CAREER PLANNING FOR AUTHORS By Ann Siracusa

The process for Career Planning is similar to planning for anything else, so I decided to apply my thirty-seven years of professional land use planning to develop prototype career plan for authors.

The process require some time and soul-searching, and you really should write it down. There’s all kinds of research to support the effectiveness of putting something on paper. It creates a higher level of commitment. Even if you don’t prepare a written plan, give serious thought to the contents. There may be some aspects of your career you haven’t considered.

The following is a very condensed version of a class I give. If, after reading this, if you want the full information and worksheets, contact me.


WHY PREPARE A CAREER PLAN?

Every writer/author should prepare a career plan because it helps you to clarify what you want out of writing and to make informed choices about your career.

● You need to know where you’re going in order to get there.

● Writing is either a hobby or a business. Both are okay, but you should know what it is to you.

● You need to know what you’re striving for in order to make choices.

● Writing takes commitment and requires sacrifices; it requires large investments of time, emotions, money, energy, and self-esteem. You need to know how much you are willing to invest.

● A career plan is a guide for decision-making.

● You need goals and measurable action steps to measure your progress.
GUIDELINES
Your career plan is for you―you never have to show it to anyone. It will change over time. Put your plan in writing and keep it where you can see it. It will help you keep focused. When preparing your plan:

● Be brutally honest with yourself.
● Tap your emotions.
● Visualize it.
● Be specific
● Be realistic.  You may win the first contest you enter, or you may sell the first thing you write and send out, but you may not.  Most of us don’t.  Tailor your plan to what it real.
● Keep it simple.
● Reevaluate and revise at least once a year. Sometimes more often.
CONTENTS
There are three basic steps to any kind of planning. Ask yourself these three questions.

Where am I now?  –Assessment of the current circumstances;

Where do I want to go? – Statement of Vision and goals;

How do I get there? – Action plan with specific actions and measurable milestones in a time frame.


STEP 1 – ASSESS YOUR CURRENT STATUS

Assess where you are in terms of skill development, what you need to learn, experience, etc. The questions that are pertinent are related to where you are in your career. Be brutally honest with yourself.

Personal Motivation – What motivates you? How long have you been writing seriously? Why do you write?

● Commitment – What is your personal commitment? Are you willing to give up other parts of your life to write? How many classes have you taken?  How many pitches have you made?

● Productivity – How productive are you? Do you constantly increase the number of words you can write?

● Professional Activity – Are you a member of a critique group or writing organization such as RWA? Mystery Writers of America? Are you active? Do you attend conferences?

● Presence on the Web – What is your presence on the web? What social media sites do you belong to and are you active?

● Roadblocks – Write six things you perceive as keeping you from achieving your goals as a writer.

● Strengths – What are you best writing skills?

● Weaknesses – What are the areas in which you need improvement to your writing skills?

After working through these assessments, write down where you believe you are in your career and what areas you need to strengthen.


STEP 2 – WRITE YOUR VISION AND GOALS

All of us have general goals, but the more realistic and specific they are, the more likely you are to achieve them. Think about these things and do some serious soul-searching.

1. Career Purpose Statement

What is your career purpose(your inspiration for writing)? – What is it you want to tell the reader and/or contribute to society through your writing?

What is your life purpose? – (Heavy stuff, right?)  Why do you believe you are on the earth?  If possible, try to integrate career purpose and life purpose. It’s okay if you can’t deal with this, but give it a try and at least give it some serious thought.

What do you believe? What is important to you? – What are your hot buttons in real life? What are you passionate about? What moves you and makes you angry, or cry, or excited?

What do you like to read? – What are the underlying themes you like to read about? What draws you to them? Write down five themes/hooks that never fail to move you.

● What do you like to write about? – Write down five topics or themes that show up regularly in your own work. Write three verbs (e.g. inspire, challenge, entertain, frighten, etc.) that best describe the impact you want to have on your readers.

●Who is your target audience(s)? Identify your target audience as specifically as you can. (Such as children in high school getting ready for college, or Women who were married a long time and then lost their spouse to death or divorce, etc.).

Now write your Career Purpose Statement.  It will read something like the following examples: 1) To entertain readers with a much-needed escape when life get tough, or 2) to inspire women to follow their dreams; or 3) To give hope to young people about their futures.

2. Ultimate Career Goal

● Write down your initial idea for an ultimate career goal or career vision.
● Now, make the statement more specific and note tangible end results.
● Add the emotion and incorporate how you will feel when you read the statement.
● Add visualization.  When you achieve this career vision, how will it impact you?

3. Author Brand
Your Author Brand is not only a tag line or a catchy slogan; it is your reputation, your voice, what your write about, your public image, what makes your work unique from everyone else’s, everything about you. It show in a few words what someone can expect from your writing.

4. Professional Image

Personal Physical Appearance – How you look, dress, and your overall physical “tone”

● Personal Physical Manner – The manifestation of how you feel about yourself

● Personal Speech – How you speak. What you say and how you say it

● Written Words – What you write, on paper, in novels, in interviews, e-mails, blogs

● Non-Personal Physical Appearance – The appearance and impression of your website, your stationery, your business cards, your advertising, and all things that represent you and your product


STEP 3 – PREPARE AN ACTION PLAN

So, now you know what you want your ultimate career to look like. This part of the plan is identifying the steps you must take to achieve your goal.

Remember, the key to an action plan is setting specific realistic goals that are measurable within a specific time period and that you have control over.

If you’ve finished several novels but never sent any of them out, you are in a different place than an author who has won several contests, had several full manuscripts requested, and has rewritten a novel to correct the flaws an editor or agent has pointed out.  Authors who just sold their first book are in a different place than authors with several books published.

Start with where you are now, and eat the elephant one bite at a time. However, each action step should move you in the direction of your ultimate goal and should build the author brand. Be honest with yourself. The action plan you develop must be feasible and must take into consideration your constraints in targeting your goals.

1. Five year goals.

Write your realistic five-year goals.

Prioritize your five-year goals – Your five year goals will be fairly general.

List the action steps that must be taken to achieve those goals. – Your action steps will be about as general as your goals.

2. One year goals

Now, go to your one year goals, and keeping in mind where you want to be in five years, prepare goals for the first year.

Write your realistic one-year goals – Be specific and detailed here.

Prioritize your one-year goals – Ask yourself, “If I could do only one thing on this list during the year, what does it have to be?” Then look at what’s left and go through the same process. This will give you a list of what is most important.

This doesn’t mean you work on goals one at a time. All of them are important, but sometimes they have to occur sequentially. The priority list is a tool to help you manage your resources and career. If something comes up that affects available time, money resources, etc. (such as an illness), you know where to cut…from the bottom of the list. If your available time is cut in half, you drop the last goal or do less work on it than the higher priorities.

● Write realistic action steps (what do you have to do) to achieve your one year goals – Action steps must be specific, have a time frame, and a measure of success…and they must be something you can do yourself.

● Monitor your action plan as adjust as necessary – At least every four to six months do an update of the action plan and measure your progress.
REMEMBER THE PURPOSE OF THE PLAN
Planning is all about making informed decisions. Along any career path, there are choices and opportunities. When any professional is faced with such decisions, it’s better to have a good grasp on where you’re going and how the decision will move you in the direction of your goals. A career plan is intended to be flexible and updated frequently. It’s only for you, and it’s a valuable tool.

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The Next Big Thing- Featuring Rachael Davila

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing: Featuring Rachael Davila

What is the working title of your book?
Heaven and Earth

Where did the idea for the book come from?
I had a dream about a conversation between a young boy and a woman. The boy asked her if she thought her family was in Heaven with his mommy, like she was with him. The question stayed with me and became the premise of the story.

What genre does your book fall under?
It is a romance, but doesn’t neatly fit in any particular category. It takes place now, so it is a contemporary. But half the story takes place in Heaven, so there is a touch of paranormal.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I envisioned Jackson Hurst (Drop Dead Diva) as Nate. Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) as Raya. Jon Huertas (Castle) for Vic and Asia De Marcos (Miss Congeniality) for Lani.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Heaven and Earth is a contemporary parallel romance with a couple in Heaven assigned to play matchmaker to their respective spouses on Earth.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m still working on editing, but I have sent a synopsis and partial to an editor.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A little over ten months. I finished it for the RWA-SD PRO Challenge. I had a few thousand words started before that.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I haven’t actually read any books that compare to mine. I haven’t read the book version of P.S. I Love You. I have been told to read The Reason is You by Sharla Lovelace.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The idea that those we love watch over us when they pass away and can come back to us. I firmly believe my mother came back as my daughter.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Heaven and Earth is the first of three to explore the ways people experience death. Not in a scary way. But some people believe in reincarnation, others die for a moment and share stories of a white light before coming back. Others still, share stories of dreaming about loved ones who’ve passed away.

Thank you for visting the RWASD blog, Rachael! If anyone has questions or comments for Rachael, feel free to enter them in the comments section below! Happy writing and reading, everyone!

MARDI GRAS and THE CARNIVAL OF VENICE By R. Ann Siracusa

I’ve always associated the famed Carnival of Venice with Fat Tuesday (also known as Shrove Tuesday or Martedí Grasso), the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, but as with most holidays and festivals originating in the ancient past, there is some dispute about its origins.

Like many seasonal celebrations and Catholic holidays, Carnival likely has its roots in pre-Christian traditions based on the seasons. Some believe the festival represented the few days added to the lunar calendar to make it coincide with the solar calendar; since these days were outside the calendar, rules and customs were not obeyed. Others see it as a late-winter celebration designed to welcome the coming spring. As early as the middle of the second century, the Romans observed a fast of forty Days, which was preceded by a brief season of feasting, costumes and merrymaking.

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Saturnalia

Some sources claim the festival of Fat Tuesday traces its roots back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia, a celebration held in mid-December to honor the god Saturn. It is also described as a Winter Solstice ritual which compresses the Consualia (for Consus, God of the Storage Bin), the Saturnalia (for Saturn, God of Sowing), and the Opalia (for Ops, Goddess of Plenty) into a single festival, Brumalia.

Either way, because Saturnalia was celebrated first with sacrifices to the gods and then with a public banquet, gift giving, role reversals, and continual partying in an atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms, it’s associated both with Christmas and with Shrove Tuesday.

One author claims, “As often happened with such festivals, Catholics found a way to work the festival into their own liturgical year.” I find this a bit of a stretch, but a number of sources acknowledge that Fat Tuesday has pre-Christian pagan celebrations (but are not specific about which ones).


Shrove Tuesday

According to early Christian ritual, the week immediately before Lent, Christians would meditate and consider the sins or wrongs they needed to acknowledge and changes they had to make in their lives to enhance spiritual growth. To prepare for Ash Wednesday, Christians were expected to go to their confessor and confess their sins. Shrove Tuesday, a reference to “shriving” or confession, is meant to prepare Christians for the fast ahead which lasts for forty days.

Some communities use Shrove Tuesday to burn palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday to create the ashes that are used on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of penitence and fasting that leads to Good Friday and Easter.


Fat Tuesday (Martedí Grasso, Mardi Gras)

The Tuesday before Lent is the last day to “indulge.” Not only was it a last chance to indulge in the “passions of the flesh,” but the last opportunity to consume any fat, milk, eggs, and meat which had been put up for winter that might not stay fresh enough for consumption until spring brought the end of Lent and Easter.

Many foods were not eaten during this time such as fish, meat, fats, eggs, sugar, and milky goods. Thrifty housewives would use up all the fats in the house in the cooking of the festive meal on Tuesday (since they could not use them for forty days).


Pancake Tuesday

In England, Fat Tuesday is also called Pancake Tuesday. The pancake bit comes from the fact that in order to find it easier to abstain, one should use up all the flour, milk, sugar and eggs on Shrove Tuesday. While a lot of things can be made from those basic ingredients, long ago the Brits decided pancakes were the thing to make to get rid of these foods.


Carnival (Carnivale, Carnevale)

The word carnival (Italian: carnevale) possibly comes from the Latin carnem levare or carnelevarium, which means to take away or remove meat. A more probable etymology for the word carnevale may be derived from the Latin carne + vale, meaning “farewell to meat”. Developed around the Roman Catholic festival of Lent (Quaresima – derived from the Latin term Quadragesima, or “the forty days”), carnival was associated with the pre-Lenten festivals.

The Carnival of Venice

The Carnival of Venice is an annual festival, held in Venice, Italy, which dates back to 1068. It starts 58 days (one source says 40 days) before Easter and ends on Fat Tuesday (Martidí Grasso).

It is said, “A carnevale, ogni scherzo vale!” In other words, “At a carnival, every joke goes!”

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While the Carnival of Venice may have begun with the usual Fat Tuesday celebrations, it gained momentum from a victory of the “Repubblica della Serenissima“, Venice’s previous name, against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico in the year 1162. To honor of the victory, the people started to dance and celebrate in San Marco Square. Apparently this festival started in that period and become official in the renaissance.

By the eighteenth century the wearing of masks by Venetians continued for six months of the year as the original religious association and significance with carnival diminished. On October 17th, 1797 (26 Vendémiaire, Year VI of the French Republic) Venice became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Austrians took control of the city on January 18, 1798 and it fell into a decline which also effectively brought carnival celebrations to a halt for many years.

After a long absence, including being banned by Mussolini, the Italian government in 1979 decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of their efforts. Today, approximately 3,000,000 visitors come to Venice each day for Carnival. One of the most important events is the contest for the best mask, placed at the last weekend of the Carnival. A jury of international costume and fashion designers votes for “La Maschera piu bella” (the most beautiful mask).

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Venetian Carnival Masks

Venice (and many Italian cities) in the Middle Ages and Renaissance had a long tradition of mask-wearing among the nobility while engaging in activities of a questionable nature — gambling, drinking, not to mention romantic and sexual rendezvous. Their activities were so outrageous that laws were passed to restrict the wearing of masks to certain times of year. One of those times was Carnival.

Masks were also worn by the lower classes to allow them to mix unfettered with the aristocrats in such situations. The mask, after all, was a great equalizer in a social setting. This was especially common in Carnival, with its traditions of role reversal and celebration of the fool. Some of those typical costumes include the following:

 Moretta

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Medico de Apeste
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Moretta is a traditional mask, worn only by women (only by patrician women in the 18th century), a black oval mask that is held in place not with a band or string, but by a button on the inside of the mask that is held clenched between the teeth of the wearer.

 Volto Larva

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Bauta

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Bauta is the whole face, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of “gilding”. One may find masks sold as Bautas that cover only the upper part of the face from the forehead to the nose and upper cheeks, thereby concealing identity but enabling the wearer to talk and eat or drink easily. It tends to be the main type of mask worn during the Carnival.

It was thus useful for a variety of purposes, some of them illicit or criminal, others just personal, such as romantic encounters. In 18th century, the Bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government. It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision-making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously. Only citizens had the right to use the Bauta. Its role was similar to the processes invented to guarantee general, direct, free, equal and secret ballots in modern democracies.□

Resources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival_of_Venice
http://www.twistedimage.com/productions/carnivale/
The Portale de Venezia “Carnivale in Venice” Site
http://www.venetianmasksshop.com/history.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia
http://web.eecs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/Saturnalia.htm
http://heirloomjc.com/venetian_carnivale_masks_30.html