Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's on my desk today?!?!? Who Cares?

Quote of the Day:
Just cause you got the Monkey off your back,
doesn't mean the circus has left town.

~George Carlin

Current Local Weather:
Rain? Got it? Need it?
Tears? Got em? Need em?
Lightening rod pain in the a**?
Selling it all by the boatload here in the Springs.

Currently on my iPod:
Grace Kelly *
*singing it at the top of your lungs first thing in the morning helps.*

Dear Friends, Family and my Family of Friends,

Wrapping it up. Yep. That's what I thought too. Stop laughing. Please, really, it's a sick and disturbing laugh and makes the voices come back. I don't have enough meds to get me through the day, so please, hold back this once, cut me some slack. And don't look at me that way, it's just a simple oversight. Really, I can be a better person. Tomorrow, promise. But for today, it' s just a re-interview or two or five. Or maybe a straggler asking, *begging* to be recounted as someone in the book. A re-write, trim, lipo-suction of the worst kind, the MS kind!

Working...working...working...For all two of you who read this blog who are writers, or haplessly addicted to my process of documenting the jazz community in our nation, let me give you a run down of stats and what it takes to put together a project of this stature. At least my version of what it takes. The real stats might be revealed one day when I'm dead. For now, you get my version. (I love stats. I should have majored in it!)

  • Days working on The New Face of Jazz MS: 382
  • Words in working, non-organized draft, as of 7:22a.m. MST, Tues. May 26, 2009: 87,902
  • Words allowed: Somewhere around 130K, and no, that will never be enough.
  • Words in working, organized, pretty and could be ready one day soon-ish draft, as of 7:23a.m. MST, Tues. May 26, 2009: 10,076
  • Number of artists scheduled to be included in draft as of same time, place, yadda, yadda: 285
  • Number of artists likely not to make book due to the RH version captain crunch of page counts: 100
  • Number of interns starting today to help finish the compilation of all this data: 1
  • Number of sighs of relief breathed due to the start of said intern: ONE!
  • Appendix pages that are in complete shambles: too many to list and in fear of agent/editor reading, will not be mentioned in great detail. :)
  • Number of jazz societies, educational venues, clubs, non-profits and other such places that need to be contacted, updated and more: Yeah, like I'd really tell you. There's not enough Valium in the world to give you the exact number before I go into a complete and utter panic attack, not heading down that slippery slope this morning.
  • Number of interviews left to transcribe: 18
  • Number of hours those interviews consume in my iTunes: 30
  • Number of legal letters Random House wants me to send out for permission to use the words of people who already granted me interviews, are mostly out of contact due to summer tour schedules and more: uh, somewhere in the vicinity of over 300.
  • Number of Advil, Tylenol and other OTC/illegal/street drugs that can be consumed in any given hour while working on deadline without killing oneself: I'll get back to you on that one.
This is just a little bit'o'work from my desk. What's on your plate/desk/car dashboard today? For me, working towards a goal, no matter how small, as in, Cicily will get her emails out to the artists today regarding letters and photo shoots today, is something I have to have in order to be productive. When I decided to hire on an intern to help take over some of this massive project I had to abate any of the naysaying critical inner-voices inside me. This will only help me meet my goal. Is she writing my book for me, uh, hell no. Is she doing anything that could be constituted as child-labor, slave-labor, yes. But that's by her own choice. She's old enough, so whatever. Having someone look up addresses, names, contact info., mail envelopes etc. is a BLESSING!

Can you really do it all by yourself? Of course! Wonder-Twin Powers Unite! (*Ching your wrists together wit a writer friend, spin around in a circle and then go back to your desk screaming that outloud. Your voices and you will unite and it will all happen for you too! This pledge is not backed by my usual 90 day money-back-guarantee. Please email the complaints dept. with any questions.*)

But seriously, can you? I can. I know I can. I just have to have a clear goal in mind. Regardless of the genre you're writing in, you must know what your end goal of that particular piece is going to be. I'm not talking about the goal of publication/agent/marriage etc, I'm talking small-micro-managed goals. Is your goal to have your character get up and move across the room? Then go for it. Why is it hard for this character to get up and move this way? Is his mother-in-law sitting across that room? Is there a dead man he doesn't want to have to kill AGAIN sitting there? Is there a monkey on his back?

Plot out your day just as you would your characters and you might just find that one of Those days, will soon turn into one of those GREAT days in which you can start to say, mission accomplished.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go back to the jelly bean breakfast, laden with diet coke and a sampling of peanut butter granola that I've set up for myself and the recorded words of the masters. :)

Yours in micro-managing, making-out-like-a-bandit, and more-or-less losing my mind,


Saturday, May 23, 2009



Quote of the Day:
There is no harm in repeating a good thing.

Current Local Weather:
Swells of rainy weather, bringing in
views of paradise all at once, causing massive
confusion among the natives.

Currently on my iPod:

'Cemetery Walk II'
Umphrey's McGee
(yeah, if you haven't heard this band, you're missing out)

Dear friends, family and family of friends,

This is a repeat brought to you by our sponsor, Writing Away Retreats.

In desperate search for cheap/free advertising earlier this week I googled writing groups, writing critique groups, groups for writers, and almost every permutation of these words I could think of. What I found was an endless supply of websites for writer's groups across the country. AKA: Free advertising for my retreats. I have been emailing the webmasters, presidents, head cheese, head boobah's of such groups etc and asking if I could help their groups out by offering them a glance at my retreats, a scholarship opportunity and more on their list-servers. Oh my. The response has been overwhelming! Here are some of the ones that have responded in the last twenty-four hours:

MWA Writer's Resources Page

Southbay Writers
Colorado Author's League
Pikes Peak Writers
The Writer's Center
For Writer's .com

Prescott Writers

Cheryl's Musings (Blog)
Write Bastard (Blog)

Gently Read Literature (Blog)

Mark Weichman's blog on Myspace (Blog)
Jamie Cat Callan (author and Writer's ToolBox Creator)

Living a Life of Writing: Rebecca's Book Blog
Things about Transylvania
Nebraska Center for Writers
Southeastern Writers

These are GREAT resources in your community and on-line. I suggest you check all of them out. Join them if they're relevant for where you're at in your process or where you're at geographically. I'll be adding a list to the side of my blog of these names as well for writing resource sites. And now...for the part you've all been waiting for! The slide show of the house I've settled upon for the retreats for the rest of time.

*Isn't this where you need to be about now? How about October??*

Picture this:

10K sq. ft. 13 bedrooms, two of which you wouldn't be able to find without a guided tour of the house. The linens...oh the linens. I asked the woman what a particular door led to, as I genuinly felt lost throughout the guided tour, the house was so huge and she said, oh, just a linen closet. Uh, yeah. I could have lived in that closet! Rows, upon rows of down blankets, plush towels etc. We're not talking your average run of the mill thin coverlets from the Super 8. Down blankets for as far as the eye can see, thick downy textures everywhere! Where there's carpet..your feet sink down into it! No wonder they are a NO SHOE policy place!

This house was once named one of the very best Bed and Breakfast in the nation, drop off to the door from the airport, PLENTY of nooks and crannies throughout the house for great conversation with literary agents, editors and authors!

Don't forget! We have two scholarship contests currently running! Entries for the partial scholarship for either the five day or eleven day retreat are due in on June 15th to the creativelivesworkshop@hotmail.com addy and the full scholarship stories/essays/poetry are due in on July 1, 2009. DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS OPPORTUNITY! Full details for this are online at the website.

Yeah, it's all here. I have a saying, there are two sides to every success. Let me be the one that makes it possible for you to write your success story out the way you've always pictured it.

Wrap your senses around this:
In our society, we tend to nourish the very young and very old...where is the room for this with our generation?

Right Here:

Soak in the comfort of knowing you're going to be welcomed with open arms; regardless of genre, region and/or publication past. I foster a strict policy of nurturing and loving the arts and artists in this world.

Writing Away Retreats is that ideal environment. Appealing to all senses, I take great pride in being able to bring forth my contacts throughout the literary world, a strength and desire to nourish my peers with loving hands and heart, so that I may be one that allows you to succeed.

I have hand-picked an unprecedented team of faculty that are kindred spirits. I've spoken at length with them, either via phone or email and know that they're on the same wavelength as I am. Please let go...It's time to say goodbye to stress, pitch sesssions, crappy hotels and fast food that are all things synonymous with anonymous writing conferences of the past. Let me show you what it means to be truly taken care of. You won't be sorry.

Take this fall and learn what it means to set-aside the time to
invest in your success story:

So, where will you be in October? Will you be seated at my table:

with Scott of Folio Lit, or Robert of Sterling? Maybe sharing a hot tottie with Kate or Michael? Wrapping up a long hike in the woods with Signe or Sorche? Throwing another log on the fire before hopping into the hot-tub outside to enjoy conversation with the finest people you'll ever meet?

Hmmm...Hopefully wherever your thoughts are now, you'll find them resting at my piece of Literary Heaven once the fall crisp leaves are hitting your door step.

Yours in Writing Thoughts, Waiting for Your Registration Forms, and Wanting More For You,


Monday, May 18, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

Quote of the Day:
If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.
~Charles Kettering

Current Local Weather:
Sunny. Too Hot Already. Dammit. Sarcasm
Punctuating Thoughts with Bursts of Productivity.

Currently on my iPod:
"Everything I Love"

Tom Harrell

Dear Friends, Family and Family of Friends,

Well. Nothing's really different here save the weather. I'm hot. No, not in looks, as in my neck is sweating and a distinct odor is emitting itself from...anyway, we've had unseasonably hot weather here in Colorado but I'm not going to complain any further. If you remember, just a few weeks ago we had a blizzard that almost killed me. So upwards and onwards. I'll listen to Bon Iver and hopefully get a nice chill up my spine to cool me off for a while.

For today's lesson, kids, let's talk craft. Something different for a while. Writing. Actual writing. Since the acquisition of my agent, then my editor at the big house in the publishing sky, lots of peeps have asked my "professional" opinion on writing. LOL. I still laugh, as that doesn't seem right. But here it goes.

First question they ask is about their work: Do you think this idea is going to sell. Uh? I'm not an agent. I'm not a publisher/editor/coveter of dreams...


I do know the single most valuable piece of advice I was given in this industry and it worked for me!

Write what you know.

If you are writing this:

A teenage girl, nerdy, rejected by her peers, falls in love with the hottest dude in school only to find out that he's a vampire and sure enough! He's in love with her...they run off together to have escapades one could only dream of...uh, think again. But you say, CICILY! Mine's different. MY BOOK IS DIFFERENT BECAUSE:

A) The Vampire's only suck grape juice, it's the true G rated version, will appeal to the mass market.

B) These Vampires are really joking. It's all a lie in the end.

C) It's really a story about the evolution of time and the meaning behind the creation of man and how teenagers are spawns of life and how if they suck the life out of eachother we'll all die of swine flu and there's no way any of us are going to survive this and I don't know how I'll ever manage my finances in this economy I must write a bestseller now.

IF ANY OF YOUR but..wait, no mine is really different excuses are like this, then, you've got an issue. You've got issues in the first place if your premise is anything like the example anyway so who are you kidding. Put yourself in check.

Ask yourself these questions:

* Is your premise original?

*If your premise is not original, then is it a great and original recasting of an oldie but goodie? Think of Shakespeare tales...

* Is your story appealing to it's target audience? i.e. Can you tell a story about love and lust, more importantly sell a story like that as a children's picture book? I don't think so...

*What is your overall message here and WHY ARE YOU the best person to tell this story? What is your platform?

If you're just a damn good storyteller then that's fine and dandy. But in today's market you have to be more. WAY MORE. Selling fiction is damn near impossible otherwise. So, here's the deal. What else do you know? Are you a rocket-scientest? Are you? Come on, admit it! Why don't you tell the story of rocket science! Are you the assistant to the first lady of the president of the world's largest block of cheese in Switzerland? What a cool job! Man, what have you seen on a day to day basis? Do you have a unique way of telling that story? Can you tell it through the view point of the individual holes of cheese you count every day? There's got to be a better way.

Think outside the box. This is how you come up with what's called, HIGH-CONCEPT ideas. Something that is rarely duplicated or replicated. Try to think about what you can offer the world that's unique. Think of how many people are trying to copy TWILIGHT!!! Argh. Be original, for it's the one thing we all have in common.

Good luck, now get those frickin pens rolling!

Yours in penning, pining, and ponying up to the task at hand,


Friday, May 15, 2009

Thank you Mr. Tisdale.

Watch the spirit and smile of Wayman Tisdale. He's a beautiful soul and a wonderful musician, sportsman, human being. He suffered from Osteosarcoma and today, succumbed to the disease. He'll be missed dearly, but at least now he's without pain. Sleep well Tisdale and we'll see you on the flip side.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Finding Home

Quote of the Day:
I long, as does every human being, to be at home
wherever I find myself.
~Maya Angelou

Current Local Weather:
Cloudy skies with long faces,
swollen feet and a goal hopefully finding
its home in the 10 day outlook.

Currently on my iPod:
Under the Table and Dreaming
Dave Matthews Band

Dear friends, family and my family of friends,

I waited to give myself some distance and time to blog on the happenings at the retreat last week. This was my second full fledged Writing Away Retreat. Let me give you an expanded version and run down of last weeks stats:

9 writers, 3 staff members, 3 spouses (all of which had their own muse and charm and left me with a lasting feeling of warmth) and me.
  • Location: This House; Arroyo Seco, NM: Average number of words written and NOT deleted throughout week: 10K/writer
  • Average number of calories consumed per meal per writer: enough to expand your thinking cap and waist line.
  • Average number hours staff spent with writers one on one and with MS critiques: 2.4 for consults and 1.2 on the MS critique prior to the retreat
  • Average number of meals consumed including hot totties and snacks on any given day: too many to list.
  • Average number of sighs, smiles and slight but distinct measurements of contentedness: innumerable
  • Average number of times we heard Doug Crandell mention his gorgeous and talented wife Nancy was going to leave him for me due to my cooking...and then proceed to walk downstairs to fetch a beer or three: too numerous to count
  • Number of times non-native English speaking sweetheart and artist extraordinaire Nathalie Vogel and I pounded Random House/Vintage editor Tim O'Connell, Literary Agent Gary Heidt, and Writer Heather Fowler into the wood of the dining table with our vicious Scrabble skills: 1 (they declined another game.)
  • Number of times Karma bit me on the ass for gloating over my success in Scrabble by jacking up my foot, knee and poise as I got out of the hot tub and slipped on the stairs, pretty much face first with a** in the air: 1 (I am the quintessential klutz, if you haven't met me, just ask those that do know me.)
And so on and so forth...needless to say, I feel blessed to have had the will power, know-how and staff to back me up to make this dream a reality. Yet there is something else that went on at this retreat...

A bond was formed.
This is the power of a home.

I have the feeling we could have been in a walk-up in Brooklyn and still made this happen with the people we had here, but being secluded in western paradise surely doesn't hurt.

So the story goes: I was cooking up some sauce or other when I overheard a conversation in the kitchen, less than a few feet away, between one of the couples at the retreat:

Dude: "You're back." (backstory: Chick had just gone out into the town or somewhere to do some sightseeing and shopping or whatnot.)
Chick: "Yeah, was fun. Got lots of pictures."
Dude: "Glad you made it back home safely."

I couldn't have felt better than in that very moment. If nothing else had happened the whole week, just hearing those words made my retreat a success. Dude, he called it home.

That's my goal.

I've said this before, I'm sure, but let me emphasize why I do this: In this society we pride ourselves on pampering the very young and the very old and tend to ignore those that are working day in and day out with no rest or relief in sight except for the occasional vacation. This is where I come in. Why not take time out of your life to invest in yourself. You only have one of you. If you have more, please...please tell the rest of us how to get another one so we can get more done. We tend to emphasize overworked, overstressed, overeating (well, okay, that one is okay for a week a year) overkilling our supposedly most vibrant and active generations. By golly, we deserve a break too. Making an investment in what you want to do, creating something beautiful for the world in yourself, is never something that should be looked down upon, rather something that should be applauded. Come find your home away with me. Find out how good food can taste, how well your words work and most of all, the feeling of rest at its best. No stiff clothes allowed, no stress allowed either. Just comfy, all-round, good natured life. I stress to my writers that we are not to impress eachother with our clothes or our outside world, just our wit and our smiles.

I think is the key to creating this nurturing environment is to bring the writing conference/clinic/retreat life into a more natural environment. A home. I don't know about you, but I work best when relaxed. whether it be my home, my folks, a bed and breakfast etc. To make things better, I work even more efficiently when that home is in order (anyone know how to make that happen at my place?) with cleanliness lining the walls, aromatic charm (not mothballs) and peace. But this isn't about direct comparisson because all ventures in writing that offer writers feedback and time away is valuable. I'm just a different bird, well a dead bird, soaked in orange sauce, wrapped in bacon and stuffed with flavor. :)

So how do you find time to make your house a home so you may write? Slow down and figure out how to do this for yourself. Even if you can't make it to one of my retreats, it's vitally important for you to do this in your writing space and time. As a nation, we're hurting for a surround of beauty. How are you going to ensure we build that for the ones that come after you and then after them? Let's get away from the mass-marketed strip malls and fabricated, made-in-china walls. Paint your world with all of your senses and make it a place where you can say, I'm glad I'm home.

One more thing before I close. Some of us in this world are not safe. My dear friend Daniel Casey runs a blog titled: Gently Read Literature. I read it on a weekly basis. He has reviews, art, all things beautiful, including himself. He's one man who is diligently creating beauty in this world by educating the next generation, ensuring that good books are read, shared and freely available and art is recognized by even us jaded digitized fools. But, what he posted this week alarmed me and took me aback. Made me sick really. I want to make you all aware of this. And please, please, help if you can.

This is a direct copy off of his blog, I don't think he'll mind.


May 2, 2009
by Daniel Casey


Our dear friend and an exceptionally talented poet, Craig Arnold, has gone missing on the small volcanic island of Kuchino-erabu-shima while on a creative exchange fellowship. AS OF 4/30 the authorities are on the fourth day of searching for Craig, and are Japanese police on the ground are searching. We greatly appreciate the efforts of both the Japanese and American governments in searching for Craig–lots of people are on the ground working to ensure Craig’s safe return. The response from the U.S. government and from the Japanese authorities have been overwhelmingly positive and we are enormously pleased and grateful for their expanded and extended efforts. Our prayers and thanks are with them as they search.

With the assistance of the University of Wyoming, a fund has been established to support the search efforts to find Craig. Even the smallest contribution would be of use. If you would like more information about the fund including specific information about what the fund will be used for at various stages, please see the post on the discussion board. The link directly to the fund is here: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=5149253

Here’s the link to a Facebook group that can also give more information: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=74254019683&ref=nf

If you can help at all with this or have any information, please do not hold back. ALSO: PLEASE REPOST ON YOUR BLOG. NO EXCEPTIONS. Let's all help Craig find his home.

As always, thanks for reading.

Yours in Home, Helping Hands and Heartfelt Love,


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Writing Away Retreats Feedback and Announcements!

Quote of the Day:
Odd how the creative power at once
brings the whole universe to order.

~Virginia Woolfe

Current Local Forecast:
Successful downpours and showers of love, affection
and beauty from all angles. Glowing Smiles expected to last
all afternoon, possibly into the next year or so.

Currently on my iPod:
Sexy Lady from Rumba Palace
Arturo Sandoval

Dear friends, family and family of friends,

You know the saying...if you do something you love, you'll never work a day in your life? Yeah, that one. I am again, over and again, awe-struck by the feeling of success and love from my retreat. The May retreat in Arroyo Seco, NM was an utter success. Stats: 9 writers, 3 staff members, 3 spouses/significant others and me. Approx. total words written between all of us: 100K between all of us.

Let me throw out a new contest:

If you REALLY want to go but can't afford it and don't want to enter the fiction/essay/poetry contest you can do this:

DISHES Scholarship!!

60% off the total cost whether or not you go for 5 or 11 days.
All benefits of being a writer included, MS consults and all.

Catch: You have to do the dishes and clean up after each meal.

How do you get into such a fortunate position?

Send me at creativelivesworkshop@hotmail.com your best and most creative top 10 list of why you should do the dishes of writers, editors and agents. Entry fee: A whopping ZERO dollars.
Deadline to enter: June 1, 2009
Winner announced on July 1, 2009.

Fiction/essay/poetry contest:

Winner receives full ride to Writing Away Retreats for their preference of a 5 day or 11 day retreat in October, 2009.

Theme: Burning Down the House
Limitations: 5K word max, essay, short story or up to 3 poems based on theme.
Deadline to enter: July 1, 2009
Winners announced: August 1, 2009

Entry Fee: 20 dollars.
Once entry is accepted at creativelivesworkshop@hotmail.com ( attach as a .doc file) you will be sent a paypal invoice for the 20 dollars.

With this fee comes a 10% discount to the retreat.

Judged by Sorche Fairbank of Fairbank Literary Agency and Mike Signorelli of Harper Collins.

Get creative with your works. Doesn't have to be a literal translation of the theme!

Hope to hear from you soon.

I'll close this post (and of course I'll post more detailed accounts of the retreat soon) with some blurbs from attendees of Writing Away Retreats, May 2009:

"My mind and body have been nourished and renewed. My creativity enriched and my spirit fed. I'm indebted to Cicily. She's one of the most engaging, nurturing and talented and connected folks I"ve met. Writing Away is one of the most invigorating experiences I've had."

~Nancy Brooks-Lane
(Spouse and Attendee with Author Doug Crandell for May 2009 retreat)

"I will be forever grateful for this retreat. As a new writer tackling the most ambitious project I could dream p, this was an invaluable opportunity to get some great feedback early on from people in the "know" with respect to writing. Even better was all of the enthusiasm and intelligent conversations, so thank you! You are definitely giving back to the world."

~Todd Chaney
Writer Attendee for May 2009, Writing Away Retreats

"What a brilliant concept you have in "writing away retreats." The good food combined with the warm and nurturing atmosphere made this the ideal escape for writers. My retreat has been a mind-opening experience. The community of like minded individuals combined with an excellent quality of life and your incredible generosity of spirit has pampered and renewed me. I wish you the best of success and hope to see you again soon."

~Audrey Harris
Attendee of Writing Away Retreats
Senior Publicist for Harper Collins

"I'm honored to be a part of this. In talking with the participants, the environment created here is vastly more conducive to productivity than others they've attended. The atmosphere you created for these writers was perfect. Even though I was a member of the staff, I never felt like I was working. Truly a productive experience for everyone involved. You are an inspiration in your work ethic and your kindness. I wish you the best of luck with this and f you ever need anything, please don't hesitate to ask. Great food, mountains, wild chasing dogs and vicious scrabble...what else could an editor ask for? "

~Tim Oconnell
Staff for Writing Away Retreats, May 2009
Editor for Vintage/Random House

"Easily the best of the writer's conferences/retreats I've attended. Attendees were happy and relaxed and thinking only about the works they were working on. The food was great, the staff and attendees-top notch. Thanks so much for having me along."

~Gary Heidt
Lit. Agent with Signature Literary Agency
Staff Member of Writing Away retreats, May 2009

"There isn't anything out there for writer's like this. You're respectful of adult intelligence, you have created a huge opportunity for writers when presenting them with this time with an agent, editor and author is unprecedented. Where else can a writer do everything they need to and want to do to improve their career? The food alone was worth the admission and everyone around just kept saying they couldn't believe they were there."

~Doug Crandell
Author of Flawless Skin of Ugly People, Hairdo's for the Mildly Depressed (Virgin Books), and a soon to be out True Crime book through Penguin Books.
Author and Staff for Writing Away Retreats
May 2009
Hope to see you there soon! Website updated very soon...stay tuned.

Yours in Rest, Retreats and Rendered Speechless by the love and kindness of others,