Writing Tips: It’s Never Too Late

Meet Captain James Henry, a retired Connecticut lobsterman who, at the age of 98, just published his first book, In A Fisherman’s Language.

FishermanBookCoverMore inspiring: Mr. Henry did not learn to read until just a few years ago.

Yep, that’s right.

When his granddaughter contacted local Literacy Volunteers, they connected Mr. Henry with Mark Hogan, a retired English teacher.

That connection meant that the life of Mr. Henry would never again be the same. He learned to read and write – and the end result is his autobiography.

Word of the book and Mr. Henry’s personal story made the local news then reached
USA Today.

Now, Mr. Henry is getting speaking requests from groups around the country.

“It’s never too late to learn,” Mr. Henry told USA Today.

And it’s never too late to write – or to change your life.

Start today.

Why you need a professional bio photo

The following blog was written by Amelia Rhodes for the BreatheConference.com blog.

cameraMention getting a photo taken, and I start to break out in hives. On the list of “fun things to do,” having my photo taken doesn’t make the cut.

Yet in today’s digital world, having a good bio photo is more important than ever before for a writer. A high quality photo isn’t just something you need for the dust jacket of your book or in a byline for a magazine or newspaper article. Your bio photo is something you need every single day.

On your website.
On your Facebook page.
In a Gravatar.
On Twitter.
Google Profile.
[insert new social media outlet of the day]

Your photo shows up everywhere. (Ever done a google search for your name and clicked on the images tab?) It’s important that you have a recent, high quality photo that represents you well. Before you even show up at a conference for your scheduled appointment with an editor or an agent, there’s a good chance that he or she will look you up online. (Totally happened to me this summer at a conference, and freaked me out a little bit!!) When you submit a book proposal to the agent of your dreams, if you catch his attention, I guarantee he is going to look you up online.

So while you might be tempted to take a selfie with that HD camera in your new smartphone and use it on all your profiles, please don’t. (Save those photos for your personal profiles, not your professional ones.) And while your spouse or friend or neighbor might have a fancy digital SLR and a nice lens, before you ask one of them to snap a head shot for you, make sure he or she is capable of taking professional photos. (Having a great camera doesn’t make a person a great photographer.) A professional photographer knows how to pose you so you look natural and comfortable. A professional photographer knows how to work lighting in your favor (or fix it later in photoshop).

If you had a professional photo taken, but it’s been a few years, it’s time for a new photo. I recently interviewed a photographer for an article, and he said that people don’t get their photo taken often enough. He recommends getting a professional head shot taken every two years. Not only do we age a little bit every few years, styles change too (and not just clothing, but photography styles and poses). I’ve shown up to a few events to hear an author speak, and the person on stage looks nothing like the photos I’ve seen in promotional materials. It’s obvious that the photo she sent the event sponsors is at least ten years old.

One final tip: Get one great photo, and use the same photo every where (see the list above). You begin to build a brand around not just your style of writing, but your photo as well. Make sure it’s a photo that captures the true you.

Amelia Rhodes

amelia_rhodesAmelia Rhodes loves coffee breaks with friends and has a passion for encouraging women to share an authentic life together. Her first book, “Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? Doing life together in an all-about-me kind of world”, offers women of all ages a fresh perspective on relationships. She is also featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s books “Here Comes the Bride” and “Inspiration for Writers.” Amelia lives in West Michigan with her husband and two young children and can often be found chasing ground hogs out of her garden and training for marathons.

The Story Behind My Book “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

Precious Lord CoverMy mom had shown signs of dementia for more than five years before anyone in our family had the courage to say the word Alzheimer’s out loud.

To me, the word was a death sentence. My mom’s mom had suffered from dementia as well before dying of a stroke.

I simply didn’t want to think about what the end would look like for my mother.

So when a friend approached me and suggested I write a book about what it was like to be a caregiver for both my mom and my father-in-law who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, I gave serious thought to whacking her upside the head. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was write a book about how crazy my life had become.

Who’ld want to read about God-In-The-Mayhem? For instance, I was a caregiver with a recently diagnosed brain lesion. I was supposed to be resting and recuperating…

While caring for my father-in-law with mental illness and Parkinson’s and a heart condition.

And supporting our daughter who’d just returned from tsunami relief work with post-traumatic stress disorder.

And trying not to mouth-breathe over our recently-come-home prodigal son.

And did I mention that my husband and I had just moved across the country and started new jobs?

So I threw my head back and laughed in my friend’s face at the suggestion that I write a book for caregivers. No Christian publisher would print a book about mom trying to get naked in the Easter service or learning how to swear at the age of 81. But I went home and wrote out a list of what my real-life devotionals would be about–the things caregivers really struggle with.

And if I could have created a cover, it would have had a button to push that gave out a scream: “Aaaggghhh!! But God is Good.”

I thought it was a great title.

More than 100,000 copies and half a dozen years later, I’m glad my friend had the courage to ask me to be transparent about my caregiving experiences. I’m glad God gives the grace to use chaos for his glory. I’m grateful every day of my life that people find hope in the pages of Precious Lord, Take My Hand.

Life if tough. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, brain lesions, and other life-robbing diseases stink. In this life, we live in the tension where the qualities sin and grace co-exist. But God is good. All the time. And he did not come only to conquer sin and provide a solution. He came to take our hand and sit beside us in our suffering.

Advice from My Plumber about the Writing Life

More and more often, people show up on my doorstep (well not really) or in my Facebook message box or email with a manuscript for me to read or critique. Often these folks have never published a thing in their lives, attended a writer’s conference, read an agent’s or editor’s blog, read an industry publication, or read a book about writing. But they’re pretty sure they want to publish a book.

I’d like to take this opportunity to offer an analogy. For the past several months the toilet in our main bathroom has been giving us fits — threatening to overflow at the most inopportune moments and refusing to flush even the tiniest scraps of paper. Oh, yeah. Like you really wanted to know about this.

So my husband called a plumber to come and fix the ding-dang thing. Let me tell you something. After months of plunging and splashing for recreation, I for-sure wanted a plumber who knew which end of the  snake went down my bathroom pipe.

Now imagine that you’re a publisher, and you’re looking for a new author. You’re going to sink thirty or forty grand into marketing, publicity, editorial, and all the accompanying costs of launching a newbie writer. You’re competing against every other publisher and book in the marketplace, so you’re looking for the best of the best. You’re looking for someone who knows how to wrangle a snake, so to speak. You’re looking for someone who’s a Picasso of plumbing. You are certainly not looking for someone who doesn’t know a thing about the craft, has never studied the craft, hasn’t invested time and energy in the craft, and doesn’t know the language or the tools of the craft.

So if you want to publish a book, start with studying the craft. Write. Publish. Do the work. Learn which end of the snake to stick down the hole. And remember that writing is like other professions: it must be learned.