Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Curve in the Road of Life

March 15 I got laid off from my day job, along with about 3,000 other employees. This was not unexpected, as the subprime mortgage industry has been in the news for months and many of our competitors had large layoffs or completely shut down operations. As much as I’d complained that I needed time to write fiction and promote my novel Desert Medicine (due out November 2007), it’s still a shock to my system to have my daily schedule change so dramatically. And then of course, there’s the loss of income and health insurance. Fortunately, I’ll have both for two more months.

My plan right now: Keep writing fiction and working on promoting Desert Medicine, but also set up a photography business so that I’ll have some income (first-time fiction writers are not usually paid nearly enough to quit their day jobs, and I’m no exception.) I love photography because it taps into the same need to be creative that my fiction writing does, but it also delivers something that fiction writing can’t: almost immediate gratification.

I owe a big thanks to my recently ended corporate job. Although hired as a writer, I asked for, and was given, the opportunity to take lots of photos, and was also introduced to a professional photographer, Bleu Cotton, tops in the industry, who I was able to observe. That’s when I decided that I’d like to make a career of photography, if given the opportunity. Now that opportunity has arrived.

I’m putting my money behind this new business, having ordered a professional-level camera and lens (Canon EOS 5D and 70-200 IS lens). This will supplement the Nikon D50 with both wide and long lenses that I’ve been using for the past year and a half. I’ll have to drum up some business just to pay for the equipment!

To see my photography portfolio, go to

Photo: A Joshua tree stands tall in the fire-burned area just outside Pioneer Town near Yucca Valley, CA, taken at Thanksgiving 2006.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fishing for Readers

My trip March 6-8 to Grand Rapids, Michigan went really well. I met the team at Kregel Publications. I was impressed with their operations (they are larger than I expected, with at least 25 folks). They all have a Midwestern sense of understated humor, which I really like. I easily see us working together on the next book. I almost cried when I arrived and saw that the receptionist had put out a sign: Kregel Publications Welcomes Judy Alexander.

I also visited local bookstores, a book club, a writing group, a large women’s ministry at Calvary Church, a Calvin College professor who assists with the Festival of Faith & Writing, and I spoke at a retirement home about the importance of telling or writing your life story, which is what one older woman did with me, thereby inspiring the writing of Desert Medicine. That talk went well, and the activities director told me in an email that I’d inspired several residents to begin writing their memoirs.

I gave most people I met a flower bulb tied with a bow in netting, to which was attached a business card mentioning my website and suggesting they read chapter 6 of Desert Medicine to learn how to plant the bulb. The trip reinforced my concept of myself as an “author,” which was very flattering and fun.

Photo: Fishing in Grand Rapids in early March.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Young Person Keeps Me Dancing

With the impending publication of my novel Desert Medicine, I've asked a family friend's talented teenage daughter, Kelly, to help me keep on top of the details of juggling a family, day job, fiction writing, photography, church volunteerism, and book promotion. Because she's on the yearbook committee at school, she perfect for this job. As a writer/photographer, my life is the equivalent of being a life-long member of a yearbook committee.

Right now, Kelly is helping to remind me to:

  • Send thank you notes, or at least thank-you emails. I know saying thanks is common courtesy, but it's amazingly easy to let common courtesies slide when life is hectic. Carolyn See's book about a career as a writer, "Making a Literary Life," is very adamant about thank-yous. She's right, of course: In an industry that, like most, is built on relationships, only a fool neglects to thank those along the way who offer encouragement, advice, or a listening ear.
  • Maintain and add to my personal email list. Since the best advertising for books is word-of-mouth, then anyone who has ever had the slightest contact with me should beware: I plan to let you know that I have a novel coming out in the fall. Kelly and I are using a really wonderful online program to manage out lists and to layout e-newsletters: This program was also endorsed by Tom Britt at the January writers' conference in San Diego, who gave a seminar about web-based book publicity.
  • Design an e-newsletter to send to my email list. This is where Kelly's yearbook skills are really coming in handy. We're still trying to decide what to include in the newsletter. Columns in the voice of the two main characters in Desert Medicine? The story of how I got published? A how-to article on starting book groups? Articles written by writer friends?

    What's it like to work with a teenager who's not your own child? Wonderful! Unlike my own two sons, she's not the least bit resentful about working for me, and in fact, considers this a great opportunity.

    My pastor, Rick Rzeszewski, once said (only half jokingly) that parents of teenagers should trade children from age 13 on, and then only return them at age 21. I can see the wisdom in this.

Thank God for the Kellys of the world!

Photo: Dancer students in Tustin, CA.