10 Reasons why every writer should come to this conference

When I first accepted the crazy notion that I was going to be a writer, I kept getting this advice: go to writers’ conferences and start networking. The idea made sense, but the price tag didn’t. I couldn’t afford tickets upwards of $500 on the off chance I meet someone who likes my pitch, and would remember me from the crowd of hundreds of other eager attendees.

If what you want isn’t out there, make it! It’s taken a lot of hard work, but I am proud to host a conference that is affordable (under $100 including lunch), and intimate. If you know a writer in the New York area, make sure they get a ticket before it sells out.

When and where is it, you ask?

Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 from 10am-4pm in Times Sq. 

Here are just some of the reasons why you should go:

  1. Pitch your story idea to Shira Hoffman, literary agent at McIntosh & Otis.
  2. Hear from my favorite contemporary author, Aryn Kyle, about writers’ residency programs and the process of turning a short story into a novel. P.S. if you haven’t read her work, pick up a copy of The God of Animals today!
  3. Meet other people with same interests and goals so you can start having creative dates together!
  4. Meet Deborah Emin, publisher of Sullivan Street Press, a company that is working to give the power and control back to writers.
  5. Get a behind the scenes look at the publishing world from Christina Bryza, a Senior Copywriter at Simon & Schuster.
  6. Get a free hour of guided writing, care of  Gotham Writers’ Workshop, in addition to a special discount for their classes.
  7. Take your craft seriously. When you spend money on your dreams, they start to become a reality.
  8. Build your support network.
  9. Free lunch!
  10. Get out of the house, get out of the rut, get out of your head, and come and have creative fun with others!

You can buy tickets here, or check out the official website.

A fun moment at the last conference.

A fun moment at the last conference.

An interview with the founder of Wild Heart Coaching (part 2)

Here’s the second half of my interview with Lisa Bourque, founder of Wild Heart Coaching. Lisa inspired many people when she quit her job as an Attorney to become a life coach. By focusing on living a more authentic, happy life she has helped others to find their own true passions as well. For more background read part 1!
What would you say to someone who is unhappy with their career right now, but can’t think of any personal passions to drive them to a new career path?
First, get really honest with yourself.  How does it feel to be so unhappy?  Really feel it.  Don’t try to run away from the feeling or shut it out.  You’re feeling this way for a reason.  Get honest with yourself about what isn’t working — is it your environment?  The attitudes of the people you work with?  The type of work you do?  What’s missing?  Then, get honest with yourself about what you really want.  It doesn’t have to be a job title.  But think about how you would like to spend your day — what does that look like?  Who do you work with?  What types of things do you do?  What is the impact you have on others?  Starting to explore these types of questions in an honest way is an important first step.  Because if you aren’t honest with yourself and try to fit into a box that doesn’t fit, it’s going to be hard to make changes.
Second, notice when you do feel engaged in what you’re doing — whether in your life or in your work.  If you don’t ever feel engaged, then it’s time to start trying new things!  Is there something you want to do that you haven’t given yourself permission to do?  Maybe it’s going to a photography exhibit, maybe it’s trying out kayaking, or taking a cooking class.  Whatever is calling to you, try it!  When you start following your interests and allow yourself to experiment, you will get more in touch with personal passions — those things that make you feel happy, alive, and engaged.
A life coach is an expert who partners with you during that process of exploration, self-connection, deeper understanding and awareness, and conscious action toward what you want.  Working with a coach helps you to move forward and deeper more quickly and with greater focus — kind of like hiring a personal trainer to get more fit versus just doing it on your own.  Working with someone who’s main purpose is to help you in this way tends to yield the results you’re looking for much more efficiently!
What is a typical life coaching session like? If someone can’t afford life coaching what would you recommend?
Every coaching session is different!  People have many different issues and goals that they bring to coaching, and the really great thing is that coaching can be applied to many areas of your life.  The only typical thing is that you come to the call (most coaches coach over the phone) with a topic that is important to you — something you’ve been stuck in, a big question that’s been on you mind, a desire to take action that for some reason you haven’t taken yet.  Then I coach you around that topic using whatever tools support your goals or agenda.
Sometimes the session focuses on gaining clarity about what you really wants and what it may look like.  Other times it is exploring your feeling of being stuck and brainstorming new perspectives so that you can take a different approach and move forward where you hadn’t been able to before.  Other times it may be gaining a deeper awareness of what’s going on beneath the surface of everyday life so that you can see the big picture.

If you don’t know if  you are ready for coaching, just start exploring.  Go to a bookstore and browse the personal growth/personal development section and see what draws you in.  One of my favorite books is The Artist’s Way"" by Julia Cameron.  The exercises in that book changed how I saw myself in my life. If you hear about a workshop or a class that seems interesting, take it! Journal.  Even if you aren’t used to writing what’s on your mind, just go for it.  Start by writing 1 page a day about anything you’ve been thinking or feeling.  Write about what you’re feeling.  Build up to a couple pages a day.  Explore blogs that interest you and stretch you to think about your life in new ways.  I write my blog at  http://www.yourwildheart.com/blog.html and offer useful information, tips, and perspectives for free two times a week.  Many other blogs do too — including the HeSo Project!
If you think coaching could be a valuable tool to help you move toward what you want, I invite you to talk to a coach!  Many coaches offer free sample sessions so that you can get a first-hand idea whether coaching is right for you – because ultimately it’s up to you to create the life you want.  I found coaching to be invaluable in my journey and I continue to work with a coach to this day.  I also see how coaching is of great value to my clients – knowing that makes me happy and proud to do what I do every day.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights and motivating story with us!
 Lisa Bourque is a personal coach and the founder of Wild Heart Coaching.  She specializes in helping people who feel lifeless at work to find their authentic path and align their personal and professional passions with confidence and choice.  Visit her website at www.YourWildHeart.com.

An Interview with the founder of Wild Heart Coaching (part 1)

A while ago Mike introduced me to the awesome Lisa Bourque, founder of Wild Heart Coaching. We were both inspired by her story, and I think you will too! After reading this interview check out her website, Wild Heart Coaching . Here’s a HeSo project at it’s finest:

What were you doing before you started life coaching?
I worked as an attorney at a large law firm in New York City practicing products liability litigation with several pro bono immigration/asylum cases.  I have also worked as a legal advocate for women, a volunteer facilitator for a civil rights program in an inner city high school, a paralegal, and in fundraising for a not-for-profit organization.
You were doing what most people would consider satisfying work, what made you want to quit?

So often I hear people making choices based on what they considered to be prestigious work, interesting work, challenging work, or what they think they “should do.”  Satisfaction isn’t always part of the equation!  When I decided to pursue a career path as an attorney, I chose it because it would be an intellectual challenge and also, truth be told, to make “good money.”  I didn’t choose that path to follow my passion, because I was innately good at it, or because I thought it would be satisfying.  Somehow, none of those things were on my mind!  What I didn’t realize at that time was that intellectual engagement is not the most fulfilling thing that I’m looking for in my work.  Sure, I appreciate using and stretching my mind, but I’m looking for much more than that.  I realized that I needed to pursue a different path and a different career when I felt:

(1) Bored and unhappy on a daily basis because my passion and natural gifts were not aligned with my work.

(2) I wanted to serve the world in a different way, one that focused on helping people to transform their lives for the better, and thus the world for the better.

(3) I wanted to have a more  immediate and transformative impact with the time and energy that I put into in my work.

Why did you begin working with a coach?
I was completely unsure of what direction I needed to take to be true to myself. My coach helped me get reconnected with myself and begin to sort out what was truly important to me . . . a profound step because I had never contemplated those things before!
What did you learn during the course of your coach training?

Trusting myself is the only true option for me.  I had to trust who I am, what makes me excited and interested, what I want to contribute, and what I can offer to people when I’m coming from a place of authenticity and being true to myself.  I also learned coaching is one way of helping people to find answers to important questions that they have about their lives, who they want to be, and what they want to do with their one precious life.  How to create the life you want isn’t something that’s typically focused on — and that’s what coaching is all about.

What made you want to be a coach?
The great thing was that there was no one thing that helped me decide to be a coach.  The more I explored and experienced the coaching field, the more I realized that coaching was the right path for me because it just felt right.  I feel great when I’m coaching. I know I am doing something meaningful.  I connect with people in a way that speaks to what is really really important to them.  I believe I am using my energy and abilities to create a better world and to help people bring fulfillment into their lives.  I feel alive when I coach.  I feel grateful.  I feel hopeful.  I feel like I am doing what I’m meant to do.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when you transitioned from attorney to life coach?
I was completely on auto-pilot for many years, performing tasks and doing things by rote because I “had to.”  When I left my job and the practice of law altogether, there was no way I could be on autopilot anymore.  Self-motivation took on a completely new and powerful meaning for me.  I had to shift how I saw myself in the world, and how I saw what I created and offered to others.  I had to establish new routines and creative practices.  Now all of this seems obvious.  But at the time, the task of shifting a lifelong perspective on how work looks like and years of habits that supported that perspective was harder than I thought!
How did your friends and family react to the big change?

I think they were curious about what was going on with me.  I practiced law for only a few years before making my career change — most people would probably have stuck it out for longer than that.  No one in my life was familiar with coaching and what it’s all about when I first started talking about it, so they didn’t really “get it” at first.  But they saw the big shift in my happiness from when  I was a lawyer to when I began coaching  – and that the change was a very positive one. I think they understood that the big change was a great one.  After all, who can argue with their friend/daughter/sister/partner being happy?

Any regrets?
I can’t think of a single one.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview. Lisa will give us helpful tools on how to find and capitalize on our personal passions!
 Lisa Bourque is a personal coach and the founder of Wild Heart Coaching.  She specializes in helping people who feel lifeless at work to find their authentic path and align their personal and professional passions with confidence and choice.  Visit her website at www.YourWildHeart.com.

I found my future career!

Yea I have a business idea! I came up with it after talking to my friends who are new moms. It seemed so obvious, that I didn’t give it much thought. But then when I was hanging out with my dad I mentioned the idea, and he was really interested. In fact he said, “Now that’s something I would want to invest in.”

Today I went to a few relevant stores to check out the market for my product, and the applicable trends. There’s definitely a need for my invention! I’ve also been going over the design details with my dad, and we came up with an awesome name! Sorry to be vague here, but I have to protect my idea. It’s not that I don’t trust you – I just don’t trust the creepy guy who’s reading over your shoulder. Made you look!

Next, I need to make a prototype, test it out on my friends, refine the design, and then find a manufacturer. Easy! But actually writing this all down does make it seem simple and manageable. After all, it’s just one step at a time.

Here’s something to glean from this: Always share your ideas. When you start to talk you flush out the concept and you can sense from your audience’s reaction if it’s marketable or not. If you just leave it in your head it’s easy to dismiss, but some of the best ideas are ones that seem obvious; seem like they already exist but some how don’t. Also write down a game plan. Otherwise it can seem to overwhelming to start.

This image of Albert Einstin sums up how I'm feeling right now.

Things are starting to happen

It won't be this creepy

It’s been a busy week. First I visited the sleep clinic. No help there. After an hour long interview about my sleeping habits he said he would need to watch me sleep – creepy, right? I’m also keeping a sleep log which is actually making me more anxious at bedtime. I keep looking at my watch when I get sleepy so that I’ll be able to put the accurate hours down which only keeps me up longer.

Next, I had my first Alexander technique class. I have a wonderful teacher named Morgan, and since she’s in her final semester of certification, the classes are almost free. If you’ve never heard about good old Alexander here’s a brief description. It’s very popular among actors, musicians, dancers, and general performers because it’s about optimizing movement, being aware of your body, developing poise, and releasing unnecessary tension. I have long suffered from Quasimodo posture – or should I say it’s really my boyfriend who suffers from my Quasimodo posture – so the

Gwyeneth Paltrow in Emma

Kate Bekinsale in Emma

main reason for taking this course is to improve my posture. My role model for elegant posture would have to be Kate Bekinsale.

When I first saw her in Emma, I couldn’t focus on the movie because I kept thinking, how is this woman’s neck ten inches long? I would have to say she played the role better than Gwyenth Paltrow purely for her posture.

But now for the good stuff! I met with Caitlin Kelley, founder of Africa Volunteer Corps, and avid reader of the HeSo project (hey girl!) yesterday and had a great time. She started this non-profit to help skilled locals find jobs in community development and social progress. While in Tanzania, she discovered that there was a large pool of motivated, highly qualified locals who had no job opportunities. At the same time, international volunteers were taking up job positions that the locals needed.

I saw this first hand when I lived in Mozambique. People working for International non-profits were being paid $40,000-$50,000 to do practically nothing. Sometimes they would just visit a school, take a picture, and call it a day. Their salaries gave them millionaire lifestyles in Mozambique. They had guards, cooks, and housekeepers. They ate at fancy restaurants every night. They spent their days on the beach. They drove alone in 8 seat SUVs when most locals would squeeze ten people into the back of a truck, that’s if they were lucky enough to get a ride. They presented a completely unattainable lifestyle for most Mozambicans which can’t help but cause envy- heck I was jealous. I believe that their presence did more harm than good. There’s nothing they did that a local couldn’t have done and for far less money.

One of the boys at the childcare center we were working with in Kenya

This is an issue that I have struggled with. When I went to Kenya last year my plane ticket alone cost $1,500. I thought, if I just donate that money to a non-profit in Kenya the money would go so much further. However, nothing impacts you more than actually meeting the people who you are helping, and realizing that they are the ones helping you. If I wrote a check I would be done with it, but now those people are always in my heart and I can’t forget them. But at the same time, I was doing construction work, which is not my forte, and there’s hundreds of construction workers there who need jobs.

So to make a long discussion with myself short, nothing changes you as positively as seeing other cultures, and giving back, but I also think there’s a need for an organization like Africa Volunteer Corps that doesn’t look at developing countries like they need to be rescued. They have all the talent, resources, and possibilities they need. That is why I will be working with Caitlin – writing blog entries for the website, updating the spreadsheets, and filling in the cracks. I’m very excited for my new role, and it’s definitely a HeSo fulfilling project. YAH!

And my last bit of good news is that my favorite Blogger, Ree Drummond, is going to have a new show on the Food Network. If you’ve never visited The Pioneer Woman  she posts great recipes, photography tips, and home decorating ideas. I love her sense of humor and style, and I’ve been following her for 2 years now, so it feels like one of my good friends just got a t.v. show deal. I’m also really inspired that she was able to make a huge career out of doing what she loves. She gets a HeSo award!

Work Ethic

I’m sorry for not posting for so long. I’m in Barcelona with my boyfriend, so you know, not hangin’ around the computer much. But I did feel guilty not posting. Since I’m unemployed, blogging kind of feels like a mini job. A job that I love doing (in fact, while on a bus ride between Salamanca and Segovia I was thinking about how much I wanted to blog. Strange? If only I could get paid to ramble.) So since I wasn’t doing my mini-job, it got me thinking about work ethic.

While in Madrid I was staying at the Cat Hostel (yes, I picked it for the name, and a part of me was hoping there would be a resident cat, but that part of me was disappointed) and I decided to extend my stay for an extra night. I went to the reception desk at 11:30 and asked the guy if I could extend my reservation. He looked at me and politely asked if I would mind coming back at12 to do that. I said sure, but asked him why. He said that he was changing shifts at 12 and he’d prefer not to do a reservation during his last half hour of work. Well that just shut me up. How can you argue with that logic? I had no idea that Bartleby, the Scrivener, could get a job in this modern day.

The next day I had a leisurly lunch outside the Museum Lazarious. When I got there there was a business lunch happening between a boss and three employees. From what I could understand (they were speaking in Spanish) they talked about art, politics, philosophy, their families, vacation plans, and everything else but work. Well that´s not true. After about an hour I heard the boss suggest that they work a half day on one of the many Saint´s days that they usually have off. The three employees agreed that that was out of line and they wouldn’t do it. At that point one of the employess laughed and said they would soon start working like Americans.

I am continually getting hit over the head by how much American´s work, and how we are the laughing stuck of the rest of the World. While I was at the Language school, Don Quijote, and I told them that most Americans only get 2 weeks of vacations, their jaws droped. When my Spanish teacher complained about how in Spain people only have 4 months of maternity leave, one person from Switzerland was outraged. They apparently get 2 years of maternity leave. Yes 2 years.

It seems like everywhere else personal time is considered sacred, and no boss, no schedule, no responsibilities get in the way of it. If you’re in a store at 1:30 in Spain and you are about to buy something it doesn’t matter, the clerk will kick you out so that she can take her two hour break. There doesn’t seem like there’s any hurry to get things done. No drive, no work ethic.

And here’s where I feel torn. I’m not sure if this extreme is a good thing. I like this attitude while on vacation, but I remember it driving me crazy while living in Mozambique. I remember waiting weeks before having a meeting with my boss. Everyday he would say “manana.” It would take months for a short fence to go up, because the workers were taking breaks every five minutes. Dinners at restaurants would take hours, not because you were enjoying the food, but because you were waiting for the waiter. I would hear every foreigner say, “Mozambican’s are just so damn lazy.” And these were usually European foreigners saying this.

I’ve done a lot of traveling through Southern and Eastern Europe, and I’m always amazed by how little people work. But in Europe, they’re not seen as lazy, it somehow seems like the people are defending their rights, like their refusal to work on small holidays is a political stance. “WE WILL NOT BECOME AMERICA!” Is this hypocrisy just a symptom of Post-colonialism?Will laziness in former Colonies always be viewed as a negative, but laziness in post-imperialist countries always be viewed as an inalienable right? 

Now how did America, a former colony, escape the stereotype, and even become know as a country who works too hard? Well that must come from our Puritan background. Puritans, who were mostly Lutherans and Calvinists, believed that a certain number of people were pre-selected to be saved by God. Since it was impossible to know if you were pre-selected it was thought that a strong work ethic was a consequence of being God’s chosen one and therefore, if you worked hard enough, you were probably going to Heaven. It’s true. Wikipedia said so!

So take that Puritan background, and mix it up with Capitalism, and you end up with a country that has 24 hour Drug stores on every corner and a waitress who’s 8.5 months pregnant serving you coffee at midnight so you can finish your work reports. We are so tied to the capitalist identity that we sent secret troops into Nicaragua, and sold weapons to Iran, just to get back at Russia, our sworn enemy. And why was Russia so bad? It was presenting an alternative lifestyle to capitalism. Pure evil I tell you!

Geez! It’s not often I get to make references to Melville, Weber, and the Iran Contra affair within one conversation. I should be telling you about Gaudi’s awesome architecture (amazing) and the beach (amazing) and the old Gothic quarter (amazing), but one of the reasons I came to Spain was for the HeSo project. I’m doing the things I love, and trying to see if I can make a job out of it. So of course, work is on my mind. I’ve learned something very important about my work ethic while in Spain. I’ve realized that while I love the relaxed attitude of the Mediterranean, I also need to feel a sense of energy and accomplishment. In other words, I don’t want to work like an American, European, or Mozambican. Mmm I guess I need to travel some more to find the ideal work ethic 😉

Getting over fear

A wise man once said, (I´m paraphrasing here) ¨If you´re afraid of being poor, walk around for a day in threadbare clothes and only drink water and eat a crust of bread. At the end, say to yourself, is this what I´ve been so afraid of?¨

How many times have you done something that you were really afraid of and then laughed at yourself because it really wasn´t hard at all? It´s insane how much we let fear control our lives. If you think of all the things you´ve ever wanted to do, and then asked yourself why you didn´t do it the answer is probably fear.

Here are the three fears that have inhibited me the most:

Fear of poverty

Fear of criticism

Fear of being alone

In the past, I have prioritzed avoiding these fears over fully embracing life . For instance, I didn´t like my last job, but I worked there for three years because I made lots of money, and I wouldn´t have to face the fear of being poor. I have kept my mouth shut when I had something important to say, because I was afraid that I would sound stupid. I didn´t even want to have a blog because I was so afraid of exposing my terrible spelling and grammar to the world. Gasp what would they say! Since I´ve been in Spain, the computer I´ve been using doesn´t have spell check set up for English, so I have certainly had to get over my fear of criticism to write these posts. In High School and College I befriended people  who I didn´t like or respect because I didn´t want to sit alone.

Before coming here I decided to face the fear of being alone head on. First of all I came here alone. Besides for the first day, I have had every lunch and dinner by myself. Don´t worry I´m making friends, but I made a conscious decision to grow comfortable with being alone. Before, even just the thought of eating alone in a restaurant  would have made my skin crawl. In the past if I went to a restaurant with a friend and they got up to go to the bathroom, I would immediately feel like everyone was looking at me, and thinking oh poor girl, she has no friends.

A funny thing starts to happen when you´re alone for so long.  Instead of feeling like everyone´s looking at you, you start to look at everyone else. I have become more observant. I noticed how the old men here have made an art out of stirring their coffee. They slip their spoons in and out of the cup very slowly, and they do this for 20 minutes or so. It´s almost like a meditation. I noticed how people touch their wine glasses differently when they´re talking to someone they like. I can predict if a couple´s going to have sex or a fight after dinner just by the way they drink their wine!

To be perfectly honest I don´t like being alone. I miss talking to my boyfriend/friends/family. I miss having common references and inside jokes. But I have met interesting people who I probably never would have met if I was with a friend. And I´ve had time to get lost in the streets and do exactly what I want to do. At the end of every meal I´ve made of point of saying, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨

The point is as soon as you face your fears they can no longer control you.  If you´re in a relationship with someone who isn´t right for you maybe you should spend the day alone and then ask yourself, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨ Sometimes when we face what we fear the most it´s better than what we´ve been accepting in the past.

So as a challenge, I ask you to do what scares you the most. Don´t go skydiving today. I´m talking about emotional fears. Face your emotional fears and then ask yourself, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨If you can laugh after asking yourself that question then it´s time to start changing.

Using your enthusiasm

I just stayed up all night reading a fantastic book. Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie. He’s the guys that started TOMS shoes, a company which donates a pair of shoes for every pair you buy. I must have been living under a rock, because I never heard of the brand before reading the book, but now I’m seeing the little TOMS logo everywhere. In fact, I started the book on the train and I was facing a stranger. Her legs were crossed and she kept tapping me with her bouncing leg. It was incredibly distracting, but when I looked down at her foot I saw that she was wearing a pair of TOMS shoes. Well how could I get annoyed with someone who shops with their conscience? I immediately told her about what I was reading, and she turned out to be a nice person. I would never have talked to her otherwise. It felt like a sign that I was supposed to be reading that book.

The wheels in my brain were rolling last night after I finished the book. As soon as I woke up I did three things. First I called my friend and shared an idea I had to make his new business venture more marketable. He was really appreciative. Then I wrote down my personal business idea. Lastly, I wrote a thank you letter to Blake Mycoskie. I’m realizing how important it is to communicate support. It makes my day when someone leaves a nice comment on my blog, or facebook account. I get giddy when I see a stranger has subscribed to my blog. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. It would have been easy to read his book, say it was good, and then be done with it. But I want him to know that he reached me and I’m grateful for that.

Also, I think it’s important to do things when you’re excited – don’t wait for a better time.  I only slept three hours last night, so I probably should have taken a nap before writing him a letter, or giving business advice, or even writing this post, but I was excited and people can sense your excitement and it gets them excited. Nothing is more powerful than passion. So if you have an idea share it immediately, don’t wait until it’s well thought out and perfectly worded. You can always correct yourself later, but you can’t recreate that first spark of enthusiasm.

I read an advance copy of the book, so it’s not available until September 6th. You can click on the picture of the book to order in advance. When it is available I will be writing a full review, and giving away a few copies on my blog. Not only does he recount his incredible story, he also inspires you with other people’s unimaginable success, and gives tips on how to create meaning in what you do. Stay tuned!