Educated

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

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It’s rare for me to hear about a book and then actually get to read it right away. In this case, a friend was raving about it and when I said it sounded good, she brought me the book to read right away. And then I managed to convince my book club to read it a few days later.

This book was hard to put down. I read it on my vacation to Colorado so that means I finished in just a few days…which is a miracle for me right now. But Tara’s life is so interesting and the writing so beautifully done, it was impossible to quit turning the pages.

The story is disorienting at times as Tara herself is not quite clear on all the facts. And some of those facts have been deliberately obscured over the years. But even more disorienting than Tara’s memories are the truths she recounts in Educated. The truth that some people today are living this way in the United States. That there are children out there, growing up completely shielded from the truths of the world by their parents.

I deeply admire and respect Tara’s resilience in triumphing over her circumstances. Brigham Young University is not an easy school to get into, much less stay in. I think about my own college experiences and I cannot imagine college being my first formal educational experience, showing up to lecture not knowing what the Holocaust was or what a textbook is for. I surely would have failed miserably.

But Tara didn’t. And she not only succeeded, she did well enough to earn herself the opportunity to study at Cambridge and from there, her career and her destiny really took off.

The ending of Educated was really moving and heart-wrenching. I was reading it on the flight back and I was hurrying to finish it before the plane landed, otherwise I knew I’d have to park myself somewhere in the airport to finish the last handful of pages.

Educated was a really “Wow!” read and Tara is obviously incredibly intelligent and a gifted writer…I will definitely be looking for more writing from her in the years to come!

 

S.H.E: Share Heal Empower Review and Interview With Author Shannon Hogan Cohen

S.H.E. Share Heal Empower by Shannon Hogan Cohen

S.H.E. Share Heal Empower unveils the stories of twenty-four women from around the globe and across all ages and cultures, who courageously reached within to overcome extraordinary obstacles. Author Shannon Hogan Cohen has carefully crafted each story into mini literary masterpieces and paired each with art from a female artist.

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Wow. Just wow.

That’s what I have to say about S.H.E. Share Heal Empower. For not being the type of book I typically pick up, it grabbed my attention and didn’t let me go.

Though maybe I shouldn’t say this isn’t my type of book because every single memoir I’ve ever read I’ve absolutely loved. From The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls to Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart to Playing With Dynamite by Sharon Harrigan to Educated by Tara Westover (just read, review forthcoming), I’ve found memoirs to be beautifully touching and affecting.

So rather than saying this isn’t the type of book I typically pick up, I should say that I avoid picking up these types of books unless prompted because I don’t like feeling my feelings lol. I feel enough feelings in an average day to last me a lifetime.

You could say my hang up about memoir is similar to the hang up I have about reading World War II fiction, which is well-documented on this blog. Almost always end up enjoying the book (or straight up love it and call it the best book ever), but boy do I have a certain amount of resistance about it.

S.H.E. Share Heal Empower contains twenty-four stories from real women, recounting some of the hardest and darkest troubles of their lives. Each memoir was powerfully moving and inspiring. Reading through some of these stories truly made me grateful for my own life and everything I have.

I sometimes grow fearful that my own struggles have thus far been relatively small – meaning that the hardest times of my life surely still lie in front of me. Sure, I have had some dark moments and days, but compared to what some people have gone through, it’s really nothing. So I try not to think about the fact that law of averages should dictate that there’s trouble somewhere over the horizon.

But for me, reading S.H.E. was inspiring because reading through some of these stories, of these women who have gone through the most terrible hurts and the darkest times, gives me courage that when trouble does come from me, I’ll know that I’m strong enough to withstand it.

Out of the twenty-four stories in S.H.E. I connected most with the stories of Barbara Jean, Desiree, and Sonia Marie.

Barbara Jean because hers is a story of a life lived among horses and animals. She also recounted some heartbreaking experiences that hit me like a stab in the heart and made me tear up.

Desiree because I cannot imagine what I would do if I experienced what she had experienced losing her child in such a horrific way. But her courage to continue on and fight through her grief to a place where she gives back to others is truly inspiring.

Sonia Marie because it’s clear she is a fighter. Not only did she fight through her own terrifying health crises, she fought to be a strong single mother for her two sons, one of whom has his own health problems. And not only did she fight, but she’s another woman who had taken her darkest moments and used them as seeds to inspire others.

All three of these woman (and the twenty-one others in this book) have exhibited great courage in sharing their stories with the world. I have always believed that the best way to heal is to share with others. I think of it this way: when you are burdened with a terrible pain or hurt, every time you tell the story, you break off a small piece of your pain and give it to someone else to hold onto for you. And the people around you that love you are glad to do this for you because your tiny piece of hurt does not hurt them in the same way it hurts you. So they are able to help you shoulder your burden and over time, your own pain diminishes through this process of retelling and giving away a piece of the hurt.

If you’re looking for a moving, inspiring book to read with your book club or share with all the women in your life, don’t miss S.H.E. Share Heal Empower!

I was able to interview author Shannon Hogan Cohen shortly after the release of the S.H.E. audiobook and at the time of this publication, she is giving away a free copy of the audiobook to one lucky winner. Head on over to the S.H.E. Facebook and Instagram accounts to enter. Good luck!

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What Inspired You to Create the S.H.E. Book?

Growing up, I experienced tension between my mother and father and knew my mother was silently suffering but unaware of the extent. As she slowly revealed her untold stories in my late twenties, I began to understand that this woman was not weak, which is how I always perceived her, but primarily a victim of social circumstance. She had done everything she could to conceal her struggles with my alcoholic father, his death at age thirty and her strained second marriage. My probing became healing for her. Her sharing became empowering. This book became an opportunity for other women to feel safe and do the same. I have learned, we are all wounded, we all worry and we are all weighed down by feelings of unworthiness. For me, the bedrock of love, friendship and community is vulnerability. These heartfelt exchanges provided me with connection and consolation, which is my hope for the reader.

Whose Story Did You Relate to the Most Out of the Twenty-Four Women You Interviewed?

Chapter Twenty-Four, Joni…my mother and who I dedicated the S.H.E. book to. Her rock solid resilience and unimaginable human spirit is inspiring. Nevertheless, each of the women who honored me with their profound stories gave me both a sense of courage and camaraderie that I had never known before. It has taken me years to put the jagged puzzle pieces of my life together. Life offered me clues to help solve my puzzle, but I ignore them at times. It was refreshing recognizing parts of myself in each of these women, who courageously reached within themselves to overcome extraordinary obstacles. These women and their stories together with the many others who have come into my life have created a circle of sisterhood. S.H.E. was born in the spirit of this.

How Did You Come to Include Art in the Book Alongside the Stories?

Once the chapters began to take shape it felt that a simple snapshot image of each woman was not enough. In addition to that, several of the women in the book chose not to have their actual likeness portrayed. I spoke with my sister Shelby, who is an amazing artist and she liked my idea.  In short, it felt right to invite twenty-four different women artists to create a unique portrait of each remarkable woman based on her storyline. I mindfully paired the artists who were able to read their woman’s chapter and were asked to fashion a specific stylistic piece. I continue to marvel at the insight and perception of each altruistic artist. Their representations came from all types of visual expression: pen and ink, fused glass sculpture, to traditional acrylic painting, and more. All the artists in the book are of different ages and abilities, which match the women they were interpreting.

What Was Your Writing (and Rewriting) Process Like?

I describe myself as an amateur scribbler. My writing process is very raw and rewrites only come after I have my husband read through the initial rough draft (of which he calls “homework”- but politely obliges). An author friend once told me years ago to read my pieces out loud and include inflection. This is extremely helpful during my writing and rewriting process, as I have the ability to be very verbose. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful editor, who understands my messy mind and has the ability to make my words pop off the page. Without her, these stories would not be architecturally solid.

Do You Use a Computer or Write By Hand Before Transcribing?

I am old-school; ink on paper. After each interview with a woman, I will listen to our conversation again and begin crafting the chapter in a black composition notebook. I am a tactile person. It is difficult for me to create from scratch on my computer with a blank screen staring at me. For some odd reason, a blank piece of white, lined paper is more inviting. Uni-bal Air rollerball gel pens are my preference. A cup of steamy coffee is mandatory.

What Were Your Biggest Takeaways From the Journey to Become a Self-Published Author?

The journey was extremely frustrating at times, but the end result was very rewarding. I spoke with several publishing houses, who wanted to tweak or modify my manuscript. This irritated me. I understand the need to “sell” books, but I was not willing to compromise certain women’s stories to appease them. Not knowing which direction to go at times was challenging at times, as I flailed forward not knowing if the decisions I was making were accurate. In the end, it all worked out. People came into my life at the right moments and were great mentors guiding me along the way. It feels fantastic to say, “I produced this masterpiece from start to finish.”

Will There Be a S.H.E. Volume 2?

Absolutely, in fact, I have twenty women already in my queue, who are ready to share their stories. It was prudent for me to take some time off and recharge. My goal is to begin interviewing and traveling to meet the women in late September of this year. My favorite part of the process is listening to the women share their life experiences, take those concentrated nuggets of wisdom and develop a storyline to celebrate their personal victories. I remind myself and the women I interview “We cannot choose what happens to us, but we can chose how we respond.”

S.H.E. book Volume One and the woman I am, and continue to become is the result of S.H.E. Sharing, Healing and Empowering.

 

Where Can People Find Out More About You, S.H.E, and Submit Their Own Stories?

On the S.H.E. website which is www.ShareHealEmpower.com. There is a tab called “Suggest a S.H.E.” which you can use to submit a story. And please connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube (as ShareHealEmpower) to see what we’re up to!

 

 

Week in Review July 23rd-29th

Yep.

I skipped a week.

It was a good week, just too busy to write it all up.

This week was busy, too, that only reason this blog happened was because I went on a vacation!

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Well. A working vacation. Maybe I’ll get to take a real vacation before the year is over. Haha. Or maybe not. I’m just excited that on 21st of July, I took the whole day off. Whole day! Imagine that! My last day off was March 31st.

It’s the little things, guys.

Anyway. Really committed to trying to shorten up these week in review posts. Lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve hit a good stride with my content schedule for Minute Marketing. But my personal/author blog has definitely been left in the dust and it’s mostly because this blog takes forever to do.

So to make up for the lack of consistent posting, here’s a largish update on Shadow of the Magician:

Last time I mentioned I was a little more than halfway through the revision, word count wise. But I’ve definitely slowed down a lot and have been struggling lately. I’ve been super disappointed about that, wondering how I was going to get out of the doldrums of the middle of the book and also make this not terrible for anyone else to read. But I had a great talk with my writer’s group on Monday and I think I know how to fix it. Yay!

I’m always amazed at how my unconscious brain seems to know what’s wrong with the book before I consciously figure it out. Any other writers experience this? Anytime the writing feels hard, I invariably realize there’s something wrong with the plot in that area. Of course, it takes me days or weeks to realize exactly what part is the problem. But it’s really incredible how my unconscious brain doesn’t let me cruise on by and keep moving forward to the end. And it would be SO easy for that to happen.

I’m still really excited about how the book is coming together. Really excited about. So excited that I think I’ve all, but made up my mind that if I can’t sell this book, I’m going to publish it myself. I’ve worked on it for so long and at this point, I feel like so many people have become invested in seeing this book to the end, so many people know about it, that I have to put it out there one way or another. After six years, the least I can do is format it into an ebook and buy a nice pre-made cover for it. Even if I don’t sell more than a couple copies of it, at least all the people who want to read it will get to do so. Better than letting it languish on my hard drive.

This isn’t a light decision. Once you self-publish, it’s pretty hard to go the other way. But I think this book deserves better than to be put back in the drawer.

So here’s my plan for the next few months: hoping to finish these edits either this month or next (but I really hope it’s this month). Then I’m going to get my pitch materials together and if all goes well, start querying agents hopefully in October/November before they close up shop for the holidays. This is probably too ambitious of a timeline, but whatever. A goal is a goal.

If you’re excited about maybe someday actually getting to read Shadow of the Magician, leave me a comment below!

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July 23rd – 29th Week in Review:

Started off Monday at the barn with Miss Pia. Is there any better way to start the week than at one of your favorite places? I honestly doubt it. Ended up running back to Mary’s again to buy Pia a fly mask because I literally just gave hers to Escobar cause she’d been fine with the flies all summer…until Monday when one of her eyes was all irritated. Luckily, Mary’s had a cute grey and pink version – it even has ribbons on it because it’s for breast cancer awareness or something like that. Anyway, she looks really cute in it. No pictures though because I needed to get to work.

Monday I really tried to squeeze in a lot of work before writer’s group because I knew I was going away for a few days and wanted to do as much as I could before I left. Tried to go to the library, got annoyed with all the people in the library, went to Panera Bread, got annoyed with how much stuff costs, but at least they have A/C, electrical outlets, AND chocolate chip cookies. It’s not all bad, I guess.

Honestly, on Tuesday I was kind of a mess. Was twenty minutes late to my morning meeting because I made at least five wrong turns. Not even exaggerating. I just could not drive the right way to save my life. We were meeting at Holsem so I thought I’d make up time by paying to park in the garage rather than looking for free parking. Except right when I pulled up, the gate to open the garage stopped working and that was a whole production for the parking attendant. Luckily, when I came back later she gave me free parking. Which is great because I promptly went home and bought one of those holder things for the phone so I can see the map while I’m driving.

I stayed at Holsem until lunchtime. Holsem is actually not a bad place to work. I got a lot done there. Too bad it’s more than twenty minutes from my house. After I finished at Holsem, I walked over to Pigment because I was thinking of recording my Quick Tip Tuesday video for Minute Marketing in front of their fabulous pink wall. But I realized that a) I’m not ready to take a selfie video on a street full of people b) I forgot my sunglasses in the car and c) it was like 90 degrees out.

Ended up shooting the video in my car before my next meeting in Carmel Valley. Thanks everyone who told me I looked great in that video! You too can get the look – all you need is an iPhone and a Chevy Trax natural windshield light filter! Make sure you don’t wash your car for two months – those dirt spots give your face a natural glow!

Seriously, what did I do to deserve you all? Lol.

Wednesday I went back to the barn for my last ride on Pia for the week. We have the Regional Adult Amateur Championships (RAAC) show in two weeks so I’m starting to get nervous about that. Hoping it goes better than the Temecula show. And better than the last RAAC. Last RAAC, we came in dead last. I think any place that’s not last would be cool. See, not all my goals are lofty.

Wednesday was another power work day followed by a night of packing for my trip to Colorado and daydreaming about the cooler weather I was about to experience.

Thursday I got up to do some work before the airport and…(I swear it’s always like this) ended up with a bunch of last-minute work I needed to cram in before I left for the airport. Much stress. Do not like. Luckily, the airport process itself was a breeze which was great because I did not leave at the time I planned to.

I had set aside the plane time as time to work on my book. Which was awesome. Got into a great groove. Which meant the flight was not nearly long enough. It seriously felt like twenty minutes.

Had a pretty smooth landing into Denver which I was immensely grateful for. I get motion sick and I tend to end up flying to Colorado when the weather is craziest. Also, I just don’t like turbulence. At all.

Got home from the airport just in time to leave to go meet some of my friends for sushi. I was so grateful and surprised by how many of my friends were able to make time for dinner with me since they don’t live around Arvada anymore. It was such a great night and the food was good, too.

Friday I got up early to work for awhile before my mom and I drove up to Estes Park to see my dad at his horse show. We rent a cabin up there which is super fun. Forget a beach house, some day I want to have a cabin in the mountains as a vacation home/writing retreat! After connecting at the cabin, we had dinner at the Dunraven Inn, which is a great spot for Italian food, but it’s on the outside of town so you will need to drive to it. But worth the trip! Make sure to make a reservation though.

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Saturday morning we went to the horse show to watch my dad ride and then we had lunch in downtown Estes Park at The Grubsteak. The burgers were SO good. I was surprised and so happy because I was starving.

After lunch, we walked around downtown before we went back to the cabin and then had dinner on the lake. Squeezed in a little more writing time after dinner and some reading before bed. Yay!

Sunday morning we packed up to go back home. Watched my dad at the horse show before driving back to Arvada. Then I did a little work before I went to meet my friend for dinner in Loveland and repacked to fly back to California on Monday.

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What I’m Reading:

Deep Work by Cal Newport (Finished!)

One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology edited by Lisa Mangum

Warstorm by Victoria Aveyard

Educated by Tara Westover (almost done!)

How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards

What I’m Listening To:

My Shadow of the Magician playlist. I make a playlist for each book I write and I did so much writing this week, the songs are stuck in my head.

What I’m Watching:

Nothing – is anyone surprised by this anymore?

What I’m Loving:

Colorado ❤

 

 

 

Week in Review: July 9th-15th

For years, I thought I was a solid introvert. I like reading, writing, and other solitary pursuits. As an only child, I was good at spending time alone and entertaining myself. And I actually liked it, too.

It was years before I realized what I actually was: an extroverted introvert. And while that tag of extroversion may on the surface seem like it makes things easier, I can assure you it doesn’t. Because what it really does is convince people you’re a full-blooded extrovert. And they miss seeing the introvert lurking underneath. So when you have an introverted day, people don’t understand because it seems like you’ve suddenly become withdrawn for no reason. When really, those tendencies were there all along. You’ve just been an introvert hiding in plain sight.

Being an extroverted introvert has been its own challenge on this journey of entrepreneurship. On the one hand, it allows me to put myself out there with little anxiety. Writing blogs like this, shooting videos, and meeting strangers are all in a day’s work. The extroverted side of myself can be depended upon to rise to challenges and meet them where they lie. But it’s the introverted side of myself that is a loose cannon. It always comes as a surprise when I wake up and suddenly my mind has declared that we are too over stimulated, we have been way too social lately, we need to pull back NOW and circle the wagons.

Working a normal job, you get a certain allowance for bad days I think. For days when you’re not “yourself”. Or not the self that other people see most often. But working for yourself is a new kind of challenge. There is an expectation that you are always “on”, always friendly, eager, and enthusiastic. Even on the days when you wish you could disappear to a cabin in the woods and chuck your phone into a lake.

I’m much too new at this to offer much helpful advice on being an extroverted introvert entrepreneur. But I am interested to know how you label yourself and what challenges and advantages you find this give you in your work, self-employed or not!

July 9th – 15th Week in Review:

I didn’t go ride on Monday the 9th because I had to go to a meeting in the morning in North Park. I like going to North Park so much better during the week. You get to enjoy all the same stuff, but it’s so much quieter and easier to park. 10/10 would recommend. If you work an abnormal schedule, I would definitely advise you to take advantage of most people being in the office and visit those areas like North Park, Hillcrest, and Normal Heights where parking is pretty impacted most of the time.

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Cute House in North Park

After my meeting I came home and did some work before I went to Del Mar in the afternoon to meet my new client. I’m very excited about this new project and looking forward to what we’re going to accomplish together.

Monday night, I had writer’s group again with more chapters of Shadow of the Magician up for review. There are two particularly thorny spots I had trouble writing in the book and tonight we discussed the first of them which, surprisingly to me, read much better than I had expected. I had expected comments like, “This is terrible. Just scrap this and start over.” So it was a relief that I did not get that. Still needs work, but it’s not beyond saving.

I switched my Monday riding day for Tuesday so Tuesday morning I went down and rode Pia first thing. After I was done at the barn, I had a little bit of time before I had to be at the dentist so I went to Mary’s Tack and Feed. If you’re a horse person, let me just explain that Mary’s is like Target. It’s utterly impossible to leave without spending at least $100 and buying at least one thing you don’t truly need. As such, I try to only go to Mary’s when I know I absolutely do need to get something. Those of you that saw my Instagram stories, thanks for playing along and indulging me! I had to go to Mary’s to pick up the metal nameplate I ordered for Pia’s new halter, buy a new pair of bell boots for Pia, and I needed to grab some more saddle pads because little girl is sweating through her pads on the regular. If you voted in my polls, I ended up getting the green AND the purple saddle pads. I tricked you. Bet you thought I was buying just one!

If you’re wondering why Escobar didn’t get any new gear it’s because they share a lot of things and in the case of something that they both need that needs replacing, Escobar gets to use it and I get a new one for Pia. Escobar is my delicate flower and I like to make sure he’s not going without. For example, I had two pairs of bell boots, but can only find one after the last show. So Escobar got to wear the remaining pair of bell boots because I am determined to prevent him from tearing his shoes off and hurting his feet. For you non-horse people, horses can accidentally step on the edge of their metal horseshoes and rip them off, which sometimes damages the hoof underneath and definitely leaves them vulnerable to other injuries. It’s like walking barefoot on rocks. Horses obviously can go barefoot and many do, but if they’re not used to it, it can be trouble.

Also for whatever reason, my old saddle pads don’t fit Pia. Same saddle, same pads, new horse, pads don’t fit. I dunno. And they didn’t shrink in the wash because this combination still fits Escobar (I checked). She’s narrower than Escobar so it really makes no sense to me. Anyway, despite me being a saddle pad hoarder, Pia has her own special pads.

After Mary’s I went to the dentist (good times). Took forever, but I got my filling and started the process to get a new mouthguard made.

By the time I was done at the dentist, it was already time for lunch. I went to Wich Which and then to the library because I needed to stay around UTC. Later that evening I went to Polite Provisions with my friend L. We got food at Soda & Swine and I met her new man so that was fun.

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Purple Haze at Polite Provisions

Wednesday morning I went out to the barn again and then home to work. At the beginning of the week I had decided this was going to be a major work day so I worked hard to make a dent in my to-do list. I was tired by day’s end, but I had made good progress in turning the tide.

Thursday was another big work day and I worked pretty much from the time I got up until late afternoon when I had to go meet a client in Carmel Valley. It was an evening appointment so I didn’t actually get home for dinner until pretty late.

Friday morning I went to the barn and then hurried to shower so I could go to Peet’s Coffee with my neighbor. Friday was kind of a scramble as I woke up and realized I instantly had issues with Instagram and it affected all of my clients. I skipped doing the Miracle Morning when I got up and instead did it when we got to Peet’s. 10/10 would recommend. I immediately felt more settled after taking time to do the ritual. So if you do the Miracle Morning, don’t skip it if you can’t do it when you wake up. Just do it later.

We got lunch at Chipotle on the way back from Peet’s and I did some work at home before I went to meet with a prospective client in Del Mar. Then back home to keep working.

Saturday morning I had planned to do some work on Shadow of the Magician. I did do that, but it was slow going. My brain felt kind of foggy. And when I switched over to client work, the feeling persisted. I was honestly so disappointed in how unproductive the day was. I was grateful when the boyfriend called me around 4:30 pm and asked me to meet him and some friends at Intergalactic. I was ready to be done with my crap work day.

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Ham Keeping Me Company

We then went to dinner at Ruth’s Chris. Now I know what you’re thinking, but the boyfriend and I have collected lots of restaurant gift cards over the years. Lots of gift cards. Case in point: we had $75 to Ruth’s Chris that we finally decided to cash in. I felt bad for the girl who waited on us though even though I felt some silent judging on her end. When we only ordered entrees, I’m sure her thoughts went something like, Man I am not getting a nice tip off this table. I couldn’t even interest them in a drink. LOL. We did tip though, even though she barely paid attention to us. And it was fun to go somewhere fancy that we ordinarily couldn’t afford!

Sunday I woke up, hoping it would be a better, more productive day than Saturday. But it wasn’t and my introverted feelings deepened. Nevertheless, I did go to work. Worked on Shadow of the Magician again in the morning and again had a difficult writing session. But I realized that, chapter-wise, I’m officially halfway through the revision. Wordcount-wise, I’m more than halfway. So yay for that!

Elliot got groomed Sunday morning too and then after lunch I went to Panera, hoping that the air conditioning would help me focus. It helped a little and I got some things done, though again, it was kind of a dismal work day. When the boyfriend got home from work, I got him to watch an episode of Black Mirror with me. Of course, I chose a scary one. Of course.

What I’m Reading:

DotCom Secrets by Russell Brunson (Finished!)

One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology edited by Lisa Mangum

Warstorm by Victoria Aveyard

Deep Work by Cal Newport

S.H.E. by Shannon Hogan Cohen

What I’m Listening To:

It felt like I listened to a little bit of everything this week.

What I’m Watching:

Black Mirror

What I’m Loving:

Instagram Polls

 

Undercurrents

Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath

Fear is primal. Instinctive. Unavoidable. And right now, there is something you fear—and you can feel it. Creeping up behind you. Lurking in the darkness that lives under your bed, or in your closet. A nameless dread. 

In Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath, twenty-three talented authors, including New York Times bestsellers Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, and Jody Lynn Nye, have stood on the shores of their psyches and looked out over the ocean of possibility and wondered “What lies beneath?” 

The sea creatures and sea monsters that answered their calls range from a giant kraken that rules the deepest ocean to the smallest puffer fish that creates intricate works of underwater art. Creatures of classic mythology—mermaids, sirens, and sea serpents—swim alongside more unusual beasts—underwater cats and singing whirlpools. These stories dive deep into the fears many of us face, including loss, abandonment, death, and physical, mental, or emotional danger. When the fears we keep buried beneath the surface rise up and threaten to consume, we must make a choice: conquer or be conquered. 

This anthology is the fourth volume produced by the alumni of the Superstars Writing Seminar, and all royalties benefit the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

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After attending the Superstars conference this year, I picked up the newest anthology, Undercurrents. I’ve never been a big anthology reader though I own several (including all the rest of the Superstars anthologies).

But since I’ve been so busy lately and not had much time for reading, I found reading an anthology to be the perfect antidote to never feeling like I’m finishing anything. Instead of reading a chapter before bed, I get to read a whole story!

And, I really liked this anthology. I think every story in it was well-written, unique, and fresh. It was interesting to see how people interpreted the theme of “what lies beneath” and what they did with it. Many of the stories were more “classic” and involved krakens and sea monsters and sirens. But none of them were exactly conventional. Other stories took the theme of “what lies beneath” to thoroughly unexpected locales like Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. The stories also covered a range of genres from horror to sci-fi to fantasy and even contemporary fiction. There was only one story in this anthology I couldn’t really get into, but I think its style just didn’t appeal to me.

This anthology is a great one to have on your shelf and if you’re a person who is obsessed with the sea or sea monsters, you will definitely want to add this one to your collection!

 

Recap: Superstars Writing Seminars 2018

Okay, so this conference happened at the end of January…yes, JANUARY! Better late than never on this review, right?

One of the reasons I did still want to do this review though is because this is the best writing conference I’ve ever been to. Seriously.

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Jonathan Maberry During a Breakout Panel

My neighbor has gone many times before and she was always telling me how would I like it and I should really come. I was resistant mostly because it’s an investment to travel to Colorado Springs where it’s held every year. What if I didn’t like it? What if I didn’t get anything out of it? It’s a long conference – it would be a lot of time off from my job and there was hotel, airfare, and meals.

But after the SDSU conference went on hiatus for 2018, I decided I would apply for the scholarship open to first year attendees. And after the application process, I was now so invested I had basically decided I was going to go even if I didn’t get the scholarship. I didn’t so I registered for everything in November.

I was excited about our hotel because the conference takes place at the Antlers. The Antlers is a historic hotel and while the hotel as it stands is not the original (it’s the third hotel of the same name on the same site), what’s notable about The Antlers is that Nikola Tesla might have stayed there instead of at the Alta Vista in 1899 if The Antlers hadn’t burnt to the ground the year before. You can read more about my Colorado Springs historic hotel research here. And while the Alta Vista has been gone for more than fifty years, I figured The Antlers would have some info about its history somewhere in the hotel. And I was right! They had pictures! I actually spent an hour one day walking around the hotel and photographing all of their pictures to file with my research. I didn’t expect to have much time to explore Colorado Springs  (and I didn’t) so it was nice to be able to get those photos.  I actually went to Colorado Springs a few years ago and took myself on a photographic research tour. You can see that story and photos here.

By the time January rolled around, I was pretty stressed. Superstars ended up being sandwiched between two horse shows and my birthday. I’d also picked up a couple clients and was trying to do that and my regular job beside it. I considered not going to the conference even though everything was pretty much already paid for because life felt very overwhelming. But I took a deep breath, told myself I would figure it out, and packed my bags for Colorado.

We flew into Colorado Springs which I have never done before. It was weird to be in my home state, but not seeing my family or any of my friends. I did have one friend I planned to go see in Colorado Springs, but as luck would have it, that didn’t end up working out so it really was a trip home without seeing any of the people who make it home.

One of the things that makes Superstars different is that there’s an emphasis on tribe and community. And that starts from the moment you show up because other members of the tribe that live local or are already in town volunteer to pick people up from the two airports. My neighbor and I ended up getting picked up with a guy from Texas who had also never been to Superstars before. We’re now all in a writing group together so if you needed a reference point for how well the tribe thing works, that pretty much tells you all you need to know!

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Branden Sanderson

My neighbor has been coming to Superstars for years so she knew tons of people which meant I immediately got introduced to tons of people. Everyone was very nice and welcoming even if I was a little overwhelmed. But after a few days, I started to remember people and made a few friends of my own.

Overall, what set this conference apart for me beyond the instruction was the people. So many friendly people. And so many people invested in making relationships, not acquaintances. I still talk to and interact with people I met at the conference beyond the ones that are now part of my writer’s group. And that is pretty darn cool.

Okay, so on to the instruction! I can honestly say I learned so much at the conference. It’s really a conference about the business of writing, how to make it a business, how to build a brand, and how to build a career for a lifetime. The first day is optional and it’s a “craft day” which is your traditional writing conference fare of topics related to the actual writing of stories. It was definitely good, don’t get me wrong, but the business of writing sessions were really life-changing for my process and my work.

I’ve always been very serious about wanting to write books. I’m also just pretty practical (at least in this sense, the rest of my life is debatable) and I’ve worked hard to find and create a career outside of writing. Because I love writing, books, and everything associated with being a writer, but I have no interest in starving for my art. That’s my personal line in the sand and you can say what you want about that, call me not a “real writer” or not dedicated enough because I don’t write everyday or because I’m not willing to be a starving artist, but I don’t care. I know who I am, what I was put on this Earth to do, and I also know how deep my dedication runs.

Anyway. Mini rant over. So, what was really life-changing for me was I really came around to the idea of thinking of each of my books as a product. It’s not a book, it’s a product for sale, and if the market does not want it, there’s not much you can do about that. You can attempt to fix it, but at some point you might need to concede defeat and try something else. That has been really life-changing in my approach to my process and goals. I’ve been working on Shadow of the Magician off and on since the spring of 2012. I wrote a couple drafts of another book called Haven’s Gate in the meantime that I never was able to get representation for. And I wrote an untitled draft of the first book in a sci-fi trilogy. But I have largely been consumed by this project at different points over the last six years and I’ve lost track of what number draft I’m on. I think six or seven because the story has had three huge development shifts that prompted complete rewrites. But my point now is that this is the last time around. If this doesn’t do it, I’m moving on to something else because life is short and I have more stories I want to write.

I took tons of notes during the lectures and really learned so much that I didn’t know about the way publishing works, whether it’s traditional or self-publishing. I met writers at all different stages in their careers, published and not. I got to hear from Branden Sanderson, Jonathan Maberry, James Owen, Dave Farland, and Kevin J. Anderson which was all really fantastic. I also had lunch with Jonathan and dinner with James a few times. Those are the kinds of experiences that Superstars gives you!

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Dinner With James Owen and New Friends

I also got to practice pitching my book and finally felt like I truly get the difference between the hook, the pitch, and the synopsis and how to create them. This is essential information for any aspiring authors and it’s an art all in itself. If you’ve ever asked me or someone else whose writing a book what the book is about and you got back a rambling, disjointed answer, it’s because writing the book is one thing. Being able to distill the 85,000 words that are in the book and the 40,000 that are on the cutting room floor and the 30,000 that make up your notes and the countless books you read while doing research and all the internet rabbit holes you went down into just a paragraph or a pithy sentence is a mighty tall order.

I am looking forward to heading back to Superstars next winter for the 10th anniversary conference! You can find out more about the 2019 Superstars Writing Seminars conference here and if you have more questions about my experience, just let me know! Also if you are thinking about going, I can get you a discount code for $100 off your registration! This discount is good until November 1, 2018.

 

Week in Review June 23rd-29th

I usually try and write this blog as the week is happening so I don’t forget things.

Didn’t do that this week. Definitely forgot things. Lol.

You’ll remember that one of the things I did after starting Minute Marketing was clean my desk/office. While I was doing that was I found a bunch of papers and things that were never filed or thrown away dating back to 2013. Seeing that date on the papers was shocking. I couldn’t believe that there were things I really hadn’t touched or done anything with in five years.

Then, my friend C texted me her new headshot. She mentioned that it had been five years since the last one so it was time for an update.

I. Was. Shocked.

We took our headshots on the same day. Had it really been five years already?

I questioned her and she said the picture was taken the year she turned 21 (I remember that, she turned 21 shortly after we met) and she was about to turn 26.

So she was definitely right, but I can’t even believe five years has gone just like that.

Now that I’ve been doing this weekly blog review of what I did the last week, I’ve started to like it. Similar to what happened when I started writing my book reviews on this blog, my memory is improving. The weeks feel like less of a clump and more like distinct entities. Hopefully this weekly blogging will help me keep the years of my life straight.

Because, honestly? The last five years were kind of a blur.

Sure, there were fun things and bad things, things that stick out in my mind that I know exactly when they happened and things that stick out that I have no idea when they happened. But none of the years feel very separated from each other.

Time and memory are tricky things.

Anyway, let’s dive into the week (what I can remember of it, anyway):

I’m not positive about all I did during the day Saturday. I know I worked on Shadow of the Magician because I hit my target goal of the weekend of nine chapters edited. I think I did some work after that. I probably did. I work every day right now. I know I took Elliot for a long walk, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Then the boyfriend and I cleaned and dusted the living room on Saturday night before going to Wings-N-Things as a reward.

Sunday, I know I worked on Shadow of the Magician again and then I think I did some work. I took myself to Sprouts to go grocery shopping, which was fun because I took my time looking around at what they sell. We also ended purchasing plane tickets for our Puerto Vallarta trip in November, so that was good. Bit of a struggle figuring out the flights. Not a lot of US carriers service that area from San Diego. We ended up deciding to fly out of Los Angeles because we have friends up there and were able to book the same flight out as them. Not sitting together though because Delta wanted to charge us $600 more to pick our seats (not an exaggeration).

My back was hurting on Sunday, too. I have issues with my SI joint on one side and I get random flare-ups every 6-8 months. Just a side effect of falling off horses too many times. Usually I can attach it to something, but this time the only thing I could think of was the walk the day before or the fact that I have a new chair. Elliot was also limping around so we were quite a pair. Elliot has arthritis in one of his ankle joints and is supposed to take pain medication, though I have not been so good about remembering to give it to him daily.

Monday was BUSY. I had back-to-back meetings in the morning. First one was at Holsem Coffee in North Park and I got THE most delicious chai latte there. I modified the one they have on the menu so here’s what I got that was so good: chai latte without the maple, with almond milk instead of regular, and sweetened with vanilla. Mmmm.

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After that meeting I drove home to get on a video chat with a prospective client. Decided I don’t really like video chats. Kind of kicked up my anxiety. Pushed through it to do some work the rest of the day before I got on another call with one of my clients and then it was time for writer’s group. We had a smaller group and it was more of a brainstorming session discussing each other’s books and how to get through our problems.

Tuesday I rode Pia in the morning. My trainer is going away for a couple weeks so we packed in as many rides as possible before she left. Pia was not so good on Tuesday and my back was still bothering me. I did a lot of work on Tuesday after that since I didn’t have any meetings or calls.

Wednesday I went back to the barn in the morning. My back was feeling much better all on its own and I had a much better ride on Pia. I went home and had to call AT&T because they were trying to charge me for another month even though I returned my box. Got that sorted just in time to go to another meeting with a potential client at Panera Bread. I tried the frozen blood orange lemonade from their summer menu…it tasted nothing like lemonade and was like drinking an orange juice slushy. After the meeting I headed back home to do some work.

Thursday I had my final ride with my trainer before she leaves and Pia was good again. My back was also good. I’m honestly surprised I got over that flare-up so quickly. It usually hangs around for a week or so before gradually subsiding. This was like 2.5 days of pulsing pain and then back to normal. Not complaining, just weird. Someone recommend I see a DO (doctor of osteopathy) since my condition is a chronic condition and I have not found a solution, just methods of managing it. I will probably give that a try just to see if their methods make a difference. But that will be after my expensive trip to the dentist – the joys of adulthood!

I listened to a great podcast (linked below) which inspired me to try and make my work time more efficient. I did end up getting a lot done before I went to meet another prospective client in Del Mar. Got a little caught in the fair traffic, but not too bad. I then drove to my friend K’s apartment because we had bookclub that night.

I love my bookclub. We’re multi-generational! It’s my friend, K, her mother, her mother’s friend, myself, and another woman whom K knows because she used to babysit her grandchildren. The differences in ages and life experiences make our book discussions really fun. We meet every two months, usually at K’s apartment. We read The Book That Matters Most and had a summer potluck “barbecue”, which involved barbecue and picnic foods, but we didn’t actually do any grilling.

Friday I went down to the Bahia for Social Media Day. It was a nice event, I learned some thing (always good), and we had lunch literally on the beach behind the Bahia. It was a grey, gloomy day which was a little depressing. I really hate June gloom.

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After I got home, my neighbors came over with a fruit tart. I’d been taking care of their cats, plants, and house while they were away. I had to medicate one of the cats twice a day so my training from when I used to work at a veterinary clinic came in handy as kitty definitely did not want me sticking that syringe anywhere near her mouth.

The boyfriend and I tried a new place on Miramar called Bowl to Go for dinner. The meat was definitely tasty, but they don’t give you much meat for the price. They give you a ton of rice to fill up the bowl, which is fine, but then they charge $7.50 for about $2 worth of meat.

Tried to go to bed earlier, ended up reading a lot of Undercurrents (tagged below) and then I discovered there were ants in the bedroom. Apparently they liked our laundry. So we ended up doing laundry at 10pm. Ugh. So over the ants. I keep putting out poison traps, which kind of works, but they retreat into the walls and then pop out at another, different spot when they find something else to eat. I know I should bomb the house, but it’s such a hassle, especially when you have pets. Anyone have suggestions for me?

What I’m Reading:

Rise of the Youpreneuer by Chris Ducker (Finished!)

Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath edited by Lisa Mangum

DotCom Secrets by Russell Brunson

What I’m Listening To:

On her podcast this week, Amy Porterfield had Brooke Castillo on to talk about productivity, mindset, and taking action. SUCH a great episode. You can listen to it here.

What I’m Watching:

Nothing this week.

What I’m Loving:

This honey goat cheese I got at Sprouts last weekend. SO good!