"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
FINDING YOUR NICHE
I've been talking with a CP (critique partner) this week about finding our "niche" -- what kind of author do we want to be? "Author branding" is a big buzz word these days. I'm no expert on either of these things. But as an enneagram 4, knowing myself is important. As a faith writer, knowing my values are paramount. And, having been around the sun 54 times and married for 32, I guess I have some wisdom to offer. Since coming to the writing community, I realize more and more the importance of "knowing ourselves" I believe this is one of the keys to finding our "niche" or our "author brand". Every year when I apply for the PBChat mentorship, one of the questions is: what kind of stories do you want to be known for? What do you want to put on the shelves? What do you want people to remember about you as an author? These type of questions can help us identify who we are as writers -- and who we want to be, what legacy we hope to leave behind. If they are difficult for you to answer, maybe some of these strategies will help.
These suggestions are not a course in creating your brand or even finding your niche. They are simply exercises that may help you to that end.
Recently, I watched a webinar about writing for the educational market, and one of the things they recommended was to make lists of things that really interest you -- things you know about, things you're good at. Think about your job, your hobbies, your trainings, what TV channels you enjoy watching, what sports you participate in, what instruments you play, etc.
Another training I attended early on (I think the speaker was discussing writing about what you know) talked about creating a list of all the things you know, love, are trained in, have experience with, etc. Still another (Joana Pastro during StoryStorm: Here's the link: https://taralazar.com/2021/01/13/storystorm-2021-day-13/) recommended making lists: festivals/celebrations, music, dances, clothing/accessories, food/dishes, places, people, sports/entertainment, aspects of nature, etc. that you have experienced or know about. Someone along the way recommended keeping a running notebook/document of childhood memories AND their feelings to incorporate into your writing. While all of those are brainstorming tools, I think they also give you a window into yourself and your experiences that might help you identify your niche. Now that I have over 40 manuscripts (at least rough draft or further along), I'm definitely starting to see some patterns of those things I love showing up: music, nature, animals, and lots of stories based on my childhood memories.
Reflect on your jobs/trainings/hobbies/experiences/childhood memories/family history/faith and spiritual values, etc. One version of that exercise is to create a page in your journal/notebook called 100 Things I Love. That may help you narrow it down as well. It's always a good exercise. It's great for brainstorming, when you're stuck and need something to write about. It's great for identifying those things that really matter to you. Perhaps 100 seems like a lot. If so, you don't have to do it all at one sitting. Keep it near your workspace, and keep working on it until you're up to 100! I tried to think about these questions as I made mine:
1. What are the most important things to me? (Quickly I filled in friends, family, our cats [fur babies], God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Church, Bible, music, reading, writing and books.)
2. What would I miss the most if it disappeared from my life? (Here I added things like playing trumpet, singing, prayer, etc.)
3. When I think of having a really good day, what comes to mind? (For me, this meant sleeping in/waking naturally to bird song, pajamas [or other comfy clothes], reading, writing, worship, nature, etc.)
4. What are some hobbies/activities that are important to me? (Music, playing trumpet, singing, cooking, reading, writing, etc.)
5. What are some things that have enriched my life? (Twitter kidlit, picture books, worship, , being included/belonging, etc.)
6. What things do I find fun or relaxing? (sleeping in, singing, looking at the stars, hanging out in a hammock, listening to wind chimes, twinkling lights, playing in the water, camping, walking on the beach, etc., etc.)
7. What are some foods that I particularly enjoy? (cheesecake, food boards, ice cream, pineapple upside down cake, s'mores, etc.)
8. What are some sensory experiences that I love? (warm blankets, cool breezes, moonlight, firelight, wind chimes, snuggling, misty rain, twinkling lights . . .)
9. If I have nothing I HAVE to do, what will I choose to do? (reading, writing, cooking, sleeping late, etc.)
10. What do I MOST enjoy about what I do for a living? (teaching, singing, dancing, music)
Etc., etc., etc.
Where would you travel?
What do you most like to wear?
What are your favorite colors?
By the time you actually get to 100, you'll probably think of quite a few more and be disappointed by what you left off. You could always start another one :-). These are great places to start when you need to brainstorm for a new story or a blog post. It also really helps you identify who you are at the core. What matters most? Your values show up in some way of other. Here's my current one:
If 100 is too much for you to think about, here's a link for a template for 50 Things I Love -- perfect to get you started (or if you're a teacher --a great way to teach your students how to find some things to write about):
If you'd like to find out your personality type using Jungian-style quiz (MBPTS/ Myers-Briggs, etc), you can do that here: https://www.16personalities.com/
This site is full of lots of resources for understanding yourself better. (There are lots of other sites that have free quizzes and resources as well; this is simply one I'm sharing.)
If you're not familiar with the enneagram and would like to see where you fall on that spectrum, you can find out here: https://enneagram.bz/en (Again, there are lots of sites that have free quizzes and resources for the enneagram too; I'm sharing one for simplicity's sake.
Knowing yourself in these ways: your personality, how you process the world, how you function in the workplace, your innermost dreams, goals, etc. can help you become a better writer in many ways. Hopefully one way they are beneficial is to help you begin to identify your niche and/or begin to think about your author brand by knowing the things that are most important to you.
Good luck as you seek to identify yourself and find your place in the writing community! If I can help in any way, please feel free to reach out!
A VIRTUOUS WOMAN
I'm wrapping up this series of blogposts in tribute to Mama. Having said that, I reserve the right to share more about her. She was one of the greatest impacters on my life.
A couple of weeks ago, Shane and I were watching TWO WEEKS NOTICE. (I'm a big rom-com fan . . . ). There was a quote that struck me like a ton of bricks: "But for better or worse, she's the voice in my head pushing me to do better." Lucy was speaking about her mother, who was a "piece of work." This conversation could have been absolutely been mine about Mama. My sister and I sometimes joke still about chopping vegetables. I can rarely peel, chop, slice, dice, mince or any other kitchen task without hearing her voice in my head. "Too much, not enough; too thick, too thin, wrong knife, not even, etc." While those words felt critical as a daughter growing up, they were Mama's way of pushing us to always do better. Looking back, I can see so many of her words in a different light now than I had heard them growing up. But for better or worse, she's the voice in my head, pushing me to do better. I hear you, Lucy. I feel you, and Mama, I hear you, too. I understand what you were trying to do, and I'm sorry for the times I was too much, too little, too uneven, too loud, too lazy, too _____.
ilyWhen we held the service for Mama a few weeks ago, I was a bit surprised when my husband (who did the service) chose to use Proverbs 31 as a scripture reading. But as he began reading, it became clear that it was quite apropos. Oftentimes, it is the scripture held up as a mirror to women of the church to see if you "measure up". And it often seems an arduous task. But here, as Shane read the passage, I realized that most of it fit Mama well. Granted there are a couple of things -- like the whole getting up early to feed/take care of your family and plan your daily business -- yeah, not so much that one ;-) What a blessing to know, in spite of faults and flaws, that the bulk of that description fits.
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Over 50 people came to celebrate her life with us and honor her memory. There are more that would liked to have been here and could not. My dear friend, Janet, spoke of 2 memories of Mama -- Mama came to their house when Janet was a young wife and said, "Janet, what are you doing?" Janet said, "I'm trying to cut up this chicken, Mona." Mama said, "You are massacring that thing. Here, let me show you how to cut up a chicken." And she did. That is quintessential Mama -- the brash, know-it-all, tell-you-the-truth-whether-you-want-to-hear-it-or-not Mama. . . But then she also told the story of Mama's honesty, friendship, and integrity when Janet said some things after surgery while still under the affects of anesthesia, and Mama promised to take those words to the grave and never tell a soul -- and she didn't; not even to Janet :-)
Then, my other best friend (since fourth grade) stood up and told of how Mama's hospitality shone and how she enjoyed spending time at our house and how she cherished some special moments when her family wasn't present and I shared my family with her. Mama accepted her and treated her like family, because she was. Rachel knew she was loved by Mama and that she was truly part of our family.
Mama wasn't perfect -- far from it. But she was a virtuous woman, a hospitable woman, an honorable woman, a loved woman, a woman of faith and integrity. I am so thankful that I learned to appreciate her before it was too late. I'm grateful that she knew I loved her and that I knew she loved me.
There are no words to say how much she is missed. Every day brings some little (or big) conversation that I want to share with her, ask her advice about. The pain of not being able to do that is palpable at times. Grief still hits hard sometimes, but less often. That, in no way makes the love any less.
We will continue to rise and call her blessed, and we all look forward to the day when we can see her again and catch up, and I sure do hope that when I get to Heaven, she'll have a big pot of stew beef ready. We'll have lots of catching up to do!
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!
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