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Saturday, May 16, 2015

the best date

Last week, Gentleman Caller came over to make me dinner. We realized, though, that his recipe was going to take an hour and a half, so we put all of his groceries in the fridge and walked up to the Middle Eastern restaurant by my house. It was raining so we crowded under one umbrella.

The restaurant was awesome, as always, and filled with golden light. Luckily we were able to be seated right away, even though we didn't have reservations. Afterward, we tried to stop at the bookstore on the way back to the house, but it was already closed. We decided to come back the next day and buy two books -- one for me, one for him, and then we'd swap once we were both done reading.

We went back to my house and watched World War Z with Spencer on the couch.

Oh, and one other thing.

Between Gentleman Caller coming over to my house, and us realizing we were too hungry for a home cooked dinner?

He proposed.

So that was the best date ever.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

the worst dates: a rundown

1. Root beer barrels

He kept dozens of root beer barrels (you know, those old-timey candies?) in his pockets. He'd finish sucking on one, immediately unwrap the next and pop it into his mouth. He never offered me a single one and kept them tucked into his cheek when we talked he just slurped around his root beer barrel spit.

2. The writer

I thought this one might be promising, because who doesn't want to hang out with fellow writers? As it turns out, though, dating them might be a bridge too far. When I told this guy I'd just finished a college-set romantic comedy, he openly rolled his eyes and said, "Aren't romantic comedies scraping the bottom of the literary barrel?"

3. The guy who bragged about sinking someone else's shot of getting into an MBA program.

4. The guy texted me to let me know he missed me after one date.

5. The special delivery

Once upon a time, I was in a sorority. As you may know from your own sorority days (or watching Legally Blonde), sororities hold dances once a semester. My sorority generally did a formal in the fall and a cocktail party in the spring.

The spring dance of my sophomore year, I found myself without a date so my cousin Alli and I decided to go stag together. On the drive there, my friend Sadie called and asked if her boyfriend (a Sigma Chi) could bring his friend as my date. I said sure.

Alli and I sat down to our dinners. Sadie, her date, and my "date" were nowhere to be found. They finally arrived forty-five minutes late with Sadie in tears. I pulled her into the bathroom and asked what was wrong.

"They stopped under an overpass and sold someone drugs!" she said. "I just had to sit in the car and watch!"

So that's how I ended up stuck at the Provo Country Club with a drug dealer.

6. The guy who I am fairly certain only pantomimed putting money in the bill fold, grabbed my hand, and dragged me out of the restaurant before the waitress came back.

7. The poly guy

This is another online scenario. I went out with this guy 3 or 4 times and he seemed great -- cute, smart, polite. On our first date, a random barista stopped by our table to tell us, "This may be weird, but you guys are an extremely good-looking couple." (Yes, I assume the guy asked the barista to say that when I wasn't around, BUT STILL.)

We were supposed to have dinner at my house one night when he texted me and asked if he could call me. This was worrisome, obviously, because people only call when there's something bad to be said -- and after 3 or 4 dates, there really can't be anything bad.

But it turned out, this guy was just confessing that he "wasn't a player," but he also "wasn't interested in monogamy." It took a few pointed questions to get him to admit that he wasn't merely saying he wanted to keep things casual -- he wanted me to be one of his many, many girlfriends.

Weirdly though, he didn't yet have ONE girlfriend, so talk about putting the cart before the horse.

Friday, May 1, 2015

interview: Patrick Muir and marketing

Next up on the interview series is Patrick Muir! Patrick and I went to college together and I highly recommend his advice. (I usually find myself asking for it every few months!)

Patrick has his MBA and has worked in marketing for several large corporations around the country. Patrick also spent several years in marketing with Shadow Mountain, a small publishing imprint that launches new authors and gets national distribution. James Dashner, Ally Condie, and Brandon Mull all started their careers with Shadow Mountain before getting picked up by larger publishers.

What was the most effective marketing strategy that a publisher could utilize?

Patrick: In my opinion the most effective strategy (whether at a small or large publishing company) is to gain distribution. The more book stores the product is sold in generally means more books will be sold.

What was the most effective marketing strategy that an AUTHOR could utilize?

Patrick: The most effective marketing strategy an author should focus on driving trial of their product. What I mean by driving trial is that the author should focus on tactics that get potential readers to sample the product.Those tactics should vary depending on the target audience and genre.  

For example, the author of The Happiness Project wrote a blog post everyday for a year about happiness. Readers could read sample her writing by reading her blog which translated into book sales. There are a ton of different tactics to drive trial. 

Is there anything you would tell a publisher or author to NOT do? 


Patrick: I would tell them not to schedule a book tour without investing significant resources into driving trial. A book tour is not a trial driving activity. Instead, it is an activity to connect with existing customers and further the relationship. 

If you were going to give an author fifteen minutes of your professional advice, what would you tell them to do?

Patrick: Ask yourself where in Barnes & Noble would my book sit, specifically? The reason to ask this question is to make sure you are creating a story for a niche audience. Don't try to write a book for everyone. It's easier to sell a book to an agent, publisher, and the end reader if the book fits into an existing customer group perfectly. 

If you have any questions for Patrick, leave them in the comments and I'll make sure he sees them! Thanks!




Tuesday, April 28, 2015

reading lately: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

What is with me and the "ladies in peril" books lately? I dunno, but I definitely recommend this one as well.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins is a psychological mystery set just outside of London. Rachel, a recovering alcoholic and an unreliable narrator if there ever was one, rides the train to London every day. On the ride, she looks for a Victorian house that's not too far from the one she used to share with her ex-husband. Rachel loves the couple who lives there--she has never met them, but she has mentally dubbed them Jason and Jess and has filled in the imaginary details of their lives.

Then one day Rachel sees "Jess" kiss another man on her back porch. And a few days after that, missing posters start going up. And soon Rachel finds herself obsessed with figuring out what happened the night that Jess/Megan disappeared.

Rachel tells the bulk of the story, but there are also flashbacks from Megan's perspective--the woman who Rachel knows as Jess and who will go missing in roughly a year. Interspersed with these two narratives are chapters narrated by Anna, the woman who broke up Rachel's marriage and who now lives down the street from Megan and her suspected-of-murder husband.

I personally guessed the culprit fairly early on in the book, but there are enough twists and turns that I was never completely sure and definitely didn't know how everything had gone down. There were two or three big shockers that I didn't see coming at all. Definitely recommended for mystery lovers.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Interview: How to Utilize Social Media with Kristen Jolley

Hey y'all! Next up on the blog interview series is the lovely Kristen Jolley. Kristen and I have been friends for over ten years (yikes ... feel old yet, Kristen?) and she is the queen of social media. Kristen majored in Communication and has worked for both advertising firms, in-house, and freelance. Right now Kristen is focusing her efforts on marketing The Fix, a brand new business in Utah, via social media.

Q: What do you think is the most effective social media strategy for someone who doesn't have a lot of time?

Answer: Schedule your posts out over a two week period. Then you're not racking your brain and coming up with irrelevant posts. Be original, especially on Instagram. Your feed does not need to look like anyone else's.

Q: What are the benefits of having someone else handle your social media?

A: Chances are if you're asking for help, it's because you're admitting you're not an expert at something, which is okay. That person can make recommendations for advertising campaigns and "spends" so your money is allocated properly and not blindly.

Q: What do you think is an INEFFECTIVE social media strategy?

A: Unoriginal posts, aggressive posts, defensive posts, failing to proofread, and ignoring when your followers reach out to you.

Q: If you could give someone fifteen free minutes of your time, what would you tell them?

Social media has become necessary and integral to all brands.

One of the hardest parts of a social media manager or social media department is that anyone who has a Facebook account thinks they are an expert at social media, and maybe (just maybe) thinks they can do your job better than you. Some argue there is no wrong way to handle social media, whether professionally or personally, and that is drastically far from the truth. If I had to write a list of basic social media tips, they would be:

1. Find your social voice. Are you snarky? Do you use winks and exclamation points? Do you challenge followers to think or use their imaginations? Your posts are an extension of your brand, follow your brand to find your social media voice and then stick to it.

2. Have good manners. Social media provides real-time voice from you to your followers and vice versa. If they have taken the time to ask you a question, congratulate you, complain, or just say hello--acknowledge them! Whether that's a simple "like" or "favorite" or a comment or reply, it will not go unnoticed.

3. Experiment. While I believe there is a wrong way to effectively manage your social media voice, I don't necessarily think there is a right way. Finding out what works for you will take some experimentation, possibly a few failed posts, and slow growth. One thing I have found that works is not linking all your media accounts. For example, if I post something to an Instagram page, it does not automatically post to Twitter or Facebook as well. Rather, post the follow up on a different forum 6-24 hours later, as it serves as a reminder to read a blog post, enter a contest, etc.

4. Don't get too caught up in followers. New followers are great and we all love them, but what's more important is the interaction among the followers that you do have. I'll often come across an Instagram account with 1,500 followers. They will average 75-100 likes per post and a good dozen-two dozen comments. I will find a similar account with 7,000 followers and the exact same interaction. Did that account purchase followers? Maybe.

4B. To follow up on my 4th point, Make posts that encourage interaction. Ask followers to comment with their favorite top from your new spring collection. Ask them what they thought of last night's episode of the show that everyone's watching. Going out of town? Ask for restaurant recommendations. These posts are far more encouraging than, "Go read my new blog post."

5. Proof. Always, always proof your posts! Thankfully Facebook and Instagram now allow edits to posts now, which saves hassle from that little typo that slipped through. But surprisingly, I see bloggers and news sources make more mistakes than any other groups!

Thanks Kristen!

Guys, if you guys have any questions for Kristen, leave them in the comments and I will pass them along!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Interview: CP Sarah Clift

Hey all! I am trying something new with the old blog lately. I am going to be interviewing folks who might have some interesting perspectives on writing, publishing, editing, and all that good stuff. So to start things off, I'd like to introduce you to Sarah Clift, one of my two awesome critique partners!

(For those of you who don't know, a critique partner is a person who reads your work and gives you feedback before you put it out there in the world. They are invaluable for people who want to improve their writing skills. That being said, everyone has to find a style and group that works for them! I suggest swapping 10-15 pages for critique and then deciding how you feel about the other person's style, and vice versa. That is how I found Melanie and Sarah and they are the beeeeeeeeest.)

So here's Sarah!

1. What do you write?
My first novel was what I termed a YA paranormal, but years later, I still can't exactly say what genre it was. After that, I discovered contemporary, and I've written a YA contemporary and MG contemporary. I'll probably stay in MG for a while because I think inside I'm still a 12-year-old girl.

2. Where you're from, how long you've been writing, etc.
I'm in Northern California, and I finished my first novel in May 2012. I guess that's what I call my writer birthday because it was the day I proved to myself I could string together enough words to make a novel.

3. What is your critiquing style when you are reading for others?
It depends on the stage. In a beginning stage, I like to give a manuscript two reads. One time I read straight through, and the second time I go through and make comments on what I like and what's confusing. If a manuscript is closer to a final draft, I like to do some copyediting and make sure it's coherent. Something I've noticed is that sometimes I'll read something that's not my cup of tea. That doesn't mean it's a bad story, but maybe I'm not the intended audience. So I try to channel whatever that audience will be and make suggestions accordingly.

4. What do you like to get out of critiquing when someone is reading for you?
I like a reader to say what she likes and what is confusing to her. Sometimes it all makes sense in my head but doesn't come out that way on the page. I also like suggestions on how to make the plot better paced because that's something I always struggle with.

5. What do you find unhelpful in critiquing?
I don't respond well to people who try to make me feel dumb. I can deal with harsh criticism if it is dealt kindly.

6. How many CPs do you have? How did you find them?
I've had a few in the past, but you've been the only one I've maintained over the years (you're that awesome!). (Ru's Sidenote: Aw, shucks.) 

We met through GUTGAA, right?

(Ru's Sidenote: OH MY GOSH, I had forgotten how we met! Yup, that was how, haha.)

I think we were matched by Robin. Also, my dad is a writer, and we're always trading pages. I've had a good handful of beta readers too, and they're helpful especially at the end stages when you need a fresh set of eyes to make sure everything makes sense.

7. What do you recommend to writers looking for CPs?

I feel that for a successful critique partnership to work, you have to respect the other writer's talent and opinion. It sounds uppity, but if you feel you are further along in your writing education, you might not trust the opinion of the other partner. I feel beta readers are great regardless of how they match up to you in development, but to be able to trade critiques successfully, you have to have mutual trust and respect. That's why it's a good idea to do a test run of trading pages before you commit to a partnership. It's also helpful to have a partner that writes a similar genre that you write.

Follow Sarah on Twitter here!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interview: CP Melanie Stanford

Hey all! I am trying something new with the old blog lately. I am going to be interviewing folks who might have some interesting perspectives on writing, publishing, editing, and all that good stuff. So to start things off, I'd like to introduce you to Melanie Stanford, one of my two awesome critique partners!

(For those of you who don't know, a critique partner is a person who reads your work and gives you feedback before you put it out there in the world. They are invaluable for people who want to improve their writing skills. That being said, everyone has to find a style and group that works for them! I suggest swapping 10-15 pages for critique and then deciding how you feel about the other person's style, and vice versa. That is how I found Melanie and Sarah and they are the beeeeeeeeest.)

Take it away, Melanie!

1. Why do you write?
To shut up the voices in my head. Oh, and because I love it.
 
 
2. Where you're from, how long you've been writing, etc.
I've moved around a lot- Saskatchewan, Ontario, Connecticut, Utah, and currently Alberta. I've been writing since grade two, when I wrote the 100-page masterpiece, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Bloody Mary.

 
2. What is your critiquing style when you are reading for others?
My comments are whatever I'm thinking in the moment. And I nitpick at sentences, I can't help it. I'm slowly getting better at critiquing big picture, but it's been something I've had to learn. (Still learning.)
 
3.  What do you like to get out of critiquing when someone is reading for you?
Anything and everything. Whatever isn't working, whether it's a sentence, or the entire manuscript. Otherwise, how can it get better?
 
4. What do you find unhelpful in critiquing?
I don't think there's anything unhelpful (unless someone says, you suck, quit writing now). It can definitely be frustrating when you hear, "this isn't working but I don't know why" because I often don't know why either. But stepping back for a bit and brainstorming usually helps. And I love a critiquer who throws out ideas- whether I take them or not it gets my brain going.
 
5. How many CPs do you have? How did you find them?
I have three trusted CPs who are invaluable. One is a sister-in-law who is also an editor for a small press, the other two I found online, I don't even remember how. I've also had different beta readers throughout my many manuscripts.
 
6. What do you recommend to writers looking for CPs?
Put yourself out there online, and most importantly- offer to critique or beta for someone else. Give and you get back, and if you're lucky you'll find people you really connect with. :)

Follow Melanie on Twitter here!