Image: Unsplash

Guidelines for Crafting Your Story

Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

So who’s your Story about?

I generally feel a wee bit disoriented right after shaping a book proposal.

What’s it worth? I wondered. What if my agent rejects it? What if this is all a fool’s errand? What have I done with my life? Okay, I don’t go quite that far.

Last time this happened, my six-year-old peeked in my study. She wanted to show me her outfit – a summer skirt and a short-sleever atop a long-sleever.

“I just couldn’t wait any longer to wear summer clothes,” she said as she twirled around the study. And at that moment, I remembered again why I’m writing this book, why I’m building Tracking Wonder, why I utterly adore engaging readers. Read more

The art of expanding visibility amidst challenge

art_messAlicia had a big art exhibit approaching in two weeks.

Large finished canvases lay stretched in two rooms of her studio in upstate New York, where she and her husband had moved seven years earlier.

While Alicia prepared one of her final canvases, their three-year-old boy had wandered off into another room. By the time she had come out of her artistic flow to search for him, she found the gleeful boy in the next room covered in paint and sprawled on one of her canvases. Two others were ruined.

How she responded and the perspective she has gained in the past several years reflects the wisdom I am seeing and hearing among numerous business artists.  Read more

The Story Learning Gap for Authors & Business Artists


Maria AC (ernieland, Flickr)

Maria AC (ernieland, Flickr)

For a long time, I’ve been listening to what business artists and writers need to write their books, and I’ve been surveying what events they can attend.

I’m seeing a gap that may implicitly hold them back. It’s a gap that may create subtle fear in people wanting to write and publish their books. Seeing this gap drove me to create a very different kind of writer’s and author’s event.

Here’s what I mean. Read more


Books That Matter to Die Empty Author Todd Henry

unnamedTwenty years ago, conversations around creativity revolved around creative thinking. Lateral thinking. Metaphorical thinking. Design thinking. Those thinking models remain useful, but what we talk about when we talk about creativity today exceeds creative thinking.

We talk about living creatively and being creative, not just thinking creatively. One person whose work in this field I admire and who’s leading part of this conversation is Todd Henry.

Todd brings a refreshing voice of sanity to being a creative professional or entrepreneur. Think Marcus Aurelius or Thomas Merton meets David Allen’s Get Things DoneThe Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice offers creatives a practical dashboard to maximizing how to come up with ideas while staying healthy.

His new book – Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day – works from this idea: “Don’t go to your grave with your best work in you. Die empty.” It’s as much about character as it is about creativity. He takes little – how we spend time, how we spend money, how we eat – for granted or outside of the creative life.

What books have shaped Todd’s thinking and living? In this Books That Matter feature, you will discover the books that shape this ethical creative’s pragmatic heart and mind. And his view of publishing’s future sounds spot-on.  Read more

Myths About Writing Talent vs. The Writer’s Inner Game


Myth #1: Successful, gratified writers mostly have talent.

Myth #2: Marketing & platform-building are the most important qualities for any writer to have a long-term career these days.

A few years ago, a question troubled me. Among the many creatives and professionals, especially writers or aspiring writers, I noticed that some writers prevailed over the long run and others didn’t. Read more

Be Brave: A Poem-Film for Anyone Asking for Courage to Create

For anyone yearning to be heard.

For anyone whose voice feels caged in a cubicle or sliced on a chopping board.

For anyone whose Muse still battles Time and Mind and Circumstance.

For anyone ready to shape a glorious creative mess or message into a Story.

For anyone supplicating for courage to make choices on behalf of what and who matters. Read more

3 Roles for Author-Entrepreneurs to Thrive in the 21st Century (Animated Video)


These are the best of times to be an author. These are the worst of times to be an author.

They’re the worst of times because the nature of publishing seems in utter disarray, and the days of generous advances appear to have passed with a stable economy.

But they’re also the best of times.

Not only have advances in digital publishing and crowd-sourcing opened doors for adventurous novelists and social change-maker authors, but those advances also are forcing traditional publishers to change the way they play and give authors a more fair shake.

But first things first: Whether you want to publish via traditional publishing, self-publishing, or digital interactive models, all of your marketing and insider knowledge won’t amount to much until you’ve learned three essential arts. Read more

Is it too late to master your midlife launch?

When it comes to starting a new creative-based career, there are two stories at work in our culture. We like to hear one of them but not the other.

One: It’s never too late – even when in your forties, fifties, sixties, or seventies – to launch a new start-up, shift careers, or become a gratified author. Two: Doing so requires hard work plus mastery (i.e., learning and honing new skills & applying new knowledge).

You know which one we don’t like to hear.

Take Malcolm Gladwell’s portrait of Dallas-based author Ben Fountain in his essay “Late Bloomers”:

Ben Fountain’s rise sounds like a familiar story: the young man from the provinces suddenly takes the literary world by storm. But Ben Fountain’s success was far from sudden. He quit his job at Akin, Gump in 1988. For every story he published in those early years, he had at least thirty rejections. The novel that he put away in a drawer took him four years. The dark period lasted for the entire second half of the nineteen-nineties. His breakthrough with “Brief ” came in 2006, eighteen years after he first sat down to write at his kitchen table. The “young” writer from the provinces took the literary world by storm at the age of forty-eight.

In this age of Google-quick answers and instant e-publishing and three-step app-making, we can easily forget that creative start-ups, next-phase careers, and creative work that matters take time for mastery. (See Kay Larson’s story of authorship or Laura Olson’s story of entrepreneurship for reference, and I could write stories about other clients whose author careers and start-up careers started in their fifties and sixties.)

Enter Amber Polo. I met Amber eight years ago when she came to the first annual retreat I held at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico. Retired in Sedona, Arizona from a career as a librarian and then in marketing, Amber knew she had at least one good book in her. She was right. She has attended every Taos retreat since then, and she has since published that book plus three more.

In fact, Amber has just ended a blog tour for her latest novel – the first in her Shapeshifter’s Library series. The first book – Released! – pits dog-librarians against werewolf book-burners. But underlying the novel is a parodic look at the state of publishing, the state of reading and literacy, and much more.

Amber is at a rich point in her life that draws on all facets of her adult professions – former librarian, former marketer, current author – to shape a deeply gratifying career.

What’s your take on the mix of mid-years opportunity and the hours needed for mastery? Check out Amber’s story, share your stories and situations, and add to the conversation.  Read more