Friday, January 26, 2018

One Year Ago {this calls for celebration}

One year and one week ago I sat in the living room on a cold Saturday morning and read through the entity of KDP's (Kindle Direct Publishing) terms of service. One year and one week ago I talked with my dad and decided on Annie Louise Twitchell as the name I would publish under. One year and one week ago today I opened a KDP account.

One year ago today I uploaded the cover file:

One year ago today I struggled over the acknowledgements, how to express what I felt and what I wanted to say. I'd never felt that something was so important. 

One year ago today I uploaded the finalized manuscript. 

One year from tomorrow, January 28th, my first book was published on Amazon Kindle. 

The Christmas Ladder is a little tiny story; it's about 10 pages long. It's a true story, mostly. It's based on a story from my great-grandmother's childhood. To celebrate my first book baby's birthday, I've listed it for free on Amazon on the 27th, 28th, and 29th. 

It's been a long year. It seems impossible that it's been a whole year already, but at the same time I can't believe it's only been a year. I'm standing on the edge of 21, almost teetering, waited with bated breath. I don't know what I'm waiting for. 

This past year has been full of pain and grief and anger and hurt and depression. It's been full of anxiety and fear. It's been full of hope and love and joy and the kind of laughter that explodes into a million glittering echoes because there's nothing else for it to do. It's been full of growth and change and healing. 

I've moved mountains, I think, at least for myself. 

I'm so thankful for this last year. 


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

It's Okay {my afternoon}

I'm in several young writer's groups now, and I end up on the older end of the age range in most of them. I tend to mildly 'big sister' them, especially during a writing event month. I post reminders and encouragements and offer virtual hugs as needed. It's something I'm pretty good at, and it's useful for some of the members.

This week has been challenging for me, personally. It's been hard and I've felt so worn out and tired. I had a panic attack (full blown panic attack, it was pretty bad) this morning when I realized I hadn't written at all yesterday, and only a couple sentences the day before. I'm not doing any yearly writing challenges this year and I've actually met my January goals about a week ago, so I couldn't figure out why I was panicking about it, but once my buddy got me calmed down and I was okay, I was able to sit down and do some journaling. That satisfied whatever it was that had prompted the panic attack. 

This evening, I was just feeling really discouraged and down. So I squished my anxiety about saying anything and asked in one of my writing groups for some encouraging quotes, memes, whatever. 

The response was pretty overwhelming and I was actually finally able to cry, which I hadn't managed yet. After I had a good cry I felt so much better. I felt refreshed and clear-headed, I could think properly, my body was relaxed and didn't feel like it was falling apart on me. 

It just really reminded me that no one here is an island and that it's totally okay to need help and to ask for help. I often have this whisper in the back of my mind that says you don't need to bother anyone with that and sometimes, I let it decide things for me. But tonight I didn't, and I'm so very thankful that I didn't. 

I feel ready for my day tomorrow and I'm looking forward to the handful of projects I have lined up. 


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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pick Up The Phone {three reasons why}

This week I had to file my sales tax return for my books.

A simple misunderstanding on the form resulted in a visit to the bank, three phone calls, an email, and talking with my dad for any ideas. The process took about seven hours spread over two days.

This morning I decided to get up my nerve and call the State office to talk to them about it.

The lady I spoke with was very kind and helpful. She didn't make me feel stupid or silly, explained what was going on, and what I could do. She was patient and helpful, and when we were done, told me to have a good day. Having that mess sorted out so quickly and easily - I was on the phone with her for about five minutes - has gone a long way towards making my day better.

I don't know about you, but I have issues with making phone calls. I'm better now about answering phone calls and calling my friends, but having to make a call to someone I don't know stresses me out.

Especially if it's something like this.

I've had my fair share of panicking over the telephone. I still do prefer to text than to talk, but that has more to do with my preference to write than to speak. I'm always afraid that I'll mess up something important by saying the wrong words, or that I'll start crying in the middle of a situation, or any number of self-induced disasters. If I can email instead of talk, I will take that route.

But here's three reasons to pick up the phone and dial:

1 - connection

A voice over the phone is much more intimate than an email. It just is. You can convey more than you can in an email, just because there's tone of voice and so on. A conversation goes much faster on the phone because you communicate in sentences instead of paragraphs.

2 - faster assistance

I sent an email to the State last night and I haven't gotten a response yet. Normally I'd just wait, but since I need to have this filed posthaste, I didn't have that luxury. Making the phone call got me someone to talk to right away. I didn't even get put on hold this time, but when I have before, it's still been faster than an email exchange.

3 - professionalism

Is that a word? I don't know. If it isn't, another phrase that would work is business skills. I answer phones in the morning at the computer shop my family owns. It's made it so much easier for me to make these kinds of phone calls. I've learned to adjust my voice slightly so my words are distinct on the phone, to be concise, polite, and collected. I've learned to deal with irate customers on the phone, and even if they make me want to cry afterwards, I can conclude the conversation with them.

So yeah, I stress about important phone calls, and I make a mental script, and everything. But I've had enough practice that it's starting to not be such a huge deal. Speaking on the phone is a skill, and a very good one to have.

Tips for having a successful phone call:

Make sure your environment isn't making it harder for you. A clean desk, a pad of paper, a pen, and whatever references you need for the phone call will help you feel prepared, because well, you are.

Make sure your pen works. Seriously, this is huge. Before you make the phone call, test your pen and make sure it works.

Have a sip of water first. This will help your mouth not be too dry. If you get put on hold, take another sip. Don't guzzle it down though! Needing a restroom stop isn't going to help your nerves.

Write down the important things you need to talk about, or make a mental script. Some people might find it more helpful to have a list in front of them. I use my mental script as a way to focus myself on the call, so I don't tend to write things down.

Remember that the person on the other end of the phone is a human too. They're probably not that concerned if you stumble over your words a bit, or if you're nervous and uncomfortable. They talk to people on the phone a lot and you're not going to be that memorable.

Be polite. Saying thank you very much at the end of the call will make you feel better, make the person you spoke with feel better, and generally make the whole thing end of a happy note. Guess what? That really helps with the next time.

It is okay to get someone to help you if you really need it. I had my mother call to make the appointment for my wisdom teeth extraction last month, because I was too stressed and upset about the whole thing. I was pretty sure I'd start crying if I got on the phone. She offered to help me call about my taxes today, but I got it taken care on my own. Stretching yourself is good, but you're not trying to break. If you pull a rubber band too far, it snaps. That's not the goal here. If you really can't make the phone call, that's okay.


copyright 2018 by Annie Louise Twitchell
Image from Pixabay

Friday, January 5, 2018

No Dragons, Please! {updated Kindle edition}

No Dragons, Please! wasn't originally intended to be published as a Kindle e-book, due to the illustrations and the formatting difficulties they present. I found Amazon has a program for building children's books for Kindle, so I used that. Basically what it does is lock everything on a page as if it's an actual book page, which messes up with changing the font size, zooming in and out, and other issues. All my checks on my devices showed that it came out okay - not stellar, but it was readable for me, so I called it good.

When I found out today that it wasn't working out for some readers, due to the formatting and how it was locked in, I went back and updated it. It now reads like a normal Kindle book, where you can change the font size as needed. The images aren't 100% centered and I haven't been able to find out why, but they are still in there and not looking too bad, if I do say so myself.

There aren't any changes to the content of the book other than the formatting and one illustration that I moved to flow better in the story, so if you were able to read it just fine on your device before, you don't need to update it. If you had issues, you may want to update the book, and here's a link to How-To Geek that explains how to do that: How-To Geek: How to Get the Latest Version of Your Kindle Books (Including Ours)

I'm so sorry if this caused any inconvenience to my readers! As an apology/thank you, I'm going to be putting No Dragons, Please! for free on Kindle on January 7th and 8th. Here's the Amazon link: No Dragons, Please!

As a side note, the internet at my house is out right now, so I have limited access to social media. I'm running a mobile hotspot on my phone to post this blog update. If you feel inclined to share this post, could you do that? Thanks ever so much.


Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 {my year in review}

It all started one fateful day in December 2016... 

It was the first holiday season since my great-grandmother Louise had passed away, so a number of us were reminiscing on Facebook, and a cousin shared a story that I, and a number of others, had never heard before. That story stuck in my heart and without necessarily thinking about it I found myself painting. Then I wrote the story out. I asked for a couple beta readers to help polish it up, then published it on my blog. On January 27th I hit publish on my first little Kindle e-book.

I wrote a poem for my local library's poetry contest and won first place in the adult category with Something. Reading that one out loud at the presentation night was hard; I wasn't sure if I was going to make it all the way through. It wasn't nerves this time. It was how deeply the poem affected me personally.

I turned right around and started seriously working on my novella, Spinner of Secrets. Spinner of Secrets had been in progress for almost two years. I had an incredible team of beta readers who helped me get it in shape, then I started a process I would repeat three more times before the end of the year: formatting. I expected to hate formatting. I expected to take forever to get it, and to end up with a bit of a 'ehh' job. 

I didn't. I loved it, and my first proof copy came in the end of April. I had a book. I'd made an actual, real, honest to goodness book. Not gonna lie, there was a lot of crying. And a lot of jumping around and yelling in excitement. And I don't really remember a lot else.

I had two poems published in an anthology, "What The Sirens Say" and "Ache". 

I was invited to enter a couple pieces in an anthology to raise mental health awareness, with all proceeds donated to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I wrote two poems for that, and then was able to help out a little with finalizing it. 

Back in January I'd assembled a poetry manuscript for a contest. I didn't win, but I got bored one afternoon, rearranged it a bit, formatted it, and ordered a proof copy. This little book just might be my personal favorite of all my works this year. I finished it off with a handful of my own sketches, and published it on August 16th.

On September 28th I published The Ocean and I. A short collection of poetry, prose, and photos, it's a snapshot of my vacation in Friendship, Maine this summer. It started as just a letter to me, from me, but I was encouraged to publish it, and people seem to have liked it.

With only two weeks left before the deadline, I learned about an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records record for largest anthology. I am one of over 100 authors who contributed. There are several goals we have to reach before the record is broken, but it's kind of a big deal and I'm excited.

No Dragons, Please! was, like Spinner of Secrets, two years in process. I pulled it from my back files to be re-written and published. Originally written for my youngest brother's 10th birthday, I had it published professionally in time for his 12th.

Other things of note:

In addition to my cat, rabbit, dog, and houseplants, I have a fish. His name is Thaddeus and he is a Halfmoon Double Tail Male Betta fish. He is fabulous. His tank is next to my computer desk and he likes to sit near me while I work.

I successfully pulled off the 2017 New Releases Showcase, a Facebook event featuring myself and eight other authors who'd released books in 2017.

In terms of mental health, this has been the best year in a long time. All of this work, all of this stretching and pushing and testing limits, and it's still been the best year I've had. I've been scared. I've been angry. I've been stubborn and in the wrong and stupid and a brat. But I've been so joyful and excited and eager. I've been so happy I screamed and I've been so overwhelmed that I cried. It's been good. 

And my total word count for 2017... as close as I can figure from my tracking...


At the end of the year, 2017 has been life-changing. Looking back at where I was one year ago today, I can safely say that I never saw this coming. And I can safely say I don't regret it.

All my love - AnnieLou