Monthly Archives: August 2006

Changing the Mindset

The power of a mindset

Every year my newspaper staff struggles with selling ads.
This year we did things a little differently.
We started with goal setting. I made them come up with an individual goal and then I MADE them draw out the goal. And an action plan for making that goal. On the side of the action plan they listed the payoffs, the things that would happen when they made the goal.
We talked about what I call “living the goal,” speaking as if the goal had already taken place. We talked about rejection and how it’s not personal. How you don’t lose anything with a no, you just gain information. And then we talked about all the reasons businesses SHOULD advertise with us.
Enter my ad manager who took this whole week-long goal setting class to heart.
She stood in front of the class and said how “awesome it is that we sell $1200 in ads every issue.”
Now, I’ve got to be honest. She said that and my brain said no way (we usually average $400-$600, and sometimes we even make less), but I never let her hear the words. I cheered her and the staff on and sent them on their happy ways.
Today my ad manager totaled the sells:
For one month.
Funny thing, the ad manager had misunderstood me when we were working on her big goal for the year. We actually only needed $800. I said $1200 almost as a joke. It was a “gravy” goal. When she said the $1200 to the staff, I almost interrupted to correct her. I’m so glad I didn’t!

I’ve been crazy busy at work, but all day I’ve been thinking about this amazing proof of the power of goals and how it can affect my writing.
I think the biggest contributing factor in the sales success was in living the goal. Often we think of goals in “chore-like” terms. Something we HAVE to do. Like washing the dishes or doing laundry. By living the goal, the kids just accepted that the success had taken place. And WOW, what success!
Usually the kids come in complaining about so and so not buying. Their mindshift change had them coming in wondering why in the world the business they visited didn’t buy and what a loss that was for them. They came back with donations from presidents of companies and those presidents’ secretaries! It was amazing.
Now I’m figuring out how to apply this same mindset to my writing and everything else I do!
Cool huh?!

Hottern N Hell

The temperature right now is 92. The humidity 49%.
DDs friend just crossed hell’s gate. And she’s loving every minute of it.
Hell’s gate is Burkburnett, Texas. It takes me 20 minutes to drive there. It’s the half way point on one of the biggest bike rides in the country, The Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred. As in a hundred miles (I think it might actually be kilometers!). As is over 100 degrees outside. The high today is supposed to be around 105. The last two days have been closer to 110. We’ll see.
11,000 riders are here. Some pros for the race, lots of regular people who choose to ride for fun.
I will never understand that kind of fun.
DDs taking pictures. And she’s having fun too, following the race, running around after bike riders as they finish. She gave her bottle of water to a rider who looked dehydrated, so she went hours without anything to drink. It’s 11:22 and she and her friends’ family have been out for 7.5 hours already. I figured by now she’d be begging me to come pick her up.
Nope. She’s having a blast.
Again, I don’t get it.
But I’m glad she does.

Reading Comprehension

Any ideas for helping reading comprehension?

My first inclination is have the student read more. Read daily. Read fun stuff. Easier things to start with and then work up to more difficulty.
But I don’t know if that works or not.

When the muse hits

I remember thoae wonderful days of summer when the muse hit and I could let loose, just me and the keyboard and maybe Godsmack playing in the background.
Ahhh. Memories.
Recently I posted on eHarlequin about motivation. I said that I lose motivation when I don’t write and I gain it when I do.
Simple, right?
Knowing the formula and sticking to it is the same as knowing how to lose weight and then keeping it off.
Even though I love feeling great when I lose weight, I like the ice cream, chocolate and carbs that bring the weight back.
Even though I love the feeling of finding the perfect words, the perfect qctions for my characters, I love watching Grey’s Anatomy and Big Brother and 48 Hours and a million other shows. TV is to my writing what ice cream is to my waist line. YIKES!!!!

Woo Hoo

The yearbook and newspaper earned gold medals from CSPA. It’s the first time since I’ve been adviser of both(1999) that both publications earned gold medals. Maybe that’s why last year was so stressful. 🙂

At critiques this week I learned a lot about conflict. About what makes me turn the page and what will make me stop reading. I tell my CPs as a romance reader I want my happy ending, but I don’t want to KNOW it’s a happy ending until the very end. In other words, the conflict has to be bigger than it seemed at the beginning. What the main character thought was stopping HEA from ever being possible, isn’t the real conflict at all. Connected, but different. It’s deeper. And that depth is what keeps me turning the page in the middle and at the end of the book. The opening conflict is easy because it’s the surface. It can sustain things for about 100-150 pages, but it gets kind of stale after that.

So I totally get this.

BUT I totally haven’t made my characters’ conflicts strong enough.

I have a lot of work to do, but man, my stories are going to be awesome when I’m done. It took 10 years, but I think this might be a lightbulb moment. 🙂

Woo Hoo!!!!

The new computer system at work is finally starting to work. The tech people are so nice, but they speak a different language than me. I need to learn their language so they don’t have to continue deciphering words like doo-hickie, spinny thing and not working. Hopefully they’ll learn my language and teach me how to unlock iTunes so I can listen to my music on my laptop without playing CDs. 🙂

So Proud

When you’ve taught your kids that dreams really can come true, how exactly do you ask them to change the dream?
DD informed me this year that she has every intention of being a combat photographer. She WANTS to go to Iraq, to Lebanon, to Africa and work.
A couple years ago she heard Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Leeson speak about how important it was to have a free press covering the realities of war. His speech touched her in a way I didn’t quite realize. Before that she’d heard Christiane Amanpour speak about the same thing. I didn’t pay that much attention.
She started taking awesome photos for yearbook, and I still didn’t get it.
Then last week she contacted a local paper about taking photos for them. They sent her on assignment and she got the cover of the paper plus photos inside. She’s on assignment again this weekend.
And she’s telling me this is just the beginning.
I tell myself she’s just a kid, so who knows how many times she’ll change her mind, but then I see her determination and it blows me away.
When I was a teenager, I dreamed of writing books, but it seemed like a fairy tale of sorts. I don’t think I ever really believed it was possible.
How cool that DD has a dream and believes absolutely. But how scary too!

Excellence equals hard work

That’s the sign outside my classroom. It’s so completely true.
The good thing is that when you’re striving for excellence in something you love, that hard work doesn’t feel quite so bad.
(my feet are laughing at me right now.)


Colleen's Book

RRRW‘s speaker this month was Colleen Thompson and she was FABULOUS! She talked about hooks and about making the first page stand out, making it jump off the editor’s desk, making the reader want more. The big key: establishing emotional connection. We all brought first pages from WIPs and analyzed what worked, what could be better. I’ve known for a couple months my new book’s opening scene was missing “something.” But I couldn’t figure out what it was. I found that something today and it was simple. Three little sentences added to the start that shifted the focus from the plot to the character. WONDERFUL workshop from an AMAZING writer. If you haven’t read her work, do. It’s great. And she’s super sweet too.

When we all work together

How much better can the end results be if every teacher in a building believes absolutely in the truth that ALL CHILDREN CAN LEARN?!
I’ve had the pleasure of teaching students across ability levels. What I’ve learned after 13 years is that they all really can learn. Every one of them. It’s up to me to find out what that means for them.
I’ve had kids find amazing success in simply writing a sentence. When they started the semester, they didn’t understand what a sentence was. I’ve had them find success in winning a state championship in journalism. Making it to state is a goal I have with my competitive kids every year and we’ve had four state qualifiers in the last six years. One won TOPS in Texas for the very best news story in the state. BUT that success was equivalent to the sentence. And when that sentence became two and then three and then finally an honest to God summary news lead, I think it beat State. The same amount of work went into that success on my part and on the student’s part.
How much easier is it for me to find that success because I have an amazing team of supportive teachers in my building cheering on my every success and helping me when they can? I don’t know for sure because I’ve never been in a situation where my professional peers weren’t supportive. BUT I’ve also never been in a situation like the one I see in my building every day in the social studies department. They have an almost 100% pass rate on the state mandated test. Those teachers know the names of every student who’s failed the test. They know exactly what went wrong. And they try to fix it. They are in and out of each other’s classrooms. They have shared files for lesson plans. Everywhere they go, enthusiasm follows. Every year right before TAKS, they hold night-time tutorials. My kids call them pizza parties. Most of the teachers in the department are there and the parties are more fun than work but real learning takes place from the beginning until the end. THese teachers aren’t all best friends, but they’ve created a great family feeling. They’re a team. And every one of their student’s benefits.
I look at that and wonder what it would take to get everyone on the same page. I’m going to spend part of every day working to make that a reality in my building.

THE BOOK IS STILL AWESOME! Last night was all about rejection. Canfield says rejection isn’t a no, it’s a next. He says never give up. He says it’s going to take hard work to find success. Sounds familiar, huh?
My favorite thing he said was that we need to look at rejection as feedback and that we should seek out feedback whenever we can. Then he said to get the rejected idea, proposal, manuscript, back out in circulation until you’ve exhausted all potential avenues. I also loved the idea that rejection is in no way a negative. You lose nothing by sending a manuscript out. If it comes back with a no, you’ve lost NOTHING. Hmmmm. I’ve never looked at it that way before but it’s soooooo true! I love The Success Principles. I’m going to goal-set my students crazy this year. 🙂

The amazing writer Colleen Thompson is in town to speak to my local writer’s group. We had potluck tonight and she’s already inspired me.
I love RRRW.

Fall Forward

I’m a big believer in learning through risk. I tell my kids all the time there’s no such answer as I don’t know. USually when they give that answer they’re afraid of giving the wrong answer. They don’t want to look bad. They’re afraid of failure.
I like to say we learn though failure. That it’s absolute human nature.
Look at babies. They can’t walk. They can’t talk. Does that stop them from trying? What about when they fall or they say something and no one has a clue what they’re saying? Do they stop? No. They keep going and going until finally they’re taking those steps across the living room or talking on a regular basis. Next thing you know they’re running all over creation and talking non-stop. They didn’t know fear yet.
This same idea is all over The Success Principles. The latest entry I read dealt with shifting focus, with finding success in the face of failure, with believing in your passion and moving forward with it.
GREAT inspiration!