Do you ever feel like a neglected house plant? I do.
I do, right now: yellowing leaves, a bit droopy, and terribly parched.
There’s this Dracaena plant quietly occupying a windowsill in my spare room. Even during this sheltering-at-home phase, in a state of being hyper-alert about everything, I’d forgotten it. The poor thing was so brittle, so needy – like us.
House Plants and People
I wondered if it could be restored.
Setting to work, I couldn’t help thinking we all need a bit of repotting, some fresh water … some TLC.
I’ve seen lots of tough-girl and tough-guy books around. It seems critics in the new media don’t like a character to show or feel anything soft or vulnerable. They will issue a dogging review if the young man or girl cries or flounders for an answer. They will call it “immature”.
Everyone has needs. Humans thrive on community and teamwork. Each of us needs a little attention. In fact, I can’t seem to think of one stage in life when a person doesn’t need some attention and care. We share this life.
Like a house plant, we need some tending-to these days.
Our root system is aching to not work so hard, to have a thriving life surrounding us that we may do what we are meant to do in peace and confidence.
Our leaves are yellow – we need a careful touch to pull them away. Our soil is dry – we need an organic compost of compassion.
Nutrients should be mixed in, things like good humor, a phone call, a letter, a song.
Ridding of Leaves that No Longer Serve
Leaves that no longer serve us or others around us should be pruned. Bitter leaves, all. Cut away dry petals of memories that cause arrogance, envy, self-pity, anger, resentment, and unforgiveness.
Do you feel very bare naked without those leaves flourishing around you? Trust the process. After a stressful season or a severe pruning, either one, your roots will soon flourish.
Like the little struggling plant, we need recovery time. During a time of lacking sunlight and waiting for the regularity of better times, we will need a clear vision of hope to absorb some fresh, good nutrients. Share and be shared with.
Take care of your plants, yes.
Take care of yourself, too: hunker down in a larger pot, giving yourself extra space to expand and thrive.
It might be nice to aerate the soil to help our roots grow deeply; to enable a stronger, more vigorous life. Break up the old soil, infuse it with good nutrients.
I arise today Through the strength of heaven; Light of the sun, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of the wind, Depth of the sea, Stability of the earth, Firmness of the rock. I arise today Through God's strength to pilot me; God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's hosts to save me From snares of the devil, From temptations of vices, From every one who desires me ill, Afar and anear, Alone or in a multitude. I summon today all these powers between me and evil, Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul-
Take care of the tops and the bottoms of your plants. Help them reach upward and trust.
Trash the bitter leaves.
Give the roots nutrients and space
Add water and light.
Drink, absorb life, and drink some more.
Place yourself in the environment you need, one with plenty of light and love.
I’m pleased to tell you my house plant is coming along nicely, showing some gumption, reaching toward the light. I’ve named her “Endurance” because she is making a comeback after a drought of neglect.
At the Capture Books retreat (fall, 2020), the question was posed in open session, “What kind of money do you actually make when you speak on an author platform?”
Trying to filter the pointedness of this question, I diverted the authors to talk about the variety of benefits they have received through public speaking. And, there are many– were many prior to Covid-19 state rules and restrictions.
After many of these benefits were discussed, including the fact that authors have continued to make appearances even through the pandemic this past summer, the question was posed again, and to my surprise, authors in the room rose to the challenge, opening up about their choices and experiences in forms of payment for speaking engagements.
Taken aback at the variety of models used, I was impressed by the author’s willingness to discuss individual finances.
Because the models were so varied, the opportunity to cover them for an article on publicity seemed like an appropriate topic, and an important one, to offer for exploration.
Books sold at events can represent the best money an author earns apart from being underwritten by a name brand.
Since an author rarely makes more than two dollars on each book sold through a store or book selling distribution service, an author’s presentation at public events can help sway not only market sales of one’s books, without a middleman, but also provides authors with an opportunity to address topics of personal importance to them.
Authors are influencers, after all.
But, how does an newer author get booked?
One author, a media library specialist, said she was regularly offered a pretty decent flat fee for public speaking in relation to her specialty. Her presentations were given to audiences of educators, other librarians, and media-industry professionals. Being employed by a school system helps.
Why is this? A school system has pre-tested their employees, thus an employee asked to present at an event is regarded to be free of liability silt, overcoming the first bar of recommendations.
Additionally, a substitute teacher has already proven an ability to organize under pressure and has some ability to manage time, a message or presentation, and is able to hold the interest of an audience.
Any teacher who has learned to use hooks and gimmicks can grab the attention of an audience. A great teacher keeps a prop or two hidden up his or her sleeve in order to entertain. So, an author who also happens to be a teacher has a distinct advantage in the field of speaking at educational events.
Another author, a ministry founder, said that since she regularly spoke to women in retreat settings, she often requests that an honorarium or love offering be taken. She also asks that she be allowed to sell books from a book table.
Since she views each of her speaking opportunities as a ministry event, she doesn’t want an awkward conversation about payment to delay or burden the relationships. Mixing business and ministry outside of traditional employment can cause unnecessary speculation. She doesn’t want any of this to get in the way of her greater goal. She does, however, ask for the travel expenses to be covered and the hotel accommodation if she has to stay overnight.
The point is not to go broke
When asked how this model works out financially, she said that most often, the offerings have been generous and they have covered her expenses and time. Because the woman asking for a reasonable model of payment was known to have small children, this author then added to her experience telling about a time when Capture Books had booked an name branded author for one of their retreats. This name branded author had small children. In the author’s contract, there had been a childcare line item, and it had happily been paid.
Another author who writes and sells gift books said that she often approaches gift and novelty shops as well as libraries for book signing events. These venues are in addition to local festivals and church events.
Since she often brings supplies for workshops such as making vision boards and life maps, her contract request includes the price of one of her books with the cost of art supplies. We call this wrapping the cost of a book into the price of her author appearance.
Bonus: In addition, she also offers a clever and quick gift wrap option for books for tips.
One author said that she felt a certain freedom and joy when she presented educational workshops on her unique process of creativity.
She speaks to creative writing classes as a substitute teacher, and group therapy counselor. In the course of her presentation, she can ask the students to look up her book on Amazon and bookmark it for purchase if they are interested. She divulged that it is mostly the booking of these opportunities that has been difficult for her.
The group discussed the possibilities of approaching the receptionist with the conversation to present for a counseling group, state run health associations, and charter schools or colleges.
With or without a hired publicist, this off-topic conversation drifted into using the contact lists provided by Capture Books to woo speaking opportunities through well-edited emails with great opening lines, a couple of endorsements, and then following up an email with a phone call to the receptionist.
During stay-at-home seasons, Zoom or Skype conferences work well for joining a classroom already set up by the teacher and school system.
At this juncture, a brainstorming process took place about who is hiring for speaker events, and included the convenience that many of these groups have a set fee with the option of hosting a book table. An author shouldn’t feel embarrassed to ask about a set fee or a book table.
Square and PayPal were the main forms of receiving payments preferred besides cash. But, many customers do not carry cash or exact change, even when they are shopping at holiday bazaars.
Why is the productivity so much higher when an author speaks at an event?
When speaking authors sell their own stock of books at events, the middle man fee is eliminated because they don’t have to pay the brick and mortar store their hefty fifty percent cut. [Though, when speaking at a book chainstore, the store’s retail policy will demand that the books are purchased through Ingram or Amazon. sold according to the list price guaranteeing their cut.]
Otherwise, the author can choose to offer the audience a discount, or they can sell the book for what it is valued at, or they can simply wrap up the price of the book with the cost of their presentation and offer each person who comes an autographed copy.
Some authors give their books away in order to woo someone to their business or product.
Authors make money and choose to work in a variety of ways because every author is uniquely gifted and embodies unique aims for having written their book(s).
In addition to the models mentioned above, an author can find partnerships in:
and corporate causes.
In the beginning, and continuing for some authors throughout their writing career since they do not have a national platform for their book topics, they must be able to borrow a platform.
Take a moment to investigate online one of the above potential partner platforms for drafting an author email to and a follow-up telephone script. Reflect on your good relationships with an organization from your past and follow the trail to where it might lead. Then, repeat and file your emails into a computer file or desk file. Begin working methodically through these contact lists.
Remember that power of familiarity
When you find an intersection of interest between yourself and a possible event partner, make sure that you put them on your email opt-in list so that your author name, press releases, and recommendations come regularly to their inbox.
Books are still sold at charitable auctions and fundraisers. One of the Capture Books authors sold her humorous housewarming book, Before Long, Let’s Move!, in a picnic basket at a State-wide realtor’s conference last year.
Authors can look at speaking events as a way to broaden their unique voice and ministry, a way to raise awareness for a cause, and as a way to offer their talents to an educational system or charity for fundraising or a church or corporation for special events.
At the very least, when an presentation is booked, the author’s book is highlighted in pre-presentation materials and in the introduction when welcoming the author to the stage.
Do you ever have a day that feels like a never-ending loop of knots to be untied? You have to solve one problem in order to gain entrance to the real problem – find an outlet, silence your phone, then assist a client all comes before you can see your way clear to untangling your own problems.
I had an hour of work that turned into two weeks of work because I had to back up and do the math, then I had to learn how to complete a new task that was part of the finished product. Then, I had to get permission to buy a software program in order to implement the answer.
It was a lot easier when all I had to do was give the ball of knots to my dad to untangle.
You may hear from a doctor that self-care is the act of providing yourself a sacred space in which to quiet your jangled nerves. It’s important, yes, to schedule peace in an overwhelming world.
To this end, I’ve found some simple things will sustain you – things such as:
Giving yourself time to untangle a problem
Sharing hopes and dreams with somebody safe
pausing during a busy moment for a nudge of encouragement
Take a Step Against the Flow
Take a step against the flow and look at the surroundings for a different perspective.
Life is too short to go with the flow. Have fun and be different.”
Bianca Schlappa, Everyday Matters
Look further afield.
Look over a detail up close.
Sometimes, the masses have it mostly right but the right way just needs tweaking, and that is something that a different perspective can provide.
Use Your Humor, Wry Humor Acceptable
What’s the use of feeling sorry for yourself when you just get tangled into more knots? Even the wise and wonderful Oz got himself tangled up for a time behind a curtain far outside of Kansas and his usual County Fairs. Someone came along and discovered his need.
He was a little ashamed, but he laughed at his way of bumbling things up, and that helped. A lot. Someone came along and helped him find his way back home.
Laugh at yourself as you consider the past.
Open your hand to future options.
Celebrate Even a Partial Loosening of Knot Strands.
It heartens me in a way to know my knots are not all born from my individual situation or my personal inadequacy. It seems to be a community problem: “Humanity is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.” This wit, from a friend of Job’s (Job 5:7). We are all just making our way through the challenging phases of life.
Help will arrive.
Ask for help.
Laugh a little.
Be willing to accept truth.
Choose as wisely as possible.
This article is co-written by good friends: author, Kathy Joy and editor, Laura Bartnick.
Harvests are mostly gathered and stored for winter by now. Unbelievably, Thanksgiving will be here soon.
We will celebrate Abundance and gather in the fruits of our farming community’s labors.
Our tables will stagger under the weight of Plenty; traditions will keep us grounded during the niggling uncertainty that is Covid.
What gets lost in the thrill of costumes, bags of sweets, parties, then the whipping of Thanksgiving spuds and cranberry sauce, is the season of rest to follow.
“If we only see the harvest as a time to be grateful, we miss the opportunity to be grateful for rest, planting, and caring.”
I didn’t really want to mention it, but Winter is coming – this season of sleeping bears and soft flannel; an interval of climbing in and hunkering down.
Dormant crops will slumber beneath the frozen earth.
It’s a time for rest, a well-deserved respite for planters, reapers and gatherers.
Symbolically, we’re all in the business of planting, reaping and gathering.
Seems logical, then, that we should plan for rest, and lean into it like a comfy quilt.
But we don’t.
Rest, in our industrious, git ‘er done culture, is the Last Stop on a Fast Track.
In some ways, the year 2020 has forced many of us to rest from something, open our hands, wear some masks, separate from all the parties and associations of labor, and receive something very new. Some new growth. New perspective. New value. New understanding.
Rest is too often frowned upon, equated with “lazy”.
That’s just sad. I know a woman who never tells her mother that she has been reading for hours, or drawing, or quietly designing something. It would be frowned upon.
What’s worse is, we often feel guilty for getting some downtime when there’s so much yet to cross off the To-Do List.
People who own their own company rarely get to just shut down and go to the beach for a week. Others feel their vacation time must be spent with family when they would rather explore a mountain retreat alone. Is that kind of vacation commitment more productive?
Give yourself permission to relax. Schedule down-time and honor that impulse to shut all the calling needs out. As a colleague is fond of saying, “You’re not lazy – you’re spent!”
She’s right — we’re operating on 2 cylinders and still hoping to put more miles on before bedtime.
We need a VISION of how to do the better things so we can practice them. Where is that vision?
The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” (Richard Rohr)
Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Prov. 29:18)
Perish. That’s a pretty strong word.
(Note: I sound like an old school politician in this post, but man, we need to reclaim (or re-create) our vision for our country. No time like the present to do so.)
Can you see the American vision right now? Does it exist? Or is it buried under piles of mockery, deception, illness, anger, and fear? We need to be able to see it.
We need to demand it of our candidates, especially in these days leading up to the election. We don’t want to perish. Quite the opposite.
In starting a non-profit, the first task is to create both a vision statement and a mission statement. The vision statement is the “to see” part. The mission statement is the “to do” part. Vision statements are often virtually impossible to achieve, like “to see every American gainfully employed” but still, it’s the vision. The vision informs the mission.
I want to see unity, goodness, recovery, health, creativity, positivity, leadership, unselfishness, strength of character, humility in the face of mistakes, courage, clear goals, trustworthiness, morality, honesty, nobility, self-sacrifice (if that’s what it takes), “unlikely” alliances, optimism, and iron will. I want to see people of all races and creeds and even political parties sitting at the same table to hammer out solutions, listening first, speaking later. I want to see a healthy nation that has the respect of other nations. I want to see reclamation of what our country has done right and repair of what we’ve done wrong. I want to be able to look ahead with great hope.
That’s quite a laundry list of virtues, but is it impossible? Maybe, but vision gives us guidance and passion. It gives us the reason to get up and march in the right direction.
There’s a song we sing at sporting events. It’s gotten a lot of press lately, but think about the words. “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there.” Even through the fog of battle, the flag was still there. Even through OUR fog of battle, let’s find the vision or start creating a new one for a better country.
This blog was originally published as The Next 82 Days, and is used by permission of the author. Debbie Johnson’s decades of mission work include founding DenverWorks and serving in leadership positions at the Dalit Freedom Network and India Transformed.