Posts from the ‘Practical’ Category

Quality Query 101: Resumé for Readership | Publishing

A Quality Query Gets You a Job:
Write a Query That Says, “You Want to Hire Me”

You write a query letter to introduce a piece of your writing, hoping a publisher will produce and sell it. You may send a query directly to an editor who acts as a representative of his/her publishing house or to an agent. On your end, an agent is an employment specialist charged with getting you a job. For an editor, an agent is like a scout who lightens the editor’s load by bringing them “the best.” If we assume you want to publish your book and you can “sell” your book to an agent, the agent can sell your book and you to an editor. So, you will want to create the best query you can, one that will be among the best of the queries an agent receives.

An agent cannot guarantee a publisher will accept your work, but may streamline your effort. A good agent has a basic understanding of contract law, quality writing, and trends in readers’ tastes. More importantly, a good agent has built strong relationships with editors by referring writers to them that meet the desires and expectations of each one’s respective publishing house. If you want your work published, you want a good agent, a successful agent. Agents who want to succeed naturally want to work with writers who will succeed. If you don’t show an agent a quality query, they won’t want to work with you. However, if your query comes off as a good resumé, an agent will want to work with you because they see you have good potential for being “hired.”

A Quality Query Sustains Your Employment:
Write a Query That Says, “I’m Worth Checking Out”

To develop your skill at writing the best queries, begin by evaluating a query you have already written. You can measure a query’s quality within various frameworks. I prefer two, in particular. One of these methods for evaluating your query requires recognizing that an agent looks upon the query as a potential reader. To maximize the benefits of that recognition, you must understand that all communication, even that for entertainment, informs. Therefore, every author is a professor and every reader is a student. Every book is a course and every encounter builds the relationship between professor and student, author and reader. Your query introduces you as the professor and your book as the course.

Have you ever read a course catalog for continuing or community education? They are selling the school or community. They want your money. They want you to sign up for more than one course. They want you to think they are desirable and cool and they will help you be the same. Descriptions for courses, especially, are like reading vacation brochures. Your query is your course description. After all, those professors are not on salary. Neither are you. They usually get paid per course. Usually a school or whoever is sponsoring the course will cancel it if the course’s enrollment does not meet a pre-determined smallest class size. Furthermore, the “employer” often uses the number of students who actually show up for the course as part of their equation to calculate how much to pay the professor. So, guess what? You are not getting paid unless you convince people with your query that if they enroll in your “book,” you will lead them to a life-enriching destination.

Are you confused and wondering if you must set your story in Aruba or Jamaica? You think about some great books you’ve read and realize I must not mean that because I have no reason to lie to you. So, just what do I mean by “a life-enriching destination”? Every student who willfully approaches a course like this, one not required and for which she’s paying, wants to feel confident of growing; she wants to learn and enjoy herself doing it. Your students want your book to intrigue them, yet not reach too far past what they are capable of understanding. They want a sense of realism, a means to measure their progress, and reassurance they’ll be able to apply what they learn. Does your query convince your agent you offer these. Your students need to feel confident you will teach them and they aren’t spending their money on a course they are going to fail. Your agent as prospective reader is wondering these same things.

A Quality Query Assures You Get Paid:
Write a Query That Says, “I’m Worth Paying to Hear”

Your agent asks herself, consciously or not, a pivotal question when she reads your query. That important question is the one which decides if a prospective reader buys your book. So, the question is this, “if this topic interests me, is the author of this book who I want to pay to tell me more about it?” Many writers would like their work published, if for no other reason than, through their writing, to meet their own human need to connect with others. When we connect, we enrich our lives. We learn our experience is unique, but one to which others can relate. We also learn that our story is worth being heard. You are unique, worthwhile, important, and special. I know that because you have journeyed through this article with me. So go write a query that convinces others of the same, that convinces your agent people will pay to hear your story. The best way to get paid is to pay it forward.

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Recovery Part 2: Pain, Pain Another Day; Misery Go Away – photo illustrated

God Cried for Me And Promised Relief

It WILL get better...

Sometimes I feel like I can’t stop crying and other times I feel like I feel so much that I just stop feeling altogether. I discovered a forum last night for chronic back pain. I’ve struggled with it for years, the cause never diagnosed. Although, I have to say, it’s taken a back seat to some of my other conditions, like Bipolar Depression, for one. I’m hurting emotionally a lot worse than physically right now. Last night, I was crying for both reasons.

A couple weekends ago, I wasn’t trusting myself to remain safe, realizing that the irrational obsessive thoughts of death running through my mind were increasing and were disproportionate to my current circumstances (well, suicidal thoughts are always disproportionate, but…you know.) I checked myself into an inpatient psych unit, but left before I really felt ready because the crappy beds intensified my back pain SO, SO MUCH. I didn’t expect to go there and suddenly feel better, but I couldn’t handle feeling worse. There and since, I haven’t been able to sleep more than a few hours a night despite a combo of two medications for pain and one for sleep.

Anyway, I discovered in the forum a man who I think experiences much more physical pain on a daily basis than I ever have. I read through a lot of what he’d written. He acknowledged his emotional struggle with horrible thoughts (like my own, I imagine) but the mention was minor in the midst of his recounting of the wildlife around him. I found myself uplifted by his vivid descriptions. I felt transported. His experiences came to life in my mind.

But I was even more encouraged by the spirit of this man who noticed and cared for the forest and it’s creatures around him. He reflects on a cute albino raccoon baby. In the midst of a winter storm, he describes putting out hay for the deer, seeing the fear in their eyes. He tells of spending four hours one night making rounds to feed the animals. He reminded me that the only way to push through pain is one moment at a time, being in the moment and looking for the beauty. He reminded me that being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. Lying in bed, I only see a brick wall out my window. But I’ve seen the beauty of nature in the past and my mind can still be my retreat.

My grandpa and grandma lived out in the boonies next to the Rock River. I’d forgotten, when I’m hurting, I can escape to “The Camp” in my mind. I imagine the man who wrote in the forum about his life in the forest finds the same solace in the nature around him. I remember, too, how connected to everything I felt and how loved I felt there. Sadly, my grandfather shot himself, when I was thirteen, because of pain that doctors hypothesize was from a brain tumor (too much of his brain was gone for them to know). That still is the most profound thing, positive or negative, that has ever happened to me up to this point in my life.

For many years, what I perceived as him “giving up” was an excuse for me to do the same. I never told anyone how much I hurt inside until I was nineteen, ten years after the thought of ending my life first occurred to me. However, I came to realize the experience of my grandfather’s suicide, when combined with a few others later, as something to save me. You see, I never want MY suicide to be anyone’s excuse for giving up. I finally realized God didn’t give up on me; God kept holding onto me when I couldn’t hold on.

I try to explain to people that that’s part of the difference between religion and spirituality to me. Religion to me is the specifics of one’s beliefs and how you live out and cultivate them. Spirituality is the guts of faith, realizing I’m not the be all or end all; it’s about humility and relationship. So I decided I couldn’t give up on the Good Orderly Direction of existence that continued to value me as a part of itself; I couldn’t ever “give up” again if I hadn’t done my part. I have to ask myself in every moment of crisis, “Have I done absolutely everything I can to help myself?” I’ve never since that time been able to answer “yes”, so I survive one day at a time through even my darkest moments. It’s just sometimes I’m only hurting terribly, really sad, and even depressed. But other times, I become downright miserable. I don’t have to be miserable. So, again, just for today, I choose joy over misery.

Recovery Part 1: Breathing Well in Cape Cod – photo illustrated

No more wading in muck...

Recovery means a lot of things to a lot of people, but the general public seems to interpret “in recovery” as meaning “I used to be an active alcoholic/addict, but I’m no longer using.” Many would add “…and I work a Twelve-Step program.” Although I did use substances as a means of self-medicating for a time in my life, I’m blessed to have never become physically addicted. Recognizing my psychological addiction, I did begin my recovery in some of those groups. I’m grateful for the sponsor who helped me realize my addiction was to trying to escape. I’ve also been a part of “recovery” programs for mental health disorders (OCD, Bi-Polar Disorder, Major Depression). Not until recently have I let “recovery” as related to my physical health fall into the same category. With roughly 20 chronic medical condition, I’m often recovering from some bout of illness or flair-up of symptoms. However, for a very long time I was in denial about my declining health. It’s pretty hard to make progress on the path around the pond if you’re still unsuccessfully trying to wade through it. So “recovery” from my physical ailments overall means experiencing and working through the entire process of grieving my healthy self.

What I mean by recovery is something all are a part of at least for some length of time in their life. Recovery means regaining what is lost. Recovery is a process that requires active participation and what has been lost may or may not be due to our own intentions or actions, but it most certainly refers to our joie de vivre – our passion, our reason for being, our hopes, our dreams. Recovery requires honesty, willingness, open-mindedness, flexibility, patience, courage, and perseverance. My recovery is about regaining and reclaiming my reason for being. It’s about becoming the me I’m meant to be, about actively pursuing my full potential, whatever that might be. Stress, physical and emotional, is the biggest contributor to the demise of my health. I’m learning that recovery means making a lot of little, but difficult, changes. I’m exploring both the sources of and remedies for stress in my life. As time goes on, I hope to chronicle my discoveries and my progress.

Some years ago, after two malfunctions of equipment in my past home caused flooding, we simply could not get our recently heart-broken landlord to properly address the problems in a timely manner. At the same time, I was struggling as co-guardian with a frequently violent preteen boy. Moving just didn’t seem a manageable option. Mold set in under the carpet and climbed up the walls of our linen closet. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, an air filter shoved by a previous tenant into an air duct (not where it belonged and not visible from the air vents at either end of the duct) was collecting layer upon layer of dust and all that is a part of it. Ultimately, my already weakened immune system, inundated with allergens, was overwhelmed. I developed serious allergies to an indoor/outdoor mold, dust mites (that fed off dead skin cells), and both the dander and saliva of cats. Already having mild to moderate exercise-induce asthma, that condition worsened. In addition, I developed moderate to severe “regular” asthma. This was a hard blow to someone who at one time played sports year-round, someone who once walked 25 miles continuously, someone who loved to run and jump and play well into adulthood.

I’ll continue to tell you about my recovery in relation to my other conditions, but let me start with the allergies and asthma. We did move a few years ago into a duplex my former roommate decided to buy. Originally the top floor was reserved for a renter beside me, but realizing that the dust mites from her two dogs and a cat were causing repeated sinus headaches that interfered with my sleep and sometimes triggered migraines, I eventually had to move upstairs. My former roommate was by then my spouse and we could no longer consistently share a bed without abandoning the pets who’d become family too, not to mention withdrawing attention from a needy and destructive child who’d been neglected and abused by his biological parents. Even still, I was in denial. I’d move about too quickly, climb the stairs one too many times, take on a teenager on the basketball court at the close-by elementary, attempt coaching double-header youth soccer games, and continue to take no notice of air quality warnings. I would find myself desperately grasping for my inhaler. I drilled myself into the ground. My immune system was shot; I felt sick most of the time.

Progressing on a new path...

Recently, I returned from a vacation on Cape Cod. While I was there, I was very aware of the difference in my breathing. I could walk a few miles, even uphill without shortness of breath. The air there is unpolluted, moist and cool. No pets were shedding about me. I felt such immense freedom and energy. By the second day upon returning to our pet-filled home in a Midwestern metropolis, I was sluggish, headache-y, and struggling to breathe again. I’d for a long time found it difficult to remember my daily inhaler. Yet, before we left for vacation, I was having to use my rescue inhaler sometimes 3 times per day. Daily heat indexes of 115 and orange air quality were too much for me. Well, having tasted the freedom of breathing again, I made that daily inhaler a priority. My excuse before was that it didn’t fit in my med box and placing it on top often caused it to be lost when accidentally knocked aside. I’ve found a padded case, in which I now store both of my inhalers and a supply of emergency PRN medications, that holds its place well atop my med box. This method seems to be improving my compliance and the results are promising.

I’m putting forth other efforts too. I’ve begun to think, as well, how I might visit the Northeast Coast more regularly. Perhaps I could house-sit, but I’d still need funds to get there. Well, I don’t have all the answers yet. When I go for a PT initial assessment next week, I plan to inquire how best to build my endurance safely. I, also, was lucky enough to discover in a bookstore’s bargain bin a book detailing cardiovascular conditioning, core balance, and strengthening exercises using one of those big inflated balls. I’d learned some exercises before in PT, but had forgotten them and been unable to find anything but directions for strengthening exercises since. Now I’ve just got to get a pump for my ball. I’m moving in a new direction. I’m not doing the same old thing. I know I’m not a sports star anymore. I won’t shame myself for not being able to walk more than half of a block right now. However, I believe I can progress. I’m in recovery.

Dealing with Fear: Walk; Don’t Run! – illustrated reflection

The painting illustrating this article is an original painting created by using a computer simulated oil brush and pen which were manipulated on the screen by moving my finger on a 1 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inch touchpad.

Throughout our lives, we face times where our primitive urge to fly, fight or freeze kicks in. We are terrified. Sometimes we don’t know of what. Sometimes the fear is buried so deep, we don’t even realize we are afraid. Many, gasping for breath and reaching blindly into the dark, don’t even realize they’re running. Most often, when I’ve been afraid, I’ve tended toward flight. We think we are in danger and when we truly are in the bodily sense, these responses serve a purpose to protect us. And even when our bodies can’t escape danger, we have inborn ways of escaping mentally. However, whatever the reason, when we take flight in fear, we run full force toward nowhere and often in circles. Mentally, we escape to the desert of our soul where we slowly wither under the glaring sun of Truth. Some never find their way back.

I spent many years running away. I tried to self-medicate with alcohol and sniffing. I hid in a flurry of white lies, ashamed of minor mistakes. I ran to the arms of flattery, not believing in my own self-worth. I mumbled feeble complaints, assuming any request for help would be answered only with judgement. I got caught in a cycle of binging and starving to gain a false sense of control. I absorbed knowledge to avoid opinion. I had break-downs, collapsing into hospital care to avoid taking responsibility for helping myself. I tried over and over to drug myself into oblivion, an ultimate escape. Some roads I have barred myself from, but some are paths that I race down out of habit.

I have overextended myself to the point of serious illness, hoping beyond hope to prove that the walls of my personal limitations would somehow crumble under the force of sheer will. I have tried to save others because I felt powerless to save myself. I have sought perfection in rituals, unconvinced within my depths of my inherent adequacy. I have intellectualized to avoid feeling my emotions, certain they had the power to destroy me. Yet I’ve claimed ignorance when faced with the possibility of being wrong, or of making a “wrong” decision. While ready to collapse, having nearly exhausted my ability to cope, I’ve teased smiles and laughter from stoic professionals. These are my demons. Over-committing, rescuing, perfectionism, intellectualizing, fence-sitting and misplaced humor are still tendencies difficult to resist when panic sets my feet in motion.

Repeatedly, I’ve managed to find my way back, but I must be aware of those patterns of flight if I wish to chart my course toward more fertile ground. I must not only resist these tendencies, but counter them. I must proactively apply strategies which reduce the likelihood of the need to run. When anxiety inches into my heart, I soothe it with a side road jaunt. Instead of getting ready to run, I slow my pace. I talk to family, friends, my treatment team, and my Higher Power. I lose myself in the magic of music. I feel the beat, rewrite the words, sing at the top of my lungs. I read what uplifts me, inspires me. I write, sometimes for release or distraction, sometimes to increase my mindfulness of the present moment. And sometimes, sometimes I write to remind myself of what I’ve learned – where I’ve been and where I want to go. Today, I’d rather walk, walk the path that will get me somewhere. I know that, even if I’m not sure exactly where I want to go, if I want to arrive in a better place, I must heed the command “Walk; don’t run!”

You CAN be Perfect!

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

Image via Wikipedia

To affirm, simply put, is to add firmness to. To affirm yourself, therefore, is to add firmness to you and to your self, to strengthen both your definition of yourself and your very being. Start by affirming what is known truth – you are human. What does it mean to be human? A human is not all powerful. A human is not all knowing. A human is imperfect. A human feels. Emotions convey a message. Fear tells us we do not know something. Fear is  useful. Fear is normal. Fear is to be expected. We have no reason to fear fear. Likewise, we have no reason to act is if we are fearless or to avoid anything that might evoke fear. Doing so reflects a form of perfectionism. Do not be afraid to fail or to succeed. You can be perfect – perfectly human, perfectly you.
We are meant to strive toward perfection, but neither to reach it nor to expect to reach it. To have a different mindset is to challenge God, to believe we can be equal. To judge ourselves unworthy of God’s love and mercy reflects an expectation that we can be perfect. Thus we manifest our true sin, pride. In refusing God’s love and likewise refusing to love ourselves, God’s creation, we withdraw our trust in God alone. We again forget we are of God. We no longer clearly and consistently recognize God. We begin to fail to see the God in others, but rather see only the façade which their separation from God requires them to create. We, in turn, seek affection from them instead of the God within they are meant to manifest. Hence, God is no longer our first and only love. We lose our way. We separate ourselves even further from the source of our very being, the only Perfect, in whom when we are ultimately united we are perfected in love.
So quit trying to be perfect. When anxieties arise, recognize the feeling as a reminder that you are human, just as you are meant to be. Rejoice that you do not know everything because it is not your responsibility or your burden. Affirm that you not only have a right to be afraid, but that it is normal to fear. Yes, I say rejoice that you have been wonderfully made, that you are extraordinarily ordinary. Rejoice that you know God and that God’s strength is yours for the asking. Just for today, choose to be, strive to be perfectly human. Tell yourself, ” I am perfectly human, naturally flawed, extraordinarily ordinary, wonderfully unique. I am meant to feel and to fail, to find favor and forgiveness in the fullness of God, forever and the only the Perfector of Souls.”  AFFIRMATION: Just for today, I accept and rejoice that I am a human being, created and loveable just as I am.

Little Brother, Love Your Mother

mother in nuclear family

Image via Wikipedia

[Author’s note: This article was copied and reposted without permission from the author on another WordPress Website which seems to mostly or only consist of such reposting. I appreciate that the blogger at least included my name, but the action was nonetheless immoral and disrespectful. Still, the blog itself is a nice collection of articles. I have not included it on my regular blogroll or below, but for the sake of my readers, I want you to know it is called “Kids Say”.]

Young man, your mom may not be complaining but I bet she doesn’t hear from you much and usually doesn’t know how to reach you. Daughters and moms are a little different. My mom lives 6 hours away and can track me down within 4 hours max. Mothers never stop being moms and as age steals away control over their own lives, they start looking for more control over their kids’ again. The more control you give the way you want to give it, the less frantic attempts will be at control where and when you don’t want it.
I’m going to play big sis/mentor again. Please out of courtesy to the role of mothers who will always worry, stay connected. How? 1) Call your mom at least weekly (maybe even set a day to be “update” day), visit her (even just stop by) every 2 weeks, take extra time for her at least monthly (longer conversation or visit, a movie together, etc), and (until you are married) spend every major holiday with her even if it isn’t right on the date. 2) At least monthly, ask her advice (for anything, even if you don’t need it or follow it) or tell her how something she’s previously taught you (however little) has helped you. 3) Figure out what her love “buzz” word is. Does she like to be “admired, appreciated, adored” or asked what her opinion is? Actively look for opportunities to use the buzz word frequently. 4) Acknowledge her anxieties (which sometimes may get expressed as anger) spoken and unspoken, then respond with compromise (give into extra caution when it’s not a big deal and give her firm evidence to counter her fears) 5) Never be unreachable. Choose when you communicate, but make sure she has a few friends’ numbers for emergencies. Check your messages often and respond within a day or less, acknowledging when you got the msg.  Your mom needs you as much as you once needed her, and you need her still even if you don’t realize how.
She’s always gonna be a mother and you’ve given her oodles of reason to worry.You’ll always be her “baby”.  Remember that you were intimately tied to her at one time; letting go of you is like letting go  of a part of herself. Even when a mother barely acts like a mom, there is that biological bond that men can never understand. Accept her concern with empathy and remember that her world is getting smaller as she ages while yours is getting bigger. Don’t carve her too far out of it; she’ll be gone before you know it.
I’m coming from a place of experience, saying this while I’m watching my mom’s health decline and my brother get frustrated with her such that he doesn’t want to “deal” with her as much. My mom is clinging hard to me, but I’m not resenting it anymore. Someday, she won’t be able to cling and I will be the one who doesn’t want to let go. And the things that once annoyed me, I now see as the fruit of her upbringing and all that has influenced her through her life. I use humor to draw gentle boundaries and remind her with admiration of who she was and what she was doing at my age. I remind her what she’s taught me and acknowledge I was a slow learner. I remind her that she doesn’t have to be a perfect mom and that my mistakes are not due to her lack of effort. I remind her that SHE is still growing too.
Anyway, mother-child relationships are often at the heart of our “hard times” in life. Sometimes the solution is a just a little companionship, simply showing interest by calling or listening. I hope the most important thing I’ve helped you do is grow up. Learn from my experience little brother. My mistakes aren’t worth repeating.

Client Psychotherapy Appointment Communication Tickler

~ Nature Trail Eye Play~

Image by ViaMoi via Flickr

Readers, this a helpful tool to help psychotherapy clients, who distressed, often struggle with their memory, focus and organization. The form, filled out before coming into the session, is a great way to begin discussion, keep things on track, and reduce confusion. The author offers it free, asking only that the source information at the bottom of the page be maintained on all copies. A print-friendly version can be emailed to you by leaving a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Client Psychotherapy Appointment Communication Tickler

Name                                                                                               Date

Appointment
Appointment Time:                 must leave by_______    will call to reschedule    please call me
Usual Visit Frequency:    varies    2+ per week    weekly        2-3/month    monthly
Nature of Today’s Visit:    first    as scheduled    extra        emergency    make-up appt
Next Visit:    discuss now    as scheduled    request extra    will call you    please call me

Changes/Updates
General Info:    name        phone#        address        household    insurance
Schedule:      travel        guests        appointments    other        permanent
Medical:    plans        providers    medications    diagnoses    treatment

For You
Updates:    bringing next time    will send/drop off    let’s discuss     on back/attached
Paperwork:    to fill out and/or sign    requesting info    for your use    returning as requested
Other:    things I’ve created    things about me        donations    invitation/request    info

Issues
Concerns:    schedule/availability    client-therapist relationship    personal safety
Stressors:    trauma         conflict        uncertainty/confusion        loss/change
Relationships:    past family    current family    friends/social    occupational    other
Focus:    process feelings        develop skills    gain insight    find solutions    other
Follow-thru:    assignments    resolutions    insights        progress on goals

Goals

Summarize the following:
physical condition
compliance with treatment
sleep
nourishment
hygiene
cognitive functioning
ability to meet responsibilities
use of coping skills
primary thoughts
emotions
resources
other

Copyright 2007 by Molly J. Efflandt, BSW