Master of my own universe

These days, I’ve been actively trying to take control of my own happiness rather than relying on others, circumstance, luck, or fate to bring it to me. This post outlines two recent instances where I took action to be the master of my own universe. In this blog post, I am publicly giving myself a pat on the back and saying, “Go Meri!”

After spending time with my writer friends, I’m always super motivated to improve the quality of my writing and try new things for marketing. I also feel so understood by my author buddies because they share so many of my dreams and frustrations, and if they don’t have the answers to my questions, it’s usually because they are seeking them as well. Being united in cluelessness is pretty bonding. My friendships with some of these people go beyond our shared writer identities. I’ve gotten to know and love them as individuals, which only adds to the positive effect they have on my life. Unfortunately, most of these friends do not live close enough for me to see them with frequency, and we are limited to communication mostly by email and social media. Although I can’t simply clone the heart of these people in my hometown, I’ve been wishing I could at least find a group of published authors in the city who would want to meet in person monthly and dish about writing, publishing, marketing etc. There are plenty of groups out there for writers in general and still more for people looking for feedback in their writing, but I’d never seen a club for published authors who simply want to talk shop over a drink, coffee, snack etc. Rather than continue to wait for someone else to organize such a group, I took matters into my own hands and I started one myself. Announced a week ago, the group already has close to 100 members, although meetings will be limited to fewer people, about 10-20. I hope this group yields the comradery I’m seeking, but if the result doesn’t meet my highest expectations, I’m still proud of myself for taking the initiative rather than leaving it in someone else’s hands.

I’ve also been trying to think outside of the box with respect to marketing my novels and my own author brand beyond the “usual.” Of course, I post blogs on my own website and am active on social media, but aside from that and the occasional sales of my individual books, I haven’t done much lately to really put myself out there. Because I have a full-time job as a paralegal, I prefer to spend my “writing” time working on my novels or my blogs. I rarely write guest posts for other authors unless the other author has a large following. It’s nothing personal to the author, but I really need to balance my marketing efforts with the time I have available and the likelihood that the results will be worth the time spent. But how does one find third party websites with the potential to reach a large, relevant audience? It would be wonderful if someone like Sophie Kinsella or Jennifer Weiner would invite me to post on her blog, or if Glamour or Cosmopolitan magazines came calling, but it’s highly improbable. But seeking out publications I think would appeal to my target reader and pitching my writing to them is something I can do. And so I did. I was told the pitch letter is as important as the article itself because if the person who reads the pitch is not sufficiently intrigued, they won’t ask to see the article. In my efforts to take matters into my own hands, I came up with an idea for an article, drafted a pitch letter (with the help of an author friend with more experience) and wrote the article (also with my friend’s keen eye). Thankfully, the pitch did its job by piquing the editor’s interest enough to ask to the see the article and I’m thrilled to say that my first ever article for a magazine “5 Tips for Making a First Impression inspired by The Bachelor” was published today in the Happy Ever After column of USA Today. You can read it here.

There is so much in this world that we cannot control, but some things in life do require us to make the first move in order to get anywhere and, to the extent possible, I want to continue to be the master of my own universe, both professionally and personally.

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my trip to Toronto Part I

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the scandal involving Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford.  I’m not blogging about him today and lord knows, New York City has had its share of politician-related disgraces, but the subject of my post is Toronto.

I had the privilege of spending a few days in Toronto for the first time a couple of weeks ago. The reason for the trip was an author event called BookBuzz. You might remember that I co-founded the BookBuzz author event with fellow authors  Samantha Stroh Bailey (“Sam”) and Francine LaSala at our inaugural event in New York City in May. The Toronto event was the second in what we hope will be a long tradition of author/reader mix and mingles. At the outset, this is not a blog about Toronto BookBuzz as much as a blog about my personal experience in Toronto. If you would like specific information on the event and the participating authors, I recommend checking out the following blogs:

http://samanthastrohbailey.blogspot.com/
http://www.justalillost.com/2013/11/recap-book-buzz-to-2013/
http://ahiddenlife.com/2013/11/10/a-night-out-with-bookbuzzto/
http://www.freshprintmagazine.com/creating-a-bookbuzz/
http://booksandstuff-kstar.blogspot.com/2013/11/event-recap-bookbuzz-toronto.html

Let’s start at the beginning.

First impressions:

If you’ve ever flown into the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, you know that it is on an island and there is a ferry that takes you into Toronto. I thought that was totally cool. Sam lives in Toronto and was kind enough to save me cab fare by meeting me at the airport and giving me a ride to my hotel. During the drive, she played tour guide pointing out the different neighborhoods we passed. (I tried not to laugh when she had to call her husband repeatedly for directions. Apparently, it was the first time she had ever driven to that airport. I didn’t even know the city had more than one.) One observation I made about Toronto is that parts of it remind me of Seattle, Washington, mostly the waterfront and a building that looks just like the Space Needle!

spaceneedle

Hotel:

I stayed at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel (referred to by the locals as the “Delta Chelsea” for reasons unknown to me J ).  The hotel was enormous and bustling with energy but the service was very friendly. I dropped my bag in my room and headed to one of the many restaurants for lunch where I was robbed blind—$20 for a turkey sandwich, an apple and a cup of coffee! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering I’m a New Yorker, but sheesh! After lunch, I took a brief nap and then showered and got ready for the party. I was meeting at Sam’s house and heading over to the party at The Crest from there. Another observation about Toronto is that the traffic is off the hook. In a really bad way! What I thought would be a twenty minute cab ride took close to an hour as we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The cab driver told me that Toronto had the worst traffic of any city in North America. He wasn’t kidding. And the cab smelled bad to boot. I was so excited to finally arrive at Sam’s house that I literally fell out of the cab along with my bag of books.

After a tour of Sam’s house and a small glass of quality Scotch, we called a cab and set off to the party at The Crest.

BookBuzz

bookbuzzsign

Have you ever grown super fond of a person you’ve never actually met and finally been given a chance to meet face-to-face? If so, were you nervous? Well, then you can imagine how I was feeling.  I’ve been in the situation before, but each time is unique since each “virtual” relationship I make is different. I was both excited and scared to death to meet my fellow BookBuzzers in person, especially, Samantha March, Kaley Stewart and Cat Lavoie, having gotten to know them so well online. I must confess that the initial introductions were awkward for me, but after drinking my first Pink Stiletto and taking a deep breath, I realized these women were the same people I had countless conversations with on Facebook, Twitter and via email and I had nothing to fear.

pinkstiletto

The party was beyond awesome! We had a great crowd and I got to talk to enthusiastic readers, sign some books, and get to know my fellow authors better. I was even interviewed by a couple of journalists who were reporting on the event. A slide show of all of the author’s bios and book covers ran continuously and every so often, I looked up and saw my picture on the wall. It was surreal (and a little embarrassing)! At the start of the party, there was discussion of an after party but by the time the event was over, we were all zapped of energy. With a promise to meet for brunch the next day, we all retired to our respective houses/hotel rooms, although most of us were so high on adrenaline that we couldn’t fall asleep.

bookbuzzca

Stay tuned for Part Two!