Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mojo is Ambition

I wish we Moms talked more about ambition. We are raised to be such nice girls that if we knock on a door once and no one answers, we usually go away quietly.

Last weekend I had a fantastic opportunity to turn that socialization on its head. I attended the Woodhull Institute's Raise Your Voices writer retreat. Far from a touchy-feeling creative writing session, this training got down to the business of teaching us how to get our work included in the public dialogue. We learned about book publishing from Naomi Wolf, op-ed writing from Catherine Orenstein, and magazine feature writing from Kristen Kemp.

As these powerful women shared the inside tips that taught us how to get over the barriers that keep amateurs out of the inner circles of publishing, I sensed a bit of reluctance on our part. Did we really have the chutzpah to scale the walls rather than meekly wait outiside for someone to answer our polite knock? Think about other typical experiences in our lives. If you apply to a college and get turned down, you don't go. If you interview for a job and don't get an offer, you let it go. That doesn't work in the publishing world. You have to be willing to do what it takes to get heard, even if you have to "bug" people in the process. You can't wait for an invitation--you have to make it happen yourself.

It takes a driving passion, which is one of the best feelings in the world. If you have something you need to say, then keep honing your craft and getting your ideas out there in any way you can. When I had the idea for Mojo Mom, I first submitted my proposal through the traditional publishing route. I queried agents and they all had the same basic feedback, "It's a good idea but you aren't famous enough." I knew sitting around waiting for their approval wouldn't build the platform they said I needed, so I kept writing and decided to publish independently. Good thing I didn't wait, because as Mojo Mom came out, so did Perfect Madness and a whole wave of books grappling with modern motherhood. I was able to catch that cultural moment by going ahead with my book and blog even if the New York publishing world hadn't heard of me yet.

The world needs your leadership, and your voice. Find a way to be a player. I highly recommend the Woodhull training. With course titles like How to Write to Change the World you know you'll both be challenged and given the tools to meet your goals.

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