Just Heather

Considering the fact that I’ve been writing no less than 3 books, and officially added “Write a book” to my 40×40 list, this was another must attend session. Alli sure knows what she’s doing! I am live blogging the events so you’re reading completely unedited notes as we go through the panel. Sometimes I miss things, sometimes I commentate but mostly I just jot down what I can along the way.


Sharyn Rosenblum from Harper Collins, @sharynrosenblum
Kristen Welch, @weareTHATfamily
Alicia Ybarbo, author of Today’s Moms: Essentials for Surviving Baby’s First Year, @todaysmoms
Tsh Oxenrider, author of , @simplemom
Erin Chase, author of The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook, @5dollardinners

Sharyn: Decide what it is you want to write about, and the supporting materials (photos, etc). Is it book worthy? Publishers are looking for people who are strong writers and have good interaction with their readership.

Once you have your concept, how do you go about developing it and putting together proposal?
Kristen: The proposal was very intimidating. Non-Fiction Book Proposals are, on average, 10-20 pages. She highly recommends Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. (specifically the chapter titled Knock-Out Non-Fiction Book Proposals)
Alicia: There are elements you need in a proposal: a pitch letter (1 sheet about yourself & your idea), market comparison (similar books & what makes yours better), author bios, Table of Contents (will take the longest to do since you’re outlining the book without having written it), sample chapter—add photos, include graphics, make it aesthetically pleasing. Make it professional, but interesting enough to get read by an agent or publisher.
Tsh: Used an outline/template to write her proposal, but tried to find ways to make hers personal. Looked at books that would be sitting next to hers on the bookshelf and included information about how hers would be different.
Erin: Read Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody can Write—and did it.
Alicia: Your first draft is also not going to be your last.
Sharyn: It’s a case by case basis. There isn’t one way to do it but there is one way that’s write for you. Presentation is crucial. Swag is also good—if it’s a cookbook or art related, send a sample along with it. Your blog following is important but the book has to be able to stand on its own. Don’t oversell yourself, but don’t sell yourself short. You should have a reason why your book is a great idea. The editors want to work with people who really want to develop the best book they can.

About the process:
Tsh: Editor asked to see 2 chapters per month. It wasn’t in the contract but it helped to keep on track and stay in touch throughout the process. One of the reasons my editor picked my book is that I already have an eBook on my blog so they knew I was familiar with the writing process.
Kristen: “I really thought once I landed an agent that I was going to be a millionaire, but that is just not happening.” You don’t need an agent. They are a great go between but you can do it on your own.
Alicia: Don’t think you need to go to a big box firm. Meet with smaller, boutique literary agents. Go with your gut & choose a person who will ultimately be the one to take care of you.
Erin: “I really had no clue. I got the proposal thing figured out because there was a book.” Wrote all of hers in 2 months, but had most of the content (recipes) already on her blog.
Sharyn: Ask about the editorial process & schedule in advance. You’ll know what to expect & have the chance to choose someone who will be attentive. Know the kind of book you have & where you want it to land. If you compare yourself to someone or has a similar audience as another book, go to a similar publisher.
Tsh: Found her agent by asking another online friend with a similar published book and asked who she used.
Kristen: Knowing what you want to write is important. Hone in on what you want to write about. Editor told her only 50% of her book could come from her blog. You can’t just make your blog into a book, but you can’t hold back from your blog either. They want you to continue being active on your blog.
Tsh: The blog writing process is different than the book writing process. You can still take your blog posts, but expand on them.

What happens when the book comes out? Do you have to do a lot of publicity or tours to promote it?
Sharyn: Publishers put great efforts into getting into social media but book publicity is still very traditional. We use traditional media—television, radio, print.
Alicia: The publicist can only do so much. You’ll have to do a lot of hustle — connections. Take advantage of your own communities—local media, etc.
Erin: In the middle of publicity for her new book. There is a lot of work involved—interviews, book signings, etc. She actually asked to do the book signings just in locations she would be traveling already. Book reviews, giveaways have been huge since her book came from her blog.
The rest of the session was Q&A. I don’t do great at catching those, and I’m really freaking hungry. Also? My laptop needs to be charged so I’m all done here. If I catch something interesting along the way, I may come back & add it later. Sometimes, I also tweet random quotes.

I am 32 years old and have never been in a limo before. It always looks so glamorous, so on 40×40“>the list it went! When I found out the Elvis wedding package for our vow renewal included a limo ride from the hotel to the chapel, I was cautiously excited. I half expected it be some tacky, cheap “limousine” so I was pleasantly surprised when the white, stretch limo of my dreams arrived to transport us to our (2nd) wedding!

Riding in the limo

Inside the limo—the lights above us change colors!

A pic of our wedding shoes

A pic of our wedding shoes—note the colorful lights

How hot is that?!

How hot is that?!

My first limousine ride

My first limousine ride

2010-01-062Okay, so I guess that should say “our” wedding vows, but when I first put it on the list, we weren’t much of a “we” and still a long way from ready to recommit for life. It’s been a long, hard road but it’s finally paying off. Things are going well; we’re happier than we’ve been in…well, maybe ever.

With our trip to Vegas planned, we decided to combine my #35 with his #36. He wanted to get married by Elvis, and it sounded fun to me. The location and theme were kitschy, but the sentiment and vows were totally serious. I started to teared up during his, and the tears threatened all the way through my own.

Truly, the location and theme were completely made of awesome! We had an absolute blast with the whole thing. Elvis was a lot of fun, the green room featured a picture of Batman & Wonder Woman’s wedding and I got to wear a fancy dress with seriously kick ass shoes. We treated it like a real & actual wedding, which made for even more fun when the 2nd spouse jokes started.

The coolest part of the entire process? It was live broadcast for all the internets to see! For even more hilarity, our friend Brad recorded it and posted it to YouTube before we had even finished our dinner. The webcast was, expectantly, poor quality but the hubby has since uploaded our original copy:

He said:

At 5AM all those years ago, when I first asked you asked you to marry me, I couldn’t have imagined everything we’ve gone through. We’ve not always taken the easiest path and I often don’t know where we’re headed. But I know wherever we end up, I’ll be glad that I’m with you.

Thirteen years ago, I didn’t want to wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I’m proud of you, of us, and of everything we’ve done together.

I love you, and I still want to spend the rest of my life with you.

She said:

I love you—that much has never changed. As we planned this day, I thought it would be about starting over. We’ve struggled a lot over the years and I was sure a new beginning would help us reconnect. Now that we are reconnecting on our own, I don’t want a new beginning.

I want it all—the beginning, the middle and straight through forever. All of it is a part of who we are and the unit we’ve become. It isn’t the intertwined unit I always imagined but I like the path we’ve found a lot better. We walk side by side as two individuals, committed to actively loving the other.

Thank you for giving me the freedom to learn who I am and your unconditional love as you get to know me over and over again. Now, I recommit myself to knowing and loving you. In front of God, Elvis and the Internets, I promise to support your passions, encourage your dreams and walk beside you until the end of our days.





…I’ve spent the last 11 years as a stay-at-home mom, adding kidlets along the way. Going back to school was always on the radar (and, of course, made the 40×40“>official list) but I didn’t have a timeline and it wasn’t on my radar. Then, my business began to grow, and I frequently wished I knew more about managing it. An MBA was out of the question since I didn’t even have an undergraduate degree.

At one point, I looked into a business major but I would have been practically starting over after my previous 4 majors. I really didn’t have the motivation to start college as a freshman. It all seemed so pointless to me but I was determined to make it happen eventually, even if just to prove to my dad that I could. Then, a simple, passing conversation changed everything.

My parents were upset that my cousin didn’t invite people to her December ceremony. Dad commented that none of his kids had made it so this was a huge deal to him and they would absolutely have been there—even with Christmas days away. She turned to me in shock and said, “You never graduated? Didn’t you go to Ball State forever?” Let’s see…4 full years, as a matter of fact—including summers. They kind of don’t like to give you a degree, though, when you skip around and drop majors all the time.

That’s when she asked why I couldn’t just get a General Studies degree to be done with it. Huh…never occurred to me. It really got my wheels turning, and I contacted my former advisor at Ball State to see how that worked. She told me I was completely finished minus 1 core science course but I needed a few extra hours plus a BGS requires 2 minors. She turned my El Ed work into 1 minor, and gave me a list of all the minors offered completely online.

To make my decision even easier, she also highlighted 2 minors for which some of my other classes already qualified! I picked Psychology of Human Behavior—mostly because it required less classes but partly because understanding that can only be helpful to a parent. I would later find out that I took so many education classes I didn’t need the minor anyway. One “major emphasis” would count so I was able to stop with the horrid science classes to complete my last few hours of coursework with the business class I would actually use.

For two years, I have completed classes (mostly online), written papers, taken tests and had real &amp actual homework! It was a lot of work, and my family deserves all the credit! The school stuff was actually quite easy—it was just time-consuming enough to take me away from cooking, cleaning and managing things at home. (Not that I was ever good at those to begin with.) Spencer picked up a ton of slack, our marriage suffered (though this was certainly not our only issue) and the Mommy Guilt was frequently overwhelming.

Through the success of our alphabet dating project, the magic of a meteor shower and a lot of hard work, we are happier than ever. The Mommy Guilt, I’m sure, is here to stay. However, I am pleased to announce after 14 years, 10 moves, 8 towns, 5 majors and 3 kids, I am an official college graduate!


heather-at-high-school-graduationAlmost 15 years ago, I graduated from high school. At the end of the summer, I packed up and moved to Muncie, Indiana for college. Because that’s what you do next. I was enrolled in the College of Architecture & Planning—after 4 years of architectural & drafting classes, I thought for sure I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Oh, to be young again and so sure of myself! Before the year was up, I had moved on to Landscape Architecture but that was only the first of many changes.

Just a few short months later, I met the man who would soon become the love of my life. Freshman life continued—I gained the requisite 15, drank a little, flirted with Spencer a lot and went to class when strictly required. Due to the intensity of my architecture program, classes continued through the summer. Most of my friends went home for a few months, but Spencer and I were left behind. The rest is history, and plays a big part in the twists of this story.

1997-010I had never really intended to get married and never saw myself having children. As a teen, I ignored all the people who told me everything would change when I found “the one” but I’m a believer now! Suddenly, my entire future changed. I had visions of Elyse Keaton, but it just didn’t feel right. My heart wasn’t in architecture anymore. Before school resumed in the fall, I changed my major to the only thing I could see working with our plans for a family—education.

My exact major was Early Education—I was going to teach preschool like my mom! She was always there for us before school, after school and in the evenings. It was what we wanted for our children. It only took a semester for me to widen my focus and change my major (yes, again) to Elementary Education with an Early Ed minor. I was actually enjoying my classes, and, once again, continued work through the summer to catch up on the time I lost with my first 2 majors. By then, I officially had a ring on my finger. I wanted to finish college as quickly as possible so we could move on to planning our wedding.

1998-025That’s when life threw us a big curveball—her name is Stacia, and she just turned 12. Because when I make plans, God laughs. Wedding plans shifted to immediately. We were married in August, I continued school and our daughter was born the following January. Just 6 days after she was born, I returned to classes (part-time) since my parents were convinced if I didn’t stay in school, I would never go back. As long as I continued college, they agreed to continue helping with my portion of the rent & groceries. As a broke newlywed with an infant, free money seemed like a good idea at the time.

I started full time again the following fall, and hated it! During the spring semester, I took a Foundations of Education class with a professor who changed my life. During a lesson on the purpose of education, he posed the question, “Why are you here?” My answer? Because my parents said I had to be. The discussion that followed was involved, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching.

I aced the class, with high praise on my final paper titled “Why I’m Dropping Out of School.”

I see I could have worked harder in all my classes, but I have also realized that it is not because I didn’t want to learn. My motivation lies at home with my family. I am much more concerned with my daughter and our relationship than I am with completing homework assignments. For this reason I have made the decision not to return to school next year. I am going to take a break until my family and I are more prepared. It is this class that made me realize I am in school for all the wrong reasons.

I should not force myself to take classes I do not care about just because it is important to my parents. School can wait until is a priority for me. When I return, it will be because I am ready to learn. The things I have learned over the last semester have empowered me to do what I feel is right for me and my family. Education is very important to me, and I do intend to return. This is just not the right time, and I now see that it is doing more harm than good for me to continue.

I wrote those words more than 10 years ago. I was practically still a child but clearly wise beyond my years! They still ring just as true to me today. I fully stand behind my decision to withdraw from Ball State. My parents, however, did not. I remember my dad telling me I’d never go back. I remember the look of disappointment on his face, and I became determined to replace it with pride. But only on my schedule. My time arrived 2 years ago, when I re-enrolled at Ball State University…

stays on the internets! It was actually harder than expected to be sure I took a picture each day in Vegas. It wasn’t always me behind the camera, plus we tended to take a ton of pictures one day then just wander around without our camera the next. I actually missed yesterday completely—we spent the day traveling home. I meant to take a picture of the new Indy airport and completely forgot. I did get an iPhone picture from the airplane, though, so I guess my streak is still in effect!

In lieu of traditional New Year’s Resolutions, I am creating a list of Someday items to complete in 2010. I almost put “Get remarried” but since that is already planned (in Vegas with Elvis!) for January 16th, it felt a little like cheating. I am pulling a few leftovers from our Summer Fun list, declaring a timeline for a couple 40×40 items and throwing in a some fun things I’ve always wanted to do. In no particular order, 2010 will be the year to:

  1. Take a Florida vacation.
  2. Overhaul my wardrobe.
  3. Eat at a hole-in-the-wall diner.
  4. Watch a movie at a drive-in.
  5. Fly a kite with the girls.
  6. Make homemade ice cream.
  7. Get a tattoo.
  8. Play more games.
  9. Be the best bridesmaid EVER.
  10. Picnic at the ocean.

That looks like so much more fun than last week’s to-do list! Some of the items are already in the works (we just announced our fall Disney vacation to the girls!) and some will take a bit of planning, but it will all be fun along the way. If you have resolutions for the New Year, be sure to link them up in today’s Money Saving Monday at my second home, Inexpensively.

When we embarked on our first alphabet journey, we selected the Melting Pot as F is for fondue. I chose it specifically because I had put a romantic dinner at the melting pot on my 40×40 list. However, by the time we got to F, romance was nonexistent. It was just not going to be what I wanted it to be, and I tried to convince him to go somewhere else. I believe I suggested Red Robin (F is for French Fries?), but we had a plan and—by, golly—we were sticking to it.

Whether it was self-fulfilling prophecy or I was just right all along will remain a mystery, but our $100 dinner at The Melting Pot was not what I had envisioned when I added it to my list. We were tense, quiet and I was irritated at spending so much money on just another dinner. The setting was nice—they had given us one of the private booths—and the food was good, but the experience only hammered home the fact that we were not a couple. It would be the last of our alphabet dates, and the beginning of the end.

When we started over (both literally and figuratively), the Melting Pot found itself once again listed at letter F. This time, I decided, we were going all out! I wore my little black dress. He wore his pinstripe suit and the fedora! He looked completely delicious and I couldn’t wait to have him to myself over a fondue pot of more delicious. MFJ graciously agreed to spend a quiet evening at home (ours, not hers) supervising a slumber party. The girls were excited, I was thrilled she could do my hair (and loan me the right earrings), then we were off to a late dinner at the Melting Pot.

This time, it was everything I had hoped it would be. The only drawback was we didn’t get a private booth, even though we had actually requested it this time. We were, instead, seated in Lovers’ Lane. It was set off a ways from the open seating area, with high back booths to provide a more secluded dining experience. Regardless, the food was fantastic (especially the Yin Yang Martini), he told me I was beautiful and, most importantly, the love songs in the background meant something.