The Cult of Social Media

Frustrated Woman Using Laptop

“Not everyone can be a hero. There are more people who need to be saved.” -Anonymous

My fourteen-year-old daughter videotapes me. I am dancing and singing to the latest hip hop tune on the radio. She quickly uploads the video to Snapchat and labels it, “My Mom is Silly.” She giggles as she plays it back for me. When I fail to protest against the post, she deletes it. “Why did you do that?” I ask. “I want to be the most popular mom on Snapchat.”

She shakes her phone at me. “No, you don’t.”

I laugh, but inside I feel like my father. He wanted fame and fortune for his four daughters, but he didn’t get it. He taught us to dream big; not knowing our dreams would leave us orphans living ordinary lives.

But with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and other social media, everyone is entitled to their daily shot at fame and for some, even fortune. Everyone has a chance to be a hero. Everyone has a chance to save the world with a few clicks at the keyboard. Suddenly you are the star of your own show, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have enough followers to inflate your ego for weeks at a time…or at least until your next post.

With all of this power comes the threat of loss of privacy, loss of intimacy, and the loss of self. Some video bloggers record everything about their day from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. Sure, those 12 hours may be edited to last only 15 minutes, but those 15 minutes shared are now owned by the viewer, whether it’s one person or one million people.

My daughter values her privacy. That’s why she only uses Snapchat with the hopes that the 30 second videos that disappear shortly after being posted are truly deleted from the Internet and won’t resurface three years later when she’s applying for college or a job.

As a middle-aged parent, I understand her concern and her guardedness, but as an author and a public speaker, I can’t afford anonymity. I can’t “save face” as my father always preached. I have to show my face whether or not what I’ve done is shameful or glorious. It’s part of the job.

We sometimes forget the public doesn’t need to know everything, especially when we are sitting in the comfort of our living room posting our thoughts and feelings for the world to see. It gives us a sense of belonging that temporarily erases the loneliness of our increasingly solitary lives.

But is social media the panacea to our isolation? And does it truly replace the intimacy we crave?

We go online for everything from shopping to information, but we go offline to live. It’s in those moments of being face to face with another human being that we get a chance to express what we hold in our hearts to be true: our irreplaceable uniqueness is what makes us sympathetic and real.

Believe and Achieve

2015 Believe

Sometimes when we are stuck in our careers or our life, we need help.

Last year, after a frustrating summer, I fell into a slump. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life. At this late stage of the game, I had thought I would be a stay-at-home wife and mother who wrote and published books to supplement my husband’s income. My life was very different. I was a full-time professional with a husband who primarily took care of the children while managing his computer business. I had little time to be a wife and a mother. I had even less time for writing and painting. Often I had no time at all.

In October, I sought the help of a local psychic, Jan Kucker. She read my energy and said, “Your guides are turning away from the past and facing the future. Your life is going to dramatically change.”

My life didn’t change instantaneously. Jan had given me homework to do. I was to start believing I was worthy of receiving all the good things I was so willing to give to others. I had to start accepting the gifts the universe wanted to give me. The first step was to believe I deserved to receive!

Believing was something I reserved for others. I believed in God, my husband, my children, even my staff members. But I never stopped to consider whether or not I believed in myself.

I had been in a habit of doing: writing, rewriting, querying, and submitting story after story. Doing is one thing. Believing is another. I had to create a habit of believing.

Like a good student, I started on my homework. Jan was right. Once I started believing, I started achieving. Two weeks later, my manuscript won the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest!

You can spend your entire life focused on the work you have to do. But if you do not believe you are worth the fruits of your labor, your efforts will be lost.

You have to believe to achieve. Yes, doing the work is half the journey but you won’t finish the journey if you don’t believe you can.

Look in the mirror and say, “I am worthy of receiving,” then go out into the world with your arms wide open and let good things come to you.

Obtaining Permission

2011-07-04_21-43-21_542

As part of my publishing contract, I am responsible for obtaining permission to quote copyrighted material.

At first, I debated whether or not I wanted to rewrite my manuscript omitting any references to copyrighted material. But after reading the selection over and over again, I decided to go through the process of obtaining permission.

In the manuscript, my mother and my sisters are rebelling against my father’s mandate to live in isolation. My mother, in particular, yearns to experience the freedom of friendships outside of work and home. She starts to sing “American Pie” and my sisters and I join her. The song is iconic of an era. It captures the mood of the scene, defines the chapter, and colors the entire book with its flavor.

I started my research by contacting the singer, Don McLean, who directed me to United Artists who directed me to Hal Leonard Corporation. Over a period of two months of negotiations, the corporation and I finally reached an agreement on the terms and conditions in which I could use a few lines of the lyric to “American Pie” in exchange for payment. Yes, I paid money for the right to quote a few lines from a song and I feel it was worth it.

Not every writer is willing or able to buy the right to reprint copyrighted material either because the copyright holder is unwilling to extend the right or a writer is unwilling to pay the price. A mutual agreement must be made.

In the event someone wants to quote from one of my books in the future, I will be in the position to negotiate the terms of the agreement. I can offer permission to use the quote for free, for a set dollar amount, or a percentage of the gross or net sales, or any other terms and conditions which are mutually agreeable. Until then, I will continue to be cognizant of what quotes I use in future works and diligent about obtaining permission.

Unveiling the Cover

Here is a sneak peek at the cover of my memoir:

Book Cover

Here is a sneak peek at the “ghost cover” I did not choose:

Ghost Cover

The quote will eventually be replaced with an excerpt of Amanda Zieba’s endorsement. Amanda is the author of Breaking the Surface and the Orphan Train Rider Series. To read more about why I chose the cover I did, visit my blog post, “Beyond Words”.

100 Years of Memories

Photo courtesy of Ed Turpin
Photo courtesy of Ed Turpin

I was honored to be one of several women who read excerpts from Suzanne Sherman’s book 100 Years in the Life of an American Girl to help celebrate the launch of a new series of books chronicling the lives of American females. The first book in the series features stories from girls around the age of thirteen sharing what it was like to grow up in each decade from 1900 to 2000.

The event was held in the main dining room of the French Garden Restaurant in Sebastopol. Photographs from the book were presented in a slide show while music from each decade filled the room. Guests enjoyed champagne, sparkling water, and orange juice while listening to Suzanne share her insights into each decade. Each reader presented a snippet of their stories to a rapt audience.

My story about growing up in the shadow of the American Dream was a prelude to my book-length memoir that will be released later this year.

For those who missed the event, Suzanne will be hosting other readings in the future. You may also purchase a book either directly from Suzanne’s website or through Amazon.

Experience History!

Come celebrate 100 Years in the Life of an American Girl on Saturday January 10, 2:00 – 4:00 at the French Garden Restaurant, 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol.

This is not your average book launch party! Bring your family!

* Listen to readers featured in the book from every decade, with stories of girlhood (before age 13) from throughout a century.

* Hear music from the 1920s through the 1990s — from Scott Joplin to Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson to Taylor Swift!

* Taste treats you’ll remember — or discover them for the first time! There will be candies popular since the 1920s, like Walnettos and Mary Jane’s, and candies from more recent times, like Pop Rocks and Nerds!

* Toys from the twentieth century are still fun! Try your hand again at jacks or Barrel of Monkeys — it’s been awhile, right? Slinky and Silly Putty will be here too, to laugh about and play with.

* Buy your author-signed copy of the book, for yourself and for friends and family.

For more information on how you can make history in the next 100 Years book series, visit Suzanne Sherman’s website.

A Look Ahead to 2015

Inspire Banner

“A goal is nothing more than a dream with a deadline.” Napoleon Hill

Usually I take a moment to set goals for the upcoming year. However, after a grueling year of too much work and not enough play and too much stress and not enough relaxation, the last thing I want to do is endure another set of to-dos on top of the ones I already have outlined for me by others.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have any goals or dreams or New Year’s Resolutions. It means I don’t want to commit to the same structure I have been accustomed to using. No list on the back of the front door with each task clearly marked with a deadline. No dream boards floating above my keyboard. It’s already too much having a calendar clearly marked with essential items to complete, both professionally and personally, each day of the year.

But if I look at my overall goals, they boil down into two general categories: professional and personal. My professional goals can be further broken down into my different jobs and what I hope to accomplish from each this year. My personal goals can be broken down into my interpersonal relationships, my spiritual relationships, and my relationship with myself.

In my writing life, I would like to find an appropriate publisher for my sweet romance, Just Juliet, and I would like to have a successful launch for my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck. I’m not committing to any other writing projects at the moment, although I have plenty to tackle if I decide to change my mind.

In my personal life, I would like to express my appreciation through each interaction I have, no matter how brief or seemingly insignificant each encounter might be. I feel it’s imperative that I take each thought, action, and feeling both with the curiosity and joy of a newborn and the gravity and depth of someone near death for it is only through an awareness of the ephemeral that we may touch upon the eternal.

How are you approaching 2015? Click on the “Comment” next to the title and a box will appear for you to express your thoughts. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

2014, a Retrospective

As the end of the year winds down with the upcoming holidays, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the goals I had set for 2014.

Continue to write for national and international magazines
. Although I queried and submitted numerous articles and essays this year, none of them resulted in a sale.

Find an agent. My quest for an agent led to a request for a point-of-view rewrite of my crime novel. I am still struggling on how to restructure a 100,000 word story originally told from six rotating points of view into a coherent narrative told from the point-of-view of the antagonist. I have currently set the project aside after a couple of false starts to determine the direction I want to take to satisfy both the agent and the creative process.

Paint. I’ve successfully managed to complete a handful of new paintings this year. I entered the National Arts Program, but missed the deadline to submit entries to the Harvest Fair. Next year, I plan to continue painting and possibly pursue any additional opportunities related to the visual arts.

Dance. I did not manage to find a dance studio that met the times I was available to dance. I have, however, successfully completed my rehabilitation program with Dr. Caleb Ridgway and am scheduled to run several races in 2015.

Work less, play more. Unfortunately, I encountered several plot twists in my life that required I work much more and play much less. Since every time I plan a goal of finding a way to work only one job to support my family, it always seems to lead to working several jobs to keep up with just the regular bills, I’ve decided to dream big and wish for a windfall that will eliminate all financials worries. In the meantime, I’ll continue working as many jobs as I can to earn as much as my family needs.

Greatest surprise of 2014? Winning the Memoir Discovery Contest sponsored by She Writes Press and Serendipity Literary Agency.

Did you meet your goals for 2014? Do you have any goals set for 2015?

How Many Manuscripts?

Stack of Library Books

I’ve been asked by several readers to list my manuscripts and what the status is regarding each of them.

NATIVE AMERICAN CRIME NOVEL SERIES:

Red Man’s Fall – A Wapi medicine man falls in love with a white woman from Las Vegas who has been hired to increase Vine Valley Casino’s profits. Out to agents.

Red Man’s Mercy – The future of the Wapi tribe is at stake after Chief Hank Hidden Hawk mysteriously dies, leaving the tribe $8 billion in debt to a foreign investor. Withdrawn from market.

The Little Indian Girl – An outcast of the Wapi tribe returns to fulfill a prophesy, but will her help be mistaken for vengeance? To be rewritten for agent representation.

SWEET ROMANCES (Something appropriate for grandmothers, mothers, and teen daughters to read):

The Backup Boyfriend – When a celebrity girlfriend starts to fall for an ordinary man, she must decide what’s more important—having a famous boyfriend or a real relationship. To be rewritten.

Just Juliet (formerly Happily Ever After) – A recovering romance addict discovers true love with the help of a wise nun and a savvy teenager. In negotiations for a publishing contract.

MEMOIR:

Red Eggs and Good Luck – A preteen Chinese-American Catholic girl discovers the limits of luck and the power of prayer in the Bay Area of the late seventies and early eighties. To be published October 2015 by She Writes Press.