It’s the Readers Who Make the Magic

If you have somehow managed to escape all my shameless self-promotion in recent months, here’s what you need to know: I wrote a book! A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude is available on Amazon.com in paperback form, and soon it will also be available as an e-book for Kindle, and Amy Sassenberg’s photos will be in color in that version! This is all very exciting for me. If you had asked me a year ago if this was to be in my future, I’d have laughed.

I have learned a lot from this experience. The biggest lesson is that it’s the readers who create the magic. I used to think authors were conjuring up amazing reading experiences, and because of that, I was in awe. But I was so incredibly wrong.

Yes, the writers do the writing, and the publishers do the publishing, but their work is lifeless and inanimate if there is no one out there to read it. A book without a reader may as well be a brick that one uses to prop open a door. An unread book gathers dust.

I am lucky in that I came to this avocation at a time in our history when reader’s feedback is easy and instantaneous. People e-mail me. They contact me on this blog. They comment in my Facebook group. They also leave much needed (and strongly encouraged) reviews on my Amazon page.

What this means is that I get to share in the magic that you, dear reader, make. I get to experience your reactions. I learn how you feel when you read the book. I discover that each reader has a different encounter with it, quite often one that I hadn’t anticipated. That’s because you are bringing your unique insights to the reading experience. That’s the ingredient that only you can provide.

I can never seem to adequately express just what that means to me. I read your reviews and your comments and I get all choked up. I get tears in my eyes. My heart feels like it swells. What a gift you have given me! Thank you so much!

This first book was about gratitude, but I had no idea just how grateful I would be for you. Thank you for giving my book life. Thank you for making my words have meaning.

Without further ado, I’ll leave you with some excerpts from my Amazon reviews, so you can see why this whole process has made me so emotional. Imagine getting compliments like these! I hope you’ll consider adding your review to their number!

“Barb is ALWAYS entertaining, and whether you agree with her or not, you will likely learn something every time you read her. She will inform, annoy, and inspire you. As a dedicated reader of her blog from the beginning, I have seen many sides of her, and watched her through grief and growth. This is her best, will make you a fan, lift your spirits, cause you to recognize things in yourself you could not articulate. She is real, she is smart, she is funny. You WILL laugh out loud at some point. You will learn SEVERAL interesting things that you did not know. And you will PONDER more than one entry for longer than you expected.” –Amazon Customer

“What a wonderful book. I keep it by my bedside so I can read a chapter before I go to bed. Since the focus of this volume is on gratitude, it’s the perfect way to get your head in the right space to go to sleep focusing on the good there is in this world. Barb is a gifted writer with keen insight into the world around her. This is a book you will keep for years. Timeless thoughts about things that matter – sometimes in big ways, sometimes subtly. It’s crazy. She makes me want to be a better person just by what she shares in her posts. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll marvel at her candor. And you’ll be really glad you bought this book.” – K. Reviews

“A wonderful read. I feel like I’m looking over Barb’s shoulder as her journey through life unfolds. Her take on situations we all encounter, often unconsciously, every day, took me from laughing to reflecting on how I might deal with the same situation. How hard it must have been to pull up roots and move 3100 miles to a place where you know no one? I’m not sure I could. I grew up on the wit and humor of Erma Bombeck and some of the posts in the book remind me of reading Erma’s wonderful writings.” –Firewalker

“This is just an introduction to the refreshingly honest world of a brave woman. As she takes you along on her journey of introspection, observation and acceptance, she challenges and inspires you to open your heart and mind. Whether you agree and identify with her insights and beliefs, or not, you can’t help but be uplifted by her commitment to them. She’s an open book worth reading and based on her prolific blog entries she has a lot more to gift us. Looking forward to see where else her journey will take us.” – Lyn

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I’m Tweeting

I have been Twitter-resistant for years. I just didn’t see the point. Between this blog and Facebook and e-mail and Second Life, I already felt as if my social media world was rich and nuanced. I also worried that if I added one more thing, my introverted little self would be crushed under the sheer weight of the stimulation.

In addition, in case you hadn’t noticed, I tend to be rather verbose. How could I possibly restrict my thoughts to a mere 140 characters? And then a funny thing happened. I decided to publish a book.

One of the mistakes many writers make is thinking that once their books have been written, their job is done. Au contraire. That’s when you’re just getting started. Many a book has died aborning because the feeble promotional effort has left it moldering on some dusty shelf.

As my first book approaches its final edit, it became obvious to me that I’d have to have courage to take flight in the Twitter-verse, or I’d be missing a vast potential audience. Thank goodness I have a dear friend who was able to answer all my silly, nervous questions.

Now, instead of thinking of each little tweet as a restriction of my words, I’ve come to think of it as a sort of haiku. I have to get creative to force my thoughts into the restrictions imposed, but what that has done is oblige me to get innovative.

But, having leapt off the twitter cliff, I seem to have plunged into the wallflower abyss. I’ve only managed so far to get 8 followers. And some mornings I’ll wake up and find I have lost one. Heartbreaking. It’s reminding me of all the times I got picked last in gym class.

I really need to put this in perspective. It took me years to build up a following on my blog. It’s ridiculous to think I’d get a million twitter followers in a few days. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

And along the way, go figure, I’m starting to like it. Tentatively. Hesitantly. Perhaps that had been my fear all along–that I’d like it too much. That I would turn into one of those constantly twittering people that I’ve made fun of for years.

Well, be that as it may, I am now a tweeter. Follow me here if you so desire!

Twitter Bird

Spiting Yourself

I know someone who was passed over for a promotion that everyone assumed he would get. He’d earned it. He deserved it. He had been doing that job without the promotion for well over a year. But when the time came, someone else got hired. He even had to train that person.

Needless to say, he’s very bitter about the situation. I can’t blame him. I would be, too. But what he did next surprised me. When the next promotion became available, he didn’t apply for it. When I asked him about it, he said, “I want them to have to come to me and ask me why.”

Uh…what? So, basically, you just cut yourself off from a chance at a promotion in the hopes that you’re going to have an opportunity to make a grand speech which is supposed to make them grovel? You may as well have said, “Yeah, I cut off my nose so that my enemies would ask me why.”

What he fails to realize is that if they do bother to ask (and they most assuredly won’t), they’ll phrase it like this: “Why did you cut off your nose, you idiot?”

Being self-destructive to spite others is the most stupid move anyone could make. For example, I know several people who started smoking to piss off their parents. Well, their parents aren’t going to be the ones to get the chemotherapy. Risking your life to get someone’s attention is also a fool’s errand.

What my friend did by not applying for that job is the equivalent of a four year old saying, “I’m gonna hold my breath until I turn blue!” Well, have fun, kid. Hope you don’t crack open your skull when you pass out.

[Image credit: masoncountyprogressive.com]
[Image credit: masoncountyprogressive.com]

“You Have a Book in You.”

Since about the age of 8 I’ve been told I should be a writer. Indeed, I’ve had a few articles published, but nothing for pay. And of course there’s this blog, which is a creative outlet that I have found I can no longer do without.

In every job I’ve had I seem to eventually wash up on the shores of writer-land. Either I get volunteered to write the company newsletter or I’m asked to put together a contract proposal on the side. Currently I’ve been approached to join a committee and get involved in writing training procedures. Don’t get me wrong. I love doing these things. It’s just a constant source of amusement that I seem to always land in this place in spite of the fact that I honestly don’t see myself consciously paddling my boat in this direction. It’s as if I’m in some sort of writers’ Gulf Stream that carries me along without my having to navigate.

I’ve been told I should write for a living. To that I say, “Pish!” I like to eat and pay my bills. Many people have said I should write a book, and maybe I will someday, but there are quite a few hurdles I’d have to jump over before I could reach that goal. First of all, it’s easier to be struck by lightning than it is to be published these days. People are just not buying books like they used to. And even if you get published, the big publishing houses don’t seem to be promoting their authors that much anymore, unless you’re one of their all-stars.

Self-publish? Maybe. But then you have to be a phenomenal PR person, and persuasion has never been my strong suit. It’s hard to get the public’s attention, and that is a skill set that I don’t seem to have.

Also, anyone can put out an e-book or self-publish. Yes, there are a lot of good writers who do this, but you have to wade through an ocean of crap to find them, and most readers aren’t willing to do so. Believe me, I know several people who hare published and the product they have put out is an embarrassment to the written word. So there’s a stigma.

But the main roadblock to my writing a full length book is my utter lack of follow through. If you could only see my cluttered house you’d know that to be true. How could I write a novel when I can’t even be bothered to balance my checkbook?

And then there’s the confidence thing. I can’t imagine that I have enough to say on any one topic that I could hold someone’s interest for 300 pages. I mean, seriously, who am I? Yes, interesting things have happened in my life, and I’d like to think that I have a unique perspective. But when I contemplate trying to hold forth on that perspective for any length of time, I get no pictures.

Maybe that’s why this blog appeals to me so much. Each day I can write about something new, and I don’t have to plan that far ahead. I don’t have to develop a plot or come up with a story arc. I just get to do what I like to do, which is write. Just because you love to do something and have a knack for it doesn’t mean you have to twist it into a money making machine.

If I had all the money and time in the world, I’d pursue a Masters of Fine Arts degree. I think that would be fun and exciting and I’m sure I’d learn a great deal from it. But I already have 3 degrees that have gotten me nowhere in life. I’m still paying off the last one, and I’m loathe to add a fourth to my wall of shame.

Maybe I do have a book in me. Maybe not. Maybe writer-land is actually a chain of islands, and I’ve been washing up on one of the small ones, like Molokai, instead of the big island of Hawaii. Who knows where the current will take me next. But I have to say, if it turns out to be my final destination,  Molokai isn’t such a bad place to be.

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Humbly Reaching Out

From a recent conversation with my boyfriend:

Me: All of a sudden so many good things are happening in my life! I’ve got that job interview, I got a promotion in my captioning job, I got my 100th follower on my blog, and I just saved a couple hundred bucks by transferring a credit card balance. Could it be that the pendulum is swinging back the other way, finally? Could my luck be changing? I should buy a lottery ticket.

BF: Just remember that this is from YOU reaching out. Not the other way around. Keep reaching out and the way will show itself to you.

Me: You’re right. But, too, it DOES seem like it is the very times when I step back and surrender and stop trying to force things…that’s when things start to get better. Sometimes I just have to get out of my own way.

BF: I learned that from hitchhiking. The more you want and NEED a ride, the less chance someone will stop.

Me: Exactly! So, reach out by sticking your thumb out, but don’t add desperation into the mix. Don’t insist. Don’t expect everything at once. Just make yourself available to the abundance should it come your way, and then see what happens.

————–

That’s a difficult balance to maintain. Reaching out but not clutching, grasping, forcing it. Being humble without being passive. Being open without having expectations. Trying to reach a goal without anticipating an outcome. Having faith but taking responsibility for yourself.

I think finding the right balance will be something I’ll have to work on my entire life. But as it stands now, I did wind up getting the job!

On the other hand, I only matched two out of the six numbers on that lottery ticket. But hey, that’s one number more than is usual for me! Which is probably why I rarely buy them.

Hitchhiker Jericho

[Image credit: solanotempest.net]

P.S. Please do not take this as an endorsement of hitchhiking. In this day and age it’s entirely too dangerous. Getting across town, let alone across the country, isn’t worth your life. Unfortunately, this is not the world of my youth.