2011 in a Nutshell: Fire, Ready, Aim

Seth Godin did a post a while back on goals. It speaks to the sweet spot between effort and aim. Because it’s brief and encapsulates my philosophy, I’ll quote it in its entirety.

Low expectations are often a self-fulfilling prophecy. We insulate ourselves from failure, don’t try as hard, brace for the worst and often get it.

High expectations, on the other hand, will inevitably lead to disappointment. Keep raising what you expect and sooner or later (probably sooner) it’s not going to happen. And we know that a good outcome that’s less than the great one we hoped for actually feels like failure.

Perhaps it’s worth considering no expectations. Intense effort followed by an acceptance of what you get in return. It doesn’t make good TV, but it’s a discipline that can turn you into a professional.

If I were to focus on my fiction word count this year — and trust me, there are weeks where this can feel like the only measure that matters to me — I’ve failed dismally. But because I’m trying to follow my nose and allow myself time to discover my purpose and voice, it’s been a fun year, peeps. I’m so grateful for what I’ve learned. I’m also a little boggled at what I did accomplish without a left-brained plan. Here are a few of the things I tracked:


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Results of the Mary Stewart-Worthy 1st Paragraph Contest

Our esteemed judge, Sophie Masson

Jan here: First, I want to say a big thank you to all who participated. I’ve never run a contest like this before, and it was important to me to do Ms. Stewart proud. You, your entries, and your supportive comments made it happen. Muchas gracias.

Thanks also to our estimable judge, Sophie Masson. She has published more than 50 books, is a regular contributor at Writer Unboxed, and has won multiple writing awards in her own right — most recently the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature for My Australian Story: The Hunt for Ned Kelly. In addition to her time and comments, Sophie generously offered the a prize to the second-place winner. Details are below.

The rest of this post belongs to her.

And the results:

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Survey on Author Interviews

While Sophie Masson handles the difficult task of selecting a winner and two runners-up from the Mary Stewart contest, would you like to help me with some research? This 8-question survey should not take more than 5 minutes, but I’d be grateful for your time and input. I’m using the responses for several things:

  • My own learning as an interviewer and hopeful future interviewee
  • To put the finishing touches on a two-part post for Writer Unboxed, meant to be a resource on interviewing (will air June 11 and 12th)

If you have feedback that doesn’t fit within the poll, please leave it in the section designated as “other”, in the comment section below, or if it’s of a confidential nature, please e-mail me.

Because I would like to increase validity, the more responses the better. Please pass the word to other writers. Thank you so much!

ETA: Survey results are completely anonymous, even to me, so please feel free to be honest. If you select “other”, it’s very helpful if you can specify.

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Can You Write a Mary Stewart-Worthy First Paragraph?

Last October, when author Sophie Masson paid tribute to Mary Stewart on Writer Unboxed, it was no hardship for me to jump on board with a gushing comment. I’ve read every word Ms. Stewart wrote – often more than once. I love her determined heroines, her enigmatic heroes, the exotic settings, and the tension she infused into every perfectly crafted scene. In fact, when I attempted my first real novel in eighth grade, it was Mary Stewart I hoped to emulate.

Imagine my delight, then, when Ms. Stewart’s publisher, Hodder & Stoughton,  tracked me down with an offer: They are reissuing her romantic suspenses, complete with the charming, retro covers seen below.

Further, they’re providing me with a set of these novels to give to a worthy recipient. (Click here for more about her books.)

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I did some thinking, and because this is such a fab prize, and because so many of you are writers, I want to turn this into a contest which pays tribute to Ms. Stewart. First-place winner will walk off with the books, and two runners-up earn bragging rights.

To enter the contest, you will:

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