Category Archives: Business

Making Wishes

Yesterday I was working on a REALLY long, intense, detailed job application for a position at an organization that I deeply respect and would love to support.

The position had my name all over it. It was perfect. I’ve been wanting to work with or for this organization for a couple of years now and seeing the job posting made me think, “This is it. This is the moment.”

But… I’d been working on putting my application packet together for two days and I wasn’t any closer to finishing it. I was frustrated and annoyed and kept finding ways to procrastinate actually doing the work. And the worst part was, I wasn’t even procrastinating in productive ways. My overabundant garden delivered another 5 quarts of cucumbers, gallon of yellow squash, bushel of onions, trough of beets, bucket of hot peppers and a few boats worth of Zucchini. Not to mention the tomatoes, the apples, the beans, the cabbage, the edible wildflowers…

But I wasn’t processing any of that for storage, I was dinking around on facebook and twitter. I wasn’t finishing any of the 5 promised posts that are currently waiting to go up in this space. I was just moping and delaying and feeling guilty about it. I was spiraling and I couldn’t figure out why.

I called my mom. (Yes, even 35-year-olds sometimes need to call their mom and kvetch.) She gave me the “Honey, the universe is on your side, you just have to decide what you want from it.” speech – which, okay great, but how does that help me NOW? (Yes, I was feeling petulant.)

So, I cornered my hubby (Sorry hubby.) and vented (exploded) at him.

I listed all of the things I felt like I needed to be doing and all of the things I wanted to be doing and asked how in the world I was supposed to make any of it happen.

I lamented the amount of time this application was taking, because I had OTHER SHIT I needed/wanted to do with my time. (Which was why I was on facebook and twitter instead of busting out the application… Can you say “self-sabotage”?)

We talked about what I REALLY wanted and, finally lightning struck.

I wasn’t finishing the application because… I didn’t want the job.

Yes, it’s a great organization, and yes, I want to support them, but when I picture my life 5 years from now, I am not hustling money from behind a desk – I am dancing in a kitchen and sharing awesome food with incredible people. (Incredible food with awesome people?) and getting paid to read (edit) and write books.

So…

To the point of this post, now that you all have the back story.

I’d like to make a couple of wishes, and I’m asking out loud because maybe some of you can help me make them come true.

I wish that sometime in the next three months I’d get hired to cook a fabulous brunch feast for a group of wonderful people who enjoy good food.

I wish that I’d get hired at least once a month to create custom, exotic regional and international feasts for small groups of travel minded people who are missing a taste of their favorite place. (Or homesick transplants who are missing the flavor of home.)

I wish that I would finish designing and printing my jam labels so they look professional and gorgeous when I sell them to my Colorado folk. (I still need to check into the legality of selling them across state lines because they are made in my home kitchen for now.)

Jams and jellies by Kitchen Bravada

Stay tuned, more flavors are on the way!

I wish that I would give myself the time and space to get back to food blogging once a week, or at least once a month for goodness sake. (Hey, maybe if some of you follow me over there it’ll help encourage that!)

I wish that sometime in the next 6 months one of my out-of-state friends would hire me to cook for one of their events. (Hint, the cooking is free if you cover the airfare and let me crash on your couch while I’m there!)

I wish that one year from now I have enough die-hard clients and supportive friends that when I announce my kickstarter to get either a food truck or a commercial kitchen to expand my offerings it succeeds.

I wish to get hired by some new to home gardening urbanites to help them process and store their harvest bounty before the snows come.

And next year, I hope to get hired to consult some urban gardeners as they get started so that I can keep them from making the same mistakes I’ve made.

In the meantime, I wish to have enough editing clients to keep me in books. ­čÖé

In short, I wish to make enough money doing what I love and sharing it with the world that I can keep doing what I love and sharing it with the world.

(And for the record, I wish the same for all of you.)

Last, I wish that anyone who thinks that youth deserve access to comprehensive, inclusive, evidence based sexual health education please stop by Colorado Youth Matter and donate what you can. They’re a great organization and they work really hard to help the youth of Colorado get this vital need met, and since I won’t be working for them after all, this ask is the least I can do.

And now, I’m heading back to the kitchen, using Feminist Frequency as my soundtrack.

I’ve got a whole heap of summer veggies to store for the winter.

harvest time

One Week’s Harvest.
Help!

6 Comments

Filed under Business, Marketing, Naive idealism, Things that work

Fear, Damn Fear. Thanks. And an Announcement

I know that to those of you who read this blog on the regular will probably call bullshit on this next statement – but… That doesn’t make it any less true.

I play my cards pretty close to the chest.

Despite my “Live Large! Live Life Out Loud!” chest thumping, saber-rattling, and ROARs to the contrary – I’ve been keeping a really important piece of myself buried and hidden and “protected” for… longer than I care to admit.

Don’t get me wrong, I live life pretty large, and I’m pretty damn true to myself. But there are a few places, the most dear places, that I’ve let fear win.

There are certain passions I’ve had, certain dreams – the ones that meant the very most to me, the ones I hold closest, that I’ve been afraid to live out loud.

There are lots of reasons for this. And I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one.

So – in an effort to reach out to anyone else who is on the path that I’m stepping off, I want to take just a moment to talk about some of MY whys.

I hid these loves, these passions, these things that make me tearful happy because…

fear is a liar

I was afraid that they weren’t worthy things. I was afraid that if I shared them out loud I would be told that my dreams weren’t good enough for me – that I needed to reach higher, stretch further. That anything that was this easy and brought me this much joy couldn’t be the thing I did, because we’re supposed to WORK for it, struggle for it, suffer for it.

I was afraid that if I took something that brought me so much joy and turned it into a JOB, it would kill the joy and take away the deep down, soul quenching fulfillment that I got from it.

I was afraid that if I tried… I might fail and that would CRUSH me. Because… If you fail at your biggest, deepest, truest dream… Well, what’s left? Just sorrow and regret and pain, right?

Well fuck all of that.

So – some thanks to the people who have helped me get past that load of fears.

Erika Napoletano aka RedHead Writing, who WAY back in July wrote a post where she admitted that she too had allowed herself to get stuck in a rut that was leading her away from what she loved, and announcing her intention of getting out of that rut and back to the things that filled her soul. That post woke up something inside me and sent me searching deep inside myself for my greatest truths. They were well hidden. It took a while.

Along the way, I got additional encouragement from Amanda Fucking Palmer, who also lives her life out loud. The ups, the downs, the dreams, the attempts and failures, the getting back up and dusting yourself off and trying again. And again. And who recently said something along the lines of “If I’d waited until it was perfect, I never would have done it.” She was talking about a poem she had written that she’d gotten a ton of shit for, death threats even. She felt it, wrote it, hit publish on her blog and BOOM! HATE!! But also LOVE. And it made me realize that so many of us spend so much time waiting for the right moment – to have kids, to ask for a raise or a promotion, to quit our soul sucking job and do the thing we REALLY love, to propose, to take a bike ride, to… Do the things that make us happy. We wait. How stupid is that?

Why are we waiting to be happy?

happiness

Happy Making

Neil Gaiman – who aside from being THAT Neil Gaiman is also Amanda’s husband. Who told us all exactly how to live life, and in my opinion, nailed it. “Make Good Art.

A guy named Blake Morgan who argued with a teacher on career day when she cautioned students interested in becoming artists that they better have a Plan B. in case art didn’t pan out. He told the students, “Unfortunately, in one way or another the world is going to tell you every day that you shouldn’t try to be an artist. But for three minutes here today, I want to tell you that you should. I hope you do it. With everything you have. I hope you don’t listen to those other voices. I hope instead you listen to your own. That voice from inside you that guided you here today. I hope you go for it, with abandon and furious joy, and that you do so without a Plan B.” As he said, we don’t tell engineers or accountants or doctors to have a plan B, we tell them to bust their asses and do what it takes and expect success in exchange for their effort.

So – those are the strangers who helped me reclaim myself.

But… I also owe thanks to a few of you. First – Juan, who won a jar of my Cherry Jalapeno Jam forever ago and sent me an email telling me I should go commercial and sell it next to the ice cream! And who helped shine a light on the buried dream waiting to be rediscovered. (Please click on his name and check out his blog. He has some deep thoughts going on over there.)

Sweet spicy jam

Cherry Jalapeno Jam

My friend Meagan, who I consider to be one of my dearest friends even though we have never met in person. She is a fount of encouragement and connectedness and awesome. And who I hope to have the chance to host soon.

Melissa Fabello, who caught my eye as a remarkably astute feminist speaker and writer, and then made the happy mistake of asking twitter if any home jam makers out there felt like sending her a jar. (Or three, and counting…) And who always celebrates when she gets a new flavor and tells me the ways she’s enjoying it. (Pineapple lime marmalade in a stir fry!)

My husband, who has supported me through so many dreams, so many false starts, and who, when I asked him about this said, “Of course!” as in, “DUH! What took you so long!” but with ALL the LOVE. And who has been tirelessly supporting and encouraging me ever since and making sure that I make at least a little progress every day. (He also helps beat back the fear demons when they threaten to swallow me up and paralyze me.)

My awesome, amazing friends and family who echoed my husband when I told them the new plan.

My kids who know the way to my heart is to tell me you like my food, and ask for seconds – and who have been doing so enthusiastically for many years now, and who ask at least once a week when I’m going to start a restaurant. (And who fill me to bursting by requesting home-made sushi dinner and Ethiopian feasts for their birthdays!)

sushi dinner

Sushi Night at our house

All of the people who have made special food requests, who take me up on my twitter invites to dinner, who tell me that they visit from out of state just for my food (and the kids are cute too) – The people who have known all along that making wonderful, exotic, fun, flavorful food and sharing it is my One True Thing and who have been waiting *mostly* patiently for ME to figure it out.

And now… The big announcement.

While I am not (yet) starting a restaurant, I am taking the first step in that direction with my new business.

Kitchen Bravada – a personal chef service. “Bringing a taste of the world to your table.”

kitchen bravada

An invitation to share my passion with you.

The website is up in a preliminary form – but as Amanda said, if I wait until it is perfect to launch, I will never launch. And I am tired of waiting to follow my dream. I am tired of living Plan B.

I will still be keeping my ranty pants on here – talking politics and books and feminism and social justice and editing, because those are big important parts of me too – but I’ll be also be playing over at Kitchen Bravada. (Where I hope to get that blog updated more regularly now that I’m launched!)

I have also done my research and discovered that I can sell my jams and jellies in Colorado under the Cottage Foods Act, so I am looking into scaling up my production this spring and summer and offering those to Colorado clients along with my cooking services. In the meantime, I am experimenting with new flavors and testing them on anyone who will let me.

So – if you’re in Colorado* and need a personal chef for a special event or party, or you thought you needed a caterer, but want something more personal and custom – Look me up.

If you hear of someone who might need my services, please pass on my name and website.

And, if you know me and have enjoyed my cooking in the past and want to send over a testimonial – well, I already love you if I’ve fed you, but I’ll love you even more (if that’s possible)!

*If you’re not in Colorado, but you want to pay for me to travel to you to cook… Well, let’s just say I find it very hard to turn down plane tickets…

Here’s to a great 2014 – to slaying fear – and to REALLY, TRULY living our dreams out loud! May you all find the courage, strength and support to say YES to your happiness!

14 Comments

Filed under Business, Marketing, Naive idealism, Things that work

The GREAT BIG Catch Up Post

Holy heck with a wooden spoon.

It’s been a busy couple of months.

In the last 6 weeks I’ve attended 4 conferences/conventions (henceforth referred to as cons). I presented at one of them, moderated at another and learned a ton at all of them.

The first con was back in September. One of my all time favorite conferences – Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers – Colorado Gold conference.

RMFW Gold

RMFW Gold

This was the first year that I did not submit pages to be critiqued or pitch a book to an agent – in the past those two features were the main reasons I attended. This year though, I was presenting 3 workshops including one 4 hour master class on social media for authors.

I also taught my Sex in Young Adult lit class and a new Feminism in Young Adult lit class.

Over all it was an awesome con. I’ve come to expect greatness from this group, and I haven’t been disappointed yet. I got to see lots of old friends, mingle with new friends and help the great Mario Acevedo bar tend in the hospitality suite. Because I wasn’t pitching or being critiqued, I had a little more free time – and free brain power – so, of course, I started writing a new middle grade children’s book while I was there. It’s a story that has been percolating for about a year, but this year one of the workshops I attended, taught by the fabulous Angie Hodapp, drew it out of me and got the ink flowing. I’m excited – BUT…

Before I could get too far into it, the con was over and I went home to unpack, do laundry, re-pack and board a plane for the 2nd con.

This was Catalyst Con – a sex-geeky con held out in California (and again on the East Coast in the spring).

I was attending as part of my new career path into sexual health education.

TristanT

Tristan Taormino

I was able to attend a full day sex educator boot camp taught by none other than Tristan Taormino herself! I took pages and pages of notes, made some good connections, exchanged a bajillion business cards and then… the actual con started!

The next two days were filled with lessons on inclusivity, teaching consent, reaching audiences who are less sex-positive than the #ccon crowd – how to talk to people who think that “sex-positive” means “sluts who have ALL the sex” instead of “people who believe sex is a natural, normal part of human existence and that all people deserve to be educated about it so they can make healthy choices that add pleasure to their lives.”

I learned about teaching gender creative youth, LGBTQ issues, feminism in porn (from both sides – the side that creates feminist porn AND the side that says there’s no such thing!)

I attended panels about talking to youth about sex and sexuality and panels on branding and marketing.

There was rarely a moment that I didn’t wish that I could be in two (sometimes three) sessions at once – but because of the brilliant planning of the #ccon crew – and the engagement and participation of the con attendees, each panel had its own active twitter hashtag and so often I would be live tweeting my panel while interacting with the other panel(s) that I was “missing” on twitter. I could also go back through the streams to see what I had missed after the fact.

I worked on my non-fiction book and my children’s picture book on the flight home, sketching out new chapter ideas for the non-fiction and working to add more inclusive language to the picture book I finished recently.

Then, I had a couple of weeks at home. They were filled with kids and the hubby and after school classes and a trip to meet the Myth Busters and I don’t remember what all else, just that they were still busy and full.

Next came Mile Hi Con – my favorite geek fest. 3 days of sci-fi, fantasy, cosplay, and general geekery. This year, for the first time, I brought my family. I’ve been wanting to bring them since my first year, but it hasn’t worked out before.

This time, we had no choice. My munchkins were serving on their very first panel! They were scheduled to talk about middle grade sci-fi and fantasy to a room of interested parents and writers.

read this

Recommended Reading for the Younger Set

I was also slated to speak – I was moderating the panel on ending sexism in geek culture.

Mile Hi Con is a different box of frogs when you attend with children. I had always seen the kiddos running around during previous years, and noticed the kid friendly activities scheduled throughout the daylight hours. I had assumed because of that, that MHC was relatively family and child friendly.

I have to say – in reality, it was pretty hit or miss. Some of the youth track facilitators were more than happy to let me drop off my kids – as long as my kids knew where I was going to be and how to find me – which they always did, and as long as I assured them that I was not asking them to babysit, which I wasn’t. My kids, in case you don’t know – rock. We took them on a tour of the con area, made sure they knew where everything was, tested them, and made sure they were comfortable before we even broached the idea of having them attend panels without either myself or the hubby with me. And then, they knew they had to stick together.

I realize that not everyone is aware that children like this exist, so I tried to be understanding of the people who were presenting youth track activities and really did not want there to be any youth in attendance… But, ultimately my sympathy failed when one of the presenters tried to lie about con policy to me. Because, it turns out – I’m literate and the policy was in the brochure I’d been given. Still – I got the message, my kids were not welcome with her. So, we left.┬áNo biggie.

It was fun to see my husband get his geek on. And to see my girls getting to hang out with so many readers and writers.

When that con ended we all went home and then, midway through the next week, I took off again for the last con of the season.

This one was hosted by Colorado Youth Matter and it’s called Raising the Bar. It was my first year attending this con as well – and is also part of my transition to my new career in sexuality education.

This was a short two day con with only 3 sessions and some key notes every day. Which was good – I was semi-brain dead by the time I got there, trying to hold the pieces of the other cons in my mind and keep them straight so that once I really got home for good I’d be able to process (that’d be this) and assimilate (still in progress) and take the knowledge gained forward.

Raising the Bar was a great con in lots of ways – it was small (intimate), focused – it covered topics around teaching healthy sexuality to adolescents, and data heavy, providing lots of good talking points for when I take my fights to the policy makers.

That said, it was (to my mind) lacking something – and that was… diversity. Cory Silverberg, one of the keynotes, describes diversity as representation. And that is the way I mean it. The whole conference felt like a bunch of people preaching to the choir. I wanted some diversity in the positions of the attendees – and perhaps even the presenters. It would have been nice to hear from a superintendent on how hard it is to institute comprehensive sex education, despite laws in support of it, despite the fact that 80% of parents want it and 90% of teens ask for it. What’s the hurdle? I’d like to know.

What was most interesting to me about the conference, was how much fear and nervousness there still was in talking about these topics.

Perhaps it was because I had just come from Catalyst Con which has the feel of a celebration, Raising the Bar felt like we had to whisper in case someone overheard us talking about teaching health to youth and decided to rap our knuckles with a ruler for our audacity.

One of the panels I attended on preventing sexual violence had a preamble/warning statement that lasted over 10 minutes! Many of the other sessions had similarly long introductions┬á filled with cautionary statements, qualifiers, hesitation… It was almost as if the presenters thought they were standing in front of hostile hoards instead of chatting with like-minded educators and advocates.

That said – next time, I hope there are more muggles at the con. I would love to see school board members, superintendents, law makers and policy wonks. Heck, I’d love to see members of the press show up so they would have actual facts to report instead of shock and awe fear mongering. Perhaps then we could sway political opinion enough to drive actual action and get those 80% of parents pushing for real, inclusive, comprehensive sexuality education in schools like they claim to want…

The personal good that came from this con was a new direction for my business – which came from the realization that I’ve been doing it all wrong – but that’s it’s okay because there’s a better, easier, more fun way to do it right.

Also, I got some great encouragement to finish my picture book from Cory Silverberg, one of the keynote speakers and author of perhaps the best book on baby-making for young children that I’ve ever read.

inclusive family making

It’s not just “When a man and a woman fall in love…” anymore. There are lots of ways to create a family now.

So, once I get my inbox cleaned out (which I hoped to accomplish today, but after two months of neglect it turns out it’s at least a 2 day project) I’ll be rebuilding my website, retooling my promotional materials and reaching out to new audiences with my workshops and presentations.

Not to mention finishing that picture book, building the proposal package for my non-fiction book, and continuing my Middle Grade novel. Somewhere in there, I might even find time to finish revising the Young Adult novel I wrote two years ago…

In the meantime, I’ve got got a smooching debt that needs to be settled with my kids and hubby.

Not to mention a bed that’s been missing me…

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Kids, Of Course I'm a Feminist

Making Mistakes and Learning

Growing up, my father always said that if you learned from your mistakes, then you hadn’t truly failed.

As a teen, that was small consolation. As a teen though, life is short, sharp and EVERYTHING seems like a matter of life and death. Small mistakes can kill you – socially, academically, psychologically.

A couple of decades later and I’m getting closer to that zen perspective that mistakes aren’t failures – they’re just lessons along the way.

A year ago I rented an office.

My business was doing well, but I was struggling to maintain the much talked about and ever elusive “work-life balance.”

Are you balanced?

Are you balanced?

I was trying to juggle being a wife, being a mom and being a business owner and sort of sucking at all three. The lines kept blurring.

I thought that perhaps separating my work space from my home space would help.

After all, when I worked for Corporate America, I didn’t have these issues. I woke up as wife/mom, went to work, clocked in, did my time as a corporate worker-bee, clocked out, switched gears in the car and magically transformed back into wife/mom mode.

I thought perhaps the commute did it.

At first, my office was AWESOME! It was everything I wanted.

It gave me room to work, reliable hours to work in, a short bike friendly commute to change hats from my domestic role to my professional role and back again.

It was worth the $$$ I was shelling out.

I was no longer a “work from home mom.”

I finally had hours set aside where I could reliably wear my professional hat, and a cut-off time to switch back into my mom hat.

I could take myself seriously for 6 whole hours a day.

But then… the kids got sick.

One after another. As soon as one got healthy, the other one got sick again. It went on for months.

My hours are more flexible than my husband’s. I can edit any time I want. My profession also, on the surface, seems more like something you could do with kids around.

So… First I tried having the kids come to the office with me, to maintain my “I’m working now” perception of myself.

FAIL!

Small office + child = boredom, even if said child is too sick to think. Especially if said child is too sick to think. Then they want to be entertained!

Next I switched to working from home when the kids were sick, thinking I could plug them into the TV, give them stacks of books – AND, they’d be able to get their own ramen.

FAIL!

I mean, yes – I could do all of the above, but they were still sick kids who needed extra attention. Plus I had this new weird resentment because now my lovely office, that I was paying for, was sitting empty while I nursed a sick kid.

It felt like I was being punished for trying to have a life outside the home.

Finally, everyone got healthy.

I was thrilled to go back to my office.

I was going to work – at last!

I couldn’t wait to clock my first full week.

I managed to get exactly ONE week of work in before the holidays struck and knocked me out for a three full weeks.

Each month after that there was at least one random day off school for no discernible reason, one late start day, at least one emergency at home. And the kids got sick again.

Each week it was a struggle to put in enough hours at the office to make it feel like it was worth the expense.

Today, I started cleaning out my office.

I’m done.

I would have quit sooner, but commercial leases are hard to “fail fast” at. You’re pretty well trapped for the duration.

What did I learn from this “failure”?

What can I take from this moving forward?

First – If you aren’t ready to take yourself seriously – no one else will either. No matter how much you’re spending on rent.
One of the reasons I got this office was so that my family would take me seriously, so that I wouldn’t be the default sick-kid/random day off/home emergency/grocery getter spouse. So that I would get those spare 30 hours a week to work.
I thought for sure that if I was spending our money, everyone would pitch in to help make sure I was making the money we needed to cover the expense.
Not so much.
Because… They didn’t know. (I think.) And because we’d established some poor habits over the years when I was a stay-at-home mom by choice, and because… math – it did make more sense in the short-term for me to take the hit – but in the long-term… It’s hard to start a business when you’re only there if it’s convenient for everyone else in your life…

Second – Work-life balance is bullshit. At least the way we do it in America. On one hand we want everyone working 40-80 hours a week – and on the other hand we have this weird new competitive parenting thing happening. My husband and I keep joking that in order for both of us to build our dream businesses, we need a wife. (All genders welcome to apply.) We can’t both put in the 60-80 hours a week that building a business requires AND also be here for our kids AND keep the house at even our low standards of cleanliness AND have time/energy to enjoy the life we’re working to create. Something has to give.

Third – I’m not ready for an office. I might never be. I might not be that person. Because, when push comes to shove, I can be flexible, I want to be flexible. It’s one of the reasons I was so thrilled to leave Corporate America in the first place. There wasn’t room to breathe.
Part of the reason I chose my profession was because of its flexibility. I wanted a job I could do anywhere, any time of day.
So… I better practice that if I want to take this show on the road – and I do.

Last – Life happens. It’s busy and messy and its best trick is fouling up well laid plans.
I knew this when I chose my profession.
I knew this when I started building my life.
I knew it when I chose not to build a box around it all to keep it contained.
Life doesn’t like being contained. At least, not the kind I like to live.

I’m excited to get back to a place where I don’t have to resent that, where I’m not watching the dollars drain because my office is empty while I work from home. I’m excited about consolidating my energy and finding my rhythm amongst the natural rhythm of the life I’ve created.

I’m excited to learn to find balance, rather than trying to enforce it.

AND – with the money I’ll be saving on rent, if I need to, I can always borrow a table at the coffee shop for an hour or two and do my part to boost the local economy.

What mistakes are you learning from? What failures have taught you the most?

8 Comments

Filed under Business, Rant

Making Waves

I got an amazing phone call last night from the teen librarian at my local library.

By the end of the conversation I was running around my house like a mad woman yelling “Yes! I made change happen!”

What in the heck was I so excited about?

Well, I guess to understand that, I have to make my long awaited announcement first.

I am changing careers.

This has been years, a lifetime really, in the making. I just didn’t realize it until recently.

As many of you have probably noted, this space has become a whole lot less about books lately and a whole lot more about politics, gender issues, sexuality issues, and social justice issues. More and more of my posts are landing in the “Of Course I’m a Feminist” category, and less and less are being labeled books or writing.

In the past several months I have struggled with how to take all the news I read, all the stories I hear, all the passion I feel and do something positive with it all.

When I taught my Writing Sex in Young Adult Literature course the first time, I felt a tingle of what that could be. Teaching writers how to handle sex and sexuality in a responsible, respectful and helpful manner was powerful.

When I presented a similar lecture at the Colorado Teen Literature Conference to a room filled with actual teens, and I got their feedback, their thanks, their admissions of “Wow, I always thought I was so righteous, thanks for showing me that even I slip into stereotype mode sometimes, I’ll try to do better.” my vision solidified and I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up.

I am stepping into the field of sex, sexuality and reproductive health education.

sex talk

Because not everyone can talk about sex.

I am the anti Pam Stenzel.

So, what does this have to do with the call from the teen librarian?

Well, I went down to the local library to see what resources they had for teens, for parents, for educators. I wanted to know exactly what was available, what was being said, and where the gaps were.

I was disappointed at the slim pickings in the teen section. Pam’s book was there, along with a really scary Christian book for teen girls about how to be submissive to their boyfriends, why they should subvert their happiness to ensure his, and why asking him to make you feel good or valued tears him down and makes him feel bad… (seriously, I cried, right there on the library floor.) There were a couple of good books about LGBT issues, including It Gets Better, which was heartening, and some books about the mechanics of puberty. But then, I went up to the adult section and – there were all the teen sex and sexuality books!

Now, I know that teens are not prevented in any way from going up to the adult section. But teens need access to this information. They need to be able to stumble upon it, discover it and not have to go out of their way to do so.

So, I wrote a letter to the director of the library. I noted the titles and call numbers of the books I found in the teen section, as well as the titles and call numbers of the books I found in the adult section that I believed should be reshelved in the teen section. It was a polite letter stating my concerns and why I believed these books should be easily accessible to teens.

My email was forwarded to the teen librarian who “just had to call” to thank me. This, she said, was the last push she needed to move the ball forward on this critical issue of teen access. (Thus proving that a single person CAN make change happen, if we’re just brave enough to try.)

While the complete change will take some time, talks are happening in regards to expanding the teen section (much of the difficulty around this rests on the fact that the teen section is small and the non-fiction section is even smaller. They have had to make choices about what they can fit in this area) and ways to include more non-fiction titles, especially those dealing with difficult issues such as sex, sexuality, gender, drugs, abuse, violence, etc.

Then, the librarian invited me to give a talk to parents through their outreach program. Details have not been finalized, but the offer confirmed that this is the correct path for me.

I have always loved talking about sex. I grew up being the most well-informed kid in my school (tied with my sister). I remember getting invited to slumber parties just so kids could get real information about what was happening with their bodies, and whether what they were thinking, feeling, experiencing was “normal”, healthy, and generally okay. I helped friends access birth control in high school, counseled pregnant friends about all of their options and supported them through whatever choice they made. I continue to talk to kids, teens and adults about issues of consent, trying to show them that all those “gray areas” are a lot less gray than many would like to believe. I have always been an advocate of LGBT rights and I am actively working to learn more about the gender and sexuality spectrum and to reach out to those communities and ensure that they too are getting the support, education and information they need to make healthy decisions about their lives.

I recently applied for a sexual health education position with a well-known and well-respected organization. I have not heard back from them yet, but regardless of their answer, I know that this is what I want to do with my life. This is who I am.

I am the healthy sex-ed lady.

I believe that sex is a normal, natural, healthy part of life. I believe that teaching kids that sex is dirty, wrong, ugly and bad harms them in both the short and the long-term and damages their future relationships. I believe that we need to change the conversations we are having about sex so that Steubenville doesn’t happen again, and so that girls and boys are not killing themselves because of something that happened to them.

Elizabeth Smart has come out to say that shame-based abstinence only sex education helped her captor keep and control her. Abstinence only sex education taught her that she was worthless after she was raped, because her value as a woman, and as a human, disappeared when she lost her virginity. That belief made it so that she did not run when she had the chance, because who would take her now?

That’s not the message we want to give our daughters, or our sons.

empowered kids are safe kids

Abstinence Only “Education”

So – I am reaching out to all of you, to my community. If you know of a school, college (I really, really want to reach the dorms, sororities, fraternities, sports clubs, faculty, etc.), youth group, parent group (because parents need help learning how to talk to their kids about these issues too), or other community organization that needs to hear from a sexual health educator – please pass on my information.

It’s time to have The Talk.

4 Comments

Filed under Business, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

Rising Up and Reaching Out – The Art of Connection

I fell into the Amanda Palmer rabbit hole recently.

I stalk her husband Neil Himself Gaiman on twitter and facebook and he posted her Ted Talk video to his feed.

WOW.

She calls it the art of asking, I call it the art of connecting.

Watch. Discussion to follow.

Now, one of her detractors has said, “Yes, but she already had an army, it’s easy for her. The question isn’t how to ask, it’s how to find people to ask…” or something along those lines.

Clearly this person didn’t watch the whole talk.

She literally stood on a box in the street, dressed as an 8 foot bride.

Then, she built a small band that played small venues and she made a point of reaching out to the people who showed up – of connecting with them.

As her band grew in popularity, she made a point of reaching out to other small bands, and pulling them in. (I was going to say lifting them up, but it’s more reciprocal than that.) And she still made a point of connecting with the fans who came to see her band play.

It did not happen over night.

She did not wake up one day out of the blue and say “Gee, I’m going to give a Ted Talk that gets a million hits overnight.”

She worked for it. She reached for it. She asked for it.

And she gave it time.

In writing we all hear that persistence is the  most important trait we can have. And then, for some reason, when I teach a social media class to authors they all want overnight fans and followers who will all rush out and buy their books every time they ask.

Here’s the thing, building an army takes time.

Yes, you can buy twitter followers. But why would you? You’re buying bots and other people who don’t care who you are or what you offer – because you haven’t connected.

So I’ll tell you again, if you want to use social media as a tool – start now. Today.

Then, be real. Be raw. Be you.

Don’t sell anything.

Interact. Talk. Reach out. Connect.

I have become a pusher of twitter because twitter lets you connect to strangers. Twitter is like the bar at the conference. People on twitter are socially lubricated and a little more friendly than normal. The dynamic of twitter lets you reach out to people you admire and people who interest you, and people who might interest you.

And that’s it – read that last sentence again. Social media lets YOU reach out.

I get asked all the time to create campaigns that will get people discovered. They want me to tell them what to shout, and how often to shout it, so that they will be found in the busy rushing waters of the internets.

But the internet is crowded. It’s loud. It’s hectic. It’s overwhelming.

I will not discover you if you are just standing there shouting “Buy my stuff, I have stuff!”. I don’t care. Everyone has stuff.

If you want me to care, you have to be interacting. You have to be reaching out. You have to be connecting.

We all build our communities, our eddies of information and interests.

I operate in a few circles – writing, marketing, social causes, childhood freedom…

If you want to reach me, you have to start interacting in those same circles. You have to follow and friend agents and editors, writers and ranters. You have to be talking about things that matter to me, to us. You have to make the first move – reply, respond, reach out.

You have to be trying.

And when I find you, when I hear you, when I see you and respond – you have to seize the moment and return the connection. Because we ALL want to be seen.

The internet has become the busy city sidewalk. Social media is our soapbox and we are all trying to be the 8 foot bride.

We are all trying to be noticed.

We are all seeking those moments, those fragile, tender connections.

We are all looking for the chance to “fall in love a little bit.”

So when someone notices you standing there and drops a comment or a reply in your hat… Reach back. Connect.

“Thank you. I see you.”

“Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.”

It grows from there.

6 Comments

Filed under Business, Marketing, Rant

So you think you’d like an editor?

As part of my rebranding and remessaging, I thought I would offer this brief insight into the work of a freelance editor. There is a lot of confusion out there about what we do, why we do it, and what we require from our clients to do our job.

what editors do

This is why I just tell people I read books for a living. So much easier to say.

I discuss this in short form frequently on my facebook page and twitter. I post about industry expectations, common pet-peeves, and things that literally make me scream out loud at my computer. (Apologies to my office neighbors. I’m not being killed by a psychopath. Really.)

I thought perhaps a full post was in order, a brief introduction to hiring, retaining and getting the most out of your indie-editor relationship.

First:
We are professionals. We do this for a living.
Those of us who are good at what we do keep our fingers on the pulse of the publishing industry. We follow industry news, we read books like crazy, we stalk agents, editors and publishing houses on social media. We know what the expectations are in our genres.
(Not all genres. For instance you don’t want me to edit your western. I don’t read westerns, I don’t know the formula and I don’t enjoy the subject matter. However, if you write fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers (even the romantic kind), horror, YA or gripping non-fiction (yes, there is such a thing) I just might be your girl.)
As professionals we try to stay busy. Expect a good editor to be booked out for 1-3 months in advance. Get in touch early and get yourself on their radar and on their schedule – and then, deliver your manuscript on time or you may lose your spot in the queue!

Second:
Rates vary. Generally they vary based on experience. (And a little on geographical lines.)
If you are self-publishing, budget the cost of a good (ie; not the cheapest) editor into your expenses.
A traditional Big Six house will do three rounds of edits on a manuscript they buy.
That’s after it has been through a round or two of edits at the agency.
And before that it most likely went through a few rounds of critique from a critique group or some deeply honest beta-readers.
Jeffery Deaver famously edits and revises EVERY SINGLE manuscript 30+ times before he allows his agent to see it. Then they do another round or two, then he still gets 3 rounds at the publishing house.
Editing is important. Don’t skimp here.

Third:
There are different levels of editing.
Critique – This is not editing, this is having someone read your book and tell you what they think of it. Some editors offer this service and their critiques are likely to be more detailed and in depth as well as more specific than average. We’re professional readers, so we tend to catch things that casual readers miss.
Content, substantive or developmental editing – This looks at the structure and content of your story. Character arcs, plot holes, flow and structure.
Line editing – This looks at the details – Point of view shifts, word choices, verb tenses, and fact checking.
Copy editing – This is the final nit-picky comb through to make sure that all the details are buttoned up, the grammar is in line, wayward commas have been expunged and all the ts are crossed.

GrammarNazi
*Not all editors offer the same services. Alice Levine is America’s best copy editor. That’s it, that’s her thing. She does the final comb through to make sure every dot is in line and every grammatical faux pas has been untangled. Others do only big picture edits or critiques.
Check to see what services are offered before you approach an editor, make sure they offer what you’re looking for.

Fourth:
This is your chance to learn standard manuscript formatting. Most freelance editors base their rates on a standard MS page.  When we bid jobs, we do so based on our reading speed of a standard MS page.
If an editor quotes you a price and then you jiggle the formatting to fit extra words on the page, it will NOT reduce your bill.
It will, generally, raise it as your self-respecting editor will charge you for the time it takes them to reformat it correctly.
If you send them a hard copy that is formatted incorrectly, your self-respecting editor will send it back to you unedited and charge you for the postage, costing you additional time and printing/shipping costs.
See item 1, we are professionals, treat us as such.
You want us to help you, right?

Fifth:
Run spell check.
Seriously.
Before you submit your MS to anyone, anywhere – run spell check. It won’t catch everything, not by a long shot, but it will catch some obvious stuff.
When I get a MS that clearly has not been run through spell check – I run it. And I charge for the time. I once had a manuscript that took me 3 hours to spell check due to an exceedingly large number of unfamiliar, complex terms that required me to toggle between the manuscript and The Google.
That’s a serious chunk of change to shell out for something that you can easily do yourself.

Sixth:
Know what you want to get from the editing job – Tell the editor your goals.
Are you submitting to agencies, publishers, or are you planning to hit print after you “accept all” on the suggested changes?
(And – don’t do that. Editors have not so sneaky ways of making sure “Accepting all” is a bad idea, like inserting comments inline, not just in the margins.)
Let us know if there is something specific you want us to look for – do you know you have a bad habit of starting every sentence the same? (Especially common in first person books.) Are you unsure of your character arc, do you know you need to ramp up the tension but you’re not sure how? Share your concerns with us so we can help, after all – you’re paying us.
If you send us in blind, we might not shine the light in the places you were hoping for.

Seventh:
Remember, you’re paying us for our honesty. If you want sunshine and roses – send it to your grandmother.
Editors are in this business because we love books, we love words and we want to help writers tell their stories and expand their craft.
We’re not dissing you, or your precious. We’re helping you to see missed opportunities, to fill in holes, to reach the highest peaks of your story and character arcs, and to make your story shine like a beacon for the audience you hope to reach.
We are your book’s BFF, helping it come out of the closet and show you its truest self.

Last:
A good editor will not re-write your book for you. (That’s what ghost writers and book doctors do, and that is a whole other post and a much bigger budget…)

tell your story
A good editor will bring out your best writing, showing YOU how to deliver on your promises to the reader and how to get out of the way so your characters can tell their story!

6 Comments

Filed under Books, Business, Writing