Sunday, January 23, 2011

20 Acclaimed Authors and Their Unique Writing Rituals

Most literary types agree that a definitive, personalized ritual performed before, during or after a writing session forms one of the absolutely essential components of creating innovative, effective works. These obviously vary from author to author, and even similar methods come with their own unique variances. Regardless of whether or not one hopes to pen a future Pulitzer winner or simply finish his or her homework, forging a comfortable writing routine serves as an excellent means of bolstering creativity, relaxing, clearing the mind and — most importantly — encouraging productivity. While some of the following strategies may not exactly work for everyone, they still provide a keen insight into some of the literary sphere's most notable, impressive minds.

1. Victor Hugo let it all hang out: According to The New Yorker, the celebrated author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame forced himself to write and stave off procrastination by stripping down. His valet was instructed to find the sneakiest hiding place possible and place his clothing inside. Hugo hoped this ritual would prevent him from leaving home and encourage tighter focus on the task at hand.

2. C.S. Lewis kept a tight schedule: When it came to writing his beloved novels, essays and novel-length philosophical works, C.S. Lewis kept an incredibly obsessive schedule. He allowed himself short, periodic breaks, but otherwise planned every minute of every day in order to maximize productivity. A rigid series of rules dictated everything from appropriate times to take a beer to when visitors were allowed to stop over.

3. Benjamin Franklin got wet: Though not fully verified, many believe the famous American statesman was the first to import a bathtub into the United States. A consummate inventor, Benjamin Franklin appreciated and studied it as a marvel of engineering and innovation, but the lovely bit of porcelain provided him with more than just a piqued scientific curiosity. When it came time to read and write, much of the Renaissance man's time was spent soaking in a leisurely bath.

4. Haruki Murakami stays healthy: Much like C.S. Lewis, the celebrated Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and Norwegian Wood scribe keeps himself creative by staying on a stringent schedule. Haruki Murakami's afternoons are devoted to keeping his body as healthy, active and fit as his mind. Exercise involves a 10-kilometer run, a 1500-meter swim or some combination of both. Such a ritual, he claims, grants him the mental clarity and physical stamina to hammer out thick novels.

5. William Wordsworth consulted man's best friend: Great English Romantic poet William Wordsworth composed several odes to his faithful canine companion. Though anecdotal, some think the Poet Laureate would write while taking regular constitutions with the dog in tow. He would recite ideas out loud, and any met with barking or agitation was taken as a sign that revision was necessary.

6. W.B. Yeats went on autopilot: Along with his wife George, the renowned Irish poet and playwright found inspiration in the mystic arts, infusing them into more than just his works' content. Though the process of automatic writing understandably dredges up its fair share of skepticism and scrutiny, W.B. Yeats employed it in earnest. The controversial procedure involves giving in to the subconscious (or, for the more mystic-minded, the spiritual realm) and immediately writing down whatever comes to mind. No revisions, no pausing to think. Just the simple act of putting pen to paper and letting creativity flow.

7. Vladimir Nabokov just couldn't sit down: While writing the classic Lolita (and other works, of course), author Vladimir Nabokov launched into the day's work standing up. His study boasted a "lovely old-fashioned lectern" of which he was very proud, and he greatly preferred starting from there than his armchair or desk. However, Nabokov did admit that his legs did grow tired in such a position, but only then would he retire to one of the comparatively more leisurely options. He also preferred index cards to notebooks and legal pads, as their structure allowed him to easily move scenes around as he saw fit.

8. Toni Morrison can't see the light: As the mother of three children, this Nobel and Pulitzer-winning author didn't always have the time to sit down and write. Toni Morrison eventually disciplined herself to wake up before dawn, brew up a strong, delicious pot of coffee and get productive. Even after her kids grew up and moved out, she continued on in the exact same pattern. Watching the sun rise is an added perk that stimulates her imagination.

9. Philip Roth stays on his feet: Standing burns many more calories than sitting, and decorated author Philip Roth — much like Vladimir Nabokov — prefers this physical calibration when writing. In addition to this healthy habit, he also pushes himself to walk half a mile for every page he completes. Despite age starting to plague his body, Roth continues this ritual to benefit both body and mind. As with Haruki Murakami, he believes that clarity and creativity come when all facets of a person operate in peak condition.

10. Gertrude Stein indulged in Godiva: Allegedly, the modernist maven and pivotal figure in the "lost generation" of creative American expats after World War I frequently took to her car when inspiration struck. She would park her Ford, famously nicknamed "Godiva," somewhere and begin firing off poetry while staying put in the driver's seat. Something about the vehicle inspired Gertrude Stein and provided a space conducive to her legendary creativity and literary innovation.

11. George Sand got down to business: Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin, who wrote under the pen name of George Sand, participated in a nearly two-year affair with fellow literati member Alfred de Musset. Apparently, their sexual escapades charged her up to the point she'd move straight from bed to desk after finishing a session. de Musset himself found this boundless energy highly impressive.

12. Truman Capote got horizontal: Regardless of whether or not he used a typewriter or decided to go longhand, the author of such notable works as In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's opted to write from either his comfortable bed or cozy couch. He proudly referred to himself as "a horizontal writer," and often took tea, coffee or drinks while in repose as well. Capote's first two drafts were usually written out by hand, then switched to a typewriter for the third.

13. T.S. Eliot let it all go to his head: T.S. Eliot didn't go so far as to purposely infect himself with colds, but he was probably one of the only people on the planet to ever welcome them. He found that writing while so afflicted greatly helped him concoct unique, gruff voices either for different characters or in the creation of harsher scenes.

14. Alexandre Dumas kept the doctor away: Like Toni Morrison, Alexandre Dumas of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo fame enjoyed rising early and greeting the day with a personalized ritual. Rather than enjoying a piping hot cup of coffee, however, he preferred taking an apple to the Arc de Triomphe. At 7 AM every morning, Dumas noshed his nourishing breakfast and watched the people of Paris tend to their own unique routines.

15. Honore de Balzac gave himself the jitters.: Any discussions regarding the renowned writer's legendary coffee consumption posit his daily intake anywhere from 50 to 300 cups a day. No doubt he certainly consumed more than most people — Honore de Balzac infamously died of health problems related to caffeine poisoning — but many of the estimates are more than a little arbitrary. Turkish and Parisian blends particularly piqued his fancy, providing him with enough fuel to keep him writing throughout the evening and on into the night.

16. Henrik Ibsen made war, not love: Playwright Henrick Ibsen, famous for his progressive values in works such as A Doll's House, really knew how to keep his enemies closer. An oil paint portrait of his polar opposite and fellow writer August Strindberg hung on his wall as a constant, intimidating reminder to always push himself. Any slacking would give his rival even more fodder for accusations, snide remarks and critical and commercial success. Ibsen even referred to the painting as "Madness Incipient."

17. Demosthenes goes in halfsies: Considered one of the greatest statesmen and orators in ancient Greece, Demosthenes took a very unique approach to self-motivation. When it came time to study, write and work on overcoming his speech impediment, he would shave the hair off one side of his head. As much as he yearned to travel and explore his homeland, Demosthenes knew the importance of educating and perfecting himself. Forcing himself to look silly kept him indoors and concentrating on what he needed versus what he wanted.

18. Warren Ellis works sideways: Not every writer necessarily works chronologically. Some, like the aforementioned Vladimir Nabokov, prefer penning bits and pieces before merging them together. Author of the grotesquely hilarious Crooked Little Vein (and plenty of comic book series) Warren Ellis begins his stories somewhere in the midpoint. From there, he works a little bit towards the start and a little bit towards the ending until his manuscript is complete. This strategy seems to work pretty well — he claims he rarely has to write more than one draft.

19. Maya Angelou keeps it classy: Following the success of her autobiographical I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, America's former Poet Laureate established for herself a luxurious, elaborate writing ritual. After waking up at 5 AM, she heads to a nearby hotel with legal pads, a bottle of sherry, a deck of playing cards, a Bible and Roget's Thesaurus. Per her instructions, hotel staff members have removed all the art and photos from the room's walls. Before leaving in the afternoon, Angelou usually completes between 10 and 12 pages during her stay, which she edits later that evening.

20. Jonathan Safran Foer likes to watch: A blank sheet of paper once belonging to Isaac Bashevis Singer greatly inspires the acclaimed author of Everything is Illuminated. It sits framed in his living room, and he stares at it constantly whenever the need for inspiration strikes. The unorthodox exercise challenges his imagination, pushing Foer to discover words and concepts that could've one day spread across the paper. Not content with only Singer's possessions, he began asking many of his favorite writers for blank sheets of their typing paper in order to expand the possibilities and further stimulate the mind.

Article contributed by our friends at

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tips On Marketing Your Book With Author Barbara Techel And Frankie, The Walk 'N Roll Dog

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Barbara Techel, multi award-winning author of the Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog book series.

Listen up authors! Barbara works extremely hard at marketing her books (the most aggressive I’ve seen yet), and in this interview we’ll find out what promotional avenue works best for her and learn just how much success she has been able to achieve through her methods. Possibly a lesson for all of us!

Carol Denbow: Greetings Barbara, and welcome to A Book Inside Blog. First let me ask you to tell us a little about your book series so we understand what type of books you are marketing, i.e., titles, publication dates, synopsis, and published by?

Barbara Techel: Thank you, Carol for inviting me to your blog today for this interview!

My series is titled, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog book series. The first book in the series published in 2008 is Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog which is the true, inspirational story of my dachshund Frankie and how she suffered a spinal injury, was custom-fitted for a doggie wheelchair and persevered, overcoming adversity beautifully.

The second book in the series published in 2009 is Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House. This book is another true, inspiring story about how Frankie who became a certified therapy dog a year and a half after her accident. Once a month she visits Libby’s House which is a Senior Assisted Facility where many residents have Alzheimer’s. Frankie makes many friends and teaches young and old that patience, listening, and understanding opens our hearts to what matters most- love. Both books were published by Joyful Paw Prints Press of which I am the founder.

Carol Denbow: A couple years back, I helped organize a fundraiser for our local Hospice. You were kind enough (along with several other authors, bless their hearts) to donate a signed copy of one of your books for the cause. Lucky for me, I was able to preview the book before the fundraiser—I loved it! The artwork was beautiful with a brilliant color scheme throughout. But the story was inspirational and obviously effects all those who read it. Tell us about Frankie, the core of your story, and the history behind her.

Barbara Techel: I got Frankie from a breeder when she was three months old in 1999. She was the last one of the litter. I had searched high and low for a Red Smooth Dachshund and was having trouble finding one in my area. And I wanted a girl.

My husband was not too happy about the idea of another dog in the house. At the time we also had a six year old chocolate lab. He said, “Why do you want a wiener dog?” I said, “I don’t know, I just do. They are so cute.” I’m not advocating that this is a good reason, but after all that has happened to Frankie and the journey that we have been on, I have no doubt this was God’s calling and plan for both of us. We were meant to be together.

When I got Frankie as a pup I knew little about Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) which is common in dachshunds due to their long backs. Over time due to their long backs, their discs can degenerate and sometimes rupture. Easter Sunday 2006 Frankie ruptured a disk and, was given a 10-30% chance of walking again even with surgery. I was devastated. Luckily my surgeon assured me that if she did not walk again on her own, she could lead a quality life in a dog cart (wheelchair).

Sadly, I came to learn through all of this that many dogs are still being put to sleep when given a diagnoses of IVDD. We need more education out there so others can know the viable options. Also Dodgerslist ( was instrumental in giving me hope that Frankie would lead a quality life with IVDD.
Watching Frankie persevere through all of this, as well as hearing the questions from children as I first began taking Frankie out in her wheelchair in my town is what inspired me to write Frankie’s story.

The core of my first book, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog is sharing with others that animals with disabilities can live quality lives if given a chance. It also encourages young and old to see their challenges in a positive way. My second book Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House encourages each of us to find a way to be of service, despite obstacles we face. It also shares the journey of Frankie becoming a therapy dog and the positive effect she has on the elderly who have Alzheimer’s and dementia at the senior living facility we visit each month.

Carol Denbow: Like many of us authors, I’m on Facebook; you are as well. It seems like every time I log on I see something you’ve posted regarding an online or radio interview you’ve just done, a school visit, or something in your efforts to promote your book series. You must be the most aggressive book marketer I’ve ever come across! Please tell us how you get hooked up for these interviews; do you seek them out, or do they come to you (like I did)?

Barbara Techel: Well, thank you for your wonderful compliment. I don’t consider myself aggressive. I’m just very passionate about my message and love sharing upbeat and positive things that I am doing. I feel very blessed that I have been given this very special mission to help spread a positive message about animals with special needs.

I seek out most of the interviews I do online and radio. Facebook is so awesome for authors! I watch what other authors are doing, focusing on authors with dogs doing similar things as me, which many times leads me to various radio shows. When I see an author has done a radio show, I research that particular show and then pitch them.
Just lately I’ve had a few interviewers come to me (like you!) and to me that means I’ve been doing my due diligence in building my platform and marketing myself each and every day, whether that be through my blogs, Facebook, Twitter, press releases, radio, etc.

Carol Denbow: In your opinion, which form of book marketing has been the most effective for you? Also, which do you enjoy doing most?

Barbara Techel: I’d have to say emailing schools and libraries, as well as postcard mailings to schools and libraries letting them know what I do. Many of my books I have sold to schools when I visit with Frankie. Each week I either do an email campaign or postcard mailing to various schools. I also do this with libraries.

We also do visits via Skype for those outside of Wisconsin, where we live. Personally, I think Skype is such a win-win for authors, teachers and students. With budget cuts for schools they can’t afford to bring in an author, and for me, it would be challenging to travel with Frankie, as well as not in my budget to be able to do that. Skype opens the door for so many more opportunities to connect with schools, teachers and students.

I really enjoy all aspects of marketing my book. I really believe you have to be so passionate about your book and that makes the marketing so much easier. At least it has been that way for me. I used to be in a multi-level marketing business and did not like marketing at all. But what I’ve learned is that if you are truly passionate about what you are doing, marketing won’t feel like marketing.

Carol Denbow: I understand you are aggressive; but your pursuit to be at the “top of the charts” must be time consuming. How much time do you spend on your marketing efforts, and if you’re currently writing a new addition to the series, how do you allocate your time between writing and promoting?

Barbara Techel: I really am not pursuing being at the “top of the charts” per say. When I wrote my first book I was so scared and nervous. But for the first time in my life I decided I wanted to follow my heart. I really set out on this mission to make a difference and if it meant I only touched one life, I felt it would have been worth it. It has been so much more! This is truly a labor of love for me.

I spend about 60% of my time marketing and 40% writing, as well as administrative. I’m a one woman operation (like many out there), so dividing up my time can be challenging at times. My writing right now does not include a new book in the series, but rather writing for interviews such as this, press releases, articles, etc.

Carol Denbow: I’ve heard of authors spending upwards of $10,000.00 to promote their book (yes, I said “book,” not “books”). Personally, I think I’ve spent under $200.00 in 5 years to market all 6 of my books. We won’t ask how much you spend (unless you are inclined to admit?) to market yours. But where do you find is the most useful and inexpensive or free method of book promotion?

Barbara Techel: Wow, $10,000 to promote a book? I have not spent much to market my book because I don’t have a big budget for it. Again, for me, the least expensive for me is the email campaigns I do to schools and libraries, as well as postcard mailings I do. Also Facebook and Twitter are so great for getting your name out there, and it is FREE.

Another thing that has worked well for me is getting publicity when I visit a school or library. If the facility you are visiting instigates the story, it’s a sure bet that particular newspaper will print it. I’ve been fortunate to have that happen quite a few times. I must say though, having a dog on wheels, has really helped with that. She is hard to resist and they love her message.

Carol Denbow: I know you have done several “in person” interviews and chats; I have as well. Many of us authors chat online by way of our site comments or e-mails, and if you met me in person you would see I am very sociable and gabby. But in front of a group of people, I am overwhelmed with stage fright and have even taken classes in a failed attempt to overcome this problem. Are you comfortable in the public arena, or do you also suffer from the gitters? If so, can you offer any suggestions as to how to gain more confidence and face your audience?

Barbara Techel: This question made me chuckle, but it’s a very valid one! When I give talks to organizations about my story I share with them that if someone would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be standing in front of a room sharing my story, I would have told them they were crazy!

I used to be very shy, but you’d never know that if you met me today. My only explanation for being able to stand in front of a room of people and share my story, is again, my passion for wanting to share Frankie’s and my message. I feel called to do this and it brings me so much joy.

Now, I will say that yes, I still get the jitters- big time! But I also have had lots of practice and know that as soon as I start to talk the jitters will pass, and I know I will feel so good when I am done. It’s a big accomplishment to speak in public.

Another thing I do is take a couple drops of Bach’s Rescue Remedy and it helps settle down some of the butterflies in my stomach. And really, I give so much credit to my little Frankie. With her next to me, I feel like I can do anything- she has truly helped me grow and evolve.

Carol Denbow: Nearly 80 percent of book sales are now accomplished “online.” In your opinion, how important is it for an author to “get out there” in person and self-promote and market their books? Do you think your books would have become as popular had you settled on simple Internet marketing?

Barbara Techel: For a children’s book, no, I don’t feel just simply Internet marketing would have worked. I think getting into my local schools and libraries, as well as offering my Skype visits has really helped me to get my name out there. I think finding a balance between the two (online, and getting out there) is a good thing.

I did a lot of school and library visits the past three years, but have now cut down this year, due to Frankie being older and not wanting to stress her out too much. She has gotten a bit more stressed in large crowds as she has gotten older. But again, I’m happy for all we did at the beginning, and also for Skype, as I can now build on that avenue since I did all the other leg work first.

Carol Denbow: In relation to book marketing, do you have any personal advice for our readers, and what would be the one thing you would suggest our new authors do to successfully market their own books?

Barbara Techel: I remember reading a book about marketing when I first started out, as well as hearing this from other authors, and that is to do a little bit of marketing each and every day. And being four years into this now I really do get this, and realize there is no magical way to the top. It really is true, that a little every day, over time, will build your credibility and get your name out there.

I’ve done many radio shows, and you just never know who could be listening that may help you with your book. I’ve also pitched many queries through HARO (Help A Reporter Out) which has helped my story land in a book published by Tarcher/Penguin Publishing Every Dog Has a Gift. That book was sent to Bauer Publishing who publishes the magazine Woman’s World. They read the book and chose my story to feature in their magazine. I’ve also entered writing contests and was fortunate enough to win 2nd place and have my story recently featured in Dogs and the Women Who Love Them by Linda and Allen Anderson. This book made it as a recommendation in Oprah’s O Magazine.

I think it’s important to try all avenues, because you just never know which avenue is going to be the one that might eventually sky rocket your book to the top.

Carol Denbow: Barbara, your advice is priceless to us and we appreciate you doing this special interview with A Book Inside Blog. Let’s give our readers an opportunity to visit your Websites and Blogs (of which you have many!). What are the links to learn more about you and your books?

Barbara Techel: Thank you so much Carol for this wonderful interview today! I wish each and every author the very best in their journey—it can be a very exciting journey if you follow your heart and live from the passion of your story.

Carol Denbow: Barbara, A Book Inside thanks you for being here! If our readers would like to leave a comment or question for Barbara Techel, please use the comment box below. If you like this interview and find it helpful, please Tweet it or toss it on your page at Facebook (see Barbara, I can promote as well!).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Start The New Year In The Author Spotlight!

How about your bio on A Book Inside? Be one of the first five to e-mail me your author photo (small jpg), a short bio (500 words or less) and a link to your Website or Blog and I’ll give you a week in the Author Spotlight down the left side column of this Blog—a promotional freebie! (But I would always appreciate a Tweet and Facebook Share).

My e-mail address is

Haven’t published your book yet? Visit Plain & Simple Book Publishing at to get started!