How to Use Project Management Skills as an Author

My lovely friend Natalie Fee has some great thoughts on project management as an author over at the PeoWriMos blog today. Check it out!

PeoWriMos -- Peoria Writers' Group

Project management is a valued resource in the business world, but can it help you with creative endeavors like writing a novel? Of course! Employing project management skills will help you beat writer’s block to get to the end of that elusive novel, short story, or set of poems you’ve been meaning to finish. If you plan to self-publish, project planning will be an invaluable skill set, especially with your marketing efforts. Take your next writing project from the realm of abstract into concrete actions and steps.

What is a Project?

According to the Project Management Institute, a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” It has a defined beginning and ending with dates. It usually has about five stages:

  1. Initiating
    1. Define the Scope
  2. Planning
    1. Calculate time & costs
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring / Controlling
    1. Milestones
  5. Closing
    1. Lessons Learned
    2. Celebrate Success

Nanowrimo is, at heart…

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recommended: furiously happy by jenny lawson

You might think I’ve stopped reading altogether since my recommendations stopped a while ago. No, I just forgot to share awesome stuff, and for that I owe you an apology. We should never, ever not share awesome stuff.

Segue to how frickin’ awesome Furiously Happy is.

furiously happy: a funny book about horrible things

Laughed out loud? Check. Laughed out loud until I cried? Check–I’m not ashamed of that. Lawson tackles a lot of subjects with candor and humor and empathy, stuff that’s near and dear to my heart: depression, insomnia, dealing with people, dealing with medications, dealing with life. She does things I can only dream about, like ‘convincing’ her cat to run around with a taxidermied raccoon on its back at two in the morning.

And if that weren’t ridiculous enough, you need to read how she tells that particular story.

Furiously Happy is the book about mental illness we need, because it goes deeper than just coming out. This is day to day life–forgetting doctor’s appointments, having panic attacks in the hotel, sharing your passions no matter how weird. It’s the ugly stuff, too–medication side effects, self-harm, hiding under the table.

…but it’s also about choosing to be furiously happy when we can. For that, I love this book.

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demonspine quote

Abraham glared and projected the thought, Give me my daggers back, give me my daggers back, give me my daggers back, give them to me now. The words fell into the rhythm and tune of You Are My Sunshine, which was not at all the effect he was going for.

from Demonspine–available now

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proving our relevance

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So it’s probably been a while since the latest article hit an important newspaper, where some rich guy questions the relevance of libraries, and how libraries are trying to ‘prove’ their relevance to the public by offering ‘grasping’ services like dvds, public computers, and video games. After all, Google has replaced old-school reference librarians. Why do we need libraries anymore? How in the world are we going to stay relevant?

I’m not going to prove our relevance. I don’t need to.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots has widened. The places were a person can go to simply exist (without paying for something) are gone. The places that welcome teens for hours on end are gone. Public community space is gone.

Except at the library.

The face of the library has changed. We’re still here at the information desk, poised to answer your reference questions, but we’ll also help you with your resume, show you job search utilities, and walk you through retrieving your email password.

It’s easy, if you haven’t been on the receiving end of those services, to dismiss those as unimportant. Until, of course, you need it. Then suddenly we’re invaluable.

The first time I ever helped a 70+ year old patron with his resume, I was struck with sadness. Here was a man with a full and rich history of employment, and he was overwhelmed because almost all job applications happen online, which is a foreign and scary world to him. Here was a man who couldn’t retire, though his body was surely ready for the rest. He couldn’t afford to, obviously, or he wouldn’t be here at the library asking for my help for the third day in a row, counting out change for his two copies with his shaking, knotty fingers.

Then it happened again with another elderly patron. And another. It didn’t take long for me to realize how completely unisolated these events really are. By unisolated, I mean common. Routine.

We have some groups of teens who frequent our library. Day in, day out, they come to our Young Adult programming, they play Minecraft for hours on end–from the minute they get out of class till the closing announcement. Sure, they occasionally try to sneak food upstairs, and sometimes they don’t stop chatting, but what kind of home lives do these kids have that they’d rather be here for six hours at a time than go home? Where else can they go?

An unsurprisingly large amount of middle-aged para-professionals are starting over in growing careers like nursing or healthcare. I recognize them right away when they come in–they’re just a little terrified of online classes, and they’re a lot terrified that they won’t be able to keep up with the coursework. They want so desperately to succeed in this new path, because they’re sacrificing so much to go back to school. I wish there was more I could do than point them to the right books. I’d tell them I’m cheering them on, but that would sound creepy.

It’s January, so at least fifty percent of the calls I take are about taxes and finding free and low-cost tax help. Thanks to budget cuts and lack of qualified volunteers, the places to get free tax help have dwindled. There’s a certain amount of desperation in the voices of these callers. Taxes are scary. Accountants are expensive. And if paying for one was an option, they wouldn’t have to call the library.

If not here, then where would these people go?

Some librarians lament that instead of coming to read, our patrons come to get on Facebook. I’m okay with that. I figure, you’re willing to brave the cold (10 degrees and below) in two inches of snow, and wait for your bus, and then walk several blocks from the bus stop to here… if Facebook is really what you want to do after all that, then that’s what you really need. Fine with me! Please come.

We have a strict no-discrimination, no-harassment policy and we enforce that. Sure, businesses have those policies too, somewhere, but I’ve never once felt comfortable approaching management at a coffee shop when I was getting creeped on. But the library? We’re trying to keep an eye on that for you. Safe spaces are few and far between. Not every library is a safe space, but this one is. Please come and work/study/read in peace. Our coffee is quite a bit cheaper than that franchise across the street, too.

There’s also the issue of programming. A conversation within the larger library community is how to we get more people to come and participate in our programs. Obviously, we always want more community involvement, but it’s not to ‘prove our relevance.’ It’s to serve our community. Sometimes, our programs have no-shows. Others, the sign ups max out. I celebrate each and every program–whether it’s a jam-packed two hours of board games or a tablet 101 workshop with one participant. Each patron needs us. Each library has the responsibility, the commitment, and the joy of best serving their community.

As for proving our relevance? There are a lot of people who haven’t set foot in a library since their senior year at a private college, and those people don’t have a solid picture of what the modern library looks like or even that other people might need them. I’m not going to say you’re missing out–because honestly, if you can afford your own books, your own dvds, your own computer and internet and printer–well, good for you. But there are a growing number of people that can’t. Every year that gap gets a little wider. The poor get a little poorer. The community we serve gets a little larger and a lot more desperate.

Actually, I changed my mind. You are missing out. Our Star Wars day is a ton of fun, and your kids will love it. So will you! There’s also a fantastic writers’ group that meets here, several book clubs, public speakers, kids’ crafts galore, and SCORE is about to launch this year’s Business Start Up classes. Among other things. And if you can honestly look through our programming and you don’t see a single thing that sounds remotely interesting, let us know what you are interested in. We love feedback.

I can’t prove our relevance. If you’ve already deemed that no one else needs public services because you specifically don’t need them, then there’s no convincing you otherwise. Because that’s essentially what you’re saying, when you question the relevance of libraries.

But I do sincerely hope your situation stays as stable as you think it will. I hope that you come and enjoy the library because you want to, not because you need to.

We’ll be here, arms open. For Grisham’s latest release, for Facebook, for resume help, for eBooks and DVDs, for self-education, for a quiet space to work, and for whatever else comes our way.

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who’s the ridiculous one now?

My husband thinks I’m ridiculous because I used a cloth diaper as a makeshift shower cap today.

It’s a nice coincidence my head is the same size as a pair of infant waterproof pants, and why buy a shower cap when I can choose between such styles as pirates, Mario Kart, and Dr. Seuss?

I’d ask who’s the ridiculous one now, but we probably know the answer. It’s still me.

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demonspine quote

“That’s not all,” Aggie added once the chaos dimmed. “After I retrieved the nails of the true cross and successfully completed my contract, Lucifer declared I wasn’t done! Now he wants me to do more work for him!”

She took a deep breath. For some reason, she hadn’t been interrupted yet and she wasn’t about to blow an opportunity. An opportunity to what? She still wasn’t sure. But defaming Lucifer in the throne room of Hell felt pretty damned good. “I will not! The Lord of Hell is bound by the same contracts we are all bound by, and if he will not hold his end, we will not hold ours!”

The crowd went wild, cheering and whistling. A half dozen people on the bottom row of seats lifted up large cards—three 10’s, two 9’s, and an 8.7.

from Demonspine–available now

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gluten free peanut blossoms

Had you told me one year ago that for Christmas this year, I’d be not just baking gluten-free for me but also experimenting wildly to make gluten-free versions of my favorite cookies, I would have thought you were trying to get a rise out of me.

Seriously.

gluten free peanut blossom cookies

Last year on Christmas Eve, my aunt and uncle were telling me how great their new diet was. Their naturopath got them off of gluten and dairy and all sorts of stuff and they loved how they felt. I remember thinking–with empathy because feeling good is nice–that I could never do that. I loved baking too much.

Fast forward no more than two weeks later, and I’m crawling out of the bathroom and swearing off gluten completely. It’s what’s making me so sick.

Lo and behold I feel better without it.

Granted, a diet makeover is completely different than a food sensitivity. A high vegetable, lean protein, low grain diet will make a person feel better if all that person had been previously eating was meat and wheat. That’s kind of a no-brainer.

I didn’t believe even then it could happen to me. Stranger yet, it’s been happening to me all my life.

Baking for Christmas this year has been an interesting experience and self-reflection, to say the least. These recipes are so familiar and working with the dough feels so comfortable. Even though I can’t have it, it still has the effect of comfort food.

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And I know I said I wouldn’t be making gluten-free versions of everything, but godamnit after whipping up peanut blossoms for my sister and scooping up the perfectly smooth, thick dough, I couldn’t not make some for myself. Peanut butter cookie dough is dangerously addictive.

As far as experimenting–peanut butter goes so well with oats, don’t you think? I can’t believe these cookies turned out so well the first try. The only thing is, they didn’t last long enough to see how well they store.

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Gluten-Free Peanut Blossoms

adapted from joyofbaking.com

1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c peanut butter
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 l egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp milk
1-1/4 c finely ground oat flour*
1/2 c tapioca starch
3/4 tsp xantham gum
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Chocolate kisses or stars, unwrapped

Cream butter and peanut butter. Add and cream sugars. Add wet ingredients and beat until creamy. Whisk together dry ingredients and mix. Chill until firm, at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375F. Roll dough into scant 1″ balls. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and place single chocolate on each cookie, pressing gently until cookie just begins to crack. Cool 5-10 minutes on cookie sheet until set enough to transfer to wire rack.

Makes 4 dozen. Store in airtight container. If you need to store them for more than a day or two, place immediately in freezer and thaw 1 hr before serving.

*if gluten-free oats are not an option, you can sub 1-1/2c of your regular all-purpose gluten free blend in place of the oat flour and tapioca starch

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