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6 Tips for Writers to Avoid Burning Out




A writer's balancing act is a complicated one we can all relate to, no matter what our personal circumstances may be. All it takes is a few too many commitments in any area of our life and everything spirals out of whack.

Two years ago, before my novel Sweet Confections came out, I made the mistake of thinking I could "do it all". Not only did I indie publish my first novel, but I also put my house up for sale (months of painting and prep, it sold in an hour), went on a mad dash to find a house the next day and moved two months later. But I didn't stop there. Nope, I volunteered to be a co-chair over registration for the Utah Storymakers conference and the Conference Queen for the Midwest Storymakers conference. Plus I had all my normal mommy/wife/church responsibilities. From beginning to end, it was nine months of crazy stress. By the end, I was so burned out, just the thought of writing made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. I spent almost a year caught up in a Netflix binge cycle that was incredibly difficult to break out of.

Perspective teaches us a lot - and man, I learned a lot when I looked back and analyzed that time frame. Today I wanted to share six things I learned to help you avoid becoming burned out.

  1. Carve Out Time: In other words, create a schedule for the things that are most important in your life. For me, that's my family, church, and writing. Some of you may have full or part time jobs as well. My schedule is simple. Mornings are focused on prepping my family to conquer their day at school or work, then whatever I need to do for my own home or church responsibilities. I have an early lunch between 11-11:30, then the rest of my afternoon is spent on writing goals until school pick ups at 3 pm. After school comes a flurry of carpools and homework. If I feel crunched on deadlines for writing, I'll pick it back up again after the kids are in bed. This is what my schedule currently looks like, but there was a time when I only wrote on Saturday afternoons because that's when my hubby could help with the munchkins. No matter what your personal schedule looks like, guard the parts that are high on your priority list and don't allow other responsibilities to intrude on them. 
  2. Find Your Team: I'm a happier and more consistent writer when I work with my writing team - Heather Justesen, Lisa Swinton, and John Waverly. We brainstorm plots and characters together, join in on Gmail IM for writing sprints on weekdays, and support each other through the publishing process. It doesn't matter if your team is local or on the other side of the country, or even if you write in the same genre or not. Finding your team is like finding your bosom buddies. It's a lifesaver.
  3.  A Healthier You: An active writer's brain/body is imperative for both your creativity as well as to avoid burning out. Take the next few days to track how much time you spend sitting vs. walking/stretching, how much water your drink and what type of snacks you keep on hand while working. I try to take a short break every 30 minutes (stretch, fold some laundry, whatever - for just five minutes). At the minimum, you need to get up at least least ten minutes each hour. I work mine in around sprints with my team or I set a timer on my phone if I'm working alone. For more ideas and information about being a healthy writer, check out these two articles: Combatting the Dreaded Writer's Butt and Other Curses and The Stretching Survival Guide for Writers.
  4. Love Your Work Space: Our environment effects our productivity. Are you someone who likes a consistent location, like an office or certain chair to sit on? Or do you like to mix things up? I've done both during different seasons of life. When my kids were younger, I had a desk set up in my breakfast nook. It was the perfect spot to tune out the happy noises as I worked, but also to hear when things turned grumbly so I could intervene. Now that the kids are at school all day, I find my house is way too quiet. I like to move around to different spots around house--the recliner in my bedroom, the dining room table or in the basement on a comfy couch. A few times a week, I leave the house and have lunch at a spot where I can stay and write until it's time for school pick ups. Often it's Panera Bread, Applebee's or a picnic at the park. This summer, I'm hoping to purchase a comfy chair for on my back deck so I can enjoy writing outside more often. No matter where you work, be sure it's a space you enjoy. My laptop has a sticker with a NaNoWriMo quote on it: "Whatever you think you are, you are more than that." It's my inspirational quote to keep moving ahead even when I think my writing sucks. What do you have in your writing space that inspires you?
  5. Delegate & Set Boundaries: Let's be honest, being a writer is so much more than simply putting words together--and there are a million things that distract us from even doing that. Talk with your family, delegate responsibilities, create goals & rewards together, and also set boundaries so they know when (or how) to get your attention if you're in deep work mode. Don't be afraid to say no. My kids often want to go to the store/park/ride bikes, and in typical kid fashion, their requests always seem to come when I'm in the middle of a deadline. I  explain what's happening (then ignore the groans because they know they aren't going to get their way), then set a day and time to do what they asked for. I do the same when I'm asked to help with school or church stuff. Don't automatically say yes. Take the time to consider your schedule, say yes if you really can, but don't feel bad if you need to pass. There will be lots of other opportunities to help.
  6. Love Yourself: The most important thing you can do is to pay attention to yourself. Consistently evaluate how you're feeling and what your to-do list is looking like. If you're feeling over-stressed, is it because you're spending too much time on one project? Is there anything you can delegate? Do you need to shorten that list and send some no RSVP's? Or perhaps you need a break? A date night with the hubs, a girls night out, or maybe some time to soak in your tub to decompress. When I'm stressed, I often talk down to myself and tell myself I suck at whatever I'm not accomplishing. My hubby and writing team have kicked my butt many times and are always reminding me to be kind to myself. So that's my advice--be kind to yourself. 

I would love to hear your tips about what helps you to avoid burn out. Or if you've experienced burn out, how do you recover and get back on track? I love it when writers brainstorm to help each other. So bring on your tips and suggestions!

How I Made My Husband Cry

So, there we were, Mr. Ferguson and I, in steamy Palm Springs, California enjoying a little vacation just the two of us. Well, actually, it was a business trip combined with some 'us' time, but the desert was definitely hotter than Kansas City! My sweet hubby took some time off work to help me at the InD'Scribe Author and Reader Conference, where my book, Sweet Confections, was up for a RONE Award.

It was a great weekend! We met so many wonderful authors and readaholics and made some fantastic new friends. But I'm going to skip ahead to the good stuff - making Mr. Ferguson cry.

We were at the RONE Awards - Mr. Ferguson looking quite dapper in his tux and I admit, I was feeling gorgeous in my deep purple chiffon gown. I had the honor of accepting two awards on behalf of my friends, Sarah Eden (Best American Historical) and Donna Weaver (Best New Adult). The awards had this fun thing going on with some of their male cover models. When the winner stood, one model met the winner and escorted her up to the stage, another model gave her the award, then yet another model escorted her back to her seat after the acceptance speech. So, having done this twice, hubby leaned over to me and said, "I think it would be really funny if I escorted you up if they call your name. Kind of a, 'I got this one' nod to the models." I agreed, but honestly, it had more to do with wanting my hubby by my side to share the moment.

So we had a little plan *just in case* my name was actually called for the award.

Then the amazing Anne Perry was called up to announce the award in my genre. I remember leaning over to Mr. Ferguson and telling him that if she called my name, I was just gonna die, right there. #FanGirlMoment

Those were the longest five minutes . . . A blurb about the category, a fun slide show of the finalist's covers and author photos, then . . .

and the winner is . . . .SWEET CONFECTIONS by Danyelle Ferguson!!!

What did I do? Cry, of course. Then Mr. Ferguson urged me to my feet and escorted me up to the front.

Okay, this is where it was overwhelming for me. Remember all those new friends we just met? There was this roar of cheers from all those amazing, sweet authors and readers. Friends who just filled my heart. Side note: Waterproof mascara isn't as waterproof as they want you to think it is.

So there I am, Model Guy is handing me this gorgeous crystal award and holy smokes - it has MY name on it! Someone gave me tissues. One of the models? Maybe Catherine Bybee? I honestly don't remember. And then, I pulled out my speech.

First, I'd like to thank InD'Tale Magazine, the RONE Awards committee and my readers for nominating Sweet Confections for this awards. I am so honored that you love Rachel and Graydon's story as much as I do.

Every writer has a story, a journey they traveled to get to the moment they hold their first book in their hands. My story has lots of twists and turns, just like proper novel should. There's even a love story moment involved.

About 14 years ago, our oldest son was diagnosed with autism. I set aside my dreams and goals and jumped into therapy programs and the all consuming disabilities world to give our son the best chance to grow. After several years, my hubby gifted me with a writing themed Christmas and encouraged me to put something I once loved back into my life. He attended my first writers conference with me and took notes in all the classes I couldn't get to. When I'm in editing mode and think I suck, he's my cheerleader. When I want to binge watch Netflix, he nudges me back in to being productive. He even reads romance novels and has studied the craft of writing to support me. Of all the love stories out there, I'm so grateful he's mine. Thank you, sweetie. I love you more.

On this writing journey, I was reminded that challenges make us stronger, to not waste the gift of storytelling Heavenly Father blessed us with, and that there really are love conquers all moments. To all my writing friends here this evening, I challenge each of you to keep dreaming, to keep reaching for that goal that seems impossible. To show the world that it is, in fact, possible and that you totally rocked accomplishing it. 

Thank you for this beautiful award!


The only other things I remember are Catherine Bybee hugging me and whispering that I had mascara all smudged under my right eye (love that woman!) and my hubby wiping his eyes as he escorted me back to our seats. I believe Mr. Ferguson made some type of comment about me sabotaging him and making him cry. He had no clue what was in my acceptance speech.  My head just spun and was all fuzzy for the remainder of the awards ceremony. I remember I kept squeezing my hubby's hand and saying, "I can't believe it." The awards ceremony was followed by a dance party and so many hugs from the RONE Awards attendees.

It took me until mid-morning the next day to fully process everything that happened. The thing I felt so strongly was gratitude.

Gratitude for all my supportive, amazing readers who love Sweet Confections and keep hounding me for the next book (which is coming, promise!). For my new friends who, even though we had just met, truly felt like ladies and gents I had known for a long time. Gratitude for all the hard work the InD'Tale and InD'Scribe staff put into the event, for their bubbly personalities. So thankful for my friend, Heather, who stayed in the Land of Oz to take care of my children so my hubby could attend with me. A heart full of love for my best friend, Mr. Ferguson. I am so incredibly grateful he was there by my side.

Now, a week later, I'm thankful for the blessing of jumping right back into a busy family routine. There's no time for my head to swell when I'm back to being the carpool queen, refereeing squabbles and prepping for homecoming.  Ah, the lovely real-life of a mama/award-winning author.



If you'd like to see more pics from the Con or the RONE Awards, hop over to my author Facebook page!

InD'Scribe Con & RONE Awards Gala Schedule!

I'm super excited to see everyone at the InD'Scribe Authors & Reader Con this week. If you'd like to catch up with me, here's my signing & presenter schedule:

Friday - I'll be signing books  from 11 am - 12 noon, then again from 3:30 - 4:30 pm. 

Saturday - I'm a presenter on the Let's Talk About Sex panel at 11:45 am in the Pueblo room.  Following the panel, I'll be signing books from 1-2 pm.  I hope to see you at the RONE Awards Gala where Sweet Confections is a finalist in the Sweet Romance category.

Want a signed copy of Sweet Confections but won't be in the signing room during the times I listed? Stop by my table and visit with my hubby. He'll be selling books & setting them aside for me to sign. You just need to stop by again before the book store closes at 2 pm on Saturday.

17 Things I Love About Us

Look at those two innocent 20-somethings. The world before them all bright and glorious. The sweetness of young love . . .

Fast forward a few years to today . . . . Mr. Ferguson and I celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion, I thought I'd make a list. Mr. Ferguson and I love lists.


17 Things I Love About Us

17.  The Real Us. On the way to school today, my daughter asked if we could listen to a song on my iPod. It was actually back at home, so we decided to try the radio. A song came on I never heard before, but part of the lyrics jumped out and grabbed me.

"If I showed you my flaws, If I couldn't be strong, Would you still love me the same?"

Other than God, my hubby is the only person I've ever been able to share the real me with. My weird quirks, annoying traits, etc.  It was a gradual thing, little bit by little bit when we were dating. He was the first guy I felt like I could be honest with who didn't get scared away. He stuck. Now I tease him that he's mega super glued to me and is never allowed to unstick.  =)

16.  Talk, Talk, Talk. We don't really fight - as in yell at each other.  We just talk. Sometimes we get annoyed with each other and need to take a short break. But then we come back together to talk some more until we figure things out.

15. Listen, Listen, Listen. I am so totally not a computer person, but Mr. Ferguson is the geek of geeks. He works all day with technology I can't even begin to understand, but we still share our day with each other. I may not understand the ins and outs of his job, but I get that he has deadlines, projects, and coworkers. I listen, ask questions, and yes, he can totally tell when he's gotten too techy and my mind went mushy. He just smiles, dials the tech talk back and hugs me. I love that.

14. Giving Advice . . . Or Not. Mr. Ferguson listens to me too. All. Day. Long. Oh the joys of working from home together. Something will happen - an email from a reader, the kids forgot their lunch again, someone annoyed me, a hilarious video I discovered on Facebook, and the list goes on. I pop into his office to see if he's on a conference call. If he's not, then he's fair game for a quick conversation. Usually, it's a fast "Guess what?" or "Watch this!" But when I'm annoyed, he patiently sits, lets me vent, then evaluates my openness about receiving advice or staying quiet until later. It took several years to fine tune this amazing gift, but master it he has. Note: Reining in my tidbits of wisdom is still a work in progress. It may take another ten or so years.

13. Staying Connected.  Speaking of working from home together - I absolutely adore it. We've worked this way through most of our marriage. When he actually has to go into the office, I miss him dreadfully. When the kids were still at home, he took lots of 10 minute play breaks throughout the day to spend time with us. Once the munchkins were all in school, we started using the breaks to go on walks, have lunch together, and just chat for a few minutes here and there.

12. PDA. I love that my hubby gets embarrassed by PDA (public displays of affection - outside of our home). Holding hands, hugs, arms around the waist - that's all okay. I give him a kiss and the man is on the verge of blushing. Of course, I take advantage of that and tease him as sneakily as I can, as often as possible.

11. Teasing Our Children. Yep, this counts as things I love about us. When it comes to teasing, we keep it gentle and follow up with hugs. Lately, my teens think affection between mom and dad is gross. Which totally means we do things like, "Oh sweetie, come here. I need a big smoochy kiss," while the kids cover their eyes, gag or melt to the floor in agony. Parenting together is so much fun. (Well, most of the time.)

10. Hey You Sexy Thang! I'm no longer the little 96 lb, size two, 20-something from the day we got married. In fact, I haven't seen that size since about six months after our wedding when I was prego. Over the years, I've fluctuated up to size 20 and down and up and down. It's a never ending battle of frustration, health and fitness. The one thing that's helped me to stay positive is my hubby consistently telling me that I'm beautiful and sexy. The number on the pants don't matter to him. He loves my smile, my hugs, and yes, everything about my body. I thank God for Mr. Ferguson's attitude every single day.

9. Chasing Dreams. When hubby wanted to run his own software contracting company, we figured out how and made it work. When I wanted to go back to college, he adjusted his work schedule so I could attend classes and he could take care of the kids. One year, Mr. Ferguson did a themed Christmas. He had been thinking about the things I loved to do, but gave up when our oldest son was diagnosed with autism so I could be active in therapy programs, etc. The theme he chose was writing. He wrote me a beautiful letter, gave me all sorts of supplies and even a briefcase to organize it all into. Then he pushed me back into my love of writing. Look where we are today. We're each doing work we love, with people we admire. We wouldn't be here without the dreams, and most especially, each other's support.

8. Play Time. Board games have always been a big part of our marriage. As newlyweds, we didn't have a kitchen table, chairs or a couch. So we cooked dinner, then sat on the living room floor and played Sorry or card games. And let me tell you, I'm competitive. We weren't allowed to stop playing until I sufficiently kicked his butt. Mr. Ferguson was competitive enough to not give in and let me win, no matter how late it got. We had so much fun in that little living room. Our game collection has expanded and our kids share our love of board games with us. It's not an every day thing, but school breaks are guaranteed to be kicked off with a huge stack of games to make our way through.

7. Try New Things. Over the years, we've tried a lot of new things together. 5K's with the kids (he ran, I jogged down the hills and walked the rest), home projects, planting flower beds (sadly, my black thumb caused my plant deaths), geek cons, writing conferences, pallet projects and so much more. Last year, it was a Jane Austen ball. Mr. Ferguson was hesitant at first, but we both had a fabulous time! We keep a running list of things we think would be interesting to learn about, travel to, or try. Some turn out to be one time disasters, others we enjoy and do again. But I really like that we do it together.

6. Holding Hands. We dated for a while before Mr. Ferguson first asked if he could hold my hand. When our hands met, they shifted one way, then another, until they settled together into an unique lock, with our pinky fingers twined around each other. It makes me feel safe and loved and just ours.

5. Mr. Ferguson Cooks and Does Laundry. 'Nuff said.

4. Sense of Humor. It's gotten us through A LOT of rough times. For instance, one year just before Thanksgiving and in the middle of NaNoWriMo (I was less than 5K words from finishing), Mr. Ferguson's appendix decided it was done with his body and wanted out. Right before going into surgery, Mr. Ferguson said 2 things - 1) Go to the waiting room, get to work on your book and finish your word count before I'm done, and 2) I always thought it would be cool to have your author friends kill me off in all sorts of interesting ways in their books. We could have a "John got killed off" bookshelf collection. Yeah. I think the drugs had kicked in by then. But I did go to the waiting room and write. Then I sat in his hospital room and wrote a whole bunch more. He'd wake up for a few minutes, ask about my word count, then conk back out. A very stressful time for us both, but is something we laughed about then and now. Looking for a different point of view than the most obvious really does help in tough situations.

3. Praying Together. There's nothing sweeter than hearing your spouse pray for you, your family, and specific things we need help with or that he wishes for us. Prayer also helps us to find calm when we aren't connecting and are annoyed with each other. It heals and brings us together.

2. Ending the Day Together. Each night, we fall asleep holding hands. I hope we're still doing that when he's lost every single hair on his head and I'm a chubby, wrinkly gray haired grandma.

1. Forever. I'm grateful we have a perspective of loving each other and being best friends so that we want to be together forever.




I'm so grateful for the 17 years that have turned our initial sweet young love into a stronger, more enduring love filled with friendship, respect, laughter, hugs, empathy and support. We've shared many beautiful moments, a bucketful of challenges I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, and oh so many tears, laughter, and joy. Neither of us are perfect, but together we are an incredible team. I can't help but think that this is what love really is. But there's a little niggling something in my mind that says after another 17 years of life together, I'll say again, "This is what love really is."

#StrongWomen: Perseverance

per-se-ver-ance, noun, steadfastness in doing something despite difficulties, failures or opposition.

We don’t get to pick our challenges.

They are dropped into our lives without warning or permission. I found the only control I had was the ability to choose my reactions. Over the years, I’ve been frozen by fear, overwhelmed by work, cried out in prayer, and would have loved a “Get Out of Your Challenge Free” card.

I’m grateful that I’ve always felt driven to move forward, search for resources, connect with others, and count my blessings. Some days I failed and had to pick myself up and try something else. Some days I succeeded and paused to celebrate, then set bigger goals. It’s vital to persevere and just keep trying to make life better and happier, no matter what hand you are dealt.

Your Turn

What helps you push through your challenges? Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments section.

Unique Tips for Writers to Set Up a Blog Tour, Cover Reveal or Other Social Media Event

Most authors – no matter if they are traditionally or self published – set up their own blog tours. Some authors band together with peers who write in the same genre, then do a big blog tour or contest together (like the Massive Romance Reader Squee Moment Ahead contest). Other authors send a “Call to Review” on their blogs, social media or newsletters.

But what if you want to hit a broader market? Or to target certain niche readers? A great blog tour has reviewers with both small (100+) and big (1000+) follower counts, reviewers who have relationships with the author & those who don’t know the author, as well as covers a variety of geographical locations.

For my first book – (dis)Abilities and the Gospel – I wanted to get a wide variety of reviewers. Very few people on the tour were writer friends. My goal was to have a lot of reviewers who didn’t know me, who attended different churches, and who either had kids with cognitive disabilities or were church teachers who had someone in their class with a cognitive disability.

My second book, Sweet Confections, was a whole other ball of wax. I went from nonfiction to fiction. Specifically sweet romances. I had a some great reviewers from my established circle who reviewed both nonfiction and fiction, but my goal was to hit the much-better romance market. And not just in the USA. 

It sounds complicated. It's not. It sounds time consuming. It is. But each tour was totally worth it. Here’s how I found the right reviewers for each book: 
(PS - this method works for cover reveals, contests, giveaways, etc.)

First: Get Organized.

I’m a huge spreadsheet organization freak. It’s probably the only area I’m really good at keeping everything on track (Ask my hubby. I’m horrible at keeping my desk organized!) But spreadsheets – I can whip them out like crazy and keep track of gobs of things that way. And a good spreadsheet is essential when putting together a blog tour.

So, let’s get started. Create a spreadsheet with the following fields:
Reviewer’s Name, Blog Title, Blog Address, Email Address, # of Followers, Target (for me this was either parent, church teacher, or book reviewer), Contacted On (date you emailed review request), Response, Scheduled Review Date and Review Copy Sent.

Add blogs you are interested in to this list. Once you’ve done all your research, sort the list by number of followers and pick some of the bigger blogs and mark those lines in another color. Then sort the list by targets to see which demographics you need more of and mark those with a different color. Then look for location, etc. until you have the right mix for the amount of blogs you want on your tour. Remember - bigger doesn't always mean better. Getting your book into the hands of the right reviewers is more important than getting it into a lot of reviewers' hands (especially if those reviewers have a limited reach or have a major crossover in followers).
  

Then start sending emails to the bloggers. I had a lot of people return my emails saying they had never done a book review or participated in a blog tour. I sent them additional information, along with expectations for the tour (I gave them the option to choose a date within the tour time frame and told them I wanted their honest opinion about the book).  Don’t be afraid to choose reviewers who don’t have book blogs, but have a connection to the topic related to your book. During my tour, one of my reviewers was a cake decorator who had a child with autism. Her review not only introduced my book to a large group I wasn’t connected with, but was also picked up by several e-magazines. (See Ashlee Marie Cakes)

Tip: The first spreadsheet is essential for research, but Google forms are freaking AMAZING! With my Sweet Confections blog tour, I set up a Google form for the reviewers to use to sign up. When I emailed them, I invited them to visit the link and sign up on the form. It saved me so much time! They entered all their info, dates they preferred, if they were doing a book review, author interview or book spotlight, etc. The form can be embedded into your blog, website or you can use the private link Google gives you. The fabulous thing is no matter which form is used (because you can have it in multiple locations at the same time), all the info goes directly into the same spreadsheet, in all the right columns, on your Google Drive. Holy awesome, Batman! You can see an example of the form here for my Love Under Construction cover reveal sign up. On the Google form spreadsheet, I added additional columns to track when I send the confirmation emails and the cover.

Start with Your Contacts

If you’re traditionally published, shoot an email over to your marketing team and ask if they have any blog book reviewers they recommend. My publisher actually had a few and even offered to send those bloggers review copies.

I also emailed out to some disability and church groups I work with to see if they had recommendations, blogs they frequently went to for information, etc.  If you write YA, email out to your nieces, nephews, church youth groups, your friends’ kids, etc and ask them what blogs or social media accounts they go to check out cool stuff. Don't forget your writers groups. My Romance Writers of America group was a fantastic source to recommend reviewers.

Blog Tour Services

For my Sweet Confections tour, I researched blog tour services that specialized in romance. Then I checked out the lineups in the current tours. Some reviewers went for just spicy and hot, while others had a mix of all heat levels. I kept track of which reviewers gave good reviews to clean romances and added them to my research spreadsheet. By pulling select reviewers from a variety of blog tours, I created a wider marketing audience.

Note: Blog tour services are fabulous for authors who prefer to go the hassle-free route. I know many authors who've had successful blog tours with good services. I, personally, feel like each blog tour service has a particular group of reviewers, who then have the same group of readers or giveaway fanatics who follow that group of reviewers. So if you are going this route, check out previous tours to see how wide their review circle is in the comment section (are the same people commenting on each blog).

Twitter

Twitter was actually my best resource to discover new reviewers. If you’re not on Twitter, then you should start a profile. It’s a great way to connect with others – even if you don’t post daily.

On the Twitter homepage, there’s a link at the top that says “Who to Follow”. If you click on it, it brings you to a page with a search box. You can search for anything here (book reviewers, YA Romance, etc). You can also search for books that are like yours – for example, In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins. Twitter searches through status updates and profile descriptions to suggest friends for you. For my DAG tour, I searched for autism, LDS autism, Down syndrome, special needs, and church to name a few. I went through about a hundred profiles, checked out their activity and following. I also looked who that person followed. I often found more good leads that way. After narrowing down who I wanted to review, I contacted them through either Twitter email or an email address that was listed on the profile.

Another tip is to do geographical searches – such as Autism Canada or Sweet Romance Reader Arizona. Take advantage of hashtag searches too. Check out authors who write in the same genre and see what they are doing on Twitter. Elana Johnson did a huge Twitter promo for her book Possession using the hashtag #tagged. You could go through the postings with that hashtag to find readers who loved her book, then contact them to review your book.

Amazon & Goodreads

The awesome thing about Amazon and Goodreads is that they link to their reviewers profiles. Some of those reviewers list their websites or blogs. So you can check out books similar to yours and do some research on readers. Find a few who you really like, then send them an email through their website or blog.

Check Out Other Authors

It’s time to go hit the websites for all the big authors who write in your genre. Especially if you know of an author who has a book coming out in the next few months. They often list all the stops on their blog tour. Go check out those reviewers and their guidelines.  (BTW - Keep all this info in your spreadsheet for future reference!)  To find more authors: Go to Amazon.com, type in an author’s name and hit enter, then check out the “Related Searches” results just under the search box.

In Closing

Putting together a good blog tour involves a bit of internet stalking sleuthing.  But it’s totally worth it when you put together a completed list of reviewers from all over. The goal of a blog tour isn’t just to get (hopefully) awesome reviews, but to reach reader circles you currently don’t have connections with. Go for variety! Happy book tour scheduling!

How to Write Creative High School, College and Scholarship Application Essays

My middle school daughter is applying for one of our high school programs, called Distinguished Scholars. She spent several weeks before Winter Break working on two different essays. One that was to introduce herself, her interests and why she wanted to apply to the program. The other essay requirement was to set up a non-profit organization of her choice and explain why she chose that society issue to address. I thought she did a great job of brainstorming different ways to approach each essay and wanted to share that process for future high school and college essay writers.

Friendship First Essay (2 pages)

 I watched as for a week, all she did was plan out her non-profit, including detailing the programs it would provide so she would have a good understanding of what she was representing. She based it on the peer mentoring program she's in and mixed it with wanting to help kids with disabilities (her oldest brother has autism). But she took it from just being a middle school program to being a full school journey experience. Pages and pages of details, programs and ideas. It was inspiring! Then she decided to write a business letter to address that essay. Specifically, a business letter requesting a donation for her non-profit. Here's the non-profit essay. PS - I deleted the street addresses, etc for privacy.



MJ Ferguson
xxx Street
City, State Zip
xxx-xxx-xxxx

December 12, 2014

Paul Williams
XXX High School
xxx Street
City, State Zip
xxx-xxx-xxxx

RE: Friendship First
Dear Mr. Williams,
Thank you for your interest in the Friendship First Program. Our program helps children with disabilities feel like they fit in. Many students with disabilities are left out or bullied. We want them to be welcomed by their peers and enjoy positive social experiences.
In elementary school, we have developed a curriculum for teachers and school counselors to use. In the curriculum, there are short videos that model different disabilities and positive peer friendships. Teachers follow up with a series of questions to spark classroom discussion. The Friendship First website allows students to interact with animated characters that model friendships. The animated characters go through different situations and the students can make choices for the characters to do and see what happens. Along the way, students receive positive guidance.
The program changes as the students move from elementary to middle school. There is a Peer Mentor Program for incoming 6th to 8th graders who can apply to join. These mentors are matched up with special needs kids in their grade level. The mentors help with making friends, social situations, and stay buddied through middle school. The mentors train over the summer and through the school year. Ideally these friendships will follow into high school and even after that.
In high school, the Peer Mentor Program is continued but with an added social media aspect. On a Friendship First Forum, there are links for groups to chat with other students, with special needs or not. The goal of the social media addition is to teach teens to interact appropriately on social media. We also have events organized to get the mentors and students with disabilities together to create positive social experiences.
We hope that with this program, students with disabilities will be accepted in the student body, be bullied less, as well as teach the general student body to have more respect and understanding for working with people with disabilities throughout their whole lives.
This program came to be because I grew up with an older brother who had autism and to understand him, you either had to take the time and make an effort to get to know him or grow up with him. I know people probably look at him weirdly when he does certain things, but that is who he is. This program also came to be because when people act differently, the easiest choice is to either ignore them or even bully them to look “cool”. It takes a courageous person to stand up for them and be their friend.
I appreciate your interest in the Friendship First program. If you have any questions, you can contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Sincerely,

MJ Ferguson
Director of Friendship First program

  

Why the Distinguished Scholars Program (1 page)

This was the most difficult essay for MJ to write. She had a hard time adjusting from the attitude of focusing on others and not yourself to needing to brag about her talents, service she's given and her interests. Because really, that's what the essay is for. It's the judges/professors first glimpse at who you are. If they aren't excited or impressed with what they see, then they'll move on to the next person. MJ spent a few days organizing lists of the awards she's received, competitions she's participated in, her talents, service projects, and what specifically makes her interested in the program she's applying for.

*As a side note - this is a great document to create on your computer and continue adding to it every semester. This way you don't forget important activities or awards from earlier in your education career.

For this essay, MJ played with writing it as a serious essay, but it just wasn't working well. She brainstormed some more and decided to use her creative writing talents to make it into her own little fairy tale. I really liked how it hit all the requirements of the essay, but was done in a way that is so totally my daughter.




Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Olathe, there lived a girl named MJ with caramel-brown frizzy hair. On hot and humid days, her hair looked liked Taylor Swift with an Albert Einstein twist. At least until she discovered the wonders of anti-frizz hair products!
One day in eighth grade, her teacher asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. MJ thought and thought and thought. But there were so many choices.
She loved going to the Kansas City Astronomy Club to view the stars through their humongous telescopes. But wait! She also loved hiking and adding fossils to her rock collection. But wait again! She enjoyed learning about the world and other countries’ histories. She was even in the Geography Bee twice and really liked it! Maybe she should study science and teach about the stars, the earth, or even the world.
Mixed in with all that geeky stuff was a very creative side, too. Oh so much creativeness. Acting and crafting and music – oh my! The frizzy-haired girl participated in three middle school plays (in one role, she even barked like a dog). Craving cinnamon rolls? She learned how to make the most delicious, moist rolls using potatoes. And music. Oh the joy! Singing, playing the flute, and bringing music to life on the piano brought her happiness every day. Not to mention books. MJ was a readaholic. Friends and teachers almost never saw her without a book in hand. She not only loved to read, but to also create her own stories. Attending writers conferences helped her learn about plot, conflict and how to make her characters interesting. Maybe she should be a baker, a music teacher, or a novelist?
Poor MJ’s head hurt from all the career paths she could take. How could she possibly choose? Then she heard about the Distinguished Scholars program and just knew it could help her explore her geeky side and creative side – and hopefully discover a way to mesh them together for her own happily ever after.




In Closing

A few things to take from this article are:
  1. Be organized and take the time to really prep before you start writing.
  2. Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Sometimes that's what makes you stand out above everyone else.
  3. Be creative in a way that is totally you.
  4. Start tracking all your awards, accomplishments, camps, clubs, etc now so you don't have to rethink all those years every time you write an essay.