Pose for the paparazzi. Autograph your books.
Write like a dream, promote like a rock star.
Fame and fortune are yours!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jumpstart Monday // DECIDE what's important to you as a writer

When we forget why we're writing, when we forget our vision, it's easy to get disillusioned when success seems illusive. This video, and the Egyptian uprising, can help us remember why it's so important to keep writing, even if it appears no one's reading.

Keep writing. Market yourself. Your readers will find you.

Donna Marie

Thursday, February 10, 2011

10 radical ideas for getting kids to read

Our children don't like to read, and their abysmal reading scores reflect this disdain. While they are proficient at haiku length, phonics-based texting and Tweeting, their eyes glaze over when they have to read a book. 

This is an urgent issue for self-publishers. These same children who can't read today will be the adults of tomorrow negatively impacting your book sales tomorrow.

In some cities, illiteracy among 4th and 8th graders is as high as 73 percent. This sad state of affairs will never improve until students develop a love for reading. Until they begin to read solely for pleasure. 

A virtual army of educators, researchers, parents, and reading specialists have been wrestling with this problem for decades. Worthy literacy programs exist, but for some reason the problem seems more entrenched than ever. 

It's time to think out of the box. I tried to come up with the craziest ideas that just might work. Honestly, some of the following ideas are not even all that radical, but they are long overdue. Here are my top ten crazy ideas for getting kids to read.

1. Join the eBook revolution! U.S. Department of Education: develop a program to subsidize the purchase of eBook readers for all public school students. This will save on the cost of textbooks in the long run. Book stores: offer generous discount coupons to parents, students, and teachers toward eBook purchases. Parents: accompany kids on eBook shopping sprees. PTA/PTO: host an eBook fair. Principals: ban print textbooks and convert to eBooks. Kids may read more if their books are on anything that resembles a cell phone or computer. (By the way, colleges: convert to eBooks. Help students and parents save a few bucks, and give the environment a break. Go green!)

2. Parents: every hour of video game playing must be matched by one hour of book reading. 

3. Parents: reading to an audience is fun, so have young children read aloud to their teddy bears and toys. 

4. Parents: convert TV time into a readfest and activate multiple learning styles. Turn on your TV's closed caption function to display text so that kids can read and watch the action simultaneously. During commercials, press mute and have kids read a book or magazine. 

5. Teachers: while riding on the yellow school bus to school or a field trip, have kids read comic books, magazines, and books for fun. Students who suffer motion sickness (documented by a parent) can listen to a book on tape. 

6. Churches: Replace Sunday services with read-a-thons. If we must study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15 KJ), then read-a-thons should be the Sunday morning service until students' test scores dramatically improve. Give 15 minutes to prayer and scripture, then read for the next hour and 45 minutes. Read to young children. Older children can read aloud, to each other, or silently. Provide private, closed-door classes for illiterate adults during service. After read-a-thon, collect tithes and offerings. Give the closing benediction. God bless. Go home. In my opinion, this is God's work. 

7. Have kids listen to the funky, catchy tune "Read, Baby, Read" from the CD School's In Session by high school football coach and national motivational speaker, Alfred "Coach" Powell. Play it on a loop in the car and as background music while kids are doing homework. 

8. On road trips, call out a letter, then have kids find words for that letter on billboards, vanity plates, passing signs, etc. Coach Powell says on road trips to football games, his student-athletes defuse the tension by calling out the names of cars. The athlete who shouts the name first has to spell the make, model, and color of the car. If spelled correctly, he gets to punch a teammate on the shoulder a la the Volkswagen commercial. Disclaimer: we do not advocate youth violence, but a friendly tap is okay. 

9. Become an agent provocateur of reading. If you're brave, infiltrate places where young males hang out, such as street corners, community centers, basketball courts, and parks. Pull out a book that might interest them and begin to silently read. Laugh aloud and say things like, "Aw man!" and "Oh no he di'nt!" Slowly but surely, the youngsters will ask, "What you reading, man?" Why focus on males in particular? According to several studies, many youth who get entangled with the juvenile justice system are reading below grade level. It's very possible that reading proficiency could help keep them out of jail. 

10. Last but definitely not least, cuddle up and read to kids every night before going to bed!

Next step: implementation!

Can you think of some other crazy ideas that just might work or have worked in your home or school? 

Donna Marie

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Easy book writing for people who talk

Speakers, if you haven’t written a book yet, you’re cutting yourself off at your financial knees. The tried and true business model for speakers includes writing a book that can be sliced and diced in multiple ways, including CDs and DVDs, eBooks, articles, blog posts, even Apps. But the book lays the foundation. 

Monetary benefits aside…
  • Books extend your influence beyond the podium. You can’t be in multiple places at one time, but your books can.
  • Books market your products and services. How often have you been so captivated by a book that you immediately searched for the author’s website to investigate her other offerings?
  • Books build your credibility as a media expert. When you’ve published a book, people believe you know what you’re talking about. Books serve as your calling card to print journalists and talk show hosts who are always on the lookout for experts on various topics.

As an editor and writing coach who has worked exclusively with speakers over the past few years, I’ve learned that some speakers trap themselves into never ending cycles of frustration when they talk about writing a book rather than actually writing one.

Try forcing the issue by taking a speaker off the stage and putting a blank piece of paper in front of him. He may get what I call “page fright.” Taken out of his comfort zone, he starts remembering his mean English teacher with the red pencil.

Never fear. Writing a book doesn’t have to be as painful as writing a research paper. Yes, it does require a lot of work, but when you use your natural speaking gifts, writing a book can be just as enjoyable as delivering a speech. 

If you’re a good writer and a good speaker, you’re one of those rare beings who was blessed by the communications angels. Most of us have one dominant mode of communication: speaking or writing. If you’re unsure of your writing ability, seek out a writer, editor, or coach. To produce a quality product, this is all-important. Even veteran writers need to be edited and proofed, so a word to the wise: don’t cut corners.

Use your voice to write your book!

1. Record and transcribe. Invest in a good recorder and keep it handy so that you can speak your book while doing solitary activities (like driving). One of my clients works this way. At the end of a few months, he sends me several microcassette tapes. I transcribe them and edit the transcription.

Before you record one word, take the time to plan your book out first. Developing a simple Table of Contents will help focus and organize your thoughts. Jotting down a few notes per chapter will also help. The structure may change in time, but for now, it’s a good way to start. 

2. Take notes. Last year I worked with a pastor who likes to take notes while studying scripture. These notes form the basis of his sermons, and he realized they could also lay the foundation for his first book. He developed his Table of Contents, used that to organize his notes, and then began to write. I edited the manuscript, and he was delighted to finally self-publish his first book after 10 years of talking about it! 

By the way, when you’re writing your first draft, don’t worry about getting every sentence grammatically perfect. This will create page fright and shut down all creativity. Just let the words and ideas flow. You and your editor can fix it later.

3. Transcribe speeches. I include this method with caution. If you are an extemporaneous speaker, your transcribed speeches should serve only as the launching pad for your book, not the actual narrative. That would be too easy! I once tried to transcribe such a speech, but I soon realized that it was an exercise in futility. All those repetitions, colloquialisms, mmm’s, and ahhh’s that are so powerful at the podium fall flat on the page. 

Take the time to plan your speeches for the sole purpose of using them to develop your book. This may go against the grain of extemporaneous speakers, but trust me, planning your speeches, even preparing a script, will help in the book writing process.

Recording, transcribing, and note taking tap into speakers’ natural mode of planning and communicating, and they will definitely help speed up the process of writing a book. Just keep in mind that a transcription is not a book. You'll still have more writing to do. 

“Write like you talk!” my mother, the English teacher, used to tell her students. And I’ll add, it may be tough but stop talking about writing a book and get to writing!

Donna Marie