It Might Be Time to Party

“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 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!

Driving Blind

Driving Blind

I just read this lovely piece by Karla Crisostomo, “Congrats On All The Times You’ve Tried Even When The Outcome Felt Impossible To See
.” In it she proclaims, “[F]or every moment you try, you already win.” This is my experience.

After I graduated from law school, when I was first a research consultant and then the administrative services director for a labor-relations consulting firm, the company president held regular meetings in the big board room. We all knew what was coming. He would stand tall above us, pound on the wall, and shout, “If you throw enough manure on the wall, eventually something will stick.”

Like me, he grew up on a farm. He did not use the word “manure.” This was his sales strategy. This was how he brought in new clients. An outgoing man who never knew a stranger, this method came easily to him. I would have rather undergone root canals without Novocaine. It would take me a decade to realize I was not cut out for his brand of glad-handing.

Still, as an author, I too must “throw manure on the wall.” Hopefully it is more akin to scientifically developed fertilizer than the stuff we used to muck out of the horse stalls, but still. It needs to stick. And I have to do the throwing. I must “try.”

Bear with me while I continue to do what Crisostomo congratulates us all on doing: essentially driving blind. I ask other authors what works for them. I read books about “guerilla marketing.” I attend online seminars on how to market a book. I do my best to improve the odds of success by listening and mimicking and learning from successful authors. But in the end, I have to find my own spin. And that’s okay. That’s what makes it special and hopefully, that’s what will also make it sell.

Turning Down the Screws

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” – Henry David Thoreau in a letter to Harrison Blake, November 16, 1857

In elementary and high school, I belonged to a 4-H club to train dogs for obedience. My rat terrier, Tony, and I won first place at the Ohio State Fair two years in a row. We had a great trainer, a retired factory superintendent, Louie Levengood who had raised and trained award-winning golden retrievers for decades.

As a big show approached, Louie would run a hand through his white hair and remind us it was time to “turn down the screws.” We were to become precise, tightening our training the way a woodworker might give a screw a few final turns so the head is flush with the wood. Minor imperfections we’d let slide earlier in the season took on new importance.

If Tony did not sit close enough to my heel or was not looking straight ahead as he sat next to me, I gently corrected him. If he did not come quickly enough, I corrected him. Every detail was important. This paid off. Both years, the state fair judges explained, these details were what led each judge to place Tony and I a few points ahead of the nearly perfect Doberman, Precious, and his young woman owner.

It’s time once again to turn down the screws – this time with my memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target.

My deadline, December 1st, approaches like an oncoming train. While I trim, trim, trim, I’m also fixing lingering problems: info dumps, too much telling, and dialogue that doesn’t carry its weight. These tasks require focus reminiscent of those days I spent in the large yard near our barn, walking Tony around and around. Stopping and starting again and again. Correcting. Praising. Perfecting. Over and over and over.

I’m under no illusions that the book will be perfect. This isn’t the state fair. But I know I have the skill and patience to improve it. With Louie’s voice in my ear, I will do my best.


If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” — Fred DeVito

I’d been running for five and a half hours through the rural countryside surrounding Xenia, Ohio. My tired legs were intermittently cramping and the bottoms of my feet ached. I’d run out of catchy songs to sing to myself and all the mantras I’d been chanting sounded stale. The trees lining the rails to trails which had looked beautiful earlier that morning were now closing in and I thought I might suffocate. I was right on schedule, twenty-three miles into my third full marathon. “I really want this to be over,” I thought. “But it’s not and I still have to get back to the car.”

My next thought made me laugh, “This is just like trying to get a book published!”

Throwing in the towel would be a relief – for a while. I could simply stop at the next water station and ask the EMTs to haul me back to town. I could simply start fresh on a new, more interesting, more marketable writing project. That’s what I’ve done with every other book I’ve begun. I never called it quitting, but I never saw those books to fruition either.

While I still don’t have a publisher for my memoir, Twenty-Six Point Freaking Two, I have some great prospects. And even if none of those pan out, I can still self-publish. It is exhausting, but also exciting – just like the final miles of a very long race. It’s no time to quit even though I’m really really tired and everything hurts.

So I remember what I know how to do: continue. Just now. Just here. This moment. Feel your feet (even if they hurt). Do one thing and then the next. Right foot. Left foot. With writing, prepare the newsletter. Send it out. Wait to hear back from publishers. With running, just keep going.

I finished that marathon and I will finish this book. You have my promise.

What is your marathon? I want to cheer you to the finish.

And Then, We Wait . . . and Nudge.

“The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.” – John Steinbeck

Over the past year, I’ve slowly worked through my list of small or independent traditional publishers who do not require agents. I created this list using and I began with publishers who only require queries, then moved to those who wanted proposals and the full manuscript.

With each round of submissions, I received feedback. I revised then sent out more. Some publishers who suggested revisions asked to see the book after I made changes. I have sent those out as well.

This month I sent out the remaining submissions including the last set by snail mail. I had saved those for last because, quite frankly, they are painful. Now, I wait.

And, I nudge.

There are two schools of thought on nudging. Some folks think it’s a waste of time and annoys the publisher (or agent). I disagree. To my thinking, and based on the advice of my friends in publishing, emails get lost and editors (or agents) appreciate a nudge to remind them of a project they might have forgotten. I’ve had one editor say she never received my original submission. She still rejected it, but at least she saw it.

For those of you thinking of nudging, here are the guidelines I use:

1. First, recheck the publisher’s submission guidelines to make sure they don’t hate nudges!

2. If you’ve sent a query and have heard nothing in three or four months (again, check the submission guidelines for this), nudge. Things really do fall through the cracks or wind up in the spam filter.

3. If one editor offers to publish your book (or an agent offers to represent you), but there are other editors (or agents) you prefer more who still haven’t responded, definitely nudge the one you prefer! This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’m crossing my fingers!

4. If the publisher (or agent) requested the partial or full manuscript, use the same guidelines as above.

5. If you have substantially revised the manuscript, nudge nudge nudge! This is my current position. I’m sending follow-up emails with the revised material.

6. And finally, if you receive a rejection, do not follow up unless the rejection comes after you have made revisions based on the editor’s feedback. And even then, I would hesitate to ask for additional feedback. Editors (and agents) are insanely busy. You will write more books. Do not risk alienating an editor or agent you might want to query with a future project.

So, how do you nudge?

I usually forward the original email I sent, but I change the subject line to read, “Follow-up on (query/submission/proposal)” with the book’s title in the subject line. Mine reads, “Follow-Up on Query: Twenty-Six Point Freaking Two.” Then, above the forwarded material, I write, “I’m following up to see if you’ve had an opportunity to look over the materials I sent on X date. I know how easy it is for emails to get lost. Thank you for your time.” If the material has been revised, I will mention that and attach it. Brief. To the point. Boom.

And then, I go do something else, you know, like write another book!