Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Thursday, June 24, 2010

We're Readers & Writers not Salesmen so Leave Us Alone

I like social media. As a writer, blogging & twittering are easy for me. I also like doing presentations-- speaking & meeting book-lovers and signing books. I do not like sitting at a table in a bookstore waiting for people to drop by. Unless you're a celebrity, customers avoid you and you feel like a shmuck.

But is all this enough to sell books? Clearly it isn't or I'd be on the bestseller list by now cuz I've done a lot of promotion. But only within my comfort zone.

I haven't gone out into the great big scary world with copies of my books in the back of my minivan and..... er....um.......whatever those people do. What John Grisham did with his first book, A Time to Kill. He and a friend went all over the South selling copies to bookstores. Yikes! Is that what I have to do?

Because no, I can't. I won't. Aaargh, I'm not a salesman. Leave me alone! Don't make me do that stuff!

So in honor of all us reclusive writers, whether we are published or not (yet), I have tossed a summer salad.
 And here's what's in this salad:

 LETTUCE     WRITE

 LETTUCE     READ

 LETTUCE     BLOG

 LETTUCE     SHARE

 LETTUCE     TWITTER

 LETTUCE     BUY BOOKS

 LETTUCE     REVIEW BOOKS

 LETTUCE     HOLD & ENTER CONTESTS

BUT PLEASE DON'T MAKE US BE SALESMEN!!!

And to go along with this anti-salesman summer salad, I am having AN EVENT!  Everyone of these lettuce leaves thingies whatever represents a different contest with a new prize!! Here's a sampling of the prizes:

Free books!

Chapter critiques!

A full manuscript review!

Your book bought & reviewed here!

 Your blog featured here!

And more!


Why am I doing this? Shouldn't I be spending my time and energy out there schmoozing booksellers into handselling copies of Farm Girl and Uncut Diamonds? Well, yes, probably so. But I am not that person. I'm the person who, when I'm not writing or editing, sits at home thinking of ways to promote literacy and support authors.

And besides, there is something BIG coming soon!! Something REALLY BIG and REALLY HELPFUL to authors with books to sell. Although I'm involved with it, I can't tell you yet. Yes, I know-- it's killing me!! But believe me, you're going to love it!!

So to kick off the "anti-salesman summer salad" event, I'm going to have a competition to name the event!! Because I'm the first to admit, this name is pretty lame and it's such an awesome, summer-long series of contests that it needs a name with some punch and whammy!

The winner will get three bonus points at each of the future contests and their blog linked here at every mention!!


The only rule to enter is you must be a follower here. To keep your entry private, just email your event name idea to me at karenjonesgowen at gmail.com. Cut off time for entries will 12:01 a.m., July 1. I'll announce the winner next Friday! (after I get home from vacation woo hoo) At that time I'll feature another lettuce leaf and post the first contest in the soon-to-be-awesomely-named event!

And so NAME THAT EVENT begins the summer of the endless contests!! Let the games begin, send me those great ideas!




Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How We Write

Hemingway wrote standing up to avoid the gut. Capote wrote with a notebook and pencil, either sitting or laying down. Stephen King sits at a desk, behind a closed door, loud music on.

I write in pajamas, because once I'm showered and dressed I want to go out.
Sitting in my comfy, squishy, writing/thinking chair.
First with pens on loose paper, then on the laptop.
Completely isolated. Door shut. No phone, internet or music.

How do you write?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Awards Sunday

I got this award from Will Burke and I thought today was a good time to link to his blog, Fatherhood and Other Common Terrors.  I haven't been following him for too long, but yes, he is a versatile blogger! You're never quite sure what you might get when you go there but it's always good!

I award it to another versatile blogger, Pat Tillett.  From artistic photography to poetry to personal essays to random whatever, you will never be disappointed by Pat's blog.

I wish Will Burke and Pat Tillett a very Happy Father's Day! I hope you both have been supremely spoiled today.


I received this cute puppy award from Watery Tart. She's pretty awesome herself, just having bagged a 3-book cozy mystery deal!! Congratulations to Hart!

Wow is it ever hard to decide who to pass this to because you're all as awesome and cute as this adorable winking puppy. I'll try to pick some blogs that are fairly new to me. So here we go:

Ella's Edge who already has a sidebar full of well-deserved awards because her posts are incredible! She can write about anything and make it interesting!

Empty Refrigerator had a rant the other day that was hilarious. She's also quite new to me but I'll for sure be visiting her blog often!

Neurotic Workaholic is one of those whose posts always give me a chuckle, or a new insight, or just make me glad I'm not her lol. Follow her, you won't regret it!

Julie Musil is a mom who writes and does it all incredibly well. Her posts are helpful, informative and sometimes really funny!

And you moms out there must go to Kierah Jane Reilly's blog to get her summer schedule! Who says you can't be a mom and write too? Even with school out!

And I wish I could link to the brilliant Jane Austen, because I'd give her the cute winking puppy award for being SO DANG AWESOME! I leave you with a quote from Mansfield Park:

"Certainly, my home at my uncle's brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of Rears and Vices I saw quite enough. Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Secret to Getting Published

What it's not:

  • Having an idea no one's ever used before. (There's no such thing. Shakespeare saw to that and Dickens took care of whatever Shakespeare might have missed.)

  • Being famous or related to someone famous. (It might get you noticed but there's got to be some talent to back it up. Still, they might put your face & name on a ghost written book, if you're really famous.)

  • Writing the perfect query. (Be natural, be normal not needy and let your story speak for itself. There is no perfect query format. Even if there were, and you write it, how many query letters do you see for sale at Borders?)

  • Getting the busiest and best-looking agent on the internet. (That one who looks like Tom Cruise comes to mind.)

  • Getting a degree in creative writing. (Helpful, since hours of creative writing are required to get said degree.)

  • The result of a highly popular blog with tons of followers. (Notwithstanding the scene in Julie Julia where 6 dozen agents leave pleading messages on her voice mail.)

Although if you have achieved any of the above points, you are fortunate indeed, (especially if you have that agent who looks like Tom Cruise). And you are definitely farther along the path to publication than the guy next door who says he's writing a novel but spends all his time on the Wii.


Then what is the secret to getting published? Come closer and I'll tell you. Are you ready for this?



You have to want it more than you want anything else. You must want it with every fibre of your being.



The rest of the secret:

  • You will need to give up stuff to write. Lots of stuff. Like maybe, free time and all the fun things you see other people doing. Be responsible and prioritize (especially if you have young children). But make time to write.

  • Writing well isn't easy or fast. It's a long, slow slog into awfulness involving disappointment, discouragement, depression and all those other "d" words until you begin to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Be prepared for the long haul.

  • Never quit until your prose sparkles and jumps off the page, until your characters come to life and your story strikes a universal chord. You may have to write six novels (like Talli Roland did) before you finally write the one that's got IT. Or spend ten years on one manuscript until it becomes a novel worth publishing. (Hello Uncut Diamonds.)

  • Seek out and research every agent, every publisher, every avenue to publication that you can find. Don't be a publishing snob, thinking that only the best will do. A small press or an unknown and/or less attractive agent may offer you a contract and provide invaluable experience with editing, publishing and marketing.Your book could be on store shelves while your friend who snagged that extremely good-looking much busier agent is still waiting for an offer.

  • If, after extensive research, you choose to self-publish or epublish, you won't rush into it with a poor quality piece of work. Nor cut corners on editing, design and typesetting, because you know that, in the end, it means nothing unless  readers (who are not your relatives) willingly shell out cash for your book.

  • One finished manuscript or one published book is only the beginning. This is a career not a hobby. Never rest on any hard-won success. Celebrate then get back to it. Your best work may not yet be written.

  • You might get lucky and hit the big time fast, but then what? Keep going. And going. Stephen King wrote On Writing after an accident that nearly killed him. He was in so much pain he could barely write for thirty minutes at a time-- a man with countless bestsellers to his name and plenty of money-- yet he did not stop writing.

There it is people. The secret to getting published. Go after it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Saving Time with Twitter or I'll Follow you and You Follow Me

Before I started my twitter account, I believed this: "Like Facebook only a faster way to waste time." I'm still not sure I get it although I'm learning how to waste time connect with twitter.

Today I went through my dashboard to visit blogs I hadn't been to for awhile. I was procrastinating wanting to stay connected. Quite a few had twitter buttons. Aha! I follow & can now learn about their new posts through twitter instead of having to scroll through my dashboard. So yes, a faster way to waste time stay connected.

There's a lot I don't get about twitter. Like those who follow 10,000 people and somehow find my new account and start following me? He didn't look like a spammer. But, why? What's the benefit of following 10,000 people on twitter? So they'll follow you?

All this I'll follow you, you follow me, I'll friend you & you friend me, whether it's on twitter, Facebook or blogs has got me wondering: Are followers the new currency? *and btw I really really want to get to 275 here on my blog pleasepleaseplease*

Forget dollars, Euros or pounds. The new measure of success is our follower count. I'm waiting to hear this: "I want to be a millionaire hit a million followers by the time I'm thirty." (Correction: I won't hear it. I'll read it because it'll be a tweet.)