Armchair by Jez Timms

This Writer’s Life: A San Franciscan Middle Grade Novelist Breaks Down the Work Into Manageable Chunks

Today we’re continuing my “This Writer’s Life” series, in which you get to meet some of my Called to Write Coaching Circle members and take a look inside their writing lives. If you’re just joining us, I encourage you to also check out the pieces about Rebecca, Frani, and Rick.

Today we’re joined by Foenix Ryder, a writer who found her home in Middle Grade fiction.

Meet Foenix Ryder: A San Franciscan Film Freelancer and Middle Grade Novelist

I’ve known Foenix for almost two years now. It’s been such treat to have her participating in the Circle. She’s the kind of writer whose enthusiasm, energy, and positivity is always present, even when the challenges of writing rear up. I love her determination and passion for her writing, and I’m thrilled to be helping her get her words out into the world.

Not only do we work together in the Circle, but I also have the pleasure of coaching Foenix around building her writer’s platform, something I’ll be offering in 2017 to other writers as well. I asked Foenix to tell us more about her writing and what she’s learned over the last several years — including how to break down the overwhelming tasks of a major writing project.

foenix-ryderWhat kind of writing do you do, and where are you in your writing process?

I love Middle Grade and Young Adult stories whether they’re action, adventure, fantasy, coming of age or anything else in those genres. Naturally, that’s what I’m drawn to write: Stories where kids and teens can get immersed and relate — and hopefully be inspired and encouraged when they read. 

Right now I’m on the verge of starting the third draft of my second novel. After struggling for a few weeks with a major element in my story, I realized I needed to pause to study the conventions and expectations of fantasy stories so I can further develop the world I’ve created and the rules within it.

In some ways it feels like I’m “taking a vacation” from my story and avoiding the work. But I’m reminding myself that I am and always will be developing as a writer. The stepping away to learn more about my genre and craft will only empower me to tell the best story I can. And that’s what we are all here to do.

How has your writing practice changed since you’ve been in the Circle?

Oh wow… it’s changed immensely! Before the Circle, over the course of six years, I wrote and revised my first novel. It actually still needs a major overhaul, but it was written in bits and pieces, from different places in the story, and most days it felt like I was struggling just to get words on the page.

Since joining the circle in March 2015, where I was instantly welcomed into a warm community of other writers, my practice has become almost daily. Writing my second novel while in the Circle, I feel like I finally have a rhythm. I create a daily goal, sit down and write, and then check in on the Circle site. I feel grounded and supported by my group every single day, which helped me write the first draft of my second novel in 7 months!

That’s not to say there haven’t been moments when I struggled, but now I have a space with other writers where I can voice my challenges and get encouragement. That helps keep the excitement going when things are great or get it going again when things are difficult.

I also love going to the daily writing sprints where I can jump online, say briefly what I’ll be working on, and completely focus on what I’m working on for one hour. The sprints have created a foundation for me to begin each day while also giving me a moment to think about what I would like to accomplish before diving into the writing.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer ?

I have learned so much over the past seven years I’ve been writing. For instance, I’ve learned that I do my best writing in the morning, and ideally write from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.

I’ve also learned to create a timeline/calendar for myself at the beginning of each draft, section, or when I’m starting something new to help me stay on track. It helps me see how much time I need to accomplish my goal and what I need to get done each day. I have also learned to let go of worrying if someone is going to like my stories or that I don’t write like other writers that I admire. I can only tell my stories as best as I can. And it is my duty to write these stories.

And something huge I am just starting to take in is that I have a tendency to see a project in its enormity and can get overwhelmed thinking I need to get it all done TODAY! But Jenna has helped me see the impossibility of that and instead break things down into much smaller chunks in order to achieve something in a realistic way. This has taken so much stress off of me while helping me accomplish small tasks that add up to a larger piece of the storytelling puzzle.

How much do you write, and where do you typically write?

I have a unique life as a freelancer in the film industry where I sometimes have 12-hour plus days for a few weeks and then I have a chunk of time off. When I’m off, I have time to dive into my writing and be fully present. So when I’m not immersed in “work work” I typically write four hours a day, Monday through Friday. I find it’s the perfect amount of time for me — anything past 4 hours, I just start to fizzle out.

I write in an artist’s studio in the Mission in San Francisco. It’s a private room I share with another artist inside a building where all types of artists have spaces. My half of the room is like a small apartment with a cozy couch, a soft blanket, some china lanterns, and a cool pirate ship kite I recently bought on the beach in Bali.

In order to get into my writing “dreamspace,” I must be curled up into a ball, legs pulled to my chest, body hunched over, blanket around me, with my headphones on playing the constant rumble and downpour of “Thunderstorms.” This allows me to tune everything out except the adventure movie I see inside my head while writing by hand as fast as I possibly can.

What does a successful writing day look like for you?

A successful writing day is one where I have either gotten through the section I wanted to get through, have worked out some kind of problem in my story, or where I wrote so fast, I felt energy flowing through me, writing while the story just poured from me. Those days, I walk away feeling vibrant and excited and truly feel like “I want to live that adventure!”

What’s next for you with your writing?

I’m planning to finish my novel mid-2017 and submit my manuscript to agents. Between drafts, I’ve been writing a short story which I’ll revise a few more times and submit to magazines for publication. I feel writing short stories is valuable for me in two ways: First, I get new ideas often and want to get them out into the world so this gives me an outlet for writing something in a shorter timeframe, and second, getting a few short stories published will help me build a brand by getting my stories in front of people who would enjoy reading them.

Also! I’m working regularly with Jenna to create my website and writing platform, building my writing brand around my pen name, Foenix Ryder. Having a pen name helps me maintain the energy I feel when writing my stories.

Circle Profile

foenix-ryder

Name: Foenix Ryder
Roles: Novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, film industry freelancer
Location: San Francisco, California
Genre: Middle Grade & Young Adult Fantasy
Current writing goal: 1) Finish 3rd draft of my current novel by February 2017, 2) Build my writer platform including developing and launching my website by January 2017.
Biggest writing challenge: Working myself out of the stressful mind-numbing boxes of what I “don’t know” about my story.
Biggest writing ah-ha: When it was pointed out to me that I write Middle Grade fiction, it helped me understand my writing better and also see that there is a place for the stories I love to tell and that people of all ages can enjoy them.
Go-to writing platform: Writing by hand, Scrivener
Favorite writing spot: My super cozy writing studio that has a comfy couch and a warm softy blanket.

Bio: Foenix Ryder is a Middle Grade and Young Adult storyteller based in San Francisco, California who tells fantastical stories and lives brave adventures. Foenix’s stories explore diversity, confidence, and self-discovery while taking readers on an action-packed ride. 

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Join the Circle: Get Your Words Into the World

Join the Writer's CircleJoin us in the Circle and get daily accountability and support to make your writing happen. With our special end of the year savings, you can get a whole year in the Circle for less than $100 per session.

It’s the perfect time to join us — our next session begins on Monday, January 2nd so you can start off the new year “write”!

Registration closes on Thursday, December 29th. Find out more and join the Circle here.

 

Mountain Sunrise

This Writer’s Life: A Swedish CIO Writes His Historical Thriller at Dawn

For your Christmas reading pleasure, today we’re continuing my “This Writer’s Life” series, in which you get to meet some of my Called to Write Coaching Circle members and take a look inside their writing lives.

Hopefully the holiday fervor has died down for you now, if you celebrate Christmas, and you’ll have a few quiet minutes to read about this inspiring writer, Rick, a Swedish businessman and historical thriller writer who recently completed a major novel revision … in the dawn hours. 

Meet Rikard Bergquist: A Swedish CIO and Historical Thriller Writer

Rikard, whom we fondly call “Rick,” has been with the Circle since 2012. Rick is a constant with our group — always writing, never giving up, even through the ups and downs of a major novel revision. He’s just finished his 8th revision and is getting ready to submit his novel to agents after getting some final feedback from his story coach.

You may remember Rick from an earlier guest post when he finished the first draft of his novel after jump-starting his writing habit with five minutes of daily writing. When he joined us he lived in Sweden, but has now moved to Reno, Nevada, where he is working as the CIO of a Swedish startup, raising his family, and writing.

To say that I am gratified by and proud of his achievement is an understatement. Having written alongside Rick for these last four years has been a true gift. It’s so easy when we see people reaching major milestones like this and to compare ourselves to them. But when we are right there with them in the trenches, seeing all the challenges, the highs, and the lows, it’s just a giant celebration for all of us to see him being ready to start submitting his completed manuscript to agents.

Rikard-BergquistWhat kind of writing do you do, and where are you in your process?

When I write it’s mainly fiction but I also do business plans, research grants and business presentations. However, when I refer to writing it is my creative endeavors that I think of. Right now I’m putting the final touches to an historical thriller set in Sweden in the 16th century I’ve been working on for the last five years. I used Storyfix, The Story Grid, and the services of a professional reader in my revision process.

How has your writing practice changed since you joined the Circle?

The Circle taught me about the importance of process and how you can trust that process even when you don’t know where you are or where you’re going with your writing. Keep on writing and roll with resistance. Nearing the finishing of my manuscript I’ve been close to calling it quits a couple of times, but the Circle has gently nudged me forward and pulled me back in. This last year it’s been my happy place when I’ve struggled with the writing. I also feel that Jenna has a set of very hands-on tools to enable me to see through the despair for what it is, handle my resistance, and keep me on track.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer?

Writing is a lonely business and I need my efforts to be seen. Even if not one single person reads my novel, I need someone to share the ups and downs of getting it done with. The Circle provides just that perfect environment of learning about yourself in likeminded company. I’ve learned that writing for just five minutes in a day, isn’t so much about the progress that day, as it is about overcoming the resistance. That is the real achievement and that positive feeling feeds on itself until you’re suddenly writing two hours a day. That’s magic.

Where do you typically write?

I have several places I write in. I feel most comfortable in the places where I can feel undisturbed. I need to be able to shut the world out and go inside of myself. That can be in a café, at my desk a couple of hours before everyone arrives at work, or in the study at home when it’s empty. For some reason I tend to go to busy cafés, where I can look up now and then, and remember that there’s another world waiting for me out there when I’m done.

What does a successful writing day look like for you?

I like to start early, early — preferably in the dark — and write through dawn. Get my hours in before the rest of the world wakes up. Spending the first hours of the day on writing, gives my a sense of accomplishment and I can hit the rest of the day with a smile on my face. I feel like I’ve put what’s most important to me first.

What’s next for you with your writing?

I’m currently outlining part two in my historical trilogy and I hope to have a first draft ready in six months. The big challenge will be going back to first draft mode, after being in the finishing touches phase for the last year. It won’t be long before I miss having a full chapter to revise instead of a empty page to fill. I hope the Circle is ready to roll with my ups and downs once again. (We are, Rick!)

Circle Profile

Rikard-BergquistName: Rikard Bergquist
Roles: Writer, CIO in the healthcare industry, father of two girls, skier, hiker.
Location: Reno, Nevada
Genre: Historical thrillers
Current writing goal: Finish first draft of second book in a trilogy before July 2017
Biggest writing challenge: Not falling into a chasm of despair by looking at how far I am from my goal
Biggest writing ah-ha: Stay connected every day with your writing, even for five minutes, this will keep your subconscious in gear to write your story for you.
Go-to writing platform: Scrivener, Word
Favorite writing spot: Early morning, with a coffee, at a back table in a café

Bio: Rikard Bergquist is a historical fiction novelist from Sweden living in Reno, Nevada, who writes in the mornings and works as CIO for a healthcare start-up in the day. He loves the outdoor life and snow of the Sierra, where he fills his creative well skiing and hiking together with his wife and two girls.

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Join the Circle: Get Your Words Into the World

Join the Writer's CircleJoin us in the Circle and get daily accountability and support to make your writing happen. With our special end of the year savings, you can get a whole year in the Circle for less than $100 per session.

It’s the perfect time to join us — our next session begins on Monday, January 2nd so you can start off the new year “write”!

Registration closes on Thursday, December 29th. Find out more and join the Circle here.

 

Laguna Madre by eutrophication&hypoxia

This Writer’s Life: A Texas Psychotherapist Revamps Her Life to Write

Today we’re continuing my “This Writer’s Life” series, in which you get to meet some of my Called to Write Coaching Circle members and take a look inside their writing lives. Next up is Frani, an action-adventure novelist who joined the Circle in June of 2015.

Meet Frani Bradley: Psychotherapist and Action-Adventure Novelist

Frani is a psychotherapist who lives in Texas, and has impressed me with her dedication to her writing in the time I’ve known her. She leaves no stone unturned when it comes to her writing, getting out of her own way, and honing her craft, and she recently undertook a massive life redesign in order to make more time for her writing.

I invited Frani to tell us more about her writing project and how she has created more space by overhauling her life, work, and even her living situation (including a Great Dane!).

frani-bradleyWhat kind of writing do you do, and where are you in your process?

I am working on the second in an action-adventure novel series.

Right now I’m waiting for beta readers to finish reading my first novel and entering it into writing contests.

Soon I’ll be studying the feedback they give me, and begin the work of incorporating what I want to use.

How has your writing practice changed since you joined the Circle?

I never had a consistent writing habit before I joined the Circle. Before joining the Circle, I had a consistent daily habit of guilt and regret about not writing. Now, most days I feel very good about keeping my daily habit of writing.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer?

I often wondered if I just liked the idea of writing and would never really finish anything, but in the Circle I learned that I am a writer, someone capable of finishing a novel. I owe this to the support of the Circle. Completing my first novel is the manifestation of a dream I’ve held since I was five years old. I told my grandmother a story, and she wrote it down. It was about a witch who rode a hula hoop rather than a broom. My grandmother said, “Francie, you are a wonderful story teller. Someday you will write a book.” She was right.

There are so many levels of happiness and contentment that I have now, seeing my novel in hard copy ready for beta readers. I’m convinced this would never have happened without our group and you, Jenna. So you have literally allowed a life long dream come true. Thank you!

Where do you typically write?

I usually write at my desk at home. Now and then, at a coffee shop with a friend. I also work with my editor online. We collaborate across the internet in real time and over the phone when we’re working together on the novel.

What does a successful writing day look like for you?

A successful writing day for me looks like putting in at least two hours of writing time on the suggestions beta readers have made on my first novel, working on my second novel, and studying a book on the craft of writing or doing research. I feel good when I spend at least two hours involved in something writing related.

How have you shifted your life to make more space for writing?

I’m right in the messy middle of changing my life. Over the last three months, working toward the goal of creating more time and mental energy for writing, I have made an effort to streamline my life. In doing so, temporarily I hope, I’ve created more chaos and extra time and energy drains. Things are winding down now, so I’m beginning to get my sense of humor back about all that has happened. Also, a glimmer of hope has returned, that it’s not been madness to try this. I am beginning to see that my writing life could be as I envisioned it in the New Year. 

I started by closing my office, where I have had a psychotherapy private practice for nearly twenty years. I opened a home office on October 1st. Moving the furniture, changing my address with managed care companies, deciding suddenly I needed to go paperless, adjusting clients to a new meeting space, and all the many boring details of change have snowballed to create extra work. Meanwhile, my home office needed a new driveway and several other changes to create a good space at home for seeing clients.

I also rented the larger home on my two-acre property to new renters and found myself embroiled in figuring out how to successfully house their large Great Dane in a way that worked for all of us (especially me, at night!).

So needless to say, it’s been a bigger project than I’d envisioned. :)

It is December, and seems like much longer than three months since I began the journey of making my life simpler. That sentence really did make me laugh. I am feeling excited right now about how I see things shaping up. My doubts and regrets about starting this are disappearing, and I’m seeing a new writing life forming in 2017. Maybe it’s true that “change is messy.” It’s sure been true for me. In the same moment, I hear the saying, “no guts, no glory” and get happy butterflies.

I’m feeling something wonderful out there with my writing waiting for me to step into it. I can’t wait!

What’s next for you with your writing?

I plan to continue working on suggestions from beta readers for my first novel, entering it in writing contests, and working on my second novel.

Circle Profile

frani-bradley

Name: Frani Bradley
Roles: Psychotherapist, Novelist
Location: Corpus Christi, Texas
Genre: Action Adventure
Current writing goal: 1) Incorporate the suggestions of five beta readers into my 1st novel by April 15th and submit to contests, 2) Complete Outline of 2nd novel by January 31st, 3) Complete first draft of 2nd novel by June 1st.
Biggest writing challenge: Keeping boundaries and commitments in regards to writing time
Biggest writing ah-ha: Two people I trust to give honest feedback have read my novel and enjoyed it as a good read. My ah-ha is that I have a novel that two people have enjoyed. It’s enough to keep me going a long, long time.
Go-to writing platform: The cloud version of Pages for collaborating with my editor.
Favorite writing spot: In my living room, looking out over an inlet of the Laguna Madre, in the company of my dog and the large water birds in the distance.

Bio: Frani Bradley is an action-adventure novelist based in Texas who writes alongside running her home-based psychotherapy practice. She’s a passionate animal lover and has dedicated herself to bringing the spirit of adventure, respect for animals, and spiritual inspiration to her stories. 

diamonds

Join the Circle: Get Your Words Into the World

Join the Writer's CircleJoin us in the Circle and get daily accountability and support to make your writing happen. With our special end of the year savings, you can get a whole year in the Circle for less than $100 per session.

It’s the perfect time to join us — our next session begins on Monday, January 2nd so you can start off the new year “write”!

Registration closes on Thursday, December 29th. Find out more and join the Circle here.

 

Laguna Madre featured image by eutrophication&hypoxia and used under a creative commons license.

 

 

This Writer’s Life: A Berkeley Mama Writes a Historical Fiction Trilogy in 15 to 60 Minutes a Day

It’s December, the end of the year. In a continuation of my goal to help you Start 2017 Off Write, I thought you might like to meet some of my Called to Write Coaching Circle members and get a look inside their writing lives. We’ll kick off this series with Rebecca Brams, a local Berkeley writer and longtime Circle member.

Meet Rebecca Brams: Mama, Grant Writer, & Novelist

Rebecca is a Berkeley mom of two boys (we have both of those in common!) and she’s writing a novel alongside parenting and the grant writing work she does. She has been a Circle member for three years. I invited Rebecca to tell us more about her writing and her writing life. 

rebecca-bramsWhat kind of writing do you do, and where are you in your process?

I do several different types of writing, including grant writing for non-profit clients, personal essay, short fiction and blog. I mainly use the Writer’s Circle for my novel work — I’m writing a trilogy of historical fiction novels set during the Inca Empire, in what is today Peru. Since I joined the Writer’s Circle three years ago, I’ve written a draft of the first book in the trilogy and put it through a story analysis process including reverse outlining and mapping. I used two story analysis methodologies: Save the Cat and The Story Grid. I’m now partway through revising the novel. (If you’re curious about the novel trilogy, you can learn more about it in an essay Rebecca published here.)

How has your writing practice changed since you’ve been in the Circle?

I’ve become much more productive and stay on track more easily. I’ve been part of different kinds of writing communities over the years, including when I got my MFA degree, and I’ve found different types of value in each experience. The Circle is unique because of the daily check-in and because of the focus on process, not content. I know that if I get stuck, my coach will offer me a different perspective, and I often use the coaching calls to help me work through issues that come up. Being in the Circle makes me feel like I’m part of a writing community that’s “got my back” and will help get me back on track when I become overwhelmed or lose focus.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer?

I’ve learned to trust the ebb and flow of the creative process. Recording my progress on a daily basis (and seeing my fellow Circle members do the same) has shown me that I can have a fabulous writing day, followed by a humdrum day, and then get back into the flow again in my next writing session. Now when I have a tough day or hit one of those “stuck” spells, I worry less because I’ve realized it’s a normal part of the creative process.

Also: This is life. This is it. Every day we create it with our choices. Every day we choose to write even though urgent things are calling us, we honor our creativity, the Muse, and the unique voices that can only speak through us. Every day we choose to be gentle with ourselves, we create a life of compassion and peace. These two elements can feel in opposition to each other, but perhaps allowing for the coexistence of opposing forces is necessary for a rich artistic life.

How much do you write and where do you typically write?

I try to write early in the day, usually right after I drop my kids off at school, before lots of other to-dos pop up. That probably happens three to five days per week, depending on whether there are school holidays, my husband’s work travel schedule, or if I have a lot of client work. I usually work at home, but sometimes I mix it up by going to a café. About once a week, I go to an in-person writing group.

When I’m at home, I often work at my secretary desk in my bedroom, but when I’m deep into line-edit revisions, I find I work better sitting in bed or on the sofa — it gets me more into the mindset of a reader. When I’m strapped for time and trying to get in a sliver of writing, I will sometimes even write in my car. My coach has called me a “time-stealing ninja” for the different ways I’ve managed to slide writing into a busy schedule over the years.

What does a successful writing day look like for you?

It used to be that 15 minutes a day was all I tried for. Now my minute goals range a lot more depending on what else is happening in my life. I’d love to work for an hour a day or more, but there are so many different elements in my life that it really depends. Locking myself into a rigid schedule tends to lead to stress and guilt. I try for consistency and keeping up momentum more than getting the same amount of time in every day. And I do writing retreats — often solo weekend retreats — to immerse myself and get in big chunks of time.

What’s next for you with your writing?

My big writing goal for 2017 is to finish the second draft of the first book by the beginning of the summer when my kids get off school. It’ll be a stretch, but I’m going to give it my best shot with the help of the Circle.

Circle Profile

rebecca-bramsName: Rebecca Brams
Roles: Grant writer, novelist, blogger, essayist, mother of two boys
Location: Berkeley, California
Genre: Historical fiction
Current writing goal: Finish second draft of novel by June 2017
Biggest writing challenge: Juggling priorities, the unpredictability of young children
Biggest writing ah-ha: Starting is almost always the hardest part.
Go-to writing platform: Scrivener
Favorite writing spot: In bed!

Bio: Rebecca Brams is a writer and mother to two young boys in Berkeley, California. She grew up in California’s Mojave Desert and has traveled extensively in Latin America. She has a B.A. in Anthropology from Stanford University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from St. Mary’s College of California. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have been published in Carve Magazine, Literary Mama, Dark Matter: Women Witnessing and on blogs, including her own, www.thismamawrites.com.

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Join the Circle: Get Your Words Into the World

Join the Writer's CircleJoin us in the Circle and get daily accountability and support to make your writing happen. With our special end of the year savings, you can get a whole year in the Circle for less than $100 per session.

It’s the perfect time to join us — our next session begins on Monday, January 2nd so you can start off the new year “write”!

Registration closes on Thursday, December 29th. Find out more and register here.

 

It’s our 5th anniversary… and we’re having a sale!

As I promised in yesterday’s post, we’re having a special sale to celebrate the 5th anniversary of my Called to Write Coaching Circleand it starts today!

Waaaayyyy back in 2011, we launched our first ‘beta test’ group for the Circle. Now we’re running five groups, with a talented coach at the helm of each one.

To celebrate, we’re offering an ongoing savings of 10% on ANY of our subscriptions, whether a single-session, a four-session, or our popular annual subscription when you sign up using the coupon code HAPPYANNIVERSARY.

You’ll love how good it feels to take action on your writing and make your writing life happen right now

When you join us, you’ll have access to our coach-led group writing sprints to boost your writing energy, coaching calls to help you keep writing (led by yours truly), and daily, personalized coaching support from your small group writing coach.

You can find out more and register for the Called to Write Coaching Circle here. Just make sure you register by MONDAY, September 12 before 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time to join us and use coupon code HAPPYANNIVERSARY to save 10% on the subscription of your choice. Your rate will be locked in for the life of your subscription.

We can’t wait to write with you!

Warmly,

Jenna 

Got Questions?

If you have any questions about the Circle, feel free to ask! The fastest way to get a response is to email us at circle@calledtowrite.com or use our online contact form here. We’ll get back to you ASAP.

Make 2015 your year to write, Part seven (and last day for 2014 rates!)

It’s that time, writers — we’ve come to the last installment of our Make 2015 Your Year to Write series. I hope you’ve found it both practical and inspiring.

Today, in many ways, is the most important one of the series, so kudos to you for sticking with me thus far.

Over the last six days, we’ve looked at where you’ve been with your writing life, what your challenges are, what you want from your writing life, and what you need and want in both the big picture and the coming year, it’s time to talk about how to make it all happen.

And remember, if you have questions, thoughts, challenges, comments, or problems, I’m your coach for one more day! Just post them in the comments section on the blog and I’ll be sure to address or answer them for you.  

Let’s go for part seven!!

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Make your writing happen

You’ve done an amazing piece of work this week. You know what your goals are. You know what you want from your writing career and your writing life. You know what your trouble spots are.

Now what?

This, my fine writing friends, this is where the rubber hits the road.

It’s all well and good to name your goals, but you’ve got to have a plan to make them happen.

Let’s talk about how you can do that.

How to meet your writing goals in 2015

Luckily we’ve avoided having you create pie-in-the-sky goals with our work together. And we’ve made sure they are actually in alignment with the big picture of what you want.

But even so, there’s still so much working against you that you have to have several key ingredients in place to help you overcome the resistance, fear, doubt, and procrastination that will rear up repeatedly like that monster you only thought you killed at the end of Act Two.

Here are some of the most powerful means you can have at your disposal to help you keep on writing even in the face of such horrors. 

  • A life decision to actually write. If you are going to be a writer, if you’re really serious about it, you need to make up your mind right now that you will write no matter what. No more being a dilettante. No more waffling. No more excuses. No more dreaming without doing.
  • A bone fide, for real, no B.S., daily writing habit. Wanting to write is grand. ACTUALLY writing is grander. When you write daily or near daily, you will BE a writer. Getting there is not so easy. There are so many things that get in the way, as we’ve seen. Doubts, excuses, fear, resistance, perfectionism, LIFE. It’s tough. And most of us think that we just need to resolve to write, or be more disciplined, or schedule it. But those things aren’t enough by themselves. What you really need is a habit. A solid daily writing habit that means that even if everything goes sideways on you, you’ll still be thinking, “Okay, wow, I still gotta write today, when am I gonna do that?”, followed by quickly moving mountains to make it so. You want a writing habit that is so immutable that there’s never even a question of IF you are going to write, only rarely a question of WHEN, and in fact it’s something you just DO, like brushing your teeth or putting clothes on before you go outside. Something you wouldn’t even think of NOT doing.
  • An inner knowing on when to “call it” on craft training. Yes, sometimes we need a little more training to do our best work. But I also know far too many writers who just endlessly take classes. We also have to be writing. Don’t be one of those writers who keeps getting more and more training instead of facing the blank page. Sure, a class here and there. But don’t keep going back to college for another degree instead of doing the work.
  • A writing schedule. Putting writing on your calendar is a huge step toward making your writing happen. It’s an acknowledgment of the fact that you’ll have to make choices to write, choices that will mean giving up other things, and being okay with that. It’s a visual reminder that you’re committed to writing, and carving out time to do so. Keep in mind, however, that a schedule is only a tool. You still have to show up and do the writing.
  • Massive amounts of accountability. When you’re serious about writing, you’ll want to have accountability in place to help you make it happen. Unless you are enormously and entirely self-motivated and never go astray from your path, you need accountability — as much of as needed for you to stay 100% on track on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. My small group coaching program, the Writer’s Circle, includes a daily accountability system for writers. Other kinds of accountability include writer’s groups, mentors, deadlines, accountability parties, and writing buddies. Again, put as much of it in place as you need to write with a sense of purpose and intent. And then add a little more for good measure.
  • Support to get back on track if or when you fall off course. Writing is a lonely business. Get support for the dark days. We ALL face them, including me. Surround yourself with positive, supportive writers who will help you through the painful critiques, the negative reviews, and the days when you can’t write a note to your kids about cleaning their rooms let alone face your novel.
  • Compassionate self-understanding. Writing is a tough gig. There will be days when you hate it. There will also be days that you LOVE it. But on the bad days, your inner critic is going to bat sh*t crazy on you and you cannot allow yourself to fall for it. It’s a critically important skill to learn to combat your inner critic and keep on writing. This is something we do daily in the Writer’s Circle.
  • Clear specific goals and projects. We’ve done a lot of work around goals this week, so I’m not going to add a lot here except to say this: Don’t try to work on multiple projects at once unless you are a pro. If you’re a newer writer, working on multiple projects at once is usually a death knell for all of them. Oftentimes writers will hop between projects when one gets too hard, but then struggle with discouragement over the lack of progress on any of them. My advice? Pick one and stick with it until it’s done, even if it’s hard and even if you hate it temporarily, at least to the point of a major milestone. If you finish a solid draft and move on to a new project to let the first one breathe, fine. But don’t “layer” projects unless you are 100% capable of navigating between and finishing them.
  • A milestone plan for each and every project. I mentioned this yesterday too. Create a timeline for each writing project so you know where all the major milestones are and you know what you have to do to complete them. Don’t just strike off in an “I’m just going to write every day” vague way. Know what you’re trying to accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis so you can hit that yearly goal without binge-writing at the end or giving up in apathy and frustration part way through the year.

Hold these in mind as we go on to today’s writing prompts:

1. What will you do to making your writing goals happen in 2015?

Think about what you will do to meet your writing goals. Be as specific as you can.

From Ginger, a Writer’s Circle member:

“2015 for me is really about prolificacy. I’ve spent a lot of years sitting around plotting and planning and organizing and envisioning and figuring and sorting and assessing and weighing. That’s lovely and all, but there’s a point at which you must say to yourself, ‘Well done. Now get to work.’

“For me, 2015 is going to be about multiple times a day writing, about learning to write in suboptimal circumstances, and finding creative ways around predictable blocks. Yes, I prefer to write in longer chunks – not necessarily hours at a stretch, which is too much for me, but more than 30 minutes. I would also prefer to live at Disney World. So this year I’m going to embrace small chunks. Five minutes here, 300 words there.”

From my notebook:

“No more classes. Since I want to focus on my own writing and on my precious time with our new son, I need to keep the extracurricular activities to a minimum. This means having a clear plan and timeline for each of my projects, and a quiet, contained schedule within which to meet the necessary milestones. 2015 for me feels like a time to hunker down and focus on what’s most important to me, rather than trying to do it all.”

 

2. What actions will you take?

Then give some thought to any specific actions you need to take.

From Ginger:

“I haven’t completely decided yet – that’s part of what the Writer’s Circle is for – but part of it is going to be about checklists. Little reminders. Maybe a timer on my phone saying ‘write for three minutes’ or ‘write 100 words’.

“I suppose the biggest action I will take – and this is truly revolutionary for me – is trying different things. I will take small steps, rather than planning big steps.”

From my notebook:

“I’m going to create a clear schedule laid out in a format I can easily follow and adjust — on a large wall calendar. And I’ll keep reminding myself not to sign up for any more classes until 2016. :)”

 

3. What kind of support will you put in place?

Now think about what kind of support (and accountability) you need to make it happen.

If you’re the kind of writer who starts out with the best intentions but then falls short of her goals, you’ll want to give careful thought to this question. Oftentimes quality accountability and support are the critical variables that make the difference between “dreamed of” and “DONE”.

From Helen, a Writer’s Circle member:

“I plan to continue with the Writer’s Circle until I finish the dissertation. The support is helping to propel my movement forward, and to counteract the negative criticism that I get in my regular life. I plan to ignore and/or mitigate the negative feedback, and to absorb more of the supportive and positive encouragement.”

From Ginger:

“The Writer’s Circle is really helpful for this because before, I would sort of flounder around saying, ‘I don’t know how to solve this.’ I would spend all my time thinking about the problem and precious little looking for a solution. When you look up ‘Reinventing The Wheel’ in the dictionary, you’ll see my face. But the Writer’s Circle helps because I know that all I have to do is mention the problem in passing and I’m going to have a half dozen people who have already solved this problem giving me support. So that’s helpful. So I guess what I need to do this year is actually use the support. Sometimes I feel like one of those people who doesn’t go to Weight Watchers until they’ve lost weight, or doesn’t call a cleaning lady because their house isn’t clean.

I guess this year is about using the support structure, even if my writing is feeling fat and dirty.

 

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pen coffeeWriting prompts for Part seven: Make it happen

Here are your writing prompts for today. If you’re inspired to do so, please share your responses in the comments section on the blog (and feel free to leave questions for me too, if you have them). Otherwise you can take them to your journal, talk them over with your writing colleagues, or just contemplate them when you can. 

  • What will you do to making your writing goals happen in 2015?
  • What actions will you take?
  • What kind of support will you put in place?

Thank you so much for writing along with me this week, and may 2015 be filled with joyous writing and many blessings.

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Reminder: Last day for 2014 rates

Join the Writer's CircleBefore you head off to your journal, I have an important reminder about my Writer’s Circle small group coaching program.

We’re extending our 2014 rates through Midnight Pacific Time TONIGHT so you can lock in the subscription rate you select and save 30 to 50%, depending on the subscription package you choose.

The Writer’s Circle small group coaching program will help you show up, get your butt in the chair, write, and see your projects all the way through to FINISHED.

The next session starts this coming Monday, January 5. It’s the perfect time to build the professional writing habit you really need to meet your writing goals for 2015 and make this your writing year to remember.

Registration closes TONIGHT, Friday, January 2nd at Midnight Pacific Time.

Find out more and register online at www.JustDoTheWriting.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why it’s worth it to keep writing through the holidays

Resistance to writing is rife at this time of year. Perhaps that’s why we’re so well primed to resolve to “do better” when the New Year rolls around.

(Though personally I’m not that big a fan of resolutions, especially since they tend to peter out pretty quickly. I’m much more interested in building lasting change through habit. But more on that at a future time.)

There are so many reasons not to write during the busy holiday season: events, obligations, traditions, expectations, inertia, busyness, shopping, cooking, and even just the desire to celebrate and rest up at the end a long year.

Why it’s better to keep writing than to take time off

But the truth is, it’s far better to keep writing — even if you’re just doing the bare minimum — than it is to stop writing.

Here’s why.

First, it’s much harder to get started writing again once you’ve stopped for more than a day or two (and for some of us even one day is too much!). Inertia and resistance builds up when we stop and it’s terrifically hard to overcome it and get going again. If you’re writing regularly, it’s easier to keep writing. If you’re NOT writing regularly, well, it’s easier to just keep on NOT WRITING.

And then the guilt and anxiety sets in. (This is the second reason. And it ain’t pretty. Who can really enjoy putting your feet up and watching a movie when you’ve got that nagging sick feeling in the pit of your stomach?)

This is because when you know you “should” be writing (and I use the word “should” here to mean that you’ve got a project YOU want to work on but you’re avoiding it), you’ll be experiencing a constant low level state of anxiety and guilt, which can ruin whole days at a time. 

You’re much better off aiming for what I call your “rock bottom daily writing goal“, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day.

Last, it’s much more inspiring to start the new year from a strong place that will only get stronger, rather than feeling like you’re behind and can never catch up.

What are your plans for writing during the holidays?

Let us know in the comments.

Join the Writer's CircleAnd if you want daily accountability and support to keep writing through the holidays, join the Writer’s Circle. Our next session starts soon! 

If the goal is too big, make it smaller

7 ways to beat procrastination

Ugh. Procrastination.

We’re all familiar with that simultaneous desire to write and the repulsion from writing that leads us into the nether realm of procrastination. We’re doing something else — ANYTHING else — and it can range from feeling like we’re doing something vitally important to just plain old digging our heels in and resisting.

Sometimes we tell ourselves we need to “warm up” first before we can write, with a little email, Facebook, or even a treat of some kind.

Or we decide we simply cannot tolerate the state of our physical space for a single minute longer — how many offices, bathrooms, and kitchens have seen the plus side of procrastination on a day when writing feels oh-so-hard to do?

Other things come up too, right? All those urgent deadlines, other people’s problems, our kids’ needs, that bit of online research you just can’t wait to do (you know, that one that snowballs into two hours of online nothingness — and yes, I speak from experience), or even bigger things, like that college degree you suddenly have to have.

Understanding procrastination

There are a few of key things to understand about procrastination:

1. It’s (usually) driven by fear. There’s some kind of fear coming up that’s stopping you from writing. You may not be clear on what it is, but trust me, it’s there. Fears of success, failure, commitment, overwhelm, rejection, praise, inability to deliver, etc. are most likely to come up. (When it’s not fear-driven, there’s usually something significant going on, like healing from a traumatic creative wound or recovering from creative burnout, but I would call that a block, a subject for a future post.)

2. Not taking action on your writing will keep you in a low grade state of anxiety, guilt, and shame. I say “low” but it can skyrocket into a full-on painful squirming-in-shame. So even if you’re pretending you are just watching your favorite TV show for a little treat before you get started and that it will help you relax into writing — check in with yourself — are you really, truly, in your heart-of-heart’s feeling relaxed? Or are you twitching with unrest and discomfort inside?

3. It’s a lot easier to fix than you think it is. There are some days when it simply isn’t possible to sit down and power through tons of writing. That’s okay. There are days when you can’t face your draft. That’s okay. But you CAN write, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

And ultimately, making small moves will help you beat procrastination in the big picture.

Beating procrastination

Here are seven ways you can beat procrastination and get back in the writing saddle:

1. Have a short but honest talk with yourself about what’s really going on. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. But it’s worth acknowledging in the privacy of your own mind, “Yes, I’m procrastinating, and it feels crummy. I’m going to do something about it.”

2. Tell someone what you’re doing. Find an accountability partner, a writing buddy, or a writing group (like my online Writer’s Circle) that will help you commit to doing the writing and seeing it through. It helps tremendously to say to another person (even if it’s your spouse or best friend!), “I’m going to write today no matter what.”

3. Make a deal with yourself to write ANYTHING for 15 minutes. I don’t care if you write morning pages, a list of all the reasons you hate writing, or actually work on your current writing project. Just get out a piece of paper or open your Scrivener file or Word document (I’m a Pages girl myself), and put words on the page, even if they are crap. (Using a timer for your 15 minutes is a special bonus tip – it’s like pressing the “GO” button. Try it!)

4. If 15 minutes feels like too much, make it smaller. The goal should be small enough that you find yourself saying, “Well, heck, I can at least do THAT much.” So if 15 minutes sounds daunting, do five. Or write ONE sentence (I’m not kidding). The key here is to get yourself into action WRITING. Period.

5. If you’ve racked up a lot of frequent procrastinator miles, STOP when you meet your goal. There are a LOT of writers I talk to who commit to write for 15 minutes, do it, and then find it so easy they keep on going. That’s great, if you’re just jump-starting yourself after a day or two away. But if you’ve been in the writing desert and the words have been few and far between, when you meet your writing goal for the day, stop and celebrate. Don’t break trust with yourself and keep on writing — you’ll only set yourself up for a bigger challenge tomorrow when you feel like you have to “do better” and suddenly have too daunting a goal to face. 

6. Reward yourself for writing. One of my favorite writers, writer-director Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy, The Avengers), rewards himself just for having an idea. Don’t be stingy here. Writing each day is the equivalent of beating back the forces of darkness. You deserve to whoop it up a little once you pull it off. Give yourself a piece of chocolate, a stretch in the sunshine, or even those things you’d normally be procrastinating with. Remember the email, Facebook, and favorite TV shows? Make those your cool downs instead of your warm ups and you’ll be good to go.

7. Do it again tomorrow! You’ve beaten procrastination today, great work!! Now, when you wake up tomorrow, use these tools to make a shorter path to writing. It’ll feel great. Then once you get on a roll, start building up to more over time.

Thanks for reading!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

 

There’s no right time to write

Join the Writer's CircleWe often trick ourselves into thinking there’s a “right” time to write. We plan special writing days. We dream of far-off futures where we’ll have plenty of time to write. But there really isn’t a “right” time — there’s only now. Join the next Writer’s Circle session (new sessions start every 28 days) and get help to beat procrastination and write every day.

Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com

Overcoming perfectionism and finding the love of writing

Sonya SiglerNote from Jenna: This guest post from one of the fabulous writers in my online Writer’s Circle coaching program: Sonya Sigler. In this article Sonya talks how she’s set herself up for ongoing success with her writing, despite her “love-hate” relationship with it (which so many of us have!).

Enjoy.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Writing

Putting good habits in place to find more of the love

by Sonya Sigler

I love, love, love the finished product from writing. I love hitting the publish button once I’ve written a blog post. I love submitting an article and hitting the send button before the deadline. I love seeing my work in print. I love to journal, for me and each of my kids (how else would I remember what they do on a daily basis?). Most of all, I love sharing knowledge and ideas with others through the written medium.

The big “but”

But, and this is a big but, I hate sitting down to write. Once I sit down to write, I apparently must send a big sign out to the universe to let the hemming and hawing begin, because once I sit down, the negative chorus in my head starts in, saying, “Why did you agree to do this?”

If I am at home, instead of writing, I’ll do the dishes and clean the kitchen. Or start a load of laundry. Or sweep and vacuum. If I’m at work, I clean my office, file things, or make phone calls. I check my email, I go on Facebook or LinkedIn to see what others are up to. I make a cup of tea, I look for food to eat (carbs, mostly, of course). I do ANYTHING but sit down and write!

In short, instead of sitting down to write, I procrastinate.

Why? Why do I procrastinate?

I procrastinate because I am letting perfect be the enemy of the good. I procrastinate because I want the entire article to be written in my head before I start. I procrastinate because I want my writing to convey the awesome ideas I have in my head – just as they appear in my head – elegant and articulate.

I procrastinate because I want my writing to be perfect.

Writing is a habit

What I’ve learned in the Writer’s Circle is that writing is a habit, and putting a good habit in place is the key to my writing success.

I’ve also learned that the writing habit is a constant and consistent process. I write a little every day. I have tons of ideas, so that isn’t the issue. For me, the issue is writing every day, consistently, for any amount of time. I now aim to write for five minutes a day.

I can hear you thinking now: “Five minutes, is that all?”

Yep, for me, that is the threshold of a set goal I can absolutely meet.

It’s also the amount time that motivates me to sit down and write. A target of 15 minutes of writing time was too high; I would blow it off, even though it was on my calendar. I would ignore it. I would say to myself, “Oh, you can write later this afternoon when you have more time.”

Really?

No.

That wasn’t working for me.

To achieve the success with my writing I wanted, I had to set a small goal that I could consistently meet, every day. For me, five minutes was it. Five minutes was a writing routine that I could do consistently, no matter what.

Other tricks for writing success

In order to make it as easy as possible to meet my five minute daily goal, I use other tricks to make writing happen, like:

  • Bringing my writing with me. I take a journal with me when I pick up the kids and find that I have to wait.
  • Sitting down first thing in the morning after exercising to write for five minutes. I jot down ideas. I write one word, one sentence, or one paragraph at a time.
  • Keeping drafts in Evernote I can access from any device. I bring my iPad or iPad Mini with me so that I can write when I have five minutes.

Letting go of preconceived notions

I also found that for this new habit to sink in and stick that I had to let go of a few preconceived notions about writing, like the idea of perfect writing conditions. I had in my mind the perfect writing condition being a long stretch of time (read, at least 8 hours), that is quiet with no distractions or interruptions.

Yeah, right. When has that ever happened?

Never.

I also had to let go of the notion of “proper” writing. I’m an attorney. I do a lot of legal writing, a lot of writing for lawyers. I’ve had to let go of the idea that I am writing a formal or “proper” law review-like article with extensive footnotes and case citations. To let go of the notion of proper writing I’ve learned to keep my audience in mind so I can write in the voice for that particular audience, whether it is lawyers, technologists, moms, or entrepreneurs.

Lessening perfection to find the love

Changing my writing habit required a mind-shift – letting go of the notion that perfect writing conditions exist and letting go of the notion of always having to do “proper” writing. Changing my writing habit also required me to put a few things in place to make writing easy to say “Yes” to each day.

Now, I believe I can write whether I sit down for five minutes at a time or for an hour, and whether I sit down to write one word at a time or one sentence at a time. Sometimes the words all flow out at once, sometimes the writing is painstakingly done one word at a time.

In any case, eventually, it gets done. This awareness and shift in thinking helped lessen the grip of “perfection” on me and allows me to spend more time on the “love” side of writing!

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Sonya Sigler is an executive coach, consulting in operations, legal, and business development with start-ups and other high-growth companies. She is a staunch advocate for women in technology and is focused on sharing practical advice. You can find her online at http://www.sonyasigler.com, view her LinkedIn profile, or follow her on Twitter @sonyasigler.

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Thanks for reading!

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

 

The Power Of Showing Up To Write

View More: http://olimbphotography.pass.us/girl-power-for-goodNote from Jenna: This guest post is from Terri Fedonczak, a parenting coach, author, and Writer’s Circle coach.

I’ve loved working with Terri through the Circle over the last few years, first as a participant, then as a coach. She knocked our socks off by finishing the first draft of her parenting book in just three 28-day sessions of the Writer’s Circle in 15 minute increments of time – after having had the book “brewing” in her for over 15 years. Amazing!

Just Show Up

by Terri Fedonczak

When I joined the Writer’s Circle in 2012, I knew that I wanted to finally get my book out of my head and into my computer. I had been “writing” this parenting book for 15 years, as I knew that I needed to get one kid through adolescence before I could have any street cred with other parents. I put writing in quotations, because the book was mostly on tape. The little bit of writing that I did have was on sticky notes and spread across a dozen journals.

In my first session with the Circle, I thought I would just get organized. My goals were very small: only 15 minutes a day 6 to 7 days a week. Much to my surprise, I finished the rough draft in just three sessions. “Rough” is an understatement as a descriptor for that first draft. It was a 30-page booklet of disjointed ideas. I told myself that I wanted to keep it short, because parents were too busy to read a long book. That was a nice justification for keeping the real story to myself.

When I sent my booklet to my chosen editor, she immediately outed me. She said, “I will edit this book the way it is, but it wants to be so much more. There’s no heart and soul in it. YOU aren’t in your book. There’s nothing about your breast cancer, no struggle, no life coaching journey . . . there’s no mess here. Parenting is messy. You need to show other parents your mess.” She was right. And that started an 18 month journey of re-writes and edits.

Let Go of Expectations

One thing I’ve learned in the Writer’s Circle is that writing is both infinitely easier and more challenging than I ever expected. It’s more helpful if you flush your expectations of how long it will take or who will like it and just keep showing up to the page every day.

As a coach, I see brilliant writers spending lots of time and energy worrying about what other people will think of their writing, or fretting about how long it will take (or is taking). All this worry keeps us in ours heads. Good writing doesn’t come from the head – it comes from the heart. Meaningful writing grabs the reader with its simplicity and elegance and just won’t let go.

As readers, we don’t care about how long the writing took or how smart the author is, we want to care about what we’re reading. You can’t fake that or wordsmith your way around it. All you can do is show up to the page and show us your mess.

From Dream to Reality

Field Guide to Plugged In ParentingMy book went from a dream to a reality. It’s now on Amazon* and Barnes and Noble online, and it was endorsed by the Washington Post as a “must read” in their February Parenting Book Round Up.

But more importantly, I have parents tell me how much the book has changed their parenting for the better. That makes it all worthwhile. 

This Is What Success Looks Like

So, 15 years of vomiting ideas onto paper or tape, one month to a rough draft, and 18 months to re-write and publish. This is what success looks like; it’s not quick and it’s not easy. But with the support of other writers, a dogged determination to show up to the page every day, even just for 5 minutes, and the courage to show us your mess, you will arrive at your own version of success.

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terriTerri Fedonczak wants to live in a world where girls recognize their own power and choose to use it for good. On a trip to South Africa, Terri saw the power of the lioness and how they support their pride; it was a lightning bolt of realization that her mission is to bring the power of the pride to girls and their parents. Terri was a commercial real estate agent for 16 years until a bout with breast cancer transformed her life in 2010. She realized that trading money and status for time with her four girls and patient husband was not quite the deal she thought it once was. She left sales to become a certified life coach and embark upon a journey of spreading the message of girl power far and wide.

Terri is a featured speaker at the Costa Leadership Institute, helping adults balance their lives, and she takes the girl power message into high schools, talking to 9th grade girls about how to thrive in high school. Her first book, Field Guide to Plugged-in Parenting, Even If You Were Raised by Wolves, debuted in 2013. When she’s not speaking, coaching or blogging, you can find her paddle boarding on the sparkling waters of Boggy Bayou, knitting to the consternation of her children, who are buried in scarves and hats, or dancing in her kitchen to Motown.

You can discover your own inner lioness and feel the power of the pride at www.girlpowerforgood.com.

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Thanks for reading!

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Warmly,

Jenna

 

 

 

* Affiliate link