Friday, January 30, 2009

Moving On...

This was a very difficult decision for me to make. I've decided that I need to leave this blog right where it is and not bring it with me to my new bloggy home, It's time to make a big change... take a massive leap of faith... and just pray it all goes well.

Over the last year, I've dealt with a lot of situations, good and bad. Through personal reflection and the support of friends, both on-line and off, I made it through a really rough patch in my life. That patch was something I had to walk through... a walk I had avoided in my denial for many years before the first step towards mental freedom. It started when someone posed the question:

"If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you do?"

The last time I answered that question, I was afraid of my answer. I knew what needed to happen... what I needed to do... but I wasn't sure I wanted to know how it would end up. I was frozen when I stopped to let myself wonder what it would look like on the other side of the transformation. I was worried about who I would lose and who I might become.

I thought of a card a friend once gave me. A butterfly in a cocoon was afraid to come out, sure that she would fall to the ground. But she was reassured by one already in flight that she would be okay and, more than okay, life was going to be beautiful. That's how I've felt this year. I had to just believe that life would be beautiful. Some things still aren't resolved. Mostly, though, I can say that my life is full of joy.

And I am ready to take flight.


Thanks to Gayle from who asked me the question again recently when we finally got to meet at the top of the city on a gloriously clear and cold night in San Diego. "If you couldn't fail, what would you do?" I don't know, I answered. "Yes, you do Sugar!" Her eyes pierced through me.

She was right... I do know.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rock Your Blog, Mama!

Today’s Make It Happen Mama is none other than Jessica Smith, aka Jessica Knows. Jessica is my favorite blogging and social media hack. She makes life look easy, but that’s only because she’s been there done that… and now wants to share her experience with others. I had a few quick questions for Jessica plus a radio interview on this morning’s Classy Closet show. Hope you enjoy!

When you were a little girl, what did you dream of growing up to be?

I wanted to be a "business woman".  I think the movies "9-5" and "Working Girl" glamorized the idea for me.  But I knew I wanted to start a business and be successful.

Are any of your little girl dreams still woven into the woman you are now?

Heck yeah!  And I find myself surrounded by lots of women who had the same dreams (and still do!)

We see you all over the blogosphere. How do you balance your life as a mom with your life as an entrepreneur?

I try to be as flexible about things as possible and just roll with the punches.  It's hard but my husband is super supportive and that helps a lot.

Where do you blend the two sides of life together?

I just do.  What you see is what you get.  Some might advise against blending the two but in social media I think it's a must for success.

What can we expect from your new venture, Rock Your Blog?

Lots of women supporting each other and networking resulting in success!

Okay, now I have to warn you… before you listen to the replay, the first five minutes of our show was jacked up due to some technical difficulties. Jen and I could not hear each other so I just starte blabbing on about my weekend while Skyping Jen and typing "Help" to the chat room. Talk about panic! So, if you don’t mind, please ignore that part… the other 25 minutes are definitely entertaining and informative!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I wanted to post something more uplifting after that last one... something about girlfriends and how their mere presence in my home brings me back to life. It did... but I'm in one of those weird places where my mind is going off into so many different directions all at once that I can't control my thoughts or my words. I think the doctors call it PMS. Whatever.

I wonder, though... how do other people tackle their minds when they seem to be running off on their own? Any suggestions?


I'll write all about girlfriends later... there is much to be said.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Damn Questions...

The first day of being co-host at The Classy Closet radio show, Jen asked me some questions so that the regular listeners could get to know me. Sure... why not?

"What was the scariest moment in your life?"

The first and only thing that popped into my head... the one moment that I was so afraid and so panic stricken... the moment that I wake up thinking about more than I care to admit was the day that my estranged daughter walked out of the house as a toddler. She quietly woke up from a nap, and since I was busy doing silly busy work, I hadn't noticed that she had managed to reach and open the front door. When I went to wake her and saw that she was gone... Oh God... I can't describe the tight wrenching feeling in my stomach. I remember the sensation of having tunnel vision... adrenaline? blood rushing and pulsing in survival mode? I don't know, but I couldn't feel myself walking, either, and could barely hear my own voice yelling her name.

That was thirteen... maybe fourteen years ago. It's all so horribly vivid to me. Like a nightmare I can't wake up from. It scares me to this day to think of what could have happened. Then I wonder what was going through her head. Was she looking for me? Was she scared? When we found her across the street in another neighborhood playing with ducks, I was so relieved. I couldn't stop hugging her... soaking her with my tears. Nothing has ever been so scary to me.

At least it ended well that day.

Still, here I am... wondering if this will end well. Wondering when or if I'll ever see her again. When will it be okay to just have lunch together and chat. I feel that tight wrenching in my stomach when I think of the ugly words we've yelled at each other or even further back when I could've been around more... listened more... anything more... I would do anything to change it... all of it...

That's probably why that day so many years ago was the only scary moment I could recall. Maybe because I relive that awful morning every day that we don't speak. Where is she? Where is my daughter? I picture myself running to the neighbors panicking... trying to explain that she's gone... help me, please... I can't find her... and the look on their faces... the judgment... tisk tisk, now you've done it... No, I will never forget that day.

But this... this separation without end... this just might be scarier.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Querying the Query Letter Lady

Today's Make It Happen Mama is Wendy Burt-Thomas. She is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her third book, "The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters" hit stores December 2008.

1. Can you tell us about your book?

The book was a great fit for me because I'd been teaching "Breaking Into Freelance Writing" for about eight years. In the workshop, I covered a lot of what is in this book: writing query letters to get articles in magazines, to land an agent, or to get a book deal with a publisher. Since I'm a full-time freelance magazine writer and editor with two previous books, this was incredibly fun to write because it didn't require tons of research. I was lucky enough to receive lots of great sample query letters from writers and authors that I use as "good" examples in the book. I wrote all the "bad" examples myself because I didn't dare ask for contributions that I knew I'd be ripping apart!

In addition to the ins and outs of what makes a good query, the book covers things like why (or why not) to get an agent, where to find one and how to choose one; writing a synopsis or proposal; selling different rights to your work; other forms of correspondence; and what editors and agents look for in new writers.

It was really important to me that the book not be a dry, boring reference book, but rather an entertaining read (while still being chock full of information). I was thrilled that Writer's Digest let me keep all the humor.

2. Why are query letters so important?

Breaking into the publishing world is hard enough right now. Unless you have a serious "in" of some kind, you really need a great query letter to impress an agent or acquisitions editor. Essentially, your query letter is your first impression. If they like your idea (and voice and writing style and background), they'll either request a proposal, sample chapters, or the entire manuscript. If they don't like your query letter, you've got to pitch it to another agency/publisher. Unlike a manuscript, which can be edited or reworked if an editor thinks it has promise, you only get one shot with your query. If it's not fabulous, don't send it until it is.

3. You're also a magazine editor. What is your biggest gripe regarding queries?

Queries that show that the writer obviously hasn't read our publication. I'll admit that I did this when I was a new writer too – submitted blindly to any publication whose name sounded even remotely related to my topic.

4. There's an entire chapter in the book about agents. Do you think all new writers should get agents?

Probably 99% of new writers should get an agent. There are lots of reasons, but my top three are: 1) Many of the larger publishing houses won't even look at unagented submissions now; 2) Agents can negotiate better rights and more money on your behalf; 3) Agents know the industry trends, changes and staff better than you ever could.

5. You've been a mentor, coach, or editor for many writers. What do you think is the most common reason that good writers don't get published?

Poor marketing skills. I see so many writers that are either too afraid, too uniformed, or frankly, too lazy to market their work. They think their job is done when the write "the end" but writing is only half of the process. I've always told people who took my class that there are tons of great writers in the world who will never get published. I'd rather be a good writer who eats lobster than a great writer who eats hot dogs.

6. What must-read books do you recommend to new writers?

Christina Katz (author of "Writer Mama") has a new book out called "Get Known Before the Book Deal" - which is fabulous. Also, Stephen King's "On Writing" and David Morrell's "Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing." Anything by Anne Lamott or my Dad, Steve Burt.

7. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Writing the "bad" query letters. I've read – and written! – so many horrible ones over the years that it was a little too easy to craft them. But misery loves company and we ALL love to read really bad query letters, right?

To learn more about Wendy or her three books, visit If you have a writing-related question, you can post it below.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Seven Things I Learned This Week...

Blame it on the moon... this was a crazy busy week. It wasn't too busy to enjoy learning a thing or two.

  • Whatever time I think I should get up is probably a half hour later than I really should get up.
  • 12 Seconds can be excruciatingly long... or way too short. Definitely too short to spell your name in refrigerator magnets.
  • Half an hour is not nearly enough time to cover stupidity in government bureaucracies... which is why The Classy Closet had a special hour long show today.
  • Winning isn't everything, but that doesn't stop you from wanting to win.
  • A torso can be bought and sold to offset the cost of a really cool conference.
  • The Hoff still makes me giggle like a school girl. The Pilot, however, was not as impressed when he flew Mr. Hoff and crew to Vegas last week. Jealous...
  • Complaining about the heat from the Santa Ana Winds is not cool when other parts of the country are experiencing record cold. Sorry.

Don't forget that will be moving to soon!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fabulous Rooms - Fabulous Giveaway

In the sea of people claiming to be design experts, a few names stand out. One designer, in particular, is Thom Filicia of Queer Eye and Dress My Nest fame. He’s the real deal.

And he is Faaabuluuuuussss!!!

I was privileged to be invited to a special Press Teleconference along with 24 other bloggers and tweeters. We were treated to one-on-one time with Thom (well… at least one-on-twenty-five) where he told us all about his fabulous new book and his even fabulous-er Room A Day Giveaway.

The giveaway was unveiled on The View at the same time of the big room redo reveal. The only word I can use for The View’s green rooms and rehearsal hall pre-revamp is… DREARY! My God, you would think they had the coolest places for their guests to kick up their feet before chatting with the ladies. Nope! See for yourself:

Drab Dressing Room Drab Rehearsal Room

When I am an old woman, that better not be what my designated institutional facility looks like (you got that kids?)!!! I would much rather end up in this fantabulously gorgeous set up:

Fab Dressing Room Fab Rehearsal Room

For the green rooms, Mr. Filicia incorporated the name of the show as the overall theme for their redesigns. Each room now has a “view” of New York landmarks while still maintaining their necessary functionality. The rehearsal hall presented a different challenge. While the goal of the redo was to make the area more comfortable and stylish, it still had to function as a place for the ladies to run through their shows. The furnishing were made in a way that allows for ease of moving when the space is needed.

I can hardly believe that was all done in ONE WEEK!

In his new design book, Thom Filicia Style, Mr. Filicia talks about his style philosophy, which is basically that everyone’s home should tell their story. It should not only be functional but unique and authentic to the family within those walls. He further went on to say that big or small, a home’s design should be lifestyle and personality driven. Here are some tips for bringing your personal aesthetic to life in your home:

  • Don’t be afraid to mix Timeless and Timely – By mixing your classics with newer pieces, you build an eclectic look that is all about you and your personal style.
  • Color your world – Draw from fashion to decorate your home with textures, colors, and accessories.
  • Decorate outside the Box – Mix light and dark woods. Hang a traditional lantern next to a modern chair. Be mindful of the overall look, but have fun with it!
  • Well read – Incorporating your books into your rooms adds a beautiful layer and interesting texture while making your favorite reads handy for lending.
  • Personalize – with framed candids, favorite items, whatever gives your home a soul. When people walk in, they should know this is your home.

“But I have kids…”

Many of the bloggers being busy moms had questions about keeping a home stylish while battling the power of clutter and Lego’s. The ever fabulous Thom Filicia had some great suggestions:

  • Use bolder colors in designing rooms.
  • Use storage cubbies a’la Kindergarten rooms
  • Make clean up a family responsibility
  • Designate areas and rooms for play

I bet you’re wondering how you can get your hands on my copy of Thom Filicia Style… well, here’s my little reveal. Join me in the chat room during The Classy Closet Radio Show where we’ll put up a keyword each day. If you missed today’s show, you can listen to the recorded show. Jen accidentally said it… woopsy! To win, you’ll have to be the first to call in to the show on Friday (when we say GO, of course!) with all four keywords. You’ll also have to give us a Truth or Dare. I’ll probably “reveal” a truth before I take a dare, though, but well see.

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot the best part!!

Thom Filicia has partnered with Kimberly-Clark and The View to offer SIXTEEN lucky lucky people a $25,000 room redo… EACH!! So if you would love for Mr. Filicia to come dress your nest, enter before March 6, 2009 for your chance to win!

Alright then… good luck!

The Book:

The Man:

The Giveaway:

Joy and Thom on OK!

Pre-reveal photos courtesy of ABC/Donna Svennevik; post reveal photos courtesy of ABC/Steve Fenn

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Indulge Yourself

I'm happy to introduce you all to this week's Making It Happen Mama, Kelli Parisian of Pure Indulgence, a product line that turns five next month. Kelli believes in connecting with clients and giving value for every dollar spent. Her business is built on integrity, not hype. She saw a need in her industry and filled it. And by filling that need and following a dream, she created her skin care line. Here's her story... AND a chance to win some of her fabulous products:

Hello! I'm Kelli Parisian, a 53 year old Single Christian woman and the Mom of two beautiful daughters Brianna and Brittany. Aside from business and family, my other "passion" is gourmet cooking & entertaining. I consider myself to be a Foodie. Parisian's Pure Indulgence. Inc. consists of myself, my daughter Brittany, my assistant Ariel, and Aesthetician Tiffany. Brittany is just beginning an Aesthetician program this month. My hope is that one day she'll take over the reigns of my company. But not any time soon...

I started in the beauty business as a manicurist specializing in natural nails twenty nine years ago. I saw the need to create something more for my clients... more of a Spa Manicure experience. I soon realized I couldn't create the luxurious experience I desired with the limited products offered to manicurists. That's when began a six month journey of researching every scrub, creme, lotion, & body oil out there. I wanted to see what made them special and began a quest to understand ingredient labels. What I found was synthetics, fillers, alcohols, harsh preservatives, and high levels of fragrances in the majority of products available. I wanted to do something different. I dreamed of formulating a product that would be effective, yet pure and safe for those of us with sensitive skin. Above all, I wanted my clients to have a luxurious experience.

So, at age 48, with my understanding of how ingredients work together (gourmet cooking background, remember?), I formulated and whipped up a sugar scrub, called Sugared Butter Whip. I took it into the salon to use on my clients. The response from my clients was incredible! I whipped up 40 containers hoping to sell them all during the holidays. Well, I ended up selling an additional 200 containers in one month! Parisian's Pure Indulgence was born. My daughters and I spent endless hours labeling containers and packaging scrubs as holiday gifts every night that December. After that success, I formulated two other body products. Soon, I was being asked about facial care products because my clients were demanding the same purity for their face. At that point, I aligned myself with an incredible natural skin care formulator and together, we have expanded my line to nearly 40 products!

The challenges in the first couple of years were to educate myself in all area's of business, from legalities (incorporating, insurance, trademarks), web sites, accounting, and marketing. I made a few mistakes along the way, but learned from them. Another challenge I still have is balancing business and personal life. I'm still working on that...

Because I'm very comfortable in the Salon/Spa setting, speaking with Salon owners has been easy for me and today Parisian's Pure Indulgence products are found in a number of high end salons and spas. Our web business continues to grow as well, but one of my most cherished business values is staying connected to my customers. I enjoy being a "boutique" skin care company. It allows me to have a personal relationship with the men and women that are benefiting from our products.

My advice to other women beginning a business is to find a mentor, and take things slowly. Educate yourself in every aspect of business. Remember there is a big difference between cash flow and profit. Keep that in mind when pricing your product, no matter what it is. Do what you're passionate about and don't compromise integrity. Also, I truly believe in giving first. A core personal value of mine is to give of myself, to help others any way I can. I consider it a privilege.

Parisian Pure Indulgence is pleased to participate in Sugar's Making It Happen Mama Monday. As a gift to one of her lucky readers, we are offering the opportunity to win a Pink Eco-Friendly Tote filled with of over $200.00 worth of facial care and body care treatments. All you have to do is sign up for our newsletter at Parisian Pure Indulgence. You'll receive tips and discounts from Pure Indulgence, and of course, a chance to win! The winner will be announced on Wednesday in the comments of this post.

Enjoy Indulging!

Kelli and her girls:


This has been an amazing week. Busy. Crazy. But awesome. Good things are happening for your friend, Shoog and I am all but in a fit of giggles seeing how doors open in a way I would never have planned.

So a few weeks back, I get a message from Jen of The Classy Closet asking if I'd be interested in trying out for the co-host spot on The Classy Closet radio show. Sure, I say. Now, we are down to the wire in voting and I am at the edge of my seat wondering how it will turn out. As I'm typing this, I'm in the lead, but only by a couple of votes. It's been like that all weekend. Not stressful at all!!

Through some communicating with Jen, I found out that US Family Guides in Colorado was looking for an editor for their San Diego Kids Guide. I applied and a couple of days later was on an orientation call. So now, I'll be working on getting all the best family friendly attractions and activities reviewed and on the site. If you're planning on a trip to SD this summer, check us out!

Who loves Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?? ME, TOO! So imagine how stoked I was to find out that I'll be on a Press Conference Call tomorrow with Thom Filicia and 24 other bloggers. It seems that Mr. Filicia has a fabulous design book coming out, Thom Filicia Style. He'll be promoting the book on The View tomorrow morning when he unveils the revamped Green Room. He'll also be making a very special announcement... you'll want to check it out if you can. And I will have a copy of his book to give away here at Living - In Theory! Stay tuned for the details on that one.

OH! And one last thing. I am migrating! Yes, finally! If you subscribe to my feed, it'll be like the digital transition... seemless. If you use Favorites on your computer, you'll want to use my url: I will now have all of my multiple personalities at I'm using a SmartSpace from Go Daddy. I don't care what anybody says, WordPress is a nightmare. Sorry... don't hate me... I just would rather spend my time writing posts than decoding CSS.

A couple of other neat things that I can't really talk about... very hush hush... ;) If you'd like, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You never know who you'll meet there.
Please make sure to check in tomorrow for our Making It Happen Mama feature. There will be some pampering products up for grabs this time!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mini Mall Melt Down

I love it when I freak out in public…

And quick! Hit play so that this ridiculous freeze frame shot of me will disappear!

Mommy Melt Down at the Mini Mall from Sugar Jones on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kung Fu Panda Wisdom

Our family loves Kung Fu Panda. We probably watch the DVD once a week. Every time you watch it, another little nugget of wisdom is revealed. These are the seven pearls I took away from the movie:

Be Yourself : Po’s dad tells him of a “stupid dream” he once had to make tofu. “We’re noodle folk!” Don’t try to be who your mom, dad, friends, or anyone else think you should be. You will never be happy!

Don’t Get Cocky : Shifu believed his protégé, Tigress was the Dragon Warrior. And Tigress thought she had it in the bag. Then out of nowhere, this big fat panda drops in. If you get too confident that everything will surely continue as YOU planned, some whacky, unforeseen thing might really put your world in a tailspin.

Today is a Gift : Po is so wound up over what to do, who he was, where he is going… Oogway, in all his old turtle wisdom reminds him that you can’t change the past and worrying about the future is fruitless. Today is a gift… that is why it’s called the Present. Duh!

Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover : An oldie, but a goodie, and one that we can’t be reminded of enough. Po the Panda is clumsy, fluffy, and a bit of slob. But under all that, he has heart. He loves Kung Fu with the innocence of a kid. He has a passion for it in his heart. That’s what made him the Dragon Warrior. The others were measuring strength on the outside. His strength came from his heart.

Believe : Po, against all the tricks and trials, stayed because he wanted to believe that he could be the one to read The Scroll. Even when it seemed impossible, he worked with that belief in his heart. And guess what? He did a bang up job.

There is no charge for awesomeness. Enough said.

There is no secret : but that's the secret. You have to see the movie to get it.

One big underlying lesson was the way the crisis came about. It was set off by events made to secure the safety of the village. The wise turtle says “One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.” There’s a lot to that as you watch the movie. I don’t want to give any of it away… you have to see it yourself. But it’s funny how that hit me. How many times do people try to control their environment and circumstances only to come face to face with their fears? You have to face them some day. And only when you stop avoiding your destiny will you be able to really live. The end is a bit of a surprise, but another lesson I don’t want to give away here… you’ll just have to grab some popcorn and watch it yourself.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Get Known Before the Book Deal

I’m implementing a new series here at Living – In Theory. Every Monday, I’ll be featuring a Mom who makes things happen. Oddly enough, I’ve decided to call it: Make It Happen, Mama! The first interview is a woman who inspired me to move toward my dream of being published (there, I said it) and who continues to inspire me by just being Christina. If you’re inspired, please feel free to leave your comments below.

GetKnownCMKWebsiteGetKnownWebsite2008 Interview with Christina Katz on Get Known Before the Book DealFor limited release

January 4, 2009

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on “Good Morning America.” Christina teaches e-courses on platform development and writing nonfiction for publication. Her students are published in national magazines and land agents and book deals. Christina has been encouraging reluctant platform builders via her e-zines for five years, has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. A popular speaker at writing conferences, writing programs, libraries, and bookstores, she hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon. She is also the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books).

What is a platform, and why is it so important for unpublished writers to have one?

A platform is a promise, which says you will not only create something to sell (a book), but also promote it to the specific readers who will want to purchase it. Your platform communicates your expertise to others and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. A platform isn’t what you once did. It’s what you currently do. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform. A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence.

Why is it so important to publishers that writers have a platform?

One writer can have a great book idea at the perfect time and be the absolute best person to write that book and still not land the deal if he or she doesn’t have the platform that is going to fulfill the promise to sell the book. Agents and editors have known this for years and look for platform-strong writers and get them book deals. If you want to land the book deal, today, then you need to become a platform-strong writer. You need to stand out in the crowd by the time you are ready to pitch your book.

Why did you write Get Known Before the Book Deal? What was the intention behind the book?

Most of the other self-promotion books for writers pick up with the book deal. No other book dials self-promotion all the way back to how to get started. My intention for Get Known was that it would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference. It should increase any writer’s chances of writing a saleable proposal and landing a book deal whether they pitch the book in-person or by query.

As I was writing the book, I saw how this type of information was often being offered as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can ask your library to order it and read it for free. Get Known outlines the complete platform basics step-by-step.

Is there a single most important thing authors need to do to build a platform?

When you think about the fact that about 500 books are published each day in this country, you realize that writing a book isn’t going to set you apart. So, the first thing you need to know is what makes you and your expertise unique and communicate that. If you don’t know who you are and what you uniquely offer, how is anyone else going to know? I call this cultivating your identity, not branding, because that word is so grossly overused these days. Identity also nods to the importance of keeping things real and staying true to yourself, while also making self-promotion a priority.

Can you give three specific tips to help writers launch their platform?

Sure. Here’s my top three…

1. Clarify the expertise you have to offer. If you don’t know what your expertise is, then mulling it over could take some time. And that’s okay. Consult experts you respect. Do some self-reflection. Get out and connect with others like you through associations or conferences. Write some articles on things you know how to do. Don’t be afraid to take time for platform development before you start spending a lot of time online…especially if you already are online but are not getting any closer to accomplishing your professional writing goals. When it comes to clarifying your expertise, taking a step back and looking within is a good strategy.

2. Carve out a distinct niche among others who are offering similar expertise. How are you different? Inquiring minds want to know. You’ll have to communicate who you are and what you do quickly. Attention spans are getting shorter, so writing down what you do concisely is critical. Platform isn’t the credentials or your resume; it’s what you currently do. It’s current, constantly evolving, and updated on an ongoing basis. A blog is a good example of a place where a writer can authentically share what she is learning to assist others. Any niche should always be a win-win proposition like this. But again, give your topic some forethought. Realize that a hundred people might already be blogging on the same topic.

3. Identify and respond to your audience. If you are vague about your audience, the whole writing process takes longer and typically requires more rewriting. This applies to books, blogs and everything else. But when you identify your specific audience and begin speaking to them directly, the conversation can spark all kinds of wonderful ideas, connections and opportunities. Small concrete steps build over time and create career momentum.

Times are tight, and people don't necessarily want to shell out money right now. Do you have any tips that are cost-friendly?

Platform development shouldn’t break the bank. My advice is don’t shell out money at the get-go. Instead educate yourself first and then take small steps. Try to avoid the impulse to slap together a platform quickly to impress others. I suggest a more long-term approach and working slowly and steadily in order to spend less and save more in the long run. This means, while you are working on your novel, you should at least be planning your platform. And if you want to write nonfiction, I suggest platform development first and book proposal development second. Platform development will help you write a stronger and more impressive proposal. The numbers of people you influence will help close the deal.

What are the special challenges for fiction writers building a platform?

Fiction/memoir/children’s writers will often spin off a series of topics they can explore to help promote themes they’ve already written about and hope to sell in book form. For example, novelist Marc Acito wrote How I Paid For College, A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater. Afterwards, it made sense for him to write and teach and speak on how to write humorous fiction and how to write a page-turner. Note how specific his topics were. He spun them off after mastering them in his process.

Other things fiction writers often learn about involve: place, a topic from their research, a time period, a truth or phenomenon, universal human themes, a particular time or phase every person experiences (like coming of age), or the creative process itself. These can become promotional opportunities (sometimes even paying ones) that spark book sales.

How do being prolific and/or productive relate to platform building?

Many writers promise publishers that they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver. This explains why so many books get into print, only to go right out of print within the year. They don’t go out of print because they aren’t well written, mind you. They go out of print because they don’t sell. My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them so this won’t happen to them.

Platform development is crucial to the sustainability of your writing career. Don’t think: get a book deal. Think: get book deals. A prolific writer can churn out words. A productive writer closes deals and signs contracts to write the kinds of books she’d love to read.

Are there any types of writers who don’t need a platform?

Yes. There are dozens of reasons to write but only writers who want to establish themselves as professional writers, who aspire to publish a traditionally published or a self-published book should concern themselves with platform development. If you’re writing for other reasons, such as to heal, to connect with friends and family, or just for pleasure, then perhaps you don’t need a platform.

When you're done platform building, how do you find time to write?

My career goes in cycles. I have periods that focus on writing followed by periods that focus on self-promotion. I’m in a promo cycle right now and it’s fun! I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. And I’m still writing plenty. I have noticed that these supposed “non-writing times” often yield the next book idea, which has been the case again this time. I can’t wait to pitch it.

If a writer starts today and allows platform development to be an integrated aspect of her writing career, I’m sure she will find that the two efforts—writing and self-promotion—feed each other and help her career to grow naturally and authentically. And what writer wouldn’t want that?

You can learn more about Christina and her offerings at


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Magic 8 Ball Resolutions: 2009

Resolutions. What would we do without them? We could just pretend that we don’t have any specific intentions for the New Year. Or we could just list our goals and hope that we don’t jinx them by calling them resolutions.

Or… we could ask the Magic 8 Ball to predict the likelihood of hitting that goal. If it’s a negative response, well, hey! Check that off and move on!

Here are mine:

Will I get my pilot’s license this year?

It is decidedly so.

Will I complete my photojournalist project on “real women” this year?

Without a doubt.

Will I be on Sirius Satellite Radio this year?

Don’t count on it.

Haha… well, two out of three isn’t bad. Doesn’t mean I won’t work towards that goal… just might happen in early 2010!

Obviously, this is just for fun and while I don’t recommend basing life’s big decisions on the answers from a toy, it is interesting to see the answer. So, if you’re game, play along. Frame your resolution in the form of a question and click on the 8 Ball in the sidebar. Let us know what the outcome was in the comments section!