Sarah Selecky http://www.sarahselecky.com Write What You Want To Read. Sat, 28 Feb 2015 17:54:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Business of Writing, part four of five. http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/the-business-of-writing-part-4/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/the-business-of-writing-part-4/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=9524 BizWritingBannerpart4
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Today, meet Monna McDiarmid: novelist, international school counselor, photographer, poet, and entrepreneur. I’m excited for you to see the beautiful course that Monna designed after graduating from B-School — it’s a writing and photography course called Geography of Now, and it’s designed to bring you closer to contentment and calm by teaching you how to be where you are.

Monna hasn’t quit her day job in order to run her own business — she actually works full time at a job that she loves. And she finished the first draft of a YA novel last year. So her life is full! But reading her piece today makes me think she might have cracked the code — and that she has found a way to impart her wisdom by the very thing she teaches online.

 

 

S: Monna, let’s start with how you define “marketing”?
M: One of my favourite places on earth is Rue Cler, a street in the 7th arrondissement in Paris. There is a bakery that’s been in the same spot for a hundred years and I love watching the two owners interact with their clients. These women live in the neighbourhood and they know the children of the people buying baguettes. They live inside the orbit of each other’s lives. Although my home is in Japan and my business is online, it is the intimacy of that bakery, that neighbourhood feeling, that I am after. The community I’ve built over nine years of blogging and a year of running this small business is based on the promise that I will always make the best possible baguette. Creating my first online course, Geography of Now, taught me that the very best marketing I can do is to deliver an insanely helpful course that exceeds expectations. We are what we create.

S: How has learning about business supported you as a writer?
M: In B-School, I loved learning about the processes involved in creating a business, and although some of those tasks were quite challenging, I kept in mind one of Marie’s favourite phrases: “Everything is figureoutable.” After B-School, I began to apply this approach to my writing as well and became more objective about my own work. I was better equipped to ask myself what was, and wasn’t, working with my writing and why. It was easier to see my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Also, when you are planning and implementing a business, you can’t simply complete tasks when you feel like it. In order to be successful and meet your obligations to others, you need to schedule tasks and stick to that schedule. That’s been excellent training for the development of a daily writing practice. We can’t wait to be inspired; we must inspire ourselves.

S: Why should writers take B-School? Would you recommend it?
Was the investment (time + money) worth it for you?

M: My plate was already full before B-School, as I work full time as a high-school counselor at an international school and I write fiction. For a couple of years, I’d had this crazy dream to offer an online course, so I took the leap and enrolled. B-School turbo-charged everything in my life. I found greater balance between my day job, which I love, and other creative pursuits. I made my blog into a website and created a newsletter called The Sunday Reader which I send out to subscribers twice a month. Over the summer, I created an online course and ran it twice.

So, yes! I definitely recommend B-School. It was absolutely worth my time and money. I would urge you to commit fully to the course and to complete all of the worksheets and modules. As with everything in life, the more you put into B-School, the richer your experience will be.

 
 
S: What’s next for you, Monna?
M: What’s next? What a wonderful question! I have just finished the first draft of a Young Adult novel, The 38 Impossible Loves of Naoko Nishizawa. The six-week Geography of Now eCourse is currently running for the second time and will be offered again beginning on March 9th.

A skinny prose piece called “Keeping it for Good” received some love on my site so I made a short film of it. From that experience I learned that I’d like to make more poem-films and trailers. I have begun writing a book about body image for teenaged girls. Recently, a reader introduced me to an inspirational group called Writing Walking Women and I’ll be joining them for a retreat in St. John’s, Newfoundland in August. My participation in B-School and Sarah’s mentorship have led to fantastic opportunities for which I am deeply grateful.

 
Monna McDiarmid is obsessed with the question of what makes people thrive. A far-flung Canadian living in Yokohama, Japan, her work as a High School Counselor at international schools has also taken her to Thailand, Spain, Mexico and Colombia. A writer of fiction and nonfiction, she is passionate about photography, travel, good food & lovely living spaces. MonnaMcDiarmid.com is where she shares stories of life in Japan and her travels and thoughts about creativity and thriving.


Thank you so much, Monna!

Our next post in “The Business of Writing” series will be published on March 3rd. (If you’re interested, here’s where to read the first, second, and third posts in this series!)
 

Register for B-School through me, and you’ll be one of my Satellites.

If you’re already feeling jazzed about B-School, you can sign up through me right here. I’d be thrilled to have you in my Satellite Group, and there are special bonuses, too!

  1. I’ll put you in a private group with other current B-School students and graduates. Not everyone in the group is a writer! But we are all like-minded people who have similar priorities and style, which is nice.
  2. We’ll all meet on the phone halfway through the course for a check-in so we can talk about how everybody is progressing with the homework (ask me anything!).
  3. After you graduate, I’ll book you for a one-on-one consultation with me. You can show me what you’ve created, and I’ll tell you what worked for me and what didn’t so you can learn from my experience, and give you advice about how to make sure your business shines and truly supports you.
  4. I’ll also send you complimentary access to Story Is a State of Mind! Because it shouldn’t be business all the time. Writers, please nourish your soul with some deep creative writing, too. Running a business should support your writing, not eclipse it.

Registration closes March 4th at 3pm EST. Ready to jump in?

Sign up for B-School now!

 
 
Still curious about why I love B-School? I have even more to say about it here and here.
 
 
As an official partner, I’m working with Marie to promote the school, and I may earn a stipend if you take B-School from my recommendation.
 
 
xo,

Sarah Selecky

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This is why I love B-School so much. http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/this-is-why-i-love-b-school-so-much/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/this-is-why-i-love-b-school-so-much/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:50:58 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=9559 When I signed up for B-School, I was already teaching creative writing. I had a website up, and I had a list of email addresses that I used to send a newsletter. My husband advised me not to take B-School. Ryan didn’t think I needed to spend that much money on a program that was going to teach me how to do what I was already doing.

I took it anyway. I had a feeling about it. I didn’t want to figure it out on my own anymore: I wanted a program. I wanted what B-School promised.

Doing B-School was the best decision I could have made. Two weeks into the program, Ryan changed his mind! I used the momentum and the homework in the first two modules to launch a small writing workshop in a different way — and I made back the entire tuition at once.

In the following weeks, I hired an assistant and a graphic designer. Both felt like huge risks, because money was still tight. But I persevered, with the help of Marie’s advice and her don’t-limit-yourself attitude. I did the homework for every module. And by the end of the program, I made back enough money to take a work/travel trip with Ryan for the whole winter. We lived in Whistler and Hawaii while I worked online with my virtual assistant and my designer. I launched Story Is a State of Mind in Oahu. For the first time in my life, I made a real salary that year!

That was all I really wanted: to do work that I believed in, and to still have enough money and time to be a writer.

All of the above — Ryan taking time off work, our travel, paying an assistant and a designer, working from anywhere, designing an 8-week online course that could reach more writers than I ever could before, earning a fair salary for myself, liking what I do for a living! — it’s all because of B-School.

This spring I’m going on a writing retreat in Andalucia for three weeks before teaching at The Lemon Tree House in Tuscany. I’ll be working on my novel and running The Story Intensive this summer and fall. This is my life, post B-School. I do not feel like my writing is competing with my teaching anymore — I can actually do both.

The best thing I got out of B-School is that now I feel grateful and lucky to do the work that I do. I’m making enough money to have healthy savings as well as healthy cash flow. (This is a big deal for me.) I was struggling before I took this program. I was working, I was busy, but I was flying by the seat of my pants. And I never felt like I had enough time or money, despite all the work I was doing.

B-School tripled my confidence and taught me how to feel stable and in control in my work life.

It taught me how to acknowledge my freedom, and how to love my livelihood. People tell me I’m savvy, which is lovely to hear, but honestly, I learned my business skills in B-School. I recommend it to anyone who wants to be of service, who wants to gain a sense of control in his or her career, and who wants to feel freedom and joy when making decisions about life.

When you sign up for B-School, it’s your responsibility to show up for the work it asks you to do. Showing up for my business feels like showing up for my writing, or showing up for my relationships. It’s not always easy breezy. But it’s gratifying and real. And when I’m open, the learning never stops.

Through B-School I’ve learned how to be honest with myself, how to respect my strengths, how to say no to things that drain me, and how to make enough money to live comfortably. I go back to the program every year and implement something new each time. I’ll be doing it this year again. I love it.

It’s a big investment, I know. Especially if you’re a creative person who has struggled with money in the past. Know that this investment can pay you back several times over. You don’t have to wait until you feel 100% ready, either, if you think that feeling ready means feeling stable enough in your life and career to take a leap.

B-School is going to teach you how to create a business you love. But you have to jump in to learn it.

One last thing: Marie Forleo is great. She’s smart, honest, and present. She knows what she’s doing, and she actually practices what she teaches. You can trust her, and you can trust this program.

Register for B-School through me, and you’ll be one of my Satellites.

If you’re already feeling jazzed about B-School, you can sign up through me right here. I’d be thrilled to have you in my Satellite Group, and there are special bonuses, too!

  1. I’ll put you in a private group with other current B-School students and graduates. Not everyone in the group is a writer! But we are all like-minded people who have similar priorities and style, which is nice.
  2. We’ll all meet on the phone halfway through the course for a check-in so we can talk about how everybody is progressing with the homework (ask me anything!).
  3. After you graduate, I’ll book you for a one-on-one consultation with me. You can show me what you’ve created, and I’ll tell you what worked for me and what didn’t so you can learn from my experience, and give you advice about how to make sure your business shines and truly supports you.
  4. I’ll also send you complimentary access to Story Is a State of Mind! Because it shouldn’t be business all the time. Writers, please nourish your soul with some deep creative writing, too. Running a business should support your writing, not eclipse it.

Registration closes March 4th at 3pm EST. Ready to jump in?

Sign up for B-School now!

 
Still curious about why I love it? I have lots to say about it here and here.
 
As an official partner, I’m working with Marie to promote the school, and I may earn a stipend if you take B-School from my recommendation.

xo,

Sarah Selecky

 

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The Business of Writing, part three of five. http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/the-business-of-writing-part-3/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/the-business-of-writing-part-3/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 12:00:38 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=9509 BizWritingBannerpart3

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Today, meet Abby Kerr: short fiction writer, business owner, and master of listening to one’s own integrity. I’m so excited to share with you Abby’s philosophy, talent, and aesthetic (you need to see her gorgeous site!).

If you don’t already know her work at The Voice Bureau, you’re in for a treat. Abby isn’t a B-School graduate, but she has been running her own successful (and beautiful) copywriting, branding and content creation agency for many years.

I look to her website for inspiration and reassurance whenever I feel alienated by schmoozy, non-genuine online marketing. Her business reminds me to be true to my voice, always.

 

 

S: Abby, tell us how learning about business has supported you as a writer.
A: Being a real self-starter and someone with an innate yearning for excellence (often to a fault), I’ve always been tuned in to the need to learn business skills, not just rudimentary stuff but higher order stuff, too. I’ve always wanted to do my business “right.” I started my very first business (a brick and mortar lifestyle boutique with an online store) with no business acumen other than what I’d naturally come by via observation, intuition, and online research. The Voice Bureau, my current writing-based business, is the third iteration of my entrepreneurial work in the world. Month by month, year by year, I have learned so much, from so many different sources. Some of my best learning — the learning that stuck — came through trial and error, through making mistakes (some of them expensive). I’m nearly convinced it can be no other way.

Learning about business has allowed me, nine years (nine years!) into running my own company, to be at the point where I can step back and focus more on my creative writing, the writing that is not imminently for-pay and that I desperately, dearly want to be doing (fiction). I’m at the point now where I have a small but highly engaged team who can do the heavy lifting in my business, so that I can focus on creation (both inside and outside of my business). It sounds like a luxury, but it has felt very, very hard won, and I by no means feel like I can ‘relax’ into it now.

If anything, there’s an even greater waking up to following my desire from day to day, a vigilance to watching my desire, coupled with a deep trust in the goodness of people and in the flow of life.

I don’t think everyone’s business has to take nine years to figure itself out, but mine did and has. I’m not sure I have it figured out even yet, but I’m a lot closer than I once was to being able to both write for pay and write for love.

S: How do you define “marketing”?
A: Marketing to me, is the art and science of taking your work to market. I like to imagine that there’s some physical location in space and time (an urban bazaar, maybe?) where all of the people are my brand’s Right People, and everyone is primed for exactly the thing I am bringing to them, and when I show up there I am recognized as one of them. The marketplace is ready, waiting, and willing to receive what I have to offer. That’s the internal scenario I create for myself whenever I’m sharing and promoting my work.

It rings true to me, because when your work lands in the hands of, or in front of the eyes of, its Right Person reader, it is such a scenario. It’s a recognition and a reckoning and a mutual gift. Thinking this way about marketing makes the work of marketing seem a lot less… unfriendly. It also makes the study of best practices even more precise and potent, because you know exactly who you’re talking to and with whom you’re wanting to connect.

S: You did not attend Marie Forleo’s B-School, but did you take other business classes along the way?
A: I have invested here and there in training programs, courses, and workshops from fellow creative business owners, including other writers who own businesses. I have learned some really valuable stuff, and I think if a writer wants to bring the shape of a business around her craft and her practice, then learning business skills is absolutely imperative.

S: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurious writers?
A: One thing I would tell them is to be mindful of supplanting your love of working on your writing craft with an obsession with building a business. Many writers are talented businesspeople and vice-versa, and in many ways, the skill sets required for each are complementary, but always you should know which is your first love.

S: What’s next for you, Abby?
A: Lots and lots and lots of writing. I have deemed 2015, for me, The Year of Writing. This is my year to indulge, to discover, to play, to follow the scent, to go off-trail. This is the year when my desires get to trump my shoulds and my guilt. I know, when I’m 97 years old and reflecting back on my life, what I would regret more: not taking a chance with my fiction or not growing my business more. For me, although I love my business and my clients, my heart is with my fiction, and if there would ever be a this-or-that choice to make, it would be an easy one.

The stories I love to write are an exploration of contemporary life and manners, where the socially sanctioned and appropriate butts up against the wildly taboo. I’m drawn to themes of identity, sexuality, gender expression, faith, the social politics of queer, the limits of personality, ambition and desire. Touches of wry humor. Family members, loves, and friends romp across towns, cities, cafes, creative studios, colleges, workshops and retreat centers, and bedrooms, all in search of something that feels real.

I’m kicking off the year by working privately through Story Is a State of Mind with a dear friend, and also taking an in-person one-day workshop at Hugo House in Seattle with short story writer Alma Garcia. I’m also committed to at least 10 minutes a day of writing practice, a la Natalie Goldberg and Sarah Selecky. 2015 will be the year I polish a couple short stories to submit to literary journals.

 
Abby Kerr is a short fiction writer and Creative Director of The Voice Bureau, a brand voice development, copywriting, and content creation agency serving aesthetically-oriented business owners. She’s the creator of The Voice Values paradigm for branding. She’s a home cook, a huge Brandi Carlile fan, and a dog mom of two French Bulldog-Boston Terrier boys. She lives in Seattle with her partner.


Thank you so much, Abby!

Our next post in “The Business of Writing” series will be published on February 28th. (If you’re interested, here’s where to read the first and second posts in this series!)
 

Register for B-School through me, and you’ll be one of my Satellites.

If you’re already feeling jazzed about B-School, you can sign up through me right here. I’d be thrilled to have you in my Satellite Group, and there are special bonuses, too!

  1. I’ll put you in a private group with other current B-School students and graduates. Not everyone in the group is a writer! But we are all like-minded people who have similar priorities and style, which is nice.
  2. We’ll all meet on the phone halfway through the course for a check-in so we can talk about how everybody is progressing with the homework (ask me anything!).
  3. After you graduate, I’ll book you for a one-on-one consultation with me. You can show me what you’ve created, and I’ll tell you what worked for me and what didn’t so you can learn from my experience, and give you advice about how to make sure your business shines and truly supports you.
  4. I’ll also send you complimentary access to Story Is a State of Mind! Because it shouldn’t be business all the time. Writers, please nourish your soul with some deep creative writing, too. Running a business should support your writing, not eclipse it.

Registration closes March 4th at 3pm EST. Ready to jump in?

Sign up for B-School now!

 
 
As an official partner, I’m working with Marie to promote the school, and I may earn a stipend if you take B-School from my recommendation.
 
 
xo,

Sarah Selecky
 
 
 

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The Business of Writing, part two of five. http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/the-business-of-writing-part-2/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/the-business-of-writing-part-2/#comments Sat, 21 Feb 2015 12:00:50 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=9478 BizWritingBannerpart2
Be one of my Satellites. Sign up for B-School!
Scroll to the bottom of the page to read about the special bonuses I’m offering!


Today, meet Nicole Baute: writer, editor, journalist. I met Nicole a few years ago, when I contributed a story to a women’s writing anthology she co-created, called EAT IT. (It was about feminism, sex and food! How could I refuse?)

Nicole has her master’s degree in journalism and worked for the Toronto Star before moving on to work in literary publicity, editing, and teaching.

Now she runs her own small business — and like so many entrepreneurs, you can see how she’s put together a service that matches her strengths precisely.

 
NicoleBauteCircle1
 

S: Nicole, how has learning about business supported you as a writer?
N: One of the main reasons I decided to start my own business (aside from a general aversion to the structures of the modern workplace) is that I wanted to create a work life with time for my own creative writing baked in. In theory, this meant starting my workday after writing for at least an hour, coffee in hand.

Bautebubble6Now, I’ll be honest: I spent most of last year in start-up mode, which was both exhilarating and all-consuming. I didn’t write for myself as much as I hoped I would. But now that I’ve developed a more sophisticated understanding of what’s possible in online business, I’ve been able to adjust and pivot in a direction that’s more compatible with my writing life.

Instead of working primarily as a copywriter, I now offer story strategy and copy coaching, which means I’m able to help even more entrepreneurs tell their stories in a meaningful way. We work one-on-one on their key messaging, copy structure, and overall writing skills. They’re able to create a lot of content with support from a professional writer, and I have more time and energy to write for myself.

There’s another way to look at all of this:

My business allows me to live and work from a place of language and imagination!

Even those weeks when I’m too entangled in the business to take a break, I know I’m living a much more creative and fulfilling life than I was a few years ago. That is nothing short of revolutionary.

S: How do you define “marketing”?
N: I think of marketing as comprised of two essential elements: story and visibility. It isn’t enough to be good at what you do—you also need to tell a story about yourself and your business, and invite your clients or customers to contribute to your story as it evolves. Your story doesn’t need to be complicated, but it needs to be true, clear and engaging—and most importantly, it must serve the interests of your business.

Bautebubble4Consider this: after your vacation a friend asks, “How was your trip?” And suddenly you have no idea what story to share. So much happened in two weeks! Should you tell your friend about the charming fishmonger, or the tiny villa with the bougainvillea? Should you mention the lost luggage?

The story you tell your friend will become concrete and immutable in her mind. You only have one chance. The conversation will carry on into another direction in just a few minutes.

If you had the time, you might stop to consider your friend’s potential reaction to your story before you tell it. What will impress her? Delight her? Appeal to her interests? What will she care about and remember?

Those questions are at the heart of marketing. You get one overarching story about yourself and your business. That story will be defined by what you say, how you say it, and the smaller individual stories you choose to tell along the way.

Bautebubble3Of course, even incredible brand stories aren’t of much use if nobody hears them. That’s why being seen and heard is so important, and why small and emerging businesses need to learn some marketing tools and techniques. Making yourself visible can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but gets easier as you go. (I think that’s because you realize it allows you to connect with wonderful people!)

S: Would you recommend B-School? Was it worth the investment (time + money)?
N: Absolutely. It’s no exaggeration to say the Story Factory wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t invested in B-School. The program is fairly comprehensive, but you can absorb as much as you need or want based on where you’re at in your business, and return at your convenience when you’re ready to go further. I’ll go through the modules again this year and learn a little more than I did in 2014 when my business was just a wee baby.

The community of small business owners B-School allowed me to tap into would have been worth the investment on its own. I’ve met countless people who have helped me and my business grow—as clients, accountability partners, mentors, and friends.

S: What’s next for you, Nicole?
N: This year I’ll be almost entirely focused on my copy coaching clients. They’re small business owners who have decided to invest in improving their marketing and copywriting skills instead of outsourcing the work to someone else. Most of them enjoy writing for their businesses, or think they could once they figure out how to write persuasively and for the web. Some are looking for ongoing support in refining their ideas and getting the wording just right.

I’m in the midst of getting my website redesigned (it’s going to be beautiful!), and I’m preparing to launch a client resource library that will be filled with templates, lessons and other incredibly practical resources.

Also up next: more time for reading and writing fiction, of course!

 
Nicole Baute has spent her entire life telling stories, both professionally and in her spare time as a creative writer. After finishing her master’s degree in journalism, she became a staff reporter at the Toronto Star. She later worked in marketing and publicity for a literary festival, spent six months as a media trainer in Ghana, and co-edited a feisty collection of women’s writing called EAT IT. At the Story Factory, she helps small business owners find their voice, refine their message, and finally write with confidence, clarity and ease.


Thank you, Nicole!

Our next post in “The Business of Writing” series will be published on February 24th. (If you’d like to read the first post in this series, go here.)

Register for B-School through me, and you’ll be one of my Satellites.

If you’re already feeling jazzed about B-School, you can sign up through me right here. I’d be thrilled to have you in my Satellite Group, and there are special bonuses, too!

  1. I’ll put you in a private group with other current B-School students and graduates. Not everyone in the group is a writer! But we are all like-minded people who have similar priorities and style, which is nice.
  2. We’ll all meet on the phone halfway through the course for a check-in so we can talk about how everybody is progressing with the homework (ask me anything!).
  3. After you graduate, I’ll book you for a one-on-one consultation with me. You can show me what you’ve created, and I’ll tell you what worked for me and what didn’t so you can learn from my experience, and give you advice about how to make sure your business shines and truly supports you.
  4. I’ll also send you complimentary access to Story Is a State of Mind! Because it shouldn’t be business all the time. Writers, please nourish your soul with some deep creative writing, too. Running a business should support your writing, not eclipse it.

Registration closes March 4th at 3pm EST. Ready to jump in?

Sign up for B-School now!

 
 
As an official partner, I’m working with Marie to promote the school, and I may earn a stipend if you take B-School from my recommendation.
 
 
xo,

Sarah Selecky
 
 
 

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The Business of Writing, part one of five. http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/the-business-of-writing-part-1/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/the-business-of-writing-part-1/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 16:45:15 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=9315 BizWritingBanner2
Be one of my Satellites. Sign up for B-School!
Scroll to the bottom of the page to read about the special bonuses I’m offering!


This winter, my lovely sister-in-law Kate sent me a brand new copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

I re-read the book over the holiday, and was struck again by Woolf’s elegant common sense: a writer does need a room of her own. She does need space and time. But in order to be in that space and spend her time writing, she needs another thing, too: financial independence.

AnnaLovindHotAirBalloon2And isn’t that the truth?

This month, I’ve invited five writers who have found some financial independence through entrepreneurship. They’ve each created a business that allows them to live in the world of language. They’ve found a way to successfully make their own money, and they’ve also managed to make their own space and time for writing.

Today, meet Anna Lovind: writer, editor, and coach to other writers. I have Anna’s hot air balloon print, titled “How to Be a Writer,” framed and up in my office. It is so pretty — go look at it in detail (you can buy it, too!) on her website.

 
AnnaLovindCircle5
 

S: Anna, how has learning about business supported you as a writer?
A: Learning about business has allowed me to go from dreaming to doing. I wanted a life of writing and now I have one. I couldn’t have made that happen without learning the practical skills of how to operate a business and market my work.

Lovindbubble4bTurning my own writing into business was challenging at first, as I feared my voice and integrity would be compromised somehow (by my desire to “succeed”, perhaps). That has not happened. Quite the opposite, actually.

If I do lose myself, trying to write what I think other people want instead of what I truly want to say, I actually feel that as stress. Whenever that happens, I stop and reconnect, get my priorities straight, and get back to work from a point of integrity. This friction, this constant adjusting and checking in, has made me a better writer, truer to my voice and my vision.

I’ve also learned a lot about accountability, about performing under pressure, about claiming my space, and about starting before I’m ready. All of which, as I’m sure you know, are vital parts of a happy creative life.

S: How do you define “marketing”?
A: I think of marketing as the art of letting people know. I have something to share, and I share it, in the form of a blog post or a book or an art print. That’s what I do. It’s the most important part of my work. Another part – the marketing – is telling people about it.

I don’t complicate it. If what I share has value, if it can be of help to someone, I want people to know about it. It’s an act of kindness. I want my texts to be read and shared, and my prints to be pinned to walls, because that way my words continue to support and inspire far beyond my own personal reach.

LovindbubbleI want to help more writers write better, because I believe that words written from a place of truth, love and integrity have enormous power — power to enlighten, disrupt, inspire, support, and change.

I also want to make money from this work. I want that because it allows me to spend my days doing what I most want to do – write, teach, create – instead of squeezing it in next to a day job. This too is an act of kindness, towards myself.

So I do my work, and then I tell people about it.

 
I don’t go hunting for readers or customers. I don’t persuade, manipulate or push. I just communicate as clearly and honestly as I know how. And when I do my work right, it shines. Like a lighthouse.

That doesn’t mean I don’t need to market it.

To keep the light strong and vibrant is an inside job. But to make sure it’s visible and welcoming to others requires a whole different set of skills, often of a very practical nature.

Lovindbubble2Marketing is washing the windows of the lighthouse, so the light can be seen from a distance. It is making sure there is a harbour, so travellers can come ashore safely and easily. It is providing visitors with a map to help navigate my territory.

You get the idea. It’s about connection. About being available, helpful and generous. Not about following standard procedure. Certainly not about spending hours on social media, unless that’s your thing. But if it’s not, be brave enough not to do it. There are other ways, more in line with who you are and how you’d like to spend your precious days. Be creative. Learn about marketing from someone you trust, and then trust yourself.

S: Why do you think writers should take B-School?
A: Doing B-School was all about learning practical skills. I already had thorough training in the area of literature and creative processes. I knew I had a feeling for words and their particular magic, as well as a talent for helping others find their true voice. Only I wasn’t sure how to make money from those skills and talents. (Especially since I had just ditched a traditional career in publishing.)

I needed a business school that would “get” what I was trying to do — turn my heart’s work into a viable business — because it wasn’t really an option for me to do anything other than writing in some shape or form.

Lovindbubble3aI found that in B-School. It did not require me to become someone else in order to succeed. On the contrary, I was encouraged to step more fully into who I am and do business from there. (Which, for an introverted writer, is quite radical.)

Taking B-School saved me years of trial and error, and I still revisit the course material for ideas and useful strategies.

S: What’s next for you, Anna?
A: 2015 will be a year of both focus and expansion.
I am expanding my business – writing, coaching, art prints and all — into the English-speaking market, which feels wonderfully nervous and exciting.

I’m also working on the first draft of a book on creativity (ah, the tender confusion of a first draft!), and I’ve got a number of poster ideas lined up, waiting for me to bring out ink and paper.

Apart from that, I’m adding as little as possible this year. I want to focus on what’s already here — my writing, my brilliant clients, my art. I want to deepen and explore that work.
No striving. Only allowing. Only sweet, empty space and the special (magical) kind of creativity that happens there.

 
Anna Lovind is a writer, editor and writer’s coach from Sweden (born and raised under the Northern Star).

She helps best-selling authors as well as happy amateurs to write from the depth of their hearts and at the top of their ability, whether in the form of stronger prose, better blog posts or more graceful copy.

Recently she teamed up with an illustrator to create posters and art prints, happily searching for the sweet spot where poetry meets picture. Her website is annalovind.com.


Thank you, Anna!

Our next post in “The Business of Writing” series will be published on February 21st.

Register for B-School through me, and you’ll be one of my Satellites.

If you’re already feeling jazzed about B-School, you can sign up through me right here. I’d be thrilled to have you in my Satellite Group, and there are special bonuses, too!

  1. I’ll put you in a private group with other current B-School students and graduates. Not everyone in the group is a writer! But we are all like-minded people who have similar priorities and style, which is nice.
  2. We’ll all meet on the phone halfway through the course for a check-in so we can talk about how everybody is progressing with the homework (ask me anything!).
  3. After you graduate, I’ll book you for a one-on-one consultation with me. You can show me what you’ve created, and I’ll tell you what worked for me and what didn’t so you can learn from my experience, and give you advice about how to make sure your business shines and truly supports you.
  4. I’ll also send you complimentary access to Story Is a State of Mind! Because it shouldn’t be business all the time. Writers, please nourish your soul with some deep creative writing, too. Running a business should support your writing, not eclipse it.

Registration closes March 4th at 3pm EST. Ready to jump in?

Sign up for B-School now!

 
 
As an official partner, I’m working with Marie to promote the school, and I may earn a stipend if you take B-School from my recommendation.
 
 
xo,

Sarah Selecky
 
 
 

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Seth Godin and the privilege of connection. http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/seth-godin-and-the-privilege-of-connection/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/seth-godin-and-the-privilege-of-connection/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 12:00:02 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=9115 For many years, there were about 150 people on my email list. It was exciting to write to 150 people. This was before Facebook, when most of us were still spending more time in our physical communities than we did in our digital ones.

Now that we are meeting and communicating online more often than not, and my list has grown to accommodate more than 10,000 readers, I consider my newsletters differently.

We are special people!

We found each other for a reason. How can I make sure we feel connected? With such an overwhelming amount of cultural information being shared across the airwaves, what are the important truths that hold us together as a tribe? What is my role in our small town? What can I share with you that will feel meaningful and relevant?

My favourite podcast right now is On Being with Krista Tippett. She interviews scientists, spiritual thinkers, poets, philosophers, and activists. The hour-long interviews are always intimate and inspiring. Listening to On Being is my mental yoga class: it’s a place where I can focus, pay attention, and do some deep listening.

So I was surprised to see Seth Godin’s name on the podcast. He’s not a poet or a spiritual thinker — he’s a sales and marketing guy! Ew?

Seth Godin

Seth Godin. His episode is called
“The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating.”

But it was a fascinating talk. Definitely worth a listen. I often write things down when I listen to On Being (that’s how I know that I love something: I write it down). When I listened to Seth Godin’s interview, I took a lot of notes. It made me think about my newsletters, and what I do on this website, and how I want to connect to people.

Seth Godin tells Krista Tippett that storytelling is changing the economy.

The cool thing is, writers are perfectly suited for this change! There are so many compelling ways for writers to feel secure and engaged now. It’s not like the old days, when all the power rested in the hands of a few elite publishing houses and magazines.

Some highlights from the interview:

  • Advertising and marketing are not the same thing – advertising is exploitative.
  • Marketing is the work people do when they tell a story that resonates with us.
  • Marketing is the service we offer to the world, and the life we live.
  • Build a life and career that feels good, so if someone knew the truth about you, they’d want to work with you.
  • Ethical marketing is telling a story and connecting people in a way that means something. It’s not lying, tricking, pushing or manipulating.
  • Is it possible to make a living doing something that has meaning? Yes.
  • Is it possible to make a lot of money this way? Probably not. But you can make enough. And it can be meaningful.
  • Genuine storytelling truly connects people; fake storytelling is just entertainment.
  • The New York Times Bestseller list is stupid: you don’t need those big numbers, and anyway, it means losing your connection to what’s genuine.
  • Instead, know how few people you can influence, while still having the privilege of connection.

Think about the way Elizabeth Gilbert writes to her readers on Facebook — that’s what the privilege of connection feels like.

Godin raises great points for people in business, but what I found really interesting as a writer is this question of advertising vs. marketing. Writers are marketing themselves all the time — every time you tweet something, you’re weaving part of your story. But what about advertising in the publishing industry? What’s connecting people, and what’s pure entertainment?

This interview inspired me to put together my first-ever guest editorial series.

This month, I want to talk about what online marketing really means, and how it can affect the quality of our work/life. I’m excited to introduce you to five innovative writers who are making a living doing meaningful work. I asked them all sorts of nosy questions about their business life! And they answered.

bschoolfeatures

This conversation gets rolling in two weeks — stay tuned.

xo,

Sarah Selecky

P.S. If you’re a freelancer, or if you’re business-curious (entrepreneurious?) — Marie Forleo’s B-School is opening for enrolment later this month. I’m an official partner, which means that I’m working with Marie to promote the school, and I may earn a stipend if you take B-School from my recommendation. If you’re interested, watch her launch videos – they start here this Thursday.

 

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What I’ve learned so far about how to write a novel http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/what-ive-learned-so-far-about-how-to-write-a-novel/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/what-ive-learned-so-far-about-how-to-write-a-novel/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 12:00:57 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=9086 I’m not finished writing this novel yet. I’m almost at… the middle? Hard to say. I’m on strict, personally enforced orders to not talk about the story until it’s finished. That’s because I don’t know what this story really is, yet. Such is the mystery of writing it. I’ll know more in six months or so.

Until then, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far about how to write a novel.

1. Can’t work with an outline; can’t work without an outline.
I spent four months studying story structure and plotting out everything about my story on a detailed timeline. I outlined my whole book before I wrote it. By the end of all of that hard work and plotting, I was bored by my own story. There was no reason to write it anymore, because when I outlined it I’d already decided on all the twists and turns, and I wasn’t curious anymore.

I felt deflated for a little bit. Then I went back to the drawing board. I spent more than a year writing freely this time, starting at the beginning and building the story as I went. Got to about 50 pages this way (twice) — and burnt out both times. I see now that I was approaching the novel as a short story: I was attempting to run a marathon by sprinting the whole way. Exhausting.

Finally, I discovered the elegance of a loose outline.

 
I chose a few milestones to hit throughout the story — scenes that had some energy that I liked turning over and over in my head. I invited these scenes to come at the beginning, middle and end. I didn’t force them this time — I just wrote a lot of boring notes and questions in my notebooks until something interesting happened on the page. I saved the interesting bits, highlighted them, and wrote them in general terms on Post-It notes and called them “milestones.” I’m writing to these milestones now, a little at a time. And still, things change! And when they do, I simply adjust the outline as I go. It’s an approach that mixes the joy of freewriting with the comfort of an outline.

Nabokov's index cards2. Use index cards instead of tiny notebooks.
If I ever do this again, (i.e. write another novel), I might start by writing down those first salient images and scenes on index cards instead of using highlighters and Post-It notes in all of my little notebooks.

The thing is, I love writing in my little books. But once the images are written down in there, it’s harder to work with them. The highlighters and sticky notes are okay, but I confuse myself with my own colour codes. The process of writing a first draft is inherently messy, and honestly, I no longer remember what I meant by pink vs. yellow. I am resisting the urge to rip out the pages and arrange them on the floor to get a picture of where they all fit in the story. And besides, I wrote on both sides of the paper, so that might not even work. I guess I haven’t figured this part out yet. I might still have to rip my books apart — this stage of the process is still TBA.

Next time, I’m using index cards, and keeping them in a neat little box like Liz Gilbert does.

3. Some days, track by word count.
I aim for 1000 words a day. Some days I only get to 600 words, and some days I hit 2000. It averages out in a satisfying way, and you know what? The pages add up! It feels incredible to have all of those pages behind me. It’s a confidence booster. It helps me feel like less of a fraud. So what if I don’t reread them? Onward!

4. Some days, track by insights.
(Jill Margo taught me this, via Susan Swan.) On those days that a word count doesn’t happen, I write down my insights each day in my notebook instead. Lo and behold, I really am writing, even when I’m not writing! Thinking about my characters is important, not to be overlooked. So what if I don’t have a word count? Onward!

5. We’re all on the hero’s journey.
We all live in story. This has been a powerful revelation. Probably annoying for my family and friends, who are all now aware of where they are on the hero’s journey, because I can’t stop pointing it out. Ditto for episodes of Nashville and The Good Wife, etc. Also, myself. But once I saw how we all hear the call to action, feel resistance, experience false victory, suffering, surrender, I can’t un-see it! Joseph Campbell was so right.

6. Your story is smarter than you are.
My job is to be curious. Images and scenes come up and I have to trust that they’re there for a reason, otherwise the act of writing feels hostile.

There’s so much faith and trust involved in this process.

 
It’s humbling and beautiful. I have to honour and respect my subconscious every day, like it’s a wise elder, even though I might not understand what it’s doing.

7. Write the story from the beginning to the end.
I’m keeping it in order, writing from scene to scene, lily pad to lily pad, as things happen in the book I am writing. My story wants to be told in a linear fashion. So even if I have a flashback, I wait until I get to the place it appears in the story before I write it. That’s been helpful. Any time I’ve tried writing a scene out of order, it has confused me later.

8. Let yourself write it badly.
Giving yourself permission to write crappy stuff really does make it possible to write something interesting. I learn this every single day as if for the first time.

9. Nothing is ever wasted.
Who’s to say that spending three years on false starts wasn’t utterly necessary for what I’m working on, now? Who’s to say that writing in the little notebooks — not index cards — hasn’t been essential to this story as it develops? Creation is not tidy and efficient. It’s exploratory and random. It only feels inefficient when you compare it to washing and drying dishes, or packing bags of produce. There are no rules for this.

crystal block10. Everybody is different.
Please take all of the above with a big crystal of salt. These are just my thoughts on how I’m writing my first novel. I’m learning as I go. I feel like a little baby beginner. I’m definitely not an expert! Everybody will have a different process. What’s more, my own process changes, depending on the day! My best advice: listen to yourself, be curious, and be open — try whatever works, and pay attention to how you feel.

 
 

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Throwing Cotton the MOVIE! http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/throwing-cotton-the-movie/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/throwing-cotton-the-movie/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 12:00:42 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=9019  
Throwing-Cotton-Move-PosterFile under “Pinch me: surreal” — “Throwing Cotton”, one of the stories in This Cake Is For the Party, was made into a movie this year.

The film recently wrapped, and it’s scheduled to be released in 2015. I got to see the sneak preview this fall, and it’s stunning. It was almost an out of body experience for me to see my characters on a screen. The actors are all magnificent. The film casts a spell on you as you watch it.

The talented women behind this adaptation are Natalie Urquhart (producer) and Tori Larsen (writer/director). Together, these fabulous women are Same Page Productions.

I had the opportunity to ask them about how they made the movie, and they were nice enough to answer all of my nosy questions.


Sarah: The film is gorgeous — congratulations! I was surprised and delighted when you approached me about making a film out of “Throwing Cotton”. How did you know you wanted to do something with this story in particular?

Tori: The story is extremely visual. I could see it playing out before my eyes while reading it – the colours, the textures, the details. This being said, I felt that the story was a subconscious experience in which memories, meditations, and reality are all colliding in Anne’s mind and in the unpredictable, unknowable realm of her heart. Figuring out how to translate that onto the screen was a challenge that I really wanted to attempt. I also think that the themes explored in the short story lend themselves well to film and are very relatable.

Natalie: I connected to these characters immediately. Everyone is at a sort of crossroads and they are all a bit messed up and restless. The idea of having a baby to anchor yourself is something a lot of couples do — I wanted to explore that.

Throwing-Cotton-2777-500

Sarah: The story is set in a cottage by a lake, but in the film the characters are in a farmhouse (I love this shift, by the way). And in the film, Janine is at the house with everyone (in the story, she doesn’t make it). Why did you decide to make these changes? How did you choose what would stay in the film and what had to be cut out?

Tori: Early on, we decided that we would not veer from Anne’s story and would stay in the present (as much as we really wanted to shoot some of those flashbacks!). With these parameters in mind, it became clear what belonged in the script and what we had to lose. Janine is such a great character and such a spark for Anne. I wanted her to be active and a very real threat. She causes a great deal of tension and jealousy, which I think we needed to see exist in the present moment as opposed to haunting Anne from afar. The haunting works so well in the short story, but seeing Anne’s jealousy simmer at the farmhouse was needed for the film version.

Natalie: Ha — I would love to lean more on a creative explanation for the farmhouse, but to be perfectly honest my head was wrapped around practical production issues. The farmhouse was available, and worked within the budget, and within all the union considerations. Is that such a lame answer? Sigh, I promise not to say the word “budget” again.

Sarah: One of the aspects of this film that floored me when I saw it was how well the actors embodied the characters. Did you know who would be good for these roles before shooting, or did you audition actors and pick the ones who felt most in character? How did the actors prepare for their roles?

Throwing-Cotton-Headshots2

Tori: Natalie cast the film. I was traveling abroad and we needed to cast quickly. Natalie relied on her gut instincts, which definitely led her to great actors. She has a real talent for this. I think we had discussed what the characters looked like and how we thought they behaved to a degree, and then she handpicked the actors she thought would be best. And she was right! I rehearsed with the actors for two days and exchanged emails with them about their characters, motivations, and back-stories, just sharing thoughts back and forth. They all brought personal insights and ideas, really crafting their characters. They were unbelievable to work with.

Natalie: Man, they are a great cast. What talented, interesting, smart actors. We knew who we wanted pretty early on. I had seen all of them work in theatre or film before and knew that they were all exceptionally good and fit the roles well. I sort of tracked them all down individually and convinced some of them over coffee (and the others over wine… a lot of wine) to work on the short. No one auditioned. I cannot imagine anyone else in these roles. They all fit them so perfectly.

Sarah: There are so many perfect details in the film — Anne’s thin gold knot ring on the bannister, Janine’s hairy font letters, the way the remnants of the spaghetti were arranged on the dinner plates. Every single shot seemed to contain a hundred decisions. As a writer, it’s easy for me to put things in a scene — I just imagine it, and then it’s there. But in a film, you have to source everything for real. I’m so curious about your process as filmmakers, and how you make all of this attention to detail happen. Do you storyboard it, and make pictures? Make a big list? Do the actors choose parts of their wardrobe?

Keys4Tori: We had the best team surrounding us! That’s the long and short of it. The keys* broke down the film and I had conversations with them about what I was thinking, based on previous chats with Natalie, and what ideas they had. Natalie and I were continually surprised and excited about things that they brought to the table that we would never have thought to include. It was a really collaborative process, which we both love. Britt Doughty (production designer), Emily Hyde (props master), Avery Plewes (costume designer), Tricia Stanley (set designer), and Jessica Whyte (hair and makeup key) are all geniuses. Ieva Lucs, who plays Anne, was wearing the gold knot right when she arrived on set. I saw it when we were choosing Anne’s wedding band and asked her to leave it on. It fit the character. While shooting the scene in the hallway, I asked our cinematographer, Stephanie Weber-Biron, to dip the camera down and linger on Anne’s hand on the bannister as a cutting point. It seemed to be an image, a note, that completed the shot and the scene.

Natalie: It’s because the people who worked on this film are brilliant. They interpreted the script and make it all come to life. It still blows my mind. We were working with a team of people who really care about their craft and take pride in what they bring to the screen. It was always collaborative and it’s endlessly fascinating to see how the little details pull the whole film together. We were very clear on the look and aesthetic we were hoping to achieve, but then each key really brought their own ideas and left their individual creative mark.

Sarah: So many people are involved in the making of a film — as someone who works in solitude, this boggles my mind. What is it like to share a concept with so many people? How do you make sure that you’re on the same page, so to speak?

Tori: I’m also used to working in solitude, and am a very quiet person to begin with, so working with so many people was extremely exciting and terrifying! But it was amazing and I am so grateful for all of the collaboration. I think communication is the key to making sure everyone is on the same page.

Natalie: So many emails. My phone almost blew up. You also have to trust the people you work with after a certain number of meetings and ideas exchanged; ideally you are working with a team that is collaborative but also executing the Director’s vision. We had that and we were so grateful.

Throwing-Cotton-2067-500

Sarah: Has your relationship to the story — or its meaning — changed since you produced it as a film?

Tori: Yes. I think we both found more and more in the story as the layers of the filming and editing process were added. It’s also been interesting hearing other people’s thoughts about the film and its themes as we have started showing it to friends and colleagues. We have been surprised by some interpretations, which have in turn made us look deeper and reflect more.

Natalie: I still feel the meaning is the same for me as it was at the beginning, but maybe I am more sympathetic to all the characters now. It is not just Anne’s story for me I feel like I know them all personally at this point and feel for all of them.

Sarah: Now that you’re finished shooting and editing, what’s next for “Throwing Cotton”? How can people make sure they get to see it?

Tori: Nat, do you want to handle this one?

Natalie: Right now we are in the festival submission process — which is ongoing and hurts our credit cards’ feelings. It is a wait-and-see game at this point. Until we know about festivals we cannot post the movie online, or do anything with it, really. So, likely in about a year the film will be up on the BravoFact! website and online with The National Screen Institute’s website, but fingers crossed we get into some festivals before then and we can then pop it online for more to see.


Natalie-UrquhartNatalie is from Toronto, and studied acting at USC. She wrote, produced, and acted in short films before transitioning to producing full-time. She has worked on NBC/Universal’s Suits for the past three years, stepping into the role as Assistant Production Manager in Season 4. Natalie is interested in making films about those indomitable in spirit, whose stories would otherwise go untold.
 
 
Tori-LarsenTori is a screenwriter and director. She holds an honours BFA from York University’s Film Production program. Working in film and television production for the past fifteen years, most recently she worked as the dialogue coach on NBC/Universal’s Suits. She left the production to pursue writing full-time. Tori is drawn specifically to material that explores the stories of women, stories unique, deep, difficult, complex, and beautiful alike.

 
 
 
 

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In the Spotlight: Seyward Goodhand http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/in-the-spotlight-seyward-goodhand/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2015/in-the-spotlight-seyward-goodhand/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 2015 17:13:40 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=8881 I met Seyward through her writing, before I even knew her name, when I was one of the judges for The Journey Prize a few years ago. (Her story was brilliant and weird, and I loved it fiercely – you can find it in the anthology, here.) I’m pleased to say that she is now a TA for The Story Intensive. Lucky us!

Seyward’s writing can be high-concept, technically astute, and crafted with attention to literary tradition, so the tone is at once antique and modern. In her excerpt below, her sentences are savoury, compelling, sculptural — and totally enchanting. Her dairymaid is lost in a crazy reverie as she churns cream in the pasture, and Seyward spikes her story with emotional observations so sharp they can make you gasp. Take this dizzying description: “The smell of beaten cream is sweet with an undercurrent of womb.”

I adore the way she writes with her head and her heart, blending the technical with the emotive. When I read her work I think, “Wait — you can do that?”


Seyward Goodhand

Seyward Goodhand’s stories have appeared in PRISM International, Grain, echolocation, Riddle Fence, Dragnet Magazine and Journey Prize Stories 23. In 2011 she was a finalist for the Journey Prize. She is a PhD Candidate in English Literature at the University of Toronto.

 

Meet Seyward

Handwriting or computer?

Handwriting, then computer.

Page count or time count?

Time count.

First drafts or revision?

First drafts.

Writing solo, writing partner, or writing group?

Solo, then a group.

Earplugs/quiet or headphones/music?

Quiet.

Why do I write?

I guess I started writing because I read. Even now I begin a session by reading a story. That’s how I know it’s possible. So I write because I feel compelled to join in, but there are more complicated reasons as well, some generous, others egotistical. I am not a materialist and poetic language animates dead matter by the way it uses verbs. (An example from Anne Carson: “July moonshadows stood motionless on the grass.”) That anguished state of clarified wonder is addictive. I’m bitter and depressed if I don’t write. It’s how I understand and honour certain experiences. I want to give someone the feeling of being carried away and cast in a spell. I want to write something good. A lot of I wants. Still, careful, crafty acts help us to love the world—fiercely, with joy and sorrow—by, as Flannery O’Connor says, “plunging us into reality.” Writing fits in here with planting, building, making music, tending to the sick. All in the end futile (drought, fire, uselessness, death), but awesome acts of faith. And there’s some ecstasy in it too, as with singing, or, if you’re a plant, flowering in the direction of the sun.

Who are you reading for influence and why?

Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore and Deborah Eisenberg for many reasons. 1.) For their articulation of complex mental states during intimate encounters, in other words, for their wisdom, 2.) for their understanding of the social, 3.) Munro for representing entire, full decades succinctly, and 4.) for the sophisticated and nearly invisible way she navigates time.

George Saunders for voice and sentiment.

Angela Carter for 1.) her sentences, 2.) making you feel like you’re in a dream, 3.) being at once conceptual and concrete.

Italo Calvino, Karen Russell and Steven Millhauser for magic, warmth and sentences.

Denis Johnson for 1.) making you feel like you’re in a nightmare, 2.) structure, 3.) the surprising softness in the hardness.

TELL US ABOUT THE EXCERPT YOU’RE SHARING TODAY.

This story is about an affair and a break-up. It’s written as a pastoral from three alternating perspectives. Here’s a sample of the dairymaid’s.


Excerpt from “Dairymaid, Shepherd, Monk”, by Seyward Goodhand

 
Heels deep, thighs strained, palms burning, belly tense as a flexed tongue: the dairymaid churns cream on the grassy rise in the centre of the pasture. Her attention is split between learning the Psalm the monk has tasked her to know by the end of the day, and revelling in the admiration of men. Old men rinsing dye from wool, young men carrying planks of wood down the path to the stable and stopping to rest on the fence, lame men on stumps plucking feathers out of geese their wives have killed. Boys skipping down the mossy lane with their fathers’ lunches, crusts of bread and pressed cottage cheese as sectile as butter, wrapped in cloth.

She remembers the monk’s quiet intensity when he said, “This is the most beloved of Psalms.” He is so young—four months younger than her! But he has a voice one believes. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

She lifts her arms higher, for she will make merry with the sweat staining the blue cotton bodice under her breasts and soaking her frilled, white sleeves. The stone her own shepherd gave her, which he chipped from the base of the mountain’s peak and fastened to a woollen string to go around her neck, is between the dairymaid’s teeth so it doesn’t swing into her pole and crack. She imagines him bracing his sweet, round face against the wind, scanning the dark volcanic crags brushed in snow until he sees this piece, the one that glints. Oh good God.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.

No, you don’t understand, these verses are for me, she told the monk yesterday.

He tilted his beautiful face and shyly beheld her. “For us all,” he said.

Her shoulders burn with a glorious power as she plunges again and again into her barrel. The smell of beaten cream is sweet with an undercurrent of womb. It will be so light and delicious when chilled. But warm milk makes the dairymaid sick unless she gives herself over to it entirely, glories in the hot squelch, the still, golden air, the black tendrils curled around her throat, her clenched bowels, her saltiness. Her body produces miraculous fluids with which she would paint the countryside if it weren’t already so vibrantly green and yellow. Far off, out of a copse of tall, swaying maple, an exaltation of larks! Nature loves her. She imagines charming snakes out of the sand and commanding spiders to swarm her enemies. Only she is privy to their horrible ecstasy because she comes to all the loathed things with joy, as a playmate.

My cup overflows…

Almost by mistake, she looks up. There they are. Just beyond the ring of awed men, the other dairymaids are clustered together in a cool corner of someone’s porch. They have draped a sheet over their barrels of cream to keep the flies away while they twist each other’s long, auburn hair. Pink and periwinkle ribbons flutter in a basket the dairymaid stares at so the women won’t think she’s staring at them. The ribbons will be braided into all the hair so everybody knows the heads match. She is the only one not invited.


Discussion:

  • What remains with you after reading Seyward’s work?
  • Can you articulate what’s working in this excerpt — and more importantly, why it’s working?
  • How is your own writing practice like Seyward’s? How is it different?

Please leave a comment below.

And thank you, Seyward!


Note:

These monthly spotlights showcase Mysterious Middle Drafts (MMDs). That means they are somewhere between first drafts and final drafts. This is a challenging stage! Emerging writers bravely share their work-in-progress here for discussion, but this is not a book review or critique: this is a venue for the appreciation of Mysterious Middle Drafts. Thank you for making this writing space safe and supportive.
 
 

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Congratulations class of 2015! http://www.sarahselecky.com/2014/congratulations-class-of-2015/ http://www.sarahselecky.com/2014/congratulations-class-of-2015/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.sarahselecky.com/?p=8982 Last week, eighty-five writers graduated from The Story Intensive Class of 2015. Today’s post is in their honour.

These wonderful writers, from Nanaimo to Tasmania, have been showing up for their writing practice with us since September. This month, they each wrote and completed a brand new short story! Some of them finished a story for the first time ever; some for the first time in years; some for the hundredth time. (As you know, it doesn’t really matter — there’s a racket of resistance, no matter how many times you do it.)

One of this year’s Story Intensive grads, Amanda, described the challenge of Story Is a State of Mind this way: it asks you to be courageous enough to be an absolute beginner and to be great writer, at the same time.

Courage is the operative word here.

Courage! Feeling afraid and doing the thing anyway. Every one of this year’s graduates showed up to write before they knew what they were going to write. They said no thank you to distractions, and protected their writing time, even when it was very inconvenient. They finished something, and showed it to their peers without knowing for sure if it was any good.

You know how life has a way of “getting your attention” as soon as you commit to doing something important for yourself? Well, our graduates saw a lot of that this year. They wrote even though they were on the road, moving across the country, parenting young children, changing jobs, caring for ageing parents, or experiencing illnesses.

Their stories are inspiring and, quite frankly, humbling. Any time I felt my own resistance coming up, I would think of this beautiful net of writers out there who were doing The Story Intensive, and I would feel bolstered by their company.

Congratulations are in order!

To celebrate The Story Intensive Class of 2015, I’m sharing some of my favourite commencement addresses, below.

Happy holidays, everybody.

xo,

Sarah Selecky

 
P.S. You know that amazing person in your life who is part magic? Your godmother, your best friend, your daughter, your incredible uncle? You can totally give him Story Is a State of Mind this year! Recipients can do the course whenever they want: there’s no fixed start date. They get lifelong access. And they can enrol in the next The Story Intensive for a discounted rate. Buy gift certificates here! (Note to last-minute shoppers: you can print out your gift certificate as soon as you buy it.)


What Now?

Ann Patchett

AnnPatchettCommencement2The answer to the question What now is never what you think it’s going to be, and that is the thing that every writer has to learn. I came to understand that fiction writing was like duck hunting. You go to the right place at the right time with the right dog. You get into the water before dark, wearing a little protective gear, stand behind some reeds and wait for the story to present itself. This is not to say you are passive. You choose the place and the day. You pick the gun and the dog. You have the desire to blow the duck apart for reasons that are entirely your own. But you have to be willing to accept not what you wanted to happen, but what happens. You have to write the story you find in the circumstances you’ve created, because more often than not the ducks don’t show up. The hunters in the next blind begin to argue and you realize they’re in love. You see a snake swimming in your direction. Your dog begins to shiver and whine and you start to think about this gun that belonged to your father. By the time you get out of the marsh you will have written a novel that is so devoid of ducks it will shock you. It took me a long time of standing still and being quiet to figure out what in retrospect appears to be a pretty simple lesson: writing a novel and living a life are very much the same thing. The secret is finding the balance between going out to get what you want and being open to the thing that actually comes your way.

(Listen to her commencement address here.)


The Importance of Kindness

George Saunders

GeorgeSaundersCommencement2It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?

Here’s what I think:
Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Now, we don’t really believe these things — intellectually we know better — but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

So, the second million-dollar question: How might we do this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

(Go here to read his full address.)


This is Water

David Foster Wallace

david_foster_wallaceAs I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.

It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master”.

(Go here to listen to the address in full.)
 
 
 

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