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My novel, Victorine, featuring Edouard Manet’s favorite model, is on its way!

April 26, 2019

via My novel, Victorine, featuring Edouard Manet’s favorite model, is on its way!

Ordering Business Cards Can be Vision Clarifying (Not to mention, fun)!

April 18, 2018

More lovely and helpful ideas from a wonderful writer and colleague, Dream Drudge…

Three Friends, Three Stages, NYC

March 15, 2018

A wonderful blog about wonderful writers, written by a wonderful writer, Roy Hoffman.

Spalding University School of Creative & Professional Writing

By Roy Hoffman, Spalding MFA Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Faculty

Whenever I visit New York City one of my pleasures is attending theater. In the brisk days of late February this year, I had the delight of scurrying out of the cold into two venues where works by friends took away the chill and replaced it with dramatic heat unfolding in front of me.

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IN FOCUS: 13 things you should do to improve your photography

October 20, 2017

Source: IN FOCUS: 13 things you should do to improve your photography

Looking Back on the Brink of Looking Forward

October 4, 2017

MY school…

Spalding University School of Creative & Professional Writing

Karen Mann, Co-Founder & Administrative Director of Spalding low-residency MFA

Mann Karen for blog

At the MFA residency this fall, we are honoring Sena Jeter Naslund as she retires from the MFA program at the end of the year and turns her attention to new creative projects. Leading up to the residency, I have been thinking not only about what’s brought us to this point in the MFA program but I have also been anticipating the future!

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The Magic of Boldness

January 11, 2017

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Let’s recap the last couple of posts, shall we?

First, you were to choose an area or areas of your life you want to accomplish things this year.

Second, you were to set one goal for each area you chose.

Third, I asked you to take time for visualization. I wanted you to visualize moving through your goal, accomplishing it, and imagining the feeling you’d have after accomplishing it.

Fourth, you were to make sure you were setting smart goals – goals that are [S]pecific, [M]easurable, [A]ction-oriented, [R]easonable, and [T]ime-bound.

So if you’ve decided to follow the above, you should have at least a goal and maybe multiple goals for this year…ones that you can get done, ones about which you are passionate and committed.

Congratulations, now you’re being proactive and putting yourself in the best possible position to succeed.

What now?

I’m assuming with all of the above, you’ve written things down. If not, that’s step one. Commit the goal to paper, not just a digital file. Print it out. Put it where you can see both it and the final and interim deadlines you’ve set.

I recommend taping it somewhere you frequently visit. It might be your workstation, it could be on your fridge. But put it somewhere you’ll look often.

If you have either a paper or digital calendar/planner, then put the dates and deadlines in there as well.

Writing down your goal makes it more real. And it’s time to get really real.

Track your progress.

Any time you accomplish an interim step, mark that down as well. Then celebrate. Find a way. It can be something small or large. It might be downloading that song you’ve been wanting or buying a book. It could be taking a nap. That’s up to you but recognize it and pat yourself on the back.

Allow yourself to fail.

If you don’t meet a deadline, do not berate yourself. Set another deadline. Sometimes life gets in the way. Appreciate both the effort you took to set the goal and the progress you made. Recognize how much farther along you are than if you hadn’t set the goal. Get up. Go again. Accomplish and celebrate even harder.

Figure out if you need accountability partners or maybe even a coach. Only you can figure out what works for you. And if you’re not moving as you feel you could, then do a mid-course correction – modify the goal or ask someone to be there to hold you accountable. And this is important…decide how much accountability you need. Some people need strict deadlines where those will completely shut some people down. Some people just need gentle encouragement and support. You’ll discover whether you work better with a stick or a carrot. Remember, this is about you.

Remember the journey. It’s not about the mile markers and meeting them. It’s about getting to where you want to be. Forget about checklists. Remember the why of this. Why are doing this or wanting to do it? That should be your motivation, not just blowing through. Slow down and be deliberate.

Be honest. If you need to be more aggressive, do it. If you need to be less aggressive, do that as well. This is about you and no one else. If you discover that this really isn’t that important to you then quit. But be honest. If it is important and you’re just not moving as quickly as you’d like, either try and figure out why or enlist a colleague, friend, or coach to help you.

Remember…you can’t do everything. That’s the reason for priorities! Maybe you simply have too much on your plate right now. I’m at a different stage of life right now than you. It might be easier for me or it might be easier for you. See if you can eliminate other things that are in your way. If not, then maybe the universe isn’t saying “no” to your goals but “not now.”

Remember to manage expectations. Expect your best but be realistic in what you can handle.

Be prepared for the unexpected. Yes, this is a contradiction. You can’t expect a specific unexpected event but you can expect that something unexpected will happen. It just will. That’s the way life works. Be prepared for something to knock you out of the water. Allow yourself some grace, put your swimmies back on, and climb back into that pool and start paddling.

Remember to always support others as they try to accomplish their dreams and goals. This isn’t a competition. Everyone can win. You do no one any good by wanting someone to fail to make you look better. And you do yourself no good. Practice good ju-ju to others as you would have them practice good ju-ju to you. This is the golden ju-ju rule.

Okay, now you’re ready.

But what, you say, if this isn’t the way I work? What if I’m just not a goal setter? Am I deficient in some way.

Absolutely not. You may work a completely different way and there’s nothing wrong with that. But that, my dear friend, is the next post.

Namaste, y’all,

Passionate SMART Goals

January 6, 2017

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

So here we are, a snowy Friday on the farm.

We’ve decided which area(s) of our life in which we’d like to move forward in 2017. We’ve taken time to feel, to allow ourselves to go in the directions of our passions. We’ve visualized what it feels like to move forward with a goal and what it will feel like when accomplished. We’ve taken time to visualize how we can integrate such an important, passionate goal into our life in 2017.

Basically, we’re in the starting blocks and ready to run the race.

What now?

Now it’s time to go to work.

You’ll have to figure out what works for you but I use a Passion Planner (no, I am not sponsored, nor compensated by Passion Planner, I just love their stuff) and love their concise method of setting SMART goals. Of course SMART is an acronym for: specific, measurable, action-oriented, reasonable, and time-bound.

Let’s take those one at a time.

Specific – Sometimes our goals are admirable, but they’re just too general or too abstract. For example, lots of people say they want to be in better shape for the new year. Great! But what does that mean? It’s a great concept but there’s no energy because there is no focus, there is no articulable goal.

What about…I want to write more in the new year. Yes, a great goal. But more than what? More than last year? More than last week?

Let’s get specific. I’m working on a novel and I’ve been working on it for awhile. I want 2017 to be my year. So my first specific goal is to have my novel ready for beta readers by the first day of autumn, 2017. That’s pretty specific. I want it in a form where it’s ready to be sent out. That means I’ll go through another draft or two, do some polishing and be ready to hit “send” by that date. As one of my former mentors, Rane Arroyo, loved to say, “specific is terrific!” Corny? Yep. But I’ve never forgotten it and it’s true. Get specific. Specificity brings action and passion to the party.

Measurable – Is that measurable? Yes. There is a specific amount that needs to be done. Let’s take the first example again, getting in better shape for the new year. What if, instead, you said, I want to lose 15 pounds by first day of summer, 2017. That’s measurable. Going back to writing. What if you said, I want to have 250 pages written by the end of the year. Measurable? You bet. Specific. Yes. You have a target and you can tell whether you have met it or not. That brings energy to the party.

Action-oriented – This just means you must be doing something to achieve your goal. If you’re going to lose 15 pounds or write 250 pages, it’s not going to happen without you taking action and being active during your goal period. Action is passion in motion. There is energy in action. You’re being proactive and not waiting for the universe or the muses. While others are waiting, you’re going to work.

Reasonable – Okay, this one is a killer. Passion is vital, is critical to anything we do. However, we want to lead with both our heart and our head. Whatever it is you want to do, it has to be possible. If you shoot unreasonably high, you’ll become discouraged quickly and, in a lot of cases, give up entirely. So, using the above examples, are we being reasonable?

If you want to lose 15 pounds by the first day of summer, well, you have approximately 23 weeks until mid-June. Experts recommend that a healthy weight loss can be between somewhere between 1 and 1.5 pounds a week. So if my math serves me right, losing 15 pounds in 23 weeks is about 2/3 pound a week, on average, which is about half of what is recommended. That’s very doable. It also allows for weeks where you lose a pound or two and weeks you don’t. Basically, you want to lose 3 pounds a month. You got this.

How about the writing? 250 pages sound like a lot and it is. But there are about 51 weeks left in the year. So that works out to just under 5 pages a week. If you take weekends off, that’s a page a day. Can you do that? If you really want to. And you’ll have days you’ll write 2-5 pages which will cover should you have days on which you can’t write. Just make sure you get in about 20 pages a month. Again, you got this.

Time bound – If you look at the above we have articulable, measurable, time bound goals. What does time bound do? We have air all around us but there is little pressure to it. What if we put that air into a balloon? Now it’s compressed and pressured and is making something beautiful. Deadlines and accountability bring the tension necessary to get us up off our duffs and working. They also allow us to celebrate as we get things done by our deadlines. Never underestimate the value of a good celebration.

So your homework for today and through the weekend is to set your goal or goals. Write them down. Then take each one and make sure it’s a SMART goal by going down the list and write down how it’s specific, measurable, action-oriented, reasonable, and time bound. Have fun. Dream. Make sure whatever you put down is something about which you are passionate. Make sure it’s your goal.

We’ll continue on Monday with some thoughts as you begin your journey in owning 2017, owning your year, and owning your life.

Namaste, y’all,

Getting Serious about Owning Your Life

January 4, 2017

“Often when you think you are at the end of something, you are at the beginning of something else.” ~ Fred Rogers

New year! Yes!

New dreams? Maybe. Maybe not.

How many of our “resolutions” seem to repeat themselves?

And they repeat themselves, a lot of the time, because we’ve not made any progress.

So the first thing we’re going to do is to take a moment to ponder why. Sometimes we don’t accomplish things we set out simply because they really aren’t that important to us. Oh maybe they are in the abstract, but when you get right down to it, they aren’t a priority in the overall scheme of our lives. And that’s okay. It’s time to be honest with ourselves and jettison those goals, at least for now. I have a checklist of things to do and if I don’t get some done after a period of time, I ask myself why. And if the answer is, well, they aren’t as important as most everything else, I take them off my list. It’s okay. This is a part of growth.

Also, take time to ask yourself if these are really YOUR goals, or if you believe they should be your goals. Do they arise from your own passion or from your desire to please others? If it’s the former, keep reading. If they are the latter, jettison them and let’s move on to getting you closer to being truly you. It’s okay. You’re receiving full absolution here.

Sometimes, we want certain goals to be a priority but they just can’t be right now. Life is happening all around us and we’ve got to deal with that. So maybe we didn’t accomplish last year because life blew us out of the water. Maybe we’re ready now. Maybe it will be later. Don’t compare yourself with others. Understand your life stage and what you can do now. We’ll do the other stuff later. Remember that “not now” is totally different than “no.”

Another reason we don’t accomplish is because we’re just not set up to. We want to. It’s a passion of ours but we’re not sure how to start, we’re fearful of starting, we’re fearful of failing, whatever. In other words, we know it’s a priority, that it comes from a place of passion and desire, but we’re at a loss. Those goals hurt the most because at the beginning of a new year, we know we are called to do these things but whap ourselves with the guilt bat for not having the wherewithal to move forward.

So today’s homework is to take the last assignment, the area(s) of your life you’ve identified, in which you wish to accomplish something this year and let’s set a goal. If you haven’t identified it/those yet, do that first. Again, begin with one or as many as you feel you can handle depending upon past success rates.

Now, slow down.

Think about the goal and reflect upon it. Is it something new or is it something you’ve tried before but haven’t made it?

If it’s new, then there will be pure passion surrounding it. That’s just the nature of newness. That passion will be like kindling. It will get the flame started but will not sustain the goal. That’s why so many fail. More on this in Friday’s post.

If it’s an older, unaccomplished goal, that’s fine. But before we start, in light of the above, ask yourself how important it really is. If it’s not really that important to you, then let it go. Just let it go and be proud you are brave enough to realize this and to take action. If, however, the goal is really important and you really want to accomplish it, the passion will come, once you forgive yourself for all failed attempts.

Yep. That’s right. I said forgive yourself. Fully. Totally. Unconditionally. Practice the same lovingkindness you extend to others to yourself. Total forgiveness. We’re beginning anew.
Do you have more than one goal for this area? Fine, name all of them. But again, only be as aggressive as you feel comfortable and follow the same guidelines as above.

So, now we’ve identified a life area or areas we want to move forward in in 2017. And now we’ve identified a goal or goals important to us.


Well, I just want you to use the next couple of days to visualize. Visualize what it feels like to be moving forward with this specific goal. Visualize what it will be like when you accomplish it. Visualize how the work will be integrated into your current life and, perhaps, how your current life might have to be adjusted to accommodate this new goal.

Do that for the next couple of days. On Friday, we’re going to get serious and begin to make a plan to make it happen. Are you with me?

Let’s do this. Own this day. Own this week. Own this year. Own your life.

Namaste, y’all,

Welcome to 2017! Now what?

January 2, 2017

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watts

Welcome to 2017!

If you believe the consensus of those on social media, good riddance to 2016 and here’s to a new and different 2017.

But how will it be different?

As we have quoted, many times, an age-old adage…there are things you can control and those you can’t. A secret to life is to control those within your control and let go of those you can’t.

So while a lot of the bad in 2016 was outside of our control, I believe some of our wishing away of the year deals with the external, uncontrollable, sucking the life energy from us such that we couldn’t effectively move forward with the things we could control.

Now, a new year….

So what is it you’d like to do this year? I’m not a big believer in resolutions, as least in how they normally operate but I’m a huge believer in goal setting. I sit down each year and make goals in different areas of life. Now remember, I’m a coach and I’m not telling you what you should do. I’m just telling you what I do and might take some ideas and find the ways that work best for you. Here is the way I do it.

Zig Ziglar once said, “If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time.” So, let’s aim for something. Some areas I want to accomplish things in this year are – family/home/relationships, spirituality and growth, writing, photography, health and fitness, professional development. It’s likely some of my list might overlap with yours but then again, that’s not important.

For my next few posts I’m going to take you, a step at a time, in setting a goal and then putting a plan into place.

For today’s homework, name one or more areas in which you’d like to accomplish things this year. If you are an experienced planner and goal setter, I’d recommend naming up to six and, as I did above, you can combine some with similar objectives.

However, if the idea of goal setting gives you the heebie-jeebies, then just name one. Find one area of your life you’d like to get something done for 2017.

Remember…we’re not setting the goal today. We’re just identifying the area(s) of your life for which you’d like to get something accomplished, okay? Make it fun. Make it easy on yourself. If you’re a little intimidated, start small. You can always add more later.

Okay, Happy Monday, all. We’re going to make this year better by working in the areas over which we have control. We’re going to get some important things done. And you get to decide what those important things are.

Namaste, y’all,

Building a social media platform

August 30, 2016

Are you horrified to learn that a huge part of being a successful author is by growing your social media? It’s your my role to advertise, promote and sell books. It’s down to you to cre…

Source: Building a social media platform

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