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Confessions of an Author: Feeling Like an Imposter

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Filed under #OnBeingAWriter, Books, Confessions of an Author, Creative Writing, Indie Publishing, Memoir, Poetry, Publishing, Real Life of a Writer, Self-Published Authors, Stories, Storytelling, Traditional Publishing, Writing

Make NaNoWriMo Last All Year

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Every November, hundreds of thousands of people around the world do something that might break them spiritually, psychically, or psychologically — though probably not physically: they attempt to write the first draft of an entire novel in 30 days. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel (175 DS manuscript pages, based on a count of approximately 300 words per page) in thirty days. That’s about 1,700 words (or six DS manuscript pages) a day. Besides training for and entering an Iron Man Competition, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it’s known to participants, has to be one of the most challenging and demanding tasks anyone can voluntarily give himself.

Participants are not supposed to publish the book they write during NaNoWriMo as is. The NaNoWriMo book is the first draft. Writers have to revise, edit, get feedback from readers, re-write, edit, revise more, have some coffee, then decide whether they want to Indie publish or attempt to get an agent and try for the traditional New York publishing route.

NaNoWriMo is not about getting published or about being an author.

NaNoWriMo is about being a writer.

If you participated in NaNoWriMo, you probably learned as much about yourself as you did about your novel.  Even if you didn’t manage to complete the requisite 50K, even if you only worked on an outline for your planned novel, you did something important. If you learned nothing more than how difficult it is to write full-time, then you learned the most important thing NaNoWriMo could ever teach you about being a writer. Here are some tips for helping you continue to write full-time, all year long.

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Pretend It’s Your Job

As I wrote in another post, some of the best advice I ever got about writing came from a friend when I took nine months off work to write my first novel — 9 months without pay, after having borrowed $11K from the bank (at 17 & ⅞% interest, for a total loan repayment of $18K). At that time, though I’d been writing regularly and been extensively published in literary and university journals for over 10 years, I’d only written when inspiration struck me, i.e., in short, intensive bursts every few months. I’d never been paid for writing, had never published a book, and had never done it every day, all day long, for an extended period. I’d also only written poetry, which is easier to write sporadically since poems are quite a bit shorter than novels.

After almost a year trying to write my first novel while working several jobs, I’d gotten the bright idea to borrow money from the bank to write my book. To my shock, the bank approved the loan, based on my extensive publications and literary prizes. During the first month of my sabbatical, I didn’t write anything at all: instead, I spent my time thinking about my novel, all day long, every day. When I realized how much it had cost me to think for a month, I panicked. That’s when my best friend suggested that I think at my desk, with a pen in my hand, holding my pen over a tablet of paper. Further, she suggested that I pretend writing was my job, which meant getting up, getting dressed, going to my desk, and writing at the same time every day.

Pretending that writing was my job changed my life.

Celebrity authors are not the only full-time writers in the world: all of us who eventually got published had to write for a long time before our books received contracts. Full-time writers, including traditionally published authors, almost always have other jobs: they rarely can support themselves and their families solely from writing income. Full-time writers are those who’ve made a serious and long-term commitment to writing, no matter what their day-job is, how long their daily commute, how small their writing or office space, how large their family, or how extensive their outside obligations.

A full-time writer writes like it’s his job, even if he’s never gotten paid for his writing.

If you want to make NaNoWriMo last all year long, treat writing as your job.

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Get a Calendar and
Schedule Writing Time

When you have a job as a writer, you don’t merely write the time you have already spent writing on the calendar: you write down the time you are going to spend writing. Like it’s your job. You know what time you have to be at your job, and if you have multiple jobs, as I’ve had almost all of my life, you write down where you have to be and the time you have to be there. When I wrote for that year that I took off work, I wrote down, in advance, the times I was supposed to be writing, and I continued that practice after I went back to my paying job.

That’s how I got into the habit of getting up and writing by 5 every morning. I scheduled [Name of Book] on my calendar from 5-7 every morning. That meant I had to be at my desk writing by that time, not just getting out of bed, or lying there hitting the snooze button. I did it on the weekends, too, but scheduled my writing for at least 8 hours on weekends and holidays. Since I was used to getting up and working by 5, it was no inconvenience to continue doing that after I went back to work at my paying job.

For NaNoWriMo, you planned in advance to write the entire month, and you planned to get a certain number of words written a day. To continue the NaNoWriMo experience, get yourself a calendar and schedule your writing time in advance, just as you would your job, your vacation, holidays, or any doctors’ appointments.

Keep that scheduled commitment and be there writing.

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Consider Writing Time
as Your Apprenticeship

You have to pay your dues in practically any job. Sometimes you have to do volunteer work in your chosen field in order to have experience. Often, people educated in a particular field have to complete an apprenticeship, internship, or residency to get sufficient practical experience to qualify for a paying position in the field of their choice. Being a writer — and eventually an author — is the same as any other field. Everyone puts in plenty of time writing without getting paid or having any guarantee of publication.

Consider any time you spend writing before publication as your own apprenticeship,  internship, or residency until you get really good at it.

If you are traditionally published after you finish your book, it is unlikely that you will get a large enough Advance to live on. You may become a bestseller, but, given how long it takes for a traditionally published book to reach bookstores after it’s sold to the Publishing House, you won’t get rich immediately. That means you’ll be writing your subsequent book with no guarantee of additional money or of another publishing contract.

Think of NaNoWriMo as the beginning of your internship.

Now extend that month of your writing internship for the entire year.

After you’ve published your first book, you will be an author, but all authors still have to write, and they write all year long, not just in November.

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Choose to Write

You are not super-human, so you will have to make choices if you want to include writing in your life. For me, it meant delaying children because I needed all my time for college, grad school, teaching, retail jobs, and writing. If you really want to be a writer, writing should always be at the top of your list of priorities and commitments. If it’s not, stop reading this post and go do something else: you don’t want to be a writer bad enough.

Next on your list of priorities, put your paying job since you have to support yourself and your writing, which costs money even if you don’t Indie publish. Put your family or permanent relationships after that. Anything else can be considered superfluous and can be eliminated.

You need to make choices in life, especially if you want to be a writer: it is such a time-consuming career. If you want to be an author, which is a published writer, you will still have to write.

If you want NaNoWriMo to last longer than the month of November, you have to establish your priorities and make conscious choices that will guarantee you have sufficient writing time.

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Be Ready to Open the Door
When Opportunity Knocks

To unpublished writers, being traditionally published is like being in the Garden of Eden, but nobody wakes up already in Published Author Paradise. You must always be writing, revising, editing, writing more, completing your books, improving your craft, searching for agents, submitting your work to editors and agents, and writing even more. That way, when the Getting Published Opportunity knocks on your door, you’ll be qualified to answer the door with (at least one) polished, finished book in hand.

NaNoWriMo gives you a taste of what being a writer is like.

If you want to be a published author, use your NaNoWriMo experience to continue being a full-time writer, whether or not you have another paying job. You’ll be writing more than one month out of the year, and you’ll also be finishing your books so that you’ll have something to publish when your opportunity to become an author arrives.

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Don’t Expect Fame & Fortune

As any artist in any field can readily tell you, there is a very small number of celebrities in any field who are well known to everyone, get any job they want, make most of the money, get all the attention, and make most of the money.

Don’t expect fame. Don’t expect fortune. Those things cannot be controlled.

The amount of time you spend writing is the only thing that can be controlled. Expect, therefore, to write, write, write. And then to write some more.

If you’re lucky, you might get some prizes, or a big Advance from one of the traditional publishers, or an option on your book that actually leads to a big movie deal, but don’t expect or plan on any of these things because that’s just not the way the artistic world works.

Expect to be a writer.

You experienced that during NaNoWriMo, so you already know what it’s like to write.

Now, go write.

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Take Care of Yourself
Spiritually, Emotionally, & Physically

Writing is a taxing business. It’s much harder than any job you leave behind at the workplace when you clock out at the end of the day. For that reason, you need to exercise, eat healthily, and should probably do some form of meditation daily.

You also need to keep negative people away from you: there’s enough rejection in this business. You don’t need negative people “rejecting” you as a writer in your personal life as well. Eliminate the negative people in your life even if they are family members, friends, or spouses. Surround yourself instead with loving and supportive people who encourage you to be a writer. Additionally, find writing-support groups, reliable beta-readers, and good editors.

Rest when necessary.

Don’t forget to play.

After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to write.

Photo by Raw Pixel © Unsplash

If you truly wish to be a writer, you can’t just write when you feel like it, or when inspiration hits you, or when your muses are singing to you, or when it happens to be convenient. You have to make a commitment to writing. You have to make conscious choices to have the time to write. Despite NaNoWriMo, which I think is a wonderful idea, you cannot spend only one month a year committed to writing as a priority in your life.

Writing has to be your life.

And you have to take care of yourself emotionally, spiritually, and physically so that you can continue to write. That way, NaNoWriMo can last more than a month: it can last all year, every year, for the rest of your life.

Related Posts

Creative Writing

Urgency in Fiction: Part One

Urgency in Fiction: Part Two

No Demons, No Saints:
Creating Realistic Characters

Writing Effective Dialogue

Who’s Afraid of Point of View?

Myths About Point of View

How to Write a Novel Without an Outline

Publishing & Writer’s Life

How to Pitch Your Book

Long Day’s Journey Into Publishing My Second Book

A Week in the Life of a Writer, and a Peek Inside my Office

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Filed under #WritingTips, Authors, Creative Writing, NaNoWriMo, Real Life of a Writer, Writing, Writing & Revising

Bernard Rejects Rejection

Writing is very hard work. Being an author is an incredibly difficult job, one fraught with constant rejection. The only career I can think of that probably has even more rejection than being an author is being an actor. Still, if you are to survive as a writer, you must constantly write, improve your craft, and deal with rejection: from family, friends, colleagues, grocery clerks, neighbors, and even strangers.

If you wish to go beyond the “career” of writer and become an author, you must deal with rejection on an exponentially larger scale, experiencing rejection — and sometimes insults — from agents, editors, publishers, readers, reviewers, family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, the person who bags your groceries, and even strangers.

Bernard is a writer who wants to be an author, and he found a unique way to  deal with all the constant rejection in an author’s life. Bernard rejects rejection.

I advise every writer and author to follow Bernard’s example.

You’ll feel so much better after writing that letter.

Just don’t ever mail it.

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Filed under Authors, Creative Writing, Editors, Humor, Indie Authors, Real Life of a Writer, Self-Published Authors

Hungry for that Sweet Life: Myths about Being an Author & Selling Books

#Spoilers

Despite the Revolution in Indie book publishing over the last few years, especially with the advent of Print-on-Demand (POD) paper-book availability and with instantly accessible e-books, many self-published and Indie authors are still operating under ubiquitous myths about selling books – to their own dissatisfaction and disillusionment. There is, however, good news for all authors, but first they must become familiar with the business of selling books and be realistic about their expectations.

Myth #1
Traditional Publishers Pay for All Publicity and Promotion,
and Always Send Authors on Reading Tours

Unfortunately, it is simply not true that traditional publishers pay for the publicity of all the books they purchase. In fact, approximately 98% of all traditionally published authors must do all their own marketing, promotion, and publicity. If the authors are wealthy enough to employ their own publicists — such as Joyce Carol Oates, who earned, at last check, almost $200,000 annual salary as a professor — then those publicists do the work of promoting and marketing the authors’ works. It is only when an author is a proven bestseller that the publisher itself puts any money into promotion.

When my first novel was published by HarperCollins 20+ years ago, I was informed that I wasn’t “important enough to warrant any publicity money” — this despite having gotten good reviews from such prestigious publications as Publishers Weekly, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review – and I was asked if I could pay for my own book tour. On my Professor’s salary, it took me almost a year to save enough to do 10 stops, taking cheap flights, staying at Holiday Inns, and supplying my own food. Not very glamorous, I can assure you. Did it sell books? HarperCollins never reported any sales, so I never earned any additional royalties, in spite of selling and signing books at the stores I toured.

When my second novel was accepted, I was once again asked to pay for my own reading tour. In traditional publishing,  critical acclaim and prizes do not equal being “important enough to have the publisher pay for a book tour.” My experience is typical for most traditionally published authors who are not already bestsellers.

Now, however, even for NY-published authors, bookstores rarely sponsor readings, and any readings they do schedule are (1) in large cities, (2) only for bestselling authors, (3) must be arranged by the publisher’s publicist in conjunction with each bookstore’s Special Events Coordinator, and (4) must be approved by Barnes & Noble’s Corporate Headquarters. Independent bookstores have largely been put out of business by Chain and Online bookstores, though there may be a few remaining which will sponsor readings, especially for local authors.

In brief, even traditionally published authors always had to do their own publicity and promotion. Bookstore readings have basically gone the way of the dinosaurs. Traditionally published authors usually have their own websites, blogs, Twitter and/or Facebook accounts to promote their own books, to connect with readers, and to keep their names in the public eye, so to speak.

Fact: Connecting with readers, regularly and consistently – not just by shoving commercials down their throats – is the best way to promote and sell books. Making connections with readers, however brief,  has always worked well: that’s what bookstore readings and participation at writing conferences were all about. Now, through effective use of established social media, blogs, and author websites with contact information, all authors have a better chance of promoting and selling their books than they had in the past.

Myth #2
Authors Earn the Full Cover Price of Each Book Sold
so Authors Get Rich Quick

This is one of the reasons most readers believe that all authors are rich, but many new authors themselves, unfamiliar with how the market operates, are angry when they do not become rich within a few months of their book’s publication, or are shocked to discover that they do not earn the entire cover price of a book when it is sold.

Typically, by contract, a traditionally published author will earn 3-10% of the cover (or list) price of each book sold. (Out of that 3-10%, the author then has to pay his agent 15-20% of all monies earned, as well as pay Federal, State, Local, and Social Security Self-Employment Tax [approximately 18%] on his book income.)

Bookstores, who actually sell the books, acquire them at discounts of 35-55% of the cover price, depending on the number of titles/authors sold: the difference between the wholesale and cover prices is what the bookstore “earns” for selling the book to the public.

The distributor, such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, who is in charge of getting the books from the printer to the bookstore, usually earns at least 15% of the cover price. (Some smaller, regional distributors charge a higher percentage: to make up for smaller volume.)

The cost of printing the book is then subtracted by the printer, and the remainder of the money is sent to the publisher. The author gets his percentage, and, theoretically, the publisher gets the remainder. Unfortunately, in actual practice, the publisher often reports no sales and keeps all monies.

The formula works like this:

Cover (List) Price of Book
– 35-55% for Bookstore
– 15% or more for Distributor
– Actual Printing Costs
= $ that goes to Publisher

who then is supposed to give the Author the contractual percentage
(usually 3-10%) of the book’s cover price.

Let’s say a book’s cover price is $19.99. The bookstores purchase it for $8.99/book (average 45% discount), keeping the difference between wholesale and cover (or in-store sale) price for getting the book into the customer’s hands, earning $10.99/book, which is only reasonable since the bookstore is doing most of the work. The distributor keeps at least $2.99 (15%) for getting the book from the printer to the bookstores. Printing charges depend on the physical size of the book and its number of pages, since most printers charge a per-page-printing-fee. But let’s say the books is 275 pages, in a 5×8″ Trade Paper size: printing costs would be approximately $5.00 per book. That leaves $3.01 that goes to the publisher, who pays the author $1.99/book (10% royalty rate), keeping the remaining $1.02 for itself.

To put it more simply, the publisher gets approximately the amount the bookstores pay for the book minus the printing cost ($8.99-5.00=3.99). Of course, since some major online booksellers get a 55% discount to sell books on their sites, the publisher gets less money per book although the author should not.

Also, bookstores can return any unsold books at any time for no reason. If the publisher does not pay a substantial fee ($2-4.00/book) to get the entire book back, then the bookstores tear the cover off the book and return only the cover, get a refund for their entire purchase price, while supposedly destroying the book itself. However, as the warnings on the copyright pages of many books indicate, booksellers often return the covers, get their purchase price back, then sell the book, keeping all monies for themselves. Thus the warning on the copyright pages of many books:

If you purchased this book without a cover, please be aware that neither the author nor the publisher received any monies for its sale. Please support authors’ rights, and do not support piracy of intellectual property.

Fact: Though an author may never get rich, may not earn substantial amounts of money until he has several titles in print, and is extremely unlikely to become wealthy off his very first book or within a few months of publication – if ever – an author at least has more control over promoting and selling his works by connecting with readers through current social media than he ever had in the past.

As long as the author realizes exactly how much money he’s going to actually earn, he can keep on doing the only thing he can control that might eventually earn him more money: keep on writing good books.

Myth #3
All Bookstores Support
Indie & Self-Published Authors

Perhaps a local, independent bookstore who is familiar with the author might order books for sale to its readers, but the bookstore would still have to order through a distributor, have the right to return any unsold books at any time, etc.

Corporate bookstores are another story completely. Let me use Barnes & Noble as an example, since Borders has gone out of business, and most of my dealings, as an author and a publisher, have been with those stores.

First of all, Barnes & Noble does not make recognize the term “Indie” Author. There are either traditionally or self-published authors. That is all. Authors who have been previously published by traditional New York Houses, had their books taken out-of-print (OP) and put their own OP books back into print through Amazon’s Create Space, for example, are considered Traditional Authors, not “Indie” Authors. Anyone else, according to Barnes & Noble Corporate Headquarters and its local bookstores, is a self-published author.

If a traditionally published author who puts his OP books back into print convinces the Special Events Coordinator at his local Barnes & Noble that he can bring in enough readers to do a successful event, and if the author has multiple titles in print, and if the author has a good relationship with his local bookstore, and if the Corporate New York Office approves, then the local branch bookstore may schedule a reading, ordering — through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or another established distributor — perhaps 10-20 books. More likely, the bookstore would order 5-8 books. If the author had multiple titles, the bookstore could conceivably order 2-3 copies of each title.

If the previously traditionally published author sold well through Barnes & Noble bookstores while his books were still in print with the New York publishers, then the local store may keep 1-2 copies in stock. Any other books not sold the night of the reading would be returned to the distributor (then to the printer, and ultimately to the “publisher”, which in this case would be the author) within a few days. The 1-2 copies put on the shelves in the hopes of future sales may be returned at any time, even years later, for a full refund, which is subtracted from the publisher’s [OP author’s] account.

Barnes & Noble cannot and does not order books from Amazon’s Create Space directly (nor from the Ingram-owned POD-printer Lightning Source, for that matter) since it is a printer, not a distributor. A printer merely prints books: it does not ship or distribute them for sale to bookstores. Distributors such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or regional distributors who have contracts with B&N order books from the printers and send them to the bookstores.

Barnes & Noble does not order books by self-published authors.

Not even one copy.

Not even for local authors.

If a local self-published author  has a good relationship with his Barnes & Noble bookstore, and if he convinces the Special Events Coordinator that he can bring in a good sized audience for a reading, and if Corporate New York B&N approves, then the self-published author can pay to have a reading. (That is in bold to ensure that you do not mis-read it, but for emphasis, I will repeat it: if all the above conditions are met, the self-published author can pay to have a reading at his local B&N.)

It costs anywhere between $600-$1,000 for a self-published author to have a reading at a B&N, depending on the location and size of the bookstore itself.

The author must provide all copies of books to be sold by the local Barnes & Noble at his own cost. Since the author is purchasing them directly from the printer and delivering them to the bookstore himself, the author will earn no royalties on any books sold during said reading.

The local B&N which is sponsoring the reading keeps the entire cover price of each book sold. All of it. Every single penny. Nothing goes to the author. Barnes & Noble considers this only fair for allowing the author to use its name and space to advertise his self-published book.

And if, as sometimes happens, no one comes to the author’s reading, all books are returned to the author before his departure from the store, and no portion of the fees paid for the scheduled reading are refunded.

Even if an audience does show up and purchase books, any books not sold the night of the reading are returned immediately to the author. The store will not stock them since bookstores have a “return any time” policy with publishers and it does not consider a self-published author a publisher, whether or not the author has created a name for his own “House”.

Fact: An author needs to be aware that bookstores are largely controlled by Corporate entities, who are often owned by larger corporations, whose objective is to make as much money as possible with as little effort as possible. Whether traditionally, Indie, or self-publshed, an author needs to look beyond bookstores for sales.

With e-books, any locale that offers Wi-Fi can become a place to sponsor a reading. Many Starbucks, for example, do “open mic” nights, where they allow local artists – singers, writers, poets – to perform,  free of charge, because the store will make money from food and beverage sales.

(The author should be a regular, well-known, and well-liked customer of any Starbucks he approaches with such a proposition; he should also be able to produce an established audience of family and friends whose food and beverage purchases will provide incentive for the local manager to grant permission for the reading.) With e-books and Wi-Fi, any audience member present who has a Smartphone, laptop, or e-reader can purchase an author’s e-book during or after the reading.

An author can also video-tape dramatic readings of his work — not commercials, which have been proven ineffective — create his own channel on YouTube free of charge, upload videos of his readings, then regularly promote those video-taped readings on social media to encourage readers to enjoy his readings, which may lead them to purchase his books, whether in electronic or paper format.

Of course, if you’re a bestseller, then traditional publishers will probably pay for you to go on tour and do signings. Then again, they may not: after all, you’re already a bestseller and you’ve got better things to do, like write another bestseller.

Also, bookstores will be more than happy to carry your books. Because you’re a bestseller, and they’ll be making up to 49% of the cover price of every single book they sell.

As far as the Royalties go, I’ve never heard of any author — not even a bestselling one — making more than 20% off the cover price of their books. Bestselling authors make their money on large Advances for future books, with the traditional publishers banking on the previous book’s bestselling status to justify the amount of the Advance. If the next book is not a bestseller, the future Advances drop. Traditional publishers only have memories for the most recent book’s sales, it seems.

There are many more myths about being an author and about selling books that need to be examined, but for every myth, I assure you, there are facts that can help you sell your books and realistically achieve your dreams of becoming an author, not just a writer.

The most important thing you can do as a writer is to keep writing — every day — keep reading, improve your craft, and learn to connect with others (even other writers and authors are readers) on social media — not with an endless stream of “commercials” for your own books or for the books of other authors.

In the meantime, Stay Hungry, My Friends.

Related Posts

Creative Writing

Urgency in Fiction: Part One

Urgency in Fiction: Part Two

No Demons, No Saints:
Creating Realistic Characters

Writing Effective Dialogue

Who’s Afraid of Point of View?

Myths About Point of View

How to Write a Novel Without an Outline

Publishing & Writer’s Life

How to Pitch Your Book

Long Day’s Journey Into Publishing My Second Book

A Week in the Life of a Writer, and a Peek Inside my Office

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Filed under Authors, Blogging, Books, E-books, Indie Authors, Music Video, Music Videos, Music/Song, Self-Published Authors, Videos

Lions and Tigers and Liebsters, Oh, My!

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award by Seumas Gallacher, a rowdy Scot who loves to wear kilts and annoy his friends, especially authors who are new bloggers, like John Dolan and me. Apparently, the Liebster Award is to introduce interesting blogs to your readers. It has a few rules, however, which follow the photo. I notice the many blogger-nominees are using the green award picture, but I prefer the pink & red. I’m a girl: I like those colors.

Here are the rules:
  • When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you. (Have I received it yet? Perhaps the nomination is the same as receiving it. I’ll bet Hollywood wishes the Oscars operated like that.)
  • Pass the award onto 11 other bloggers with fewer than 200 followers (while making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them.) If you can’t think of 11, do as many as you can ( or check out Bloggers  for some interesting people. Sign up while you’re they’re, too [no, I didn’t get a kickback for writing that]).
  • You write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees. (Serious, amusing, existential – your choice: they have to answer or no Liebster for them.)
  • You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog. (That would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?)
  • You paste the award picture into your blog. (You can Google the image, there are plenty of them; I’ve included a selection in this post.)

Eleven Random Facts About Myself

1. I have three tattoos: an OM on my left shoulder, an ALEPH on my right, both done on my 47th birthday; a Star of David within the Buddhist Circle of Chakras is on the back of my left wrist. All three are spiritually significant to me as a writer.

2. I pierced my nose myself, with ear-piercing studs, 3 times, for my 48th birthday. I did 3 piercings instead of the traditional 1 because I was always called “Big Nose” as a kid (before my face fit my nose) so I thought I had plenty of “canvas” to work with. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who find my nose-rings sexy.

3. Sometimes, I wear diamond studs in my nose, but they often confuse and stress people who see them and ask “Why are you wearing diamonds in your nose?” because I always tell them, “It’s a political/socio-economic statement.” Their expressions say “Duh?”

4. I had to re-learn how to blow my nose once it was pierced because I kept tearing the nose-rings out. I did not have to learn to blow my nose in a new way after I got my ears pierced at 21.

5. My BF and I have rescued cats during our entire relationship (going on 19 years) and currently we have seven, who are all incredibly spoiled and rule the house like tyrants. They absolutely never listen to me unless I’m saying the word “Breakfast” and they hear plates.

6. We also have SadieDoggie, who was raised with cats and thus believes that she, too, is a cat: in six years, we have never given her a bath. She cleans herself just like a cat, even her paws and her face. She makes vets nervous because she is a cat in a 55-pound doggie body. She is the only dog on the planet that I have ever even liked, let alone loved. Probably because she acts like a cat.

7. I love stilettos, especially red ones, and my favorite pair is a toss-up between the 6-inch python-print (which make me about 6’2″) and the sparkly Dorothy-Wizard-of-Oz with black-and-white-striped heels (to represent the stockings of the Wicked Witch of the East upon whom Dorothy’s house lands).

8. I have a Snow White watch, which I adore, and never wear any other (for reasons posted in an earlier blog of mine).

9. I’m quite a few years older than I look: I’m retired from 30+ years of teaching World Literature and Creative Writing as a University Professor.

10. I write all my books in longhand with fountain pens, in beautiful journals. I grew up learning to write with fountain pens (ballpoints weren’t invented till I was 12) and since the two types of pens are held differently while writing, I simply cannot write comfortably with anything but a fountain pen. I have an entire collection of lovely pens.

11. I would’ve called this award “Liebeleh”, using the Yiddish instead of the German. Because.

My Nominee’s 11 Questions for Me

1. What’s your earliest recollection of anything?

Something too gruesome and horrifying to be revealed in a blog. Sorry. Must take the 5th on this.
2. How old were you when you were informed that Mister Clause may not be for real? and how did you take it?

2 or 3, I’m guessing, since my parents didn’t pull any punches, metaphorically or literally. Since I already didn’t believe in God by then, I don’t remember caring much whether Mr. Clause existed (besides, he never brought me anything I wanted, the Grinch).
3. What was the first book that you absolutely hated?  
I’ve never hated a book. I love books. They saved me. I adore all books simply on principle. Even the ones whose stories bore me to tears.
4. Money or Love?
Depends on what I have to give in return.
5. Fantasy holiday destination?
Paris. Actually, I want to live there.
6. First kiss?
Unremarkable.
7. Favorite funny person?
Christopher Walken.
8. What kind of music, if any, makes you cry?
Anything by Mozart or Beethoven. And some really old folk songs, like “Auld Lang Syne” and “Danny Boy.”
9. If you could remove any three letters from the alphabet, what would they be, and why?
X, because nobody pronounces it right when it’s at the beginning of a word. O because it looks silly. Q, because it’s always dragging U around after it, and nobody knows why, and U’s probably pretty tired of it by now.
10. Favorite animal/pet?
Cats. All of mine.
11. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?
I already changed it, to Alexandria. I didn’t like the name my parents gave me (and I despised their illiterate Appalachian pronunciation), and I only used a nickname in high school because I wasn’t of the legal age to change my first name. I fell in love with the name “Alexandria” after reading Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet at 17. 
My Eleven Questions for My Nominees 
1. If you could live anywhere in the world you wanted, where would you live and why?
2. If you could be as tall or short as you wanted, how tall or short would you be?
3. Films or books?
4. Men or women?
5. Cats or dogs?
6. If you could be fluent in any language other than your native one, which would it be?
7. Besides blogging, what is your favorite activity?
8. What ethnic food or dish is your favorite?
9. Who is your favorite actor and his/her best role?
10. Who is your favorite artist and his/her best work?
11. Who is your favorite author and his/her best work?
And My Eleven Nominees Are… <Drumroll… Opens Envelope…>
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