A pleasant mix

Woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, and went out for a lovely walkabout through the oxbows near our home.  Couldn’t help snapping some photos to make a slideshow on my Penticton Pedestrian site. It really was a perfect time to see the oxbows!  If you haven’t seen them yet, why not click on that link right now?

More “business stuff” today–bookkeeping, computer and paper filing, as well as answering emails for an organization I belong to. Plus two tutoring students (and preps and reports), and some editing, and helping a friend write a query letter for a children’s book she’s completed.

And that’s enough for today!

Getting carried away

getting carried awayWell, according to my new schedule, I’m supposed to do my work from Monday to Friday and then relax on the weekend.  And yes, I did succeed in completing my Monday to Friday plans.  But then, you know, I got a bit carried away on the weekend.  The weather was beautiful, and I did outdoors things like walking along the beach and working in the garden–all good!  I also took some nice outdoors pictures … and that’s where I kind of got off my determination not to “work” on the weekend.

After downloading my pictures, I just had to post some of them up on my Penticton Pedestrian blog in a “Spring at the Oxbows” post (and, of course, put up a note about it on Facebook and Google+). And then, since I was already breaking my rules, heck, why not do an edit for a sweet little gal who’s been writing a story for the BC Youth Writer’s Camp anthology? Oh, and then I was doing some journal writing sitting outside at my little bistro set, and while I was there, thought, “Hmm…. I haven’t put anything up on the My Church Journey site for a while. Since I have already typed out some old journal entries that might be appropriate for that blog, why don’t I just edit one of this while I’m sitting out here enjoying the fresh air?” So of course I did … and named it “Little White Lies.” And then, since it was so lovely outside and I didn’t have anything else planned, I thought I might as well prepare a couple more MCJ drafts for future publishing on the blog–and, well, now I have nine posts ready to go! (Don’t worry, I won’t post them all at once…).

And then I was skimming through my email–and of course totally intending NOT to do anything work-related, but then I saw that a webinar recording about email lists was just begging me to listen to it … and an article about “How to Start Blogging” was also waving madly at me, and then there were a couple really interesting links I just had to check out to articles about how some people steal other people’s books, change the names of the characters, and publish them on Amazon in their own name …  But I’m proud to say that at that point, I remembered I’m not supposed to do “business” on the weekend so I went into cease-and-desist mode right then and there!

I promise … this next weekend I’ll do better. I’m not going to do anything business-related … well, okay, nothing but attend the March 8 to 10 Okanagan Valley Writers Festival!  LOL!

Today (Monday), business-wise, I had two tutoring students (and follow-up reports and new lesson preps, plus create/write an individualized spelling lesson), two short edits, one slightly longer edit, worked on an editing contract for a new client, did my weekly update for my Writing Calendar and my Business Binder … and am now finishing up with this blog post!  Relaxing work day 🙂

Whew Week One Accomplished

Whew! I have gotten through the first week of my new schedule … and managed to pretty much stick with it! Well, except for my Friday post here, which I am doing Saturday morning. I guess I was so relieved and relaxed Friday evening, that I just sat down to watch a documentary about the Antarctic with hubby–and next thing I knew he was steering me to bed at 9 pm, as I’d pretty much fallen asleep sitting there. And then I slept in for an hour this morning. Ah well, I feel wide awake and chipper now.

Yesterday was a record-breaker for our location! 21.5 degrees Celcius on April 1!  Trying to “April fool” us into thinking summer has arrived, I suspect.  I did rearrange my schedule a bit to ensure I got to bask in some of that lovely sunshine, but I still got everything accomplished so it’s “all good.”

I only had one tutoring student today; the other has not yet returned to tutoring after Spring Break. And I did the usual (necessary) business things, like bookkeeping and banking, emails, and so on.

After reading the Articles That Sell book this week, I was feeling inspired to start writing freelance magazine articles again, after a rather long break. So today I wrote a memoir/historical story to submit to Archivos Magazine (of the Okanagan Archive Trust Society), and sent if off. I’ve edited for them in the past, and this past summer they invited me to submit articles as well. My first one was published in their Fall issue. I had written the first draft of this new article last summer, basing it on old photos, personal memories, and dozens of comments posted on those photos on the Summerland Memories Facebook page. But being a first draft, it was far too long and rambling (kind of like these blog posts tend to be–sorry!). So yesterday I sat down, reworked it to half as long, then proofread it and chopped out a couple hundred more words.  So we’ll see if it gets accepted.

The grandkids came over after school was out, and we went out for a walk along the oxbows. We had fun watching eagles, ducks, a huge goose, and even some turtles basking in the sun on a big old log.  I got some great photos–I’ll be posting some of them on my Penticton Pedestrian blog.




satisfactionAnother satisfying day! Warmest spring day so far–close to 20 C!  Spent an hour and a half out in the garden this morning before my work day began. What a perfect start to a day.  Love it!

Then finished up the ebook I’ve been working on; well, finished up except for a few “finishing touches” to do. What I didn’t realize was that the Canva “Presentation” program I used only allows 30 pages–which is probably a good thing in the end, as it forced me to go through my plans and delete the “extras” so that I ended up with what is really important.  Now, next step: Do those finishing touches, set up my email list and e-newsletter, and post the e-book on my website as a gift to anyone who’ll give my e-list a try.  Coming soon!

Did some editing and tutoring, too.

And had a good time with a friend, hearing her exciting publishing news, and helping her set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for marketing her writing.

Oh! And had a nice time with the grandkids, too!

Yes, definitely a satisfying day!

Smooth Sailing

sailMy new schedule seems to be smooth sailing–so far, anyway!  I tossed together a delicious crock pot soup at breakfast time, so didn’t have to worry about making dinner at the end of the day–lovely!  I continued work on my e-book today, and am almost 1/2 finished the design. I’d already written the text, so just copy-and-paste now as I design each page. Lots of fun and very satisfying. I also finished reading and note taking from the “Articles that Sell” book. I had 4 tutoring students today, and all their reports and preps for next lessons are done. Two of my writing/ publishing clients emailed me with questions about the process, and I was able to answer them. I also did some “business” stuff (invoicing). And I finished off the day by attending our strata AGM.  I am very impressed with how much I get accomplished when I severely limit my Facebook time 🙂

It’s a Real Job!

scheduleAs I’m creating this new direction in my career, I realize more and more that I have to make it a “real job”–that is, even though I’m a “home-based business” I need to behave like a professional “at work.”  Therefore, I’ve created a new 8-hours-a-day, 40-hours-a-week schedule.

I start “work” at 9 am daily, in my home office.  Up at 5:30 a.m., I have had my personal meditation/journaling time, exercised or gone for a walk, showered and dressed, eaten breakfast and put supper in the crockpot or prepared a casserole for the oven, and tidied the house as needed. And now it’s “off to work.”

My work day starts with 3/4 hours of writing time. Then it’s on to my daily schedule–which can include tutoring, followed up by reports and prep for the next lesson; business items (bookkeeping, recording keeping); blogging, e-newsletter prep, freelance writing, and other projects.  I take 45 minutes off for lunch mid-day, followed by 1/2 hour of relaxation: a nap, a walk with some photography, reading good literature, or a similar activity. Then the “work day” continues to 6:45 p.m.

In the past, I have often met clients at their home, or a coffee shop, or for a walk while we chat. But I’ve realized that these kinds of meetings easily take far longer than expected, and can easily descend into chit-chat and way too much coffee and snacks; therefore, I will now have client meetings in my office, or, in they prefer lunch meetings, I must be back to the office at the set time. It may not be as much “fun,” but it’s business, right?

After supper (which is already made, as I put on the crock-pot in the morning, or placed the pre-made casserole in the oven an hour before suppertime), I have the evening free for time with my husband, reading, gardening or other hobbies, or whatever doesn’t take too much “brainpower.” It’s a time to relax and slow down before bed, so I will sleep well. Bedtime 9:15 pm!

Oh! And one other very important change: I will do no more than 1/2 hour of personal e-mail and Facebook, once per day, and no more than 30-45 minutes of business e-mail and Facebook once per day.  E-mail comes first, and then Facebook if time is left over–I really need to cut back on my time-wasting with Facebook … and with the temptation to flop in front of the TV in the evening.  Oh yes, and I’m eating my meals at the table again, instead of in front of the TV or with my nose in a book or magazine (which always results in losing track of time).

And hopefully, this all means that I actually have real weekends!

Do you think I can stick to my schedule? Let’s see!

My Spring Break Mini-Writers Retreat

writers retreatWell, I was planning to do a substantial personal “writer’s retreat” over Spring Break–and with grandkids visiting :-), some editing work, and various other unexpected hiccups, it didn’t quite turn out exactly that way.  But I did have a good holiday, with all my tutoring students taking holidays for the full two weeks.  And I managed to squeeze it lots of writing-related activity along the way:

  • I did a fair amount of journal writing
  • I finished up following through Charlene Kingston’s excellent “Create Ebooks Your Customers Will Love” course at her socialbusinesswebinars.com site. The workbook for the 20 lessons has been incredibly detailed with wonderful worksheets, and the lesson videos were also interesting and easy to follow. If you want a clear, detailed guide to creating e-books for your business, you should definitely check out this course–and her many other excellent mini-courses and webinars. Very helpful!
  • Then my “big job” : After researching, and making a big organizational wall chart with post-it notes, I did the first draft and the first edit of the e-book I have created during the course. Now I’m working on designing it using Canva.com’s templates.  Sweet! My goal is to start an e-mail newsletter on my penandpapermama.com blog and use the e-book as a gift for signing up for the newsletter.  The topic of the e-book is a clear and simple explanation of the 3 main types of publishing (traditional, hybrid, and self-publishing) and the several sub-types of each, with their pros and cons. Many writers find themselves confused by all the choices in publishing these days, so this e-book is my effort to help people make the best publishing decisions for their personal needs.
  • I enjoyed reading and getting inspired for my own writing, with magazines I’ve had stacked up for some time, like The New Quarterly: Canadian Writers and Writing, WordWorks: British Columbia’s Magazine for Writers (Federation of BC Writers), and Geist: Ideas and Culture.
  • I did the “childhood memories” challenge for the Penticton Writers and Publishers (PWAP) group’s March meeting–a description of my childhood home from ages 5 to 7, based on a “memory map” I drew for that period in my life.
  • I am going to be attending the Okanagan Valley Writer’s Festival April 8 – 10 in Penticton BC.
  • I finally got busy and really explored using my wonderful Christmas gift–an Intuous Art Tablet and Pen! I tried it out on a variety of software programs, both graphics programs and Word Processing software–and for playing Solitaire too 🙂
  • I attended a Word Guild writers meeting in Kelowna BC–and read a sample of a story I’ve been writing based on the biblical story of “Ruth.” Got some great critiquing input 🙂
  • Read and took notes on lots of useful online articles relating to publishing and writing.
  • Went for walks along Skaha Lake and by the local oxbows and had fun playing with the grandkids in local parks–and went for a wonderful lunch with one writer friend, and coffee with another.
  • While working on my “big project” I also researched producing e-books using Word, Publisher, and PowerPoint.  Lots of great options, and fun to explore.
  • I’ve been reading from an old-timey (pre-internet!) book called Writing Articles That Sell by G.J. Matson. It might be “technologically” out of date, but oh my goodness–crammed with great ideas and inspiration for writing magazine articles.

So what do you think? Does that sound like a pretty good “writing retreat” to you?  Now if only I’d been in a little cabin by the wild Pacific coast, it would have been perfect!  Oh well, something to look forward to another time, right?


New Directions

hourglassTwo months have passed since I last posted (actually almost 3 months if you don’t count my one post in January!). This was supposed to be my daily accountability method to keep going with the path I was on. The only thing is, I’ve changed directions, at least somewhat.

Some things are the same. I’m still tutoring, and I even have a couple new students. I’m still editing, too, though I’ve become more focused in what I’ll do. I love memoir, historical fiction, a variety of non-fiction, literary fiction, magazine articles, some kinds of spiritual writing, as well as some poetry and children’s stories.  I don’t so much love certain genres like romance, thrillers, occult, horror, and such, and I’m happy to pass those editing opportunities onto others who enjoy them.

So what, you may be wondering, is this “new direction?” I’ve developed a very strong interest in all the different aspects of publishing that are now available, and I’ve been exploring related topics with great interest: agents, queries, proposals, traditional publishing, hybrid publishing, multiple forms of indie/self-publishing, platform/brand building, book design, social media, email lists and newsletters, marketing, freelance writing (articles, guest blog posts, etc.).

The more I research, the more interested I’ve become, and I’ve been experimenting with a number of these areas myself.  I love to teach and share what I’ve been learning. I’ve decided to offer workshops and seminars, do research for writers, and consult in areas like understanding publishing options, writing queries and proposals, and finding agents and/or publishers.

Some of the “study” I’ve done in the past 2 months includes:

  • order and study the “Agent Kit” from Writers Digest
  • learn to use canva.com and do other design studies
  • listen to numerous webinars and videos such as “Successful Self-Publishing ” with Joanna Penn and Joel Friedlander
  • order and read books like William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Query Letters
  • read numerous articles on the internet
  • take Tim Grahl’s 30-day podcast course “Hacking Amazon” and some other similar online courses
  • follow a number of really good writing/publishing blogs
  • take Charlene Kingston’s “Create E-Books Your Customers Will Love” course
  • and much more!

Meanwhile, I’m still writing memoir stories, and working through Bill Roorbach’s Writing Life Stories. I’m also trying out the updated Grammarly software to improve my editing.

I’ve organized my life by creating a huge wall chart with mind maps covering my tutoring, editing, writing, publishing, online activities–and friends, family, spiritual, and creative life.

I’m busy updating my brochures, and preparing to start an e-newsletter using MailChimp.  I’m also starting an actual “writer’s blog” in addition to my penandpapermama.com site. And yes–my new site will use my name: normajhill.com. Coming soon!

It’s Spring Break this week and next, and my tutoring students are all taking a break. So this is my opportunity to take my own “writer’s retreat” and do lots of writing–including blogging again–and get my “new direction” in gear. Enough with the studying (though I’ll continue to keep up-to-date); but it’s time now for ACTION–starting with reorganizing my office and writing 3 blog posts today.

So … am I forgiven for my temporary disappearance?

Back from holidays

happy new yearNo, I didn’t stop this blog! But I did have a houseful of family guests, kids and grand-kids, over the entire Christmas and New Year holidays.  I did a lot of cooking and cleaning and visiting–but not a lot of brain work, unless you count a few games of Scrabble.

My last guest left yesterday, so today I am back on schedule. I did do a bit of tutoring last week, and I actually wrote my better-late-than-never 2015 Christmas letter just one week after New Year’s Day. It was quite a surprise to me to sit down and realize how much I actually accomplished in the past year, even though I wasn’t well a lot of the time. I am pleased!

Also, this past week, I received a copy of the most recent issue of Archivos magazine, which just came out. Archivos is the journal of the Okanagan Archive Trust Society , and I have edited articles for them in the past, but in this issue I have had an article of my own published: “Mott Family Memories.” It has been a long time since I have submitted articles to magazines, so I am delighted that my first submission was accepted–in fact, I was asked to submit!

Also, in the past week, after the majority of my company left, I read the January issue of Writer’s Digest–one of my favorite magazines. For Christmas, my daughter gave me an “Intuous Creative Pen and Tablet–Art” and I’ve been having fun learning to use it to create drawings on my computer. At the same time, I’m learning to use Gimp and Canva graphic design software. I am really enjoying it!

I also ordered an “Agent” kit from Writer’s Digest, to learn more about how to deal with literary agents. And I reorganized the filing system on my computer so I can find things more easily and efficiently. I had a lot of files, both written and picture files, filed in several locations, so with my reorganization, I have also deleted the extras, freeing up space on my computer.  I also made sure everything was backed up. And then I made a “2016 To-Do List.” It’s a bit overwhelming–I really need to sit down and prioritize–and do some deleting as well! And I watched a couple video webinars and read a couple articles related to writing. So I’m back to work and looking forward to a great new year!

Mystery project

mysteryOver the weekend, I continued to go through old journal notes, picking out bits that could be potential writing prompts to develop. But mostly I did a big mystery project over two days using photos and interview stories. I am putting it together with Publisher. And that’s all I’m saying right now! More details when it all comes together 🙂

This morning I spent some more time on “the project,” then had a meeting with an editing client, worked with two tutoring students (and did reports and preps following), and also did my usual Monday admin stuff.

And that’s it! Enough!