Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Stories for a New Year

First, I need to note that I'm postponing my Book in a Week class to later in the month. I need to go back east to see my son and can't manage the class at the same time. I'll be posting here when I know for certain when the class will actually start.

Now....about the new year.....

Human beings are storytellers. We tell ourselves stories about our own lives and the people around us all the time. Those stories can help or hinder us depending on how we tell them. In the worst case situation, we're telling ourselves stories that hurt us and never even realize they ARE stories! If we fall into the trap of believing they're truth, we are unlikely to change or rewrite those negative stories into something that will help empower us.

Why am I bringing this up now? I think New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is a good time to stop and ask ourselves what stories we're telling ourselves and ask ourselves which ones we might want to rewrite. If we do, we have far greater chance of making true changes in our lives than by making resolutions we may not believe we can fulfill anyway.

Example: Which seems more likely to work? To tell ourselves we have to stop eating chocolate because it's making us fat or to tell ourselves we're someone who doesn't need chocolate or to eat more than one piece at a time?

I know the power of expectations—and that's what's inherent in telling ourselves stories. If we expect someone to behave badly, studies show they will. If we expect someone to succeed, studies show they are far more likely to do so. What then if we apply those ideas to ourselves? If we're writers, we're used to creating stories, so why not create stories about ourselves that will empower us to achieve our goals?

I don't know about you, but I'm realizing that telling myself I'm stupid about something isn't very likely to make me succeed at whatever it is. On the other hand, I've got a much better shot at it if the story I'm telling myself is that I'm smart and successful and able to see possibilities and figure out ways to do things—even if they are different from how anyone else would do them.

I find myself thinking about all of this now because I will be seeing my son in his new environment, in the group home. I know that it's important to think carefully about what I will tell him about this big change in his life, the story I will help him create for himself. I look at the world, too, which seems in chaos and I know that I have the best chance of weathering the crises if I have a story that tells me that no matter what I will find a way to do so.

As I say often in my workshops: the brain works best when we are relaxed. It literally cannot function as well when we're scared. So...the optimal strategy is to find stories that help us move forward in our lives.

What are the stories you tell yourself that you might want to rewrite as we enter this new year?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve 2008

Christmas Eve is bittersweet for me. I love the sense of hope I see, the generosity of people, the joy on children's faces, even the look of bewilderment on my dog's face as she stares at the Christmas tree and tries to figure out why it's there.

I'll enjoy seeing my daughter tonight and having her sleep over. I'll talk with my son on the phone and wish he weren't so far away. I'll light a candle for my father who died on Christmas eve years ago. As I said, it's a bittersweet time for me.

We have choices. To focus on what's wrong in the world and what worries us or to count our blessings and find reasons for joy EVERY DAY. I'm putting in a plug for the latter because I truly believe it's what's best for us and for the world.

It is when we remember our past successes and celebrate any and all reasons for joy in our lives that we are most likely to think of solutions to our life challenges. It is when we hold onto that sense of self-worth and faith in ourselves that we are most likely to find ways to become even more the kind of people we want to be. It is when we allow ourselves to celebrate who we are that we are most likely to be able to open our hearts to others.

When we know what brings joy, we can do that which expands the amount of joy in the world—and make it a better place for everyone no matter what challenges exist.

Wishing everyone much joy and peace, good health and success now and throughout all of 2009!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Next Online Class

Please note that there is a discounted fee if you have taken the class before and wish to take it again.

I realize a lot of people are focused on the holidays right now but January is coming up fairly quickly and I wanted to let people know that I'll be offering my Book in a Week class at the beginning of the year because I suspect that lots of people will be ready to jump back into writing after the holidays. (Or some of you may want to give—or ask for-- it as a gift.)

Online Class: BOOK IN A WEEK

Cost: $60 ($35 if you have taken this class before and are taking it again)
Dates: January 5, 2009 to February 6, 2009
Deadline to sign up: January 2, 2009
Format: All lessons and discussion are handled via email so you can take the class in your pajamas at 3 in the morning if you want!

I truly believe that when we are in tune with who we are as writers, the process becomes easier and we become better writers. This class is designed to help you discover what and when and where and how YOU write best. It is designed to take you back to those early days when you couldn't wait to write your book. It's designed to remind you of the joy and the power of playing “make believe” as a child—to let you sidestep any limits you may be setting on yourself and your ability to write.

This class will take you through every step of the writing process—from beginning to brainstorming all the way through sending material out to be published.

Weeks 1-3: Preparing to write the first draft of a book in one week
Creating compelling characters or how to write about real people in nonfiction
Planning plot elements or structure in a nonfiction book
Significance of names
Effective paragraph and sentence structure
Using imagery and sensory detail to add impact
Writing effective dialogue
Creating a productive writing environment
Enlisting the support of those around you
Mentally gearing yourself up to write faster (and better) than you thought you could

Week 4: Intensive Writing Week (January 25 to January 31)
This is about discovering how writing fits into YOUR life. You can't do it wrong. You won't fail. No matter what happens you will discover more about yourself as a writer than you thought possible during that ONE WEEK of writing!

Week 5:
Evaluating the writing experience
Making revisions
Sending out material

Bio: April Kihlstrom is an award winning author of 31 published romance novels. She offers coaching to fellow writers as well as classes and workshops on writing and has spoken at many conferences including: the Romance Writers of America national conference (romance) and the East of Eden conference (non-romance).

Testimonials from students who have taken the class:

“I have taken several online classes, none of them writing related. Still, none of them have been as well planned, documented and executed as BIAW.”

“Wow...Let me begin by saying Thank you Thank you Thank you! What an amazing process and generous amount of information given in a relatively short amount of time!”

“This course was certainly value for the money. A price can't be placed on the invaluable information and experience you imparted during this course.”

“I'm a better writer. I'm a faster writer. I'm a more confident writer.”

Payment for the class may be made by check or by Paypal.

To sign up send an email to with Book in a Week in the header and in the body of the email please put: your name and whether you prefer to pay by check or Paypal. Also, please let me know if you have taken the class before.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Season

As usual, I find myself way behind on so many things. I haven't begun writing out cards. My shopping is well, barely started. I did put up my artificial tree this weekend and now much of the challenge is persuading my dog Sophy that it is NOT for her to chew on—not the branches OR the ornaments!

Partly it's the weather. We stayed unusually warm until very recently. We still have some days that hit 70 degrees and I'm used to much colder temperatures in November! NOT that I'm complaining. I like the warmer weather. It just means that it doesn't always feel like the Christmas season as early as it would back in the northeast.

Partly it's the economic chaos. Like everyone else, I'm mindful of what I can afford and how I choose to spend on gifts. I always try to choose gifts that will be meaningful but this year it feels even more important not to waste money just to buy SOMETHING.

I find myself thinking about Hanukkah, too. For close to 30 years, it was part of my life. I loved the lighting of the candles and the concept of the miracle of the oil that lasted 8 days. I don't light a menorah now but when I see the candles in the store, I'm swept back to moments when that was part of this Season for me, too.

As a writer, this gives me a chance to look at the Season with a new perspective. How might characters in a novel act and react differently in a year like this? What would be emotionally compelling—and not just in obvious ways? How might a character create peace and calm in the midst of financial disorder? How might a character find new and meaningful ways to celebrate Christmas with her children when money is tight? How might friends in a story help each other out when no one has any money? How might a character find success when everyone says it's impossible?

So I have my tree up, I've begun to brainstorm what I might get my children for Christmas and perhaps by next week I'll be starting to send out my Christmas cards. Meanwhile, I'm taking moments to savor what I love about this time of year. I'm letting myself question, too, all the old assumptions about what HAS to be part of this Season.

How about you? Are you ahead of schedule? Behind? Right on time? Are you rethinking anything about what you do for this time of year?