Monday, August 19, 2013

Writing IS a job!

Hey, I attended a bookseller's convention again last week and guess what I learned?

You have to treat your writing like a job!


I know the rest of the writing world knows this.  I know I have often read about how writer's keep a schedule but I guess I thought I was better than all the bestselling author's that are out there.  I guess I thought I could write hit or miss and accomplish getting books completed and published.  What I have discovered is this is not so.  I hardly got anything accomplished in the last year much less releasing the second book in the Alphabet Series.

So, I am recommitted to writing daily and setting aside uninterrupted time for writing and uninterrupted time for business and planning.  I have to have two separate times or I know the planning will override the writing which is the whole reason for the planning.

Part of this is that I will spend time to write on this blog about writing every week. 

So let it be let it be done!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Errands for Ethan

Just posting a reminder to do something good to help support a family marking the one year anniversary of the death of their child by kicking off a campaign to do an act of kindness or service on March 26th that you will share in a post.

Here is the background story:

Errands for Ethan

by Cortney Shurtz on Monday, March 19, 2012 at 1:26pm ·
Dear Friends and Family,
A year ago on March 26th, which is next Monday, the world lost an incredible, loveable, lively, and beautiful little boy. He was born on September 4th 2003 to his loving parents Marcus and Kim. Ethan Ellsworth was the kind of boy every kid wanted as their friend, the type of player every team wanted on their side, and the type of angel Heavenly Father needed so quickly back at his side. He was an incredible young boy to say the very least and he is missed so very much by those who loved him and remember his lively and infallible spirit.

Ethan was the middle child between his brother Parker and sister Madilyn. He was also beyond excited to find out that his Mommy was expecting a little boy in whom he wanted to name Hawk. Please read Kim's blog on how his little brother's name evolved. Kim was six months pregnant when Ethan left this world. There is no doubt that a part of Ethan lives on in his amazingly sweet and loving little brother.

The passing of Ethan was completely unexpected. He was born with a condition known as AVM. Below you can find a link to more information. The AVM caused his brain to hemorrhage unexpectedly one night and he was rushed to the hospital for both a diagnosis, then emergency surgery to stop the horrific bleeding that was occurring. His parents would remain both faithful and hopeful for the next several days until the final reports came back that there was nothing they could do for our sweet Ethan. Marcus and Kim made the hardest and most painful decision that any parents should ever have to make. They took Ethan off of the machines, but not before donating almost every organ of Ethan's that was healthy and able to be used for other children. This is what Ethan was about. He lived to love and brighten others' lives and he would want nothing less than to see his organs being used for good. Ethan

This world is a better place because of Ethan Ellsworth. He touched the lives of everyone he came across on his short earthly journey. If it wasn't his amazing eyes or handsome appearance, it was his charming personality that won people over. Because of Ethan we are inspired to continue to live each day to the fullest (we all know he did this like the best of them!) and to help anyone and everyone that we meet along our earthly journey.

This March 26th and every one to follow will be declared ERRANDS FOR ETHAN Day. This is a day where we will perform random acts of kindness in his name. Whether it be buying someone's meal behind you in the fast food line, visiting a lonely neighbor or friend, baking goods and delivering them to those who need lifted, helping someone with yardwork, or just lending an ear or your heart to someone who is in need of love and acceptance in their life...we can all be a part of changing someone else's life for the better.

Ethan did this EVERY single day of his life. He was our hero and we thought that there is no better way to allow his legacy to live on than to perform errands of kindness and love on his anniversary date each year.

Please don't let these actions stop with you, instead let's help this become viral. This can be accomplished thanks to facebook and other social networks that connect us around the globe. Please forward this to all of your friends and family and encourage them to do the same. One seven year old's dream of a better future through unconditional love and kindness could in fact change our world. Do this for Ethan and help buoy his family with your incredible stories.

Kim invited me to share her blog with the world. She wants everyone to know and love Ethan as we did. This past month she has been recounting Ethan's last month on Earth and this week she will be sharing their last week with Ethan at the hospital. We encourage you to read the blog. It is truly inspiring and if her blog can help just one person on their personal journey of grief, it will have been worth her time each day to recount her memories and experiences.

We also ask that you share your experiences of ERRANDS FOR ETHAN, whether it be directly on Kim's blog or linked to this note. We want to hear the wonderful things that are being performed in his memory. Thank you for helping keep his memory alive and for doing such wonderful acts that any heavenly host would be proud of.

Ethan we LOVE you and will ALWAYS remember you!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Passion or hobby

I like to think I am passionate about most things.  After all isn't that what we try to teach people, or for me, my children?  Do something you love or are passionate about and you will have success and be happy in life.  What I wonder is, "Am I passionate about writing?"  I feel like I am an idea girl.  I have great ideas and burst of energy to get it started so I have learned to surround myself with people that follow through or at least make me follow through.

This is how I feel about my books.  I get great bursts of ideas and can write the whole children's book in one sitting.  Than it is time for the details...revisions, editing, illustrations and working with the team that it takes for me to self-publish.   That is where, so far, I have lacked passion. Follow through.  That is when I begin to this a passion or just a hobby that is an outlet for my creativity while I raise children?

I have decided I am passionate about the words I want to get out there.  I am in a learning process to be passionate about details and follow through.  A couple of things I have learned since starting this adventure.

1.  Take each thing I am doing one step at a time.  I have to see the big picture to stay passionate but break it down to accomplish what needs to be done to publish and market these books.

2.  Do something.  I have to work on something everyday to be able to accomplish what needs to be done to publish and market these books.

3.  Finally, set aside time.  This is the biggie for me.  I have to make it a priority everyday which, for me, means setting aside specific times to work to accomplish what needs to be done to publish and market these books.

So, I am passionate...and because I am, I have changed myself and become more organized and focused.  I have published and sold one book and I am working on my second one.  I have submitted poems to magazines and written the start of a novel.  I am seeing my dreams of being an artist come to fruition...not in the way I expected but in a way which brings me great joy!  And, my passion lets me enjoy, and sometimes include, my favorite hobby of travel as I market the books and read at libraries.  I get to bring my family and see this great country, for which I also have a great passion.   I get to include my children and be inspired by them and share their lessons in the messages of the books.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I have been waiting for three days for the proof of the book to review.  Finger-biting kind of waiting.  I want it to look good.  I want to fall in love with the final product.  Lightning Source posted that the proof was out so I was positive I would recieve it within two days.  Nothing.  I have checked the mailbox twice a day for the last three days (even though I know we only receive one shipment a day here).  I spent one morning in tears worried I would hate it and it would be revealed that the book stinks...what was really revealed, by that, was my low self-esteem from the past rearing its ugly, horn toed head again.  Anyway, there isn't not much to add here, except that it still has not arrived so on Monday I will be calling to see where it might have gotten to.  I tried the tracking number they sent me with USPS, FedEx and UPS but could not even find who it was shipped through. 

So keep me in your positive thoughts and I hope it gets here soon.  I am almost out of nails!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Cookbook

I am updating a family cookbook for an upcoming family reunion.  This isn't writing, per se.  More like copying old recipes my mother had written down and given to us years ago.  We have added about 80 family members since then so I felt like we needed to add new family recipes to the ones she had given us in the past.  It, also, give us a chance to get the old cookbook out to the next generation.  The reason I have decided to write about it is, because, initially I was just going to type the recipes and notate who gave them to us. However, as I started typing I realized what gems were inside.

I began with the first recipe and found this "prenote" (is that a word?) typed in by my mom:

This is not authentic chili.  Just a recipe from my canning book but when I served it at an Empty Nester's meeting, all the men love it. It was the first to go.  It is the same one I have always made. 

and on Baked Potato Soup:

This is from the newspaper but Cara says it tastes like Black Angus potato soup.

I have seen these notes often as I use this book every least once.  But, it really wasn't until I was going to be efficient and just re-type recipes for printing that I realized we would lose something from the cookbook if I did not type these notes also.  This keeps my mother alive and lets others see the funny things she did or said, or, really, just how she thought about things.  For example, I am pretty sure my family doesn't believe I am a potato soup expert so they probably don't or didn't really care what I thought but I love that my mom thought it was important enough to note.

Following a peanut butter candy recipe she added:

If you buy exact sizes of peanut butter and marshmallow cream, there is very little measuring.

and regarding peanut butter, in general:

For peanut butter and crackers, any peanut butter will do but for cooking, cookies, fudge, etc., only Jif--it has the best flavor.

Now...did you know that?  Did you know it would matter what brand it was once you mixed the peanut butter into the batter?  It does, though, so I only use Jif.  This is what I am saying...easy hints and the knowledge of exactly what kind of peanut butter to use.  These side notes bring smiles to our family and give us an opportunity to remember what my mom was like and share that with our children.  They will help when mom is gone and, possibly, make the food taste just that much sweeter because each bite is filled with a memory and the love that went into the cooking in the first place.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Rejection is a funny thing.  When you are a child and are trying to talk to your parents and they are distracted you feel unimportant.  When you are a parent and your child gets too old for hugs and kisses when you drop them off for school you are sad and realize they are growing up.  When you are dating and someone breaks up you feel like your heart will break and wonder what is wrong with you. But, when you are a writer trying to get published rejection takes on a whole new meaning.  Let me explain...

When you decide you have a manuscript the world must see you enter the new world of rejection.  You send this manuscript to agents, publishers, editors...anyone that might see what you felt and realize the impact this book will have on readers everywhere if they will just give it a chance.  Then you wait for the replies...and, sometimes, wait and wait.  (This process can take anywhere from 1 day to 12 weeks.)  Also, you are really only supposed to send it to a few of these people at a time so the process can really drag on.  OK, now you start to receive replies to your inquiries.  These are generally rejections, at first.  Now, I guess, these can come in many forms but mine so far have felt pretty generic.  I am sharing this one word for word so you can see what I mean but, for the most part, all of mine have said the same thing more or less.

Dear Cara Long,

Thank you for your submission, which we’ve now had the chance to share and discuss.  We appreciate the opportunity to review your work.  However, we do not feel that we can be of further assistance in placing it at this time.

Thank you again for thinking of us in connection with your work and we wish you the best of luck.


So you see this is where this new rejection gets tricky...what does this really mean?  Does it mean, "your manuscript stinks and we can't believe you really think you are a writer" or "hey, with a little more work and polish this could really go somewhere" or "this really just isn't for us because we already have too many children's book authors on our lists but it isn't bad".  It is hard to know from these generic rejections what the thoughts really are.  Now, I understand these publishing houses, editors and agents receive hundreds, if not thousands of manuscripts to read each year (most unsolicited) but maybe they could write these generic rejections more specifically using the ideas I mentioned above and attach them to how they feel about each manuscript.  

Because, here is the thing, most authors will be rejected a lot.  Hundreds, if not thousands of times...unfortunately with no guidance to possibly make them better writers or just to know if maybe that agent was having a bad day with no coffee when they picked up my manuscript.  Becoming published really does feel like the luck of the draw...your manuscript hits the desk of someone at the right place and right time.  Because opinion is relative...I mean 10 people will read the same book and have many differing opinions.  Some will love it...some will find it too slow or graphic or not a genre they enjoy and others will just like it.  But all will have received a different impact and gotten from it something meant just for them.  That is the beauty of books and imagination.  So, as a new author, you keep moving forward hoping for that one desk of an agent, editor, or publisher that sees your vision for your manuscript. 

The rejections, maybe, weed out the weak.  I am only working on my first book and, even though, the rejections are not specific about me being a terrible author they hit at my heart a little.  But mostly I just wonder if I should keep going. Even though they are not the same rejections that are pointedly about you, like children, dating, etc...they are rejections. You have to decide if you keep going and plugging away and mailing in the manuscripts.  Therein is the true have to do it because you love it because, in reality, it may be...that no one ever sees it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Becoming an author, or should I say, a published author is quite a process.  I had some story ideas come to me one night and quickly got up and scribbled them out.  I was positive this was it.  I was going to be a success.  I was going to be the author all publishers had been looking for.  Well...think again.  It has not been that easy.

As I continue to send in manuscripts to publishers and attend writer's conferences and utilize the tools provided from critique groups, I have decided to self-publish my first children's book call "Filthy Frannie".

 Even this process has been quite a process.  After finding an amazing illustrator I, again, thought I was ready to go.  But I found I had to have a printer which then involved a designer to layout the book with the requirements necessary to be ready for print.  I am in the middle of this process right now.  It is an anxious and exciting time.  Exciting to see it all come together but the process takes the "rose colored glasses" off.  I sometimes fear that what I am doing is ridiculous or that I will be an instant failure.  I also have found that, at this point, I don't really love the book anymore.  Mostly because for me anytime it takes effort and consistancy I usually give up and find something new to be passionate about.

However, I love Frannie so I continue to move forward in an effort to see her come to press.  Not for the fame but to leave something of myself behind for my family.  If I never do anything but give these books as gifts to my grandchildren, nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews I will feel successful at this point.

One of the biggest steps and, I would declare, the most important first step in this process is to find a circle of support because you will need it.  My friends and family continue to cheer me forward.  My critique group continue to give me feedback and are not afraid to say...not quite good enough, redo it.  When this first happened, I was so attached to what I had written I thought everyone was crazy but just as the story goes...if three or more people tell you you have a wart on your nose you better take a look...I decided when two or more people had the same feedback I would look at what they said and see if changes could or should be made.  It is still my work, though, so I made the final call.  I have that luxury still, right now, because I have no publisher or editor but myself.  I hope to have a publisher someday but until I will keep you informed of the process and my successes.  Fingers crossed!