Please welcome Mardeene Mitchell - Co-Director of Write the World in Atlanta and Write in Brazil events with her Anglo-Brazilian colleague in the UK, brings 27 years in the publishing and film industries as a writer, writing coach, publishing/literary consultant, publicity director, inspiring teacher and speaker, and writing collaborator on a selective basis.
Please tell us about yourself
Hmmmm, okay, but since we are all evolving beings “under construction,” I’ll share what might be of interest and relevant. There is a bio on my website, www.VisionariesToLight.com.
By the way, Barbara, it has been such a pleasure to meet you online! I love your 6th Books and Bedroom Books. Provocative.
I started out in Fine Art, a painter who transitioned into photography. I always saw myself as a visual artist. So funny, it was never on my list of things to do to become a writer. Then a job fell into my lap, helping a start-up company, Writers Connection, in Silicon Valley, California. Went from receptionist to Executive Director for Steve and Meera Lester. We put on writers conferences on how to write and sell everything, including the well-known Selling to Hollywood Conference. I became a photojournalist, discovering that just might be my destiny. Not for news, though—too much bad news; but for profiles. I loved finding out the inside scoop on more positive ways to live. As I was writing my own articles and screenplays and a photo story book, writers started coming to me to help them with theirs. That was never on my own list of things to do either, but since they kept being referred to me and I never advertised and it was happening so easily, I figured I was supposed to be doing that. Loved it! Probably the best known in the past is the one I co-wrote with Dr. Sheldon Z. Kramer, endorsed by Deepak Chopra, M.D., called Hidden Faces of the Soul: 10 Secrets for Mind/Body Healing from Kabbalah’s Tree of Life, bought by Paula Munier then at Adams Media. I’m very excited about Warren Woodruff’s children’s fantasy just out, Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton, which we’ve also got now as a major motion picture in development with Ken Atchity’s Story Merchant production company in Beverly Hills.
As someone who likes to help authors ‘birth’ his or her book, what excites you most?
Through the years I found myself asking everyone—not only writers—the question “What is your passion?”
Because I figured then I would know who they really are. It was fascinating to discover many didn’t know or said they would have to think about it. What excites me so about asking writers (and publishers and artists, musicians, scientists and other visionaries) is that they usually know what excites them the most. They are creative thinkers and dreamers. They are connected with the pulse of who they are and with the pulse of the universe. It is a privilege and an honor to learn firsthand what they know and to help them express that most powerfully on the page, oftentimes “translating” esoteric material into mainstream language. It also excites me to sometimes see the significance and importance of their messages even beyond what they themselves see, opening a window for us into their souls.
Some dreamers often are so much in their head and their visions, it is exciting to be able to help them manifest those visions into physical form. I also love to be part of the process of a creative person fulfilling his or her own potential. It is so rewarding to work both with beginners who need help fueling a spark of inspiration into action and also with dynamic passionately driven writers who will do whatever it takes to succeed. They may need my help organizing the material, writing a book proposal or developing the plot or the characters.
The creative collaborative process excites me when we both are equally receptive to each other’s expertise and ideas, no serious ego issues involved, and the work flows like magic. It’s like falling in love. Where we humans can sometimes get into trouble, is when we mistake the love of creation with being in love with the other person. Some interesting situations can develop out of that one! We see it a lot in Hollywood in the making of movies. It’s understandable, for the act of creation is love and that is divine.
What (if anything) makes your heart sink a little?
Several situations may fall into that category. When the writer to be is hiring me to help him, but then thinks he knows better and doesn’t listen to the advice of a pro, and the book ends up being not the best it could be, and doesn’t sell. Now I understand how a doctor feels when I pay him for his professional advice and then not follow it, thinking I know better! It’s a challenging process. But I do love challenges.
My heart sinks more than a little when we flow with a “great” book with my help and it doesn’t sell, for any number of discouraging variables: Maybe the timing isn’t right in the market, maybe the author doesn’t get it to the right person, maybe the author doesn’t have the money or the know-how needed for promotion. Maybe, god forbid, I didn’t steer her in the right direction with the writing. “Great” is, of course, a subjective word and editors or agents or readers may not agree with my opinion, or with the opinions of others. This is not a science. It gets interesting.
Another situation that hurts is when I know and believe, with every fiber of my being, a book will sell; and on some deeper level the author may not believe that herself or himself, or may not take the proactive steps necessary to help it get out to the readers because of those fear-based beliefs—or because of life issues getting in the way. We all know we can’t help somebody who doesn’t want to be helped. In the early days of my career, I was talking to a very good agent about a certain book client, and she essentially told me, “Mardeene, you’re trying to do too much for that author. If he wants it badly enough, he’ll find a way.” Passion with 100% commitment moves mountains.
All of that said, I still believe if we stop worrying about the obstacles and the statistics against us and if we can focus on the results we do want, act on those, and trust that what we want or something better down the road will happen for us, it will! Or at least we’ll enjoy the journey a lot more. The key is knowing what we want; then letting go of how it appears. Be open to unexpected ideas, opportunities, and offers along the way and enjoy the ride!
Please describe your typical day
Wow. One thing I love about being a freelance writer is that no day is “typical” and you are often free to create it as you like. Although that elusive concept of “freedom” gets me into trouble sometimes. I suspect if I applied more discipline, I’d get more of my own writing done! Need to follow my own advice to writers, chuckle.
My favorite hours for writing are from 4 am to 9:30 am. I often wake up in 4 hours, going to bed around 11 or 12. Hop to my computer in my pajamas and work. Try to write on my own book in progress first. Meditate to the rising sun in my glorious view of the Eastern horizon from the 15th floor in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia. Then I get to work on other projects. Go for a jog to Piedmont Park and back or go rafting on the Chattahoochee River or play a set of tennis. More work at the computer. Often I enjoy sitting for my precious three-year-old grandson, who is now only 40 minutes away instead of 4 ½ hours away in Tennessee. There are days when I have deadlines when I work 12-16 hours a day, happily, doing what I love. Life is good!
What advice do you have for potential authors?
If you are toying with the idea of writing a book or are serious about writing, but don’t know where to start, or you have begun and are stuck, and we were together right now and you were asking me how to do it? This is what I would say to you in this moment. (Publishing and the market is changing fast on a daily basis, and I’m still learning new stuff, so advice might change tomorrow):
1. Decide what has the most juice for you? What are you most passionate about learning or sharing that will drive you through all the discouraging times? Don’t try to start by second-guessing what’s popular in the market. By the time you learn how to write it, that trend may well have passed.
2. What is uniquely you? What do people tell you is your gift to the world?
3. What do you like to read the most? That might give you a clue. If all you read is self-help books, you might not want to try to become a Danielle Steele or John Grisham. But stay open. You won’t really know until you write, write, write.
4. Keep a notepad with you at all times and by your bed. Jot down ideas that come to you. Some of my best ideas have come just as I wake up before I get into the “real” world. Maybe throw notes into different folders for different “books” or “chapters.”
5. Don’t quit your day job.
6. People have different styles of working and writing. I used to always start with extensive outlines, be it nonfiction or fiction. A pretty intellectual approach. I have a great writer friend who just would sit down and start writing her novel and it would come to her. I so admired that! However, once she got to the end of one novel and had written herself into a corner, wishing she had outlined the plot. Now she gives a whole course on plotting the novel. And I’m learning to just sit down and write. J Just jump in and have fun finding out what works for you.
7. Through the years, I’ve discovered that writers, including myself, would try to figure everything out before writing. And then when we would begin writing, we would stop, editing every paragraph or sentence as we went. Talk about stopping the flow!
8. Now I recommend once you have the basic concept and themes in mind, just let ‘er rip! Feel the excitement! Write as fast as you can without thinking, which gets you into right brain creativity. Do NOT let the left-brain editor in at this point. She’ll be that critical inner voice that tells you who do you think you are to write a book? Watch out, you’ve got to use possessive before the gerund. Tell her “Thank you very much, you’re a wonderful editor and I sure will need you later, but not now, so get lost!”
9. Read, read, read.
10. Write, write, write.
11. Read books in your genre, both good and bad. Learn. Apply what you’ve learned.
12. Try to set the same time each day or night to sit down to write. Your ritualistic time to commune with yourself and the gods. Habit. You will begin to crave that magical time.
13. Love your book. If you do it will show and possibly sell. If you don’t, nobody else will.
14. I’d recommend doing as much as you can by yourself of a whole first draft of your book just coming out of you before seeking advice. It will never stay that way, but there may be some good raw stuff that is you that in some form you will use.
15. When you’ve gone as far as you think you can by yourself, do take seminars, go to writers conferences, ask questions, make connections.
16. Your spouse or partner or friends (unless they are writers) will not understand you. Other writers will. Read books on the writing life by good writers. Make writer friends. Congratulate yourself on being a writer. You are a writer if you are writing.
17. After you’ve been through many drafts with feedback from critique groups or writer friends or writing teachers or consultants, it’s time to get feedback from a professional before sending it out into the market—either to publishers or as a self-published book.
18. Then rewrite. What separates the men from the boys in this business is who is willing to do the rewrites.
19. Believe in yourself and do not give up! Unless everyone you talk to, including professionals, suggests you find another hobby.
This is very much in a nutshell advice. But perhaps it will help someone get started?
Anything you’d like to share…
Most writers would prefer to be writing in their little rooms, not marketing. Granted. But the more we can embrace connecting with our readers and creatively getting our books out to them, the more successful we are likely to be. Now I just have to follow my own advice. Love our messages, our books, love the readers buying our books and learn to love the process instead of resisting it. When it gets frustrating as hell, I keep reminding myself I love it all and chose it and everybody would love to be a writer.
At the fabulous WomenSpirit Conference in North Carolina, USA I’m facilitating an interactive workshop on Sunday, Oct. 20th that goes into this topic of resistance versus embracing. My workshop is called “Cross Over Crisis Thresholds by Integrating Your Inner Warrior and Lover.” Writers could easily apply these techniques. In fact, maybe I’ll do a Warrior Lover workshop for writers someday! Check out this conference: www.uuwomenspirit.org/Events/Fall2013/Fall-2013-WS-Brochure.pdf.
Nice to be with you and your readers, Barbara.
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