Posts tagged “Writing

Keeping the Faith

Posted on February 19, 2017

The other day a writer friend of mine asked me how I kept the faith and managed my nerves as I had a project out for submission and then, thanks to Jane Dystel, a manuscript to complete for a publisher.

Here’s one of my secrets: During the eight-month period in which I crafted the proposal for The General’s Niece and revised it, I bought a fortune in self-help books. I’m not being smug or silly here. This is the honest-to-goodness truth.

The reason why I did this is because I had been through the submission process before and I saw how it, let’s just say, amplified my shortcomings. This time, I wanted to do better not only because I wanted to write this book, but because I wanted to do better in general.

As David Brooks writes in The Road to Character:

“…the inner struggle against one’s own weaknesses is the central drama of life. As the popular minister Harry Emerson Fosdick put it in his 1943 book On Being a Real Person, ‘The beginning of worthwhile living is thus the confrontation with ourselves.’

Truly humble people are engaged in a great effort to magnify what is best in themselves and defeat what is worst, to become strong in the weak places.”

Here’s a peek into my mindset via some (but not all) of the titles I purchased during this period:

Yes, I have a tendency to worry. I know this. My family knows this. My dearest friends know this. My agent, God love her, knows this too. I was on a call with her once and I remember telling her that I was worried about something. I don’t even remember what it was anymore, but she told me in her own inimitable way, “Worry accomplishes nothing.”

Then, as always, she was right. What good does it do to worry about things that either haven’t happened or are out of your control? What purpose does worry serve? Worry doesn’t write or revise or complete manuscripts. Worry doesn’t meet deadlines or answer your editor’s or agent’s questions. Worry doesn’t do anything but waste a bunch of energy that could be better spent doing something productive and enriching.

Like looking for another book idea.

Or road-tripping with your daughter to visit friends in South Florida.

Or working on your website.

Or learning something new.

Or taking a nice long walk (which I do at least four times a week) to clear your head and give you a break from your inbox.

Now I’m not saying I never worry, but I do make a concerted effort to stay busy, especially at times when I know my worst tendencies might rear their ugly heads if left unchecked. As author Marjorie Brimer says, “Publishing is all about waiting. And, waiting, I’ve found, is like that slow drag up to the peak of the [roller]coaster. For some of us, this portion of the journey is longer than others. And the longer it is, the more anticipation and anxiety that builds.”

Then you hit the peak.

I got the first hints of good news about The General’s Niece one July afternoon in 2015 when I was sitting at the pool, dripping wet, reading a book while my daughter and one of her friends swam. My cell phone dinged, so I checked my email. It was Jane, and she said there was interest in my proposal, but she needed me to answer a couple of questions.

I asked her to give me a half-hour. I don’t remember whether I told her I had to bribe two girls to get out of the pool so I could get back to my desk to find the answers she needed. But that’s exactly what I did.

“Can we have a sleepover?” they asked me as they bobbed in the water with big grins on their faces.

“You can have anything you want if you get out and dry off now,” I told them.

I’m generally not a rollercoaster person. I will confess to screaming “Oh my God, no” and various other things that I will not type now that I know my daughter knows that I have a blog. But as I drove two soggy girls back to my house that day, my heart began to pound with excitement instead of fear. I was not thinking “Oh my God, no.” but “Oh my God, yes! Bring it!”

The ride toward publication has been wild, but it isn’t over yet. For me, it has helped to work on better ways to manage the ups, downs, waiting and uncertainty that are so common in the publishing process. Resiliency is so important, and I hope this post has helped you in some way, whether you’re a writer or not.

Tell me: What are the things you do to help you weather uncertain times? What are the best lessons you’ve learned about resiliency? How do you keep the faith when the going gets tough? Please share your thoughts in comments.

The Martian

Posted on November 3, 2015

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Confession: Lately, I’ve been thinking about Mars.

Part of the reason I’ve been thinking about Mars is because my daughter, her best friend and I played hooky from school and work on a recent Monday and went to go see Ridley Scott’s “The Martian.”

Don’t tell on us, please.

I hate to spoil this for anyone who has not seen the flick, but this is not about a real live actual extraterrestrial being. “The Martian,” which is based on the novel by Andy Weir, is about a really resourceful and funny American astronaut named Mark Watney who has to figure out how to survive after his cohorts leave him for dead on the Red Planet.

Do not judge them. In the midst of a bad situation, they actually thought Watney was dead.

So the other reason I’ve been thinking about Mars is because I have moments when I think that this astronaut’s experience is sort of (kind of) similar to that of a first-time author. You find yourself in new and challenging circumstances, but you have to calm down (no, really…CALM DOWN) and focus on the situation day by day using all the resources and skills and knowledge that you have in order to reach the finish line.

Some days are encouraging, exciting, inspiring.

Some days you blow things up trying to make water and wonder whether you’re fit to make it. (Don’t get me started…)

But in the face of those setbacks, there is always tomorrow if you haven’t messed up too terribly badly. So you adjust. You go forward. You do your best.

And so it goes.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you found yourself in Watney-esque circumstances? If so, what happened and what steps did you take to survive and thrive? Also (and I have to ask): What was your soundtrack? Watney’s was disco, much to his chagrin. Mine is Duran Duran’sPaper Gods.” Yours? Let me know in comments.

My Space

Posted on October 22, 2015

workspace

Miriam wrote about how work spaces can impact the quantity and quality of your creative work. This is a picture of my office, taken about a year ago when, I’ll confess, it was tidier than it is now. Right now, it is full of stacks of things, from folders of first draft, to notecards full of stuff I’ve pulled from primary documents, to printouts and piles of books that are tucked behind this comfy office chair.  Not pictured: the mint julep cup that holds my pens and pencils, the picture of my daughter in Paris eating a piece of cotton candy that’s the size of her arm, the knitting projects I pick up when I’m waiting, frustrated or simply trying to sort out something that bedevils me on the page.

Here are some fun mice I made for bad cats:

mice

What I like about my office: the pale yellow walls (my choice), the soft sunlight that streams in through the window, the relative quiet I have for the better part of the day. There’s a vintage agricultural map of the Loire River valley hanging behind my desk, a picture of my sister and me when we were kids, a sand dollar I plucked from the beach in California on a girls trip I took five years ago, a Napoleon-shaped brandy snifter (empty) that another friend gave me in jest, a Deborah Harry Barbie doll, beautiful art from my child, and various other mementos that inspire me or put a smile on my face.

Which is not to say that there aren’t distractions.

For example (and this one is minor), if I don’t close my door, chances are this guy will stare at me and whine to be let in…until he whines to be let back out:

murray

When my office door is closed, sometimes I can hear him on the other side of it, panting and/or whining to be let in. When I open the door, he spreads out on the Turkish carpet underneath my desk, groans and snores for about twenty minutes, until he makes for the door (pictured above) and whines to be let back out…until he whines to be let back in.

Such is the life of a dog mom.

But I’m also a kid mom, and a wife, among other things, and I’ve tried to find ways to have the time I need in this office so that I’m still present for the people in my orbit. Admittedly, some days are better than others. My cell phone these days is turned off more than it is on. I’m grateful for the people in my life who understand why and know that it’s only temporary. I’m grateful for the people in my life who are outside of my office door when I open it at the end of the day. For all of the things that need to be done in this office between now and my manuscript deadline of June 1, 2016, it’s the people outside of it that are helping me reach this next milestone, little by little and in various ways. Much gratitude to them.

What is your office like? What makes it work for you and your productivity? How do prevent distractions? How you balance your time when you’re immersed in a large project? Let me know in comments.

#AmWriting

Posted on October 8, 2015

IMG_0918

 

That stack of papers on the top of this file? Half of a first draft. Yes, I need to double the size of this stack in the next month or so. But the most important thing right now is to get it down. When it’s down, you can go back in and cut and paste and rearrange and tighten and that sort of thing.

Anyway, this is my current situation in paper form. Pretty exciting! But there’s still a lot to do.

Coffee Talk

Posted on August 31, 2015

writer

 

A friend of mine forwarded me this picture over the weekend.

I thought it was funny.

But then I realized I had a deep, dark secret.

Would you like to hear it?

Here goes: I can’t drink coffee like I did when I was younger.

You are full of shock and awe, aren’t you? Because what self-respecting writer can’t guzzle cup after cup of Joe?

(Raises hand sheepishly. Waits for your disapproval and jeers.)

I had a good run, folks. Really, I did. And it was a run fueled by 4-5 cups of coffee a day.

But these days all I can manage is a cup of dark roast (black) in the morning. Anything more than that and you’ll have to peel me off the ceiling. Lionel Richie may be able to dance there, but as a writing space, ceilings just don’t work for me.

Go ahead. Call me Ole One Cup. I won’t mind, especially since i just got “Dancing in the Ceiling” stuck in your head.

You’re welcome, by the way.

The good news is that despite this inability to get my coffee on in the mornings (or even the afternoons), I’ve churned out 20,950 words so far. That’s almost one-quarter of the manuscript that’s due on June 1, 2016. Not all of those words are perfect. But they are down and that’s the most important thing. You cannot revise, refine and rearrange anything unless it is down on paper.

Although I may not know as many baristas as I used to, I’ll take little victories like these when and where I can.

Your turn: Do you have a deep dark secret you’d like to share? If so, what is it? Otherwise, tell me about a little victory you’ve had recently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Interview: Julie Galle Baggenstoss, Flamenco Performer and Educator

Posted on April 11, 2014

Photo: Julie Galle Baggenstoss

Photo: Julie Galle Baggenstoss

 

Julie Galle Baggenstoss worked as a journalist before she took the plunge and followed her passion. Now she’s bringing flamenco to a wide variety of audiences in the United States. She has performed and choreographed Flamenco with the Atlanta Opera, Georgia State University’s School of Music, The Latin American Association, Coves Darden P.R.E., and at universities and museums from the Southeast to the Midwest. She also teaches flamenco for Emory University’s dance program and for organizations such as the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, the Foreign Language Association of Georgia, and Georgia Public Libraries. She spoke with me recently about her work, flamenco’s rich history and about following your passion. Here are excerpts from that conversation:

How do you explain flamenco – real flamenco – to a general audience?

I tell people that Flamenco is an improvised art form based on poetry that was most likely first composed extemporaneously during a gathering of family and friends during late-night hours.  That usually stops people in their tracks and gives them pause, because they normally envision a wild-haired woman in a low-cut, polka-dotted dress doing this animal-like dance with castanets.  The setting straight goes on from there with a quick history lesson about how immigrating Gypsies covered the old Spanish ‘romances’ (sung poems) to begin forming a musical expression in Andalucía that eventually gave way to Flamenco.  Along the way, the Gypsies as a group faced discrimination, prejudice, persecution, and this gave them much to sing about.  When their lifestyle was finally embraced during the period of romanticism in the 1800s, poets and impresarios brought Flamenco to the limelight to be celebrated in literate and on stages around the world.  What we have seen on stage since then is the expression of those same poems through song, music, and dance.  Sometimes the expression veers far from its original form, such as a line of topless men clicking their feet in unison.  Sometimes the expression is very much in line, when we see a solo singer, a solo guitarist, and a solo dancer conversing non-verbally while the people around them clap their hands rhythmically and shout cheers of encouragement.  That is the expression that brings the goose bumps, and that is when you know you are seeing the real thing.

In what ways has your background in journalism aided you in your ability to share flamenco’s story with a variety of audiences?

My journalism background helps in three ways.  First, I am fortunate to know how to conduct research, including interviews.  I primarily work as a teaching artist, meaning I use Flamenco as a vehicle to teach toward curriculum goals, such as Spanish language, geography, history, team building, problem solving, and communication.  My shows are based on literature and real people who became legends in Flamenco.  I routinely dig way beyond the stage to get information that reveals the Gypsy culture and Spanish history that makes Flamenco what it is and has been.

My role as television and Web producer gave me experience in coordinating live bodies, production equipment, managers and talent. The same rules apply to live theater production, except there are no live signals to route – yet!

Finally, years in the newsroom taught me what matters to the media.  I know how to write a press release, because I know which ones I ignored when I was on the receiving end of them.  I know how to build a database of qualified contacts for public relations, publicity, promotion, and sales, and I know the difference between those roles.

Why did you make the leap from journalism to flamenco and what were the biggest challenges you faced in making that leap? How did you overcome those challenges?

I leapt at a time when work as a freelance writer was not fulfilling and the phone was ringing off the hook for a Flamenco dancer.  The jobs for Flamenco were exciting, and I began to work with interesting musicians. I thought I would cross the two pursuits. That eventually happened, but not as I expected.  And, that was frustrating at first.  I thought I would sell stories about the back roads of Spain or the unknown treasures of the big Spanish cities to which I traveled to study Flamenco.  At first it was a setback that I was not selling work this way.  But, later I realized that I could tell stories about Flamenco, Spain, and the wonderful real-life characters whom I encountered.  And, with this, I became a teaching artist going to work in schools, lecture halls, and universities.  I kept up the dance training to stay employed in the typical dance setting, as well.

A major challenge was figuring out the markets for Flamenco, because at the time that I began working, there was not much shape to Flamenco arts where I lived in Atlanta. There was not much precedent for programming, pricing, market segmentation, quality, etc., specific to Flamenco, because so few people had taken the path previously.  I received guidance from some professional musicians, dancers, and talent agents, and then applied the rules of their industries to Flamenco.  I shaped the market for myself and just didn’t look back.  I created a number of products to leverage Flamenco to serve markets, such as schools and social organizations, rather than the traditional American Flamenco employers, such as restaurants in need of live entertainment.

In what ways has your life as a flamenco teacher and performer changed since you first began?

I am now deeply interested in the history and cultural significance of Flamenco and how the past influences the present.  I came into Flamenco as a dancer, wanting to learn to move in a new form. Along the way, I took classes from a teacher who taught me about the music.  I discovered how  the dancers are musicians, right along with the guitarists and singers.  I traveled to Spain to study, where I met some of the icons, descendants of legends, authors whose work I had studied, artists whom I adored on stage.  Their support through friendship and teaching, led me to want to explain the human stories that created – and today sustain – Flamenco. So, that is part of the work that I do in education and performance.

Also, as a business owner, I have learned to be headstrong and well-prepared in pursuits that seem like unreachable dreams.  Business strategies aside, I have learned to look up, because that is direction of faith and success.

How have you built a community of people and groups that are as interested in and passionate about flamenco as you are?

I formed a grass-roots marketing company called jaleolé in 2004, with a partner and a team of very dedicated, passionate volunteers.  Now that I look back, I will boast that we shaped the Flamenco scene in Atlanta for nearly 10 years. The company promoted Flamenco events to Flamenco aficionados, as well as the general public.  We motivated some big players  to talk about and present Flamenco in Atlanta.  As a result, there are now teachers and performers in Atlanta working on the base that we put in place.  I lectured, wrote, published, produced,  placed performers in all kinds of performances from sidewalks to theater stages, and put students on stage annually as part of my role as co-founder of the company.  The energy of that work is still circulating, and the evidence is everywhere.

Since 2009, I have facilitated a ‘cuadro’ class that provides education and a weekly jam session for students of Flamenco guitar, singing, and dance.  Prior to this concept, Atlanta was a city of dancers without accompanists.  To know Flamenco is to know that dancers and guitarists exist in the art form to accompany the singing. So, a silo of dancers – without live music – was unfulfilling.  Five years after the first workshop, the students of the program are playing guitar and singing in classes and performances in groups across Atlanta. It is satisfying to know that Flamenco is taking shape in such a holistic way.

How have you engaged Spanish artists in your mission to build interest in flamenco? What have you learned from them in your efforts to teach, perform and lecture about the art?

The answer to this question is unending.

I have presented some of the top Flamenco artists in Spain in performance and education.  I have asked them to lecture and spend time in fiestas with local aficionados to break the wall of artist and fan.  These gracious artists  have created electricity, tears, inspiration, awe.  But the best moments have been when they have interacted one-on-one with local aficionados, in a casual manner, to shed light on what it means to be a Flamenco, rather than a super star.

I believe Flamenco is like coffee.  If you can get it in Spain, or from Spanish Flamenco artists, then it’s a shot of espresso.  Outside of that, it’s café au lait: tastes great, but it’s just coffee with chicory and steamed milk.  And, chicory as my grandfather used to tell me in New Orleans, is ersatz.  The audiences and the students know the difference.

The more I learn about the art of Flamenco, the less I want to teach, perform, or lecture about it.  Instead, I just want to put the Spanish artists out there to do it.  I am continually humbled by the people whom I meet through research and study.  They are incredible artists, but that’s not what stops me.  It is that their families created this, and they carry with them the spirits of the generations before them, a cultural legacy that includes oppression, perseverance, pride, creativity, innovation, controversy, and misunderstandings of all sorts.  The more I know, the more I want to tell these stories, accurately.

What’s a typical day for you like?

My schedule is completely random. At the moment, it looks a little like a jack-o-lantern. Three days a week, I rehearse in the mornings before heading to teach at Emory University, where I instruct students who are earning credit for their dance degrees or to fulfill an elective requirement.  Right after class, I crack my latest Flamenco read for about an hour.  Then, I am off to class where I am a student of Spanish culture and literature, a base for a graduate degree down the road.  I pick up my kids from school; we tackle their homework; we play a game or craft a bit; we cook and eat dinner; I run out the door. Evening classes or rehearsals last about 2 hours in a dance studio, and then it is home for some creative time: a novel, a favorite blog, on a rare occasion a movie.  On the other two days (of a 5-day workweek), I am in the studio for 4-6 hours working on technique and repertoire, and I take about 2 hours to handle the “business of Flamenco” for myself.  I update my website. order flyers, book shows, write contracts, follow-up with potential clients, apologize for late responses, and of course put out dramatic  fires of all kinds.  Saturdays and Sundays often turn into workdays, as well, depending on bookings.  Several times a month, this schedule is interrupted by arts-in-education performances.  I leave home for those at 6:30 a.m., after loading my car with sound and stage equipment.  I drive for 30-90 minutes to a school, and then I set up my show.  I perform for 1-2 hours, break down, and then return to my neighborhood just in time to pick up my lovely children from school. More than once, I have walked through my children’s after-school scene in full Flamenco regalia because my commute butted up against carpool.  My kids just are not aware of it anymore.  It’s always a juggling act with the schedule.

I remember one time, I had to do a performance during the last 30 minutes of one of those Spanish culture classes at the university, where I attend class as a student.  I walked into the class with all of the stage make-up, hair in a bun, huge earrings, and a ruffled shirt.  When the moment struck, I stood up and walked out of the class in the middle of the lecture.  I closed the door, and in the hallway swapped my street skirt for my performance skirt.  I glided down the stairwell and got into a waiting car outside of the building. The driver took me around the corner while I changed into my Flamenco dance shoes.  I got on stage 15 minutes later inside the ballroom at the Georgia Aquarium and performed for a dazzling (I hope) 5 minutes.

Unfortunately, I spend a lot less time on my art that I would like, and I am working the phone and e-mail a lot more than I would like!

What sort of plans do you have for 2014?

I am reaching into markets outside of Atlanta.  I am taking my arts-in-ed on the road in Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama.  I hope to also perform for adult audiences in those markets, with strong Spanish and U.S.-based Flamenco artists on stage with me.

I am forming participants of my cuadro class into a semi-professional performing group.  There’s a very dedicated and talented core of aficionados who are playing guitar, singing, and dancing well.  They are ready to go on stage in excellent, very exciting venues.

I will spend more time researching a few interesting characters in Flamenco, including a dancer who caught the eye of Thomas Edison, a homeless man-turned Grammy winner, and the neighborhood of Triana in Seville.

As someone who has pursued her passion for one of the most passionate dance forms there is, what advice do you have for people grappling with whether to pursue their own passions?

A life built on passion is much different than a life built on someone else’s passion.  Living for your passion can lead to funny decisions.  To that end, I advise the following.  Get a good business plan and revise it often.  Get a network of honest critics from a variety of backgrounds, and remember that your loved ones should not be part of that because they will always only be positive.  Hire an accountant, and realize that $30 in the bank is not $0 or -$30 in the bank. Balance your worlds: work, personal, ambition, family, romance, health.   Balance is important.  It is difficult to be the navigator and the pilot in the giant ship of entrepreneurship.  One feels like everything has to be done now.  To address that, create a project management plan, phase product releases, and schedule time for breaks.  Take a walk to solve a problem.  Have a beer at lunch.  Take a day off! Most of all, you must believe always in what you are doing.  If you lose your mojo, then you are done.

The Office Dog

Posted on February 5, 2014

murray

 

A rare shot of Murray, also known as The Office Dog, asleep at my feet with his favorite toy pig. He’s usually trying to lure me outside to play, or forcing his way into my lap, or chomping on his quacking toy duck (also a favorite), or giving me that “Time for lunch” look with his big old brown eyes.

On Faith and Writing

Posted on February 4, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a third grade class about writing. My talk was about 50 minutes long and as I spoke I realized that I wasn’t really talking about writing, per se, but about following your heart, never giving up and being eager to learn from everyone you meet, both inside and out of the classroom.

I originally told them that I became a writer because I was a bad math student, and, come to think of it, a pretty bad science student and economics student too. But then I noticed I wound up writing stories that involved budgets, or scientific research, or economic trends, and so I had to learn how to ask all the questions I was too timid to ask in third grade and beyond so that I could understand these subjects in a way that would allow me to write well and convincingly about them.

This admission brought me to a story about a very confusing interview that I did with a nanoscientist. No one in the class knew what nanoscience was, and I told them I didn’t either, especially as the interview with this man progressed. So I found the nicest and most professional way of asking this very smart man to explain his work to me the way he might explain it to his five-year-old niece. He did, I finally understood the very cool work he was doing, and I wrote a story about it, and then several other stories about nanoscience, which I was convinced was a very cool thing that people needed to know about.

After having relayed that to the class, I told them that I began to understand that I really became a writer because it gave me the opportunity to learn something new all the time and to share that knowledge and those stories with readers.

Near the end of my talk, I told them about Charles Garnier, architect of the Paris Opera House. I’ve spent some time researching his life and reading about his times, in hopes of writing a book about him. The kids were engaged with the Phantom of the Opera tie-in (Garnier’s opera is the backdrop for Phantom) and had a lot of questions about whether there were ghosts in the opera, for real. I told them there weren’t. But it did take everything I had not to tell them that I’ve been somewhat haunted (for lack of a better word) by Garnier’s rags-to-riches story and interested in the way it provides a different look at a Paris that was undergoing massive physical, political and social change. I told that Garnier was a cool guy who didn’t let his background or insecurities get in the way of building one of Europe’s most beautiful buildings.

And that should serve as an inspiration to them to beat the fourth grade in their reading challenge…or not be shy about any other pursuit that fills their heart.

One of the kids came up to me after the talk and asked what you do if you write something sort of personal and then turn it in and no one likes it, or gets mad, or you realize that you’ve written something totally embarrassing and you wish you’d never turned it in. I sat there knowing that I had a book proposal on Garnier out on submission that was fairly personal to me and that rejections could be trickling in as I was standing there. I told her that people who pour their hearts out realize the risks they’re taking when they write and understand that not everyone will like what they do all the time.

But that’s never any reason to quit.

For all those who may not feel like your work is for them, there will be those who love it. Have faith in your story and yourself and your agent and your work will find its way into the right, loving hands.

New Year, New Goal

Posted on January 10, 2014

A dose of sweetness at Pierre Herme.

A dose of sweetness at Pierre Herme.

This time last year I was returning from a research trip in Paris. I spent two weeks there by myself, both sifting through archival material about an architect who captured my imagination and indulging in goodies like the ones pictured above. In my waning moments in the City of Light, I told myself that if I did one thing in 2013, it would be to turn this research interest of mine into a book proposal that would capture a literary agent’s imagination too. By September 11 of last year, I did just that and I am beyond grateful to be represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. I spent the latter part of last year refining my book proposal to her and her fabulous business partner Miriam Goderich’s standards. Now that I’ve completed that milestone, I have a new goal: If I do one thing in 2014, it’s to become a published author.

Yes, I did say “goal” and not “resolution.”  Jane wrote about resolution-setting this week on DGLM’s blog, and like her I tend to set goals, rather than resolutions that seem made to be broken. It’s because I prefer to work toward something in my own little imperfect way, rather than resolve to do something, fall short of my resolve and then feel like I’ve bungled everything in my efforts to get from point A to point B.

All the same, it’s the beginning of the year, and beginnings are a good time to reflect on what you’ve done before and tweak where necessary. This article that Jane shared has a great list of things worth working towards, for better or for worse. Better sleep and less smartphone are my favorites on this list, along with supporting local businesses and donating to charity (my pick: The National Multiple Sclerosis Society because my sister was diagnosed with this a year ago).

I’d like to add the following to my own personal list:

1. Reacquainting myself with my yoga practice. My mat spent more time in the closet than under my feet at the end of 2013 and I need to change that for my own sake. Shame on me.

2. Improving my public speaking skills. I probably won’t be the first (or last) writer to say that I get a little nervous speaking in front of people. But I’m steadily working toward changing that. Last fall I spoke to an elementary school class about writing, and this spring I’ll teach my first class at LSU. Other speaking engagements are on the horizon and it is my hope that after each one I’ll get better and more confident in front of crowds.

3. Cultivating patience. I have a history of not waiting well, but I’m working on that. Although I made some strides in 2013, we can always stand to improve ourselves, non?

4. Sharing more here about writing, publishing, entrepreneurship and the latest and greatest reads. Plus, keeping up the eclectic and random stuff. Blogs and social media always seem to be a work in progress, something that shifts shape depending on a writer’s interests. This year, I’d like to open things up to readers who have questions about writing or publishing, share interviews with interesting folks and bring activity from my Goodreads feed into longer, more thought-out posts. If there’s something you’d like to see covered here, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line via my contact page, or shoot me a tweet on Twitter. You can follow me @paigebowers.

What goals have you set for 2014? Please share them in comments and let me know how you’re doing with those goals. And, if you’re not setting goals or resolutions, let me know why you don’t.

Here’s to a fruitful 2014!