Monday, February 19, 2018

Do You BuJo?

by Paula Gail Benson

Have you heard about bullet journaling or “BuJo” as some practitioners call it? I hadn’t until I read an announcement from Fiction Addiction, an independent bookstore owned and operated by Jill Hendrix in Greenville, S.C. Jill is offering a course about bullet journaling on Thursday, February 22, at 6:00 p.m. The cost is $25, which is redeemable on a purchase of supplies available that evening in the book store. If there is sufficient interest, an afternoon course will be offered.

Advertisement for the Course Offered by Jill Hendrix
From the advertisement, I could see that bullet journaling could be used for keeping a calendar or agenda. I wondered, why offer this course in February instead of at the beginning of the year?

Then, I began reading about the subject. At, I learned that bullet journaling was described as “the analog system for the digital age.” It was developed by Ryder Carroll, a “digital product designer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Mr. Carroll has trademarked the names “Bullet Journal” and its abbreviated form “BuJo.” Rachel Wilkerson Miller, a writer, editor, and blogger, also based in Brooklyn, N.Y., has written several books about the technique, which she calls “dot journaling,” maybe because practitioners are encouraged to use notebooks with dot grids as a guide for their own creations. Ms. Miller has been criticized in her Amazon reviews as appropriating trademarked information that Mr. Carroll has available free online. You can take a look at her website at and compare it with Mr. Carroll’s site to see what you think.

Anyway, bullet or dot journaling is a do-it-yourself organizer that can include as much or as little information and structure as the preparer wants. Ryder Carroll has some great videos to explain how to get started in his online section Bullet Journaling 101. They are simple, straight-forward, and concentrate on the focus--how to be efficient in organizing your life. They set out the method without complicating it with any artistry a preparer might wish to bring to the process.

What is the method? According the Mr. Carroll, through bullet journaling you can track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future. First, number the pages of your journal. Second, label the first few pages as “index” so that you can list where you’ve written certain items throughout the journal. Third, create a future log, diving two pages into a six-month or longer organization where you keep lists of tasks and events that must be handled. Fourth, use two pages to make a monthly log, with a calendar on one page and a task list on the other. Fifth, through a short hand system, you can list what you need to accomplish. A filled in dot is for a task (which later can be “x-ed” when the task is completed). A star next to a dot means the task is important. An oval signifies an event (and can be colored in when the event is over). Indicate notes (things you need to remember) by a dash. Sixth, at the end of a month, set up the next month’s log. If you have tasks that have not been completed, consider “migrating” them, either forward into the next month, or back into your six month projection. Mr. Carroll uses a greater than sign > if the task goes to the next month’s list and a less than sign < if it goes back into the six month projection.

Many aspects of one’s life can be included in the bullet journal: obligations for home, work, or school; routines or patterns such as exercise, diet, or writing; and personal reflections, like journal entries. A cottage industry seems to have grown up around bullet journaling, very similar to accessories for scrapbooking. You can purchase books, pens, and stencils to help you create a very unique product.

In some respects, I see this as a natural off shoot of the adult coloring books, only instead of being just relaxing, bullet journaling combines creativity and productivity. Not to mention it encourages a generation that grew up with computer graphics to take a chance on using those old fashioned tools of pens, pencils, and rulers to sketch out their own destinies.

After learning about the method, I understand how it’s adaptable and can be started at any time. I’m tempted to try it. How about you?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Five Tips for Debut Authors

by Shari Randall

I just debuted my first novel, Curses, Boiled Again! It’s the first of the Lobster Shack Mystery Series from St. Martin’s Press. Yes, there is an exclamation point in the title. That’s how my publisher rolls.

As any author who is lucky enough to hold a copy of their book in their hands can tell you, the debut experience has been exciting, wonderful, mystifying, and exhausting. I thought I’d prepared by reading blog after book after blog, and still I went into the whole thing feeling like that toddler at the beach who rushes down the sand to the water and gets knocked down by the wave. It’s fun but, whoa! What just happened?

So, I’m sharing a bit of my experience here to help any other authors anticipating their debut, and I hope other experienced authors will offer advice in the comments. Because I can sure use it.

Some things I learned, from big picture to small, and Why Didn’t I Think of That?

1. Pace yourself. Juggling a signing, a library panel, a Facebook party, and a bunch of blogs in one week taught me my limits. Maybe I’d overestimated my energy level a teensy bit. Especially when I noticed I was doing everything except writing. Schedule lots of fun, but make sure to schedule quiet moments, too.

Donna Andrews, lucky debut author, Sherry Harris

2. Be meticulous about your calendar so nothing falls through the cracks. Nobody warned me that there could be – and there was – a writer's perfect storm. I was doing promo for Book One, edits on Book Two, and writing, sort of, Book Three. Having a calendar devoted just to writing goals and events was a life-saver.

3. Ellen Crosby shared that at a book signing, it’s a good idea to have readers write down on a Post it note the name of the person they want the book inscribed to – that way you avoid potential Kathy, Cathy, Cathie mix ups. She also provided the Post its. Thank you, Ellen!

4. Do not look at your reviews. Well, do what I did and designate a Review Reviewer or Review Buddy. This person (thank you, Charlotte!) scans Goodreads and all those other sites and reports back on when it’s safe to take a look.

5. Two quotes became my mantras. One is from Elizabeth Harris about reviews. “You can have the sweetest peaches in the world, but if someone doesn’t like peaches, they won’t like yours.” My book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” This quote from Theodore Roosevelt is my mantra as I learn about other author’s sales and reviews. I’m lucky enough to have published a book and held it in my hands, and I've received great reviews and kindnesses from fellow authors. For all that I am so grateful and I can't wait to pay it forward.

Authors, any advice to share for newly published authors?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Find Your Purpose in Life

Do you have a sense of purpose?

A friend invited me to hear a presentation by a local historian. At the end of their speech, she turned to me and said, “This is their passion. I wish I knew what mine was.”

That comment stuck with me as I move into a new stage of my life. What is my passion? Where do I find purpose in life? For years, I’ve found purpose in my professional life and through the charitable organizations I’ve supported with my time and money. Now, I’m reexamining these activities, searching for that greater sense of purpose.

For decades, psychologists have studied how long-term, meaningful goals develop over the span of our lives. The goals that foster a sense of purpose are ones that can potentially change the lives of other people, from launching an organization, researching disease, to teaching kids to read.

A sense of purpose appears to have evolved in humans so we can accomplish big things together—which may be why it’s linked to better physical and mental health. Purpose is adaptive, in an evolutionary sense. It helps both individuals and the species survive.

Many seem to believe that purpose arises from your special gifts and sets you apart from other people—but that’s only part of the truth. It also grows from our connection to others, which is why a crisis of purpose is often a symptom of isolation. Once you find your path, you’ll almost certainly find others—a community—traveling along with you, hoping to reach the same destination.

Here are six ways to overcome isolation and discover your purpose in life.

1. Read

Reading connects us to people we’ll never know, across time and space—an experience that, research says, is linked to a sense of meaning and purpose. (Note: “Meaning” and “purpose” are linked but separate social-scientific constructs. Purpose is a part of meaning; meaning is a much broader concept that usually also includes value, efficacy, and self-worth.)

“Reading fiction might allow adolescents to reason about the whole lives of characters, giving them specific insight into an entire lifespan without having to have fully lived most of their own lives,” Raymond A. Mar suggests. By seeing purpose in the lives of other people, teens are more likely to see it in their own lives. In this sense, purpose is an act of the imagination.

Find books that matter to you—and they might help you to see what matters in your own life.

2. Turn hurts into healing for others

Of course, finding purpose is not just an intellectual pursuit; it’s something we need to feel. That’s why it can grow out of suffering, both our own and others’.

Kezia Willingham was raised in poverty in Corvallis, Oregon, her family riven by domestic violence. “No one at school intervened or helped or supported my mother, myself, or my brother when I was growing up poor, ashamed, and sure that my existence was a mistake,” she says. “I was running the streets, skipping school, having sex with strangers, and abusing every drug I could get my hands on.”
When she was 16, Kezia enrolled at an alternative high school that “led me to believe I had options and a path out of poverty.” She made her way to college and was especially “drawn to the kids with ‘issues’”—kids like the one she had once been. She says:

“I want the kids out there who grew up like me, to know they have futures ahead of them. I want them to know they are smart, even if they may not meet state academic standards. I want them to know that they are just as good and valuable as any other human who happens to be born into more privileged circumstances. Because they are. And there are so damn many messages telling them otherwise.”

3. Cultivate awe, gratitude, and altruism

Certain emotions and behaviors that promote health and well-being can also foster a sense of purpose—specifically, awegratitude, and altruism.

Studies conducted by the Greater Good Science Center have shown that the experience of awe makes us feel connected to something larger than ourselves—and so can provide the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose. Of course, awe all by itself won’t give you a purpose in life. It’s not enough to just feel like you’re a small part of something big; you also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world. That’s where gratitude and generosity come into play.

With gratitude, children and adults who are able to count their blessings are much more likely to try to contribute to the world beyond themselves. This is probably because, if we can see how others make our world a better place, we’ll be more motivated to give something back.

Here we arrive at altruism. There’s little question, that helping others is associated with a meaningful, purposeful life. People who engage in altruistic behaviors, like volunteering or donating money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in their lives.

4. Listen to what other people appreciate about you

Giving thanks can help you find your purpose. But you can also find purpose in what people thank you for.

Like Kezia Willingham, Shawn Taylor had a tough childhood—and he was also drawn to working with kids who had severe behavioral problems. Unlike her, however, he often felt like the work was a dead-end. “I thought I sucked at my chosen profession,” he says. Then, one day, a girl he’d worked with five years before contacted him.

“She detailed how I helped to change her life,” says Shawn—and she asked him to walk her down the aisle when she got married. Shawn hadn’t even thought about her, in all that time. “Something clicked and I knew this was my path. No specifics, but youth work was my purpose.”

Although there is no research that directly explores how being thanked might fuel a sense of purpose, we do know that gratitude strengthens relationships—and those are often the source of our purpose.

5. Find and build community

We can often find our sense of purpose in the people around us. In tandem with his reading, Art McGee found purpose—working for social and racial justice—in “love and respect for my hardworking father,” he says. “Working people like him deserved so much better.”

Environmental and social-justice organizer Jodi Sugerman-Brozan feels driven to leave the world in a better place than she found it. Becoming a mom “strengthened that purpose (it’s going to be their world, and their kids’ world),” she says. It “definitely influences how I parent (wanting to raise anti-racist, feminist, radical kids who will want to continue the fight and be leaders).”

If you’re having trouble remembering your purpose, take a look at the people around you. What do you have in common with them? What are they trying to be? What impact do you see them having on the world? Is that impact a positive one? Can you join with them in making that impact? What do they need? Can you give it them?

If the answers to those questions don’t inspire you, then you might need to find a new community—and with that, a new purpose may come.

6. Tell your story

Purpose often arises from curiosity about your own life. What obstacles have you encountered? What strengths helped you to overcome them? How did other people help you? How did your strengths help make life better for others? Reading can help you find your purpose—but so can writing,
“We all have the ability to make a narrative out of our own lives,” says Emily Esfahani Smith, author of the 2017 book The Power of Meaning. “It gives us clarity on our own lives, how to understand ourselves, and gives us a framework that goes beyond the day-to-day and basically helps us make sense of our experiences.”

On a final note, I wish I could take credit for this wonderful advice, but I can’t. This content was curated by the folks at I suggest you click the link and head to their site so you can read even more inspiring thoughts on this subject.

Have you found your passion? What inspires you? 

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd. 

Visit her at

She's hard at work on the next book in the Holly Price series, In It For The Money.