Sadie Francis Skyheart

Screenwriter & Author

I’m in the August 2015 issue of Oprah Magazine!

Here’s how it all came together:

This past spring I was inspired to answer the O monthly reader question, so I did. A few weeks later, I got an email from a lovely staffer at O Magazine, notifying me that I was being considered for inclusion in the August issue and could I please send over a photo of myself?

The email couldn’t have come at a better or worse time. I’d been feeling horrible for over a week because my kids or husband had brought me some kind of awful plague. My body ached,  I had a fever, and worst of all, my nose was as red as Rudolph. But I was thrilled! It was Oprah! The photo specifications were for a neutral or light-colored background, and my latest photo has a dark background. In my current state, I didn’t even want to appear in the grocery store (never mind O Magazine). I took a chance that they would be okay with my dark photo and went back to bed.

A reply came back that the photo wouldn’t work and the lovely staffer wondered if could I send a different photo in a few days when I was feeling better. Nervous that I might miss the magazine’s deadline, I contacted my favorite photographer, only to discover that she had stopped being a photographer! I asked my friends for a referral and within 24 hours I was connected with a talented young woman who just completed a beautiful project with one of my close friends.

The evening of the photo shoot was amazing. Amanda made me look and feel like a million bucks, despite my red nose! I honestly hoped the photo we chose to send to the magazine would be included, just so she would get exposure for her work.

Then my inbox went back to the same old stuff from my favorite online retailers and bloggers. Not a peep from Oprah’s staffer. The suspense was nauseating and terrifying and exciting. Mostly I tried not to think about it.

And then, POOF!

Yes, I know it’s not an article or a book review or an exclusive interview. In fact, my original response was edited down to a single sentence.

Rather than spoil this moment with what it isn’t, I choose to celebrate what it is!

Amazingly, that single sentence sums up my intention as a writer, and as a friend: To be a voice of inspiration for those who may yet be finding their own voice. It is literally one of my meditation mantras. It is a dream to have a reader approach me at a book signing to tell me that I helped them connect to their voice.

I am humbled that my voice is in print for thousands to read and hopefully nod to themselves, “YES, me too.” I am incredibly grateful and thrilled to be able to say:

My written words are in Oprah freaking Magazine!

Sadie-SoulLitePhotography

Check that off the bucket list! How can life get any better?

I’m dancing in my lucky Halloween socks!

Since my new friend’s wonderful photography didn’t get included, here it is. It is one of the best professional photos I’ve ever taken, despite just getting off the couch after a blurry ten days of evil cooties. Thank you Amanda!

Photo credit: 2015 Soul Light Photography by Amanda

This is the final installment, PART THREE of the good, the bad, the ugly and the wonderful details of my recent experience with Kickstarter. 

Is crowdfunding right for your indie book? I can’t answer that for sure, but I can tell you a few things that will help you decide. I recently funded my debut novel, The Recollection of Trees on Kickstarter. If you’re considering the same, you might want to read this first.

If you want to know what happens while the campaign is live, read this.

Part Three: It’s over, now what?

You will have to wait up to two weeks to get your funding, minus 5% to credit card processing fees, 5% to Kickstarter, and any dropped pledges—so don’t plan on anything you have to pay for right away. I don’t know how the other sites work with fees and dropped pledges, so definitely know what you’re getting into beforehand.

Be sure to thank everyone for the shares, pledges, and support.

Hand write your thank you notes. Seriously. Make your grandma proud.

It’s nice to include a small-yet-fancy certificate that “officially certifies” each person as a backer of your campaign, at least for those who are getting physical rewards mailed to them.

Remember to thank them in all the ways they were promised in their rewards tier: thanks on social media, email, website, acknowledgements in your book, tattoo on your forehead, etc. and don’t do what I did and accidentally forget someone! You’ll be able to fix it, but the hurt feelings will still be there if they notice it before you do.

If you get the chance, reward them or thank them in a way that wasn’t promised. Like, if you end up being one of the lucky ducks who works your tail off for a movie deal on your book, maybe send them a behind-the-scenes video of you getting ready for the premiere, or visiting the set, or send them an autographed memento from one of the actors.

Don’t drop the momentum:

  • keep backers informed of progress
  • post updates on social media
  • keep the audience interested so they will read, buy, and recommend your books.

Take a nap, see a movie, read a book that isn’t yours, go to the beach, or get a massage. Do anything else for a few days.

You’re going to need the break!

Build your marketing on the momentum of your successful crowdfund campaign.

If your book is done–and by done I mean, you’ve written several drafts, revised it to be as amazing as you can imagine, then paid a professional editor to polish and proofread–then the next steps are your cover and promotion with targeted ads.

Spend time, money, or both on a professional cover. People absolutely DO judge books by their covers, and if yours looks homemade, doesn’t match what the book is about, or just doesn’t look like it belongs in your genre, you’ll be sorry. Ideally, you already did this before your crowdfunding campaign and used it as your thumbnail. But if you’re like me, your cover may change. For more information on covers, search for Derek Murphy – CreativIndie. He’s your guy. Trust me. Or hire someone.

You MUST run ads. There is no way around it. If you don’t, you will be sad that you put so much effort into your campaign, and then your book only sells to people you know. With your professional level cover, you’ll want to use BookBub, GoogleAds, Amazon ads, social media ads…maybe I’ll write a separate article about this. Some of these ads can and should start before you publish, so do your research!

Expect the marketing phase to be pretty time consuming until you get the hang of how it’s all working.

Best of luck!
~Sadie

This is PART TWO of the good, the bad, the ugly and the wonderful details of my recent experience with Kickstarter. 

Is crowdfunding right for your indie book? I can’t answer that for sure, but I can tell you a few things that will help you decide. I recently funded my debut novel, The Recollection of Trees on Kickstarter. If you’re considering the same, you might want to read this first.

Part Two: 3, 2, 1… Launch!

My project was 28 days, $2800. It was like the last month of pregnancy and the first month of parenthood, rolled into one. Yeah, that level of sleep deprivation, excitement, and stress.

Some people hold a launch party, others celebrate when they reach their goal. Either event stands to create more buzz. I didn’t do either, because I wanted to conserve my resources for my book launch party.

Remember, once your project is live you can edit some of the content, but not all of it. Read the fine print carefully. You cannot change your deadline or funding goal once it is launched, so be sure on both.

Send out your launch press release, post it on your website, send it to your email list, and tell the social media universe.

Brew a big pot of coffee and settle in for the insanity. Not joking.

Messaging magic:

  • How many days in/left until your deadline
  • How much funding left to raise or daily goal (% or $ amount)
  • Brag about the fun rewards
  • Name of the project with a link to it
  • Remind people that generous sharing is just as appreciated as backing, and LIKE whenever they do, it increases the visibility in newsfeeds.
  • Celebrate milestones
  • Be urgent, but not desperate
  • Be thankful

Sample tweet: #10DaysLeft Already 70% funded! #ThankYou for pledging & RT! (link, project name here) @kickstarter

Sample post: Did you know Kickstarter is all-or-nothing? Must raise $2000 by August 31 or project gets $0. Thank you for sharing &/or pledging: (link/name here)

It’s ALIVE!

I swear to all that is holy, this monster becomes a full time job. It is all consuming. I cannot imagine what it is like for the projects who raise six or seven figures. I aimed for just $2800, and it was a mental marathon. (If I had it to over, I might hire a student to do this, but I doubt it because I’m kind of a control freak—just keeping it honest.)

You have to balance between spamming your friends and making sure the message is out there. I posted messages about once a day on each of my social media sites.

Post updates on the Kickstarter project site, with some posts that are for “backers only” as a reward and an incentive for those who are thinking about backing. They can’t see it unless they are a backer.

Know which time is the best time of day to post your messages, to reach the most people. The middle of the night is a dead zone unless you’re reaching out to someone in a different time zone. If most of your potential backers have 9-5 jobs, send your message before or after those times, when they’re more likely to be checking email & status updates.

Schedule time for short breaks too, or you will feel chained to technology and start to lose perspective. Make sure to drink water between coffee cups, so you don’t get dehydrated and cranky. My family can attest to this.

I reached my goal with a week left in the campaign, and I chose to not try to reach another higher goal. I was happy with getting to 100%, and I didn’t want to annoy my friends, many of whom were getting inundated with political stuff because we were days from a primary. I did continue sending out thank you messages and reply to congratulations. 🙂 I also sent a press release to announce my campaign was a success.

There might be hiccups

Backer issues: Some people pledge and then the money doesn’t actually go through—the credit card is entered in wrong, no money/limit exceeded, who knows. It happened to me. There were four people who entered in the wrong number or expiration date, but corrected it (they have up to 7 days to fix the pledge on their end). Another did the same but didn’t check their email or messages until after the deadline for corrections had passed. Two others were dropped for any of the above reasons but never contacted me/Kickstarter.

The upside: as long as the pledges are made before your deadline, it doesn’t matter if some of them get dropped afterward, you still get the rest. And don’t worry, you don’t have to deal with anyone directly unless you choose to (I don’t recommend it)—Kickstarter sends them a reminder that their pledge is in error every 2 days for a week, then drops them.

The downside: If the dropped pledge is someone you’re close to or a larger pledge, that might be a bit awkward or mess up your budget, so be prepared for those minor possibilities. All of these details are only accessible to you—the public can’t see it when they view your project.

I am thankful even for the dropped pledges, because if they hadn’t pledged at all, I might not have reached my goal.

Beware of “helpful” spam

I received five or six messages through social media, often poorly written, pitching me on buying into some crowd funding boosting service. They all promised that they could get me funded and/or surpass my goal, for a small fee. The fees weren’t bad, but I would pay them whether they delivered on their promise or not.

One service offered some kind of bypass around the FB algorithm. Even if it was possible, I feel that if I need that kind of help, I shouldn’t be trying the crowd funding thing in the first place.

I also got a couple messages from other Kickstarter projects, asking me for help in getting the word out about their project, and one of them had already surpassed their goal! Total strangers. Maybe I’m being Midwestern, but that seemed pretty NERVY and GREEDY if you ask me.

NOTE: since the original publication of this article 08/15/2014, kickstarter has added a way to report this type of spam to them directly. Yay! [11/20/2019]

This is PART ONE of the good, the bad, the ugly and the wonderful details of my recent experience with Kickstarter. 

Part One: Before you crowdfund

Is crowdfunding right for your indie book? I can’t answer that for sure, but I can tell you a few things that will help you decide. I recently funded my debut novel, The Recollection of Trees on Kickstarter. If you’re considering the same, you might want to read this first.

Social media is a must. A whopping 98% of my funding came through Facebook and Twitter. The other 2% came through Kickstarter directly, but I am willing to bet they heard about it through a social media source, with the exception of a couple of people who regularly fund Kickstarter projects.

A broad platform is a must. We hear a lot about the author’s platform these days, and it is worth mentioning here. You can’t just have social media accounts and a website or blog. They have to be actively engaged with you. Expect only 1-10% of your fan base (including family and friends) to respond to your crowd funding. Evaluate whether you can reach your funding goal if only 1% respond. Are they going to support you by sharing your posts or backing your project, preferably both? If you can’t get the word out without paying for post boosts or targeted ads, you might want to decide if it’s worth it. I opted not to pay for boosts or ads, and I had a response of about 10% of my social media contacts.

Not all projects get approved on Kickstarter. Start early, it takes a couple of weeks to go through the process of getting approval. Your project could be rejected or delayed for content, or for problems in setting up the financial end of things. It might take you that long to construct your content and create your video. Kickstarter does not allow non-profits or charities, but other crowd funding sites do.

If you use a pen name, Kickstarter will make you use your real name in one place: your profile and financial info. It is to keep scammers from abusing Kickstarter, and to make sure backers know you’re a legit person. I had to let go of worrying about whether people knew my real name in order to get the word out through both my personal page and author page. I have no regrets.

Research: the good and the not-so-much

1. Read all the information you can on each of the crowd funding sites to determine which, if any, are right for you. Take the time to decide if you can handle the stress of all-or-nothing funding or partial funding. I chose Kickstarter because it made sense for my project, but that might not be the best for yours.

2. Decide on your budget. I looked at five other authors who were similar to me in genre and content, who were successfully funded. They were all around the same funding level and offered similar rewards to their backers. I used their success to build a template for my own information, funding level, and project time frame.

3. Add a little more time and funding than you need in case something goes wrong or costs more than originally anticipated. This information is outlined nicely on the Kickstarter website sections, “creator handbook” and “creator FAQs”.

Over prepare & plan for anything

Write out all of your content in a simple MS word doc before starting your project, so you can easily cut & paste it into each part. It makes it much easier to complete everything.

The picture for the project is really important. At first I picked a black & white photo of a spooky local cemetery, but when I previewed the project, it practically blended into the background. Then I started looking at the projects that were successfully funded and I noticed that their photos popped off the page with color, dark backgrounds, and bold titles. I set to work creating an image that had a black background. It took me about 4 hours to create what I ended up using, but the happy part is I’ve received so many compliments on it that I’ve decided it will likely be the book cover, especially for the digital version where it will once again need to stand out among a sea of thumbnail images.

Make a video. It doesn’t have to be award-winning and it significantly increases your chances at successful funding. Details in Kickstarter’s “creator handbook” section are great on this. I had never made a video like this before—edited with graphics, music, and interview footage. I used Movie Maker, which is free downloadable software. I had to teach myself to use it, which was a bit tricky at first. It took me 25+ hrs to make a 3:02 minute video. Yep, you read that right. I gained a whole new respect for filmmakers. I would threaten that Hell will have to freeze over…but here in Michigan, Hell does freeze over! 🙂

Rewards: When you’re constructing the pledge rewards, make sure they are feasible and affordable on your end, but worth it on their end. I’ve heard nightmares about projects that went way over their goal and then couldn’t fulfill some of the rewards because they only had so many seats or t-shirts or whatever gear available. You can set limits or just set the budget so that can’t happen. Set the estimated delivery date beyond the date you think you’ll be ready, just in case there is an unexpected delay. Under promise, over deliver.

Start the buzz way before you launch. Create a survey about your project and share. Blog about it and share. Countdown the days, hours, minutes—and share. Promotion is key to funding success, and later, the same buzz leads to book sales.

Write press releases ahead of time. You should have one for your launch, tailored with a hook for whichever media you are submitting it to. (ex: Local author on Kickstarter or alumni-turned-author on Kickstarter) You should also have a press release for when you reach 50% (or any other milestone) and 100%.

Sleep while you can. I’m not joking.

So much has happened in the last month, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

I stopped a thief this week, but I’ll save that crazy story until the end.

First,  I am so grateful for all the support from friends, family, and even total strangers on kickstarter and social media. THANK YOU! I launched my kickstarter campaign for The Recollection of Trees, and it was fully funded!

Robin Williams’ passing deeply affected me, and I had a real difficulty writing the first day. I wept on and off as if someone in my own family had died. Strange how someone most of us have never met can have such a profound impact on our hearts. The next day, I wrote through the sadness and tried to use my grief for good in my book.

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Robert Frost

And now for the mama bear moment—I chased down a thief!

A couple of days ago I was working in my writing cave when my youngest son barreled down from upstairs yelling, “Those kids just stole my bike!”

I ran out to the living room in time to see my husband dash out the front door after them. My son was wide-eyed and panting in fear.  I snatched the car keys and dove into the car without shoes or my purse. My son managed to jump in beside me and we took off after the thieves. Through some hedges, we caught a glimpse of them getting away from my husband—he was on foot and most of them were on bikes—so I took a shortcut through the neighborhood.

When I reached the other side, my son’s bike helmet was laying in the road at the corner of a busy intersection but the boys were gone. I leapt out of the car and scooped it up before anyone ran it over or it caused an accident.

“There they are!” My son shrieked, pointing down the street. Miraculously, there was no oncoming traffic and I was able to immediately pull onto the road. I caught up to them and cut them off in front of a Chinese take-out. I flew out of the car and shouted at them. “Give me my kid’s bike back right now!”

At first the teen riding the bike tried to deny any wrong doing. “I didn’t take anything,” he stammered.

“Oh yes you did! Don’t you lie to me!” I yelled. “You’re lucky I caught you before the cops did!”

He was taller, bigger, and surrounded by five of his friends, but he dismounted my son’s bike and handed it over. Judging by the confused, terrified looks on their faces—and the bewildered elderly gentleman with a bag of egg rolls gawking from behind his car—they will think twice before doing that again! He and his buddies hightailed it down the sidewalk and we drove away with the recovered bike in my backseat. (One acquaintance tried to bait me through social media, assuming the kids were non-white. Nope, they were all white. With the racially charged news this week from Ferguson, I thought it relevant to share that stupidity and crime come in every color.)

As the adrenaline wore off, I realized how reckless I was. Anything could have happened.

But as I said to friends later, that’s the blessing and the curse of a tough childhood: before I knew what I was doing, I found myself standing shoe-less in public, screaming at some fool in a parking lot. Apparently the “mom instinct” overrides years of self-help books and therapy. Ha ha ha!

My son described it best with laughter and gratitude, “Good thing I screamed like a little girl and you screamed like a middle-aged man!”

There are lessons in this, yes. I could have let it go because the bike was only a “thing”. But I may have shown those boys what a real mom does when she cares about her son—something I doubt they’ve experienced if they’re out stealing from people in broad daylight—and I definitely showed my own boys how to stand up for themselves without using violence.  I’m sure any parent can relate: DON’T MESS WITH THE MAMA BEAR!

I’ve been known to stay in my writing cave for way too long. Sometimes I get so immersed in the revision process that I start to lose touch with the feeling I was trying to convey in the first place and the only way to bring the insane over-thinking to a screeching halt is to take a break. I spend time outdoors (is that sunlight?), play board games with my family (with twisted rules) or surf the TV for some movie magic—which is where this quirky list comes in.

Sure, there are other lists I could make of what I consider award-winning acting, amazing directing and production, life-altering writing, astounding special effects, or whatever. This is not that kind of list. This list is guaranteed to get me feeling human again–and more importantly, get me writing again. 🙂

Forget Paris (1995 romantic comedy. Debra Winger, Billy Crystal): This movie has plenty of funny moments and reminds me as a writer how nice it is for the audience to not know exactly how the story is going to end. However, I am a klutz so my absolute favorite scene involves Debra Winger with a pigeon stuck to the side of her face. Hysterical, probably because I can imagine that it could happen to me. That’s an entirely different list though. If you like When Harry Met Sally, you’ll love this.

The Money Pit (1986 comedy. Shelley Long, Tom Hanks):  This campy remake of the 1948 film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is for anyone who is eyeball deep in home renovation or just plain taking life too seriously. You are guaranteed to feel better about your own life, because it can’t possibly be half as bad. The quotable running gag line is “two weeks.” As a lover of bit players and extras, there are numerous goofy characters on the construction crew too. There are several comical moments such as when Anna (Shelley Long) finds a surprise in the dumb-waiter or when the stairs collapse out from under Walter (Tom Hanks). There’s a scene in which Walter is trapped in the floor which makes me laugh to tears. But the Rube Goldberg-ish sequence in which the kitchen sets itself on fire and launches poultry into the upstairs bathroom, escalating in Hanks’ infectious laughter over a gaping hole in the floor is absolutely, utterly priceless. I pause and replay the part where he is laughing so hard that nothing is coming out, while Long maintains a serious, baffled frown. Jim Carrey fans will like this.

Harold & Maude (1971 dark existentialist comedy/drama. Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles ): I love this book-to-movie for a thousand reasons. It speaks to the human need to be seen and heard and to matter to someone. It confronts societal norms, expectations, and rules in the context of the Vietnam era. It is also really silly. Ruth Gordon was born to play Maude—a 79-year-old, free spirit, car thief, nude model, and transcendental thinker—who has all the best lines. “Here today, gone tomorrow, so don’t get attached to things. Now with that in mind, I’m not against collecting stuff.” Bud Cort is wonderfully deliberate in his facial expressions and subdued demeanor. Vivian Pickles is one of my favorite clueless movie moms. It’s one of those films that you have to see several times to appreciate all the ludicrous moments and brilliant supporting cast. There are times I watch it until just before the end, and then I stop because I don’t want to go to the depths of sadness with Harold. There are other times I only watch the ending so I can cry with Harold and then feel hopeful that things will be ok. Bonus: soundtrack is by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cat Stevens. Fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower might like this.

Bridesmaids (2011 romantic comedy. Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy): This film is packed with actresses who are true masters at awkward social situations and physical comedy. I laugh out loud at most of this movie, because it demonstrates how idiotic and competitive female relationships can get, and how truly desperate thinking can breed horrible decision-making. I also love how the lines seem natural and unscripted, the way people actually talk. Melissa McCarthy’s real life husband Ben Falcone is hysterical as the no-nonsense air marshal too. This movie made me a loyal fan of McCarthy’s sitcom Mike & Molly.

Rudy (1993 football film. Sean Astin, Charles S. Dutton): Based on a true story, this is a movie to watch when you’re thinking of giving up on your dream. As a lifelong Detroit Lions fan, it is in my DNA to root for the underdog. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, I still chant with the crowd at the end and I get choked up when he finally lives his dream of playing for Notre Dame. Every opening kickoff I have to quote Dutton’s speech, “You’re 5 feet nothin’, a 100 and nothin’…In this lifetime, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody – except yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen.” Don’t get me started on the part when the team brings the coach their jerseys so Rudy can play in their place…. I don’t care that the movie ending isn’t exactly how it happened in real life. “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” Totally inspirational, even if you don’t like football.

The Bridges of Madison County (1995 romantic drama. Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood): Yes, I know this list is all over the map. First of all, this movie is based on an equally good book.  Secondly, I love Meryl Streep. In any movie she has ever been in. I love that she can do any accent, any genre, any character, and I get lost in the story. I love the scene when she has her hand on the door handle of the truck—I yell at the screen every single time. I love, love, LOVE it when a story tears me apart with the thrill of choosing which way to go. To this day, I don’t know which way I want that character to choose, and I adore her children for letting their mother’s example affect their own life choices. Oh, and I sob through the ashes scattering scene every time.

Steel Magnolias (1989 comedy-drama. Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton): One of the best chick flicks ever. Who knew perfect Daryl Hannah could play such an awkward ugly duckling? One of Sally Field’s most shining moments as an actress is when she goes through five different emotions in a matter of seconds at the funeral. Every time I see it, Sally makes me cry with her angry grief, and Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine make me laugh out loud through my tears. Every single time.

Arthur (2011 remake romantic comedy. Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner): Russell Brand has not been taken seriously in the acting world—maybe he doesn’t want to be taken seriously—but I believe he is gifted at portraying human emotion. He is not just hilarious, he is poignant and loveable and moving. There are incredibly funny moments in this remake of the Dudley Moore classic, but the depth Brand conveys is quite beautiful. Mirren is brilliant as the straight-laced nanny opposite the constant shenanigans of Brand’s Arthur. Garner departs from her good girl roles to play a funny, wicked character. Good for many laughs and harsh tears if you’ve ever lost a parent or mentor.

Fools Rush In (1997 romantic comedy. Matthew Perry, Salma Hayek): This gem launched Salma Hayek’s career and it’s one of my favorites. A one night stand with Alex (Perry) results in Isabel (Hayek) discovering that she is pregnant… and they impulsively get married. It’s about following your heart despite familial expectations, cultural traditions, and best friends with terrible relationship advice. I love the clever humor, I love the breaking down of stereotypes while poking fun at them, and I love the use of food as a sensory part of the story. The writer gives us what could easily have been a formulaic lifetime drama as a hilarious, poignant, feel-good story.

The Lost Valentine (2011 drama. Betty White, Jennifer Love Hewitt): Betty White has made me laugh my entire life, so I was interested when this sappy book-to-TV movie premiered a few years back. If you liked The Notebook, this is a must-see. At its worst, it is perhaps overly nostalgic for a bygone era, but that doesn’t matter because I swear to all that’s holy, Betty makes me sob like I need medication. If I need a good ugly cry, I can count on the scene where she meets her long dead husband’s flag draped casket in the train station to push me way, WAY over the edge. Just typing the line, “My husband’s coming home today,” I have to reach for a Kleenex.

Parental Guidance (2012 comedy. Bette Midler, Billy Crystal, Marisa Tomei): I love the combination of Billy Crystal and Bette Midler in this multi-generational story that my whole family can watch. I crack up at all the moments that confront mediocrity and societal correctness. I laugh out loud at Billy’s painted face “Me, Voodoo Man” scene. Heartwarming, silly, and fun. Makes me feel it is perfectly ok to not have all the answers.

The Answer Man (2009 romantic comedy. Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham): This movie has tons of great, quotable one-liners. It follows several characters as they find their way in life, and I can connect with all of them. The cast includes a cranky, new age writer (Daniels) with all the answers but who doesn’t have a clue, an overprotective single mom and new chiropractor (Graham), and a 12-step guy (Lou Taylor Pucci) just trying to make it. It inspires me, motivates me, and I laugh through many scenes thanks to the supporting cast of Kat Dennings (Two Broke Girls), Olivia Thirlby (Juno)—especially the part when one of the author’s fans (Tony Hale of Veep and Arrested Development) shows up uninvited at his door. “He may have written Me & God, but he did NOT read it.” Hysterical.

Singles (1992 romantic comedy. Bridget Fonda, Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick): I am instantly transported to the 1990s, when I was a directionless 20-something. It makes me feel young again, and reconnects me with the uncertain rollercoaster of dating, wanting to fit in, and trying to figure myself out. There are plenty of relatable, quirky, funny moments and the Seattle grunge soundtrack is sweet. Cameos include Chris Cornell, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, and Eddie Vedder.

Better Off Dead (1985 American teen romantic comedy. John Cusack, David Ogden Stiers ): Another 1980s cult classic. My kids and I love quoting it. “Two dollars. I want my two dollars.” (Hmm. I just noticed a pattern of movies that involve people hitting rock bottom, often with suicidal humor.) Cusack is perfect as the sarcastic underdog Lane Meyer, obsessed with getting his self-absorbed girlfriend back after she dumps him. This movie makes my entire family laugh and still carries the message to go for your dreams, because you just might end up driving a cool muscle car and dating a cute, smart, French exchange student—even if you don’t know that’s what you really wanted in the first place. (Fun fact: the singer at the school dance, Elizabeth Daily, is also the voice of Tommy on The Rugrats and played Dotty in Pee-Wee Herman’s Big Adventure. She was one of the contestants on The Voice last season and I’m still a bit ticked at Blake Shelton for eliminating her, but I digress.)

Class Action (1991 drama thriller.  Gene Hackman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio): This movie made me want to be a lawyer in a power suit. Not the stereotypical corporate greedy kind or the slimy divorce kind so often depicted in movies, but someone who fights for the voiceless. Based on the class action suit filed against automakers of the 80s, it’s a classic case of underdog cause vs mean corporation, but with a twist of “oh no I’m caught fighting on the wrong side” thrown in. If you loved Erin Brokovich, A Civil Action, or The Rainmaker, watch this movie.

A Few Good Men (1992 courtroom drama.Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Pollock, Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon): See Class Action, but without any sex scenes and set it in a hostile military subculture, then add awesome scene with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. You know what I’m talking about. The awesome, quotable, “You can’t handle the truth!” Never gets old. I cheer every time.

Terms of Endearment (1983 comedy drama. Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, Danny DeVito, John Lithgow): As a mother of boys, I absolutely cannot watch the scene where Debra Winger’s character tells her boys goodbye in the hospital. It is too real and scary. That said, it doesn’t matter what I am doing, I will stop everything to watch Shirley MacLaine’s character scream at the nurses to “give my daughter the shot!” It catches my breath in my throat every single time. It is why I’ve watched every single other thing she has ever been in—Steel Magnolias, Postcards from the Edge, The Apartment, Two Mules for Sister Sarah, Irma La Douce, Bernie, Downton Abbey, you name it—I am a Shirley MacLaine fan because of this perfect scene.

The Shop Around the Corner (1940 romantic comedy. Margaret Sullivan, James Stewart): Yes, the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan pseudo-remake You’ve Got Mail is lovely too, but I really enjoy this classic story based on the 1937 play Parfumerie. It is set in a modest gift shop in WWII Budapest. There are plenty of timeless, quirky moments and fun, quotable lines. “I want your honest opinion. Just give me your honest opinion.”  It is equal parts underdog, workplace humor, and dating problems. It transports you to a time of more polite social norms and less technology. I particularly love the minor characters of Pepi and Pirovitch, and the “everybody rally around the good guy” feeling.

When a Man Loves a Woman (1994 romantic drama. Meg Ryan, Andy Garcia): Another movie where the main character hits rock bottom and finds her way back. It made me fall in love with Andy Garcia as the loyal, somewhat enabling husband, and shows Meg Ryan’s depth as an actress. There are gut wrenching moments that hurt your heart, and sweet moments with the actresses that play the daughters. (One of them, Tina Majorino, grew up to play Deb on Napoleon Dynamite and more recently did several episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.) This movie makes me believe that everyone goes through really tough stuff sometimes, and we all deserve a second chance even when we don’t think we do.

The Story of Us (1999 romantic comedy. Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer): This movie can be a bit hard to watch because the arguing is so well acted and it hurts to see Ben (Willis) and Katie Jordan (Pfeiffer) nearly destroy their marriage, but the ending is worth it. The side players are fantastic, including Rob Reiner and Rita Wilson as Stan and Rachel Krogan—they each offer moments of bad, well-meaning advice. Wilson’s bit about not being able to be intimate when you’re mad at your spouse is priceless. Lucy Webb and Bill Kirchenbauer are hysterical as Joanie and Andy Kirby, a Midwestern couple with pointless stories that intrude on the Jordan’s vacation.

 

28 days. $100 a day. $2800. 1 thankful author doing a happy dance in her lucky Halloween socks.

I can’t believe it, but I actually did it!

Here’s hoping I reach my funding goal and show my kids (and myself) that anything is possible if you believe in yourself!

Here’s the link:

UPDATE:

On Monday July 14, 2014 The Recollection of Trees became a Kickstarter STAFF PICK!!! 🙂

UPDATE #2:

On Monday July 21, 2014 I was interviewed by the local newspaper about my kickstarter project. Funding is already almost to 50%! So fun! So exciting! Yahoo!

UPDATE #3:

On Wednesday July 23, 2014 The Recollection of Trees made the local paper and reached 51% funded! 🙂

UPDATE #4:

On Friday August 1, 2014 The Recollection of Trees reached 100% funding on kickstarter!

To keep myself inspired, I used to drive past my “dream house”, the one I would buy someday when I won the lottery, or published my book with wild success. In late October 2013, I did one of my drive-bys. There it was–rolling hill, pond, barns, woods in the back…with a newly placed SOLD above the realty sign. I was devastated.

In the middle of my despair, my 9-yr-old encouraged me.

Maybe there is a better dream, Mommy. I think this is an opportunity for growth.

Yes, that is really what my little wise one said to me.
I cried all the way home.

Having that “dream house” suddenly snatched from me was the last straw in a year of many ups and downs. 2013 included job changes for my husband, a couple of serious health scares for both of us, and the financial stress that accompanies both. I was starting to doubt I would ever finish my book.

By December, we were looking forward to my mother-in-law’s usual ten-day visit. Granny’s arrival meant we could relax, bake cookies for the neighbors, make a zombie gingerbread house, go sledding, and watch holiday movies.

Not one of those things happened. Not one.

Instead, the Friday she was scheduled to arrive by train the weather started turning ugly enough for a snow day. The boys were thrilled to begin winter break a day early, but I was not thrilled to drive on slippery roads to the train station. Nevertheless, we picked her up and made it back home safely. We decided to wait to bake cookies until Sunday. We had a quiet evening at home, as the freezing rain pelted against the windows.

On Saturday, both boys spent time with friends while Granny and I finished some last minute shopping and savored a stop at a cozy coffee shop. By late afternoon, it was clear we should get home because the freezing rain was back with a vengeance.

Around 2 am Sunday, I awoke to the realization that we had lost power. It happens occasionally, but it’s usually restored within a couple of hours. I tried to go back to sleep, but the house was growing cold. By 6 am, the power was still out, and I was sitting in the living room wrapped in a blanket next to the dog, trying to access the power company’s website on my phone. The website wouldn’t load and there were no local news updates. Then my phone died. I couldn’t make coffee. I was cold and cranky. As each family member awoke, they marveled at

the haunting beauty of the ice covered trees, glistening in the morning sunlight.

It was pretty, but I was impatient and still without coffee.

At 8 am, my husband was unable to access the power company’s website on his phone either (we would later learn that it was crashing because thousands of people were doing the same thing). Around 1 pm a power company truck was on our street, so I assumed (wrongly) that the power would be back on soon. At 2 pm I learned from a neighbor that the power company had informed him that they couldn’t safely repair downed lines while dangerous tree limbs were in the way, and couldn’t remove tree limbs until some of the ice melted, and it wasn’t supposed to warm up for about ten days!

The authorities were starting to open warming centers for people without family or friends nearby. We were among over 400,000 across the state without power. The house was uncomfortably cold, and we knew we couldn’t stay overnight, so I drove Granny and the kids to my brother’s house nearly an hour away. It was like a giant slumber party, and we were grateful to be warm and laugh with family. After a long work day, my amazing husband returned to our home with a borrowed generator to heat one room for himself and the pets.

On Monday, some friends of my husband’s offered for us to stay in their vacant home, located just outside the power outage area. We drove back from my brother’s, not knowing what we would find at the new place, but thankful to be closer so we could keep checking on our pets. The drive was breath taking. We were in awe at the surreal layer of ice on all the trees and homes along the way. It was incredible to comprehend such beauty had caused so much damage.

I can still remember the road leading to the house–all of us gasped at the archway of ice covered trees. I had never met the owners until then, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were both originally from Australia (my sister has lived there since the late ’80s). Once inside, it instantly became my new “dream house”. From every single window, we had a postcard view of the icy woods. In the midst of the chaos and inconvenience of the power outage, this truly felt like a gift.

My exhausted, bewildered spirit was restored with the magick of possibility.

We slept there two nights in sleeping bags, including Christmas Eve. It was a quiet, electronics-free zone. We played board games and counted squirrels and watched the birds. We were almost sad to leave when the power returned for Christmas.

A couple of weeks later, as I sent my completed manuscript off to my agent, there had been one last revision.

I changed the title to “The Recollection of Trees”.

I had been toying with the idea for months, but when I stood in the new house, the panoramic views confirmed in my soul that the new title was perfect.

With a renewed calm, I gently held onto the new house as a real possibility. I knew deep within myself that somehow everything would be more than alright. I knew that I would have a home like that someday soon, if not that very one.

My son was right. There was a better dream, well beyond the scope of my imagination.

It was the perfect ending to a crazy year. It was the perfect storm.

For months I have been working on the ending to my first novel. As a writer of YA urban fantasy, I have had the pleasure and pain of creating new characters, hopefully ones that are relatable but not cliché, intriguing but not too weird. There are many reasons writers need to take breaks from writing, and I have discovered a few that are crucial, which I have turned into silly characters:

1. Near-Hermit:

I saw Near-Hermit in the mirror this morning, and well, I felt sorry for my husband. Yikes! Near-Hermit is so sunlight deprived that she resembles one of those transparent spiders you might find under the basement stairs. Near-Hermit is so “outside world” deprived that she thinks rotating yoga pants and gray sweatshirts is the same as getting dressed. Near-Hermit is in need of more than the usual quick shower–she needs a waxing from forehead to toes. Near-Hermit has even let her black toenail polish get so ragged and chipped that her feet look like they belong in a crime scene with a tag on the toe.  Near-Hermit is not a complete and total hermit because she does have contact with family (they occasionally like to eat), and she still runs errands that require limited interaction with people–groceries, doctor appointments, pharmacy pick-up–but there are days when she ignores phone calls, emails and texts. She postpones time with friends and puts off responding to the ignored phone calls, emails and texts. She allows herself 5 minutes on social media and then it’s back to writing, reading, editing and revising. Near-Hermit’s world is way too small and she has started to forget how to speak face-to-face with other adults. (If she ever does, she better bring breath mints.)

2. Dementianna:

This hybrid shapeshifter lives on fear, doubt and occasional paranoia. She is afraid to let anyone read what she’s written, because she doubts it’s any good–but if it is the innocent reader might steal her ideas. If she lets down her guard to allow a close friend or spouse to read her work, any comments–even a “hmm”–sends her into a tailspin. The poor reader suffers a barrage of questions, like a captured spy in an undisclosed location with a single lightbulb and a two-way mirror. Dementianna has a specific type of amnesia in which she has forgotten that the entire goal of writing was so other people–hopefully thousands of other people–will read it. Dementianna’s children refuse to visit any bookstore with her, because she compares herself to other writers and concludes either 1. she will never get published because she’s not good enough or 2. she will never get published because she isn’t writing the drivel on the shelves. She also has a paralysis that affects her ability to write an agent query letter and synopsis. She wears a chain around her neck with a USB drive that contains every typed word. In order to transform herself into a successful, published novelist she might let you read her work–if you can see around her head, because she’s going to be wearing the necklace while it’s plugged into your laptop.

3. Magnetica: 

Magnetica has many aliases–painter, TV viewer, theatre goer, chef, dreamer, social media surfer, housekeeper to name a few. Magnetica must write for a good solid hour or two, then take a break. Go to a movie, watch TV, read a book, bake something, talk to a friend, do anything BUT write. Magnetica must do other things in order to make deposits in the Bank of Inspiration. She is fully engaged with the Laws of Attraction, Deliberate Creation, and Expectation. Magnetica often just doodles silly cartoons that have nothing to do with anything. Magnetica needs to laugh and cry and release tension. Magnetica loves to have spontaneous dance-offs with her kids in the living room. She takes quiet nature hikes or picnics in a family cemetery. Magnetica definitely makes time for intimacy with her husband. Magnetica gets enough to eat, drinks enough water, and gets enough sleep, so that she is overflowing with creative juices when it is time to write again. Magnetica is the best spokesperson to show up when it’s time to pitch to an agent, because she wears professional clothes, a smile, and most of all, confidence.

I wish I could say that I am only Magnetica, but I am a combination of all three of these fun characters. (Just ask my supportive family and patient, neglected friends!)

Thankfully, Magnetica decided to go to a writer’s conference this past weekend. She made Near-Hermit take off the yoga pants and dress like a woman on a mission. She locked up Dementianna in a closet at home so she couldn’t sabotage the mission. Magnetica listened carefully, took thorough notes, networked with other writers, enjoyed the inspiration of another author’s creative process, and PITCHED TO AN AGENT.

Thank the green goddess it was Magnetica who showed up–Dementianna tried to get out but she was thwarted–because the agent just might be The One. I’d tell you more about Magnetica’s conversation with The One, but Dementianna doesn’t want to jinx it! 🙂

Stay tuned to see if Magnetica can win the fight against Near-Hermit and Dementianna in the epic battle for The Big Dream!

~Sadie

It was January 1991. The first Gulf War had officially begun, and my small college campus was blanketed with a sobering silence.

We were gathered for a required student assembly in a large auditorium, waiting to be bored. One of the professors, who had spent his recent sabbatical in Romania during their revolution, walked out onto the stage carrying the new Romanian flag—it had a hole in it where the symbol of the overthrown communist government had been cut out. He described his visit to Romania as a thrilling time, because he witnessed the light turn on in people’s eyes. Upon his return to the U.S., he was saddened to see far fewer people who were fully engaging their lives with passionate gratitude and too many people seemed to take for granted our freedoms.  He said he hoped that as Americans we would allow the conflict overseas to relight the fire inside us.

His face grew somber as he spoke wise words, “Sometimes it has to get really dark for us to see the little spark of light that is going to bring about positive revolutionary change.” He paused, and then yelled, “It’s always darkest before the dawn!”

All the lights went out in the grand theatre. There were low, nervous whispers and then…a spark of light.

A familiar song, Dueling Banjos, began playing. With each banjo twang, little lights flashed on the stage in a visual back and forth duel. One by one, we each recognized that the little lights were penlights.  Two of our campus’s biggest comedians had stuck penlights up their noses, and were flickering their nostrils to the music. By the end of the song the whole audience was screaming with laughter. Our beloved professor’s words inspired us to live passionately despite life’s circumstance, and the laughter shook loose some of the uncertainty we had about current world events.

Renowned new thought author Carolyn Myss gives an insightful perspective of change in our lives. She says to imagine that your angel is standing next to you and keeps hearing you promise yourself things, such as “I will start a new fitness program today” or “I will get out of this unhealthy stressful job and find my dream job”. When we break the promises with excuses like “tomorrow is a better day to start doing my new yoga routine” or  “they really need me at my job, I’ll just help them for a few more weeks”, Myss says it’s a betrayal of ourselves.

What looks like crisis to us, is actually a window of opportunity to change the thing we have been saying we would do.

She goes on to theorize that the angel listens patiently and then one day says something like, “Ok, that’s the 100th time she has said she is going to go after her dream job, so she has 30 days to do it, and then I am going to help her”. Thirty days go by and we get fired or sick and have to take time off work. I believe this may be why I was laid off from my “day job” last December–so I would focus on my dream of publishing my novel. 🙂

Whenever we’re experiencing a crisis or major change, it might be wise to reflect on our thought patterns and decide if we are focused on worry or embracing growth. No matter what, my professor taught me that it is vital to maintain a sense of humor to weather the storms of life. Thinking of the laughter that filled the student assembly that morning still brings a smile to my face.

“…it’s always darkest before the dawn…shake it out, shake it out!”

Shake It Out, Florence + The Machine