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  • Becoming accessible to destiny

    Becoming accessible to destiny

    “Pay attention to where you are going because without meaning you might get nowhere.” – Winnie the Pooh I recently travelled vicariously around the Isle of Capri just off the coast of Italy from Naples. My journey was not one of tour buses and museum excursions. It was entirely within the pages of the “Conde’Naste Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys, Great Writers on Great Places,” a wonderful book of lengthy but fast moving travel narrative. Each section is expertly penned by a different adventurer; all of them accomplished travel writers. The Capri section I am reading now was written by Shirley Hazzard (as far as I know not related in anyway to the Dukes of the same name) who first visited Capri in the 1950’s. Although the island is just a short ferry ride from the mainland, Ms. Hazzard’s description of the passage is particularly eloquent and provoked this article. She writes: “That, then, is the approach; the old, congested, clamorous town of Naples opening on its vast and lovely bay; the crossing, past Homeric scenes, to the island, whose features are slowly disclosed—an interval in which we leave our knowing mainland selves behind and become accessible to destiny.” (Emphasis mine) That last statement is the focus here today – leaving our mainland selves behind to become accessible to destiny. There are vistas of discovery that lie just off shore from our well-trod familiar paths. There are people to know, things to do, places to see, and ideas to uncover we have never even considered because we are inaccessible to destiny. We settle for far too little. We fall in place, develop a routine, and seldom vary from it. Some researchers say that the vast majority of us never learn anything new after high school. When my brother-in-law and his wife returned from 32 months in East Africa he asked me, “Do you know that Americans have a culture?” Now, actually I did know that because my wife and I had been living and working on the Navajo Nation for several years. Our setting brought us face-to-face with a culture that processed information differently and saw the world differently than we did. Not better than we did, not worse, just differently. To illustrate, I was with a group of Navajo leaders when one of them said, “Let me tell you a joke.” “Ok.” I agreed. “What happened to Dr. Read more…

  • Blurb appeal – 3 things you need to do with that all-important cover blurb and 9 ways to do them

    Blurb appeal – 3 things you need to do with that all-important cover blurb and 9 ways to do them

    I’ve trained lots of sales people and there’s an acronym often used in sales meetings that applies very well for cover blurbs. It is AIDA and it means Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. The cover and the cover blurb have a big job. They have to grab a reader’s attention, capture their interest, provoke desire for the book, and encourage them to take action and buy it. Here’s a list of Hints, Hopes, and Hype you can use to enlist AIDA’s help. HINTS – you have only a few words to move someone to a decision. Leverage those words. A little work here can move the potential reader to make a big decision, plunk down the money for your book. Of the plot – but only a hint. Don’t give away too much. You want to promise not spoil. Of the setting. It may be in a galaxy far, far away but try to be a little more specific. Of the style. This is easier if you the author write the blurb, too. There’s no accounting for taste and there is no accounting for style. What appeals to one does not and cannot appeal to everyone. The 150 or 200 words in your blurb should hint at the writing style of the entire manuscript. Of the genre. Readers like what they like. I don’t buy or read scifi, but lots of others do. Help them make the right selection. Of the characters and what they face – the idea is to create desire by hinting at interesting characters. HOPE – Every transaction ever made is a problem-solving one. Readers are looking for a solution. They want a satisfying read, an entertaining read, a time well-spent. You the author have to offer hope that your book deserves to be purchased and read because it promises to do just that. We publish nonfiction almost exclusively, therefore every book must answer a question, solve a problem, fulfill a desire. If you don’t know the question and its answer, if you don’t comprehend the problem and its solution, if you cannot satisfy the reader’s desire to know, then it is unlikely the book is ready for market. No amount of exceptional blurb writing can ever overcome that. Of a satisfying read – we’ve all read books that left us feeling unrewarded. Something was missing even if we couldn’t quite figure out what. Read more…

  • Fighting hard for mediocrity

    Fighting hard for mediocrity

    One night I watched three episodes of a program I’d never seen before. It was one of those business intervention reality shows called Bar Rescue. One episode I watched should have been called Bar Wars because the consultant/host of the program fought almost constantly with the bar’s owner. Briefly, the bar was 45 years old. Under the newest manager who had been owner for several years it had become dilapidated and dingy. The business was losing $200,000 a year and the owner had not taken a pay check in three months. The consultant/host offered up a dismal diagnosis which provoked the ire of the bar’s owner. For most of the program the owner reacted to everything. At one point the consultant conferred with his two assistants when one of the assistants said, “I have never seen anyone fight so hard for mediocrity!” That statement was an incredibly insightful analysis. I have seen it often in my experience as a writer and publisher. Authors turn out poorly researched, weakly presented books and are surprised when they fail to find an audience. To outsiders (someone who has not written the book and is not your mother) the reasons are obvious and usually simple to remedy. Yet authors too often fight tooth and nail to keep things as they are even though they are terrible. So, let me offer some lessons speaking as an outsider in general. You can apply then in specific to your situation. When you ask advice from an editor or publisher, decide that you will listen to what s/he has to say before you hire them. Why bother to consult if you’re going to ignore them, or even worse, fight with them? If all you want is reassurance that you’re a great person and that everything you’ve written is as good as anyone could do and that after all, how can things work in this economy, under this administration, in this day and age…well, you get the idea, then go to a bar yourself and engage the conversation of the bartender. They’re very good a listening and offering no sound advice at all. A friend of mine pastored a church that embarked on a building program. The building committee met to decide which interior designer they would use. Read more…

  • Ten Commandments of a Writer

    Ten Commandments of a Writer

    1. You shall have no other higher calling than writing. 2. You shall not settle for anything less than the task of writing every day; not email, not Facebook, not reading about writing, not anything but writing. 3. You shall not call yourself a writer unless and until you act like one. (See commandments one and two.) 4. You shall feed your soul and stock your storehouse by reading. 5. Honor your roots, your education, your experience, and your life. Write what you know. Remember that your life and your experiences are exotic and interesting to those who know them not – your readers. They are familiar only to you. 6. You shall not murder the words of another. You shall not attempt to make yourself appear better by demeaning the writing of other authors. 7. You shall not adulterate your writing by adding improper, extraneous, inferior paragraphs. You shall not use ten words when five will do very well. Do not lust after flowery language and unnatural expressions. 8. You shall not envy the work and style of another. You shall write with your own voice and cultivate your own style. 9. You shall not plagiarize. Love your own words and creativity more than life itself. Read more…