Sunday Salon: Entrepreneurial Spirit

Entrepreneurial BooksAs I’ve written here before, I will be losing my job at the end of October. This is not a bad thing because it has given me the opportunity to really think about what I want to do next. And what I really want to do is get off the career ladder and focus on what I love to do the most – write. I’ve been working in the PR field for over nine years now and I’ve moved into a management role. Aside from having my own office, this hasn’t proven to be very much fun. I spend my time managing others to do the tasks that attracted me to the career in the first place.

So, I’m seriously considering going it alone as a freelance writer. Focus on what I do best and lose the office politics (or most of it anyway). The only problem is that I don’t know very much about running a business, promoting myself or attracting clients. As with every challenge in my life, I responded by making a trip to the library and bookstore. Thankfully, there are lots of resources to guide you through the process of creating a business and many focus on female entrepreneurs.

From the library, I picked up Real You Incorporated: Eight Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs by Kaira Sturdivant Rouda. This book focuses on identifying your unique strengths to create a brand for yourself and your business that is real and authentic. The book features numerous questions to guide you through identifying your brand and many inspiring stories about successful female entrepreneurs.

From my bookshelf, I pulled The SEED Handbook (Sustainable Enterprise and Empowerment Dynamics) by Lynne Franks. I bought this book several years ago when I was between jobs, but didn’t have the guts at the time to have a go at freelancing. This book covers some of the same ground as Real You Incorporated, but from a different angle. Franks focuses on developing courage, honing your intuition and incorporating sustainability, values and ethics in your business. I’m really attracted to establishing a business that is ethical to its core. I can personally attest that sometimes public relations is used to massage the truth. I’ve never been involved in anything that was truly a lie, but not entirely truthful. I attended journalism school and I’ve always been really attracted to the notion of journalism as the “fifth estate,” speaking for those who voices can’t be heard and exposing the truth. Needless to say, my professional life has been at odds with my personal beliefs on several occasions.

My next choice is The Boss of You: Everything a Woman Needs to Know to Start, Run and Maintain Her Own Business by Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears. These two ladies run a successful web development company. This book provides practical advice on developing a business plan, financing, marketing and growing your business. I can see that I’ll be consulting this book often.

Last, I picked up The 30-Second Commute: A non-fiction comedy about writing and working from home by Stephanie Dickison. This book isn’t a guide to creating a freelance business, but is a funny and smart “memoir” about a freelance writer. It looks like it will be a lot of fun to read.

Do you know any good books to guide someone through creating their own creative business?

Sunday Salon: Between Books

SundayReadingI’m between books at the moment. Reading them, that is. Yesterday, I finished reading Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I had to find out what all the buzz was about. It wasn’t a bad story, really a contemporary retelling of Wuthering Heights, only not nearly as good. When I read the Harry Potter books or the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman, I remember thinking that these books were quite sophisticated to be considered children’s or young adult fiction. However, Twilight is definitely meant for a teenage audience. I would have really enjoyed this book when I was about 13 years old. 

Twilight did keep me engrossed for a couple of days, but ultimately I found it disappointing. The climax was rushed and gave little description. Actually, there was very little description in the whole book and Meyer’s frequently resorts to lazy tactics such as dialogue tags to describe the characters actions and feeling. I gasped. He growled. I’d like to know what a growling vampire actually sounds like.

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This morning I spent a couple of hours dipping into some magazines and the journal Granta. I love this British literary journal and I can count on it for some interesting stories, thought-provoking articles and some interesting art or photography. In the New Fiction Special, I’m really enjoying Jhumpa Lahiri’s interview with Mavis Gallant, a contemporary short story writer interviewing one of the greats of the form. Mavis Gallant may not be that well-known, but if you are interested in short stories, you must check her out. She is an expat-Canadian who has been living in Paris since 1950. Her first story was published in The New Yorker. The interview ranges from Gallant’s experiences in Paris and the inspiration for many of her stories. I haven’t finished reading it, but I am thoroughly enjoying it.

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As I mentioned, I am between books at the moment. I have no shortage of books to read- I have stacks of unread books all over my apartment. The hard part is deciding which one to read next. A classic? A short story collection? Fiction or non-fiction? Shall I read deeply into one author and read everything he or she has written, in order of publication? I’m seriously considering this idea and I think Ian McEwan will be my subject.

Sunday Salon: Still Alice

I’d heard about Still Alice by Lisa Genova several times over the last couple of months, but it wasn’t until it appeared on the “New Arrivals” shelf at my local library that I decided to check it out. 

Still Alice is a novel about a woman, a Harvard psychology professor, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The book is written in the third person from Alice’s point of view and the reader is close enough to Alice to feel what it is like to lose your memory. While I can’t say I’ve experienced memory problems or even have much first hand experience with Alzheimer’s disease, I think Genova has done a great job of capturing the confusion and lose one must experience when descending into dementia. The disease is devastating. At the beginning, Alice is forgetful, making silly mistakes like leaving her BlackBerry at a restaurant. But then she gets lost just a few blocks from home, a neighbourhood she has lived in for over 20 years. Slowly, she becomes more and more forgetful to the point where she doesn’t always recognize her children.  Alice’s Alzheimer’s disease is also an enormous challenge to her grown children and husband, who struggle with the challenge of moving forward with their own lives and looking after Alice.

The book is written in a style that is very straight forward and not particularly literary. The author has a Ph.D in neuroscience from Harvard and in places I thought the book delved deeper in the science of Alzheimer’s instead of going deeper into the feelings of the characters. In particular, I wanted to know more about how Alice felt about her diagnosis. In the scene where she gets her diagnosis, she has an almost out-of-body experience while listening to the doctor. Later the author tells us she gets angry at times, but I wanted to see Alice be angry, be in denial, feel grief about losing everything – her career, her relationship with her husband, the memories of kids and her family’s future without her.

Still, this is a really good book and a definite must read – if only to learn more about this horrible, incurable disease.

Sunday Salon: House Rules by Rachel Sontag

I just finished reading House Rules by Rachel Sontag. It is a memoir about her childhood growing up with a psychologically abusive father. It is a very brave book. Rachel’s father set out these very strict rules for each of this two daughters. They had to be home by a certain time and he was so fanatical about it that Rachel often hitch hiked home in order to avoid her father’s wrath. If she wanted to study at the library, she had to write a proposal of what she wanted to do while there. The worst was that he would often get her out of bed in the middle of the night and spend hours berating her, telling her she was scum, a slut and never amount to anything. Her mother made a choice to stay married and Rachel paid the price. When she graduated from university her mother wanted her to write an apology letter to her father so her mother could go (because her father had forbade it). But Rachel’s mother chose her marriage over her daughter. Rachel’s father was at a medical conference in New Orleans, so her mother could have come if she was willing to stand up to her husband.

When the book was published, Rachel’s father wrote nasty reviews of the book on Amazon and even set up a website refuting the book. I found the website and took a quick look at it. The man thinks he is refuting Rachel’s book, but all he has done is prove just how sick a man he is. I won’t provide the link, but you can find it with a little Google sleuthing.

This book reminds me a lot of my own childhood. My father was extremely controlling, made fun of in inappropriate ways, called me horrible things and told me more than once that he wished he’d never had children. My parents are divorced and now I can can count on my father to call me or be interested in my life when he is between girlfriends. I’ve tried to write about this before, but I have stalled after 50 or so pages. Deep down I fear what my family would think. I found a couple of interviews with Rachel, who encourages people who want to write about their families to write the first draft and then worry about the possible reaction. There is also the fact that people don’t see themselves as you see them and may not even recognize themselves. My own story has been banging around my head for ages and I feel I must write it out in order to move on with my life.

Sunday Salon: Writing Down the Bones

It is easy to lose sight of the fact that writers do not write to impart knowledge to others; rather, they write to inform themselves.

Forward by Judith Guest to Writing Down the Bones 

I’ve been really struggling with writing lately. My job is going through a major transition and I’ve been finding it hard to concentrate on my own writing. Perhaps this is an excuse to allow myself to step away from my own writing. This has gone  on for a couple of months. But now it resent the intrusion on my time and creative energy. I feel out of balance. I’ve been writing and thinking of myself as a writer since I read the Little House on the Prairie books when I was ten years old. Whenever I’m not writing, I don’t feel like myself.

Lately, I’ve been paralysed, thinking about what to write – novel, short stories, memoir? I’m not sure what to do. Which is why I picked up Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I’ve read this book at least twice before. It is like an old friend. I came across the words in the Foreword by Judith Guest and it was like a glass of cold water to the face – in a good way. A wake up call. I need to get back to basics – write to inform myself. Write through the challenges in my job. Write to figure out what I want to write. Just write for practice and not think about the end product, or who will read it, where it should be published, etc. I need to just write.