A Writing Exercise – Dedicated to My Father

Two weeks ago, on my birthday, I treated myself to a Writing and Yoga Workshop taught by Valentine Leonard at Delta Groove Yoga in Memphis. It’s been a long time since I took a writing workshop. Usually I am busy writing my novels, short stories and poetry and teaching and coaching my writing students. So this was a nice treat for me, to be on the other side of teaching and to be a student once again.

One of the exercises given was to make two lists, one of places we knew well and the other of things we no longer did. Then we were to match the unlikely ones together, to pick one and to write about it. From those lists I chose my fathers house and escorting  travelers overseas.

This is what I wrote:

I no longer escort travelers overseas on long trips to my father’s house.

He is on hospice now and mostly sleeps. So I would not have time now for travelers who need escorts because they don’t know how to get their passport or what to pack and who have never stepped beyond the borders of their own country.

I used to have so much time and patience for so many people and never minded helping. They simply needed someone to go beyond pointing the way and saying this is how you do it.

Sometimes a person just needs another hand to hold and for them to say come on, it’s going to be okay. I wonder who is holding my fathers hand now and if he will be escorted in a group to the other side. He does not seem afraid, merely confused. Perhaps this is why he is lingering so long.

It’s harder to be the watcher when you are used to escorting people. I have no road map for where he must go. I do not know these border crossings. I can only stand on the shoreline waving goodbye and sending my love.

For me, this is a journey of sitting when I am used to being in movement. I should not complain. He is the one confined to a bed, never going outside to breathe the fresh air. No wonder he sleeps so much. I would sleep too if my gaze could not reach up to touch the sky. I would close my eyes and travel in my mind. Perhaps this is what he is doing. It is impossible for me to know.

Perhaps he is waiting on a slow VISA to the place he has never gone before. I hope and pray his passage is smooth, his escort kind and firm of hand. I hope his new country welcomes him like a long lost son and celebrates his coming home.

Dedicated to John (Jack) Bishop

Oct. 15, 1933 to June 20, 2014


The Author Reader Connection – Thoughts From The Daughter Of A Newspaper Man

The author reader connection, how do we create it? How do we create any sort of good connection between people? Allow me to teach you what my father taught me.

I am the daughter of a newspaperman. Ink is in my blood.

My father worked all his life for the Springfield News and Sun in Springfield, Ohio selling advertising. I grew up watching him create ads on his drafting board, watching him deliver proofs. Every Saturday he took me with him on his rounds. Sometimes late at night he would take me down to the paper to watch the presses run. Ink is in my blood. From the letters of the typesetter, to the large round rolls of paper, to the production line of folding and inserting the Sunday inserts, all this went into the raising of this author. Even now I can close my eyes to see and hear and catch the scent of the newspaper being produced, being born. The stories of our lives went into that paper and the advertisements were what made that possible. Ads could also tell a story. That of businesses opening, businesses being passed down in a family, or businesses closing.

If you are an author, you don’t have to look far on the internet to find blogs, articles and books written about marketing your book, PR for authors, what to do to gain readers. It would be easy to spend enormous amounts of time and money chasing this subject. The goal of all this is to get those sales numbers up and sell more books. Authors need their books to sell if they are to make a living as authors, not dishwashers. Readers need authors to write those books so they will have new fiction to enjoy. Like the newspaper mentioned above, the selling of books is intricately tied to the writing of them and the production of them before the reader can sit back and enjoy that story in their hands.

Like it or not, whether you are a writer or a reader, there must be a way to sell books. Which means selling. There are those who are born salespeople and those who are not. Those who are may love the art of the sale. Many of us have to work harder at it.

Not long after I moved to the Memphis area I took a job selling advertising for the Collierville Herald, a weekly newspaper. Yes, I was following in my father’s footsteps though he worked for a daily newspaper and this was a weekly. I was hired to bring in all new accounts, not given a territory and I was on straight commission. Let me tell you now that was damn hard. Challenging and in many ways exciting and stimulating, but also damn hard because I am a writer, an introvert. I worked hard to bring in new clients and by the end of the year I had built my sales up to match the sales of their top salesperson. I’m still proud of that, but it took a lot out of me and I got very little writing done that year. I did learn a lot about selling and about why my dad was such a good salesperson, continually winning bonuses and top sales person awards at the paper.

Have you ever been around a salesperson who got on your nerves? I’ve been around a lot of them. There are things I didn’t like about selling, such as those business mixers where everyone is handing around business cards and you know the only reason someone is handing you their card is to sell you something while they barely glance at yours. Most of those cards are going to get tossed in the trash, sometimes before the person ever leaves the building. The room is full of salespeople hungry for a sale. I had a unique position at those events because by running an ad with me I could help them make those sales. But still there would be the sizing you up, the glance at that card and sometimes the discard. I call this discarding people and it is one of the things I dislike the most about salespeople. That I cannot sell to you therefore I discard you mentality.

That is not how my father sold advertising. He was a man who truly cared about people, as people. Not as an ends to a means, as way to make those sales. He was there to help them sell whatever they were advertising and he would have been the first to tell them if he thought something wouldn’t work and what might be better. When he retired, his advertisers liked him so much they didn’t want to lose him, nor did the paper, so he came back to work for them part time, delivering proofs. My father knew every person who worked at that newspaper, in even the smallest of jobs, and he always remembered their names. The complete opposite of the type of salesperson who would discard you mentally, to my father everyone mattered, sale or not. He was a man who was well loved by many.

It’s interesting that with all the marketing and sales “buzz words” I’ve heard in my lifetime, I am finally hearing sales is about relationships. Something my father either knew many years ago, or it was such a part of his personality he never thought about it, just did it. Finally the sales gurus out there have figured out selling is about relationships and they are starting to apply this approach to the art of selling.

I had a great example in my dad and it carries over into all areas of life, selling being just one of them. People matter. Relationships matter.

I’ve spent a few years trying this thing and that to sell my books and have come to realize the things I enjoy most are those which allow me to engage with my readers on a more personal level. Because of that, I prefer to attend smaller events, which allow me to meet and talk to readers on a more personal level. One of my greatest joys is hearing from readers and I treasure every email. I read every review on Goodreads and they make me smile. Without such things as reader emails and reviews it’s hard for an author to know what readers do and don’t like about their stories. So I am always thankful for the opportunity for feedback.

The balancing act is taking part in events, which allow me to connect with readers in person and balancing that with my writing time. I no longer try to wear more hats than that, because I am the only one who can write my books. I have a PR firm and they handle my social media, PR and marketing, which allows me more time to write.

What can you as an author do to connect with readers and to sell more books?

1.) Write the best book you can and then write another and another…..

2.) Anything which is not writing your book…. is not writing your next book.

3.) Beware the time suck, which is the Internet, and limit the time you spend there. (Set an egg timer or your phone alarm to gain control of this.) Selling should be a fraction your time because if you spend too much time selling your book you’ll get behind on writing the next one.

4.) Find someone to partner with you on selling your book. Selling is a skill set not everyone has and what works for one will not work for another. What is your publisher doing to help you sell books? If they are getting a percent of the profit, they should be doing something other than just producing it. If you are running an ad somewhere, is there a co-op program? Can you partner with other others in an ad? Build relationships within the publishing industry to help you sell your books. Try something new and if that does not work, try something else.

4.) Continually ask yourself what your readers want. What do they enjoy? How can you best serve your reader? Your bottom line should never become more important than your readers.

5.) Building a reader base takes time. Building a relationship takes time. Writing books takes time. With each book you are building your base. Make that as solid as you can.

6.) Never let making a sale become more important than the people you are trying to sell to.

Always remember that people matter. Relationships matter. Perhaps in the end, this is all that matters.

Please do leave comments. I love to hear from you.

Love and light,


This post is dedicated to my father.

Thank you John (Jack) Bishop for everything you taught me. Infinite love and gratitude. I will miss you.

Threading the Web – The Words We Use to Describe – “Writers Block”

Words are powerful things. Knowing this and making conscious choices of the words we use can change things around.

Let’s think about this one. “Writers block”

Merriam Webster’s definition of writers block as:

the problem of not being able to think of something to write about or not being able to finish writing a story, poem, etc.

Long ago, before I become familiar with conscious language choices, I used the term “writers block” every time this problem raised its head. Before I learned how to banish it.

Let’s think for a minute about the word block and the images it brings up. Block is solid, heavy, you can’t move through it, maybe you can’t see through it, it stands in your way.

And maybe that is how it feels to you when you are facing it.

Now let’s play the “what if” game for a minute.

What if it wasn’t impossible to move through it?

We tend to believe the things we tell ourselves, especially if we tell ourselves the same thing or a variation often enough.

What if you used a different word, one that works better for you?

You will never hear me use the phrase “writers block” when describing myself and my writing. You might hear me say I am taking a writers break. Or I am taking a long lunch break. This break could be as short as a half an hour or as long as a month. It’s whatever I chose it to be.

This is where things begin to change, to become empowering instead of limiting.

Once upon a time I had a beautiful golden retriever named Trixie. She sat by my side when I wrote and she would nudge me when it was time for lunch and then we’d eat and play for a bit beforeI went back to work on my book. She lived to be fourteen. After she passed I went into what I then called a six month “writers block” It was difficult. It was painful. I simply could not write. I would hear the jingle of her tags on her collar and I would get choked up. I couldn’t face the blank page of my computer screen without her.

Then one day I decided I’d had enough. I got angry at that “writers block” and decided I was going to conquer it, it was not going to conquer me. So I took out a yellow legal pad and pen, stepped away from my computer and forced myself to write. The first pages were all about how frustrated I was about being unable to write. I wrote in every room in the house and then I went outside and wrote on the picnic table. By doing this I broke the writers block that I had allowed to develop.

I had learned that the only way out was to write my way through it.

Today I no longer believe in having “writers block” and I know how to write my way though almost anything. It is a good practice to get into. It will make you a stronger writer.

Are you telling yourself you have writers block?

Trying changing what you tell yourself, try writing through it and see what happens.

Toads, raindrops and playing in the rain with writing.


One day not so long ago it was raining and I was coming home from a good dinner out with my Shimmy Mob Memphis dance sisters when I spotted a toad by my back door.

He was up on the deck railing which is as high and as close as any toad has ever come before. We stood for a while, he and I, without moving as the rain sprinkled down all around us.

Of course he was unbothered by it, rain being a thing natural to him. It is this that got me thinking. Does rain feel unnatural to you? If so when did that start happening?

Children take joy in playing in the rain. Adults, well it depends on the adult. I was taking great pleasure in the plunk of raindrops on my head while I took a few pictures of my new companion with my phone. I was not listening to the adult voice in my head which said go get your umbrella first. I ignored that adult voice because I was sharing a joyful raindrop moment with my toad friend and when you share a moment, it is best to stay in it. Once lost it never comes again.

Toad in spring rain
Toad in spring rain

When we are writing we tend to write what we know and that is the advice usually given to young, new and aspiring writers.  Well it’s the advice given to all of us really, even those of us who have been writing for a while. It’s one of those things most people don’t even question but accept as factual and true. Kind of like when it’s raining out, take your umbrella.

So we walk around carrying our adult umbrellas and sometimes we forget how to play and how to reach out beyond that. If we always reach for the umbrella we miss the experiences that fall outside of that comfortable dry spot beneath the umbrella.

Let’s play with this one a bit. Splash around in the rain with me for a moment and put the umbrella down. Place the write what you know umbrella in the corner for a moment and lets see what’s splashing outside of that dry spot.

What if you were to write something you did not know, something you were in the process of learning?

What if you were to write about that learning process?

What if you were to write a fictional story while you were still researching and fact checking?

Some raindrops fall farther from the umbrella than others. It is okay to play in the rain and get wet. It can be great fun to splash around once in a while and play with your writing.

My fourth book of fiction, Trapping the Butterfly,  is set in the 1920’s in Hot Springs, Arkansas USA. I wrote it on spec. Had pitched the story idea to my editor and she loved the idea and sent me a contract. I wrote the first couple chapters while researching at the same time. As the story came together I was doing the follow up research almost til I typed “the end” Some of what I thought I knew turned out not to be historically accurate, for that town in that year. If I had held back writing the story until I did all the research first it would have been more difficult to meet my deadline.

Some might argue that the process of writing this way would lead to a sloppy or inaccurate book. My counter argument would simply say this book is now up for a RONE award. I offer this as proof the process did not hurt the book or this author. In fact it was a joy to write and is my favorite work of fiction of all my stories so far.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to write about, but haven’t because you don’t feel knowledgable enough? Try setting that umbrella aside. Step out into the rain and play a little. You might discover joy in the writing process.

You might meet a toad companion and share a joyful moment. That alone is worth stepping out into the rain.