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Friday, June 19, 2009

About Rejection...

I've had two people within the past week ask me how I handle rejection. One said, "Joanna, have you ever had anything rejected by your publisher?"

Well, yeah.

And I'll tell you how I've come to think about this...

See you can't get to the east coast or the west coast without crossing mountains. You can fly over them, or you can drive over them, but one way or the other, you've got to pass through them.

Rejection in this business is like mountains. It's just a hard spot between me and my goals. I can choose to whine and moan. I can avoid them. Or I can pull up my big girl panties (thanks, Linda H.!) and just keep on trucking. It doesn't mean I have to LIKE the mountains, and once in a while, I get turned back at the pass, but as long as I keep my goal in mind, I'll pick myself up and hurl myself in that general direction once again.

Here's a secret: It's not always the best books or the best articles that get published. Sometimes what an author offers is just what the publisher needed to round out a catalog. Or, your work didn't fit that publisher's immediate needs. It can be something entirely out of your control, and something not at all connected with the quality of your work.

Years ago, an acquiring editor told me he was going to publish I'm Too Blessed to be Depressed. He even set the release date. He was going to bring it out around Mother's Day. Boy, was I ever happy.

All he had to do was take it to the marketing committee. No sweat. Just a formality.

Then he called me back. The publisher had visited the marketing committee. The publisher had decided to take the company in a new direction. From that meeting on, all HCI Communications would publish was Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Now had my book been presented the week before, I would have had a contract. As it was...I self-published.

See? None of that had anything to do with the quality of my work.

So...if you want to write, you better have a strong stomach for rejection. Sure, I've cried about it. I've stomped around my office and called folks names. I've had a bad week interrupted only by lots of cookies and sweets. But I'm not going to let it stop me. I suggest you don't let it stop you either.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Upcoming and Incoming--Stuff I'm Doing and Thinking

* Listen in, please! I'll be Sylvia Dicky Smith's featured guest on Murder She Writes today at 5 p.m. CDT. You can listen in at I hope to talk some about promotions as well as my new book.

* Welcome new subscribers! My Constant Contact list grew by 62 names this month. Why? I think that reminding people they can sign up for my newsletter as I sell my book has helped. Now the challenge will continue to be providing value in that newsletter.

* Old friends and familiar faces. I continue to be amazed by the people I run into who own one of my "older" books. This weekend, I met a woman who owns 3 copies of I'm Too Blessed to be Depressed, a book I self-published and then sold to Adams Media. I've since gotten the rights back, and golly, maybe I should reprint that title because it was incredibly popular! Meeting "old" fans is such a good reminder that every public opportunity is another chance to turn folks into "raving fans," the kind of people who talk you up at every turn.

* Good works and good reads. Just finished 35 or so bookplates for the Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League. I'm tickled pink they are selling so many books to benefit homeless dogs.

* Book clubs are terrific. Marlis Day told me they've sold at least 18 copies of Paper, Scissors, Death to the book club there in Monroe City, IN. At the Barnes & Noble in Fenton MO, the manager introduced me to a customer who was an avid reader. "By the way, are you part of a book club?" I asked. I proceeded to give the woman enough bookmarks for all her book club members. I can visit any book club any where via Skype and I'm excited about trying that.

* Bookmarks with ribbons. I have to say that despite all the pain in the bottom work that goes into adding the ribbons to my bookmarks, it surely makes a difference. I've had readers linger over deciding which color ribbon to choose. It's so hard to know which of your marketing efforts is worthwhile, but I'm going to keep tying on ribbons as long as my achy-crampy hand will allow it.

* Signings this weekend:
** Friday, June 19, 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Ladue
** Saturday, June 20, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., at Barnes & Noble in MidRivers
** Sunday, June 21 (My birthday!), 1 to 3 p.m. at Borders on Manchester

How can I sign on my birthday? It's easy. There's nothing I'd rather do than make a new fan. Okay, nothing except write. So it's my present to myself.

* Online chat:

** Thursday, June 18, at 7 PST with the Fiskateers

* Class:
** Tuesday, June 16, 6:30 p.m., Edwardsville campus of Lewis & Clark Community College, I'll be teaching "How to Get Published"

* Blog appearances:
** I'll be on Amy Alessio's Vintage Cookbooks blog on Tuesday, June 16
** Pop Syndicate blog on Wednesday, June 17

NOTE TO SELF: Joanna, you simply must wear comfortable shoes to signings. This wincing with pain is not good!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Rising Tide of Cozies, Part 1

I just completed a four-part article about 'craft cozies," mysteries that center around a craft or a person involved in crafts. The first installment is now up at ForeWord Magazine, and you can read it here:

Why should you care? Well, maybe you'll come up with a couple new marketing ideas or an idea for a mystery series of your own!

Tools for Overcoming Writer's Block

Last night I posted 15 essays on writing at

These were originally monthly columns for an online magazine called "Graceful Bee," but I'm now making them available for a short time for anyone who needs a gentle boost to get writing.

Although written for scrapbookers, the ideas and concepts could inspire any writer. Often, when I'm working on a book, I dig through my personal bag of experiences to find raw materials. I then take a situation that I observed or participated in and RESHAPE that situation as a scene in my books.

For example, in Cut, Crop & Die, Kiki Lowenstein has a nearly disasterous visit to a spa. She's covered with a mud paste, wrapped in plastic, and left for the goo to do its work. As she lies there on a table, newly cut grass from an open window drifts in and sets off an allergic reaction. But, because she's wrapped tighter than an Egyptian mummy, Kiki can't move. She can't get up and close the window. In fact, the more she wriggles, the more she slides on the table. Eventually she's headed for scooting off the table and out the open window.

It happened to me.

I kid you not.

I was at the Heartland Spa in Illinois. I'd been "exfoliated" by a woman who must have had a second career polishing furniture. I was slathered in a mud skin product. The woman left me there to complete the skin treatment, and outside a man started mowing the lawn. I cried for help but no one came. I started a slow slide--the table was slanted with my feet lower than my head--and I was aiming for that open window.

I won't tell you how the situation resolved itself, but I will reiterate my point: recycle your life experiences. If you don't have enough of them, well, maybe you are too busy playing it safe to have a cool life!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Living a Deeply Satisfying Life

Took a quiz on BlogThings, and "discovered" this:

Your Life is Deeply Satisfying

You live a satisfying life even when it's not easy. You are dedicated to being happy.You make sure to what you're passionate about. You don't waste any moments.You surround yourself with people you cherish. There is a lot of love in your life.You are thankful for everything you have. You don't take anything for granted.

It's really true. Going through all my old journals, I discovered how often I tried to start writing a book and didn't get very far. Now I'm working on something new, something challenging, and each time I hit a really, really painful point in my life, I just turn my mind to the story I'm working on.

So last night when I found out my mother's cancer has spread to her lymph nodes, I thought about plotting.

Over the weekend, when a couple came to view our house (which is for sale), I thought about my characters.

This morning when I learned another wrinkle in our ongoing plans to move, I hurried downstairs to move ahead on dialogue.

Writing is my therapy and my solace. I live in the here and now, but my books provide me with a welcome escape. I work hard so they do the same for others.

I remember Tess Gerritsen saying how important it is for writers to put emotion in their work. I think of things I've read, like a book I'm struggling through now. Very erudite. Very witty. Not a smidge of emotion. I mean, I could really give a rat's whiskers about the characters. Okay, I'm impressed by the author, but I put the book down each night without any sense of loss. I'm fine with breaking that emotional connection with the characters. They just don't mean anything to me. I know I'm supposed to be "wowed" by the author's credentials, and they are jaw-dropping. But what I really, really want to know is...does he care about anything other than proving to me how darn smart he is?