My Writing Influences

When I was a writing student, one of my mentors taught me to carefully analyze and learn from authors I admired most. This isn’t to suggest that my writing voice will ever emulate the styles of those who have inspired me to write fiction, but, through the practice of studying great works, I have become more discerning and aware of my own habits and weaknesses. Becoming a skilled writer isn’t so much about sounding like everyone else. At least part of being a really good writer is about developing a strong authentic voice.   In college, I was obsessed with 19th century literature. Don’t laugh (okay, you can laugh), but I wanted to write like Herman Melville and Jane Austen. My first writing coach actually did kind of laugh at me because my writing style looked nothing like 19th century literature. Over the course of several months my mentor had me work on discovering my writing voice and learning about other novelists whose styles were a little more similar to mine.   Adjectives that have been used to describe my writing are terse, gritty, and masculine. I’ll admit that I wasn’t happy about this at first. However, as I started […]

My Relationship With Fiction

Before I became a photographer, I studied creative writing. During my time as a graduate student at California College of the Arts, I finished my first (and very rough) draft of my novel in addition to a handful of short stories. When I started my novel, I didn’t even know it was going to be a novel. At the time, I was working with a mentor who wanted me to practice writing emotions associated with the description of a room. A single writing exercise turned in to the first two chapters of my story. Since then I have learned more about fiction through the process of writing my first novel.   It’s not easy for me to articulate my relationship with fiction because it has evolved over time. I used to believe that there was a sharp divide between myself and the material I created. The reason I chose fiction was that I wanted to explore personalities and subject matters that I thought I would never experience in my own life. It has always been too difficult for me to write about anything that too closely resembles my life. I can’t be entirely authentic because I get anxious. Part of […]

Adjusting to the “New Normal”: Life in the time of COVID

I know everyone has been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another, and some have been more affected than others. In fact, I’ve been reluctant to express how the pandemic impacted me because I know that on the spectrum of struggles there are people out there who have it much worse. However, regardless of where anyone is in the spectrum, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a connection between current events and our emotional health. As a dear friend once told me, “Pain is not a competition.”   Since we are in the midst of unprecedented times, I’ve had to completely rework my timeline and strategy for my projects. Most of my freelance work has been on hold because people aren’t hosting or attending large events. This means that I have had to reevaluate my budget for publishing, marketing, and advertising. Since I’ve had a career in the arts since I was eighteen, I understand that uncertainty comes with the territory and being able to adapt is crucial. For me, this means exploring new ways to create content and generate revenue.   I’m still in the process of figuring it out, but I’ve made changes to my workflow […]

Author Photo: Why you need to have one

Having a really good author photo is especially important because anywhere between 600,000 and a million books are published each year. That’s a lot of competition. Even if you’re a phenomenal writer, you still want to do everything you can to increase your chances of a potential buyer noticing your book. While you may think of the author photo as just the small square image inside your book, there are many other uses of your photo that you probably haven’t considered.   In this blog, I’ll explain why author photos are important and give you some tips on making sure you put your best foot — or in this case your face — forward. Why do I need an author photo? Some people just don’t like having their photo taken. I completely understand those people because I’m one of them. However, there are some things in life that you simply can’t avoid, and this is one of them. Creating your brand is one of the most important elements in creating a successful career as an author. Your photo is a part of that branding. You don’t have to have a bunch of photos of yourself, but I do recommend having […]

The Second Book: Lessons Gained and Lessons Learned

When I was in graduate school, a mentor told me that each book was like starting over. Each project has its own differences and challenges. I didn’t completely understand this until I started working on my second book, which explores the history of mannequins. Of course there were certain things that were easier about making this book because I had learned those lessons while working on Tattle Tales. However, when it came time to publish the second book, I realized that I had to do things differently. This meant another learning curve and a bit of frustration.   Being a writer, and especially a self-published author, means that you’re constantly learning. Besides developing your skills as a writer, you have to stay on top of all the new ways of marketing, publishing, and distributing. In the age of technology, the rules are always evolving and changing. Additionally, what works for one book may not work for the other book. I’ve listed some of the lessons I have learned from my second book.   The message of this post is to urge self-published authors to be flexible and open minded. I had a much different idea of my path when I […]

Book Contests: Are they worth it?

When I first started getting into photography, I would submit my work to contests now and again. Most of these contests I found through social media platforms. While many of them had reasonable application fees, they were time consuming and I was competing against thousands of very talented photographers. After a while, I wrote off contests.   Fast forward a couple years. . . I published my debut book, Tattle Tales: Tattoo Stories and Portraits, and now I was trying to gain exposure for my book. As a self-published author, it can be extremely challenging to get your book seen by the right audience. According to Forbes, anywhere between 600,000 to a million titles are published each year. The chances of readers stumbling onto your book on Amazon is pretty small.   In the beginning, I was mostly focused on social media marketing and advertising. By chance, I found out about a contest from the Nonfiction Author’s Association Book Awards program. I entered the contest and received two Gold Awards for Photography and Pop Culture. In addition, to receiving an emblem and title, which I could now use for my marketing materials, I got exposure from their marketing channels from […]

A Year in Review

  At the end of the year, I take some time to review my work and reevaluate my goals. I’m certainly not one of those people who does New Year’s Resolutions, but I do like to hold myself accountable and make sure that I’m using my time wisely to accomplish everything I want to do. During my review, I list what I think went well and what I would like to improve in the future. When I was a graduate student, I worked with Susan Griffin, a writing mentor and renowned feminist and author. Every time she looked at my writing, she would first tell me what I did well. She explained that it’s just as important to know what you’re doing right because you want to build on that.   Looking back at the past twelve months these are some of the strengths and weaknesses I found in my own work.   Strengths 1.) An education in self-publishing: I had to wear many hats this year because I had to learn about the process of designing, printing, selling, and marketing my book. I’m by no means an expert, but the education I got this year will be extremely important […]

Coast Guard Eases Up on Tattoos

Sometimes we hear things that we don’t expect. I was getting ready for bed when I heard on the news that the Coast Guard was easing up on their tattoo policy. Last Thursday the Coast Guard announced less stringent tattoo regulations so that more candidates could apply for employment. For example, chest tattoos are now allowed, as long as they don’t show above the collar. Additionally, hand tattoos are accepted, but with certain restrictions.   Over the last couple of years, different military branches have also adopted less strict tattoo regulations. Those who are old enough to remember what it was like when tattoos weren’t popular can appreciate the significance of this evolution. Because tattoos are common, it’s easy to assume that ink is unconditionally accepted. It’s hard to say whether tattoos are more accepted or tolerated, and there is a difference between the two. After interviewing so many people with tattoos, I came to the conclusion that tattoos are more accepted and tolerated and it really depends on the environment. As one person explained to me, “it’s following the culture of the customer service.”   Maybe twenty or thirty years from now people will be so used to seeing […]

Tattle Tales: Making the Book – Proofreaders

My book, Tattle Tales: Tattoo Stories and Portraits, has been my first foray into the world of self-publishing. The learning curve has been huge, but I’ve learned so much from other people through social media platforms and blogs. While I don’t consider myself to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I like to use my blogs to discuss some of the challenges I faced and share what things have helped me.  In this post, I’m going to explain the importance of a proofreader.   My book doesn’t have a lot of text. It’s mostly portraits, but there’s nearly 16,000 words in the whole book and most of that were from interview excerpts. Although I think it’s a good idea to have someone you trust look over your work and get their feedback as a reader, it’s absolutely crucial to use a proofreader. My eyes spent so many hours scrutinizing this book that I could easily overlook an obvious error. For me, it wasn’t an option to not use a proofreader. Even when a mistake is minor, it distracts the reader and takes away from the work. Plus, having a professional review your work takes some of the […]

Dealing with Doubt

The hardest part with the arts is that there is no “right” answer. It’s about choices, preferences, interpretations, and so much more. As an creative person, there have been many moments where I have felt doubt creep into my mind. Typically, I’m one of those people who thinks about every outcome, as though I’m playing a game of chess. This is especially the case when I’m trying to get to sleep, and I can feel my fears spiderwebbing. It’s definitely not a healthy way to live, but how do we overcome doubt?    When I can feel the anxiety intensifying, which has been a frequent occurrence these last few weeks, I’ll talk to my mom. One of the things that she always tells me is, “It’s not brain surgery. You don’t have someone’s life in your hands.” This is very true, and I’m glad my work doesn’t involve a life or death situation. However, this doesn’t always help me in the moment when I have to make a decision. I’m a perfectionist and very passionate about what I put out into the world. For example, I had been really stressing about a decision I had to make about a project […]