Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Erin McCole Cupp Shares Her Insights on Networking

I’m honored to host Erin McCole Cupp as part of Erin’s blog tour for her smashing book,     Don’t You Forget About Me.  I admit that I first opened the book out of sheer curiosity – could the lady I met at the writers' conference really be as engaging in print as she was in person? – but after just a few pages, found myself hopelessly drawn in by the story itself.  Appealing characters, a little bit of romance, and a keep ‘em guessing plot:  they’re all in there.  I read the book breathlessly in two sittings.  It would have been one sitting but a hard rain knocked out the power while I was reading one night, so the lights went out.  Buy Don't You Forget About Me here and read it for yourself !

And yes, Erin is every bit as engaging in print is she is in person…which is to say, very engaging indeed!

Celeste Behe Knows Where I Live:  A Few Thoughts on Networking

I really have to thank Celeste for hosting me on this topic.  It’s a topic that we writers, especially those of us newer to networking, really need to ponder.  You can’t throw a bread roll at the internet without hitting fifteen articles about the importance of networking for writers.  Often those articles are overwhelming, intentionally contradictory, or just lists of outdated links through which you probably don’t have time to fish.  Even if you did, would that time be well-spent?  

Tomorrow is the feast of Bl. Miguel Pro, or as I like to call him, Secret Agent Saint.  Bl. Miguel used his network of friends to bring the sacraments to the people of Mexico at a time when the Catholic faith was being severely repressed.  He would dress as a police officer one moment then switch into a beggar’s garb the next, putting on whatever face would bring him close enough to the people who needed Jesus.  Regarding his adventures, he said, “I assure you that I spin like a top from here to there with such luck as is the exclusive privilege of petty thieves.”

In entering the homes and lives of these Catholics, however, Bl. Miguel put their lives and livelihoods at risk as well.  What made them so willing to stick their necks out for him?  Trust—trust in God, and the trust that Bl. Miguel had earned through his relationships with the people he served.  We all have that opportunity in our daily lives, even in our professional lives.  Introverts like myself may consider “networking” a dirty word, but as long as we’re acting as the face of Christ, networking is just another word for evangelization.  

If networking is evangelization, then, networking is also approaching others not as a predator looking for backs to step on on your way to the top of the heap.  Faithful Catholic networking is the art of building relationships within the heart of Jesus.  Whether through unnatural pride or a naturally introverted temperament, I am no good at cold-calling (or cold-emailing) people, asking them to help me with my career.  I am totally comfortable, however, getting others to talk about themselves and finding out I can be of service to them.  

That’s how I connected with our lovely hostess Celeste at the Catholic Writers Conference Live last August.  I got to know her because she was looking for travel advice regarding the region where I live.  I may not be comfortable going up to a random stranger and asking, “Would you consider reviewing my NFP murder-mystery?” But I can tell you where to get an Amish buggy ride and free hot potato chips right out of the fryer!  Once we had an actual give-and-take, I didn’t feel at all nervous several weeks later asking Celeste to host me for a blog tour stop.  After all, she knows where I live!  I doubt we would have felt so comfortable with each other if we had come to the CWG conference with a mindset of, “Okay, what can I get out of these people that will help me get published and make me rich and famous?”  Because, I’m sorry to say, that’s the mindset I encountered the most (not exclusively, just the most) during my brief and largely unsuccessful foray into the secular publishing world.  My discomfort with that approach is probably what made my foray so wobbly.  

Networking is just another way to serve others.  I’ve been on the receiving end of that service a lot lately.  As Neil Combs, author of A Body in Prayer, told me, “One should approach networking with a learning attitude. Always assume the other person knows more (which for me is often the case.) Learn who a person is and what they've done. (You'll never find out ‘how someone can help you,’ unless you know who they are, and what they have to offer.) Through that you'll find the ability to create a friendship which is a much greater and more productive network than a strictly business network.

So we Catholic writers get to relax.  We’re not here to get famous or make money.  We’re here to know God, love Him and serve Him in this world and then be happy with Him in the next.  The fame and the money won’t follow us there, even if we do get them here.  The love, however, that we cultivate in our relationships—that will follow us.  It will be waiting for us there, and it will bolster us through the tough times now.  Love never fails.  

Viva Christo Rey!  Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Puttin' My Best Blog Post Forward

Today I'm re-posting one of my most popular posts - "Tom Sawyer Redux" - for CWG attendees who saw A Perpetual Jubilee on the conference blog list and came to check it out.

Read.  Enjoy.  Follow.

Tom Sawyer Redux  

On laundry day I emptied the pockets of 15-year-old Dominic’s well-worn jeans. This is what I found:

I was reminded of this passage from Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer”:

"By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with -- and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass doorknob, a dog-collar -- but no dog -- the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash."

I wondered, how would Tom's wealth compare with the stash that my 15-year-old son Dominic had been carrying in his pockets?  Here are my thoughts:

-  Cell phone keyboard (minus the cell phone):  As useless as “a glass stopper of a decanter,” and equally fascinating.

-  Ballpoint pens:  Better’n chalk for writing love notes to blond classmates.

-  Pocket knife,  intact:   The piece of boyhood gear in any era. 

-  Harmonica:  The iPod of Tom’s day.  No “parental advisory” label needed.

-  Receipt from soft drink purchase:  Because whitewashing sure can work up a fella’s thirst.

-  Dead battery:  As lifeless as a dead rat, but less revolting.

-  Pocket comb:  Because for every Tom there’s a Becky.

-  Discount card for a store we’ve never heard of:  The equivalent of Tom's “key that wouldn't unlock anything.”

-  Flint and steel :   Just the thing for lighting firecrackers.

-  Dollar bill:  "A dollar and a quarter a week would board, lodge, and school a boy in those old simple days - and clothe him and wash him, too."  For his dollar, Dominic could get a Snickers bar.  

-  Orbit Mango Surf chewing gum :  Good to chew "turn about” with one’s betrothed.

-  Rattleback:   Needs no batteries; wouldn’t be damaged by an accidental dip in the swimmin’ hole, or a spell in a damp cave.   

At any time, and in any place...boys WILL be boys.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Let's Go On a Penny Walk

The sun is bright, the sky is blue, and there’s a gentle breeze.  It’s the perfect day for a Penny Walk.

First, you’ll need to put on your walking shoes.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.


…………………………………..               Ready?  Good.  Now, you’ll need a penny, the shinier the better.  Got one in your pocket?  Okay, now let’s go outside.

Walk to the nearest corner.  Flip the penny, and see which side lands up.  If it’s tails, make a left.  If it’s heads, make a right.  Keep walking to the next corner, and when you get there, flip the coin again to find out which way to turn.  Continue in this manner, flipping the penny at every corner and following its direction.  

And that’s a Penny Walk.

Penny Walks are good therapy for control freaks, and I should know.  They’re an exercise in letting go of the need to plan your – and everyone else’s – next move.    Penny Walks also open doors to adventure, allowing you to see parts of your neighborhood that you might otherwise never have visited.  (Click here to read about the surprise I found – I was driving a car at the time - when I took an alley that was not on my usual route.)  Of course, you must exercise prudence while walking.  I mean, you shouldn’t stroll down a road that’s already occupied by a mad Rottweiler, or a downed nest of hornets, or a SWAT team.  Things like that.

It helps overcome controlling behaviors, encourages physical exercise, and introduces new experiences.  Who would have guessed that a penny could be so...valuable?

Friday, August 16, 2013

"Cool Kids Cook"

My son-in-law Dan recently attended a librarians' conference, where he met Kid Chef Eliana, author of the new book "Cool Kids Cook."  Dan brought me back a signed copy of the book - a small but mighty collection of Louisiana-style recipes - to add to my cookbook collection.

"Cool Kids Cook" was written for kids ages 8 and up.  How up is "up"?  I won't give numbers, but I will say that I just love this cookbook.  Each of its recipes is as simple as can be, and is accompanied by an enticing color photo. "Cool Kids Cook" usually spends Friday on the shelf, as most of its recipes call for meat.  But it does include how-tos for a couple of fish dishes, so this evening the book will be on the kitchen counter, opened to the page for Pecan -Crusted Fish.

Pecan -Crusted Fish

1/4 cup pecans
 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tsp. Creole seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 6 0z, tilapia fillets (or any thin, mild white fish)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a baking sheet and set it aside.  Place pecans, bread crumbs,  Creole seasoning, and salt in a food processor and pulse.  Pour flour, buttermilk, and pecan mixture onto separate plates.  Dip each fish fillet in the flour, then the buttermilk, then the pecan mixture.  Place fish on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes or until fish is tender and flaky.  Serve on a bed of lettuce or with a side salad.  Serves 4.

I try to serve a home-cooked meal every day.  (Don't we all?)  Sometimes it isn't possible, but I find that a little extra planning goes a long way in avoiding the need for convenience or fast foods. Simple recipes like this one are always good to have on hand, especially on bright, sunny days that make you want to leave the kitchen and go on a Penny Walk* instead.

*What?  You don't know what a Penny Walk is?  Then it will have to be the subject of my next post...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taking Custody of Your Tongue

What if you had to choose one of the symbols of the Four Evangelists and adopt it as your own?  Which of those four icons—a majestic lion, a formidable ox, a fearsome winged creature, a splendid eagle—would best represent your own evangelization efforts?

If you’re like me, you couldn’t choose because you’d be laughing too hard.  It would be ridiculous to think that one of those bold images could somehow express the mission of You the Evangelist.

Read more here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Lazy Vegetarian Leis the Table

 Luau Beans

Luau Beans is a good lazy-day dish.  Don Hawaiian duds, spin some Don Ho, and "hula" away the afternoon.  There’s no harm done if the beans end up baking overtime. Hakuna Matata.

Four  26 oz cans baked beans, or equivalent
2 teaspoons dried mustard

1/2 cup brown sugar
One 20 oz can crushed pineapple
One 20 oz can sliced pineapple 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine all ingredients except sliced pineapple in two 2-quart casseroles. Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Top with sliced pineapple. Return casserole to oven and bake 30 minutes longer.