, and if I know anything about myself, it will feel that way as long as I live.

As I’ve said before, writing is my practice and my prayer. My meditation. My way of life and sometimes my way to life. It is the holiest ground I know. And so, you might wonder what happens when you wake up day after day on the road in a startle, wondering what you will see when you open your eyes and really not knowing what the answer is to the question, once you get around to it: when do I get to write? Because the answer most likely is: this summer. And summer is months away.

So do you feel sorry for yourself? Or worried for yourself like your grandmother worries for you? Maybe a little. Your life, for as much as your dreams are now realities, is dearly out of balance. Writers have nervous breakdowns on book tours because of this imbalance. Their personal lives suffer. Their children suffer. Mothers without their children suffer, whether or not they are writers. I have a writer friend who doesn’t call her kids when she’s on the road. “It upsets them,” she says, and she’s right. Better to extract yourself and to leave them be. They don’t need the reminder. It doesn’t feel good hearing your voice. It feels sad. For both of you.

It’s true that I bring my journal with me when I travel. But it’s also true that I don’t write in it. I can’t quite ask and answer my good questions. I can’t quite go into the woods of my heart and depict my wanderings well or even at all. It’s too painful. It’s what my friend with the MFA felt when she sat down to write. I think that for me, it’s because novels hatch in journal entries. Or at least short stories and essays. And I can’t afford that to happen. Because I can’t take their hand and breathe air into their lungs. They will be like my children. Abandoned for now.

So I am out of practice on the road. I am disoriented. Where am I? This is not just a question of toilet and nightstand and lamp and toilet paper. This is deeply psychic. Where am I? What CAN you take with you? Well here is my answer:

Every so often, like the Pilgrim in The Way of the Pilgrim who travelled with his book and his knapsack, trying to learning what it is to pray without ceasing, we need to find the wilderness that is us. To give up our earthly possessions and even that cold cup of coffee and those dead flies that remind us we are alive, and climb our Everests like Andre or take to wandering with one single intention like the Pilgrim. We need to forget what Monday is from Tuesday and what Portland is from Jacksonville, and just be Somewhere. It’s nice to become aware of a comfortable bed because of the uncomfortable bed in which you slept the night before. It’s nice to know the difference before you even know where you are longitudily and latitudinaly speaking. A good pillow leaves you wanting to weep in gratitude. The smile from a cab driver. A wink from the woman at the train ticket box. The way the waitress calls you “hon.”

At home, you don’t notice these things quite the same way. You know exactly where you are. You berate yourself for being forty-five years old and still not having the wherewithal to keep a stock of tampons in your medicine cabinet. You feel guilt over ruined antiques and pressure from dead flies, and you forget sometimes that they are reminders that yes, you are alive. You can’t think about being alive. You have so very much laundry to do.

And yes, you are home. You have a place to practice your prayer. And the road reminds you: you have your room of your own…and you are so grateful for it because you forgot: a long time ago, you pined away for that room. You wrote inbetween shifts at the restaurant and while the babies slept. You have your desk that awaits you. You have your work. You have a life in balance, for the most part. You know where the toilet is. The road has been a great teacher: you need to be OUT of balance every so often, so that you know what balance is in the first place. You need to learn to be grateful for dead flies by climbing the mountain. There are times to live and times to write and times to do both. And so to the road, and to all those hotel rooms and that new question (Where am I?) which for many weeks this last year have replaced my usual question at waking (When do I get to write?)…Thank you.

And now it is summer.

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Lost in Translation?

A lot of things have been blessings in disguise from this journey of book, but one of the greatest ones has been knowing that my words are reaching people all over world.  Wow.  Wow.  The UK has been amazing. So have been the Auzzies and Germans. Thank you.

Hearing from a blind woman in Israel who tells me that my book helped her through the greatest loss of her life and that is the death of her seeing eye dog to cancer.  This is the power of story.  To know that my words, written here in my small room in Montana, are being translated around the globe:  well that is just hitting me.  And it’s hitting me hard.  Today I got my words in Chinese. 
And recently in German. Soon in Dutch, Italian, and in Taiwanese.
Universal truth is universal truth.  It crosses oceans and countries and cultures.  Thank you.

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When Amazon and Book Scan Had a Baby

I’m a bit afraid to write this post, the way someone who fears the mafia is afraid.  But I have to give voice to something that has seared the last year of my life with a fair amount of ludicrousy.  It’s just too juicy not to share.  At the risk of having big time New York editors running at me with sharpened pencils and a slurry of sticky notes, I have to tell you:  published authors don’t have access to their book sales.  Not more than twice a year when the royalties reports come.  My book was published in April and I didn’t see that report until November.  Isn’t that stunning news?

So how are you to plan accordingly, you might ask?  How are you to know where your hot markets are?  How are you to weigh whether it’s worth it financially to choose the Birmingham, Alabama library request over the one in St. Louis?  It’s an exact science:  Eeny rock meeny paper miney flip a coin scissors.  I’m sure that this isn’t the publishing industry’s fault.  I mean they have troubles enough in the looming fact that the future might very well only hold digital books, never mind digital people holding those digital books, but that’s another story.  Or is it.

All I know is that you can’t fly out of the small town airport where I live for less than around $400.00, and that’s a steal.  Usually it’s more like $800.00.  And so is it worth it to fly myself to Birmingham, leaving my husband and small children, missing soccer and baseball games and school plays?  I don’t know.  You tell me.  Do people in Birmingham read a lot?  Or do people in St. Louis read more?  Eeny meeny.  And there’s more to this puzzle because things tend to happen to the author when a certain amount of books have been sold.  Big things that might involve a pay check and help you budget things like Christmas, and Spring Break and if either are going to involve expenditures.

Don’t get me wrong—my editor and my publicity team are my dream team.  I adore them.  They’d never put me in cement boots and throw me into the Hudson.  They bent over backwards to tour me around the country and land me spots on national TV and everywhere they possibly could.  And they’re in the process of doing it all over again for the paperback release in a few weeks.  This is not about them.  But it’s about somebody, and just who that somebody is, I’m not sure.  It’s a system that doesn’t seem to work, not when it comes to the lowly writer as a business woman.  Any businessperson should be able to see sales reports to judge how to proceed in peddling what she’s peddling, shouldn’t they?  Especially after the big launch.  Sure there are amazing salespeople out there working for the effort, but the writer can’t contact them.  It’s a guessing game.  Maybe they’re afraid the hair-brained blundering writer might mess it up somehow.  Kind of like how they don’t let you visit your kid at camp unless it’s parent’s weekend.  I honestly don’t know.  But I better not wake up with a horse head in my bed, that’s all I’m sayin’.

And then…this winter…all this changed, thanks, I think, to Amazon.  Amazon might be getting the biggest writerly blow job ever, and it was just in time for the holidays, because…wait for it…well I’ll take you through the door a different way.  The way my mother would want me to.  Politely:

As a writer of a recently published book, you never know what’s going to be in your email in-box in the morning.  Is your UK publisher wondering if you like the cover art they’ve chosen?  Is noon an okay time for a journalist from Tel Aviv to do a phone interview with you?  Would you be willing to do a Skype video call with a book group north of Boston?  Could you suggest a good therapist for a fan’s husband in Tulsa?  Could you send signed copies of your book to your mother’s bridge club friend’s daughter and all her friends in San Diego?  Could you stop bothering your publicist about the paperback book tour?  (click to see my upcoming events and come say hi!)  Could you sign books at the local Costco this Sunday?

“Sure” is the answer.  Especially to the last one, because you’ll need to stop by Costco anyway since that’s where you buy your books since you can’t afford to buy them for $24.95 and if you use your author’s discount with your publisher, it doesn’t count as a sold book and you need books counted since you don’t make any royalties until your advance is paid back in book sales.  And not at $24.95.  It’s a small PERCENTAGE of the retail price that goes back into the pot.  Get it?  (Somebody asked me recently if I was a millionaire, now that I have a book that landed on the NYT best-seller list.  The answer is no.  I’m still trying to get my health insurance back and crawl out of credit card debt!)  Sold books steer the next few years of your life in more ways than you can write about here without ending up with that horse head in your bed, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Suffice it to say that there are all sorts of things I didn’t know about being a published author prior to this experience, and even more things I don’t know after the experience.  It’s been a year of these findings for me.  But the biggest surprise is this whole sales issue.  Until Amazon somehow teamed up with Book Scan and sent me a little email one fine winter morning that said, “To add to your holiday cheer, we’ve added several new features related to your books’ sales on our new Sales Info tab.”  And lo, with a simple click I was dragging my cursor over the continental US seeing that, yes, 46 of my books sold in New York City last week.  And 14 in Seattle.  And one in Milwaukee, bless that person’s soul.  And, oh look, zero in Wichita.   Well that’s okay.  We love you anyway, Wichita.  Maybe I need to fly on over and speak at your library.  If you’ll have me.

And as much as some writers think this is a cause for Zanax, I think it’s one of the best gifts a published writer could get.  So, thank you, Amazon and Book Scan.  But no, I still refuse to buy a Kindle.

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The Agony of Submissions– One Writer's Rant

I write regularly for Author Magazine, which you should DEFINITELY check out if you’re a writer or if you love reading or if you love to listen/watch writers being interviewed. Here is my most recent piece. It’s about my relationship with submitting my work. Enjoy. Or feel my pain. Either one. I’d love to hear your own angle on the business side of the writing life. yrs. Laura

PIE by Laura Munson

Mostly, I’ve been a back door sort of submitter. I didn’t used to be. I used to march straight through the front door and send my stuff out shotgun. In fact, the very first story I wrote, I sent, wait for it…to the New Yorker. And when I got that first form rejection, I was stunned. I was twenty. I was a dreamer, not really a writer. And dreamers are a bit delusional. So I kept sending out that short story—Harpers, Esquire, every magazine I could think of, every literary review I found in the Harvard Square kiosk (we didn’t have the internet yet). Still rejection after rejection. After rejection. I had a bulletin board over my desk with a chart full of all my submissions written on butcher block paper. In the section which I’d entitled Y/N, there were so many N’s that I did that N some courtesy and elongated it to Nope. To this day it’s still Nope, only now I know how to make a spreadsheet on my computer. I sort of miss that bulletin board. It was so visceral, writing Nope in Sharpie on butcher’s block paper pinned up with thumb tacks.

Then I read somewhere—Hemingway On Writing or something like that, that you just had to write and write and write and stop trying to get published, and so I spent the next half of my life writing. I recoiled from submitting. I wrote some essays and stories, cast them off into the wind from time to time, and got down to work, ignoring the rejections as they came in—well, KIND of ignoring them. I stopped talking about being a writer. And I began living the writing life. I wrote so much that I used to imagine myself putting on a seatbelt at the beginning of my writing day. I’d feel that ghost seatbelt like amputees claim they feel their lost limb. I was obsessed. Novel after novel. Every so often I’d get my nerve up and query an agent but not really give it the old college try. Not if you want a letterman’s sweater and I did. Not if you’re playing to win. If you’re any good. And I even doubted that.

Then a successful published writer friend told me to look at it like a pie chart. Writing was the dream slice. But the rest was necessary if I ever wanted anybody to read what I spent all that time alone in a dark room tapping away about on my keyboard. And especially, if I ever wanted to get paid for it. “You’re getting a flat ass for nothing,” he said. And he was right. My ass was flattening and no one was reading my stuff and I wasn’t getting paid a dime. (And they wonder why writers drink.)

I didn’t think of the writing life as a pie chart. I wanted to write like I wanted to canter on a horse. In other words, I didn’t want to deal with the saddle soap and the de-wormer. Or the training. Or the walking and stopping and doing circles if things got hairy. And then I was in a hot tub in LA one day and it’s a long story but it lead to an agent who signed me on as a client but with one question: Why aren’t you published? I gave her the writer’s answer: I used to write out of anger, but now I write out of gratitude. But that wasn’t the whole story.

It had more to do with pride. Shame. Guilt, even. How could I have worked so hard and not gotten published to wide acclaim? That was my prayer, after all. Please let me be published to wide acclaim. Spoken to so many horizons on so many beaches. I wish a pelican had flown by or a humpback whale would have flapped a fin in my face and said, “You ain’t gonna git published if you don’t send your work out, sister.” And maybe they did. I was too busy begging and crying and kicking sand around to notice.

Oh how we get in our own way. Oh the fences we build. So here I am, with that flotsam-flung prayer answered, trying to imagine my writing life as the pie chart I guess it’s been after all, trying not just to think of the pie. It would be blackberry, by the way. Or maybe strawberry rhubarb. If you asked me what I’m supposed to be doing right now, I’d tell you about the three files that are open in the tool bar below this sentence: Submissions winter 2010, submissions letters, magazines. And what am I doing? Writing about it. I have a huge body of work after all these years and I’m overwhelmed by it. I feel like Old Mother Hubbard with a copy of the Fiske Guide to Colleges in her already full lap. I’ve made six cups of tea this morning. I’ve checked my email approximately—well, a LOT, that’s how much. I’ve researched Italian Rosetta Stone language dvds. I’ve bought a pair of boots.

Jonathan Franzen said at the recent Miami Book Fair where I had the honor of reading, that no good novel comes out of a computer attached to the internet. People smugly laughed, outing themselves. I smugly crossed my legs and arms: I don’t have this problem. I have trained myself in discipline. I can write under any conditions. I have never made excuses. I’ve completed 14 frigging novels, two memoirs, and I don’t know how many essays and short stories. Too many to count, though I’m considering giving it a whirl right now just to put off having to submit my work. I ABHOR submitting my work.

Even now, why? It’s not the probable rejection. It’s not the actual writing of the query letters—it’s writing after all and we all know how I feel about writing by now. It has something to do with why I never got above a B+ in math. I don’t like numbers. I don’t like pie charts. I don’t like doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t want to BE a business person. In other words, I’m completely immature. And I still believe that the rebel is free. I’m here to tell you, it’s not.

The artist can be and even must be, a business-person too. And that doesn’t mean you’re selling out. You’re creating the possibility of having your work be received by people. And that’s part of it. Still…it’s a pill I haven’t quite swallowed. I don’t have any problem submitting my books to my agent. But my little babies to glossy magazine editors and terrifying places like Granta or the Paris Review or…uck. I’d rather get a cavity filled. I’m not kidding. I want to get on my cow pony and canter. No, gallop. Instead, Dear editor. I have a few essays which I feel to be a match for your zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

And those old questions clamor in my mind: why would they want to publish MY work in the first place? Haven’t I had enough therapy to know that I have self-worth issues? Doesn’t a New York Times bestselling book make me immune to these inner saboteur-esque questions? Apparently not.

Two cups of tea later: an epiphany occurs:

I find myself chortling. Fully entranced in my essay file on my computer, playing a game of cat and mouse. Or curser and mouse, if you will. (Aren’t I hysterical?) Asking a different kind of question– as if to a palm reader: where should this one go, oh wise curser? And then I start talking to my actual Word document files. Tell me where you want to go. Tell me where home is, little girl. I’ll give you a ride and a sandwich. Fly. Be free.

And shit starts happening. I start making a list. A fast one. The one about dog-sledding—Outside magazine of course. And…the one about the funeral in the forest, how ‘bout Tin House. And the one about the firefighter and the grizzly bear, what about Orion? And the one about my first child and the day she wanted to move her dollhouse out of her room…why not Parenting magazine? Or Ladies Home Journal. Or Woman’s Day? Or Redbook? Suddenly, no glossy mag seems too grandiose. What’s a magazine without its writers? As my literary hero once told me, “Someone has to get published and why can’t it be you?” Yeah. Like Harrison said. Why not me?

So after seven hours of diddling around like a child doing chores, in a half an hour, I’d submitted eleven pieces. All by listening to my work and its voice—picturing the blow of its cannon and watching its trajectory in the sky, falling as it might.

And truth told, I want more. I think I’ll dedicate the whole week to this game, in fact. To this slice of pie. And when I’m through, I’ll have irons in the fire, while I tuck into the winter of 2010, and get back to work on the reason for the slices in the first place: the writing.

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Advertising with Integrity– only 15 spots, offered first to you, my dear readers

I need your input. I have so loved this blog and all the amazing people who show up here sometimes daily to read and comment. It really is all that I hoped it would be when I set out to begin it a few winters ago. This was before my book was published and I was sick of writing and not having readers. I did it on a whim and slogged my way through figuring out the admin and how to post etc. As a techno peasant, it was slow going. But now I can’t imagine NOT having this forum for sharing. I have made friends here, all over the world. We have shared stories from the heart and there has been so much integrity in the way in which people show up.

I have some old school writer friends who have enjoyed long-lived careers in books, and they simply cannot understand why I would spend so much time writing these little pieces and accompanying them with photos. They don’t understand why I’d run out of my writing room in a storm to photo the hail on the poppies and rush to get it on my blog. But that’s because it’s not on their radar. They’re used to living the unwitnessed life in their rooms of their own, and they’re happy that way. I used to tell myself I was too, but it’s lonely in my office, my husband and kids off at school and work, and me with a novel to write. I have been hard at it for so long and have my practice, my craft, what I do in a novel, very much in balance. But there are other windows of time here and if I lived in the city, maybe I’d fill them with art galleries or cafes or street music. One can only walk in the woods so long before one begins to wonder if she fell in the woods and no one was there to hear her fall, if she really fell at all.

To that end, I have loved being here, sharing my Montana-kissed life, and meeting you in words and images. It means the world to me. And while I love the no-advertising component I’ve chosen, this cow girl needs to do more to help support her family and I think there’s a way to keep it “PBS” esque, and have advertisements. I’d like to put this out to you before I start shopping around: I am wanting to find products out there, and when I say out there I mean wherever you are as I have readers in Australia, Israel, Belguim, you name it, that speak to the kind of integrity that we find here at THESE HERE HILLS. I want to support and champion people who are creating things that inspire people; that make the world a better place, that challenge us to think, and give us haven from the storm that life can sometimes deal. I want to get behind these products, places, people, and do more than just have them shine on the banner and along the sides of my blog, but give them cyber “ink,” featuring them in long term committment and connecting them to other writers and powers-that-be which might help get the word out on their behalf.

I would love your ideas for potential advertisers, especially if you are one of those people who has something you’d like to promote here. I promise that I will never change the tone of THESE HERE HILLS. I’ve turned down all kinds of advertising offers which don’t at all feel right for what we’re doing here together on this site. My hope is that my readers might be inspired by someone out there who has created something that appeals to them and which they might want in their lives in some capacity.

I have a 15 ad cap right now, so I’m offering this opportunity here first. You can email me at Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com for more details. I’m excited about this. I have always had a hard time putting a price to something. I had a lemonade stand as a kid and used to just give it away. But you can’t just give it away. Not always. Not when you wouldn’t mind health insurance again. And when the bills stack up…and up…and up. There’s a way to support each other in what we create without selling out. That’s who I am in this. And I want this platform I’ve created to do the same for others. Thanks and let me know. yrs. Laura

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Summer Lost (or Summer Gained): It's how you slice it.


I didn’t have a summer this year, and I feel sorry for myself. Maybe you can relate. Here’s what I didn’t do that I usually do:
Visit family
Go anywhere beachy
Garden
Ride my horse in the woods (cardinal sin)
Go to the County Fair
Camp
Go to the gym
Hike in Glacier National Park (a .6 mile walk to a waterfall and back does not count)
Spend more than a half an hour picking huckleberries
Finish the Bear puzzle on the dining room table with the kids
Read a novel or two ot ten
Watch the meteor shower
Take a night walk with the dogs, or any substantial walk with the dogs for that matter
Go to Canada, which is 60 miles north
Make homemade ice cream
Have long leisurely dinners outside on the patio
Eat lobster

Here’s what I DID do on my summer vacation:
I compiled this list yesterday because I was sick of beating myself up for all the things I DIDN’T do, and it reminded me that when you are launching your life’s dream and starting a business, you might suffer in the “Life in Balance” category. And so what? Sometimes that’s just the way things fly. So yesterday, I took my mind off my NO list and set it on my YES list, and I went to bed by the full moon last night feeling sated.

The below is not shameless self-promotion, it’s just a good exercise. If you feel that you too didn’t have a summer, you might want to write down what you DID do. And that includes just sitting in a room breathing and gazing out the window, if you didn’t have a high performance last few months. Let’s live in YES instead of NO. Let’s live in the SOLUTION, not the PROBLEM. For what it’s worth, feel free to skim the below:

Played tennis with my kids
Started a puzzle with my kids
Took a romantic getaway with my husband to see Michael Franti and Spearhead in Missoula, MT and had a total blast
Went to a three day horse clinic about centered riding and learned so much about how tight I am on a horse when I’m scared
Swam in the lake a lot

…and the following:
Social Media:
Took a hard core stab at understanding Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, Shewrites, and Blogher which is all mildly terrifying for this techno peasant.

Started “Daily Tips for Writers” on Twitter which I hope to make into a book one day, or use in a memoir about writing.

Regular Blog Contributor:
Became a regular contributer to:
Huffington Post
Parelli Natural Horesmanship Blog

Live Chats:

Awesome Women’s Hub.com on Facebook with Robin Rice

Penguin Watercooler

http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/publishersoffice/subcontent/watercoolerarchive/lauramunson.html

My Haven Newsletter live blog chat with Life Coach, Rossell Weinstein

http://lauramunson.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/haven-newsletter-2/

Contest:“Think Outside the Barn”– did a photo essay of barns, and their “real life” personae– followed by the “Name This Barn” contest and book giveaway. Winner to be announced Sept 12. People are having a lot of fun with this and so am I.

Interviews:
The Kathleen Show (radio and blog)

http://www.thekathleenshow.com/2010/07/31/laura-munson/

SHE Magazine– UK (glossy mag, December publication)

Inspiremetoday.com with Gail Goodwin (pending publication)

NPR interview with Sally Mauk

http://www.mtpr.net/program_info/2010-06-10-132

406 Magazine (Montana)

Q&A: Montana Quarterly Magazine

Guest blogger on:

The Traveling Writer

http://alexisgrant.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/qa-with-laura-munson-a-modern-love-success-story/#comment-3336

Drinking Diaries

http://www.drinkingdiaries.com/2010/08/18/an-interview-with-laura-munson-author-of-the-memoir-this-is-not-the-story-you-think-it-is/

Adhocmom.com

http://www.adhocmom.com/2010/08/taps-by-laura-munson-2/

Huffington Post– Arielle Ford’s Blog

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arielle-ford/write-it-and-they-will-co_b_660034.html

Published Essays:

“Dog Fog”– Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-munson/post_670_b_653067.html

“Rain Song”– Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-munson/rain-song_b_653071.html

New York Times Magazine “Lives” essay:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25lives-t.html

Author Magazine

http://www.authormagazine.org/articles/munson_laura_2010_06_14.htm

Woman’s Day (August issue)

Pending Publication:

Shewrites essay
Parelli Horsemanship blog post (will be a montly deal)
O. Magazine South Africa essay
Life By Me essay http://www.lifebyme.com/ ebook by Sophie Cliche (includes Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Maya Angelou etc.)

Submissions: (waiting to hear)
The New Yorker (fingers, toes, eyes, and nostrils crossed)
Ladies Home Journal
The Sun
NPR essay to read on air

Summer Events:Read at the Whitefish Lake Lodge
Read at three private parties: Ridgewood NY, Millbrook, NY, Short Hills, NJ
Read at the Kent Place School, Summit, NJ
Read at a book group on Flathead Lake

FALL EVENTS:
Sept:
Co-hosting (or just plain being feted at) three private parties/readings: NYC, Hartford, Chicago
Reading at two libraries: Fairfield and Simsbury, CT
Speaking at a major Chicago hospital benefit
Speaking at the kick-off to the reading series at my high school in CT
Speaking at the Winnetka Bookstall– luncheon at a great Chicago restaurant

Oct:
Fundraiser for a San Francisco school– Burke School
Festival of the Book in Missoula, where I’ll serve on a panel of memoirists and speak seperately
Nov:
Miami Book Fair

Oh, and I got a book deal in the UK, (Little Brown) which I’m so excited about. Book to be published in April.

So why is it that I feel so guilty that I haven’t been to the gym, taken night walks with my dogs, ridden my horse in the woods, etc? I think we all could learn a lot by looking at our pro list and not our con list. I’m going to work on this. I know it’s not about doing. It’s about being. But sometimes we need to give ourselves a pat on the back for what we’ve done. And who we were doing it.

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Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, My Posts