Exhale with Words
In meditation, we follow the breath in and out. We track body sensations, thoughts, and the movement of the mind. Meditation wakes us up to our lives. It offers a way to see the world in a clear, neutral way.
When we write, we breathe in sensory details, digest them, and exhale them in whatever way we choose to best express ourselves.
Poet and political activist Muriel Rukeyser invites us to “Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry.” Her outbreath was the poem.
I exhale creative nonfiction, these blog posts, and book marketing pitches. My friend Ray breathes out horror stories while Lisa crafts quirky mysteries and essays.
Even writers who “make stuff up” ground the worlds they build in a reality they have experienced. If they didn’t, no one could understand their work. This is why we have metaphors and similes. Things are other things and they are like other things. We pay attention, sit and walk and listen to the world around us. Grounded in the Earth’s gravitational force, we exhale our lives into form.
For more wisdom from authors like Muriel Rukeyser, please check out You Should Be Writing, the new writing journal from Mango Publishing by Brenda Knight and Nita Sweeney.
INSECURITY – WRITE NOW COLUMBUS – AUGUST 2019
“Life is a dangerous thing. Insecurity is the price of living.” — Alija Izetbegovic
Some days, I still don’t feel like a “real” writer. I don’t feel as if I’m “writing.” In truth, I am. It’s just that I’m writing pitches.
I pitch journalists, podcasters, radio and TV shows, and any person or place who might interview me or mention my memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target. When my pitch is selected, I usually answer interview questions in writing and rewrite my bio and book synopsis to fit the media outlet.
You can see those “featured ins” here.
I also write guest blog posts.
The Women’s National Book Association of San Francisco (WNBA-SF) featured my post on what it’s like to be published, a topic my editor suggested, and a question many people ask because they wonder what it’s like to have your biggest dream come true.
You can read “How to Stay Sane When Your Book is Published” on their blog.
Please check out WNBA. Central Ohio doesn’t have its own chapter, but anyone can join as a “Network” member. It’s an inexpensive way to connect with other writers and gain exposure. Be sure to check for contests like this one.
But let’s revisit that insecurity.
If having a book published, being featured on numerous media outlets, and being asked to write for other people’s blogs doesn’t transform insecurity into confidence, what will?
Let me repeat that.
Because there is no “arriving.”
There is no “place” to get to.
Of course, having the lovely and talented, kind and generous professionals at Mango Publishing release my book baby into the world boosted my self-esteem. And, of course I need to promote my book since I want people to read it. But neither of those fixed the gnawing ache many writers tell me they also feel.
With writing, as with everything else, my attitude and actions shape my world. I must change the way I view the writing I AM doing and trust that it all counts. Craft those pitches with care. Answer those interview questions thoughtfully. If the deadline is tight, take a deep breath and allow whatever I have time to write before the piece is due to be enough.
In short, stop ruminating.
Pick up the pen.
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Five Reasons to Review a Book and a Brief How-To
I’m embarrassed to admit how little I appreciated the importance of book reviews until my own book, Depression Hates a Moving Target, was published. Before that, I posted the occasional review on Goodreads and didn’t even know that some publisher sites (including Mango) accept reviews. I rarely left a review on Amazon.
How times change. Now I am ever-so-slightly obsessed with (I’m always obsessed with something) checking all those sites for reviews of my book. And I’ve gone so far as to spend your precious time telling you about it.
Why Leave a Review?
So just why should a person, especially a busy person with lots of competing interests and precious little time or energy, a person such as you, review the books you read?
1. To Remember the Book
I’ll go ahead and date myself. I’m old enough that I sometimes forget I’ve read a book, even if it seemed “memorable” at the time. It’s a bit frightening, but also enlightening to scan a review I’ve written. It refreshes my recollection and sometimes makes me want to read the book again.
2. To Forget the Book
Perhaps it’s part of my mental health challenge, but I don’t think I’m alone here. If I read a deeply moving (or deeply disturbing) book, I get “stuck” in the story. Characters and scenes stroll and scroll through my mind when I should be doing other things. Often I can’t sleep. I toss and turn, trapped by the book. But if I write a review, capturing the essence of what is looping through my mind, it releases me and helps me move on.
3. To Keep Yourself Honest
Many of us skim when we read. I’m no different. But in order to leave a detailed review, I must read deeply. If I want to review the book, I allow myself to slow down, sink in, and really pay attention. As a result, reading regains a pleasure it once lost.
4. To Share Your Joy (or Pain)
If I enjoy a book, I want other readers to know. If I detest a book, I want other readers to know. If I didn’t finish a book, I want other readers to know that too. Having said that, I do my best not to pan a book just because it wasn’t what I expected. I’m referring to the 3-star review Marko Kloos received because his novel wasn’t a 36-count package of Jimmy Dean sausages.
5. To Applaud the Author
I’ve always loved authors. Since my earliest days, people who created books out of thin air were my heroes. But now that I have personally gone through the entire process of not just writing a book and finding a publisher, but also marketing the book, I hold other authors in even higher esteem. I want to shout from the rooftops, “You did a really difficult thing! Great job!”
What Makes a “Good” Review?
As a published author, I appreciate the numbers game. Any positive review is lovely and a review of more than two sentences feels like a gift. But the reviews that stay with me are the ones in which the reader shares something personal about themselves and how the book made them feel. One reviewer said “Nita is inside my head.” Another wrote, “I had to stop at the end of one paragraph and call my mom.” Personal connections like these bring me to tears.
When I write reviews now, I remember how it felt to read reviews of my own book. I search for a place where I connect deeply with the book and share that with the author. This type of review achieves all the things I listed above and writing it feels fabulous since it provides the opportunity to cheer someone else along this twisting, winding, writing path.
Seriously. I cannot think of one single legal thing you should not do when you hold that very first brand spanking new copy of your very first, brand spanking new book in your shaky hands.
Not. One. Legal. Thing.
But what should you do?
BEFORE you take 10,000 selfies or ask your poor, exhausted husband to take 10,000 photos of you and your book, and you share 5,000 of those images on social media, take a breath. Pause. Have a private moment with your lovely new baby. Just the two of you.
Stare at it!
That name on the cover? THAT’S YOU!!! I recommend a small shriek or maybe a full-out ROAR!
There’s not much better than that new book smell and when it’s a book created by your very own hard work, sweat, tears, and sadly, yes, agony. Smell it all. It’s all in those pages. Sniff. Sniff. Who’s cutting onions?
Riffle through those pages. Look at that type. Find your name on the title page, your bio, and your photo. Admire your handiwork.
Wrap your arms around that lovely baby and pull her to your chest. Embrace your creation. Perhaps wrap your arms all the way around yourself and, with your brilliant book against your chest, hug both of you long and hard.
Or not. But at least give a little hop or maybe a shimmy. Let your body express your joy.
Thank the entire world!
Now that you’ve had your private moment, remember gratitude. Writing is a team sport. Chances are, while you may have spent countless hours alone, hunched over your keyboard, it took a tribe to bring your effort into the light of day.
Spread the news!
Get the selfies and the photos and the videos and let the world know your baby is for sale!
Okay. That metaphor didn’t work. I think you understand.
Here’s what the moment looked like for me.
And YES! My lovely baby is FOR SALE!
“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
The holidays are over. Perhaps you have extra time on your hands. You’re back at work, but bored. Maybe you also have an Amazon gift card burning a hole in your pocket. I’m here to help.
Just head over to amazon.com and type “Nita Sweeney” in the search box.
In the late 1960s, a grade school girl from a central Ohio farm presented her project, a handmade book, to her teacher. The plot of “Sheshak the Wild Stallion” closely followed that of Black Beauty. The book’s pages stuck out, the cover edges didn’t meet, and the ragged construction paper letters making up the title formed more of a jagged scar than a straight line.
Regardless, the girl beamed as she held the book. She didn’t even mind the B+ she received. The book represented something she always wanted: her name on a cover.
If you were in central Ohio last Friday, you might have heard that young girl (now a 57-year old woman) cry with joy after she typed her name into the Amazon search box.
This is a long way of telling you that my memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, is available for preorder.
We’re still working on the cover. Endorsements continue to come in. The editor will send revisions. The book won’t be released until May. This process is far from over.
But that little girl? She doesn’t care about all those big girl details. She’s says it’s time to party!