All the Things I Did Not Know

I’ve now had a week to process the overwhelming amount of information I received at the San Francisco Writing Conference and I’ve realized that I knew nothing about the business of writing.

I didn’t know the importance of having a solid platform, or understand the concept of an author brand, and I didn’t know how to build either of them.

I didn’t know how much time I should be spending on social media.  To this point I have virtually ignored Pinterest and Google + and Linked In.   This is not ok.  I didn’t know how awesome Goodreads is.  I didn’t how important it is that I blog often and consistently. I didn’t know that there are on-line tools to help us manage our social media quickly and efficiently.

I didn’t even really know about blogging, not as I should.  I didn’t know about the 3-Part content strategy, or about conducting inertviews, and setting up giveaways, or the importance of newsjacking.

I don’t know that twitter was such an important tool for business.  Although I have an account, I rarely use it, and most certainly had no idea to post multiple times a day.  I didn’t realize that this platform is quite frequently the pulse of an industry, and that I should be participating in the cocktail party.

I didn’t know anything about MailChimp, much less that I was supposed to be using it on my websites.

I didn’t know about the relationships between writers and agents and editors and publishers.  I didn’t realize that they are looking for you, just as much as you are looking for them.  I didn’t know that they are approachable, that is, if you follow the rules.  Intimidating yes, but approachable.

I didn’t know how to pitch an idea to an agent (or anyone else).  I didn’t even really know what a pitch was!  I didn’t know anything about Queries and Proposals and how they are different from each other.  And I didn’t know when it is appropriate to use each of these things.

I didn’t know that self-publishing could be a very good thing, or a very bad thing, depending on your genre and book sales.

I didn’t know that I could pitch an agent and be successful.

I didn’t know the errors to watch out for in narration and I didn’t know the best ways to use dialogue to reveal characters.  I didn’t know the simple genius of The Plot Whisperer.

I didn’t know to search for my voice.  I don’t have it quite yet, but I’m getting there.

I didn’t know how underprepared I was for this conference – I didn’t bring cards, I didn’t research the agents, I didn’t write a pitch, I didn’t bring “interview” clothes, and I didn’t have any clue about the questions I should be asking.

But more than anything, I didn’t know that I, me, the mother of three/business owner/inconsistent blogger/former science teacher/US traveler/closet writer/obsessive reader/non-techy eighties child could fit into this industry somehow, and feel comfortable finding a place for myself here.  But to quote one of the greatest stories ever written, I think I can.

I now know how much I have to do.  I’ve started a website revision, I’m making an effort to better my understanding of the social media platforms, I have a book proposal to work on, and yes, I’m writing more.  Thank you SFWC and the Marc Hopkins for a fabulous weekend.  I look forward to seeing you next year – with cards.

~Cassie

PS. I also didn’t know how wonderful room service and a glass of wine would taste alone in my quiet room after a few long days of learning all of these things.

roomservice

A Cold Night in January

My most favorite time to walk is in the dark of a snowy night.  It’s lovely to step outside my door, shut it to the noise of phones and televisions and music and appliances and instruments and kids, and just be in the quiet that only a snowfall can give.  The icicle needles of the trees gently brush the top of my head, and the crunch of my footsteps is muffled under the soft white piles.  The flakes tumble down, brushing aside even the sound of my breath, and I am alone in a neighborhood full of people, walking the paths under the trees, amazed that such dazzling nature is right here, in my own backyard.

Suddenly a cloud moves, and a single beam of moonlight unmasks the shimmering white beneath and above me, and the world is a blank slate again.  I turn towards home, my mind free of the jumble of daily thoughts, thinking only of the keys at my fingertips, ready to create.  Tonight I write.

~C

January Night

The Changing of a Season

Why is it so significant?  It happens every year.  Four times a year.   But it’s poetry catches me off-guard… every. single. time.

This weekend my kids were playing in beautiful Drake Park, raking the sun-colored oak leaves into giant piles, while more tumbled down all around them.  And the sunshine glittered through the half-bare branches and alighted the scene with it’s yellow warmth, and the wind sent up flurries of red and gold into the air around them.  It smelled of warm, dry earth and the laughter of kids and the tinkle of bicycles chimed through the air.

Fall

Fall leaves us so brilliantly, one last shining burst of flaming color and warmth to carry into the white canvas of winter.  Today it is snowing.  The winds are gone and it is quiet.  The frost has touched the metal, the stones, the brick, the dirt, and the wet aroma rushes inside when you open the door.  There is already a dusting of white covering every piece of backyard furniture, and I’m watching a family of songbirds scramble to pick every scrap of food that’s left in the cracks between stones.  There are only a last few desperately clinging leaves and an unused batting net standing lonely on the patio to remind me that just yesterday.. it was different.

winter

Nature is Beautiful.

Death Valley

Don’t skip a visit to Death Valley National Park.  It’s not a desert wasteland, and it’s not boring or unimportant.  The thing is, when you strip away all the conventional notions of what is beautiful, like trees for example, or flowers or other plant and wildlife, you are left with the backbone of the Earth.  Rock. Dirt. Salt. Air. Light.   It’s like stripping away a person’s hair, clothes, shape, and belongings, and just looking at their raw material:  intention, purpose, and perspective.  It’s like looking at their soul.  That’s what Death Valley shows you, the soul of the Earth.  No fluff, no showing off, no fancy ponderings of “look what I can do.”  It’s the raw material.  The great forces that shape our world are exposed.  Rock has been uplifted, torn apart, and stretched down the middle.  The exposed crust is baked and cracked in the relentless and unforgiving gaze of the sun.  Every drop of water is threatened by the salt that lies just beneath the surface.  But despite all of this, the valley is peaceful. It simply exists.   The intensity of the light, the framing of the bare mountains, the shading of the colors all make you want to somehow capture it forever, and take it home to remind you what the Earth is capable of, what it started with.  The soul knows itself, and it beckons you to stop by and take a look.

DSC_0037Death Valley National Park, 2012 – Our Thinker