Thursday, September 25, 2008

New York City is the Home of Chaos Theory

Anyone who has ever walked the streets of New York City can attest to this. New York City, at least Manhattan's South Central Park District (5th Ave, Columbus Circle, Ave of the Americas, Broadway...) where my daughter and I stayed during her Make A Wish Adventure is an example of Chaos Theory in action. The streets are throbbing with constant movement, noise, and activity, flowing with concentrated propulsion. Somehow, this sea of people manages to function, even move from place to place without crashing into one another. It may look like pandemonium, but there actually is a logical pattern. There's a current, and when you're walking the streets you need to plunge in and ride it. If you hesitate, you'll get hit by a cab.

My daughter and I spent two days and three nights in Manhattan to see Laurie Berkner in concert at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The concert was amazing! Laurie Berkner gave a show even a grown up would enjoy. And the toddlers were screaming like she was Paul McCartney. "Laurie! Laurie! I love you, Laurie!" They were bashing in the aisles, moshing to the groove of "Laurie's got a pig on her head" and singing along at the top of their little baby lungs. My daughter laughed and grinned through the whole concert. I have truly never seen her so happy, not even when she got Barbie's Dream House for Christmas three years ago.

After the concert we went back stage to meet Laurie and the band. She is wonderful! She got really close to Queen Teen as if intuitively knowing Queen Teen needed that connection to understand what Laurie was saying. And then Queen Teen surprised me. She was wearing a bracelet that she had insisted on bringing to the concert. I thought it was a fashion thing, but it turned out she wanted to give it to Laurie. Her whole body shook as she took it off her wrist and thrust it at Laurie. "This is for you." Laurie took it gently and put it on. "Thank you. It matches my dress. I love it." Then she hugged Queen Teen. Queen Teen hugged her back, her entire being glowing with joy. I wiped tears from my eyes and tried not to completely lose it.

Laurie spent several minutes with us before she had to join the reception in the main room, but she invited us to the party. We stayed a few minutes, eating chocolate covered strawberries, but it was packed with people and Queen Teen was exhausted, so we hopped back in the limo (yes, we got to ride in a limo to the concert. We rode in five limos during the trip to be exact).

The next day was our free day when we travelled the streets of Manhattan. Surprisingly, the stream of people stepped aside to let us pass when they saw us coming. The whole current adapted to our presence, and once when we got stuck on the edge of curb a man in a business suit stopped and helped us, then quickly jumped back into the flow and was gone. Queen Teen has a problem with loud noises, and the streets of Manhattan are nothing but one giant noise, but she hung in there, really hungry to explore. We hopped from store to store for breaks from the chaos, and I made sure to navigate back to our hotel so she could get her bearings again. I was really proud of her.

We flew home on Tuesday and met our limo driver, Duke, who drove us all the way back home. As I sat in the back of the limo with Queen Teen asleep beside me, watching the tiny LCD lights in the ceiling of the car as we sped through the blackness of the night, I felt perfectly calm and safe. I knew Duke would get us home safely. I fell asleep.

I am in love with Manhattan and hope to go back someday. In the literary world, it is Mecca. The creative energy there is more profound than LA, which seems quiet by comparison. Next time I'll go on my own, binoculars in hand, and hunt down all those hidden literary places I long to see.

Today, I'm playing catch up. A thousand emails and phone calls to make. Stacks of bills and dirty laundry. I don't mind. My daughter is happy, and I'm still tingling from Manhattan and the joy on my child's face.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Out of Town on a Make A Wish Adventure!!!!!

(image from

I will be out of town and away from the Medusa's Muse offices (okay, it's a desk in the corner of the living room, but I like saying "offices.") until Tuesday because my daughter, affectionately known as Queen Teen, and I are flying to New York City tomorrow to see Queen Teen's favorite singer, Laurie Berkner. She is in concert at Lincoln Center for the Arts in celebration of her new CD, Rocketship Run. This trip is all thanks to the Make A Wish Foundation. Queen Teen was referred to the program four months ago by one of the social workers we work with. At the time Queen Teen had no idea what she wanted, but the two volunteers who came to interview her discovered that she LOVES Laurie Berkner. When they asked her if she'd like to meet Laurie Berkner, Queen Teen giggled and smiled so big her pony-tales practically pointed straight up. That settled it! We would meet Laurie Berkner.

The team warned us that celebrity wishes can take a year or longer to arrange, but Laurie Berkner is not your average celebrity. She has been more than accommodating and seems really eager to help make Queen Teen's dream come true TODAY. We've been invited back stage to meet Laurie after the concert and she asked what Queen Teen's favorite song is so that they can sing it together.

While Queen Teen was recovering from surgery last year, I contacted Laurie Berkner and requested a note from her to help cheer Queen Teen while she lounged around in two big casts. Laurie sent a postcard and a hand written note within the week. Queen Teen says that listening to Laurie cheers her up. Even though Queen Teen is a teenager now, she still loves listening to the silly, children's songs of Laurie.

Make A Wish is sending a car to our home and driving us to the airport, paying for all the travel and accommodations, helping us navigate Manhattan, and providing meals and "incidentals." They want us to have fun without stress or worry about how much something costs. For that, I am deeply grateful. And I am grateful to the hundreds of volunteers and people who donate to the program who help make these dreams come true for kids who really have a rough road to travel.

"Make A Wish" isn't about pity, it's about joy; a way to try and balance out some of the anger and frustration, pain and discomfort, of coping with a chronic illness. It's about giving a family time together doing something fun and care free.

To tell the truth, I'm really excited to meet Laurie Berkner too! It's Laurie Berkner!!!! She's awesome! Really! Check out her website and play some of her songs. Not just silly preschool stuff, grown ups can enjoy them too.

"I've got a song in my tummy and it wants to come out, I've got a song in my tummy..."

So okay, maybe that one's silly, but what's wrong with a little silly?

"I've got a song in my tummy and it wants to come out. And when it does, I'm gonna sing and shout... La La, La La, La La..."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Patience is a Publishing Virtue

(image from AV Kids)

The business book I'm publishing next is on hold while we wait for notes from two of our three readers, therefor, the launch date will more than likely have to be pushed back, depending on how quickly the designer can get the work done. I hate waiting. I'm ready to get this baby DONE, but instead I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for feedback from two very knowledgeable people, feedback I absolutely do not want to proceed without.

Why is it better to wait for feedback than go ahead and proceed without it and meet our book launch date? Because there's no point publishing anything if it isn't ready. Until I hear back from these two readers who have several more years of business knowledge than I do, the book sits. What if one of them discovers an inaccuracy, or tells me I skipped very important information every person starting a small business MUST know? The whole purpose of the book is to help struggling publishers start a small business the right way, so the information in my book had better be right. Otherwise, why spend the money?

This is an important lesson every publisher really needs to understand. It is more important to publish the absolute best book you can than meet a deadline. Rather than worrying about book launch, worry about the book itself. Is it ready? Really ready? Has the copy-editor gone over every word and punctuation mark thoroughly? Is the cover as polished and professional as possible? Have all the details, dates, facts, and locations been checked for accuracy? Is the story the best work the author can create? If not, send it back and change the book launch dates.

I don't usually use sports analogies, but think of your book's launch like this. It's the first game of the season and you have the best players on your team money can buy. Expectations are exceedingly high. The crowd eagerly leans forward and cheers wildy as the pitcher takes the mound. Then there is absolute silence as the pitcher prepares to throw the ball. Will he strike out the hitter, walk him, or throw a foul? This pitcher is supposed to be good. Everyone's heard about him and has been waiting to see his first pitch. And here it is! It's fast and furious and thrown COMPLETELY OVER THE HEAD OF THE HITTER. Foul ball! The crowd is stunned. This is the guy whose supposed to be so great? This is the team we've been rooting for?

Don't let your book be that first foul ball of the season. Do it right THE FIRST TIME.

So I'll wait. And send another email. And wait some more.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Do You Need a Business License to be a Publisher?

A person who wants to self-publish her book asked me this question a few days ago. She had a beautiful book and a lot of money to promote it, but she had no idea how to actually sell it. So she asked me, "Do I need a business license to publish my book?"

And I replied...

Yes! If you want to SELL that self-published book, then the answer is most definitely yes! After which I proceeded to smack her about the head with her own beautiful book.

I didn't actually smack her, but I really wanted to, because this is one of those questions that should be asked BEFORE you try to publish your book. Too often, questions about business and other important details are asked AFTER the book is not only written, but designed, printed and bound. You may roll your eyes and yawn, because after all, business is so *boring* to us artistic types. We have important works of art to create.

Writing your book is an art, but publishing that book is a business. If you want to publish your book yourself, you must fully embrace this idea. Say it with me: Publishing is a Business. Too many people in the small press world put all their energy into creating a beautiful book, skipping the part about creating their business. They then are unable to sell that book they just spent a year writing.

Again, Publishing is a Business. That means you need a business license, a name, a location, a resale license and a way to track sales. You need to pay taxes on those sales at the end of the fiscal year, and account for any income you earn for your personal taxes. Besides just reading books and asking questions about publishing books, you need to learn about setting up a small business. Being a publisher means you are an entrepreneur, so make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.

It isn't difficult to set up a business, so don't let any fears you may have of entrepreneurial commitment stop you from being a publisher. Take a business course at a community college (that's what I did) and read a few books on small business, like The Small Business Kit for Dummies (which helped me a lot!).

While researching setting up a Publishing Business, I was disappointed that I couldn't find a book that combined Book Publishing with Small Business, so I've written my own. "What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Start-Up Business Guide for Publishers," is schedule for launch Nov. 1, 2008. My book covers the basics of creating a small business entity, including choosing a name, getting a business license, finding a logo, and keeping track of sales. If you send me an email I'll add your name to the the pre-order list so you'll know the moment the book is ready for sale.

The first person on the list is the woman who asked about Business Licenses.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Laura's Book Inspired Me to Become an Orientation and Mobility Specialist

I'm posting this cartoon in honor of me starting the Orientation and Mobility Program at San Francisco State University last night. I checked all the boxes as true except for the one about having my imagination crushed. Nope, not gonna happen. But being a professor's slave sounds cool.

What is Orientation and Mobility? Read the book I published, "Traveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers," by Laura Fogg, for an in depth view of her training and the work itself. Helping to create her book and attending the CAOMS conference inspired me to go back to school and learn to do what Laura does. Of course I'll still keep Medusa's Muse alive while working, and this way, I'll have a job that pays well, is beneficial and helpful to others, and will balance out the hundreds of solitary hours I spend staring at computer screens and manuscripts.

Gotta go. I have a ton of homework to do!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Biggest Killer of a Small Business isn't Lack of Cash, It's Fear.

(elephant image from Daily Mail)

I just read this statement from Itty Business:

If you think you’re afraid your business will fail, you’re not. You might be afraid of poverty, of humiliation, of never finding happiness, but you’re not afraid your business will fail. Figure out what the problem really is and stop pretending the Big White Elephant of Fear hasn't taken up residence in the corner of your home office.

Amen sister!

Running my own small business scares me to death, especially because I publish books, which means my failures are there for everyone to see and those failures impact my authors, those people who are trusting me with their creative offspring. Not only am I trying to support artists and help them create works of art, I am fending off bankruptcy and audits. It is a manic battle of linear thinking and intuition. So far I'm managing well and I'm proud of myself for that. But the fear is always there. What if I make a mistake? What if I fail?

Of course I make mistakes, but so far no one's noticed. I suppose that's part of the battle. It's like flubbing your lines in a play; if the audience doesn't see it, why worry. But I do worry. I can't help it. Eventually I'm sure I'll make a mistake that will impact Medusa's Muse in such a way I won't be able to smile my way out of it.

And that right there is the basis of my fear; I can't stand to make mistakes. I have to be perfect, always, all the time, in everything I do and say. Perfection is exhausting and impossible to achieve, but Lord knows I keep trying for it anyway. Because if I make a mistake someone will notice and start to question my capabilities. Plus, in the words of my thirteen year old daughter, "That would be embarrassing!"

I know my fear, understand its origins, and have learned to deal with it. I have never died of embarrassment nor of the judgment of others. The fear is ungrounded, but it's there. Being afraid isn't a problem. Letting that fear stop me from achieving my dreams is.

In an earlier post I blogged about writing down your own personal definition of success. It is just as important to write down what scares you about your publishing business and writing. Usually the fear isn't really "I'll fail." It is more related to what that failure creates. Will people laugh at you? Will your parents be embarrassed by you? When you locate the root of the fear, you can tame it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Every Writer Needs a Roomba

As I write this, my floors are being expertly cleaned by our new family member, the Roomba. She's a lovely thing, small, cute, hard working, round, and she does a better job on my floors than I ever did. Plus, she gives me more time to write, therefore, I love my Roomba.

My Muse is fascinated by it; she can't stop watching it move across the floor picking up bits of debris and dog hair, bashing into walls and furniture, figuring out how to navigate those obstacles, and then proceeding on its quest for cleanliness. She likes to throw more bits of detritus on the floor to see if the Roomba can pick it up. She cheered when it managed to vacuum a crushed Fish Cracker.

"Did you see that? It actually got every bit! What a marvelous invention."

When she came back from her summer hiatus, she dumped several ideas into my lap. "Here. I've been working on these for weeks." I flipped through each one, growing excited by the possibilities. Three plays, a novel revision that saves the plot and therefor might get my novel out of its hiding place, the entire philosophy of The Guru, and two ideas for essays.

"These are great! But I don't think we're going to have enough time to do all of this! School starts on Monday."

"So. You'll manage. How's the play coming along?"

"With these ideas for The Guru, it's practically done."

"Great. So what's next?"

"I'm waiting for the notes on the Business Book."

"And then..."

"I guess I'll start in on one of these ideas."

"Excellent." And then she saw the Roomba sitting on its charger. "What's that?"

The Roomba came from Tama, my newest author. She adopted my cat, so I adopted her old Roomba. It needed a bit of tweaking, but luckily my boy is a tinkering wizard. After reading a few websites and ordering another Roomba for parts, he got the thing chugging along beautifully. In fact, he's ordered a costume for the Scooba (the mopping Roomba) and is trying to decide whether to dress up the Roomba as a French Maid, or a Tiger.

See, Roomba's are a beacon for creativity. Buy one today and your own personal robot will give you new opportunities for writing. Or would you rather vacuum?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My Essay in Root and Sprout

An article I wrote has been published in the latest edition of the on-line parenting magazine Root and Sprout. Called "It's Back to School Time. Why am I so Happy?" the essay is about the glee and guilt we parents feel when we toss our children out of the car on their butts in the school parking lot lovingly send our little darlings to school. Look for it in the Grow Through Laughter section of the zine.

You'll also find articles about marriage (Dating Your Spouse: How to Reclaim Your Marriage, by Teresa Hirst), volunteering at your child's school (No Time to Volunteer? by John Boynton) and being a special needs student (Dear Mom and Dad: What It’s Like to Be A Child with Special Needs, by Kirk Martin).

I discovered Root and Sprout while surfing parenting websites and was very impressed with the quality of the writing, the wide range of topics which cover everything from basic parenting to the impact being a parent has on your relationships, as well as the beauty of the website itself. New issues of Root and Sprout come out monthly.