Thursday, June 19, 2014

When You Have Fear In Your Chicken Places

Eleanor Roosevelt quote, fear, do one thing that scares you
"Do one thing everyday that scares you."   Eleanor Roosevelt

This is the advice I carried in my pocket when I attended the writer's conference.

The great paradox of the modern introverted writer is that you can't be the hide-away, introspective soul that your spirit craves to be - you must be visible, aggressively pursuing your dream, waving your arms like an eccentric wild-woman screaming "look at me, read me, LOVE ME!"

"Do one thing everyday that scares you."  Notice how it doesn't say "Do one thing everyday that scars you."

Do you see the difference?

It took me a while to comprehend the power of that 'E'. 

Fear can be a hindering force. It can tuck you up safe and warm away from the world and the possibility of goodness-knows-what. It can make your living anything but living. It can be your prison. BUT fear can also be a propelling force, an invitation to self-awareness, a chance to overcome, and a ticket to new strengths.

My chicken places house hateful words like: boring, ordinary, not-good-enough, unimportant, uneducated...

My chicken places are ugly.

"What are your plans tonight?" one of my conference roommates asked me.

"Night Owl," I told her.  "I hate it."

"Then why are you going?"

"Because I think it's good for me," I said.  Because I am afraid of it.

Night Owl is a room full of writers sitting around a conference table in a basement boardroom at 11:00 pm, taking turns reading their work aloud. {I imagine they call it Night Owl because the feeling invoked by that room must be something akin to that of a field mouse darting frantically through the grass in a desperate attempt to avoid the talons of a hooting predator.}

I am so bad at it. Somehow, the moment I begin reading, the level of oxygen depletes in the room and I can't gather enough breath to make it through a full sentence without stopping for another.  I shake. I don't make eye contact. I stumble over words I've read in my head a thousand times. I sweat.

But I get through it.  Without scars.

And it's good for me.

Because I have this dream...I see myself holding a fresh-pressed copy of some newly published novel with my name on it and I'm in front of a crowd and I'm reading to them from the pages I wrote from my heart and I'm smooth as silk because by then I am well practiced by those tortuous moments around a basement table... 

Anything is possible if you step out of your own way.

What fears stop you from really pursuing your dream?  Can you step beyond them and stare your dragon in the face?

Go and be the master of your fears.  Lord over it with daring confidence.  Because fear can rule you unless you choose to rule it. Sucker-punch it straight in the throat.  Trade in your chicken places for a ten pack of McNuggets. Be your own hero.

Do one thing everyday that scares you!

Monday, June 16, 2014

How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead

How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna RusnakHe smelled like soap.

I don't know why this surprised me because one of the golden conference rules was 'be scent free!'

I think I wanted him to smell like the mountains.

When the press-release stated that he would be at this years writer's conference it no longer became a question of 'should I go?' but 'when I go'. How often does the chance come along to meet your idol?

There's this strange phenomenon that happens when you build up a person in your mind - this budding perfection that makes you giddy like a schoolgirl and foolish like a killdeer - and they become this ideal monument that you appreciate and revel in from afar.  But the chance to meet them? What if? What if they're not what you've built them up to be? What if they're a huge disappointment? What if they're a puffed up celebrity-boasting-rock-star drunk on their own literary fame? 

What if you don't even have a chance to figure it out because you're so overwhelmed in their presence that you burst into tears and can't carry on a conversation?

What if?

From the moment he walked onto the stage on Friday night for his keynote address my 'what if's' were buried and I was enrapt.  He's got this cowboy swagger and Duchovney smile and he spoke with the same raw emotion he pours into every book he writes and I felt his eye contact all the way to my toes {because, of course, I was sitting in the second row dead on center} as he spoke directly to me and all of us and told us that we are all beauty and we are all story and all of our creations are in our own images and they are perfect because we are perfect in our 'right here, right now' because our here and now is beautiful. It was astounding. And moving. And I felt the lump of his words in my throat and wanted to set fire to all of my if only's.

Our first conversation was ridiculous. Not because I was an idiot but because it was late and everybody wanted him to sign their books.

"Green?" he asked as I handed it to him, surprised because it's older than everything everyone else was bringing to him.

"I brought it from home," I told him as he turned to the cover page.

"Is it your favorite?"

"Of the The Circle Series," I told him.  "It was fascinating. I don't understand how you pulled it all together."

He just grinned that grin. "Two N's?" he asked - to spell my name right.

"Could you sign this one for my son?" I took back Green and handed him the The Lost Books series.  "His name is Zander."

Ted sat with his pen poised above the page.  "Zander," he said.

"Zed-A-N-D-E-R," I spelled.

His pen didn't move.

"Zed-A-N," I said again.

"Zed?" he asked, giving his head a little shake.  "Zed? My brain can't get past that! Zed? Like Ted."

{I told you - a ridiculous conversation!}

I laughed because his brain had forgotten he was Canadian.  "Zee-A-N," I clarified.

"Great name!" he said after I'd spelled it out one final time.

"Thank you for what you shared tonight," I told him.  "It was so so great!"

Answering without words, he made prayer hands and dipped his head before taking a book from the next person in line.

And I was still in one piece. My heart was beating at a normal rate. And I was suddenly the owner of a book signed by my favorite novelist!

The next day found me absorbed in his three-hour class, soaking in the kind of wisdom worth much more than the price of the conference. And then the most extraordinary thing happened - in my hands, I held an advance copy of his newest book, not set for release until October 2014!

He read to us from it's pages - the only time he actually seemed even a little bit uncomfortable. "Reading is not my strength," he told us. When he finished I had already written A.D. 30 - October on the top corner of my notebook to make sure I remembered when I'd be able to get it.

He held the book up.  "So, I don't need this any more.  How should I...?" and he looked to the ceiling while that little grin snuck out.  "Who here has read one of my novels?"

Most hands went into the air.

"Who has read five?"

Some hands went down.

"Ten?"

More hands.

"Who has read more than fifteen?"

All that remained were my own and two others.

He made us stand. 

And pick a number between 1 and 20. Seriously.

The others picked 17 and 18. I picked 7.

He threw the book to me, straight down the center and straight into my hands {which I quickly had signed as soon as we took a break}!

How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
" If you bleed on the page, people will drink it. Everyone is a vampire. "
Ted Dekker on pouring yourself into your writing


How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak{Oh, just look at how I gaze on him with unabashed adoration. I don't even care how big of a book nerd this makes me}

So for now let me say, {in the way of my favorite movie, Love Actually} without hope or agenda, to me he is perfect and my wasted heart will love him for all the great beauty he unleashes on this dark, dark world.

Sigh.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How To Come Home After A Writer's Conference

How To Come Home After A Writer's Conference - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna RusnakExhausted. Happy. Inspired.

That's how you come home from a Writer's Conference.

I arrived home yesterday feeling like every part of my body was aching - from brain to toes - and I had no capacity to do anything but prep my photos for a few conference posts.

When I crawled into bed, I couldn't even make it through a chapter of one of my {many} newly purchased books before I was dead to the world - not waking until almost 1 pm today with drool down the side of my face.

I have such a list facing me now and so much information to sort through.





You see, a writer's conference empties you of empty space and pours in an overwhelming amount of do this and this and this and this...which is why we go - to be fed and pushed back out into our own spaces with a better understanding of why we do what we do - why we write {and how to accomplish it}.

How To Come Home After A Writer's Conference - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak


I came away with a promising line on a job - a paid writing job - and will be in conversations with the editor in the next few weeks!

I had a beautiful editing experience with a beautiful writer who oozes the kind of grace we should all strive for!

I took a marketing class with one of the most genuine women I've come in contact with and came away with countless amazing tips for getting my work noticed.

I met my favorite novelist and did not make an entire fool of myself - but that's a whole post in itself. {stay tuned!}

I did two public readings of my work and I did not die!

I took a meeting with a literary agent and he did not think I was stupid!

I handed out a pile of business cards without feeling like an idiot.

I reconnected with old friends and made some new ones.

I drank bad coffee and ate good food.

 I slept poorly but learned much!

I am so very tired but so very excited to dig in and make everything I learned matter!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How To Pack For A Writer's Conference {The Four Important 'Don't Forget Them' Things}

How To Pack For A Writers Conference - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
Writing is a private affair. It's a locked-in-a-closet, introspective exercise most often engaged in by textbook introverts who dream in colour, compose better than they speak, and birth their darlings upon pages only to weep over their death-by-edit later.

To take the writing creature and plop her down in a crowd of like-minded beings is to invite anxiety and excitement and fear and hope and a whole plethora of other emotions.

This will be my third writer's conference experience - only my second involving overnight stays - but I have learned a little bit in the area of preparation and will share with you The Four 'Don't Forget Them' Things. {and by four I mean about one hundred, but bear with me}:


Something to wear.

Something to show.

Something to write with.

Something for comfort.





Something to wear: 

Once you have registered for your conference you should receive a package detailing things like schedule and accommodations and yes, how to dress.  Mine states 'Business Casual' to which I say, "phhhhhttttttt!"

Of course, this should be self-explanatory but, because I lack corporate confidence*, for me it is not. I googled 'Business Casual'. Once again, "phhhhhhtttttttttt!"  Not that I have anything against it. It's just not who I am {remember?} I wear jeans to work.  I try to picture myself in a pants suit and all I feel is sad.

My advice to you? Pack the clothing you feel comfortable in - that you feel your best self in. Whether you actually believe it or not, giving off an air of confidence will do wonders when you're sitting in your meetings with editors and agents.

At my last conference I had a meeting with an agent {a darling southern gentleman in a ten-gallon hat} and I asked his advice on making myself attractive to an agent. After complimenting me on my firm handshake he said, "I must say, you've already made yourself quite attractive!" Guess what I was wearing?  Jeans! He said nothing about wearing a blazer.

Pack nice clothes that can be mixed and matched into various comfortable outfits. And layers - you might be moving between buildings and rooms, from air-conditioning to outdoors to non-air-conditioned spaces {hooray for cardigans!}

Be sensible with your shoes. In a continuing class last year I sat beside a beautiful editor in three inch heels.  She looked amazing and put together and so professional but all I could think was, 'her poor, poor feet!'  {I recently needed shoes for a wedding I was singing at and I spent so long perusing the shelves, pulling off gorgeous heels, trying them on and feeling like a child playing dress-up, all the while knowing there was no way I could handle them. I got darling grey flats instead - and the brown and orange flowery pair in the photo above! love them! That's the kind of classy I am!}

Something to show: 

Two conferences I've attended without business cards. How lame! If you take nothing else in the way of self-promotion, take business cards. I will admit that I do feel a little bit silly at the idea of handing them out - like I'm some self-important chump out to boast my own wares BUT everybody else will be doing it and people will ask for it and you don't want to be like me last time: "Ummmm, I didn't even think of that..."  {I had my cards printed through Vista Print and was very pleased with how they turned out.}

Bring samples of your writing. Each conference will offer different things. I have prepared a piece from my current project, Some Melodious Sonnet, for a blue-pencil editing session {yikes!} and a few pieces to share during the Night Owl readings which is ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING {if you're as awkward and shy as I am} but I think it's an invaluable exercise.

Have your pitch ready. There will be many opportunities to share what you're working on. Share it confidently {gulp!} Remember that you've been dedicating much of your time to this endeavor and it's okay for the passion you feel for your project to shine through! Be ready to share it with editors, agents, publishers, and other writers.

Bring a one-sheet. If you want. I labored over this for my last conference and I didn't hand out a single one. I think this could be a valuable tool if you have already established yourself in the field of writing. If you're more like me and all you can say is 'well, I write and blog and I'm working on some stuff...' maybe leave it for another time.

Something to write with: 

I am an old-fashioned soul when it comes to taking notes. I love the scratching of the pen, the frantic scribbling of great thought and the turning of filled pages. I will arrive at the conference center with a large spiral notebook and an arsenal of pens and pencils. I will also bring my laptop and/or tablet for possible blogging or writing during down-time, and my cell phone so I can keep in touch with the people I love and maybe {hopefully} get a photo or two with one of my writing idols {ack! Ted Dekker!} - which means I must remember all the various charging cords and a bag to carry them all in.

Something for comfort: 

Accommodation options were varied for the conference I am attending and I opted for the cheapest choice - a dorm room to which I supply my own linens. There is no way you're going to catch me spending two nights wrapped up in a sleeping bag so I will be bringing sheets, a blanket, a pillow and comfy pajamas!

I am also bringing along my travel mug. My registration fee included coffee breaks and, because I like to sip my hot drinks slowly, I bring my mug so I can take it with me to workshops and classes.

******

On top of all these things mentioned, I will also bring cash for the book tables and a few Ted books that I can hopefully have him sign {fingers crossed!}

So here I go, off on the big adventure, hopefully returning fully motivated and inspired to carry on and keep pursuing this crazy, crazy dream!



* corporate |ˈkôrp(ə)rət| confidence |ˈkänfədəns; -fəˌdens|
noun
one who navigates a professional field with self-assurance and poise

corporate |ˈkôrp(ə)rət| dingbat |ˈdi ng ˌbat|
noun
1. one who navigates a professional field with awkward small-talk and self-deprecating 'humor' while wearing flip-flops and jeans.   2. me

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Boutique Night Haul {Everybody Likes FREE Stuff}

Boutique Night Haul - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna RusnakOur church has got this vibrant ladies ministry, run by a group of willing creative hearts full of amazing ideas.  

Like Boutique Night.

This was in no way my own idea {though I like to think they were thinking of me - because if anyone likes a thrifted deal it's this girl!}

1. A call was put out for donations: clothing, accessories, home decor items. Good quality. Only gently used items. And things were collected over a number of weeks.

2. The ladies organized everything into sections, creating something of a shop in the church basement - jewellery on one table, purses on another, scarves hung along a curtain rod, racks of clothing divided by sizes, home decor items displayed attractively.

3. As ladies arrived on the night of the event they were given a number {lucky 7 for me!} and then invited to 'shop' around and see what they might like, try things on, drink tea and eat brownies.

4. The concept was simple. When your number was called you could choose an item.  

Picture a room of 35 women, waiting on the edge of their chair for their number, then running when it was finally called.  There was little more than ten seconds between each number being called so there was a lot of rushing and squealing and cheering. Good old girly fun.

I went hoping to get some new accessories and I certainly was not disappointed.  My first three items were a silver knot ring, a scarf, and a bracelet. They were the three items I'd had my eye on in my initial 'shop' and I felt lucky to get them after going through the numbers three times.  By the fourth time I ventured out to the clothing and found a pair of jeans {that fit}! Finally they opened it up for a free-for-all for the leftovers and I grabbed a couple dresses and a pair of earrings.

And the cost? FREE! 

Boutique Night Haul - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

I was feeling pretty good about my haul and then I talked to a friend who hadn't gone and when I asked her why she replied that she didn't need any 'stuff'.  That made me feel a little selfish and guilty.

But then I paired my new jeans with my new scarf and I got over it.

Plus, I came away with the most adorable purse which I did pay for.  

The ladies had arranged for a booth selling 3 Cords products and I felt good paying my $41 towards that cause considering all the free swag I scored.

3 Cords purse, handmade in Haiti

Well done, Ladies Socials Team, well done!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Top 10 Joy Entries

I know I've said it already but I'm going to say it again: Thank you, thank you, thank you for participating in last month's giveaway by sharing your daily joys.  I really enJOYed reading each and every one of them. And, as I promised in my last post, here are my ten favorites {which was really hard because they were all so AMAZING and JOYFUL}

Top 10 Joys - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

In no particular order:

1. Little girls drinking tea.

2. Some days it's hard to find the joy but we do not concede - we keep searching. Our little girl is sick and so the joy in our house has faded  - but not completely - seeing her light up at the sight of her best friend lit up joy in my heart today - even for a moment.

3. Slobbery baby kisses.

4. Knowing that each night apart from her is another night closer together.

5. Kijiji ads for guard llamas.

6. Sun-warmed dirt on my toes as I dig in the garden.

7. Listening to my daughter sing 'Let It Go' for the thousandth time.

8. Early Saturday mornings in a still house before the day erupts.

9. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.

10. Finding a quaint bakery by the river with good coffee.

seek joyP.S. The images for this post were created in an app called Word Swag {which I would recommend to anyone wanting a simple way to add text to images}

Monday, June 2, 2014

How Would You Draw Joy?

How Would You Draw Joy? SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

"What does 'JOY' mean?" I ask her.

"Joy? Joy is my name. Like Noa Riley JOY..." She says it in a voice that says come on, mom, you're smarter than that.

"But what does it mean?"

She shrugs her little shoulders.  "Like jumping for joy? Like maybe I'm just really happy?"

"Can you draw it? Can you draw me a picture of joy?"

"Hmmmm....maybe..." And she gathers some markers and begins.

How Would You Draw Joy? SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

"Who is that?" I ask her and she gives me a guided tour of her art.

"This is me and this is you and this is a goldfish and this is a flower and this is music and this is a butterfly and this is a rainbow..."

How Would You Draw Joy? SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

We all find our joy in different places. When I launched my May JOY Giveaway my goal was simply to encourage people to seek joy in everything and I was pleasantly surprised, sometimes amused, and often moved by the entries people made. {You can read all of the entries on the Giveaway page by moving down the page to the scrolling text and stay-tuned for a Top 10 Post where I'll share my ten favorite entries!}

I am very happy to announce Cindy Dietz as the winner of the JOY necklace! Cindy was dedicated to this process, entering almost every day - even when things in her world weren't all bright and sunny.  Cindy is wife to a wonderful man and momma to two bright, beautiful children and absolutely deserving of every joy that comes her way.  Congrats Cindy and thanks for participating!

The giveaway is over but that doesn't mean you should stop chasing happiness.  Keep your eyes and ears open. Joy is all around.  Never stop looking!
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