Leap Into Better Health This Year

Happy Leap Day everyone! Wow, we get an extra day this year, what are you going to do with it? I know what I’d like to do. I’d like to sit here in my housecoat, sip on my latte and work on my current novel in progress. But I’m not. Today I’m going to exercise and believe me, I need it.

As a writer, I spend an awful lot of time sitting at my computer. Sitting and sitting and sitting. Occasionally, I get up for a snack and then I sit some more. I am not alone in this sedentary lifestyle. According to both the Canadian Medical Association and the U.S. Department of health, 2/3 of Canadians and Americans lead a physically inactive lifestyle. We are perched in front of our computers and/or television sets for a total of approximately 56 hours a week (according to a poll by the Institute for Medicine and Public Health).


We all know our bodies have not evolved to be sedentary. Our bodies were created to move and the more we sit, the more our bodies stop functioning properly resulting in such wide ranging problems as chronic back pain, obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. This issue is becoming increasingly more problematic for women who tend to be less active than men. If you’re interested in checking your risk assessment click here and Desjardin Financial Security will donate $1 to The Heart and Stroke Foundation.

So what’s the solution? A regular exercise routine? Yes, that is beneficial, but guess what? Studies are showing that even if you exercise during the day, but still maintain long periods of inactivity, you aren’t actually avoiding some of the above health risks. In fact, it is becoming more and more apparent that we need to incorporate regular movement into our daily routine. The question is, when you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, how do you do that?

It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Simple things like standing instead of sitting while talking on the phone can make a difference. There’s a great article from Rodale.com called, Get Out of Your Chair if You Want to Live that shows us ‘sitters’ a couple of ways to incorporate movement into our sedentary days. Here’s a quick video from Rodale.com too. How not to sit so much

So I hope you’ll join me this Leap Day and take a moment to stand up and then sit down and then stand up and sit down again. Do this eight times three times a day. It could save your life!


A wise friend once told me, if you want to be a writer, you need to be a writer.  Do all the things that writers do.  Surround yourself with writers, talk about yourself as if you are a writer, network with writers and above all else, write.  What she failed to mention is that this ‘being a writer’ thing requires incredible stamina.  It is definitely not a sprint.  It isn’t even a slow and steady jog.  It’s a marathon, a test of endurance, strength and discipline. 

Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet with Yorick's skull
Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet

 So how does one, be a writer before they are published?  There are many things you can do.  But first and foremost:

  1. Write.  Too often we get caught up in all the other things going on in our lives.  However, if you want to write, if you truly want to be a writer, you have to make time for it.
  2. Join a writing community.  If you are reading this article, chances are you belong to a writing group.  But ask yourself what you are getting out of this group.  Are you learning anything?  Is the group helping your writing career or is it just one more thing that is taking up time in your life and keeping you from writing?  There are many, many forums for writers out there.  Choose your community carefully.
  3. Present yourself as a writer.  When people ask you what you do, tell them you are a writer and say it with conviction.  If you don’t believe it, no one else will.  This was a transition I personally had to make slowly (otherwise I felt like a fraud).  I began with, “I’m a teacher, but I’m not teaching right now, I’m writing in my spare time.”  Then I started saying, “I used to be a teacher but now I write.”  Now I say, “I’m a writer.”  And you know what?  I feel like a writer.
  4. Be professional.  If you want to write as a career, treat it as such.  Your query letter is your cover letter, your partial is your resume.  Make sure you are sending out your very best work and if your project is passed on, make sure you send a gracious thank-you as you never know when your paths will cross again.  Conferences and workshops are like job fairs, an opportunity to see what’s out there and to network.  Create a professional persona with the name you plan to use, business cards and websites.  There are many ways to do this without spending a lot of money.  Ask the members of your writing group if you need help, that’s what they’re there for.
  5. Network.  Like any other business, networking is imperative.  Take a step out of your comfort zone and attend conferences to meet people in the industry and to feel a part of that industry.  Don’t just focus on industry professionals, meet other authors and readers, you never know who anyone is or who they will become.  Again, be professional and gracious.  Yes, attending conferences can be costly but think of it as an investment. If money is an issue, plan for it.  Do things like collect air miles to help pay for flights.  Share a room with others – it’s a great way to meet people and to cut costs.  If a conference is really unattainable, there are many ways to network free of charge.  Twitter and Facebook are easy ways to make contacts without spending a dime.  If blogging isn’t for you, take some time to simply follow and comment on other peoples’ blogs.
  6. Volunteer.  I have been so amazed and delighted by the support in this industry and have directly benefited by the guidance of others who have been involved longer than I have.  I know I’m not alone.  Pay it forward.  Volunteer in your writing group, it’s another great way to meet industry professionals, one-on-one.  Help those who are newer to this than you, you never know – they may someday become your biggest fan.  Volunteer at conferences to moderate a panel – you could end up meeting one of your favorite authors.  Teach writing classes, find an aspect of the craft that you excel at and share your techniques with others.
  7. Write.  Just in case you’d forgotten.  It’s a marathon, remember?  And, as Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

    Plato and Aristotle
    Aristotle and Plato

Coming Down From RT Booklovers Convention 2011

Wow!  What a wild ride.  My first ever Romantic Times Booklovers Convention.  I’d heard so much about it and let me tell you the experience did not disappoint.  My pictures, however, did!  I’m terrible at taking pictures.  I bring my camera to everything and then promptly forget all about using it.  Oh well, here’s a link to a great new agent’s blog – Adventures in Agentland – by Natalie Fischer, who has been with Bradford Literary Agency for a number of months now.  I had the pleasure of meeting her at the convention.  She did a wonderful picture montage of some of the key elements of the convention – and if you watch carefully, you might actually catch a glimpse of my alter ego.

Highlights of the convention include (but are not limited to): A workshop with Dean Koontz – he’s awesome! A fabulous workshop with Michael Hauge on plot structure, great panels with authors; Vivi Anna, Lauren Dane, Megan HartKimberly Kaye Terry, Brenda Jackson, and many more.  Just hanging with some of my other fave authors, including Ann Aguirre, Beth Williamson, HelenKay Dimon and Vivian Arend.  Meeting my oh- so- lovely cover artist Kanaxa at the Samhain Publishing In-N-Out Burger party!  And gosh, what else?  Oh too many parties, functions and mixers to mention! 

I would like to say a special thanks to my CaRWA peeps, Vivi Anna, Kymber Morgan and Susan Retzlaff for twisting my arm (didn’t take much) and for making this so much fun!

The Girls from Calgary and Beth
My CaRWA Peeps and Awesome Roommate Beth Williamson

From There To Here – The Publishing Learning Curve

Open bookSometimes I think I haven’t learned a darned thing about  writing and publishing.  This sentiment has never been more apparent than in the last couple of months as I stumbled through my first publishing contract – feeling completely clueless.  In addition, after all the years I’ve been at this, I still don’t have an agent, I don’t have a multi-book deal with some big print publisher, I’ve never received an advance and, despite the fact I have now signed two contracts, I have yet to see any sort of remuneration for my work. 

Then I meet a new writer…

Suddenly I am face to face with the person I was four years ago and I realize, holy crap I’ve learned a ton!  Yes, much of my learning has been centered around the craft of writing, but where the learning curve is steepest is in the area of publishing and the topic I want to discuss today is the issue of self-publishing and vanity publishers, something I knew nothing about four years ago.

Self-publishing is basically producing, printing and distributing your work yourself.  Vanity publishing is using a third party to help you accomplish this task.  Both require the author to front the costs of the production.  There is definitely a place for this sort of publishing and I believe it will become even more common in this age of e-books and e-readers.  But for me, at this time in my life, I am not interested in marketing and distributing my own work.  Not only that, I simply do not have the time or capital to adequately promote, print and distribute my books.  This may change some day, but not right now.  In addition, though I recognize that large publishers do not have the perfect model, there is an element of quality control that appeals to me.

I have nothing against a vanity press or consultant that facilitates the dream of someone who just wants to see their book in print so they may pass it off to their friends and family.  I also believe self-publishing is essential for writers of non-fiction, where their book complements their work and may be sold on their website.  I even think there is a place for those who want complete control to mass produce and distribute their work to a wider audience – as long as they know what they are doing and what they are getting into.  

What I have a problem with is a vanity press or supposed literary consultant posing as a legitimate publisher and/or agent.  I have a problem with people blatantly lying to new writers, taking advantage of their naivety about the publishing industry and trying to make a quick buck.  In the three short months since I have taken on the role of president of my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, I have already come across two such situations –  new writers who have come to me to ask my advice on an offer of representation.  It’s funny because in both instances my initial response was, ‘why are you asking me?  I’ve never been offered representation by an agent?’.  Then I looked at their offer.

Fees for postage and photocopying (okay, some small agencies still do that).  Fees for editing (red flag!).  A literary agent who also happens to be the president of a vanity publisher (hmmm, can you spell, c-o-n-f-l-i-c-t o-f  i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t?)  But the worst part of it is, that in both situations the people offering to help these writers publish their books pretended to be mainstream legitimate agents.  One of the writers even sent me a portion of the letter from the individual offering representation.  In the letter the representative said (I refuse to call them an agent), there are two types of agents, ones who ask for fees up front (but only take 15%-20% off royalties) and those who don’t (but they take 30%-50% off royalties).  This is a bold-faced lie!   However, I only know this is a lie because I have been researching agents for a few years now and am familiar with sites like Predators and Editors, Writer Beware and The Association of Author Representatives.  But this author had no idea, just like I wouldn’t have had any idea four years ago either. 

What this has made me realize is, first of all, how far I’ve come as a writer and how much more I understand about this industry than I did when I began.  While I may still feel like a beginner because I don’t have my dream contract, I’m not – and that’s a good thing.  I’ve learned what I know today from savvy people who share my passion for writing – people who have been involved in this business longer than me, people  who continue to take time to guide me through the maze of publishing.  The result is that I’ve realized my responsibility to those new writers who are now coming out of the woodwork, toting their first completed manuscript and thinking, like I did, that the hard part was over.  It’s my turn to ‘pay it forward’ and do my best to help.

For more information on how to tell the difference between a legitimate publisher and a vanity publisher, check out Rachelle Gardner’s post (Ms. Gardner is a legitimate literary agent) from June 10, 2010, called Sussing Out Legitimate Publishers.