The new year has begun, and like early last year, I promised myself I would write a blog every two weeks, not because I expect people to read them, but to exercise my creativity - my writing muscles, if you will. But, if you read my 2020 posts, it's obvious that my writing muscles are mush, and I lacked personal integrity.
Why can we keep promises to others, while breaking them to ourselves? I have no issues delivering blogs on time to my day-job boss. Nor do I have any difficulties sending my fully-edited manuscript to the self-publisher by layout deadline.
I take seriously the promises I make to others and to myself, but somehow, blogging missed the memo.
I will remake that pledge, even with all that I have on my plate this year between my day job and my other writing commitments.
New Year Writing Resolutions
Exercise Every Day: Since COVID, I would fit in my exercises whenever I could find time in the day, but I am committing 2021 to morning workouts. I have the option to walk, spin on my Echelon, do my pushups and pull ups, and, of course, stretch. I will swim again once the pools re-open. Daily exercise energizes the body and mind, a perfect way to start a day of creativity.
Write My Novel: I don't have much time on my hands, so carving out a set schedule each night to write my full-length book will not only maintain and improve my writing, but it will advance my manuscript. A little bit of writing each day goes a long way.
Write in My Journal: Even though a journal is for my eyes only, it is another form of sharpening my writing skills. And it would be fun to read these journals years later, perhaps even getting new story ideas.
Meditate: According to Wikipedia, "Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state." How can this not help in the practice of writing, and life overall?
Blog: Let's not forget why I started writing this blog post. Unlike my 2020 goal of blogging every two weeks, my 2021 goal will be more realistic. Bi-weekly blogging is not doable for me at the moment; therefore, I am going to change that promise to monthly blogging.
This little exercise has done two things for me:
1. Laid out my writing goals for this year (outside of Tillsonbugger Adventures)
2. Put out into cyber space the promises I am making to myself, thereby forcing me to fulfill my 2021 goals.
I don't have to explain the details of COVID-19, but the entire world is shut down: non-essential workers have been laid off or have been asked to work from home.
There are fewer people in the street, fewer cars on the road, and fewer planes in the air, which comes to mind many questions, but for me, they boil down to two theories:
1. Is the earth trying to teach us a lesson?
2. Or is this brought on by our own thoughts and wishes?
Theory Number One: Are we being taught a lesson?
If we push our bodies and minds when we feel physically or mentally drained, we make ourselves susceptible to illnesses. These illnesses are a way of letting us know that we should slow down and rest or at least take a break. Why is the earth any different?
The earth has been pillaged, scraped, and drilled; it has had to breath dirty fumes and drink plastic bottles. The earth is a human dumping ground. Is it any wonder that it would eventually get sick?
In the previous century alone, the earth gave us a chance to reflect on our behaviour towards it, and towards ourselves, for example, the Spanish Flu of 1918. According to Wikipedia, the death toll was 50 to 100 million people. Was that supposed to be a wake-up call, especially right after the First World War? Was the earth reminding us that we were equal, no matter our nationality, colour, or religious beliefs?
With the Spanish flu completely forgotten and the Second World War to follow only twenty-one years later, the earth could see that we had not learned our lesson. In between the flu and the war were the Roaring Twenties, where we indulged, only to be warned of our frivolity during the Great Depression. But the earth continued to accommodate us, while we consistently abused it with the invention of plastic, the increased use of more fossil fuels, and the depletion of wildlife and natural resources. We became greedier and greedier at the expense of the earth, and without realizing it, at the expense of ourselves.
So, instead of allowing us to continue polluting, destroying, and trampling all over it, the earth decided to give us a reason to stop: COVID-19. All the countries in the world have closed their borders and have quarantined their population in the hopes of decreasing the spread of this flu. But it has resulted in cleaner air and replenished nature. It’s like the earth is taking a long-deserved break to finally stop and heal.
Maybe when we all come out of our dwellings, we can learn to be less invasive and more respectful of what the earth provides to us.
Theory Number Two: Is this brought on by our own thoughts and wishes?
Just like the earth needs balance, so do we. With globalization, consumerism, Junk TV, cell phones and email that keeps us tapped in 24-hours, and social media (never mind the scheduled sports or music lessons after work and school), it’s no wonder we all need a break. Most of our lives are fast, yet unproductive. Most of us make a decent living, yet we’re really poor.
Have we forgotten what’s really important in life? Will we be lying on our death beds wishing we had worked more, or had earned more money, or had purchased those designer shoes? Would that have enriched your life? I’m guessing not because, as the world is quarantined, I’m hearing from people that they miss seeing their friends and family.
Maybe the power of all the minds in all the world had wanted to slow down but didn’t know how to do it, especially in all the momentum of everyone moving so quickly.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether it is the earth that decided to take it upon itself to teach us a lesson, or it is our own power that wished us into submission. It just matters that we finally learn to respect the earth and all that comes with it like the forests, oceans, and wildlife; and to respect ourselves and others. Here's hoping that when things are back to normal, that things never actually go back to normal.
used to be a TV host in my past life, so you would assume that being on air is a cinch for me. I was recently interviewed on the Nikki Clarke Show, and I am ashamed to admit that I was trembling right before the camera rolled, and even a few minutes into the segment. How could that be? I used to be a reporter for Rogers TV (albeit volunteer), and I produced and hosted my own fitness lifestyle program. I used to feel confident and never did I feel anxious on air (okay, maybe once when I interviewed Massari...I was smitten).
So, why did my nerves get the best of me during the Nikki Clarke interview? Because I was vulnerable. What if I messed up? What if I said something worthy of tabloid news (okay, I am flattering myself here). When I was a reporter/host, I do remember many guests feeling jittery before the interview. I did my best to help calm their nerves and assure them that they will do fine; and since it was not live television, we could retake. But now the tables were turned. I finally understood how my guests felt. How can you not feel nervous when the focus is all on you.
How will I handle future media interviews? I would have to do what athletes do after each game; critique it. That is how I can improve my interviewing skills, and I am going to be brutally honest with myself.
I have been told when giving critiques, you should first point out the positive things; however, this is me critiquing me, so I am allowed to begin with what I should be improving.
1. Stop fidgeting: I tend to talk with my hands at the best to times, but I found that during the interview my hand-talking was caused more by nerves than self expression.
2.Slow down: Why the hurry? Enunciate your words and slow down. I felt that I paused at the wrong times and stumbled over my words, as if my mouth was talking faster than my thoughts. Which brings me to my next critique.|
3. Know your facts: I was so nervous and speaking so quickly, that I felt like I was getting too ahead of myself. I even made one crucial mistake when we were talking about bee stings. I said something like 'the bees do not care to be around humans; they only care to pollinate the flowers'. Even though they do pollinate flowers, their mission is to collect nectar and pollen, therefore indirectly pollinating the flowers. Big difference.
4. Were you going on a reptile hunt? As much as I love my cotton python-print pants (my aunt sent them to me from Italy), at the time I thought they would work well with my black sweater and black boots. But they were the wrong choice based on our subject matter: creatures, no matter how creepy, help create balance in the ecosystem! Ooops! Wardrobe malfunction.
5. My flat hair: My hair was bouncy and full that morning, but by 7pm, it had gone flat. I thought a hair clip would do the trick. Nope. It only made my hair look more lifeless.
It is depressing critiquing myself. How about some good points?
1. I made eye contact with the camera: I learned in broadcast journalism that your audience is behind the camera so acknowledge them. Unless the reporter is standing beside the camera and asks you to ignore the lens, you should glance to the camera now and again.
2. Showed my pearly whites: Okay, maybe not so white but I still flashed a smile and I feel that I looked approachable.
3. Flawless makeup: I have my coworker, Brittany, to thank for that. The camera and lights wash you out, so you need makeup to help bring back out your contours and add some colour to your skin. After Brittany was done with me, I looked like I was going to a Halloween party; it was so thick. But once on air, all that washes out and you're left looking "natural".
I may have pointed out things that other audiences may not even notice. But we are our worst critics and maybe there is no harm in studying our on-air presence. The more we perfect our interviewing skills, the more we will be invited to other media opportunities. And as an author, you want to get your face out there and get the message of your books to the readers who deserve to hear about them.
I will be the first to admit that I was a spoiled little girl, having parents who worked in the fashion industry. They bought my outfits from exclusive shops selling only the finest imported Italian clothing and shoes. This would be every girl's dream, but not mine. You see, I was a Tomboy. I would rather play in mud than play dress-up. I would change into my runners when I arrived to school. And thank goodness for track and field training days when I could wear my "track pants".
By high school my parents had given up. To their relief, and mine, I had to wear a uniform: no coordinating necessary.
When I started working in fitness, my indifference to fashion increased. If I could not exercise in it, then it did not deserve any prime closet real estate. I did not understand the pleasure others would find when shopping for clothes and accessories. I mean, how many shoes does a woman really need? You wonder where I would get my non-fitness clothing? I own clothes over 15 years old. Most new pieces I acquire through hand-me-downs and I am not ashamed to admit it. After all, recycling clothes is a wonderful way to conserve and save the environment.
My lackadaisical fashion life did not alarm me until I hired a publicist who has plans on booking me for readings and media interviews. Did that mean I had to go shopping? Would my current wardrobe suffice? I would worry about that when the time came. Until then, I was going to enjoy the weekend in Montreal with my boyfriend (Mike Galic, who is the poet for Tillsonbugger Adventures).
Mike thought he would take advantage and get a new pair of boots while in the fashion capital of Canada. Ironically, I do not mind shopping for others. All was going well, until the attention was put on me. When we entered Féline in Old Montreal, the stylist's x-ray vision must have noticed my lack of style under my winter coat.
Narine was her name. She asked me in her beautiful Quebecois accent, "Would you like to see something?"
Mike immediately walked over. Not to protect me, but to push me into trying on new clothes. I started to get anxiety, "Oh, no, thank you! I don't need anything. We're just here for men's shoes."
Her expression suggested otherwise, but she was too polite to say, "Girl! You need help!" Instead, she said, "Just give me ten minutes and I will give you three different looks. You don't have to buy anything. I just want to show you your potential."
Mike, the traitor, agreed with Narine. Next thing I knew, I was in the changeroom bombarded with skinny jeans, skirts, sweaters, blouses...Narine tied belts around my waist and slipped caps on my head. One minute I was in my winter coat and the next I was in the sexiest street wear I had ever seen or worn. And she was true to her word; ten minutes was all she needed to prove her point.
I could not foresee my lack of shopping genes metamorphosing into that of a shopaholic, but the Tomboy in me had grown up in that instance. At the very least, I could compromise and buy new clothes for the appropriate occasion, whether it be for book signings or speaking engagements. I mean, it cannot hurt to visit Narine again in Old Montreal and experience another Pretty Woman moment.
I am going to divulge the moral of this story before I even begin this tale of titles: You can't please everyone. There you have it. Now it is your prerogative to continue reading; or go on with your day, taking heed of my little lesson.
As a hybrid author, I use a traditional publisher for certain elements, like getting the ISBN codes; laying out the book design; posting my books on various distribution channels; collecting my royalty payments; but ultimately, I sign off on everything before it goes to print. And here is where the problem, or opportunity, exists.
While working on my first manuscript for “The Swarm that Swarmed”, I decided that I would like to write more stories featuring the three main characters, Tia, Vivian, and Fil; therefore, I had to create a catchy series title. Thus, Tillsonbugger Adventures was created, based on the following:
While “The Swarm that Swarmed” was selling online and in some bookstores, I thought I would find ways to market it (marketing is the responsibility of a self-published author). I contacted a few bloggers, one of which was located in the UK.
This wonderful, honest blogger sort of said, “I’d be happy to review the book, but just so you’re aware, ‘bugger’ means something entirely different in the UK.” She suggested I look up the word in the Oxford Dictionary. After I read the definition, I turned ghostly white and had a panic-attack. Now what? I named my series after THAT! It is in print!
How did I not think to consult the dictionary? And how did no one else notice this? The publisher, even though I had ultimate say, did not mention the double meaning of "bugger". Maybe they appreciated my take on the Tillsonbugger Adventures title, tying all elements of the series? What about the editor? Surely, she noticed something but was too embarrassed to mention anything? I doubt that, though. She would have made a note, at the very least.
I envisioned teachers and parents protesting in front of bookstores, demanding they stop carrying Tillsonbugger Adventures. The profanity!
I left a frenzied message for my publisher to call me back. I was to change the title to something...more politically-correct…more of something else. It would cost me at least $400 to make the changes. Arrrrgggh!
While I was scrounging for pennies – well, dimes, as pennies no longer exist in Canada -- my publishing representative returned my call, and put everything into perspective. She calmly pointed out that even though "bugger" has other meanings, I did not use THAT particular one for my series title. And if readers want to imagine the worst, then it is their own dirty minds to blame.
So, yes, I have learned that you can’t please everyone in the world of books. But I also learned that the joy of being a writer is that I can be true to my stories and maybe even create a positive change through them.