Culture Dept. podcast: Reclaim Your Creative Soul

CultureDeptThis week I was a guest on Culture Dept., a podcast that, in their words, “features interviews with artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights on building a sustainable, contemporary creative life.” Host Daedalus Howell and I discussed how to make creativity a huge part of one’s life, accomplishing creative goals even with a busy schedule and full-time life. These insights were from my latest book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul.

The podcast is only 20 minutes, perfect for your drive into work. I hope it inspires you! Also, I encourage you to subscribe to the Culture Dept. podcast. I’ve listened to almost every single episode, and each one is brilliant.

Here’s where you can find the Culture Dept. episode that I am featured on:

If you listen, let me know what you think!

Getting personal with book selling

Crissi reading

I remember when I first started publishing my books, my marketing focus was on the whole wide world. With the internet at my disposal, it made sense to me. I could reach anyone, anywhere, and sell to hundreds of thousands of people without ever having to leave the comfort of my own home.

My first book did pretty well. I marketed to everyone in the world, which was a hard sell since no one knew of me yet. However, my family and friends knew me, and they bought wholeheartedly.

My next book didn’t do quite as well in sales. I won a small award and sold to some of my family and friends. But the rest of the world ignored me. The story was the same for my next book, as well. By the time my fourth novel was published, I was worn out and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I questioned my career path as an author, and considered throwing in the towel. After all, I was spending thousands of dollars on this dream of mine, and had nothing to show for it except for some books that no one except a handful of people who loved me seemed to be interested in.

This was around the time that I found the inspiration for Reclaim Your Creative Soul. If you’ve kept up with this blog, you remember when I went on a personal soul retreat that changed my life. It was on this retreat when I addressed all of the dilemmas I had with my life path, conferring with God on how to move forward. I came away from that day with answers to my questions and a new purpose for life, and the seed that would become Reclaim Your Creative Soul.

With this last book, I was very clear about my message and the people I was writing to. I wanted to reach other creatives who felt pulled between their busy life and their craft. Most of us must have a day job to be able to afford our lives, especially when our art isn’t make us money. I wanted to show that it’s totally possible to have both, and I wanted to inspire people to NOT give up on their dreams just because they needed to work for a living (or whatever else was getting in the way of their craft).

With this message in mind, I let go of trying to reach the world, and instead just reached the people around me. The message started out small. I, or course, let my family and friends know. But I also started to spread the word to people I didn’t know, but on a more personal level rather than through the anonymous space of the internet. In this, I signed up for readings and read chapters aloud. I verbally shared about my book to those people who wondered how they could fit creativity in their lives. My marketing endeavors weren’t about making money or selling my book at all. Instead, they were about helping other people to make the most of their time so that they could fit more creativity in their life. That was my main objective.

Fast forward to now. A week ago, I read my book in front of a group of writers and sold a bunch of books who were affected by my message. Word about my book reached a podcaster, and our interview will publish on Monday. I’ve been asked to take part in an exclusive sales opportunity with a small group of other authors I admire. Opportunities are coming my way, and all I’ve done is to refocus my intentions and the audience I hope to reach.

Instead of trying to reach the world, I’m starting out with my own community and then going from there.

This not only takes a ton of pressure off me, it also makes things so much more natural. I am now preparing to publish my next book, Loving the Wind, and my hopes are that this book will reach the most readers I’ve ever reached with any of my books. This time, instead of pushing out ads and promoted Facebook posts to a bunch of people I don’t know, I am utilizing my friends and family to help me spread the word. As of right now, a few dozen of the people I know and love are reading this book as first readers. I contacted each of these people personally, handpicking them because I trust them and know that they like many of my books. When the book publishes on Aug. 18, many of these first readers will be key in helping me to spread news about this book because it’s something they read and enjoyed.

If you’re wondering how you can get your book into the most hands possible but coming away with disappointing results, it’s possible you’re trying to market to too many people. Rather than selling to the whole world, consider starting with your own community. Sign up for an open mic or two and read aloud from your book. See if your library is interested in a reading from a local author. Join an active writer’s group that offers events that will help you reach readers. Contact local book clubs and offer to talk with them if they decide to read your book. Think about the people that you want to reach with your book. Who would be interested? Not everyone will like what you write, but there is a group of people who will love it.

Finally, never underestimate the power of being personal. A Facebook post about your book or an advertisement on a web page are easily ignored. A mass email is a little bit better, but can also go unread. But if you talk to someone one-on-one, the power in that is huge. In this day and age, it’s super convenient to socialize on a broad scale, being impersonal through social media, texting, or the like for the sake of convenience. But if you pick up the phone or meet over coffee? That means so much more to everyone.

As much as possible, try and be personal with those people you wish to reach. If your contact has to be done over email or social media, that’s fine. But make it a personal message, and don’t just rely on your social media broadcasts to reach readers. If you take the time to care about the people you wish to connect with, they can’t help but care about you in return. Their loyalty will increase. They may even wish to help you spread the word about your book.

In connecting with a few readers on a more personal level, you have the opportunity to reach the world.

Updates: Free book, release news and more

Hey everyone! I wanted to give you all a quick update on new places you can get my books.

Book news

First and foremost, the publication date for Loving the Wind: The story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan, has been updated to August! To be notified of its release, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.

Second, did you know you could read my book, The Road to Hope, for FREE? If you have Kindle Unlimited, this book is available for borrowing. Since this book published two years ago, it’s continued to be my most popular novel I’ve written.

Third, Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft and Come Here, Cupcake have both been added to the online retailers Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks, and are still available at Amazon.

To see all of my books, visit crissilangwell.com/books.

Finally, I have two local readings coming up in July for Reclaim Your Creative Soul:

July 10: Redwood Writers Author Launch ~ Held at the Flamingo Hotel, 2-4:30 p.m. I will be one of 18 Sonoma County authors who will read a short excerpt from a newly published novel.

July 26: Hot Summer Nights ~ Come to Copperfield’s in Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa from 7-8 p.m. to hear 4 authors read from their books.

Thank you for reading! I hope you all are doing well!

Love,
Crissi

8 things I wish I’d known as a newbie writer

newbiewriter

As long as I’ve been able to write, I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. But as we all know, the desire to be a writer doesn’t create books alone. I’ve started writing novels, only to give up three chapters in. I’ve hidden my writing so that the world would never see my scribbles. I had aspirations of being a famous novelist, but didn’t know how to get there.

I was in my mid-thirties when I finally published my first novel. Three years later, and I’m gearing up to publish my fifth fiction novel and eight book. I can’t help wondering how many stories I missed writing because I lacked the courage sooner to write them.

Here are eight things I wish I had known as a newbie writer.

1. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start your book.
When people learn I’m an author, they usually tell me that they hope to write a book someday. Buy why wait? What makes someday a more perfect time than today? I put off writing a book for decades. When I finally started writing, it was a scary place to be. Publishing it was even scarier. But after that first book came the second, and then the third, and so on.
If you are waiting until your life gets less busy, stop waiting. There will always be obligations, a full calendar, and that 9-5 job. If something is crossed off your list, another responsibility is bound to take its place. That perfect moment to start writing may never exist. So make the time today to start writing your book.

2. Bad writing only leads to good writing.
The first attempt at anything is terrible. However, if you keep trying, things start to get better. This is true of anything in your life, including writing. I think back to the very first novel I ever wrote. It was awful! I put a lot of time and energy into that book, only to stuff it under my bed, never to see the light of day again. Without that first attempt at novel writing, I may never have gone on to write novels I was proud to share.
The same things goes for my rough drafts. I’ve stripped out chapters of books I’ve written that took days to create. While it hurt to let them go, I don’t regret having written them. They served as the bridge to the parts of the story I wanted to tell.

3. You are just as capable of greatness as the writers you admire most.
Many great writers had humble beginnings. JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter in a coffee shop, barely making it as a single mother. Stephen King initially threw away the manuscript that eventually put his name on the map. Diana Gabaldon started out as a freelance writer, taking any job that would pay her. Nicholas Sparks racked up years of debt and rejection letters before selling the manuscript to The Notebook.
If your writing isn’t where you want it to be, or your book is largely ignored, you may just be in your humble beginning. Remember this time. When you make it big, you can use your backstory to encourage other writers who are aspiring for greatness.

4. Write EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Once you start writing your novel, don’t skip even one day of writing. Even if you only write 50 words some of those days, you have to stick with that story. Otherwise, numerous obstacles are going to attempt war on your writing efforts. You’ll lose interest in the story. You’ll doubt your abilities as a writer. You’ll lose track of the storyline. You’ll fill up your writing time with other things.
To be a writer, you have to keep your writing muscle conditioned. Skipping one day may lead to a second skipped day. Before you know it, you’ll have missed a week of writing, and that novel will end up an unrealized dream.

5. Step out of the writing cave now and then.
Yes, you need to write every day. However, a great story doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Get out of your house occasionally. Visit with friends, enjoy the fresh air, and practice your communication skills. After all, you never know when an experience might make it into one of your stories.

6. Learning is a lifelong process.
There will always be things you don’t know about writing. There are writers who are more talented than you are. There are ways your novel can improve. Rather than throwing in the towel, aim to be better. Take workshops or classes. Seek advice from other writers. Read, read, and read! Never stop learning.

7. Write what you love, and stop writing what you don’t love.
There are going to be days when the story you’re writing just isn’t there. As a novelist, your job is to keep plugging away until you hit your stride again. However, sometimes the story just isn’t there. If the book you’re writing has lost its appeal for good, it’s okay to put it down and start something new. Why waste your time on something you don’t enjoy? It could be keeping you from the story you were meant to write.

8. Being an author is not a way to get rich quick.
Three years ago when I published my first book, I had visions of the mansion I would buy with my millions, the movie contracts I would sign, how my kids’ college would be paid for, the speech I would give my boss when I quit my job…. Three years later, I am still working the same hours at the same job. I am a hundredaire on the income from my books, though I still haven’t made more than I’ve spent producing them. No movie director has contacted me. And I still get excited over each sale and review.
There are times when I am frustrated that I haven’t hit the jackpot with my books. When I focus on my numbers, it makes me want to throw in the towel. That’s why numbers are the wrong thing to focus on.
As an author, you MUST remember why you are doing this. You love writing. You have stories to tell. This is your creative outlet. You are passionate about creating books.
Don’t forget the reason why you started writing in the first place, especially when success proves to be elusive. And if you started writing as a way to make millions, start looking for a different profession.

How about you? What advice do you wish you had known as a newbie writer?

The slump after releasing a book

Whenever I publish a book, I go through a weird slump in the weeks to months that follow. Before the book is released, all of my energy is spent on getting that baby ready to be published – editing, formatting, tweaking, etc. During all of this, I’m getting the word out. All of my thoughts rest on this book and how people will receive it.

Then, I release the book. A lot of faith goes into this process. I trust I’ve done everything I can do, and that it’s truly ready for others to read. I hold hope that it will change readers for the better. At the very least, I hope readers will love it, spread the word about it, and maybe even leave a 4-5 star review.

Of course, my job doesn’t just end with releasing the book. In this, I have to continue marketing the book. Admittedly, this isn’t anything I’m good at, though I get a clearer picture with every book I release.

However, I am drained by the time I release each book. This is the worst time to lose energy, because the momentum needs to remain to help further the reach of the just-published book.

Last year, I wrote my heart out. I finished and released, Come Here, Cupcake, which, admittedly, was met with disappointing results.It’s been largely ignored, though I still believe there’s some potential there. More on that in a bit.

loving

Working on the final edits of Loving the Wind.:-)

Then I wrote back-to-back books – Reclaim Your Creative Soul (written in October), and Loving the Wind (written in November). I published Reclaim Your Creative Soul just this past March, and the feedback I’ve received has all been positive. I have a few readings coming up, and two podcast opportunities because of this book.

I’m gearing up to release Loving the Wind in August, if all goes according to plan. The manuscript will be in my editor’s hands this week, a step in the process that always excites me. It means I’ve perfected this baby as much as I can, and it’s about to get that final polish before release. And I can’t even begin to describe how in love I am with this story!

Back to Come Here, Cupcake. I wrote this book a few years ago, but revamped the storyline with the help of a few creative friends. The process was both wonderful and challenging. The original story turned into something totally different, making way for a better, three-dimensional story. But along the way, I had to kill a few darlings, a process that was incredibly emotional for me. It was also hard taking the story I had written and changing it into a collaborative effort. I’ve always written my books solo. So to share this experience was something new, and totally out of my comfort zone. I’m not saying it was bad. It was actually awesome most of the time. But it was also different than any way I’ve ever written.

In the end, the story became stronger. It also turned a standalone book into the beginning of a series.

A series I have not written yet.

So, back to that slump. When I released Come Here, Cupcake, I went through the slump. I knew I needed to keep writing to that series, but I was worn down from a completely emotional experience. Following that book, I needed to recharge.

But then I got the inspiration for Reclaim Your Creative Soul. Following that, Neverland haunted my dreams and Loving the Wind – the story of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan – was born. Along with some freelance work I’ve been blessed with, all of my energy has turned toward those books. Because of this, Come Here, Cupcake has been put on the back burner.

My goal is to start planning out and writing the rest of that series in the next few months. Once the series is written, I plan to re-release Come Here, Cupcake with a new cover, and then roll out the rest of the series in a much quicker fashion.

However, this is going to have to take some patience from any of you who have been waiting for the next books. Once Loving the Wind is released, my writing energy will be spent on the follow-up novels to Come Here, Cupcake. I don’t know when my next published book will be, as I have nothing ready for publication following Loving the Wind.

At any rate, I appreciate all of your support. I cherish every word I receive about the stories I write, and it warms me whenever I hear that they’ve touched a reader as deeply as they touched me while writing them.

Thank you for sticking around!

8 books your mom will love on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is on Sunday, May 8, which means you still have time to find your mother the perfect gift to show her how much you appreciate her. What better way to show you care than with the perfect book? Here are 8 books your mom will love.

StopHere1. Stop Here, This is the Place: A Year in Motherhood, by Susan Conley and Winky Lewis.
In this nostalgic photo book, Winky Lewis would send Susan Conley a photo of their children every day for a year. In response, Conley would write a story about the photo. The result was a collection of heartwarming tales any mother would love.

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Angeloumom2. Mom & Me & Mom, by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s memoir details the complicated relationship she shared with her mother, Vivian Baxter. In her personal story, Angelou details how long it took her to warm to her mother after they were reunited, and the unconditional acceptance her mother handed back to her. The book offers the backstory to Angelou’s famed memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

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MysteryWriters3. The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, by Kate White
A few of your favorite mystery writers have banded together to share their most thrilling entrees, cozy desserts, seductive snacks and more with 100 recipes to inspire your next adventure. The book features full-color photos and reveals the links between food and foul play. Recipes are contributed by Mary Higgins Clark, Gillian Flynn, James Patterson, Charlaine Harris and more.

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capturemoment4. Capture the Moment, by Sarah Wilkerson
Not only is this book filled with gorgeous photos of family moments by female photographers, easy-to-follow tips are shared on taking the perfect photo — allowing moms to create impeccable memories that will be cherished for years to come.

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Operating instructions5. Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, by Anne Lamott
This is the book that put Anne Lamott (my personal favorite author) on the map, and that also had moms around the world nodding with enthusiasm. In this memoir, don’t expect a glamorous view of what motherhood supposedly looks like. Expect the messy, raw, real and miraculous deal.

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color6. Color Me Stress-Free, by Lacy Mucklow and Angela Porter
Everyone deserves a break, especially Mom! Why not give her a coloring break? With the recent craze of adult coloring books, this book is the perfect way for mom to unwind. The 100 coloring templates are organized into therapeutically themed chapters that promise to melt away the stress of the day. If Mom likes this coloring book, it’s just one of several in the series, which includes Color Me Calm, Color Me Fearless, Color Me Happy and more.

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gift-from-the-sea7. Gift From the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
This book was first published in 1955, but the wisdom within the pages is timeless. Author Anne Lindbergh links together the types of seashells she gathers with the stages of a woman’s life — mother, wife, friend and grandmother. Her meditations capture youth and age, love and marriage, peace, solitude and contentment, and her essay has been inspiring women for the last six decades.

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golf-ball-cover-small8. Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows, by Crissi Langwell
Some of you may be familiar with these stories — personal essays I wrote for the Press Democrat with my Wine Country Mom column and blog featuring my children, the Taz and DQ. Now my kids are grown, but these stories pay homage to the time when they were in those precocious adolescent and pre-teen years, and I was just figuring things out as a single mom.

Book lovers unite for Independent Bookstore Day

bookstore

If you’re a book lover, you likely find solace in your local bookstore, breathing in the almond-like scent of book pages while perusing the aisles of colorful covers. Your friends live on the shelves of bookstores—Harry Potter, Elizabeth Bennett, Gandalf, Arya, Katniss Everdeen…. And the authors—JK Rowling, Jane Austen, JRR Tolkien and more—they’re your friends, as well.

In this digital age, finding a good book is easier than ever. But as any book lover will tell you, there is nothing that compares to going to the actual bookstore, walking the aisles and holding the book you are looking for in your hands (or even discovering the book you didn’t even know you were looking for).

Bookstores have also become community centers for book lovers and writers. It’s where you can meet your favorite author on tour, take part in a workshop or fun event, share your books as a local author and network with other avid bibliophiles.

IBD-SlideThis Saturday, April 30, 400 bookstores across the US are taking part in this year’s Independent Bookstore Day. Local to me, this includes Copperfield’s Bookstore, which just opened their 8th store this month in Novato. You can expect a myriad of book events happening at any of the Copperfield’s near you. This includes a talk by successful author, Jean Hegland at the Montgomery Village store at 7 p.m., the Mary Fettig Quartet performing jazz at the Novato store, coloring and story time at all stores from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., a scavenger hunt for readers from 1 p.m. to closing at all stores, and more.

Guests are invite to celebrate IBD with a Book Selfies, read your own writing during an Open Mic hour, take part in prize drawings, and many other fun opportunities.

To learn more about Independent Bookstore Day and how you can spread love to your favorite bookstore, visit www.indiebookstoreday.com.

To see all Copperfield’s Bookstore events near you, visit www.copperfieldsbooks.com/IBD-2016.