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Of Careers and Life Paths (But What Should I Be?)

When I was in sixth grade, I, like the rest of the students in my class, was sent to the guidance counselor’s office to take a computerized test to help decide what I might want to do with my life—what careers were a match for my personality, my likes and dislikes, my strengths and weaknesses. 

I clearly remember the anticipation of sitting down in front of the computer, of excitedly clicking answers to each question, practically bouncing in my seat as I imagined what magical career choice was my destiny. Then the test was over, and the dot-matrix printer screamed and screeched as it printed my results. Mr. Albright tore the sheets from the printer, looked them over, handed them to me, and sent me back to class. I accepted my results with near-trembling hands and reviewed them as I walked the halls to return to science class. This was it. A list of all the things I could do with my life, a piece of paper that would tell me how I would succeed in the future.

And then I read the words.

Sanitation worker? Sanitation worker? SANITATION WORKER? 

Before I go further, I’ll make a statement for the record. I have utmost respect for the sanitation workers in my life. I am so very grateful that there are people willing to do this job and that they work year-round in all sorts of weather to ensure my trash is removed from my property each week and that we live in clean and sanitary conditions in our little corner of the world. I cannot stress this enough. I am grateful.

But this is not what an eleven-year-old girl with an imagination the size of the Andromeda Galaxy wants to envision for her life. Of all the careers I’d ever imagined, sanitation worker was not one. Teacher? Sure. Every kid probably considers that one at one point or another. Teachers play such an important role in our early years. Doctor, veterinarian, marine biologist, archeologist, author, singer, actor? All of those were futures I dreamed of, careers I longed to follow. But sanitation worker?

I was nearly inconsolable, convinced that perhaps I wasn’t as smart as I previously thought, that my A’s and B’s didn’t really mean anything after all, that my talents were nonexistent, that I wasn’t really going to have a career in science or the arts.

Fast-forward twenty-eight years later and laugh with me. Laugh and laugh and laugh. Because that test was complete and utter bullshit. Rubbish through and through. I’m almost angry that a school administration would dare to crush a child’s dreams in such a manner. Is it worth guiding children toward careers they might enjoy and in which they would likely excel? Of course! But at what cost? A computer is a poor substitute for human interaction, and if I’d sat down and talked with a teacher or guidance counselor at that time instead, I’m willing to bet that sanitation worker would never have been brought up as a possibility. Anyone who knows me knows, while I enjoy routine to an extent, I utterly crave the new, the unfamiliar, maybe even the unattainable. I’m not wired for routine.

Ironic, since I cope with chronic anxiety when faced with change. But life enjoys nothing if not being ironic.

And so far in my life? So far I have been a marine biology graduate, a pharmaceutical microbiologist, a technical writer, an animal welfare administrator, and a marketing director. It seems it took me a while to decide what I should really “be.” (Or maybe I’m just intent on working through ALL of those careers I once hoped for?)

So I’m cautious when my own kids consider their futures. I’m careful to nurture their dreams and encourage them to dive deep into the things they love. No one should settle for doing what someone else says is right for them. I often wonder if I would have made author as a career sooner had I really, truly believed it was a viable option.

Make no mistake. I’m eternally grateful to have had the opportunities I had in my life. How many people can say they’ve worked on a wild Atlantic bottlenose dolphin project in college? How many can say they’ve spent a summer on a boat just feet from entire families of joyful, leaping marine mammals? That they could extend a hand outward and easily touch one? (I didn’t. That’s not legal. But I could have.) I cherish that experience, as I cherish so many others.

I still have that piece of paper—the results from the sixth-grade “aptitude test” to help me determine what I should be. I keep it as a reminder. No one in the world can tell me what I should be, or what I should do with my life, with my time on this earth.

I, alone, have that power.

So what about you? Are you doing what you dreamed you might? Are you helping others to reach the path that will take them where they want to go? Let’s have this conversation because, all too often, I fear we’re pushed into a path we’re never meant to be on—stuck in a circle, forever asking “But what should I be?”

When what we really should be asking is, “What do I want to be?”

So what do you want to be?

Ingenious Inventions & Fearless Creators

I love art in all its forms. Paintings, sculptures, books, theater, movies? You name it, I can appreciate the work that went into creating it! So naturally I tend to align with other artists in our pursuit of making real the images from our minds. One such artist is one my very best and most talented friends for twenty-plus years. I feel so lucky I’ve gotten to watch her create one of the coolest toys I’ve seen to date. Meet MUB and his super fun Pittsburgh-area creator, Jess Bieber!

MUB is the Monster Under the Bed! No other monsters allowed!

LRS: Hi Jess, thanks so much for agreeing to appear on the blog today. I love the imaginative world, and I really think creating in any of the arts is currently one of the most undervalued talents in our society. I am in such awe of what you’ve done with MUB! I want to hear all about it.

LRS: First, what *is* MUB?

MUB says hello!

JB: MUB is a a spunky, fearless, courage-boosting plush pal for kids. He likes humans and their pets, but he does NOT get along well with other monsters. He is soft and furry so he’s great for cuddling, has a light-up charm on his collar to illuminate dark spaces, and his eyebrows are repositionable so he can be easily put into friendly-mode or defender mode, depending on your mood.

LRS: And what spurred you to create him? How did you realize this is something kids need? And something that might make parents’ lives a little easier? (Because, let’s face it—anything that helps keep the kiddos *stay* in bed at night is the miracle we need.)

JB: Family is at the center of our lives, so we like to create things with heart and feeling. One of the cool things about having kids is that you get to see the world through their eyes. It reminds you of how you used to be. Do you remember how crazy-active our imaginations were when we were young?

No matter how many generations you go back, there has always been a legitimate fear of the dark, unknown spaces at nighttime. Places like a closet or beneath the bed are mysterious, eerie voids in which hungry ghouls hide and wait for the moment when you turn off the lights. I used to take a running leap to my mattress so nothing could reach from under the bed to grab my feet.

What’s worse is that there is no real guarantee that being cocooned in a blanket pulled all the way up to your eyeballs is an effective barrier against any spooky creatures that could be lurking about. That’s when MUB comes to the rescue. He likes to be the only monster in the room so he scares all the others away.

And yeah, it’s so nice when kids can go to bed without a hitch. I’m hoping MUB will help parents out a bit, so maybe they can use that free quiet time to do something fun like catch up on laundry or dishes.

LRS: I don’t think most people realize what it takes for a startup company to create a physical product like MUB. I know *I* didn’t realize it until I’d heard all about your trials and tribulations throughout the last couple of years. Can you share a little about the process?

JB: Haha, books and books could be written about all this stuff.

It’s been an interesting journey, for sure. Conceptualizing an idea over coffee with your business partners is the fun and easy part. Following through and discovering the time and financial barriers to entry are more challenging. But if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right. That means vetting many vendors to find the right quality match. Safety testing – CE (international), PA, OH, and US. Copyright, trademark, ISBN and UPC codes, shipping and customs, taxes, packaging and shipping, website design, photography and videography… and not taking a paycheck the whole time.

I think it’s a fun lesson in learning how to be scrappy and prove you’ve got the grit to keep moving forward. Luckily I have the best partners and we won’t stop reaching for the stars because we definitely are driven to get our ideas out there into the world.

Friendly and fierce, MUB is always ready to protect his friends!

LRS: As a parent, I love everything about MUB, and you created him. So tell me a little about you and your history in art, illustration, and design.

JB: Aww, well thanks for loving MUB so much. He really is a fun character and we look forward to building in more helpful monster friends as his club and brand grows over time. He might not like monsters now, but soon he’ll let down his guard a bit to make room for some good, friendly monsters while he still chases off the imaginary, menacing ones.

I’ve loved making art since I could pick up a crayon and draw murals on the walls of the house. Angry as they were about the destruction, my parents were always awesome about nurturing my creativity and I decided to focus on illustration and graphic design in college. I was lucky enough to work for some really cool companies where I could develop my talents further, but, like my business partners, I always had this entrepreneurial itch to see how far we could take our own ideas.

LRS: I remember the murals on the walls of your old bedroom! I loved them! Even then, I was in awe of your artistic talent.

LRS: Can you tell me about MUB’s parent company, Glow Creative Innovations? What makes Glow unique?

JB: Glow has a big idea at its core. We hope to grow in success and join up with other like-minded creative people to help nurture and grow their ideas, too.

Originally, we wanted to be a brick-and-mortar art studio and coffee shop with classes and events that would bridge communities, give back, and bring people together. That’s all still on our bucket list.

No matter what we do, we are much stronger when we’re working with others. We can do so much when we stand with a group, pooling our talents, experiences, and connections so that we can take our ideas and fly together. Wherever we end up, it’s all about the love of the adventure, right? Maybe MUB will get us there. We can only hope that others will see his value and love him as much as we do!

LRS: Lastly, where can we find MUB to get him in time for Christmas?

JB: The pre-sale is now and the first batch of MUBs ever will be ready to ship on or before December 10th. The first 100 plushes sold will each get a free sticker sheet. Also, there’s a children’s book in the making, so follow us on Facebook or go to our site and sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates and MUB Club news. A big thank you to everyone who supports us and we hope to bring you more fun and useful monsters in the future.

You can order MUB now at www.mubclub.com where imagination meets reality and children overcome their fears with a little help from a soft and cuddly monster.

Meet the Creator

More about Glow Creative Innovations and their other products can be found here

Lastly, meet Jess Bieber, creator of the silly and lovable monster with a purpose! She and I don’t get to see each other often, so we tend to text and FaceTime. Here she is with another plush toy that I can’t wait to see from Glow Creative in the future!

Indie Author Storms

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I’m no Indiana Jones.

Maybe it doesn’t quite have the ring of Indiana Jones, but I think Indie Author Storms has a nice sound to it. So why did I decide to go indie and what’s next?

I’ve been writing seriously for seven years, querying for four, and have four completed manuscripts—some of them with quite wonderful feedback from agents and editors. And until the last year, I really wanted to take the traditional route to publishing.

So what changed?

Cancer.

Cancer is one hell of an eye-opener. And when my husband was diagnosed in April of 2017, it didn’t just change the rules; it changed the entire game. He’s doing well now—a year and a half cancer-free. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t celebrate this. (Insert happy dance emoji right here!)

But his diagnosis wasn’t all.

At the beginning of my foray into Writer Twitter, I made friends with a wonderful professor and writer who had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She documented her journey in life, and through diagnosis, and I had the pleasure of beta-reading for her about a year and a half ago. As with most interactions on social media, we dipped in and out of each other’s profiles here and there, commenting and leaving digital hearts in our wake. I learned only recently that she passed away in June.

 

Before she succumbed to the terrible disease, she followed her dream and published Blooming Out of Darkness: A Memoir about Cancer, Spirits, and Joy. The book, which sits on the bookshelf beside my piano, is a stark reminder each and every day—a reminder that we don’t always have the time we think we have. Between Alicia’s story and my husband’s ordeal over the last year, I’ve decided that it’s time to take the next step in the journey to authorhood. 

There’s a beautiful change in perception that occurs when you reach your forties. (Okay, I’m not quite there, but I’ve got less than a year, so…) You begin to care less about what other people think or what other people would do in any given situation, and so much more about what you feel and how you can be good to yourself.

Indie authorhood is me being good to myself. I’m ready to have the fun, to release a book baby into the world, to take the next step and grow as an author. A Thousand Years to Wait is my gift to the world, yes. But it’s also a gift to me. And I hope we can enjoy it together.


A Thousand Years to Wait will be released on April 30th, 2019. You can add A Thousand Years to Wait to your Goodreads list here. Check back for excerpts, teasers, a cover reveal, and more! I’ll be updating regularly over the next six months.

The BIG Announcement

A few months ago, I posted about two very exciting things. The first, I elaborated in my post—I got to see my name in print in the byline of an article on the front page. The second? Well, I kept the second a secret. But it’s been long enough and I’m ready to share. Without further ado, I give you…

…my release date.

Banner for A Thousand Years to Wait

My debut Young Adult Fantasy titled A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT is scheduled for publication in April. That’s right. On April 30th, 2019, you’ll be able to purchase a copy of my book.

And now we squeal. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkk!

Stay tuned for additional teasers, including reviews, excerpts, and cover art in the coming months!


Summary for A THOUSAND YEARS TO WAIT

Prophecies are meant to unfold on their own—they can’t be forced into fruition. Or can they? When a war-torn kingdom is on the cusp of falling to a usurping general, a young healer who doesn’t believe in magic is called upon to help a prophecy transpire. She must embrace the magic…or lose the ones she loves.

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A few years ago, a good friend got me this set of greeting cards. There is no more perfect a gift than this.

Who’s Who? Volume II

It’s time for another Who’s Who? (Also known as Who to Follow on Twitter!) These are just a few of the people I love following for all different reasons. For your best tweeting experience, you should follow them, too!

S.M. Roffey (@songmaiden) – Being a writer can be tough, especially when you face rejection after rejection after rejection, but following S.M. Roffey will take any negative outlook and turn it upside-down. I live for her #teamoptimism posts.


Tamoja (@tammy_oja) – Co-creator of #ontheporch, Tammy has such great insight to the writing process and is a true writing-cheerleader. She’s one of the people who turns up again and again in writing threads and she always has something eye-opening or encouraging to say! She’s worth a follow for sure.


Shanah (@bionicbookworm) – My favorite Canadian also happens to be a book blogger and one of her most-loved genres is YA fantasy. Imagine that! So when Shanah and I talk books, it’s usually a conversation filled with lots of exclamation points. I always turn to Shanah for a new book recommendation if I’m at a loss for what to read. (To be clear, I’m never at a loss for good titles, I just don’t know which books to pick up first. Shanah is my go-to!) You can also find her blog here.


Jess Keating (@Jess_Keating) – There are tons of authors to follow, but not all of them post amazing illustrations just for the heck of it. It would be worth following Jess for her illustrations alone. Add in her wonderful penchant for biology and you’ve got a winning combination. Jess’s posts make me smile!


Jean Grant (@JeanGrant05) – Jean has been my writing buddy since our college days. (That’s longer ago than I care to mention.) Her debut historical romance, A Hundred Kisses came out in May of 2017 and the prequel will be out this coming spring. Even more exciting? She’s got a contemporary Women’s Fiction also coming out this spring. And, she’s got a contemporary novella lined up for 2019! This is an author on fire! (This is also a good time for me to rub in the fact that I get to read all these before you, but maybe that’s not so nice of me, so…) Jean is an avid #5amwritersclub writer and her tweets are a mix of optimism and realism (hello, parenting). Follow her!

 

Also, if you missed my last Who’s Who? and you want to discover more great people to follow, click here!

Owning It

A large part of succeeding as a writer boils down to your willingness to put in the time. Can you accept sitting at a desk, dreaming up worlds, typing (or scribbling) the words, and getting it done? The answer to these questions has always been a resounding yes for me, but I tend to fail when it comes to putting in the face time.

I did just that this weekend. I put in the face time and met dozens of wonderful writers and agents and editors at the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC. It was fabulous. I participated in PitchSlam, in which authors are given one hour to pitch as many agents as they can in three-minute segments. (Truly, it’s any introvert’s nightmare.)

But you know what? While I was nervous going into my first pitch, it melted away quickly. Why? Because I discovered something as I delved into conversation with these agents. I found myself admitting something surprising. Out loud.

I love my book. I love the characters. I love the plot. I love the interactions and the quirks and the personalities. It was a fun book to write and I had fun writing it! And when you enjoy your story, I think it shows. You start to enjoy talking about it and telling people why it’s something they’ll want to read…which makes it a lot easier to pitch.

Proof? I pitched 6 agents and all 6 made requests for partial manuscripts (requested lengths varied). This may or may not result in progress moving forward, but that’s not the point. The point? When you love your work, it shows. 

Writers. Friends. I have one piece of advice for you. LOVE YOUR WORK. It’s yours. You wrote it because you loved it. 

Now own it.

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So many fabulous writers. Dinner on a Friday night.