What To Expect When You’re Expecting Your First Book – Branding Pt. 1 – The Tagline

Continuing with my new series on what happens after the contract is signed.

Once you sell, it’s important to start figuring out “who” you are as a writer and what public face you want to put on your books. Actually, you don’t have to wait until you’ve sold to start building your brand. If you’re active on social media like Facebook and Twitter (or any of the seemingly hundreds of social media channels out there) you should be thinking about what message you want to say. When you’re posting – even if you’re not posting about writing – you need to consider what it says about you and your books. If you write dark paranormal…what should that sound like in your posts? If you write frothy romantic comedy, that should be reflected in the words and tone you use.

Whether you’re on the path to your first book…or your 25th book…you still need to know “who” you are. You need to know what your brand is and you need to “sell” that brand everywhere. On your website, blog, facebook, twitter, pinterest, Instagram, etc.

Since I come from an advertising background, I actually know something about branding. I’ve thought about what my brand will be for years. Once I sold I really tried to crystalize what I wanted my public face to be and what that would look and sound like.

Kristin Wallace Author – The Brand

So…big question. Who is Kristin Wallace as a writer? I write inspirational romance and general market women’s fiction (with strong romantic elements). No matter which genre I write I must have humor. Sarcasm, snark, comedy of errors. There is always drama and angst and conflict, too, but I can’t do a whole book of complete sadness and gnashing of teeth. As an 80’s Valley Girl might say… “Gag me!” I have to include some romance. I will also always include a faith element. For my women’s fiction, the “inspirational” subplot is much softer and subtle…but the spiritual message of love, forgiveness and healing are still present.

The Tagline

One of the first things I recommend is coming up with a tagline for yourself as an author. A tagline is a few words or sentence that encapsulates an entire campaign. You probably know some of the famous ones…“Have It Your Way,” Diamonds Are Forever”, “Good to the last drop”, “Got Milk”. Those lines say what a brand stands for and every time you see or hear them, you feel something about that brand. An author’s tagline needs to do the same thing. Coming up with a tagline usually involves sitting down either at the computer or with a notepad and sort of free writing as many phrases or words as you can. There’s probably been a time where you’ve tried sitting down and writing whatever flows from your imagination, without stopping to censor yourself or fix misspellings or whatnot. Try the same thing with your taglines. Just write any idea down. Even if you know it’s bad (and there will be bad ones) or not the right phrase, don’t worry about it. Just get it on the screen or paper. If there’s a certain word/phrase that you really like, try as many variations using that word/phrase as you can. When you hit the right one you’ll know.

After writing and dismissing many, many lines I stumbled upon my tagline.

“Love, Laughter and a Leap of Faith”

I tried a bunch of variations of this line, using different words. Why did I choose this one? First, I like the message it portrays. Those words are what my books are about. They have romance, lots of laughs and a spiritual element that isn’t too heavy-handed. I also like the sheer poetry, the way the words flow. The three “L”s.

Finding Your Message

Finding your tagline will really crystallize everything you want your brand to be. It will also help you develop messaging for your online presence. I’ve been blogging for a few years, but I always had trouble coming up with topics to write about. I’m not an expert in anything so I didn’t feel like I could write about gardening or knitting or cooking, etc. No husband or kids, so I can’t write about that. I don’t want to fall into a trap of only writing about…well…writing. Besides, others do a much better job of writing about craft. But once I had my tagline the problem of what to write and post about became easier. Why? My topics are spelled out in those three words. I can write about “love”. Could be romantic love, could be parent/child love, could be the love between a pet or even other animals. Stories I read, experiences I have. I could also write about funny things, “laughter”. How many posts do you see everyday with funny stories or photos? How many of those hilarious ecards? How many funny YouTube videos? Lastly, I can write about “faith”. My faith or perhaps the faith demonstrated by someone else. I can write about how my faith is reflected in my writing, too.

Now I’ll give you a lesson. Come up with a tagline for yourself as an author. Even if you have one already, go ahead and try. Let me know when you find “the one”.

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Author Spotlight – Elaine Cantrell’s The Enchanted

Today, I’m helping spread the word for a fellow Astraea Press author. If you love a little fantasy with your romance, Elaine Cantrell’s latest novel, THE ENCHANTED is for you!

The Enchanted, a new fantasy romance from Elaine Cantrell

The Enchanted, a new fantasy romance from Elaine Cantrell

Blurb:

Forced by his father into a marriage he didn’t want, Prince Alan soon finds that his bride isn’t the sweet, submissive creature he expected. Morgane has the heart of a dragon and beauty beyond compare, but she isn’t thrilled about the marriage either. When black treachery threatens the kingdom, Morgane and Alan embark on a perilous journey that has an excellent chance of ending in failure and death for them and all their people.

Excerpt:

Morgane advanced on her enemy with deadly purpose.

“No!” Alan roared. “She has a knife.”

Morgane tried to retreat, but it was too late. Aili’s knife caught her in her thigh. Blood spurted as if from a fountain. Renweard was closer to her than Alan. His sword rose. Aili breathed her last as Morgane swayed and slipped to the floor.

Alan ran across the room and cradled her in his arms. In seconds he was coated with blood. “ʺWe must stop the bleeding!” he cried. “Where are the healers?”

ʺI will find one.” Renweard left the room at a run with King Bowdyn right behind him.

Morgane’s eyes fluttered open. “Your arms around me. No heaven can compare.ʺ

Alan pressed a kiss to her hair. “I love you, my brave Morgane.”

Morgane sighed. “I could not let you face this battle alone.ʺ

Author’s Note:

After spending most of the last ten years writing contemporary romance, I decided it was time for a change. So in the spring of 2012 I wrote my first romantic fantasy, The Enchanted. Several challenges immediately presented themselves. First, I knew that I didn’t want the fantasy to overpower the romance which meant I’d have to balance my world building details with the romantic elements.

Challenge two was finding characters who’d fit into my newly created world. I didn’t want plastic, stereotypical characters. I wanted real people with warts and human imperfections, people whose lives and problems would draw you in and make you care about them.

My third challenge was to craft a plot that included fantasy elements, yet at the same time allowed my characters to be in charge of their own destiny and in the process grow and change.

I’m pleased with the way it turned out. I enjoyed the experience so much I have another fantasy/sci fi romance in the wings waiting for December and its turn at publication. Given my new love affair with fantasy romance, will I write contemporary romance again? I sure will. I’m working on one right now, and I just love it. It will be my first full length romantic comedy.

Author Links:

http://www.elainecantrell.com

http://www.elainepcantrell.blogspot.com

http://www.twitter.com/elainecantrell

http://www.facebook.com/elainepcantrell

The Enchanted is sold at most online retail outlets.

Reviews:

A sweet story, easy read, fairytale/fantasy/romance 5 stars.
Teresa Cypher on Amazon

A wonderful story that has swept into my heart. I will be remembering this one for a long time and reading it again.
                                                   Tifferz Book Reviews on Goodreads

 

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Astraea Press Authors Fan Appreciation

Win a Kindle Fire at the 2013 Astraea Press Fan Fest!

I’m so excited to take part in my very first author event, the Astraea Press Fan Fest 2013 on Tuesday, July 16th. What does this mean for you? Well, lots of prizes (over 60!!! From ebooks, print books, a month of free PR from an amazing Publicist, swag packs…. just to name a few things being given away!)

On July 16th (on Facebook and twitter) there will be over 40 authors there to chat with, mingle with, and win prizes from, including the grand prize…a KINDLE FIRE! You can enter to win the kindle now thru July 16th. Just click the link below.

 

You can follow along at the official Facebook Page (where all the prizes and fun will be given away) and on Twitter. GOOD LUCK! And I can’t wait to see you at the 2013 Astraea Press Fan Fest on Facebook :)

 

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What To Expect When You’re Expecting A Book: Post 1 – After The Contract

What To Expect When You’re Expecting A Book – After the contract is signed

I’m starting a new blog series, taking you on the inside journey of a first time author. Stealing the popular title read by expectant mothers the world over and giving it a new twist.

As aspiring writers, we dream of that day when someone finally says “YES” they want to publish your book. My journey toward that elusive “YES” took 16 years. Now my debut novel, MARRY ME, will finally be read by someone other than me. I finally get to introduce myself as Kristin Wallace…Author. There is A LOT of information about how to get published. There are workshops and classes and books on plotting, character developing, GMC, synopsis writing, query letters, pitching to editors/agents, self-editing, book marketing. It’s endless.

Knowing what to expect when you finally to sell? Seems harder to find. So here’s my crack at explaining this next step in my journey.

Pre-Edits…Or I used “really” how many times?

Pre-Edits. Part of my “Welcome” packet from Astraea Press was a document on pre-edits…meaning things I needed to fix before it went to my actual editor. This meant changes. Some were technical changes to the formatting. When you’re talking about ebooks the text has to be formatted so it looks uniform and normal in an ereader. One thing I learned is that the standard two spaces between sentences many of us learned is not the thing for ebook formatting. It’s one space. So now I have to retrain myself not to hit the space button twice. Not supposed to have a space after the end of a paragraph of line, either. I didn’t realize how often I put a space at the end of a line…until I turned on the tool that lets you see non-printing characters such as paragraph indents, returns and such. I guess it’s a habit to hit the space bar at the end of a line. Another habit I need to curb.

My pre-edit sheet contained a list of words to look for…and remove. One word on the list? “Really”. I learned I use the word “really” a lot. Really a lot. The “search and find” tool in Word is great…but scary because it also tells you how many times it finds a word. When I did a search for “really”, shock and shame ensued as I saw the number. I’d used really a whopping 128 times. Really.

Writers have many crutch words. Words like “very “that” “was” “just” “it”. We all use them and they become such a habit that we don’t even realize it (you see, I just used “it”). Most writers have one or two they absolutely love. One of my favorite crutch words has always been “just”. A critique partner pointed out my overuse of “just” years ago so I’ve worked hard to curb its use (except in the earlier sentence when I just used “just”). Now, I must add “really” to my list of banned words. “That” became another troublesome word, too. Took me days to find every “that” and eradicate them. They lurk in the shadows of your sentences like tiny “that” bombs waiting to make your writing lazy and uninspired.

So for all you writers struggling with your “it” and “was” and “very” and “really” and “just”…my sympathies…and get rid of them now before you’re forced to.

Stay tuned for my next installment…Author Branding!

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Ms. Wallaces’ Neighborhood

Or…Strange Tales Of Apartment Living

Today, I thought I’d give you something to chuckle about. There is a lot of serious, bad stuff going on in the world and sometimes you just need to laugh at the absurdity of life.

Remember Mr. Rogers Neighborhood? A neighborhood filled with puppets and a clanging trolley and a friendly man with a sweater and a soft voice?

My neighborhood has a cast of revolving neighbors. I live in an apartment in a big city. Unlike TV apartment complexes (like say…oh Melrose Place…) there is very little interaction between the people living in my complex. No Heather Locklear, no hook ups, no blowing people or stuff up (that I know of). I’m gone all day at work so frankly I don’t see any neighbors except on the stairs or in the parking lot or at the mailbox.

But occasionally some neighbors will make an impression….

I’m reading your mind…and it is a scary place

Like the guy several years ago who decided that my roommate and I had a device in a bedroom closet that was reading his mind. Yes…his mind. I do not know what sort of device reads minds. Alien probe? Vulcan Grip? Super-charged lie detector? A laser sent from the future by John Conner of The Terminator fame? We learned of this mind-melding when the landlady came to our apartment to warn us about his complaint. Yes…he complained to the landlady about this so-called mind-reader device. The landlady came, not to check the apartment for weapons of mind destruction, but to warn us that there was a guy downstairs running around with a metal colander and tinfoil on his head to prevent mind-tapping (But seriously, would I WANT to tap anything going on in that person’s mind?)

Dysfunction Junction…Parking Lot Wars

Then there was the Fight Club Couple. Every night this couple would have a fight in the parking lot. And when I say night, I really mean 2:00 am, which I think is when the guy (I’ll call him Wail-Baby, you’ll see why soon) came home from work. The reason I know he came home at 2:00 am is because every night at 2:00 am I would get woken up when the girl (let’s call her Flippin’ Crazy, you’ll see why in a sec) would ambush him in the parking lot and start accusing him of cheating on her. So at 2:00 am…I would hear “No…baby…no!” This plaintive wail did not come from Flippin’ Crazy Girl. No, this whiny, nails-on-chalkboard, groveling, wheezing, sobbing sound came from Wail-Baby Guy. Once the “No…baby…no!” started, the fight was on people and it was ugly and painful for my ears and my temper. There would be low-voiced rumbles from Flippin’ Crazy, continued sniveling from Wail-Baby. Then Wail-Baby would finally stop groveling and turn ugly-mean. Shouting would ensue on both sides. This went on for weeks. Every night, same fight, same pattern. I wanted to get up and shout down at Flippin’ Crazy and tell her that she had two choice.

1-He is cheating on you every night…and you need to get out

2-You’re Flippin’ Crazy and delusional…and you need to get out

Things finally came to a head when one of them – no one is really quite sure – threw a patio chair over the balcony. Police arrived for that one. Finally, I think the apartment folks made them leave because one day they were gone.

Mr. and Mrs. Sneezer

Things are quieter now…except for the couple next door. I have no idea who they are. Never actually seen them. The only thing I know about them is that they both sneeze…very loudly. I’m not talking dainty little squeaks. No…they are super-sonic, decibel-breaking, eardrum-splitting sneezes. I’ve never heard sneezes this loud in my life. They usually let loose late at night, in pairs or sometimes threes…and they scare the bejeezus outta’ me every time. And what’s weird is they both sneeze the exact same way. His is just an octave lower. The only other thing I hear from that apartment is what sounds like a very loud Skype conversation on the computer…in what may or may not be Chinese??? I’m not sure which, but it’s some sort of Asian language judging by the sing-songy tonal quality. So I wonder…is brain-blowing sneezes a cultural thing for them? Do they not bother to muffle their sneezes for health reasons? I guess if you TRIED to muffle something that powerful you really would blow a gasket in your brain or at the very least develop one of those unsightly blood-vessel burstings that people sometimes get so that their eyes turn Bloody Mary red. Or is it considered a show of strength to sneeze loudly enough to blow over one of the 3 Little Pigs’ houses? Do they do it to scare sleeping enemies into a heart attack? I also wonder…is it painful to sneeze that loudly? Does their face hurt from the impact? Do they ever fear they’ll actually break their nose? And finally…what kind of Kleenex is required after such an explosion? Industrial-strength? Quadruple-ply? Or do you just dispense with Kleenex altogether and opt for a shower instead?

Do you have any weird apartment stories? Any strange neighbors or strange sightings?

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There is a PLAN for your life…and He’s writing it

The Story of MARRY ME

Remember how I said the book I sold (MARRY ME) is a clear picture of God’s Plan? Here’s what I mean. (If you missed that previous post, here’s the link to it…)

http://authorkristinwallace.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/there-is-a-plan-for-your-lifeand-he-is-in-control-of-it/

First, I have a confession…I never thought I’d write an Inspirational romance. I had (a perhaps unfair) impression of Christian romance as overly sappy or preachy, with awkward conversations about women’s Bible studies. The covers always featured some Amish girl or a girl who looked like she’d just climbed out of a wagon bound for Little House on the Prairie. Now there is nothing wrong with books like that, and judging by how many I see in bookstores, they must have a substantial audience of readers. But that wasn’t the kind of book I wrote or read. My books had snark and humor and sassy heroines.

Then came this idea for a book. At first all I knew about the story was that my heroine would be a woman who never wanted to get married – and who in fact hated weddings – who wound up having to run a wedding planning business. Don’t ask me where the idea came from. It wasn’t some hang up from my past. I don’t have an unnatural loathing of weddings and while I am single, I don’t hate the institution of marriage. I simply thought the idea was funny.

Armed with this funny idea, I then spent a long time trying to figure out “…the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. I had to ask myself a lot of questions…

Who is this woman?

Why is she so cynical about marriage and why does she hate weddings?

Why is she running this wedding planning business?

What would compel her to do it?

And the big question…who could be the love interest?

I went through many possibilities. It would have to be someone she’d run into a lot while she was planning these weddings. Then one day I stumbled upon the answer…a minister!

Then an amazing thing happened. The story practically came together in an instant like Athena jumping out of Zeus’ head dressed in full on armor. Suddenly, I knew exactly who my heroine was, I knew her past, why she would take on the business, I knew his past, too. Along with the plot came an entire fictional Southern town called Covington Falls. (that name is actually my grandmother’s maiden name my mom’s side.)

And with the idea to have the hero be a minister, came another bolt of lighting. I could have a faith element in the story. I could take a heroine who was cynical about everything (love, God, religion) and have her not only go a romantic journey, but a spiritual one as well. I could write a Christian romance that was funny and sweet and snarky, but still had an ultimate message about God’s love. I could write an inspirational story I would want to read and that hopefully others would, too…even if they weren’t religious.

I wrote MARRY ME (formally called Here Comes The Wedding Planner). Rewrote it a couple of times, taking it from a first person point-of-view book to third person (that’s a whole other story, too). It finaled in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Contest in 2010. My agent sent it out to publishers…and it didn’t sell.

MARRY ME sat in my computer until this year when I decided to dust it off and try again. You, see in the last couple years the entire publishing industry had undergone a seismic shift. The rise of ebook publishers, Amazon & self-publishing changed everything. Then in April I pitched the book to two editors on a website called Savvy Authors. I got two requests for full manuscripts…and two offers!!! Yes, that’s right…TWO!!! Within a week! I accepted the offer from Astraea Press.

You see how His Plan worked? Just needed the right time, place, editor for everything to come together. I have a special place in my heart for this book because it helped me figure out the kind of writer I wanted to be. And I am so completely smitten by my hero and heroine, Julia and Seth (especially Seth because frankly I believe he wrote the book so I blame it all on him). And I’m so glad everyone will be able to FINALLY read their story.

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Where did the toys go in cereal boxes?

So this question came up on Final Jeopardy the other day. (and yes I regularly watch Jeopardy). The category was Americana and the question asked what product used to come with a penny whistle in it? The answer was Cap’n Crunch Cereal. (I guessed cereal but not the brand.)

capncrunch

My other choice was Cracker Jacks.)  That got me to thinking…what happened to  toys in cereal and Cracker Jacks? Do you remember when your mom would buy the sugary cereal (and my mom didn’t actually buy those kinds of cereals that often) and you’d immediately start looking for the prize? And they were pretty good prizes too. But there are no prizes anymore. They do have games on the back of the box. Cracker Jacks used to have cool stuff, too. Now you get a stupid sticker or a paper with a joke on it. I was curious so I looked it up. Found a good article about it here.

http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/unplugged/sad-fate-cereal-box-toys-200039785.html

Doesn’t seem to be a real answer. The cost of adding the toys? A safety issue…because kids are obviously too dumb to figure out they’re not eating cereal but a TOY!

Either way…I think it’s one more bit of wonder that’s disappeared from childhood…

What cool toy do you remember getting as a kid?

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There is a PLAN for your life…and He is in control of it

I hope you’ll excuse a long post. I especially hope you read through it, and that you will take encouragement from it.

Prologue

If you read a certain author a lot, you might pick up on the fact that he or she has themes that run through their books.  They’re big, expansive themes like “love conquers all”. It took me a couple books before I realized I had a theme in my books. It wasn’t something I consciously chose to portray…it just happened. (Writing is funny that way). My theme was “there is a “PLAN for your life (God’s Plan)”. I do believe this. But when you’re in the midst of a struggle, it’s hard to see the PLAN. Sometimes it takes YEARS to see it.

I got to see a glimpse of THE PLAN for me recently.

The Story

I was about 25 when I had the great epiphany that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Specifically…novel writing. I don’t know why this notion didn’t occur to me earlier. I’d always been a voracious reader (which I blame entirely on my mother). Laura Ingalls Wilder, C.S. Lewis, Nancy Drew Mysteries, Sweet Valley High…I devoured them. I was also highly imaginative. I didn’t just play Barbie’s…those dolls endured soap opera-like sagas. I’d actually started writing stories as far back as high school. But I never connected that with an actual career. I didn’t major in something useful like English or Journalism in college. No, I was a theatre major (which is an immensely useful career for actually finding a job after school).

After college I drifted for a long time, unsure what I wanted to do. Then this bolt of lightening struck and told me to be a writer. For the next few years I wrote and submitted….and I got absolutely nowhere. At the same time, I was still no closer to finding a career that would let me do important things…like buy food and pay rent. I needed something where I could write and be creative, but actually get paid.

So, I stumbled on another career that I’d never considered…advertising. I knew about TV commercials and ads in magazine, but it had never occurred to me that this was something people did for a living. That “someone” had to write that stuff. So, I put the writing dream aside and went to the Miami Ad School to study copywriting for the next 2 years. Then I worked – first in an ad agency and then doing freelance writing, and the back to an agency. I can’t claim that working in advertising is my dream career. There have been days when I was sure it was the absolutely wrong choice. I still wanted to sit in my room and write stories. And at some point that’s what I started to do again. That’s when I had another “great epiphany”. One afternoon I was sitting at my computer working on an outline for a new book and I stopped – literally stopped with my hands on the keyboard –and said to myself. “You’ve been doing this writing thing for 10 years and it hasn’t gone away…that has to mean something.”

I knew I had to try again. Only this time – being a little older and hopefully wiser – I did things differently. I joined a national writers’ organization called Romance Writers of America. And don’t think because it has “romance” in the title that it’s some fluffy organization. These people are serious about helping writers develop careers. I also joined the local chapter, Florida Romance Writers, and started going to regular meetings in Ft. Lauderdale.

I quickly discovered that I knew absolutely nothing about actual writing. They spoke a language I didn’t even understand.  I started to learn, though. One thing I learned is that the selling a book to an agent or editor starts with a pitch. You have to be able to describe your 300+ page book in one paragraph or less. Sometimes it’s just one line. Imagine my surprise when I realized that wrestling large, complicated subjects into a line and a paragraph of copy was exactly what I did every day for my day job. When it came to writing query letters, I was a master. I also got into the game at a time when publishing was undergoing a radical change. Traditional publishers weren’t doing as much to promote unknown writers, so authors were doing more and more marketing for themselves. Then the advent of epublishers and self-publishing exploded. Both of those avenues are all about directing readers to your book because they’re not going to find it browsing on a shelf. So, it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence that my career is centered around branding & advertising. That I’d spent the last decade+ of my life learning how to sell things. Someone (God?) had set it up so that someday I’d be able to use those skills to sell…me and my books.

Of course, the awaited book contract still didn’t come right away. It took 6 more years (you can add up the math; I’m not declaring my age) and more “no’s” than I can count. But FINALLY…on May 10, 2013…I got a yes and sold my first book to Astraea Press.  My book, MARRY ME, will hopefully be out late this year. There’s no guarantee I’ll ever sell more than 10 copies of this book, but it’s a start.  And I guess it’s where God meant for me to be even when I was devouring all those Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a kid.

NOTE:  The history of MARRY ME, and its sale, is a whole other story about THE PLAN coming together. I’ll tell you that story in the next post.

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Billy Joel And Michael Pollack: The Vanderbilt Piano Man

Don’t know if you’ve seen this video yet. If not, watch it. If you have, doesn’t hurt to watch it again.

The story behind it is that Billy Joel had come to speak to music students at Vanderbilt University. During the Q&A, one student, Michael Pollack, stood up and asked if he could play “New York State of Mind” with Billy. After a beat, Billy answered “yes”. So Michael went up on stage and accompanied the “piano man”.

I found this so cool. Not just because it must have been an amazing experience for Michael, but because of the courage it took him to ask in the first place. If you watch the video you can tell he’s scared to death when he stands up. Still, he asked. He took the risk, and it paid off in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as well as appearances on The Today Show (which is where I first saw the story). I’m sure he appeared on other shows, too.

Aside from the awesomeness of performing with Billy Joel (which come on…would be AMAZING!) there is also a life lesson we can all learn from this young man. I wonder how many of us fail to take that big risk? How many of us are too scared to ask for more? How many of us miss opportunities because we sit back and do nothing? I wonder what we miss by being like all the other students in that room who DIDN’T ask such an extraordinary thing? You know they ALL wanted to, but only Michael Pollack did. I know I’m guilty of the being more like the latter. I’m comfortable being “comfortable”, if you know what I mean. I tend to take the path of least resistance and once I’m comfortable I’m staying right where I am.

What do you think? Have you ever done something like this student? Or are you like the other students who could only applaud while the other guy got the glory?

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What You Might Not Know About St. Patrick’s Day

St.-Patricks-Day

So it’s St. Patrick’s Day. For most people it means wearing green and drinking beer…occasionally even green beer. There is Irish on both sides of my family, though it’s been so long since any past relatives left the old country that any true “Irishness” has been lost.

But how many know the history of St. Patrick’s Day? I looked into the mystery some years ago. (I actually used children’s books. I find them great resources since they’re very succinct. So if any of my information is wrong, blame the kid’s books.)

StPatrick

St. Patrick was a bishop who lived around 385-460 A.D. He was one of the  more popular saints in Ireland, but the truth is, his real name was not Patrick and he was not born in Ireland. Many scholars believe he was actually born in Scotland or England. His real name was “Maewyn Succat”. In his writing he referred to himself as “patricius”, which is Latin for “well-born”. The name became Patrick in English.

When St. Patrick was a boy he was taken as a slave to Ireland where he was put to work tending sheep. It was during those years in captivity that he found comfort in God. After six years, he escaped. However, St. Patrick felt he was being called to teach God’s word so he spent the next few years studying in a monastery. Then he returned to Ireland where he lived for the rest of his life.

monk-at-workwl

Have you ever read the book “How The Irish Saved Civilization” by Thomas Cahill? If not, you absolutely should, especially if you like history. The premise of the book is that while the rest of Europe was mired in the Dark Ages, Ireland experienced a Golden Age. Irish monks were responsible for copying every piece of literature they could get their hands on. They almost single-handedly (no pun intended) preserved the history of the Western culture, as well as some our greatest literary works. Nearly every written word from before the Middle Ages exists today because of them. If not for the Irish we wouldn’t have The Bible or Homer’s Iliad or Aristotle’s philosophy, no Greek tragedies, not Roman law. The man responsible for this Golden Age in Ireland was none other than St. Patrick.

On a last note, March 17th, the day we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, is not his birthday but rather the day of his death.

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