Entries Tagged 'what really matters in life' ↓

AN ECONOMIST’S LETTER TO YOUNG LITERARY AGENTS: HOW TO SURVIVE IN TODAY’S PUBLISHING INDUSTRY

NEWS FLASH! THE ECONOMIST’S LETTER IS BELOW, BUT I HAD TO TELL YOU ABOUT THIS:
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THAT’S RIGHT: NEXT TUESDAY!

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and so many more I’m having trouble keeping up withe them. Check it out!

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice has won 6 national awards. It tells the story of a few years in my life when everything went wrong and how it turned out right.
It is a suitable holiday gift for people of all faiths––or none.

TO GET AN AUTOMATIC INVITATION, SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL LIST WITH THIS LINK: SANDY’S EMAIL LIST SIGN UP!
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 HERE’S THE ECONOMIST’S LETTER:

Sandy Nathan
SANDY NATHAN Award Winning Author

Greetings! I recently read a blog post by Nathan Bransford, a San Francisco based literary agent.  It “rang my chimes,” as they used to say on Laugh-In in the olden days. Mr. Lansford’s post quoted articles from the NY Observer, an interview with George Jones, CEO of Border’s Group, Inc. on HarpersStudio Blog,  and a video response to the NY Observer article from young literary agent, Jeff Moores. 

The post presented different takes on the future of the publishing industry by a number of industry insiders. I am not an industry insider, I am a retired economist. I wrote this and thought of putting it on the comments form of Mr. Bransford’s blog, but realized it’s a bit long for that. So here it is. I’ll put a link to this page on Mr. B’s Blog.

Dear Mr. Bransford:

Your 10/17/08 blog concerning the state of the publishing industry caught my attention. My first career was in economics––I hold a couple of degrees in the subject and was Economic Analyst for Santa Clara County until the Planning Department was eliminated. (That’s downsizing!)  I also worked in Silicon Valley for twenty years, coaching negotiations at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, among other things.

What wisdom do I have to add to the articles you cite? An adage from economic forecasting applies: The best predictor of the future is the past. Just throw a line on past data (do a regression analysis) and there you have it––the future. The only problem with this approach is that you miss the turning points. This is a very large problem.

We are in a turning point, or major melt down, now.

No one knows what’s going to happen except that what happened in the past won’t apply. The article from the NY Observer was well worth reading, and I loved the Interview with George Jones, CEO of Borders Group. He gets the problem: It’s”not the book business itself that is lacking, but it is the business model that has been in place for decades and is broken.”

The business model no longer fits reality. To address this, Jones says Borders intends to “know our customers and select those titles that resonate with our unique shopper.” And, “speaking directly to an engaged population of customers is absolutely the way to go and we’re leading the way on it … the sky’s the limit!”

This is a new way of doing business. It’s personally engaged business, its smart business, and it points to niche buying, with suppliers listening harder to customers––in the case of Borders, anyway. I also liked what he said about their doing “very little if any traditional advertising.” I’ve never seen it pay in any business in which I’ve been involved.

What’s going to happen in the publishing industry? I have no clue. No one else does, either. I do know publishers that made a lot of money in the 60s & 70s are groaning and have been for a long time.

How to address this? On the supply side, looking at large publishers, I would expect cut backs and increased conservatism. The financial people and investment advisers I’ve talked to recently are in lock-down mode. They’re traumatized and very tight. Turtled up, you might say.

That speaks to less innovation in buying by publishers and a tendency to hang onto what’s proven, which is what the NY Observer article pointed to. I can’t speculate as to what change in overall share in the GDP publishing the coming years will bring.

Many small publishers will fold, which is sad, because they tend to be the innovators. But many more will rise, including micro-presses. These businesses are fluid and can find and fill niche markets. With distribution open to them (and it is) and companies like Borders open to buying from really small publishers if they prove they can sell, the small and micro companies could flourish.

Such micro-publishers might be built around a single author who uses his/her books as large business cards, creating a platform for some other endeavors: consulting, coaching, or speaking. This includes the “out of the bookstore sales” that don’t get counted in bestseller lists.

What young agents and everyone else need to remember is that what is happening now has never happened before. I’m 63 years old. My dad was a major developer in Silicon Valley before it had that moniker. I’ve imbibed business since birth and studied business and economics academically. I’ve seen many economic cycles, with their “Whee!” and expectation of endless growth on the upside, and their black gloom after the inevitable bust.

The current situation is new and massively ominous.

Within recent weeks, a half dozen of the largest banks in the country have been bought out by other banks under duress or government orders and/or have disappeared. This includes both of the largest investment banks. Hundreds more, less prominent banks have closed, with many more to follow. The collapse of the housing industry is well documented and the national debt is beyond anything I could have imagined. China as been buying US government paper for years, financing our spending binge on Chinese goods. Read the financial pages, literati.

Are we heading for another Great Depression of the 30s? No. That will never happen again. We’re heading for What Happened in the 2000s and Beyond. Unknown territory. Hope our leaders are up to it.

Speaking to the young New York literary agents shown by video on Mr. Bransford’s blog––if I were a young literary agent what would I do? I’d keep my eyes open, read the Wall Street Journal as much as Publishers’ Weekly, watch my back, and learn new skills.

A friend of mine, an English major from one of the prestigious eastern colleges, is now taking a 16-week course allowing him to become an ambulance driver. Smart guy.

The more tools in one’s belt, the more likely one is to survive. Changes in job description are good; they provide material for a more interesting memoir. If one has been fortunate and deserving enough to attain a prestigious job title early on, that’s great. But it’s not who you are. Life can be brutal in ripping away illusion.

If I were a young literary agent shopping for new clients, I would look at the demand side of the book market, and markets generally. What are recession/depression proof products? Drugs, booze, and psychotherapy. Things that make people feel good and hopeful sell in bad times.

Find their literary forms. Look for books with titles like: “You can make it through the next five years …” Though I wonder if the spate of “You can get rich like me, activate your inner entrepreneur” books aren’t part of the problems we face.

Political extremism and agitation flourish in hard or changing times. Look at the 30s and 60s. One side blames the other for the history of humanity and plots revenge. This is a fertile, though repulsive, area to mine for top selling books. Hate books. Blame books. Incendiary books.

Still another and very important area of demand are books that offer people meaning and hope in a shifting universe. A philosophy professor emphasized how hungry people are for meaning. He said that his wife (then an undergraduate at UC Berkeley) spoke of the subjects we discussed in our philosophy classes. After her classes, people followed her around the UC campus, wanting to talk about meaning, existence, values, anything that feed their souls. In an age of sophistication and materialism, our spiritual (sorry to use the word) needs remain.

We can’t help it. The search for meaning is hardwired into our brains. We are purposive creatures that seek meaning almost as soon as we seek air. See the writing of Andrew Newberg MD on brain science and religious experience. The need for meaning isn’t an add-on.

People seek meaning harder when they feel shaken. Feed that need, and you’ve got a hit.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” is a brilliant example of this. It combines all the most basic human needs in a beautifully written package that let’s people vicariously go on her search for MEANING. (Everything I’ve seen from Elizabeth on this subject says, “Find your own meaning, don’t use mine.” That’s the idea.) “The Life of Pi” is another brilliant example: existential anxiety in a rowboat. Author Yann Martel was a philosophy major.

The upside of demand in bad times is that readers exist; some people will always like to read. Some people like to read interesting stuff, and will buy it. We’ve got new technology to help us get it. (But really, how can holding a Kindle compare with experiencing the elegance of a high quality book?)

If I were a young agent wanting to survive, I would notice that the model is broken. I would notice that profitable sales are and will be what allows the large publishers to survive and that as a literary agent, I need go where those who provide my income go. Publishing is sales driven and so am I. (Which you already know.)

I would also notice, by the long hours I work if nothing else, that the query system doesn’t work. It’s a cumbersome, labor-intensive process for you which doesn’t pop out likely prospects reliably enough for this market.

If I were an agent, I would scrap the query system. It’s too much work and misses books or products that might be very profitable. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” for one. The Kiyosaki’s self-published to get their start. [Oh, my God! Don’t use those words!] The NY publishing establishment shunned the entire Chicken Soup Series. Big mistakes, which were later rectified. The querying system doesn’t pick up the most important point in today’s publishing industry: Can this author sell?

I’d scrap queries entirely and have anyone wanting me to represent them send me a: (1) resume and a (2) position statement: why I am the person to write this book. I’d sift through those and get the candidates that might be able to succeed in the marketplace.

I’d interview them. You can do interviews by video, but most people look lousy on video unless they’ve been coached. So they can come and see you in your office. If prospective clients want your representation enough, they’ll come to you. Don’t pay for it either.

“The author’s persona is most important element in the success of a book,” Victor di Suvero told me. Victor is a poet who used to hang around City Lights Bookstore with the great San Francisco poets in the 50s and 60s. It’s charisma and ability to transmit it that makes people plunk down their bucks.

Get your prospective client in your office and talk to him or her, silently asking yourself the questions: “Would I buy a pair of socks from this person? A used car?”

The possible answers are, “Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe, with coaching.” (Make them pay for it.) When you have those answers, you’ll have trimmed the seekers to a manageable herd. Then talk books.

Remember: You can hire someone to fix a book, but you can’t make a platform or a selling personality.

With my method, your client candidates will have proven they can sell before books are mentioned. Many really good writers will probably get screened out, as well as those who can’t afford to come to you, but literary fiction doesn’t pay the corporate debt.

Sound radical? Sound crass? Yes to both. Would you rather drive an ambulance?

Just a suggestion,

Sandy Nathan …

Cutting this post here would be mean. I have a story for you to round this out. My daughter, Zoe Nathan,  recently won her black belt in karate at a competition in Seattle. (If you click the link you’ll see after pictures. I understand she was mostly airborne in the “during competition” phase.)

Like you young literary agents, Zoe is an under thirty, gorgeous, multi-talented, sensitive and really smart, liberal arts graduate of a very good east coast school, Sarah Lawrence. She had to miss the Santa Barbara opening of an art show featuring one of her paintings because she was in Seattle winning her black belt. You relate? She’s like you.

She’s studied karate religiously for many years. combining it with her ballet to be the most beautiful and graceful karate woman in the world. Winning this belt meant a lot to her. The process was “extremely intense.” This is what she said of the process of winning (via text message):

I’M NO MORE BRUISED UP THAN USUAL!

She spoke of all the drills and other things aspirants had to do to get the belt. (I didn’t know what she was talking about.)  Then she told me about a difficult part, sparring with an opponent in front of a small mob of judges. I’m paraphrasing:

“The woman I sparred with was the daughter of a tournament orientated black belt in our school. In his dojo, they train to compete in international tournaments. His daughter has been competing in and winning such tournaments for years. She’s a phenomenon.

“When she was throwing me, I kept thinking, ‘Why am I still in the air?’ And then I realized that she was placing me so that when I landed, I wouldn’t get hurt.

“Both of us advanced to the belts we were testing for. When they gave us the belts, the judges complimented her on her control.  I.e., for not beating up a less experienced contender while illustrating that she could ––and easily!

“They complimented me on my spirit in keeping going through it all, and the fact that I was still standing at the end.”

That’s my message: The goal is to keep going and be standing at the end, no matter what. Everyone has to find out what that means and do it.

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WHO IS SANDY NATHAN? A Q & A SESSION SPELLS IT OUT

Sandy NathanSandy Nathan, National Award Winning Author

I’ve always hated the “Who is Sandy Nathan?” question. Ditto: Who is anyone? This is a philosophical inquiry. Answering that question is why we’re on earth. You can’t answer it in thirty seconds.

However, someone sent me these crazy questions. The little blurb at the top says the basics about me, and the Q & A session gives you a sense of the whole creature––me.

Enjoy!
Sandy

Sandy Nathan knows the worlds she describes in her writing. She draws on her personal studies in meditation, spirituality, and mysticism as well as her experiences in Silicon Valley corporate culture, breathing life into her characters and giving them depth and dimension. Sandy has won multiple national awards for her books. The mother of three grown children, Sandy and her husband live on their California horse ranch.

This gives an adequate view, but you may get a livelier one from this question and answer session:

 Q & A WITH SANDY NATHAN:

Where did you get the idea of a series of thrillers about the richest man in the world and a great shaman?

From God. Also from the strands of my life. Most of what’s in the Bloodsong Series comes from the threads of my life, as interpreted by my unconscious mind and shaped by my editors.

The series exploded in my brain after a cataclysmic and healing meditation retreat and thirty years of personal work. Heal that trauma! Clean up that mess!

I started writing the Bloodsong Series in 1995. I was fifty years old: It took me fifty years to have something worth saying. It’s taken me thirteen more to write it properly.

Are Will Duane and Grandfather based on real people?

No. They grew up inside of me as characters. They bear similarities to people I’ve known or read about, but they have their own life inside me. I wish they were real. I’d love to do dinner at Will’s.

Are you real?

Yeah. It says so on the label attached to the back of my neck.

Actually, this is a good question. BECOMING AND BEING REAL are the main things I write about. Becoming my Self is my goal in life.

Why did you call it The Bloodsong Series?

My surgeon asked me that as he wheeled me into the operating room. I said that, “It almost killed me to write it, so why not?” (The surgery went fine.)

The actual reason is that my blood sang, danced, and did cartwheels during the years I’ve worked on the series. I hope yours does the same. This is visceral, bloody spirituality.

Why are books about vampires so popular these days?

Beats me. I think people should read about bloody, heart-singing, mind-searing spirituality. The vampire deal does nada for me. Books about spiritual growth and recovery from addiction are compatible with action, violence, sex and sensuality. Read my stuff and find out. Better: Try it and find out.

Live your heart’s song, not its drippings.

Why all the sex in Numenon?

There’s only one explicit scene, and that’s a flashback. The undercurrent of sexuality in Numenon is due to the undercurrent of sexuality in all things human.

And besides, I have my mother’s permission to write what I wrote. I started this book in 1995. About 1997, I announced to my mom that I was writing a novel.

She said, “I want the first copy!” My mom was elderly at this time. And always had been a lady.

After two years of writing, I knew the lay of the book, so to speak. I gasped and said, “Well, mom, some of it’s kind of … raunchy.”

She smiled her adorable smile and said, “Why, Sandy, honey, you have to have sex in it, or no one will buy it.”

She died in the year 2000 and didn’t receive that first copy. I like to think that in the Bloodsong Series and my other fiction, I have embodied my mother’s advice to the fullest. I’m sure she’d be proud.

Do you have any advice for your readers?

Lead the life that’s yours instead of faking someone else’s.

What kind of music do you listen to while writing?

None. The song of my soul, the music of the spheres, and the chugging of my computer sound automatically when I write. That’s enough. I get hostile if anyone comes into the room making any noise. Since I write in the family room most of the time, I have become a problem, like our dog who bites anyone near his dish. We’re working on it.

What do you wear when you write?

I usually wear complete Peruvian Paso horse show regalia suitable for the highest levels of competition. This includes a white shirt and jeans, poncho, wide brimmed Peruvian hat, belt, spurs, fancy neck scarf, jewelry and a harmonica.

If that’s in the wash, I wear a tutu and pointe shoes.

Who’s feeding me these questions? What difference does it make?

I write round the clock and wear whatever I’m wearing.

You can ask Sandy Nathan a question! Before submitting, ask yourself, “Is this a good question? Would I ask my mom this? Or, would I ask my minister, rabbi, guru or dog trainer? Am I scammer or seriously disturbed person that Sandy doesn’t want to hear from? Am I trying to hawk my book rather than reaching out and buying Sandy’s?”

If you’re on the level, ask away. You can comment here or do it through our contact page. Sandy answers sporadically. She can be pretty fast, if it’s a really good questions and relates to her work.

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE coverStepping Off the Edge, winner of six national awards

NUMENON Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

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WHAT TO DO WHEN A DEAR FRIEND HURTS YOU

The Gathering retreat inspired Sandy Nathan's award winning book, Stepping Off the Edge. Stepping has extreme relevance for this article.

Okay––here’s the situation. We’ve all experienced something like it: You haven’t spoken to Shelly recently. Actually, your “speaking” is done by email these days––you live on opposite ends of the continent.

But you were very good friends years ago and have gotten close again through emails. You feel like you’re sisters . . . Her emails have slowed down in the last six months; you figure she’s busy. Or something.

And then you get an email from her about something you wrote six months ago. You were feeling scared about something, and told her all about it. It didn’t seem like a big deal, and you were sisters, after all.

Your words have festered in her brain for six months. She’s been silently building a case against you. And not about your behavior––about you. She’d used your not-well-thought-out words as evidence proving you’re pond scum. All these months, she’s been judging your personal worth and frying you in a metaphysical trial that you knew nothing about.

You write back, explaining what you meant, the circumstances, how you’re irrationally fearful about somethings and why. You say you’re sorry, if this happens again, tell you sooner so you can work on it.

What comes back is a “well, so what”––and a stronger, more black and white indictment of your character. You’re bad. You’re wrong, you’re no good in a very fundamental way. She doesn’t respect you or what you did/are.

You write back, defending yourself, your temper up this time.

The answer is still another black and white statement about your personal worth. You feel like she wants you to say––and will only stop the barrage––when you say, “Yeah, you’re right; I’m bad.”

And then she demands all the gifts she’s given you over the years back, things that meant a lot to both of you once.

So you say to yourself, “Do I want a friend like this? Is this a friend?” And terminate the relationship.

Or, you give in and say, “Shelly, you’re right. I did a bad thing. I am a bad person.” And then try to negotiate a relationship and peace with this difficult person . . . until you finally realize it can’t be done.

Whichever way you handle it, you’re hurt. (Please change the “Shelly and emails” story to fit your experience with Shelly-type people.)

Some personal development-type folks say, “Another person can’t hurt you. Your feelings are your own. You ALLOW the other person to hurt you. Change your thoughts, attitudes, and reactions, and the pain will go away.”

I SAY: HOOEY! BALONEY! The above may be true for a meditation master at the height of his or her powers. But a civilian? Yeah, right.

I’ve done more psychological/spiritual/metaphysical work on myself than almost anybody I know. A betrayal hurts.

What you can do about the pain is limit how much and how long you hurt.

LET’S GO TO WORK:

Communion, by Lily Nathan. Isn't it nice when life is like this?

The sudden end of a friendship hurts. This is what I have done to handle it:

1. I ASK MYSELF: Do I want this person as a friend regardless of what happened? Because we almost always make amends and give it another try. It may take a while, but most of the time, we can pick a relationship up and try again. (Unless the other person stonewalls and refuses to respond to your calls, letters, emails, etc. This is even more painful and a nasty, crazy-making way of dealing with other people and a big reason for asking: Do I want this person for my friend?)

2. PRINT OUT THE EMAILS AND SEE WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED AND WHO SAID WHAT. One of the miracles of the electronic age is that we can print out emails and evaluate our words out of the heat of passion. (Another miracle of the electronic age is that our emails can find themselves plastered all over the Net, including blogs, MySpace, you name it. I have friends who write one line emails. Anything with any content that could come back and bite them is communicated via phone or face to face. Old fashioned, but safe.)

But, having a transcript can change things. You may find that you got as nasty as Shelly did, and just as fast. Maybe it wasn’t all her fault. Or, you may see how much you tried to make things right, how you apologized and explained. And how it didn’t matter to her.

In that case, Do you want Shelly as a friend? The facts should help soothe the pain.

3. REVIEW THE HISTORY OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP AND SHELLY’S LIFE AS YOU KNOW IT. You were buddies years ago. Why did that end? Did she do some arbitrary and judgmental thing before? Hurt you? Betray you? Write it down. (You’ll need a journal to get the most from my blog, readers.) Why did the friendship end before? How is that similar to now?

And how’s Shelly doing in her life? She’s told you in her emails; really look at it what she’s said, outside the forgiving glaze of friendship. Has her life been a succession of failed marriages, relationships that don’t last, unfinished goals, and job problems? Does she describe her bosses and the people who run her company as jerks? Did she just get demoted, or fired, but it wasn’t her fault? If this has been going since you knew each other years ago, your ears should prick up. Notice these patterns.

Which is not to say dump friends if they’re having a run of bad luck. Everybody, EVERYBODY, can have bad years, and successions of bad years. We all can have loved ones leave us or die. Our employers can go broke so that we end up jobless. We can get fired, downsized or dumped. We can have horrible accidents. (The self-help people say these are really opportunities for great spiritual growth, if used properly. They are opportunities for character development, but that doesn’t make them fun.)

When a run of bad luck goes on for most of a lifetime, it’s a problem that needs attention. Is Shelly like that? If our lives are long term disasters and or most of our friend’s lives are the same, we need to look at that, too. Along with our own life histories.

The Secret is a popular book & and DVD talking about the Law of Attraction. Which basically means, you attract that which is like you.

Or: Your life is your mind on a big screen.

Simplistic, but true. Everything in our lives reflects our state of mind/psyche. Upgrade your state of mind, and you’ll upgrade your experience.

One way to do that is eliminate the negative. Sayonara, Shelly-baby.

4. STILL HURTS, DOESN’T IT? Because you didn’t see it coming and thought you were friends. You wish it didn’t happen. Review steps 1. to 3. above. Do you want this person for a friend? You can go back and plead for mercy.

5. WHAT CAN YOU DO TO FILL THE HOLE IN YOUR LIFE POST-SHELLY? Do you have other friends who can give you what Shelly did without the possible betrayal? Spend time with them.

And what did you write about in your emails with Shelly, anyway? Gossip? Talk about your spouse, boss, family? What’s wrong with the world?

If you don’t change the parts of your mind that attracted a person like Shelly, you will quickly fill the Shelly-void with other Shellys. They may look different, but their effect on you will be the same.

Get busy. Start a hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Exercise. Join a gym. If you’re online too much, try the REAL WORLD! It’s so exciting.

Work on your life goals. Don’t have any?

6. FIND YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO ACHIEVE IT. THEN DO IT, STEP BY STEP. My book, Stepping Off the Edge, acts like a depth charge in getting your inner MOJO going so you discover your life’s purpose and start working toward it. It blasts through the crust of cynicism, laziness and fear that coats daily life.

If you can’t get yourself going to find your highest goals, you could read Stepping, or get cancer or something to motivate yourself. (But why? I already did––it helped a lot in giving birth to Stepping Off the Edge.)

When you’re living your life’s purpose, whatever the Shellys of the world do to you will hurt less. Guaranteed.

7. GO TO A THERAPIST OR PROFESSIONAL HEALER. The Shelly situation is still going to hurt, even if you do all this. Sorry, but I hope you’re down to the little dregs of pain at the bottom of the carafe by now.

If you’re not, and you’re still hurting like crazy after going through all these steps, this may point to a deep seated pattern or abuse in the past. Go to a licensed psychotherapist with your pain. I’m big on professional help. If the Universe intended us to handle all our problems alone, the Universe would have created just one person. There’s lots of us humans–-we need to rely on each other.

You can talk to your friends or spouse about what happened––but, remember, Shelly was a friend. She might have even been a therapist or member of the healing professions herself. (A license to practice isn’t a certificate of mental health––though it does have professional standards behind it.)

And here’s a true story about telling your problems to friends: Back in the 1980s, my husband and I were best friends with another couple. They were so fun and lively, and they had little kids the ages of ours. Our two families did something together almost every weekend; we spent holidays and birthdays together. We talked about everything; after all, we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, birthplace of est and the human potential movement. Talking about feelings was good, telling the truth was wonderful.

Okay, life being as it is, problems arose. Our business was going belly up, slowly, then fast, then slowly again as we slaved to resuscitate it. Our business could have been an episode on ER, if dramas carried out in financial data were fun. And there were other problems on our side. We were really down, my husband and I.

Of course, we told our dear friends about it; they loved us, yes? We saw them all the time.

Except that stopped abruptly: They dumped us. Didn’t call, didn’t return our calls. We had no idea why. No explanation, no recourse. You think that hurt?

Only twenty five years later did I have the enormous insight that maybe we weren’t fun any more, in our truth-telling. Maybe the other couple would rather spend their time off with people who were enjoying life and didn’t remind them of how grim it can be.

We’ll never know––that friendship is kaput. Gone. There was no post-game feedback session. But the episode left me with a healthy respect for the limits of friendship. Some relationships are built on unspoken rules: We hang out together as long as we’re having fun. We don’t care about your troubles.

The other thing about telling your problems to your friends is they aren’t trained psychotherapists. I learned a lot getting my MA in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling. I learned a lot in the supervised hours of counseling I did in pursuit of my license. And I ended up having two kids instead of getting licensed to practice––but I learned how important all those hours of supervision the state requires for a license are.

Your friends can’t do what a therapist can; they’re not skilled enough. And the nature of friendship precludes saying some of the stuff your therapist may need to say to you, and you to her/him.

So, if you’ve tried all the self-help routes to get over the pain of betrayal, take your anguish to a professional therapist and work on it. You’ve got to go to a good therapist.

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’VE GOT A GOOD THERAPIST? This is a very good question. A friend who is an excellent therapist answered it. She said:

“If you’ve been in therapy for two or three months and can’t see a distinct improvement in whatever got you there, change therapists.”

You’ll get better with a good therapist. With a bad one, you may get better––or worse. Or stay the same. You want to get better, yes?

A good therapist has a productive balance of empathy––”Oh, poor baby . . . “––and truth telling––”So that was the seventh time you’ve gotten in a relationship with someone who treated you like slime. Can you see a pattern? What’s in it for you that you keep doing this?” Not much fun, but better than ending up married to Shelly.

8. THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION: This is the technique I used to heal the searing pain of my kids abandoning me by growing up and leaving home. It still works, years later:

Your dog will always love you. Your dog will NEVER leave you. Or send mean emails.

Sandy Nathan’s Dogs

Get dogs! Your dog will never leave you. They’ll never conduct an email campaign to destroy your sense of self, either. You can have many joyful sessions teaching them to behave exactly as you want. They will love you unconditionally, just like all the books say your friends are supposed to, and Shelly said she did. You can write about them, photograph them, and sit with them at night. I’ve got a book inside that I need to write about my little rescue dogs and what they did for me. The link above takes you to what I’ve got written so far. (Note that dogs can be rough on the landscaping and your cat. You may have to do some cat/dog relationship reconciliation.)

 

 

9. GET NEW FRIENDS!

Emerson and Linda at the Gathering's Pow-wow. You can always find more interesting friends!

These are great friends of mine. Jenny and Emerson are at the Gathering in Tennessee. This is the Native American spiritual retreat that inspired my book Stepping Off the Edge, winner of six national awards so far. See, go to the Gathering. You’ll forget about Shelly! Maybe you’ll write a book . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. LAUGH A LOT!

Jamis MacNiven's Terribly Funny/Touching Book

Read funny books, and see funny movies! This is my friend, Jamis MacNiven’s book, Breakfast at Buck’s. Buck’s Restaurant is the zanny, whacko, and very good restaurant in the heart of Woodside, CA, which is the wooded, upscale, residential heart of Silicon Valley. If you’ve been to Buck’s for breakfast, you will know how the book got its title. The CEOs and big-wigs of the hi-tech companies eat oatmeal there between 7 and 9 AM. Deals go down. You could fry eggs on the intellectual/emotional intensity. It’s a trip. So, go to Woodside and Buck’s Restaurant and have a good time. Or read Jamis’ book.

You can also watch his son TYLER’S movie about walking the length of Japan in an attempt to find his father’s birthplace. Tyler had a small sketch of rock formations made by his grandmother while she was there (with his grandfather) as a missionary in the 1940s. Notice that this hysterically funny, warm and very interesting movie comes to you on the same computer that carried Shelly’s horrific messages.

And go to Scott Kalechstein Grace’s website. He’s so funny, you’ll fall over laughing. If you get on his mailing list, he’ll send you songs he wrote just for YOU!

Where you look is what you see.

 

11. FINALLY, DON’T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING!

This Lightning-blasted Tree Reminds Me of God's Power. It's even better when you see the picture full sized! Or the tree!

THE GOD TREE. This photo was taken by my daughter, Zoe, when she drove across the country with her cousin. This is an actual tree which captures the immensity of life and how dead we can look if hit by lightning repeatedly. It carries a message:

Even the big stuff is small stuff, eventually.

Don’t worry about Shelly. She’s already being handled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandy Nathan, award winning author. I'm 46 years old here. No nips, no tucks, no fancy lenses. I write about shelf life.

 

Sandy Nathan, multi-award winning author of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could, Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice (This blog article is sort of like a sample of Stepping Off the Edge.) and Numenon. Sandy holds Master’s degrees in Marriage, Family & Child Counseling and Economics. Her books have won twelve national awards, in fields from self help to spirituality and religious fiction.

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READING & WRITING LESSONS

Trying to do some search engine optimization, I discovered that this article about writing skills and literary prowess was one of the most popular on my blog. It’s also ancient, probably morphing onto the net from my handwritten pages from the 1980s. I hadn’t even published any books when I wrote this. And the article’s programming is so old it’s messed up. I’m announcing this right now: If all of this comes out as one big paragraph, I tried to fix it. Many times. I’m done with trying to fix. Let the blog  begin!

Sandy Nathan

I’d read my way through all the books in the house. In withdrawal, I found myself in Rite Aide, the literary capital of the universe. Helpless to stop myself, I gravitated to the book display.
I found myself facing a wall of book covers bearing major muscle displays. Pects. Abs. Other muscle groups that I’d never seen. Men with long wavy hair, women who had lost most of their clothes.
I’ve never read a mass-market book. Unbelievable, but true. Even as a kid I never read such down-scale writing, though I do admit reading the Tarzan books when I was ten. They might qualify at mass market.
But I was hungry for a read . . .
Rationalizing my behavior as research, I told myself I was just checking cover design. I was examining rear covers to see how the Big Publishers’ Copy Guys wrote copy for fiction. (Yes, my first novel was nearing production. I wanted to make sure that it was tricked out properly.)
I bought two books. I’m three-fourths of the way through one. The other sits on my dining table. If I get through the first one without puking, I’ll read the next one.

I soothed my conscience by labeling what I was doing research. I analyzed the socioeconomic group/personal needs of the books’ intended audiences by examining the content of their covers. The culture represented by the books on Rite Aide’s shelves was attracted to large pectoral muscles and flowers. Also the words “Menopause relief.”
I’d say their readers leaned toward women of a certain age––which could be almost any age.
I bought two books based on cover attractiveness and the best looking set of pects . . . No. That’s not true. My upcoming novel was dark and scary. I wanted a particular look. I selected volumes that might be models for what I wanted.  One book I purchased was Gothic, or goth, as it is known in urban centers among teenagers. The other book had zowie, powie colors that my eye couldn’t release.
The books had interesting rear cover copy in different styles. (Copy is the writing on the book’s front & rear cover that sells the book. It includes stuff about the author and book and can appear anywhere: on the author’s web site, on postcards, in the front or back of the book. Tattooed on the author’s forehead . . . Writing copy is an art, and expensive.)
The goth book turned out to be a vampire thriller.
What a hoot. I’ve never read a vampire book, even the original Dracula or the contemporary Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am not interested in vampires, they remind me of those other blood sucking monsters, government entities that collect taxes. The subject is too scary. But this book had a certain, very badly written, charm. The author created a compelling alternative world, like many good authors do. But it was written so poorly . . .
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

As a writer, I’ve done my time. I spent nine years in one writing group, a couple more in another. I’ve worked with several editors (they are not all sadistic monsters). Been to really big writer/author workshops. I’ve learned punctuation, and I even know how to diagram sentences. (I understand that they stopped teaching kids how to do that in school. That is really stupid. Diagramming sentences was one of the most useful things I learned in school, next to typing. Calculus never helped me at all.)

I’ve paid my dues: I’ve gotten vicious, humiliating rejection letters all the way down the scale to chummy and respectful rejection letters. I’ve had people try to scam me for big bucks, and scam me for big bucks.

I read this goth, vampire story and thought, “How the $@##! can she get away with it?” The bad English. The clichés. The convoluted sentences. How? How? She’s being published by a major, major publisher. I thought they wanted quality. Everything I’d learned in my writing groups flashed before my eyes.

So here’s this book, written by a New York Times Bestselling author and published by a major house, that defies all the rules.

How did that happen? I couldn’t stand reading it. “The swirling opacity of the mist that enveloped him as he tore his cloak from his beating breast”  (and pects) got to be too much. I pulled out a pen and edited the book as I read. Much better.

The most important maxim in the Chicago Manual of Style: “Remove unnecessary words.”

Pen in hand, I read/edited the book and had fun. It did display a quirky charm and wild, relentless imagination.

The text mentioned a web site. I explored it.

Holy macaroni! The thing was amazing. Every character had his or her (mostly his) own page. It was a huge site with a supermarket-sized collection of stuff to buy. Everything from mugs to T shirts to actual [Delete that actual, Sandy! Redundant. No––I included it for teaching purposes.]

You could get lost in the site’s chat room, guestbook, post your pictures, blog, forum, new books about to be created, and old books still available. For starters: Each page had more headers and stuff to explore.

I mean . . . [Writing tip: If you mean something, you don’t have to say that you mean it. Just say it.]

Okay, finding that site and that author hurt.

She’d written not just a lousy vampire series; she’d written many other romance series, too. Her books, pectorals, bad English and all, will have sold probably fifteen million copies by the time you read this. She receives truckloads of mail every day, has adoring fans panting for her words, image and news. She has a staff to help her. I expect she’s made some money with her writing.

And, she dresses up with goth clothing for her wildly popular book signings.

Okay. My books have not sold fifteen million copies, but they are written in proper English, except when I ignore convention, as writers are allowed to do these days.

What’s the problem?

I’ve got a great life, a dream life, but I didn’t get it by writing.

I want my writing to give me a bigger dream life. I want the perks of a successful author. I want the fan mail. Adoration. Staff. Money. I want all of that. Why? Because it looks like fun. Also, I’d like to be God.

I’ve been to the major uplifting, transformational seminars. I’ve meditated for thirty years. Why haven’t I sold fifteen million books? I’ve gone to school . . .

Where’s the justice?

Right there: I GOT IT! I HAD A HUGE TRANSFORMATIONAL EXPERIENCE THAT CHANGED ME FOREVER.

I read that the author in question had spent eight years trying to get a publisher to look at her work. Eight years. All you out there ready to quit––EIGHT YEARS. That’s even more suffering than Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, the Chicken Soup guys. They were rejected by hundreds of publishers before one bit. And they didn’t even have a vampire story. (Chicken Soup for the Vampire’s Soul? Chicken Soup for the Undead?)

The author of the book I’m talking about chose a topic with that interested LOTS of people. She hit that market right on. Her team skillfully marketed her work and she worked like crazy. I’ve written drafts for eight or nine novels. This gal has published twenty, thirty, who knows. She works, that one . . .

LITERATI, LISTEN UP:

We intellectuals get so impressed with ourselves. Our verbal riffs, our penetrating insights, our camaraderie and intellectual sparring. Our sense of superiority not only to non-writing humanity, but our own kind. It’s a minefield, being smart. And writing.

Here’s a story that pertains to this: Years ago, I worked for a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. At the BIZ School, they teach using the case study method, which means that rather than reading boring textbooks about decision sciences and accounting, students read case studies of REAL problems encountered by businesses.

One of the case studies at the Stanford GSB was about Mary Kay Cosmetics. You’ve heard of Mary Kay? One of the most successful women in business, ever. If a woman can make that much money, I’m positively inclined toward her from the get-go.

The women who wrote the case study weren’t. They filmed the process of writing that study. I’ve seen the film. It involved a major socio-economic clash. Mary Kay got where she was by creating exceptional products and knowing her market, and her sales force. She lived and looked the life that many of her followers wanted. Eye shadow, fake lashes, pink suits and all.

The team of female Harvard PhDs sent to investigate her company did not look like Mary Kay or her clients.

To say that they looked like linebackers was unfair. Usually, linebackers do more with their hair. The gals leaned in that direction, some might say. They went out to interview Mary Kay and check out her company like a team of vampires sans all the sexy bits. Mary greeted them politely in her flouncy pink International Headquarters. She blinked as she noticed “the Doctors” lack of make-up and their clothes.

That’s all I’ll say, except that they did not get her at all. I did.

Hey, baby, you’re the most successful woman in business ever? I want to learn about what you did. I want what you got. (Though if I ever was a Mary Kay representative and earned a car, I would not want a pink Cadillac. I’d like a pink Rolls Royce.)

We intellectuals do the same thing in the literary world: Dis the folk who are making it. Do the snotty-nose thing to them who got what we want. (And really want it, don’t we? Book signings where somebody shows up? Fans who are willing to look past our failings? And those of our books? Readers who like us so much that they copy our hairstyles?)

Or are we too snobby to even want that, preferring to live alone in our glorious superiority?

The year that Stephen King won a lifetime award from the National Book Award people, he chided them for their lack of recognition of popular writers. “You’re denigrating your own culture,” he said (or something like that).

The winner of the National Book Award that year had sold something like 2,500 copies of her magnificent work before she won the award. And how many millions has Stephen sold?

I’d still like that goth author to clean up her prose. But it may be the jiggles and wiggles and odd turns of phrase that her readers’ like. Maybe she knows her market better than me.

My husband suggested that I send my edited copy of her book to her. How rude. I wouldn’t do that. She might wave her royalty checks at me. Or her millions of fans might attack me . . . once it got dark and they could come out.

This research project has been a turning point for me. My writing will change as a result.

Ponder what’s here. How does it apply to you and your writing? Or your book promotion?

Let me know, huh? I’d like a thoughtful response from someone.

And to all those spammers who have been sending their nonsensical and revolting messages: Knock it off!

Or I’ll not just delete them––I’ll use my Supernatural Powers. Out will come my fangs . . . I’ll send my minions to smite you and carry you to the Dark World.

I will, really.

Sandy Nathan, winner of 13 national writing awards. And yes, I did really look like this once. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This link will take you to my web site.
I’ve got a blog for writers That’s full of stuff like this article: Your Shelf Life


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