Guest blogger Jonathan Selwood: Offbeat or Offensive?

Hello, campers —
Anne here, bringing you your promised treat for hanging on through Book Marketing 101: a guest post from the subversively hilarious author Jonathan Selwood. Since Jonathan’s first novel, The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse, is coming out from Harper Perennial next week, I’ve asked him to share his insights on how to market offbeat fiction.

He generously agreed — and the results surpassed even my high expectations. This is one seriously creative marketer.

If anyone is qualified to enlighten us on the subject of selling controversial writing, it’s Jonathan. Check out the blurb for his book:

For years, painter Isabel Raven has made an almost-living forging Impressionist masterpieces to decorate the McMansions of the not-quite-Sotheby’s-auction rich. But when she serendipitously hits on an idea that turns her into the It Girl of the L.A. art scene, her career takes off just as the rest of her life heads south. Her personal-chef boyfriend is having a wild sexual dalliance with the teenage self-styled Latina Britney Spears. If Isabel refuses to participate in an excruciatingly humiliating ad campaign, her sociopathic art dealer is threatening to gut her like an emu. And her reclusive physicist father has conclusively proven that the end of the world is just around the corner.

Now, with the Apocalypse looming — and with only a disaffected Dutch-Eskimo billionaire philanthropist and his dissolute thirteen-year-old adopted daughter to guide her — there’s barely enough time remaining for Isabel to reexamine her fragile delusional existence…and the delusional reality of her schizophrenic native city.

Now that, my friends, is a PITCH. Take it away, Jonathan!


I don’t think I’m going to shock anyone if I say that it’s difficult to market an “offbeat” novel. The truth is it’s difficult to market any novel, and the less an author’s work fits into one of the currently hot genres, the more complicated the task becomes. So how does one best go about it? I have no #%$#&@% clue. What I do know is how I’ve tried to go about it.

As a first-time novelist with a dark comedy that at least one blogger described as “stumbling drunk through a fun house,” I began my marketing endeavors by looking online to see what some of the other less mainstream authors (read: mentally ill) like myself were doing.

I soon found that the answer was not much. Since the first thing I do when I hear about a new writer is start Googling, I was baffled to find that many of my favorite writers didn’t have websites or even MySpace pages. This seemed… insane.

I knew that if my little dark comedy was going to stand out in a tabloid world glutted with photos of pantyless starlets snorting cocaine, I’d have to do more than just send out a few reviewer copies and hope for the best. I also knew that the only way to get myself to put actual effort into marketing was to break out a fifth of Old Crow and try to have fun with it.

My first step was to design a webpage. Since I wanted the same kind of control over it that I have over my writing (I’m one of those sub-clinical OCD rewriters), I decided to learn HTML and design it myself.

Was this an efficient use of my time? No. In fact, it was a ridiculously stupid use of my time. I highly don’t recommend designing your own website unless you already know how to do it. In any case, at least I ended up with something that does not remotely resemble anybody else’s website.

When it came to writing my bio, I decided to forgo the usual banal listing of my MFA degree and utterly obscure publications, and instead compete directly with all those pantyless tabloid starlets by highlighting the nude cocaine parties of my own Hollywood youth. (Note: I’ve since discovered that if you Google “nude cocaine parties,” my bio comes up number one!)

I also had yet to garner any reviews (the novel was still in the editing phase), so I posted a bunch of embarrassing photos of my friends and just made up some reviews for a Readers Like You section. Why my friends allowed me to do this is beyond me…

Once I’d wasted so much time learning HTML, I decided I might as well design some more sites. Since the title of my novel is The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse, I quickly snapped up the domain and put up a bogus site purporting to scientifically explain said “Pinball Theory of Apocalypse.”

I think my favorite part is the description of what will happen when Pluto loses its stable orbit and collides with Uranus: “Once impacted, Uranus will quickly stretch out and expand into a superheated cloud of molten rock and toxic gas large enough to engulf the entire inner solar system.”

Since the protagonist of my novel becomes LA’s “It Girl Artist” by painting replicas of classic artwork with the faces changed to celebrities, I thought I’d also use the magic of Photoshop to put up some of her artwork in a gallery site. Macaulay Culkin as Blue Boy is my favorite, but I also like Tom and Katie as American Gothic.

It was at this point that too much coffee and perhaps too little lithium salt combined to send my marketing approach off into… well, a rather bizarre direction. In the novel, my protagonist is at one point pressured by her sociopathic art dealer to do an ad campaign for the hottest new craze in plastic surgery—vaginal rejuvenation. A deranged friend of mine here in Portland suggested that I actually create a joke brochure for vaginal rejuvenation.

The idea sounded so completely wrong, that I sat down and wrote the copy for it immediately. Another friend of mine in New York was kind enough to do the design work, and within a week, I had a lovely tri-fold brochure advertising everything from “Labial Microdermabrasion” to complete “Hymenoplasties.”

I then emailed a PDF of the brochure to my editor and asked if there was any way we could send out some of the brochures with the reviewer copies.

“Wait…You want me to send out a brochure for vaginal rejuvenation along with the reviewer copies of your novel?” she asked.


There was a short pause.

“I love it.” She laughed.

(Did I mention that my editor rocks?)

In any case, Harper Perennial printed up the brochures and (still trying to justify all the time I spent learning HTML) I put up the Selwood Institute website.

Now you may be wondering whether sending out a vaginal rejuvenation brochure might perhaps backfire with some of the more humor-impaired reviewers. Well, the answer is, yes, it did—in fact, I’m still getting hate email.

However, The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse is a dark comedy, and anybody without a dark sense of humor is obviously going to hate it anyway. When you write something offbeat, you shouldn’t hope to please everyone—that’s what the mild-mannered mainstream is for.

Take a writer like Charles Bukowski (not that I’m making any direct comparison between my own work and his). The fact that so many people truly hate him only makes his fans that much more fanatical. When people came to protest his readings, he would blow them kisses.

The final move in my unconventional campaign was to set up a MySpace page —which is actually pretty damn conventional these days. Not only does it give me another place to try to hook readers with my bio, but it’s given me invaluable insight into just how disturbed my potential readership is.

In other words, I’m thinking about investing in some new deadbolts and a stun gun.

I should conclude by saying that my book has yet to be released, and I have no idea whether any of these techniques will work to boost sales. What I do know is that the next time I try to get a “straight” job, I’m totally #$#%$@. Seriously, who the hell is gonna hire the “nude cocaine party” guy?

Anne again: thank you, Jonathan! If that doesn’t get all of our marketing synapses firing, nothing will. In the midst of marketing season, it’s a timely reminder that knowing who your target audience is — and isn’t — is crucial to promoting a novel at every stage.

If Jonathan’s book piqued your interest, but you live in a part of the world that might frown upon your marching into the nearest bookstore and announcing, “Give me the book by that nude cocaine party guy!” here’s a good independent bookstore that just loves to ship things discreetly in plain wrappers.

Dream On: Guest Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Anne here for a moment: I’ve been cracking the get-your-work-out-there whip pretty heavily in my last two series, so I am very pleased to reintroduce FAAB (Friend of Author! Author! Blog) Jordan Rosenfeld, bringing her patented brand of writer encouragement. Here, she’s addressing a MONUMENTALLY important issue (in response to an excellent reader comment — thanks again, Moo!) that seldom gets discussed at writers’ conferences, which are typically geared to either business (“Get and agent! Get an agent!”) or craft (“You’re writing wrong! You’re writing wrong!”). But in the quiet of whatever time and space we have managed — often with great difficulty — to carve out as a writing studio, this issue often looms large: how do we give ourselves permission to write?

Take it away, Jordan!

Dream On, by Jordan E. Rosenfeld , Guest Blogger

I received a comment awhile back from reader “Moo Crazy” who asked for suggestions on what to do when one’s desire to write is at odds with one’s inner morality that suggests writing is not a “responsible” way to live, usually because of its slim profit margin. A lot of writers, therefore, hold back from the time they would love to take from children/job/significant others and don’t give their writing life their “all,” which breeds its own kind of nasty feelings.

Let me say the obvious first and get it out of the way so we can move on to working with the feelings:

If you don’t write, there will be no product with which to do anything.

If you don’t write, you are not being responsible to yourSELF.

Whatever you believe about writing — i.e, a noble endeavor or a waste of time — will not only be true for you, but you will teach others to believe this about it as well.

If you resist writing out of guilt, you will also slowly begin to resent those you believe are keeping you from doing what you love.

So when you look at all those likely outcomes of holding back, you can see that leaning in to the responsibility angle also comes with some drawbacks.

Let me share a little story on this subject. I have been writing all of my life. When I met my husband he took one look at my loaded shelves full of journals and knew he was in the presence of someone for whom writing was not just a passing fancy. However, he is also a rational person who believes that financial security is a wise thing. I always wrote “on the side.” I jammed it into the crevices of my life wherever I could find them. I rose early, worked late, put off social engagements, even sacrificed time spent with him.

When small but exciting things happened to me, like the time I went to the writing conference — where I, in fact, met the illustrious Miss Mini — and was told by an agent, “This is really good stuff, you should finish it and then send it to me,” I came home thinking “I’m going to do it. I just need a month.” But when I got home, I couldn’t make a case for taking a month off from my already low-paying job. I felt guilty. What if he banked on my success and nothing happened? What if I failed him?

I proceeded to be a pretty miserable person for quite some years, always hungering after the life that I wanted but was afraid to have in which I wrote all the time and called my own shots. Not until I started creating space for my writing life by focusing on it every day, by doing all the various exercises I previously led you all through, did anything shift.

And then one day, after I’d spent a particularly juicy week day-dreaming about the freelance writing life I was going to have for myself, after I’d started taking my writing life so seriously that nobody dared tell me it was a pipe dream, my husband came to me. “I think you should quit your job,” he said. “It’s time. You have to do this.”

You have no idea how amazing it was to hear those words. What had changed in him from the man who couldn’t bear the idea of me taking a month off to finish a novel?

*I* had changed. I had begun to take myself and my writing so seriously, as if it was in fact a child I was to nurture, that I all but radiated an aura of success. Nothing about our finances changed; I didn’t hand him a written guarantee that I would bring in X dollars. I simply began to do all the work on myself — that of visualizing, emphasizing the positive, writing down in precise detail the writing life I wanted — and he shifted along with me.

I’ve been self-employed for two years now and in these two years more has happened to my career than my entire life put together prior to this.

Two books are being published, I’m a contributing editor at Writer’s Digest magazine, I’m writing book reviews for an NPR-affiliate radio station and the SF Chronicle, I have a literary agent shopping my novel. A few years ago, none of that seemed plausible to me. It all seemed so very far off.

The key is that we think we are making our family members safe, our parents happy and our society proud of us for our restraint by not writing. When all we are really doing is preventing ourselves from our own fullness, our own potential success, which will have a positive effect on everyone in our lives. It’s a terrible edge to walk.

I recommend you start by giving in to your daydreams. You don’t even have to do anything, but start fantasizing in full vivid color, what kind of writing life you want. How much time do you see yourself writing? When, where, and what is coming out? What would you be doing differently if only you had the time to write? Ask these questions until you actually begin to shift.

My next online class with Rebecca Lawton might also help you to this end:

CREATING SPACE: FOR WRITERS AND OTHER ARTISTIC SOULS (Wavegirl Books, 2007) is part writer’s guide, part playbook and now, a series of online classes! Using a principle pioneered by the authors, the class guides participants through activities and insights designed for a creative life. We explore how you attract your life, show you how to fashion your own journey by Creating Space for your desires, and cheerlead you through the process of writing and attracting your good. The classes draw from the principles of the forthcoming book.

Next Session: Letting Go, Creating Space
Schedule: 4 weeks, October 20 through November 17, 2006
Cost $125.
LIMIT: 15 students

It’s important to remember that you are the one who shapes your own life. You are in charge of letting go of what you don’t want, and you — guided by your feelings — can make choices that allow everything and everyone around you to play supportive roles in your life story. This four-week class will teach you the principles of Creating Space, and how to let go of what keeps you from your goals.

To register: Send an email to: with your name, address, phone number & email address, and send a deposit of $50 (refundable until October 1st) to: Wavegirl Ink, P.O. Box 654, Vineburg, CA 95487-0654

All class participants will receive a 10% discount on the annual Creating Space Retreat or other CS classes. Those who refer friends who complete the current class will receive a $25 discount on any subsequent class in the series.

Anne again here: Thanks, Jordan! As always, you can catch Jordan’s words of wisdom on her blog, as well as on her literary radio program Word by Word.

But right now, let’s talk about this one: what struggles do YOU face in giving yourself permission to write? What helped you overcome them?

Guest Blogger Jordan strikes again

Hello, my friends! It’s been awhile, eh? Apologies for not popping back in sooner, but perhaps this is good timing, as I hear that you’ve been receiving the skinny from Mini on the brutal, humiliating and absurd trade known as publishing.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time I interviewed authors—famous ones like TC Boyle and emerging ones like Gayle Brandesi—for my literary radio program Word by Word. I hosted this show for three years (a volunteer labor of love that still got us a $10K NEA grant) and I got some of the best (and worst) advice from writers possible. One of my favorite bits came from the contemporary surrealist writer Aimee Bender. We were discussing her story, “Fruit and Words” (which, if you haven’t read it, you must. It can be found in her collection, Willful Creatures). She said (and I am paraphrasing from memory): “Writing is the only art where you must use the medium itself to describe the act of making it. You don’t paint a picture to describe one, or dance a dance,” she said.

I thought a lot about this, how we writers take the tool of everyday communication and mold it for both artistic and practical purposes. We are always using our medium. When you think about that, you who are no strangers to the pen, the muse or even the writing conference, you will realize that you have a powerful tool at your disposal to help focus you on a daily, even hourly, basis.

Focus being the key word here. That’s what all this happy feeling stuff is about—getting you to focus your feelings and thoughts—which are linked, by the way—on positive outcomes and good feelings. Why? So we can sing Kumbaya and bliss out on our own inner beauty? No! (Well, okay, if you must). The reason is that positive thinking attracts more of itself and it has a tendency to lead to hope and motivation—two things you need in spades in this industry.

The problem is, positive thinking doesn’t come terribly naturally to many of us. It’s been beaten, shamed and encouraged out of us. Which is why I’m here to remind you that beneath all the terrible odds and the ridiculous standards, there’s a reason why you write in the first place that probably is closer to making you feel joy than it is to getting rich quick. But it’s easy to get lost in the getting rich and famous end of it.

Yes, you want to make a living at your trade but I doubt you’re in this for the money. You’ve got important ideas and good stories and you must write or die, and you seek a reputable, time-tested platform to put them out there. When you lean toward the positive, have faith and generally believe good things might happen, you are more likely to follow up on leads you’d otherwise be too depressed, ignorant or overwhelmed to pursue. You are more likely to say “yes” to things, to accept tips, to learn, grow, and find your way smack into the center of success.

So here’s a tip: Whatever your writing goal, try to think about it when you’re ALREADY feeling good—don’t send negative thought or feelings to the thing you want most when you’re about ready to throw down the pen forever and apply to Burger King.

Save thinking about Being a Published Novelist for times when you’ve paused from laborious data entry/real estate selling/banal Ad-copywriting and have stepped out onto the corporate patio to soak in some sunshine. Reach for your writing desires as a kind of mood enhancer, so that you come to link positive moments with the acquisition of your Number One Desire. You have to train yourself here as rigorously as Pavlov did his dogs.

Yes, this is kind of like meditation. When the downer thought—remember those “I suck” examples I gave before—comes floating through, chase it off like a nasty, smelly little dog that is trying to soil your yard, and either court or wait for a better moment to think, “But some people make it as writers, and so will I.”

You have the tool—writing—so use it to get what you want. Don’t wait for things to happen to you. Don’t wait for agents and publishers and adoring audiences to validate you. You have to start behaving as if you ALREADY HAVE that which you desire.

I know you just said, “But how can I act as if I have what I don’t have, Jordan? That’s crazy talk!”

Is it? You’re writers. You have a rich fantasy life, I know you do. You’ve spent unreasonable amounts of time dreaming about things and people you wanted. You’ve allowed yourself to wander off into bubbles of fantasy. But someone or something probably made you “snap out of it” and tell yourself, “Stop dreaming, babe. Don’t kid yourself.”

Well I’m instructing you to get back to dreaming. Choose to spend lots of time imagining in full color and detail what it is you want. Because when you do, you activate all kinds of powerful little sensors and feelings inside yourself. They lead to excitement, hope, action, more writing.

Then WRITE DOWN your fantasies for the perfect literary career in precise detail as if it is already happening. Because the more you take your writing career as something that already exists, the more you make room for things to happen instead of languishing in the statistics and deciding it isn’t worth trying.

Here’s an example from my journal from September of last year:

“Today it occurred to me that if I want to be a published novelist, nothing stands in my way. The way will be shown to me. I have finished my novel revision and I’m agent-shopping again, but with such confidence and power that it happens so fast and the agent sells my book fast too. It’s was all just a simple matter of readying myself, shifting my energy.”

Funny thing is, while THAT novel I am describing above did not succeed in getting me an agent, I wrote a whole OTHER novel that in fact garnered me an agent in one week’s time when I sent out queries. I’m not making this up. The novel mentioned above was something I needed to clear out of myself, and it made room for the one I really wanted to write. I was so SURE, so EXCITED, that I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised when I got an agent.

And the fact is, I didn’t wait for external validation to believe that. Yes, I have done my homework, but my other novel is perfectly lovely too. Nothing wrong with it. Except that it deals with family issues and I felt very scared that if it were published, my family would hate me. I channeled lots of fear towards it. Et Voilà, it went nowhere.

I hope that for every strike of reality that hits you about why it’s hard to make it as a writer, you’ll remember that so long as you don’t jump on that particular bandwagon, and make room to write what you want and feel good about it ONCE A DAY, you’ll be shocked and amazed at how much opens up for you.

If you’d like to formally get involved in this work, it’s not too late to sign up for the Creating Space online class (link), session one, which begins on September 8th, for 4 weeks.

My new professional website is going up in about a week too, so please visit me there. In the meantime, you can always find me at my blog.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Anne here:

Thanks, Jordan, for all those words of wisdom! We really appreciate your stopping by.

And everybody, if you’ve been finding Jordan’s advice helpful, please, write in and let us know. Also, if I can blandish Jordan into coming back and visiting us here again (as I hope I shall), are there any points she’s made you’d like her to expand upon?

I also want to toot my horn on her behalf before I sign off. Jordan’s book, “Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time” will be published by Writer’s Digest Books in Fall, 2007 and her book with Rebecca Lawton, “Creating Space: The Law of Attraction for Writers & Other Inspired Souls,” will be published in Summer, 2007 by Wavegirl Ink. She is a book reviewer for NPR affilliate KQED’s news-magazine the California Report and a freelance contributer to Writer’s Digest Magazine, The Writer, The St. Petersburg Times, AlterNet, The Pacific Sun and more. Her novel, THE NIGHT ORACLE, is represented by the Levine-Greenberg literary agency.

The categories are back — and here comes Ms. Jordan

Hooray! Fabulous, wonderful Brian the Webmaster has tamed the wild beast that was our inexplicable sidebar problem! He officially, to put it colloquially, rocks.

Speaking of rockin’ volunteers working for all of our benefits on this very website, it’s time for another installment from our Northern Californian correspondent, the lovely and talented Jordan E. Rosenfeld . Take it away, Jordan!

Hello, friends. We are friends by now, aren’t we? Welcome to day three of shifting how you think about your writing life, or as you might be calling it, “Weird positive attitude stuff with that California chick.”

Let me make one thing clear. I want you to have the writing life you want and deserve. Anne does too, or else she wouldn’t put so much elbow grease into this blog. She’s giving away tips here that I personally, think she should charge for. But like her, I too want to see other writers succeed, so we give away what we know. The more of us who do succeed, by the way, the more likely the industry gets to stay alive and can continue to compete with the seductive intensity of TV and movies.

By now, if you’ve followed my posts, you’ve taken your “writer’s pulse” (or are free to do so now). You have an idea of whether you are more inclined to bemoan your sad fate as unpublished, or are really freakin’ jazzed to find a way and do the work to get what you want. I’m guessing most of you are of the hardworking variety.

But how many of you get a little bit of information and rush out willy-nilly and write a query letter and send it off; or write a novel in four months and then give up hope when someone tells you it needs work; or look at a glossy literary journal that you’ve had your eyes on for years with the sad little mantra, “it will never happen”?

Okay, so how many of you is not important. What IS, is that there’s an intermediary step you can take between the transmission of information via smart people like Anne and at writing conferences, and the action you take based on that information. That intermediary step isn’t even work; it might even be fun — and it involves writing.

Before I tell you what it is, consider something. If I hand you a picture of a jungle and I say, “pick out all the cats,” that would be a lot different, wouldn’t it, from handing you that same picture and saying, “tell me what animal there are the most of in this scene”?

What’s the difference? The specific focus.

So, when you pick a specific focus — an outcome, for instance — and you write it down, when you go off into action you’re far more inclined to look for, attract and see what will help you obtain your goal (that explanation is for the less “cosmically” inclined. For those of you who really want to open wide open to the possibilities, I tell you: when you know what you want, and believe you can get it, the universe provides.)

So that intermediary step I talked about above between getting good intel and turning it into action is to write down, exactly as you would like it to go, a little “vision” to yourself, like so:

“Just two days after sending out ten queries to literary agents, I get four requests for partials and two for full manuscripts. Within another week, one of my top ten agents offers me representation. I feel (fill in the blank).”

You can write whatever you darn well please, about whatever outcome you want. But I will guarantee that if you get into the habit of clarifying HOW you want these outcomes to go, in specific, not just THAT you want them, but HOW, your results will change.

That’s today’s task #1. On to task #2.

Last week, I asked you to take your “number one desire” and extrapolate out the reasons why you want it, numbered one through twenty. And you, of course, ran to your desks and did this. In the process of wanting why, you energize yourself, you get excited, you start to MEAN IT. And that is crucial. Hey, even Dr. Joyce Brothers said that success is a state of mind. If you want to be successful, you have to believe you are. So start now.

Now, take five of your “reasons why” and see if you can’t come up with ten more “whys” for them. Example: if one of the reasons why I want to be a published novelist is that I believe it is my destiny — then I must now answer,
“Why is it my destiny?”

To which I might say:

–Novel writing is the only thing I do that feels effortless and joyful

–In third grade, I wrote an essay titled, “When I grow up I want to be an authoress.”

–Because I believe I can communicate interesting ideas and entertain people

You see where I’m going with this. Try it for yourself. The deeper you peer into your reasons and get yourself excited about what you’re doing, the more likely you are to succeed.

I’d also like to ask, for your third task of the day, that you continue to work on last time’s other “game” of following the career of a writer you would like to emulate. Keep a notebook. I’m serious. Learn EVERYthing you can about she or he whose career you want. What goals did they set for themselves? What happened just before their big successes? How do they stay successful? I am so willing to bet that a great deal of it is positive feelings.

See you soon.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld

P.S.: If you will allow me to shamelessly hawk my own online class, please visit my teaching site to sign up for the first of many online Creating Space classes, beginning September 9th (4 weeks, $125).

Creating Space for your Writing Life with Jordan E. Rosenfeld, guest blogger

Well, if you weathered my first post, by now you’re saying to yourself, “Woo! I think I might steer clear of that wacky California for awhile.” OR, maybe you’re leaning a little bit toward: “Well, I have been rather down on myself about this whole getting published process; maybe I could use a little positive adjustment…”

No matter which category you fall into, I dare you to consider today’s post and play with the “games” I’ve got for you.

Last time we met I asked you to take an inventory of the kinds of thoughts you have about your writing life and to see if they tended to fall more into the “I deserve” or “I suck” category.

So did you? And what did you find?

Most of us will find that even when we think we’re being positive — “I really, really want to be published!” — what we don’t realize is that we’re focusing on the lack of being published. Imagine walking around and saying to people all day, “I’m not happily married! I’m not expressing myself creatively! I’m not rich!”

With the exception of a few robustly exhibitionist types, I’m guessing you wouldn’t point out to people what you are not, and what you don’t have. Yet this is what you do to yourself when you focus on wanting something rather than treating that desire as something you intend to have… no matter what.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting; it’s human for one, and a default setting for many of us. Wanting is the way in which you make clear to yourself what is missing from your picture of your life. But if you even considered that I might not be totally full of crap when I said two days ago that your feelings are like a big magnetic generator that attracts your life to you, then you’ll be one baby step closer to changing how you think.

So… the inventory I asked you to take was simply a snapshot, a way to get you to notice how you regard yourself and your writing life. Were you shocked to find that you had less, or more, confidence in yourself than you thought? Were you pretty resigned to the fact that a little dull hope is all you’re ever going to muster? Fair enough. You took your pulse, and now you have a diagnosis. Joyful or flatlined or somewhere in between.

Now, I asked you to write down your top five desires — “But wait, Jordan, didn’t you just say that wanting was not such a hot plan?” — I did, that’s why I called these “desires.” It’s a good word, desire, isn’t it? It’s lush and bold and sexy. It makes you purr or pant. Desires are things that make you feel damn good when you think about having them. Like publishing that novel. Or like just getting the thing formatted properly (many of my desires are incredibly practical).

So put down that manuscript you’re itching to send off for a minute. Or that messy revision that’s making your brain hurt. Before you go hurtling yourself into action, take a minute to think about how you’d like the end result of your desire to pan out.

Write down your desires again.

I desire to be a bestselling novelist.
I desire to publish just one short story before I die.
I desire to have women weeping over my words and showering me in praise

Whatever they are, write them down on a clean sheet of paper. Then go through them and where you have the word desire, scratch it out and replace it with a new word or phrase. Rather than desire try, “I intend,” or “I plan to” or “I will” or “I firmly and positively know that…”

Then rewrite your sentences.

I know, one part of you wants to say that this is below your intelligence. You have three degrees for goodness sake, or attended six trazillion writer’s workshops, or were born into a family of linguists. What the heck can changing a word in a sentence do for your mood much less future? Keep an open mind.

Now, look at that list and choose the one that burns most powerfully into your longing. The one that makes you shiver or ache or get heartburn when you think of it REALLY happening to you.

From here, you are going to make two lists.

List number one will have 20 numbered slots. You will come up with 20 reasons why you want this to come to fruition. Why is a powerful question when applied to this burning desire/intention/plan. Why? I mean, really, why?

And your answers need not make Saints feel incompetent. You can wish for success because it will make your enemies burn with jealousy, or because it will vindicate you to all those nay-sayers in your family who just didn’t believe… asking why forces you to widen the possibilities, and jack up the feeling meter to “yeah baby!”

We’ll deal with the results when I post next!

Finally, one more task; this one is not an overnighter: Choose just one author whose career you would like to have. Make it a side goal to find out as much as you can about how and why they became successful. Google them, read interviews, read all their books, scan their acknowledgements and find out what happened along the way. I will bet you that somewhere in the path they started to change the way they thought about themselves.

I’ll share mine. I would like to have a career like the bestselling commercial author Jodi Picoult, who writes tightly plotted, emotionally intricate novels that have an uncanny ability to hit the top ten bestseller list without fail. The woman has written more than 13 novels and has, from all appearances, a very good life.

I have thought about her, and read her, for the past six months. About one year ago, after writing a bang-up pitch letter, I scored my first assignment for Writer’s Digest Magazine. Surely you’ve heard of it. It’s a magazine that gets thousands of pitches each month and rarely takes on new freelance writers because of it. But I was SO SURE about my idea that I never once stopped to think about that in the process.

Well, I knew a good thing when it came my way, so after my first successful assignment, I kept on working with the editor I had established contact with, pitching her regular ideas. I had written for local publications for a long time, but I was ready to become a national, heck, even a household name (My desires run extra-large). I do a daily writing/visualization exercise to keep my focus on the feeling that I am already successful, and have added in how much I fully intend to have a career just like Jodi Picoult’s.

Well, lo and behold, not one year after writing for WD, and before my first article had actually run in print yet (they have a lengthy lead time), I was asked to be a contributing editor to the magazine, getting steady work and having my name featured in the masthead. Pretty cool, eh?

The October issue just hit the stands and guess who is one of just 12 contributing editors? Jodi Picoult. In fact, my name comes right after hers in the line-up. You tell me that’s coincidence. I’ll keep envisioning a career that looks a heck of a lot like hers; we already have one thing in common.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld

If you will allow me to shamelessly hawk my own online class, please visit my teaching site to sign up for the first of many online Creating Space classes, beginning September 9th (4 weeks, $125).

Boosting your confidence: a guest blogger’s suggestions

Hi, campers — Anne here. In the interests of opening up this forum to a broad array of perspectives on the writing life, I have blandished the eternally fabulous Jordan Rosenfeld into sharing her thoughts on creating a successful writing career. In the months to come, I am hoping to cajole other successful writers into giving us their insights, but since Jordan has been gracious enough to give in to my begging first, let’s give her a great big round of applause!

Take it away, Jordan!

Guest blogger: Jordan Rosenfeld

First, I want to say that I am honored to be allowed to part the curtains of Anne Mini’s tough but savvy wisdom to blog for a few days here. What Im here to offer you is one part writing advice, one part cheerleading and one part good-old California cosmic wisdom. That means you are free to take it with as big a grain of salt as you like, but I will wager that if you stay open to this kind of thinking, the way you approach submitting/publishing/agent-hunting and writing will change.

Let me also make it clear that I am a writer. A working writer, who freelances for a living, and a fiction writer represented by a literary agent who has been through the gauntlet myself, so I know from where I speak. I have two books coming out next year, the first, Creating Space: The Law of Attraction for Writers & Other Inspired Souls, with Rebecca Lawton is the one I’m mainly drawing from for these posts. The second, Make A Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, from Writer’s Digest Books, also offers practical advice, and clinches my place in the canon of Know-it-Alls.

I am going to begin by betting you something. This is not the kind of bet where one of us has something material to lose or gain, so if that’s what you came looking for you little gambler, Vegas is calling you instead. Here it is:

I will bet that when it comes to your writing and its future success or failure, you have given very little attention to the kinds of thoughts that roughhouse and carom through your brain in any given day. Wait, forget day — try every second or even nanosecond. Now, out of the trazillion thoughts that barrage your neurotransmitters daily, you will catch one from time to time with your little thought net and hold it up to the light and notice the what has just taken up territory in your gray matter. It might look something like this: “Why am I getting all these rejections? I must suck.”

Now, the likelihood of you “sucking” is probably not all that high, and since writing is a craft and the business of writing can be learned, the odds are actually in your favor for not sucking. Yet in that moment that you give your attention and belief to the thought “I probably suck and therefore I will never publish and will wind up a spinster in obscurity…” (okay, so that was one of mine), you make a little bit of that thought true for yourself. You bequeath a part of your attitude and energy and self-esteem to it, and make it possible for similar thoughts to gain entry into your consciousness. Some of us actually hitch little train-cars of similar negative thoughts to the back of that one and take an all out cross-country tour of self-doubt and despair until we are ready to put our heads through our laptops. Not much of a recipe for success.

Now, likewise, there are days where a light and beautiful thought makes its way to the surface and you skim it in your little golden thought net from the green-blue scum trying to weigh it down in the pool of your mind. It might look something like this: “I might actually publish a novel!” or “I am talented and deserve to be represented by a literary agent” (okay, nobody deserves that; it’s a necessity).

So now I ask you, what happens when you hold up that golden thought, the one that shimmers so brightly that it obscures all other thoughts? Does your whole being radiate goodness and light and can-do joy, or do you turn into a hunchbacked beast and lumber away from it screaming, “My eyes, my bleeding eyes!”?

These are just two examples I’m talking about here. What about the chorus of “I suck” and “I deserve” that regularly pass through you? Are you aware of them? Well if you have a destination or a desire in mind for yourself as a writer (and the fact that you’re here at Anne’s blog means you do), then you’ll want to start paying attention to them RIGHT AWAY because they’re shaping the way your life and especially your writing life is unfolding.

How’s this for a revolutionary idea: your thoughts are more responsible for the way things are, or are not, than your parents will ever be.

The reason for this is that thoughts are plugged directly into your feeling generator. Once your attention is on a thought, your little chemicals begin churning and pretty quickly you feel “bad” or “good” about what you’re thinking (in simplistic terms). And here’s one of those moments where you can heft that grain (or boulder) of salt I mentioned up to your shoulder. Your feelings attract your life. Feelings reflect and mirror the stuff of your life, for better or for worse. Do you ever feel you’re on a “roll” either negative or positive? When you’re feeling despairing about writing do you notice it’s impossible to place a submission? When you write something hot and fabulous, have you ever found that the powerful good energy of that allows other great opportunities into your life? Well start looking! (Let me insert a little sidebar here: There is not, nor will there ever be in any of my posts any “blame” on anyone for feeling bad or discouraged or fed up, so don’t get scared!)

So what can you do about these negative thoughts and their bearing on your writing life?

1. You can begin by taking an inventory, either literally on paper or from an observational standpoint during any given day. This inventory can be distilled into two categories: thoughts that make you feel bad about yourself (“I am terrible at writing plot”)and your writing and, yes, you know where I’m going with this, thoughts that make you feel good about yourself/your writing (“I can read a really well-plotted novel and learn how to do it!”).

2. Then, I want you to make a list of the top five desires you have for your writing life. Perhaps you desire to be a bestselling published novelist, or simply to have your short stories accepted in literary journals that are not published at Kinko’s copies and distributed under the windshield wipers of people’s cars. Whether big or small, keep that list nearby and notice when you look at each desire which kinds of thoughts arise, those of the “I deserve,” or “I suck” variety.

Try this inventory for a day or few. See which kind of thoughts you have more of in general, and which you have more of in relation to your desires. Then stick around, because when I blog again on Thursday the 17th, I will ask you to do something with what you’ve noticed and how this relates to what you desire.

Now, I don’t want to sound as if I’m in any way detracting from what Anne has so diligently worked to point out to you; to be published requires talent, skill, observation, adhering to guidelines and knowing what sells. It’s no small task. But trust me when I say that if you begin a day saying, “This is so hard, I will never get there,” versus, “I’m going to find out exactly what I have to do to be published,” and you do this daily, you WILL rise above.

If you allow me to shamelessly hawk my own online class, please visit the Creating Space site to sign up for the first of many online classes, beginning September 9th (4 weeks, $125). And as always, my ongoing thoughts on the writing life may be found on my blog.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld