The Summer of the Book

This summer, dive into a great book: your own.

Make this the summer that you finally move forward with your dream of writing a book—and with a bestselling author as your guide. 

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Every good book starts with a strong plan, but it's hard to plan when you don't know where to start. If you're a first-time author and you would like to be guided through the process of creating a marketable non-fiction book proposal, join author Ann Douglas for The Summer of the Book and take your book from idea to proposal.

During this eight-week course (from July 1 to August 31), you will learn

  • how to sidestep the roadblocks preventing you from pursuing your writing dream
  • how to zero in on the book project that’s right for you
  • how to assess the marketability of your book project
  • how to maximize your book's appeal to publishers
  • how to develop a sample chapter that will wow a potential editor.

Format: It's summertime, so this course is designed with ease and flexibility in mind. We will combine online lessons, interactive worksheets, and four one-on-one 50-minute coaching sessions (conducted via video conference call) to ease you into the book-writing process.

How it works: Every second week, you will receive an online lesson and worksheet designed to guide you through the process of researching and writing a non-fiction book proposal.

Throughout the course, you will receive ongoing support and encouragement from a bestselling author with a proven track-record for helping first-time authors to break into print. She will provide detailed feedback on your book proposal and sample chapter, including suggestions on how you can increase its impact and marketability.

How to register: Register online at http://anndouglas.ticketleap.com/the-summer-of-the-book/ Course fee is $495. To ensure a relaxed atmosphere and time for individual coaching, only six writers will be accepted into this course.

About the instructor: Ann Douglas is the author of numerous bestselling books about pregnancy and parenting. She has delivered writing workshops on behalf of such organizations as The Writers’ Union of Canada, the Professional Writers Association of Canada, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors; and has taught writing courses at Trent University and Fleming College. Her website is www.anndouglas.ca.

Opportunities versus Non-Opportunities

Sometimes to be a happy writer, you have to be an unhappy writer—at least temporarily. You have to allow yourself to experience the frustration that comes from walking away from non-opportunities that are disguised as opportunities, imposter opportunities that are conspiring to lead you off course from your true path as a writer.

Let me explain by giving an example of something that happened in my own life last week.

I was approached with an opportunity to do some spokesperson work for a major brand. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it would have been great if I had been able to feel good about that brand. But, the thing is, I didn’t feel great about that brand. I don’t feel great about that brand. In fact, I have a long history of not feeling great about that brand.

It wasn’t easy, but I knew what I had to do.  I had to turn down that particular non-opportunity in order to stay true to myself as a person and a writer.  After all, not walking away would have proven even more difficult and more painful over time. I had a vision in my head of the conversations I would have to have with readers and with family members—the lengths I would have had to go to in order to justify my decision to work with this particular brand.

In the end, I decided it simply wasn’t worth it. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night or feel good about myself during the day if I agreed to work with this brand. And so I decided to walk away—to free myself up to pursue other opportunities that were a much better fit: opportunities that would allow me to continue to pursue my mission as a writer and a person: making the world a better place (not a worse place) for families and communities.

Knowing who I am and what I stand for allowed me to make the best decision in this situation. I chose the path that will ultimately result in a much happier writer and a much happier me. 

Is There Such a Thing as Writer's Block?

Does writer's block really exist? Or is it just an excuse for not writing? I tackled this topic on a recent episode of my radio show How to Be a Happy Writer. You can read the text below or listen to the entire show via the show archives.

Is there such a thing as writer’s block?

Every once in a while, I’ll stumble across an article online that argues, often quite passionately, that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Real writers have the willpower and the discipline to push through and write no matter what, argue members of the “no such thing as writer’s block” camp. They don’t allow themselves—or their writing—to be stymied by a blank screen.

Those kind of posts always strike me as somewhat arrogant. I mean, the fact that a particular writer hasn’t experienced writer’s block first-hand doesn’t exactly stand up as proof that writer’s block doesn’t exist.

I guess this is kind of personal for me. I struggled with writer’s block about eight years ago, when I was having a particularly time with both anxiety and depression. It didn’t help that I was being stared down by a book deadline. That only served to ramp up my feelings of anxiety and depression—which culminated in (you guessed it) an even worse case of writer’s block.

When things were at their worst, writing a grocery list was about the most creative writing project I was capable of undertaking—and even that was a stretch. 

That precipitated a crisis in confidence—and identity. After all, if I wasn’t a writer anymore, what or who was I exactly? 

It took me a couple of years to emerge from that bout of depression—and to overcome writer’s block. What worked for me, in the end, was to step away from the computer (its flashing cursor and blank screen), and to give myself permission to find my way back to the things I had loved about writing.

I loved the research piece, so I started with that. I began taking notes for my book project, filling hundreds of pages with handwritten notes in colourful pens. For some reason, working with a pen and a notebook felt far less intimidating. And, what’s more, I had given myself permission to jot down notes in point form, if that’s all I could manage. And, as I quickly discovered, I could easily handle that.

An amazing thing happened as I continued to write those notes. I found myself breaking into bursts of writing—real honest-to-God writing—while I was making those notes. When inspiration struck, I would go with the flow and capture the ideas that were starting to flow from my head into my hand.

Then I decided to start trying to make sense of all those handwritten notes. I typed them up and began to drag and drop them into chapters. The skeleton of my manuscript was now in place, adorned with the odd chunk of fully written text plus all the background notes I would need to finish writing my book—which I did.

I have been thinking about that experience with writer’s block a lot over the past year—not because I’ve been struggling with writer’s block, but because my writing life has improved so dramatically. I am highly productive. I am highly creative. I am taking risks with my writing. I have fallen in love with writing again. And all because of the daily (or twice-daily) walks that have become a fixture in my life.

I would not have believed the impact that something as simple as walking could have on my life if I hadn’t experienced this for myself. Both my life and my health have been transformed. I am so much less anxious and so much happier—and that shift in moods has reaped tremendous dividends for my creative life.

If I could re-wind the clock and have a conversation with myself circa 2006—the earlier me who was feeling defeated and paralyzed by that blank computer screen—I would say this, “Get away from the computer. Go for a walk. Don’t try to force the writing. Give the ideas a chance to flow. Be kinder to yourself and to your writing.”

Walking is the best cure for writer's block I know. Here's a photo I snapped on the bike path near my home.

Walking is the best cure for writer's block I know. Here's a photo I snapped on the bike path near my home.

I put this strategy to the test again this afternoon. I was feeling a bit worried and overwhelmed by what I might say to kick off this new show—a show that matters a lot to me. Instead of locking myself in my office and bullying myself into writing something—anything!—as a means of escaping the tyranny of the blank screen, I laced up my running shoes and headed out for an hour-long walk on the bike path.

When I arrived back home, I opened up my laptop, put my fingers on the keyboard, and began to type, knowing that much of the prep work that needed to be done had been accomplished while my feet were pounding on the pavement and enjoying the autumn sun. 

Hey, it’s the best cure for writer’s block I know.