Every year for the past eight or so years, I’ve gone to Virginia Beach to write and hang out with a group of women writers known as the Dollbabies. Last year at this time, I was in the house we rent (pictured on the left) tucked away upstairs, being phone-interviewed by Cindy Dees. This year I’m finishing up edits on my novella. But the best part of the week isn’t the uninterrupted writing time, it’s the women. There’s eleven of us in the house this year. I wish I could whisk you all here, sit you down on the couch, and let you share some of the wonderful joy and wisdom of this group. But since I can’t, I’ll do the next best thing. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some amazing women for The Shady Lady Report and on this blog. I’ve gotten great advice on writing, happiness, taking chances, and speaking out online. So today, I’m sharing with you the best of that advice, because as Momma, the matriarch of the Parish family and initiator of the League of Warrior Women, would tell you, “Good advice never goes bad.”
Patricia Gussin, NYT and USA Today bestselling author on taking chances:
PG: My husband, Bob, and I call it “thoughtful impulsiveness.” There’s a question we ask ourselves: “What is the worst thing that can happen if you make this decision/change and it does not work out?” And the second question: “Can you live with it?” If the answer is “yes” then why not go for it. We are not into “paralysis by analysis.” I think the biggest decision I ever made was to start medical school when I had a three-year-old and a three-month-old child. My family always comes first. My thinking was that if any issues came up in the four years of med school or internship and residency that interfered with my family that I would simply quit. But nothing adverse ever did happen, so I went along with the medicine and had two more children during med school. In my novels (which are now classified as domestic suspense) I use the tension between work and family to highlight what a difficult balancing act that can be. Of course, you, Diana, are married to one of those kids, and he may have a totally different take. (Read the article)
Cindy Dees advice on being political online:
CD: I do have a few rules for myself about posting topical stuff online, though. First, I try to be relatively even-handed and bi-partisan politically. We’re all entitled to our own opinions, and it’s not my place to tell anyone they’re right or wrong. Second, I DO MY HOMEWORK. I always check out stories or facts or statistics from the most reputable news sources I can before I quote them. Every now and then, something gets past me and it turns out not to be accurate, but I try really hard to back up anything I say with some fact-checking before I post it. That cuts down a LOT on the flaming. Third, I try to talk about topics that all Americans, regardless of personal beliefs or political leanings, might find interesting or useful to know.
My advice for writers: Do NOT be political if you plan to write for a major publishing house. Just this past weekend, the executive editor of a big publisher you’d all know said she’s passing on buying from some fantastic authors and some really successful authors because they’re too political on their social media. Her point was NOT that they had to agree with some corporate point of view. Rather, she said that in polarized time like these, her company can’t afford to work with writers who’ve already alienated a large portion of their potential buying audience. It’s a business decision for the publisher.
While one of the beauties of self-publishing is that you get to say exactly what you want to on the page, the publisher has a point. If you want to maximize your potential audience, charting a course along middle ground is prudent. Frustrating, but prudent.
Cindy Dees’ advice and life mantra
As for a life mantra, mine has always been, “Life’s short. Play hard.”
I had cancer a couple of years ago, but we were fortunate to catch it ridiculously early (ladies, go get your annual mammogram NOW if you’re due!), and I’ve been declared cured. But that experience only reinforced my mantra. Life is, indeed, short. And we should all live it to the fullest that we can.
How sad would it be to reach the end of my life and look back on it only to see all the things I hadn’t done, the experiences I chickened out on having, the people I was afraid to love, or the chances I should have taken but was too scared to? After all, it’s not like we get a do-over.
The best advice author and psychologist Mercia J. Tapping ever received:
MJT: The best piece of advice I ever got at the beginning of my chemo journey was from a good friend who told me to notice the small miracles that occur in life on a daily basis. Moreover, to write those miracles down, which is how my book [Only One Life: Don’t Waste It] became born. So I became far more conscious of my surroundings, whether it was a flower opening in my garden, or the elderly cashier who helped me lift my packages to my car, or the friend who swooped in unannounced to change the cat litter and empty my dishwasher. It taught me that even in a period of intense darkness there are these wonderful chinks of light.
There is also one thing that I said to myself over and over throughout it all, and that is life goes in cycles. Nothing bad lasts forever and I started to dream of what my life could like the other side of my living hell. So that helped me put one weary step in front of the other.
Mercia J. Tapping on how to stay happy when facing great challenges:
MJT: I think optimism and happiness are a choice. I plan my calendar so each day, there is always something in it which will bring a smile to my face. Then when I have my morning coffee I look at my calendar; I contemplate with anticipated pleasure those upcoming daily activities or social interactions with friends. But you need to understand there was a time when joy was just naturally built into my life. Now I have to create it with conscious effort, otherwise it would be all too easy to dwell on everything that I lost and the sadness attached to those memories. Part of my joy in life comes from being a source of joy and laughter for others. It isn’t all about me. (Read the interview)
Rainer Maria Rilke: There is only one thing to do. Go into yourself. Examine your reason for writing. Discover whether it is rooted in the depths of your heart, and find out whether you would rather die than be forbidden to write. Above all, ask yourself in the stillest hour of the night, have I no choice but to write? Dig deep within for the truest answer, and if this answer is a strong and simple yes, then build your life upon this necessity. Your life henceforth, down to its most ordinary and insignificant moment, must prove and reveal this truth. (Read post)
Paris, February 17, 1903 Letters to a Young Poet
Needless to say I kept writing. This year I will publish a novella and two novels, THE PRICE OF GRACE and THE COST OF HONOR. And I’ll be out and about marketing these books and getting to know all of you better. First stop is NOLA and the BookLovers Convention in May. I’ll be there from May 15th to the 19th. In addition to taking part in some great games including Win, Love or Draw, I’m also heading up a fantastic ghost tour of New Orleans with some fabulous ladies. So excited about this!! And I am loaded up with lots of goodies to share with all of you. The best swag ever. Hope to see you there!