Work/Life Balance: The Craziest Weekend Ever, Part I

Remember when I said this blog would be about putting the pieces of my life together and making a writer? Here’s proof. This post will be split in two, with one half going up today (I’m SO late. This was supposed to be up on the 15th), and the next on August 31st. Enjoy people!

Day 1: Friday, August 1st

Waiting for the 6 train on the road to the conference

I have taken a day off from my 9-5 to accomplish this, because if I had needed to cram anything else into this weekend, I would honestly fail all of the things on my to-do list. Guaranteed. Today is my son, Logan’s, birthday. He is turning 5. Today is also the weekend of the Writer’s Digest Conference at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. Now, thankfully, I live in the Bronx and work in the city, so I don’t have to travel to get to the conference. Still…it should be interesting to attempt to handle both.

5 AM: Oh My GOD, I am tired. How? Why? I am waking up all of thirty minutes earlier than usual! It could be the fact that I couldn’t sleep last night. Maybe.

I whine as I scrape myself out of bed. My husband, Ismael, is waiting with a cup of coffee before he leaves for work. He is normal as this is his normal wake up time. I am a quivering blob of a person and I’m too nauseated to eat breakfast.

6 AM: Time to wake up the birthday boy, my little five year old guy! I wake him up with my usual ‘Rise and Shine’ song, and throw in a bit of birthday song for good measure. I give him a medal, because he was asking for one since he saw Wreck it Ralph. He is absurdly happy about his medal.

720 AM: I swore I would be at the daycare the minute it opened at 7. I am late. Between trying to look presentable, trying to indulge my birthday boy so he didn’t feel the anxiety I am about this whole weekend, and making sure I have the last minute things together for his daycare party (cupcakes? Check!) and later tonight, when our family will be visiting, I just could not get out of the house. Ms. Dawn acts like I’ve come just when she was expecting me. God bless her.

8 AM: I am on the train. The conference starts at 8:30, I still have to register and get to the first seminar. Also, I still feel completely nauseated, probably exacerbated by being late, which I hate, which has been my constant state since I had Logan.

815 AM: STILL on the train. Shit. SHIT.

The view from my seat for the Writer’s Digest Pro Series

835 AM: I’m here! Registration was quick and easy and I moved right into the first seminar in the conference. Now, I’m not going to go into too much detail about everything that was said here, just because there are massive amounts of information that were given out in each of the panels over the following two days. But I will give out one major highlight per panel, and if anyone has an interest in learning more about a specific panel, feel free to let me know in the comments!

Seminar 1: “Moving the Needle: How to Boost Your Book Sales from 1,000 to 10,000 Copies Sold.” – This seminar was led by Out:Think Founder, Tim Grahl. Perhaps his most surprising tip from the conference was that you should never give out anything for free, a phenomenon I have often wondered about. If you aren’t shopping the indie circuit for eBooks, you don’t realize how rampant this practice is. People make books free for short periods of time and make some sales, but, as Grahl notes, most people are just stocking their Kindles filled with books that they never read. And perhaps there is some truth to that. I have tons of available eBooks that I never touch just because I never have time. And the ones that I don’t touch…they were free. As Grahl put it, “When people don’t pay for something, they don’t value it.”

9:30, Seminar 2: “Advanced Social Media Skills for Selling Books.” – This seminar was led by Kristen McLean, the CEO of Bookigee. Two big takeaways from this one. One was a takeoff of something Tim Grahl had started to say in the previous seminar. Be relentlessly helpful. Helping others is both selfish and selfless. You get to assist, but you also garner loyalty from others. People want to help those that help them. Another gem, you don’t have to be on every type of social media, but whatever you are on, you should use consistently. Be yourself, be helpful, interesting, and real. However, if you are trying to maintain a million different social networks and find you are having real trouble doing so, it’s best to drop off of the ones you are not naturally comfortable with, rather than allow uninteresting stuff to dominate your time.

10:15, Seminar 3: “Advanced Amazon for Authors.” – Led by Amazon’s Director of Author & Publisher Relationships, Jon Fine, this was interesting, but I didn’t walk away feeling like I’d just stumbled on a goldmine of information. That’s probably because my mindset is more aimed at traditional publishing (for now, anyway) than independent publishing. What did jump out at me was the ACX program, where a person can, using Amazon’s resources, create an indie audio book. Also discussed was KindleWorlds, the new fanfiction publishing platform from Amazon. I’m still waiting for KindleWorlds to license Women of the Otherworld and Stargate, so I can get my fanfiction sold. If only…

11:10, Seminar 4: “Author Branding: What You Need To Know.” – This seminar was led by Michael J. Sullivan, fantasy/science fiction writer and Goodreads Guru. The big takeaway from this one was that the most important thing you should do when building a brand is not to step outside of yourself. Alternate egos are difficult to maintain, so if you’re not being true to yourself when putting yourself out there, you are going to find yourself coming off as artificial or wishy washy. No matter what you choose to reveal about yourself, the person who should be coming through when you talk about your brand should be you.

12 PM: Oh my God, I am so hungry. I never ate breakfast, so by the time they break for lunch, I pretty much barrel my way over to the Cosi directly across the street from the hotel and scarf my lunch (Chicken TBM Melt, yo!) happily. I get back in time to go visit the exhibits. This was the only portion of the event I thought was a tad lacking. The exhibits that were there were great. The people were sweet and provided information generously. But for an event that had several periods throughout the weekend for viewing the exhibits, there weren’t many to view. Although, I did walk out with a bag of info packets and four new books from the Writer’s Digest Store.

1 PM, Seminar 5: “A View from the Top: Publishing Insiders on Taking Your Writing Career to the Next Level.” –  Moderated by Kate Travers, Director of Digital Business Development at Workman Publishing, this panel had a nice group of industry insiders: Kristin Fassler, Director of Marketing at Penguin Random House, Larry Kirshbaum, Senior Literary Agent at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency and Brandi Larsen, Digital Publishing Director at New American Library, Berkley Books, and Celebra imprints at Penguin Random House. The big takeaway fact from this panel, though they each discussed it in their own different and engaging manners, was that the publishing industry WANTS to find your book. They want to believe in your book. They are not looking for a reason not to publish your book. They truly want to find the next amazing story. So give it to them. Give them what they are looking for and they will take it and run with it.

2PM, Seminar 6: “When the Author Is a Critic: The View From Both Sides”. – This panel was a pleasant surprise. Originally, this space was a to be determined panel. Moderated by Porter Anderson, Journalist/Speaker/Consultant in the publishing industry (who I will forever know as he of the movie trailer voice) and contained Emily St. John Mandel, Author of Station Eleven and Shanna Swendson, Author of The Enchanted Series. The two discussed and debated the benefits of small publishing houses, large publishers, and hybrid publishing (merging traditional and self publishing). I walked away from this one with the idea that the best strategy is to try what you can and find what works for you. We are in a very different publishing world now, and it is essential to have an open mind as you navigate.

Courtesy of If you look on the right 5 rows or so back, you can spot the back of my head. 😉

2:45 PM, Seminar 7: “Do You Really Want to Write a Bestseller? Here’s How.” – Once again conducted by Larry Kirshbaum of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency, this seminar discussed the elements necessary to write a bestseller. Kirshbaum urges writers to make sure they have a strong premise and a strong first chapter. He is also very adamant about writers not overwriting and loading down their descriptions – get it in 1 to 2 sentences and then move on. His closing remark? You have to want it really badly, and if you do, you’ll accomplish it.

3:30 PM, Seminar 8: “Pitch Perfect.” – Led by Guide to Literary Agents guru Chuck Sambuchino, this was the big one for me, the most important seminar of the day, because I would be participating in the pitch slam being held early the following morning. So, I needed confirmation that the pitch I had meticulously practiced and memorized was correct. Guess what? It wasn’t.

The list of things that should be included?
a) Details- Type, word count, genre, title.
b) Introduce the main character.
c) Tell us something interesting about them and what they want.
d) What is the book’s inciting incident? What puts everything into motion.
e) What is the main conflict of the story.
f) Complications?
g) Stakes?
h) Unclear wrap up

The bad news? My pitch wasn’t ready. And to top that off, I had company coming over that night, so I couldn’t exactly rewrite it any time soon.

Me and my Logan

5 PM – Despite there being more conference for the night, my son’s birthday awaited, so I scrambled home to spend some time with my boy.

5:15 PM – Sitting on the 6 train, trying my best to spin a new pitch. It is not going well. Everything I come up with sounds awful. How do you encapsulate five years worth of work in a paragraph?

6:30 PM – Family time! My little man is gorgeous and thinks he is a grown up. My mother, sister, brother, closest friends, husband son, my FAMILY surrounds me and still I can tell I’m probably not the most pleasant individual right now. I’m intensely nervous about the pitch the following morning. My family seems to believe that failure is close to impossible for me, which makes them awesome and makes me feel silly for worrying. Still, I worry. But while I worry, I have the best damn family gathering / birthday celebration I can manage.

Me and my boys.

11 PM – People begin to depart. My best friend, Joy, demands to stay and help me work on the pitch. (My other best friend, Allegra, offered the same, but the gathering ran too late.) Joy and Ismael work until 1 AM to get the pitch as perfect as we can manage.

1 AM – Sleep claims me and the following day awaits.

Stay tuned for part 2, posted on the 31st! Want to know any more about these topics? Post below and I’ll elaborate on what I can.

10 thoughts on “Work/Life Balance: The Craziest Weekend Ever, Part I

  1. Hmm. (I’m probably going to regret typing this on an iPod when autocorrect does something screwy, but here goes.)

    I might disagree on the free thing. Not because I’m such a big expert, but because other experts out there do have success with it. Whether it’s a freebie for joining a mailing list (which Grahl does) or putting stories on Wattpad (ala Joanna Penn) or whatever, a lot of people do find that people love freebies. And when I’ve read the first book in a series for free, I often seek out ( and pay for) the sequel.

    But that’s the other difference: I do read freebies. I haven’t read all that I’ve collected by any means, but I read them. And the really good ones do lead to purchases. (The bad ones make me glad I didn’t pay for them!)

    1. I’m not sure about the free thing myself. I definitely wait to read the stuff in my iPad, but then, I’ve collected a bunch of paid books that I’ve bought to support a fellow writer, but have yet to actually read. So it might just be that with digital books, we tend to buy up whatever we can get our hands on, and then, because there isn’t a tangible representation of it, we forget to do anything about it. Me…I have an actual book reading schedule. Which I realize is insane. But it is constructed around the release dates of my must haves. Everything else must wait.

  2. Pingback: Work/Life Balance: The Craziest Weekend Ever, Part II | Pieces of the Puzzle

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