Five of My Favorite Artists

John Lithgow Lindsey Stirling The Piano Guys Voice Male Josh Groban

Ep 40 I LOVE artists. Today I’m sharing stories of how five artists have colored my life. 

I’m grateful for anyone who creates and shares on any level. It doesn’t matter if it’s amateur or professional, hobby or full-time gig.  Fro me, art is the sauce of life.  When I lived in France, I learned that the secret to delicious French food is the sauce. Without art, life would be like plain mashed potatoes or dry chicken—you get the basic nutrition, but it’s the sauce that adds the spice, the flavor, and makes everything taste so good.

“Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.”

Chuck Klosterman

All Kinds of Art

MAGICAL COMEDY

Years ago my husband and I went on a campout with other young married couples from our church. One man from our group performed a magical comedy routine while we sat around the campfire. I laughed so hard that my belly hurt for three days. It was awesome. This wasn’t something he did professionally. He was going to college like the rest of us, probably studying bio-engineering or something rather serious. I can’t remember what got him interested in magic and comedy or why he had taken the time to learn the skill. But I remember feeling grateful that he had taken the time to hone that talent and that he would share with us and not be embarrassed about it.  Twenty years later I still remember that night of entertainment. 

HUMOR

I love comedians. I love humor. You know those friends you love to be around because they are funny. They have a unique way of seeing and saying life. You never know what is going to come out of their mouth, but you know that when you’re around them your belly is going to hurt, in a good way. I’m really grateful for people with a good sense of humor. I think humor is an art. 

ACCENTS

Accents. I love accents. Real or imitation. With the internet and social media, our world is becoming more monochromatic. And I like that around the world we realize that we are more similar than different. But I hope we don’t lose our accents. I have a friend who can shift into accents on a dime and it’s hilarious. I love conversations when she gets in a mood and suddenly I’m having an international conversation with an Irish lady or German man.  I don’t know why. It’s just so colorful and entertaining. I think being able to do accents is an art. 

WRITERS

Of course I love writers. It took me awhile in my writing journey to think of myself as an artist. What finally gave me that AHA! was realizing how similar my writing process was to learning piano. Both required that I to sit my but in a chair for at least an hour every day and plunk away at the keys. And at first what came out wasn’t very pretty. However,  little by little over time it got better. Aha! Creating art, developing an artistic skill requires practice. Daily practice. 

CHILDREN’S AUTHORS

I could go on and on about writers I love, books that have changed my life. I want to mention artists who create for children. Thank the heavens, truly, for artists who create for children. I don’t know how I would have survived mothering without Dr. Seuss. Other favorites are Betsy Lewin’s Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type and Doreen Cronin’s Diary of a Worm.  How about the gorgeous language and illustrations of Don and Audrey Wood in “The Napping House” and “King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub.”  

NATURE

For me, life without artists would be a black and white outline. A blank coloring book. When I look back on life, on raising young children, it is our encounters with art that added the color to our pages.

I feel this way about nature, which makes sense because God is the great artist and an encounter with nature is to experience art. 

CHILDREN’S MUSICIANS

I feel extreme gratitude for artists who create clever, engaging, fun music for children. I’m not talking here about a run-of-the-mill CD of Mary Had a Little Lamb sung to a strum guitar. Sorry nursery rhyme album recorders that sound like you hired Donna Reed to sing straight from the book of Mother Goose accompanied by a few basic piano chords. I suppose you have your place in the world, and you are certainly better than nothing. But goodness, if I had to listen to your menu in the car one more time, I would have parked at the drive-through of the crazy house and checked myself in. 

And Kidz Bop? PLEASE. With your aerobicized Top 40 synthetic, auto-tuned, lip sync! Have mercy on us mothers whose mental faculties are already as fragile as the thread of Justin Beiber’s relationships.

Five Favorite Artists

I said I would name five of my favorites artists, so I will. But choosing five is HARD! Much harder than naming five of my favorite children, which I can do without hesitation. BUT, choosing five favorite artists is much more difficult. I’m mentioning these five because they have come into my life during a transition or when I needed comfort or uplift. Their creativity, their art became the soundtrack of my life at that time. 

1. John Lithgow

I owe any strand of musical mental fortitude remaining to John Lithgo and his children’s album Singing in the Bathtub.  Thank you, John Lithgo, for witty lyrics, catchy tunes, and comedic poetry set to music. How a Tony and Emmy-winning performer ends up creating children’s stories and music, I don’t know. You didn’t have to do it. You didn’t need to do it. And yet you did. For this I say THANK YOU, and I mean it.  Friends with kids, if you want a squirt of fun in your day, ask Alexa to play John Lithgow’s album Singing in the Bathtub or YOUTUBE it. Our personal favorites were From the Indies to the Andies in His Undies and Big Kids Scare the Heck out of Me.  I don’t love the Triplet song, but in light of the exceptional, over-the-top fun of the other 13 tracks, I can forgive track #7.   

And my thanks to a public library, the lovely building that houses all this art for free. The best price for young families who have more toddlers show up to the dinner table than they have dollars in the bank account. Each of the books, and music CDs I mention we discovered through our public library. 

2. Josh Groban

In 2001 Josh Groban released his first album including track #5 “To Where You Are.” When my brother passed away that year, I would get in the car by myself and play Track #5 over and over, crying and feeling my brother close to me. I had never heard the song when I purchased this CD; it wasn’t the reason I bought the CD. That’s how I know that artists, teachers, mentors come into your life when you’re ready and seeking. That song was the wings of my healing. It carried and soothed me. I don’t know how anyone could ever heal through grief without music.

While Josh Groban performed the song “To Where You Are,” it is especially the writers who need acknowledgement. Do you know who wrote the song? Richard Marx! Yes. The Richard Marx of “Right Here Waiting for You” fame. As well as Linda Thompson, who I don’t know anything about, but I’m sure she’s lovely.

3. Voice Male

Voice Male is an an a capella group consisting of six men who have performed together for twenty five years, since they first met in their college choir. It’s their improv slapstick humor and witty asides during concerts that endear them to me. Also, the fact that I’ve known them since college.

What I love about Voice Male, in addition to their unique arrangements of popular songs and original compositions, is the energy and relationship of their group. I appreciate that these six guys really go out of their way to keep creating and performing art. They each have day jobs and live in different states. When one of the original members passed away from cancer, it would have been easier to call it quits. They have wives, kids, and mortgages. And, they continue to make it work to do concerts, put out albums, and create art. What’s more? They’re getting old. I know because they are my age!

I don’t get a kickback for mentioning them. They don’t even know I’m talking about them. They probably don’t even remember me. But I can without reservation recommend that, if at all possible, you see them live in concert. Our favorite albums are Kids Stuff  or their Christmas albums Jingles 1 or Jingles 2.  They also produce beautiful arrangements of sacred hymns.

Voice Male has been the soundtrack to our family gardening projects and the background music each December when we set up our Christmas tree. Their songs are my favorite background music to my annual Christmas Card Videos. 

4. Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys

I remember not too long ago seeing a flyer advertising a performance by John Schmidt. Tickets were $30 for his outdoor concert at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. I wanted to take my husband for date night, but we had something else that weekend. Now John Schmidt and The Piano Guys are selling out stadiums and tickets are four times as much. I missed my chance to see him perform his original composition, Waterfall, in front of the actual waterfall at Thanksgiving Point Gardens. 

Lindsey Stirling has a similar story. She performed in local venues until AGT judges told her she wasn’t a talented enough violinist and that her act wasn’t strong enough to make it on her own.

For both John Schmidt and Lindsey Stirling it would have been easier for them to not pursue their art. Their acts certainly weren’t mainstream. They were probably not going to get picked up by a major record label. “Don’t give up your day job,” was probably sound advice. The Piano Guys were doing classical music. Nobody pays money for classical music. We fill sports stadiums and pay out enough ticket money to give rookie athletes million dollar salaries. But all our symphonies and art programs are subsidized. But I’m so glad they didn’t listen. I’m so grateful they didn’t quit. I love that they sell out sports stadiums.

I am a daily beneficiary of their creative artistic endeavors. Every morning I listen to Lindsey Sterling and the Piano Guys. They are both on my morning yoga playlist. I’m grateful for their hard work, their perseverance. I’m grateful they fought through  the self-doubt and public doubt and brought their art into the world. 

Both Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys have shown that becoming an artist is about tapping in to what you have unique to offer the world and becoming more of who you are.

5. ABBA and Mamma Mia

I grew up in the 1980s listening to my older brother’s cassette tape recordings of ABBA’s albums and rewinding to my favorite tracks Dancing Queen, Super Trouper, Take a Chance, and Money, Money. ABBA was the soundtrack of my awkward tween years.

Then, what I find truly genius is that playwright Catherine Johnson found a way to take a string of unrelated songs and mold them into a story. I admit that to me the plot sounded a bit scandalous—a young girl afflicted with back-to-back sleep overs and three potentials fathers. I never say the musical, but when the movie came out—well, I will watch anything with Meryl Streep. And I LOVED it.

Next, imagine the genius required to take all the leftover ABBA songs and create a believable, unique, and even more lovable prequel. When Mamma Mia Here We Go Again came out, I was helping my oldest daughter pack to move away to college. We took a break from packing and wen to the theater and laughed and cried. The ending scene between mom and daughter was particularly poignant.On the drive to college, we blasted ABBA music full power. That movie and all its glorious music became the soundtrack for the story of my daughter growing up and leaving home for the first time.

Then (and how cool is this?), for Homecoming her university had an ABBA tribute band and she got to rock out live with her college friends. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. And through this all I kept thinking how grateful I am for artists who create what literally becomes the soundtrack to our lives. 

Conclusion

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life,

in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

References

John Lithgow Singin’ in the Bathtub

Josh Groban, Singer   Josh Groban Album

VoiceMale Website    

Lindsey Stirling Website

The Piano Guys Website 

ABBA Website

Mamma Mia Movie 

 

What If You Don’t Get Your Miracle?

Victor Frankl

Ep. 39 In times of struggle, asking WHY will drown you. Finding your WHAT will save you.  Today’s topic discusses what happens when life doesn’t go the way we expect, when things don’t turn out the way we want or hope. We’re talking about when stuff happens that just doesn’t make sense, or seems unfair, or is caused by other people’s cruelty or negligence. We’re talking accidents, mistakes, or being beaten by the odds.

In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.   

The most powerful thing that we can access during any challenge is our will to find the meaning in it. 

Victor Frankl

A Hard Topic

The purpose of today’s episode is NOT to tell you, that everything happens for a reason or  that God gave you this challenge so you could learn something or because you need to be humbled or it’s to test your faith. This episode is NOT going to say, “Look on the bright side,” or “Be positive,” or “Keep your chin up.”

I feel my job today is NOT to give answers or words of comfort (that probably wouldn’t comfort) or to cheer you up or to make you feel better. I feel my job today is only this: to offer PERSPECTIVE.

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, you have so many questions, decisions, emotions, and unknowns that it can be almost impossible to find any perspective, so I hope I can offer a little today.

Hard Questions

  • Why do some kids get sick and others don’t?
  • Why do some fathers die?
  • Why are some people inspired to to take a different road and thus avoid a car accident?
  • Why does it seem that some people are miraculously spared while other are not?
  • Does God pick and choose who stays and who goes?
  • Why Me? Why Us?
  • Why did God make this happen or allow this to happen?
  • Why didn’t God intervene and perform a miracle for me?
  • Why didn’t God prompt me to act sooner or act in a different way? 
  • What did I do wrong to deserve this? Why is God punishing me?

God Did Not Make This Happen

After his wife died from brain cancer eight months after diagnosis, Michael Wilcox questioned if God  appointed her to die. He concluded that God created the earth, granted us life and set the wheels in motion then for the most part lets things play out. Life appoints. Mortality appoints. Life happens. Time happens. Occasionally the Lord intervenes, delays, prolongs, but mostly He allows life to happen. 

Michael Wilcox said, “I felt the Lord weep with us, sharing our sorrow, saying, ‘I wish she didn’t have to have cancer. I wish you could travel the world together now that you’ve retired. I can’t heal everyone who gets cancer or who gets in a car accident.’ God didn’t appoint her to die. Cancer appointed her to die.”

For me, I don’t believe every specific thing happens for a reason.  The only reason is that we are alive, we are mortal, and so we are susceptible to mortal experience, to genetics, to environment, to accidents, short-sightedness, evil acts, and mistakes. The only reason is that we are here, on this earth, having a mortal experience.

The way I see it, challenges come as a natural consequence of being alive and bumping into each other. I don’t believe that God plays us like chess pieces. Please don’t misunderstand because I do believe, very much, that God knows us, that He knows me. He is 100% aware of what I’m experiencing. I believe that angels are involved in the intricate details of my life. BUT, I do not believe they are here to interfere. I believe they are bound by natural laws that allows them or prevents them from getting involved. 

The Miracle is NOT What you Think

Kate Braestrup is a chaplain to the state of Maine’s Warden Service. Her job is to be there while Search and Rescue hunt for missing people. She has had a lot of opportunities to ask and answer questions: Why was this child found alive while I have to go tell this family that their child’s body was found at the bottom of the lake? 

Kate shares her experiences in her beautifully written book, Here If You Need Me. She writes exquisitely about the difference between miracles and odds. On the podcast I quote from chapter 16. 

There is no WHY, Only WHAT

In times of crisis, dwelling on the WHY will drown you. Finding the WHAT will save you. 

How to NOT Feel STRESSED

Stress

Ep. 38  This episode is all about STRESS and how to NOT feel stressed. The goal is to understand that it IS possible to have a lot on your plate and to NOT feel STRESSED about it. Listen to learn POWERFUL thoughts to help you to NOT feel STRESSED.

THE PROBLEM

So often we believe that we have so much to do and not enough time to do it all. We believe ALL the things are so important and we worry that our effort won’t be good enough. Therefore, we end up panicked and stressed, which actually freezes us and limits our ability to finish ALL the things. We end up working frenetically, staying up late, getting sick, but not finishing the tasks. 

THE SOLUTION

I promise that life does NOT have to feel STRESSFUL. It is entirely possible to have a lot on your plate and to NOT feel STRESSED about it. You can have an amazing life and be engaged in purposeful work and move forward through accomplishments and success steps and never feel stressed.

If you think this can’t possibly be true, that I’m exaggerating, then this is going to be an excellent episode for you. I’m glad you’re here. 

WHY WE FEEL STRESS

Let’s talk about Why We Feel Stress:

Every emotion comes from thoughts. Every. Single. One. It’s not possible to have an emotion that wasn’t triggered, that wasn’t created by a thought in your head.

Now, that thought in your head doesn’t necessarily have to be your own thought. Other people can put thoughts in your head, dark spirits can put thoughts in your head, TV/media/billboards can put thoughts in your head. Sometimes this can be frustrating because we can’t always control what thoughts pop up in our minds, but can control how we think about, how we react to those thoughts.  In any case, the emotions we feel always derive from a thought.

I’m not saying this to chastise or belittle anyone for experiencing stress. I feel stress at times, not too often these days, but I used to live in a chronic state of stress. And it’s not fun. Stress is a real kill-joy, it sucks the bliss out of life and makes you not a very pleasurable person to be around. Not to mention that it can make you really sick. 

STRESS-INDUCING THOUGHTS

Let’s look at some of the thoughts that lead to us feeling stressed.

“I don’t have enough time.” 

You feel the crunch of the deadline. The calendar days are turning, the clock is ticking, and you are running out of time. This is a common thought. I think we’ve all been here, probably several times already today.

“Not good enough.”

This is the thought of either “I’m not good enough” or “What I’m doing isn’t good enough.” This is where perfectionism comes to roost. This thought is a relative of the thought of not having enough time, because usually we are afraid that we don’t have enough time to make our work be good enough. We fear our imperfections and weaknesses and so often we allow our subconscious to make it be about time, when in truth, it’s about fear of not being good enough.

“I should do more”

 

CHALLENGE THESE THOUGHTS

I’ve practiced noticing when I’m feeling stressed and following that feeling, like a detective hunting for clues, back until I discover the thought triggering the stress. Then, I’ve found it helpful to ask questions: Is this thought true? Or, is this a useful thought?

I discovered this tool of discovering and questioning thought when I was searching for healing from postpartum depression and autoimmune disease. This is when I realized that my thoughts were the roots of so many of my so-called problems and stress and that my sickness stemmed from my toxic thoughts. Most everything that I talk about on this podcast comes down to what’s going on in our heads.  If there’s one thing you get out of this podcast, or any of these podcasts, if you learn to question your thoughts, that skill alone will launch your life in powerful ways. 

Let’s do it. Let’s question these thoughts.

Thought: “I don’t have enough time.”

There are so many ways your brain can verbalize this. I’m so busy. I can’t do it all. I have too much to do,  thus I don’t have enough time. 

Challenge:  Is it TRUE that I don’t have enough time?

Instead of going into a huge existential discussion about what is TRUTH, let’s skip to the understanding that when it comes to your life, you get to create your truth. It’s a gift called Free Agency. So I would ask, Do I want this to be true  for me that I don’t have enough time?

I can choose to believe that it’s true and my brain will be extremely skilled at finding evidence to support why I don’t have enough time.  Or, I can choose to say it’s not true. I can choose to think that I have plenty of time. I have SO much time. Time is an unlimited commodity. I can use time today and I will have more tomorrow. I can use tomorrow’s time and I will have more time the next day. It’s amazing!

For so long, self help people have pushed this idea, this “thought” that time is a precious, and limited commodity. Get it done today because there are no guarantees for tomorrow! And it’s true you could die at any moment. But still, I believe that death is not the end of me, that I will go on living and have, get this, even MORE time! More time to learn, progress, experience, etc. When my brain throws up that idea that I don’t have enough time, I challenge it and I argue for all the reason why I have an abundance of time.

I’ve never found a scenario where the thought “I don’t have enough time” is a useful thought. It doesn’t serve me well. The panic of running out of time makes my insides contract, it freezes me up, and it drains my power to take action. Ironically this thought of not having enough time actually leads to procrastination rather than prevents procrastination. 

Replace: What to Think Instead

I have plenty of time.

I have exactly enough time.

I have an abundance of time.

I have exactly enough time to accomplish all the things that are important to me

For Full Text Listen to the Podcast

Ch 12 Lies of the Magpie

Out of the Trenches

I have heard of women who labored in the hospital for upwards of twenty four hours before at last giving the final push and welcoming their newborn into the world after a lengthy and excruciating ordeal. In my mind nothing could be more miserable than laboring for hours (or days) in a hospital, strapped to a bed and chained to monitors.

My own grandmother labored for 24 to 48 hours with most of her 12 children, but at least she was at home. I’d much prefer laboring at home where I can move around, distract myself from the pain of contractions by washing dishes or running a load of laundry, taking a walk, or hiding in my closet.

However, being in this car is turning out to be worse than being strapped to a hospital bed. I’m all kinked behind the steering wheel. I can’t stretch out my legs in the short space between contractions. I’m stuck upright in a seated position which is harder than contracting while lying down. What I want is to pull the car over and walk around, but I’m too scared to change positions. I’m afraid that sitting is the only thing keeping my bags of water intact. Standing up might allow the baby to drop that last centimeter until my cervix won’t be able to withstand the pull of gravity. I’m afraid if I exit the car now, I won’t be pregnant when I get back in.

Growing a human being inside of you is a miraculous thing. Even on this, my fourth pregnancy, I’m astonished by the photos in my pregnancy books showcasing the stages of fetal development from the first division of cells to the beginning thump of the tiny heartbeat.

When I was 10, my 5th grade class took a field trip to our local clinic where the lab director showed us a glass jar with a human fetus floating in formaldehyde. The boys made crude Frankenstein jokes, many of the girls screamed, cried, and turned away. The baby had been donated by a woman who had miscarried at 12 weeks. I stared, feeling appalled at the indignity of keeping a baby in a jar, but also fixated on every minute detail formed to perfection down to the intricately-formed fingernail, as the lab director pointed out, on the baby’s pinky finger.

It would be several years before I got my first menstruation cycle, but even at age ten, I wondered what it would feel like to have something like that growing inside of me, with heart, mouth, nose, toes, and fingernails. Me, the glass jar filled with amniotic fluid, not formaldehyde, encasing a living person that would grow and become a human being. That is the artistic wonder of pregnancy and birth, to bring into existence something absolutely unique, which has never been created before. But I wasn’t thinking about the miracle of life last Fall when (unbeknownst to me) that miracle began taking place silently, the zygote making its journey down the fallopian tube to my uterus while I secured my hairpiece and dashed down the hall gathering the visual aids for my seminary object lesson; cells splitting—automatically, I didn’t even tell them to—from one to two, to four, to eight, to sixteen while I picked up Kate from preschool; the blastocyst naturally dividing to form the basis of muscle and skeleton, spine and skin, stomach and lungs.

Unaware of the intricate chain of mechanisms triggering to form new life, I only knew this: that despite having sheltered, nourished, grown, and brought forth three unique individuals, I still hadn’t achieved a sufficient level of success in my life. Being a mother, no matter how miraculous, just really didn’t impress anybody. 

Click the play button above to listen to the full chapter.

Click HERE for Chapter 11

Finding a Publisher, Living the Dream

Book Publishing

Ep 37 My Writing Journey to Publishing

Today I’m talking honestly about getting published. I’m sharing the misconceptions I’ve had about becoming a published author as well as things I’ve learned about the publication process. I’m sharing fears, tears, and indecision. 

Traditional vs Self Publishing

Today writers have a lot more options for publishing their work than they did fifteen years ago. The question of whether to traditionally publish or self publish has been my BIGGEST dilemma. This decision has burned up so many of my brain cells. And I’m not exaggerating by calling it a dilemma because I will have FINALLY, after weighing ALL the pros and cons and doing a TON of research, come to the conclusion to traditionally publish. Then I walk into another room of my house, it’s not 30 seconds later and I am 100% convinced that the best route is to self publish. 

This has been going on for several years. It’s a big decision because both options require a lot of time moving in very different directions. I want to talk about some of the pros and cons of each option.

Traditional Publishing

Finding a Literary Agent

To be traditionally published you generally need an agent. Publishing companies (with the exception of a few small ones) no longer accept manuscripts directly from authors. This means writing a query letters (a cover letter) and “querying” agents. This requires spending hours researching which agents might be a good fit and even more hours perfecting the query letter. Next plan to spend several months sending out your queries and waiting for agents to respond.

Waiting for the Query Response

Most agents do try to respond, even if it’s to say, “Thanks, but I’m not interested. Maybe you’ll get an agent who says, “I like your query. I’d like to read the full manuscript.” THEN, you wait months for the agent to read and say either “Not a good fit for me” or “I think it has potential, change this” or “I like it. I’ll represent you.”  You can repeat this process to 25, 50, 75, 100 different agents. 

Agent Revisions and Shopping for a Publisher

If you do get an offer for representation, you’ll spend months to a year doing revision with your agent. This is when you’ll come to understand that your agent represents 50 or so other authors and your manuscript is not his/her only priority. Once all these revisions are done, the agent THEN begins to solicit editors at publishing houses. At this point the agent essentially repeats the process that you went through to query her. A lot of writers believe (this was true for me) that once you land an agent, everything else will be smooth sailing. However, it does happen, that an agent is unable to sell your manuscript to a publisher. Or, the agent may sell to a small publisher or not succeed in getting you a cash advance. You might question whether your agent is doing all she can for you. Maybe you’ll consider finding a different agent.

Waiting for the Finished Product

Another scenario is that your agent does sell your manuscript and you’re happy with the contract. THEN, another round of revisions begins with your editor and from that point your book will be one to two years before publication.

Author Percentage of Sales

Most people are surprised to learn that under a traditional publishing contract, the author typically only earns 10% of book sales, AFTER they earn back any cash advance. So on a $15 paper back  the author earns $1.50. Also, the publishing company owns the rights to the content, so the author doesn’t get the final say on book cover.

Marketing

Today publishing companies expect authors to do the majority of their own marketing. I saw a comic showing a writer sitting across the desk from a publisher presenting a contract, and the caption read:  “We’d like to publish it, do nothing to promote it, and watch it disappear from the shelves in less than a month.” I’m not saying this is true in all cases. I know many successful, traditionally published authors who have a fantastic relationship with their agent and sing high praise of their editor and publisher. Still, the hard truth is that most traditionally published authors will sell less than 500 copies. 

Quality

The good thing about traditionally published books is the vetting process. You can see how anyone who gets through this lengthy ordeal has to know what they’re doing and that the manuscript has been edited over and over again to produce a good book. Many authors who feel their manuscript is done are astonished at how much more revising they do with their agent and then their editor. Though there are still plenty of low-quality books put out by traditional publishers, for the most part, if you pick up a book from one of the big five publishing houses, you can feel confident you’ll have a pretty good read.  

Self Publishing

Considering the amount of time it takes and the little control and profit for the author, why would anyone choose traditional publishing? Why wouldn’t you just self publish? My question exactly!

Because the world of self publishing has as many pros and cons.

Do It Yourself

Some people compare self-publishing to building your own house. Yes, you could probably google and learn everything you need to know to build your own house. But you’ll make a ton of mistakes in the process and it will take much longer than hiring someone. Self Publishing is a LOT of work. When you traditionally publish, you have a team working for you. You have multiple editors: content editors, line editors and copy editors. The time they spend on your manuscript is time you don’t have to spend. To self publish either you spend that time yourself OR you pay someone, up front, to edit. Editing is not cheap. A self published author should budget several thousand dollars for good editing.

Other things you’ll do yourself (or pay out of pocket to have done):

  • design your book cover
  • format and layout
  • plan the interior design including font and any graphics or special features
  • write your back cover copy
  • get an ISBN
  • You design your own cover or pay someone to do it. 
  • MARKET

Marketing

When you self publish, you are your own marketing team. Some printers require the author to buy 500 or so copies of their book, which you want to do because you want to sell them, right? But then you have 500 books in your garage and you have to find a way to sell them. The marketing is often the factor that most discourages self publishing.

Validation

I think, and I know this is true for me and many authors, the big issue about self-publishing is VALIDATION. I crave the validation that I believe would come from being chosen by and agent and picked up by a major publishing house. I want or (have wanted) that STAMP of approval that my work is good enough to bear the name Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Hachette. I could sort of sail on the confidence that somebody else says I’m a good writer.

Autonomy, Speed, and Profit

One of the biggest pros of self publishing is the autonomy. You can get your book out much faster. You have full control over cover design and you keep 100% of profit (after your expenses). Most authors (even those traditionally published) discover that no one is going to promote and champion your book as powerfully as you will.

So, self publishing is a big investment of time and money. Essentially you are taking a gamble on yourself. However, with Kindle Direct and other print on demand services, you no longer have to buy hundreds of book copies and store them in you garage. 

The Dilemma

https://medium.com/@skooloflife/self-publishing-vs-traditional-publishing-the-pros-and-cons-89ab2c9d53a8To Self Publish or Traditionally Publish: That is the QUESTION!!!

Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants said, “If I had known how hard it would be to publish a book, I would have never started.”

I can so relate. I would have never predicted I would be here, 10 years after my first writing class, still working every day to 1) become a skilled writer and 2) decide the best way to get my writing off of my hard drive and into your hearts and hands. 

Writing is like showing up in a boxing ring and getting punched in the face over and over and then coming back for more the next day and the next day  and the day after that. 

Why do I do it? Why does anyone do it?

For me, writing is the manifestation of my hope for connection. It’s putting my thoughts and my human experience out there to see if anyone else thinks and feels the same way. Writing is my way to feel that I’m not alone in this world, which is strange to say because the writing process is so isolatory. Mostly I write because I so intuitively feel the power of story to build empathy, understanding, to connect us. 

Mary Karr, author of the memoirs Liars club, Cherry, and Lit said, “ We are all hardwired in moments of empathy to see ourselves in another. Hearing each other’s stories actually raise our levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which is what nursing mother secrete when they breastfeed—what partly helps them bond with their young. It helps to join us together in some tribal way.” 

Mary Karr  also said, “I don’t write because I want to, but because it’s better than the angst over not writing.”

My Choice

What I have found is a hybrid publisher, a mix between traditional and self publishing. Which is so me. I can’t decide between one or the other, so I’m going to find a way to do both. And I really like so many things about this option.

STILL, my  brain is going all kinds of crazy telling me “this isn’t the best publisher, this isn’t the best way . . . to the point that I have even Googled applying to the Master Fine Arts program at Syracuse University. Yes. That’s in New York. And yes, I live in Utah and have children well immersed in school here. And, Syracuse’s MFA accepts a total of 12 students, from the world. 6 poets and 6 fiction writers. No nonfiction, especially not memoir. YET, my brain is so convinced that I still need to do MORE with this manuscript. I am big time fighting my own “It will never be good enough” syndrome. 

I am asking myself: Am I giving up my dream of being a traditionally published author? Am I settling? This is a real question. I get to decide the answer, and this is what I’m deciding:

My dreams are safe in my head. They can be as big and glorious and perfect as I want them to be in my head. Things always look better in my fantasies. They are pink, and bubbly and happy with no imperfections. In my head, no one can criticize or burst my dream bubble. 

But, here’s the truth, what good does a dream do in my head? 

This is what I’m learning. I’m learning that the process of making dreams into reality is MESSY and not very pretty. Things are never as fantastic in reality as they are in fantasy, whether it be a romance, a marriage, a dream vacation, even winning the lottery. There are hang-ups and problems with any situation. And I’ve decided I would rather live a nicked up, bruised, dented dream in real life, than keep a flawless, ephereal dream in my head. 

I can do real. I can do messy. 

So I’m saying it out loud “I have a publisher and I am going to be published within one year!” 

It is going to be real, it is going to be messy, it is going to be a LOT of work.

In fact, it is already real, it’s already messy, It’s already a lot of work.

And it’s awesome. 

Folks, Look at this! Can you believe it! I AM living my dream.

Thanks for being with me on this journey. I love that you’re here. 

mw

Organized Chaos

Maslow's Hierarchy

Ep. 36 Organized Chaos is a Sign of Progress

The purpose of today’s Power Principle is to help us UNDERSTAND that chaos is part of organization, so that we can be more comfortable with periods of CHAOS and so that you can manage and springboard from those moments of chaos more skillfully.  

Getting Your Ducks in a Row

I saw a YouTube video of a mama duck trying to stop her babies from falling down a storm drain. She worked feverishly to gather her scattered brood and nudge them to hop out of the gutter onto the step above. By the time she got the last duckling up the step, the other ducks were again scattered and she started the process over.  Mrs. Duck, I can relate! I just get my kids settled into a school routine, then it’s summer break. I just get the last moving box unpacked and we move again. This cycle from chaos to order back to chaos could drive one crazy, UNTIL you understand that this cycle is an essential part of progress. 

Chaos is GOOD, Necessary, and even DESIRABLE for growth.

I want to assure you that when you find yourself in periods of chaos, you’re not doing anything wrong. (As long as it’s progressive chaos. There is a difference between progressive chaos and non-progressive chaos.) 

“In the beginning . . . ” the Book of Genesis illustrates this pattern of chaos to order and back again. God took unorganized matter and created the earth. His six days of toil had barely ended when Eve ate the fruit and shifted the perfectly ordered life in the Garden into chaos. No sooner do Adam and Eve figure out how to labor for their livelihood and establish a good system when Cain slays Abel and their life is thrown into chaos again. 

The flood. The enslaved children of Israel, I mean the only place on Earth that really stayed organized was the city of Enoch and God didn’t want that place to get messed up, so he picked it up and put it on the top shelf so the other earth kids wouldn’t break it. 

Do you get the point? From the beginning of time, we have this pattern of chaos to order to chaos to order. We are designed to bring things from order to chaos, not just once, but over and over and over again. 

The important point is that this cycle isn’t meant to be repetitive, but progressive.

Without periods of chaos, our lives would be stagnant. Chaos is what jumpstarts our learning and growth. 

 

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

As we move through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, we don’t stay indefinitely at the top of the pyramid. We don’t sit for eternity at Self-actualization. We go back to the beginning and start again, not repeating ourselves, but improving ourselves. On our next journey up Maslow’s pyramid, we upgrade each level. We improve the quality of our food, shelter, environment. We increase our sense of safety. We build deeper connective relationships. We deepen our sense of self identity and we further pursue our passions and purpose. Then will will go back to food and start all over again. 

Personal Application

If you feel that you’re stuck in life, that you are running the hamster wheel but not moving forward, try going back to the basics. What is one way you can better fulfill your physiological needs? Can you upgrade your food and nutrition? Perhaps eat more raw vegetables, reduce sugar intake, quit smoking, take vitamins. Maybe you could get more sleep or clean out your closet and donate those old clothes that don’t fit. Something as simple as organizing the silverware drawer in your kitchen can energize you and jumpstart your progress up Maslow’s pyramid. 

Conclusion

Now that you understand how periods of chaos are desirable and essential for our learning and growth, you will be better able to manage the chaos and used it as a springboard to move forward in life.

Good luck gathering your ducklings! 

BONUS: Lies of the Magpie

Maleah Warner

Bonus Reading

This is a BONUS look ahead to future chapters. This is a selection from Chapter 25. 

Kate’s hearing test is scheduled for this week. When we arrive at the lab, I see no signs of padded earphones from the 1970s or finger rubbing like other doctors have done. Dr. Arya leads us down a hallway to a room that looks like a NASA control center. An attendant helps Kate step into a soundproof booth and instructs her to raise either hand when she hears any sound—a beep, music, or spoken words.

She stands perfectly still looking at me through the glass, eager to perform well on this test. As the sounds start, my arms flinch instinctively. Kate flinches her arms when I do, then stops herself from raising her hand all the way, just as I do. She is looking at me for guidance because she can’t hear any of the sounds that are wildly beeping, buzzing, and bouncing all around her. Unable to stop myself from flinching, I finally have to fold my arms tightly across my chest. Like a mirror image, Kate folds her little arms across her chest and waits for my next cue.

My eyes fill with water. While she is hearing nothing, I am hearing the echoes of a hundred interactions with Kate. I hear my voice crescendo with anger and impatience. “Why do you always chose to ignore me,” I grab her little elbow and jerk her around to look into my fiery eyes. “Why do I have to repeat everything ten times to you?” the face she looks into accuses her of being an obstinate, disobedient girl.

I have been yelling at her for years, trying to make her listen. She has spent the same amount of time trying to hear.

I scan the room for a box of tissue, then ask the attendant if there is a restroom on the floor. I hold up a one-minute sign signaling to Kate that I will be right back. I see her face, innocent behind the glass wall. She understands my gesture perfectly. She has become an expert at reading gestures and facial expressions behind soundproof glass.

As I walk out of the room, my heart twists on itself, as I realize that every time I’d gotten to the point of using gestures to communicate with my daughter, I was already way past patient, far beyond angry and the gestures she saw from me were flailing arms, madly flashing eyes, wide-mouthed beratings. In her short six years of life, this is the communication she has had from me.

We schedule her for surgery, but on the way home all Kate wants to know is if she passed the test.

To listen to the full chapter, click the play button above. Or subscribe to Power Principles Podcast on your favorite podcast app. 

Sidedoor Approaches to Solving Problems

sad boys

Ep. 35 Three NEW Ways to Approach Your Problems

How often do you hear you have to face your problems head-on?

FACING PROBLEMS HEAD-ON

Facing problems head-on sounds like the take-charge thing to do.  I’m a proactive problem-solver and that means I’m going to take the bull by the horns, wrestle it to the ground, lasso its legs, stand up, raise my arms and declare victory. 

But you’ve been around long enough—you’ve tried to solve problems this way—Darling, this ain’t your first rodeo, SO you know that at times our human existence is like living inside a China shop. One wrong move and you knock something valuable off the shelf. And if your approach to problem solving resembles wrestling a bull in a China Shop, well, you see what those results will be.

Miley Cyrus sums ups this approach with her lyrics, “You came in like a wrecking ball.” And take my word, trust me on this, you do NOT want a reenactment of THAT music video playing in your life.

Shattered things can be mended. China Shops can clean up after the bull runs through. Humans are actually quite repairable, but it’s always easier to not break something or someone in the first place.

Here are three Sidedoor Approaches to solve problems in a more effective way. 

Sidedoor Approach #1: MINIMIZE

Keeps problem small by not giving them FRONT DOOR attention.

Maybe this problem doesn’t deserve Front Door attention. This little thing is a side-issue. Keep it small where it belongs and let more important things through the FRONT DOOR. 

The side door is for intimate guests, right? Your family and closest friends come through the side door, so  keep problems within your intimate circle. If we hang our problems on the front door like one of those seasonal wreaths, that’s the first thing people see about us. That’s how we get defined and identified, by our problems. Remember the saying: Don’t Deck the Halls with Your Follies.

Sidedoor Approach #2: DISSIPATE CONFLICT ENERGY

A SIDEDOOR APPROACH resolves problems by dissipating conflict energy.  As humans we are made of energy, everything around us is energy, everything we do and accomplish in life is energy. Most of the time we ignore it. We aren’t conscious of where our energy is directed or what we’re doing with it.

If I face a problem head-on, it’s Me vs The Problem. It’s a face-off. Opposing football teams line up this way, which is okay because they are there for a conflict. Old-time battles were fought head-on. Think of the term front line. If you were on the front line, you knew things weren’t going to go well for you. 

One day I showed up to my church’s women’s group. The chairs were set up in two lines facing each other. The set-up was intended to foster discussion, but for some reason the entire lesson, I wanted to punch somebody. Someone would make a comment, and I wanted to argue. 

Human energy Face to Face is naturally confrontational. It’s powerful and it’s repelling, like magnetic poles. Like I said, we are 90% of the time going through life unconscious of where we’re throwing our energy. It’s like giving a laser gun to a toddler. 

What is the Solution?

During the Revolutionary War, the Colonists, with less ammunition and resources, won battles by not fighting head on. They found victory through “sidedoor” battle tactics.

Power Questions:

Am I feeding conflict energy by approaching this head on?

Am I fueling negative energy by my approach?

Could a simple adjustment of my physical demeanor resolve the struggle?

What about a simple adjustment to my emotional energy.  

Sidedoor Approach #3: QUESTION THE ROADBLOCK

Maybe the problem isn’t a problem. Maybe what (or who) you think is in your way, isn’t blocking you at all. Maybe you’re hitting up against this block over and over like a football player hitting against those tackling dummies. You think you’ve got to conquer this in order to move forward, so you keep ramming against it and it beats you down every time.

What if that ROADBLOCK doesn’t need your attention?

What if you can simply move around it?

What if the thing you BELIEVE is in your way, isn’t blocking you at all?

What if the only reason it’s a PROBLEM is because you’re fixated on it and you’ve gotten in the habit of hitting up against it over and over again?

What if all you need to do is look past it and move on?

Conclusion

I hope something here helps. There are a hundred different ways to apply these principles. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to neglect our problems and nurture our positives.

Listen to Full Episode by Clicking Play Button above.

Related Episodes: Episode 4 Permission to Make Life Easier

Shine Time & School Blessings

maleah warner

Ep. 19 Five Reasons a Shine Time Strengthens Your Family

Can you tell the people in the image are spelling SHINE? It’s subtle.

One thing we do to replace the constant hunger for screens in our house is to have a family Shine Time. These are periodic showcases of what we are learning, practicing, working on, creating. When I ask children if their practicing is done, they know that we value developing talents, improving skills, and learning new things. This helps them to leave the screens and get homework and practice done.

What Is Shine Time?

What is Shine Time?

Shine Time for the Warners basically means everyone flops onto their favorite place ont eh couch or floor and takes turns sharing something they’ve practiced, learned, discovered, memorized, created. It’s very informal. We usually don’t plan Shine Time in advance. We don’t do it consistently. It’s most often on Sunday or when Grandparents stop by, but it can happen any time

5 Ways Shine Times Benefits Families

Self Esteem

Kids love to be seen (we all love to be seen). You hear your kids say, “Mom, watch this trick. Mom, look what I can do!” Having a designated Shine Time when you give your kids your full attention sends the message that who they are and what they do matters. It says: I see you. I know you exist. You matter to me.

Group esteem

We talk a lot about self esteem, but group esteem is a real thing. We have a human need to be part of a group. We long for connection. Shine Time allows you all to be performer and audience. When you cheer for other family members, you develop a sense of pride and value for each other and for your group. Every family has a personality. As you share and are cheered on, you feel that you are an essential contributor to your group. 

Watch how good Shine Time is for the youngest who are so often overlooked. See what it does for their sense of worth when they get to be a star for a moment.

Reason for Learning

How often do you hear kids say, “Why do I have to learn this?” One benefit from Shine Time is it gives a reason for learning, practicing, discovering new things. For example, I struggle justifying taking time to practice the piano, but knowing I will perform for our family Shine Time gives me a reason to take the time away from cleaning and household chores to practice. 

Motivation

Finding motivation to get through the drudgery of daily practice can be a challenge. Knowing that someone will be listening helps give a burst of motivation to get through the hours of practice. As a child, violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, didn’t love to practice, but she like to perform. Her mother would bake chocolate chip cookies and invite neighborhood friends to come over and eat cookies while Jenny practiced.

Low Pressure Performance

Presenting a book report in front of a school class can be nerve-racking if you’ve never stood in front of a crowd. Family Shine Time provides a lower pressure opportunity to perform and practice dealing with nerves in a safe setting.

Listen to the full episode HERE. 

Listen to: Ep. 20 Screen Time: Set It & Forget It

Listen to:  Ep.19 Why Not to Limit Summer Screen Time

Ch 11 Lies of the Magpie

This is the REAL Chapter 11. Thanks for waiting. 

Ch 11 The Hairpiece

The road rolls under me, mile after mile passing beneath my tires without seeming to get me any closer to Tucson. I think of the miles I’ve covered in the past eleven months. Have they brought me closer to being enough?

Now that I’m in this car driving, choking down contractions, I wonder why the Maleah of ten months ago was so bent-out-of-shape about being left at the table. She was so consumed with being left out, with not being noticed, with not having something more significant to contribute with her life. Ha! What I would give right now to be left alone sitting at a table with no where I had to go, no deadlines, no appointments, no last-minute crisis calls needing my attention, no all-nighters proof reading to make print deadline. If I could I would march right back through the chaos of the past ten months and tell that version of Maleah, sitting alone at the banquet table, to just stay put. “Honey, if you knew everything you’re going to do in the next ten months, you would sit right here, soak in the stillness, and not move one muscle more than you have to.” I would bask in being left alone. I would bask in sitting at a table. I would bask in sitting. Period.

If I had had a fraction of an inkling that starting January I would be selling advertising for my own magazine,  and that I would be doing it pregnant, I would have never said YES to all the other things that came first.

But I didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue.

That version of me, poised lady-like in the black cocktail dress, was only concerned that her life was too unremarkable. She wanted something bigger, something more noticeable. Something more noteworthy. She wanted a change, and Honey, change was coming.

So enthralled with my new scars, I hardly noticed that the Awards Banquet also left it’s mark on Aaron. In the months following the table incident, while I was ruminating about how I could squeeze more impressive endeavors into my life, Aaron was looking for an exit strategy to leave Goodwin all together. 

As long as I’d known him, Aaron was always on the hunt for new business opportunities. Usually I listened to his latest brainstorm, nodded at the right places, and anticipated a different new idea the next day. So I didn’t pay much attention to how Aaron was becoming increasingly restless with work. He made passing comments about how moving people’s money from CDs to  Mutual Funds, from bonds to Insurance annuities, wasn’t stimulating. “I’m not challenged. I get paid a ridiculous amount of money for the little work that I do.”

At heart Aaron is a builder. He’d built this business, started from scratch, labored to get the flywheel turning. Now that the machine was rolling, he didn’t feel motivated by the day to day repetition of making dollar upon dollar by rolling over IRAs. All day for eight hours he did little else than converse with gray-haired people about facing the end of their life, about death, grief, and trust funds. The job was old.

To listen to the full chapter, click the PLAY button above. 

To hear Chapter 10, Click HERE.