for the Bookworms, for the Creatives, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Why I wanna be like Ksenia Anske when I writerly grow up

Although, let’s be real: Ksenia and I don’t plan on actually growing up in our writerly lives. It’s more like staying daydreaming children forever, but then pretending to be grown-up long enough to do the business stuff.

I don’t remember how I discovered Ksenia. But I do remember what stuck in my mind about her:

  • She said, “Reader, you are my publisher. Share my books.”
  • She gave away her books for free, as in all of her older drafts of her story were publicly available to read (maybe still are) and you can even still download her stories for free.

Why did that grab my attention? She saw the value of her readers. That readers are what make or break a story. That’s what I want my philosophy to stay forever.

And she has a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. Those are artistic buzzwords right now, but they ring true. Artists can tend to want to hoard their ideas, their best work for themselves, as if there’s a finite capacity. But we need a mindset of abundance, that we can throw it all out there and celebrate others successes too, because creativity is infinite.

Why else do I want to be like Ksenia Anske “when I grow up”?

  • Curly haired people goals!
  • Quirky personality
  • You are getting to know the person through every online engagement.
  • She is authentic – what she’s learning, what she’s done wrong, it’s all out there. You’re following the journey, the person, not just book sales promos.
  • She’s always learning and sharing what she learns. I’m sure paying attention.
  • She’s not afraid to work out of the box, experiment.
  • It all comes back to her READERS! They support her because she supports them. She listens to their feedback and engages with them.
  • Need proof? Anyone who read her last email newsletter, she requested their address and she sent them a card with a personalized short story.
IMG_20170614_185157212
the story Ksenia sent me
  • Note the above bullet point also goes back to the concept of abundance rather than scarcity. She didn’t freak that she wouldn’t have enough stories in her for each person or that she wouldn’t be able to send cards to her readers because of the expense. She just said she’d do it, then she did it.
  • okay, I’m losing track of what these bullet points are for and when to use bullet points and when to not….
  • Switch gears!

I’ve read two books of hers:

  1. Rosehead. Magical realism at its finest. If you want a quirky read about a girl and her talking dog and a carnivorous garden, this is it! Everyone’s been looking for a book about a carnivorous garden, right? 🙂

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  2. Blue Sparrow. A collection of tweets on writing, reading, and the creative life. Motivational, inspirational, even instructional (mostly “KEEP WRITING!”). My favorite detail would be that it’s 140 pages long, with 140 tweets. Like an inside joke for us Twitter users 🙂 And to whet your appetite, check out a couple of the tweets:

 

So now you know what I’m working towards. Quirky writing. Lovable hair. Personable interaction. Perspective of abundance. And reader centered. Check out Ksenia’s work for yourself….you won’t regret it!

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

DNA of a writer: how my reading affects my writing

Last week I shared my top 10 books and their commonalities. Now you get to see the top 3 elements that are in more than half of my favorite books.

*Props to Maggie Schoepke guessing there’s a supernatural element in my fav books.
I don’t specify it that way here, but that’s definitely related to these.*

Are you ready? 🙂

The halfway point: Huge cast of characters forced together towards a common goal

  • 6 instances in 5 books

A slew of characters stories intersecting towards one common goal. Often by force, involuntarily, or unwittingly. Often that means multiple protagonists, multiple storylines (see above), etc. If you like stories that span many different characters and their own stories being intertwined, half of my reading list is for you 🙂

 

Very prevalent: Two different worlds

  • 8 instances in 6 books

This element ties in well with the above one, so it’s no surprise that it pops up again and again. Two different worlds doesn’t necessarily mean fantasy (although there is that in my list.) I have so many different genres in my list of favorites, but this theme came into play in different ways: fantastical world, parallel universe of the real world, psychological world versus real world, dual timelines, two perspectives of the same story, etc. If you want to see things from more than one lens, you might like some of my favorite books 🙂

 

The most common element {brace yourself…}: Blurred line between what is real & what is not

  • 11 instances in 7 books

If you choose to read one of the books from my list, you will statistically speaking likely see this element in play in some way 🙂

 

Though I have so many different genres represented in my favorites, there is a blurred line between real-world and not-real-world in many of these. Sometimes it’s a magical universe or an alternate reality. Sometimes the reader is unsure if it’s all in the character’s head: dream, imagination, or madness. Sometimes the story leaves the reader questioning if something magical is going on or if there’s a logical explanation that’s hidden. Sometimes there’s 2 different realities and no idea as to which one is real. Many of my favorite stories leave the reader unsure – sometimes until the end of the story, and sometimes the question is never even answered. If you want to question reality, my favorite books list might be for you 🙂

 

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This reminds me:

636028406905523050-1310144539_supernatural pic

 

Did any of the above sound familiar?

Three of my favorite TV shows share the above elements to some degree:

  • LOST
  • Heroes
  • Vampire Diaries

 

 So I think I’m onto something here 🙂 

 

Now that I have my list of all the things that I really love in books (and also apparently TV shows) and how that may affect my writing style…

What I tend to write – #MyWriteDNA if you will:

I write quirks, obsession, madness, misfits, strangers, and unbelonging. I write bigger than life stories….where small nuances change everything. I write community. I write to connect: characters to each other, disparaging ideas, and narrator to reader. I write awe and surprise and emotion and detachment. I write stories of questioning realities. I write lies and truth. I write the horror between the lines. I write unease and tension. I walk the line between reality and enchantment. Magical realism. Hope, crushed and fulfilled.

 

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

DNA of a writer: My top 10 books

Ahh, the dreaded question: “What’s your favorite book?”

Rachel Giesel was kind enough to expand it to “What’s your top 5 favorite books?”

I’m taking part in a free online course to figure out my writerly DNA – analyzing who I am, what I read, and what I write to come up with who I am as a writer. #MyWriteDNA if you will. And because I have a website for such a time as this, I thought I’d share with you my favorite books and their themes that contribute to my writing style.

Top 5 favorite books:

  1. The Map of Time (sci-fi series by Felix J Palma)
  2. Arena (speculative fiction by Karen Hancock)
  3. Night Garden (magical realism by Lisa Van Allen)
  4. Then and Always (romantic suspense by Dani Atkins)
  5. Inkheart Trilogy (fantasy YA series by Cornelia Funke)

Because I had a top 10 and somewhat-arbitrarily decided on a top 5 from that list, I give you….

The runners-up:

  1. The 13th Tale (gothic suspense by Diane Setterfield)
  2. Sinner (spiritual thriller by Ted Dekker)
  3. Godmother: the Secret Cinderella Story (modern fairytale retelling by Carolyn Turgeon)
  4. The Shadow Children series (dystopian YA series by Margaret Peterson Haddix)
  5. The Book of Lost Things (fantasy quest by John Connolly)

 

After I picked my favorite books, I analyzed them. I wrote down any elements of the story that immediately popped to mind, be it themes, style, characterization, plot points, etc. These are elements so prevalent that I remembered them off the top of my head, so there may be even more commonalities I’ve forgotten 🙂

 (Note in regard to spoilers: To avoid blatant spoilers, this section will not call out specifically which books have which elements. Of course if you read this section, you will know that any of the above books have some of these elements, but you won’t know which ones. None of these elements are along the lines of “The main character dies at the end” or something hugely spoiler-y. If a main character dies at the end of one of these books, well, I won’t be the one to tell you, muahaha.)

 

The small stuff:

Okay, so this isn’t very small. That more than one of my favoritest of favorite books has these elements probably makes it noteworthy, but it’s still less noteable than what you’ll see in my next blogpost. Anyway, here’s a snapshot of some commonalities:

  • 1 book has an investigative reporter. This is just one book, but that’s a key part of my work-in-progress, so I thought I’d include it in this list 🙂
  • 2 books involve a quest
  • 2 books have the theme of the power of words or story
  • 2 books have a small political change that greatly alters everything
  • 2 books are allegorical, but not preachy
  • 3 books have a noteable narrator – unreliable and/or chats directly with the reader
  • 3 books have romance as a prevalent sideplot – not the main deal, but still a deal
  • 4 books break the 4th wall (haha, 4 & 4)
  • 5 books are of epic proportions, involving an entire world
  • 5 books have changing alliances and deal with the question of who to trust

 

So there’s a snapshot of what I like in my reading and my writing. My next blogpost shows the top 3 elements that were in over half of the books on my favorites list, and then I also include what that actually looks like in my writing.

Any guesses as to the top 3 common elements? First to guess correctly in the comments gets major kudos from me and a shout-out in next week’s post 🙂

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Christianity, for the Bookworms, Showcasing other Creatives

5 Books for Christian Artists

Being an artist is difficult. Adding Christian to that title puts a whole other spin on things. Here’s 5 Christian books I recommend for artists.

 

To build your artist brand:51fn4UIx9kL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
“Crafting Your Brand”

Matt Tommey

This book is perfect for anyone looking to make their art a business. Branding is especially big right now, even though it’s been around forever. Matt Tommey’s book introduces readers to the basics of branding, while also tackling some of the lies we believe about creativity clashing with business.

 

 

 

To study artists in Scripture & apply to your life:
“Unlocking the Heart of the Artist” 51GfacF2pPL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
Matt Tommey

 

Every artist should read this book. Every artist! This book studies the origins of artistry in the Bible and presents the lies (and truths!) that are prominent in that. Find your place in the Kingdom with chapters on community, prophetic voice, spiritual discipline, and co-laboring with God.

 

 

 

 

To find your life calling:512Q3lH0uqL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_
“Chazown”
Craig Groeschel

For those artists (and non-artists) who are still unsure what their calling is in life, Craig Groeschel’s book has a very practical approach to discovering it through looking at your gifts, values, and experiences. Once you pin down your vision and calling, there’s still a bulk of chapters on next steps and living it out. Don’t miss this book!

 

 

 

To get a second chance at your career:51KE+8bOHwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_
“Do-Over”
Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff’s Do-Over is perfect for those who feel they’re stuck in a rut, not moving forward with their dream. Maybe you’re an artist on the side with a day-job that drains the life out of you. Maybe you’re living what you thought your dream was and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Whatever the case, Do Over gives you the chance to do just that – call “Do Over” and start your dream anew. Acuff gives the tools to get you right where you want to be and start living life with your dream at the center.

 

 

To conquer your artistic vices: 51g2xDQtM6L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_
“The Heart of the Artist”
Rory Noland

Not to be confused with Matt Tommey’s book, Rory Noland also wrote a book about the Heart of the Artist. This one centers on the character struggles that artists tend to face – Perfectionism, Poorly Handling Criticism, Jealousy, Overly Emotional, and the like. There’s also an excellent chapter on how to Lead Artists, because we are a difficult to finagle bunch, ha! Excellent book for any ministry team or any artist individually to work through.

for the Bookworms, for the Creatives, for the Writers

Huffington Post Isn’t the Only Problem

Writers (and creatives in general) are up in arms about getting paid.

A Summary of the Discussion thus far:

Kristen Lamb has recently been posting about the problem with Free. She started by urging writers not to diss Amazon while promoting used bookstores, since Amazon actually pays authors and used bookstores do not.

She then speculated on what this Culture of Free is going to do to authors going forward.

Finally, she honed in on Huffington Post, a platform that is proud of not paying authors while making millions off of their work. 

Kristen Lamb isn’t the first or the last to call out Huffington Post. Wil Wheaton, Chuck Wendig, and Porter Anderson all have great posts about this issue.

This conundrum doesn’t just pertain to writers, but to artists in general, with artists being more vocal about deserving better pay – Taylor Swift pulling her music off Spotify, Ally Burguieres demanding reimbursement for Taylor Swift’s use of her artwork, or hula-hoop performer Revolva turning down an unpaid opportunity to perform on Oprah’s tour.

We Need Exposure….and Pay!

It’s the way of the world. It’s been the way of the world, and it’s only increasing. Exposure is important. All artists need exposure to live. But we don’t just need exposure to live. We need pay too. We need food on the table and a roof over our heads.

Plumbers and scientists and doctors and teachers and engineers, they all need exposure to live too. If no one knew about their skills or reputation, they wouldn’t be hired and they wouldn’t make it very far. But they still get paid. They still need paid.

What Can Artists Do?

You need exposure: That’s what Marketing and Brand and Advertising is for. Work for free if you want, but let it be on your terms. When you offer free. When you’re not being asked by a highly profitable company to work for free. Don’t give in and work for free, because “you have to” or because “that’s the way the world works.” Stand your ground for artists everywhere.

What Can EVERYONE Do?

Stop supporting the system. The system that says artists have to work for free to be truly authentic. Bullcrap!

Consider boycotting Huffington Post, now that you know the problem. Speak up about it being a problem. Many don’t know. Don’t share or Retweet or click the Huffington Post links that are exploiting writers for their own gain. Don’t perpetuate the cycle. Huffington Post can’t survive off of unpaid labor if no one supports their site any longer.

Most importantly: Stop with the Huffington Post mindset!

  • Stop assuming you can get free labor from artists.
  • Stop asking for them to write, edit, design, draw, paint, play music, or perform for free.
  • Even friends. You have artist friends, great! That doesn’t mean you get free stuff, that means you should support them in their art – pay them for their work, and I’m not talking about buying them a coffee (although coffee is a nice bonus!)My sister is a cosmetologist – I don’t ask her to work for free though; I pay her MORE than my usual tip, because I especially support her work. I want her to prosper with her talent!
  • Artists, walk the talk – don’t ask for free labor from other artists when you know you hate that.
  • Maybe your artist friend offers to help you for free – AWESOME! That means they’re willing. Don’t ask for free, but of course you can accept a free offer.Here’s the kicker then though – pay them in exposure. Brag on them, share their work, give them exposure so that they can get paid the next time around. Anytime I receive free assistance from an artist who offered, I try to remember to post their work on social media, tag their website, mention their expert work. Because artists need exposure too.

Always pay an artist – at least with exposure, but preferably with money as well.

We can stop this cycle. We can pay the artist what they’re worth. We can stop expecting free handouts. We can demand what we’re worth and plan to pay a person what they’re worth. We can refuse to profit off of exploiting another human being.

Let’s not be Huffington Post; let’s be better.

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

What the L’s in a PenName: Cont.

What other factors do writers think of while considering a pseudonym?

Last week I wrote a brief synopsis of how I came up with my pen name. Inspired by a couple great questions from Josh in the comments, this week I wanted to bring up 3 things writers think about that we have little or no control over.

1) “Keep Your Hand Book at the Level of Your Eye”

Last week I mentioned not being hidden next to a big author name, like Neil Gaiman or George RR Martin. But there’s something else writers think about in terms of shelving, and that’s the hope that our book ends up at eye level. Perusing a shelf, a reader is more likely to catch great books at eye level than above or below.

Sure, we could come up with a pen name that slots our book at eye level on a local bookstore shelf perhaps, but with all shelves being different and constantly changing, writers don’t really have control over this one.

2) Creepy Stalkers, the Torment of the Famed

Many novels, movies, and even real-life instances in the vein of Stephen King’s “Misery” have got a melodramatic writer (and face it, we’re all melodramatic) wondering about their own kidnapping, torturing, and escape right before death in some unlikely but clever fashion.

But if us writerly types could be reasonable for a moment (I know, I know, boooooring….), the likelihood of that is slim. Even slimmer considering that I would probably be able to identify less than a handful of writers if I crossed paths with them in real life. Let’s face it, even if we’re a popular author, we’re recognized more for our words than our faces.

Even if kidnapping were a possibility for you…a pseudonym will more than likely NOT save you. Everything is public nowadays, everyone is findable with the thorough records of the interwebs. You can’t hide, unless maybe you’re a mountain man or Amish or recluse or something maaaaybe.

For your own protection, skip the pen name, try jiu jitsu instead 😉

3) I Thee Wed

For us single gal writers, we of course think about our potentially impending name change. Not only do we have to decide if we’re keeping, changing, or hyphenating our surname; we have to decide what we’re doing with our author platform name as well. Talk about pressure.

If we change our name to match the new hubbie, there’s the potential of confusing or even losing our current following to the change. If we take the new hubbie’s name but use our maiden name for the author platform, legal issues and payments and such will be more complex with the two different names. Then of course there’s ya know, the whole hubbie and what he thinks deal, as well as the general “what do I want?” dealio. So many questions.

And of course, the whole process from the last post would have to be re-done with the new hubbie’s last name if the pen name changes.

And don’t get me started on autographs. I’ve already determined it’d be most convenient to marry someone who’s last name begins with an S, since my signature is scribbled enough I might be able to get away with keeping my same signature then.

Okay, I’ll stop with that ramble now. You see, pen names aren’t so simple. But that’s some of my thoughts. What are yours?

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

What the L’s in a PenName?

To pen-name or not to pen-name – for any writer, that is the question.

There is a lot of factors that go into choosing between one’s own name or a pseudonym, and I thought I’d give you a brief sneak-peek at the process.

(Writers: Kristen Lamb has a post discouraging use of pen names in most situations. Rachelle Gardner has a post on problems to consider if using a pseudonym.)

So how’d I decide on mine, on keeping my own name, but adding the middle initial?

Step 1 – Default Setting

If you can’t find a really really good reason to use a pseudonym, you should be using your own name. That’s the default. I thought I might have good reasons until I read the blogposts mentioned above. (Writers: read those if considering a pseudonym.)

Step 2 – Google That Name

I googled myself. You know what comes up when I google “Amy Sauder”? Not me. “Amy Sauder – Peoria area photographer” shows up. That’s right, there’s an Amy Sauder, also in Peoria, also an artist, who has a perfectly legit photography business. Seriously, check her out.

With someone else topping the google charts, I can do one of the following:

  • compete for “Amy Sauder” space on google by creating alot of internet content with great Search-Engine Optimization
  • rely on readers to type “author” when googling me and photography clients to type “photographer” when googling her (a completely legitimate option that many choose, and it works)
  • find a different name so she has her google space and I have mine

Step 3 – Devil is in the Details

Sharing google space is not enough reason to choose a pen name.

With a pen name, everything is more complicated. Marketing is more complicated, because you lose the audience you already have with your own name. Paychecks and legal documents are complicated. Remembering the little details – like how easy/quick signing an autograph is with a chosen pen name – is complicated. I toyed around with pen names, sure. But it didn’t seem like a good option even still.

In order to avoid the sharing of google space and to avoid using a pen name, I tried my middle initial.

What happens when you google Amy L Sauder? Well now, you have a whole bunch of me, though not much popped up at all when I originally googled it. “Amy Sauder, photographer” still tops the google “Amy Sauder” charts – and I’m there too a little lower – but if you remember the L, I fill that space mostly.

Picture a Bookshelf

The final step, at least that I’m discussing at this point.

Imagine a bookshelf….where’s your book fall on the bookshelf? Usually books are ordered by genre and then by author’s last names.

In an ideal world, I don’t want my book crowded out and hidden next to the Stephen Kings or James Pattersons of the world. Can I see a place for my book under my name on the shelf? You bet I can! No overcrowding here.

And so, Amy L Sauder was born. And in the grand scheme of things, I think I might actually like it more than just Amy Sauder.

What’s In Your Name?

What about you? Do you have a pen name? Do you think you’d use a pen name? What are your thoughts, ideas, questions? Let me know in the comments!

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