Dream Big, Be You: What Do You Want To Be?

I didn’t start out to be a writer, so how the @#$%^&*! did I end up here? I just heard from the Cat Writers’ Association that my fiction book HIT AND RUN just won a Certificate of Excellence Award, with consideration for a Muse Medallion. I always wanted to write fiction, but it only happened when forced to reinvent myself and dream big. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to be remembered for? What will your legacy be?

what do you want to beThe Accidental Writer

I’ve written about my journey several times and have blogged off and on for 20+ years. But the blog only gained traction about ten years ago when I took an Email course on branding and social media from Kristen Lamb (read her blog!). She asked lots of “thoughty” questions:

What do you (want to) write? What are your interests, besides the writing topics—because we are so much more than (fill-in-the-blank). Who do people “see” when they look at you? Is that the BRAND you desire to create? It must be the real you—pretend won’t cut it. People see through the phony-isity of such things. As an actor, someone able to put on a persona for different people or events, that struck a chord with me.

Taking Off the Mask, Being YOU

Okay, she didn’t use those words, but you get my drift. I had an acting coach tell me the same thing, and I wrote about it in another blog, that you are enough. Bring YOU to the table—that’s enough.

And that’s scary! Dang. And it leads me to another question–what did YOU want to be when you grew up? Kids seem to know and show even in the games they play what path they’ll take through life. Me? I wanted to be an actor because they were glamorous, people liked them, and they never laughed too loud or were at a loss for words. I could be whoever I wanted, and if folks rolled their eyes, it wasn’t about me, but the persona. Being real, though–EEEK! Then if they don’t like you (or your work), what then?

writing advice what do you want to be

“I own this content!”

What Do You Want to Be…?

As a kid, my brothers and I put on plays in the basement, and directed marathon “let’s pretend” soap operas. The recurring kid, horses, dogs, and cat characters and stories were so real, they had us in tears—and made my folks roll their eyes.

I never played with dolls, much to the dismay of my grandmother. Nope, it was stuffed animals and best-bud pretend pets who could “really talk!” Mom always said, “When Amy grows up she won’t have babies, she’ll have puppy-dogs and kitty-cats.”

Mom knew.

Write Your Passion—Be YOU, Not Someone Else’s Idea

Early in my writing career, people constantly questioned why I didn’t write about more important topics, like starving children or world peace? And was cautioned, “You’ll never make a living writing about just pets!” Thpbpbpbpbpbpbpb! (insert raspberry sound effects!)

I write about pets because that’s me. It’s what and who I am, and I am enough. No, it’s not ALL that I am, but it’s a big part. I’m not on Broadway–yet! But all my stage and tv experience serves the pet writing causes. I listened to my furry muses. And I have the bling ready for when the big moment comes.

publishing tips

Writing about dogs (and cats) is serious business.

Becoming My Best Self

Something unexpected happened along the path to becoming Amy. I’m no longer at a loss for words—and instead I have to work at NOT jumping into every conversation. The animals taught me that. I don’t need to bark, howl, wag my tail (no wise cracks!) or hiss all the time to get ahead. I’ve never found being a “whisperer” to be particularly effective.

I’ve learned to be a pet “listener.” If you listen with your eyes and your heart, animals tell you what they’re thinking and why they’re acting in certain ways. Works with humans, too.

When I was a kid, I wanted to wear sparkles, tell stories with happy endings, and have bestest-bud animal friends who really talk. As an adult, when a career on the stage seemed out of reach, I turned to writing as a creative outlet, and it turned into an extraordinarily rewarding career. What did you want to be when you were a kid? Are you there yet?

what do you want to be remembered forWhen I Grow Up…

I always wanted to write fiction but at first, only made headway with nonfiction. My childhood dream came true only happened when I lost my grownup nonfiction writing career ten years ago and gave up writing to teach high school choir.

For the first time in years, I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. So I wrote the novel I’d always wanted to READ in twenty-minute increments: before work, on lunch breaks, and after classes.

I don’t have two-legged kids. My legacy will be my written works, and I hope I will be remembered for helping cats and dogs and those who love them. And now and then, helping fellow writers with tips that helped me, like this webinar on beating writer’s block.

And today, my peers have honored my fifth book, HIT AND RUN, (complete with puppy-dog and kitty-cat characters), something I never could have predicted.

What do you want to be? There’s still time!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

You. Are. Enough! How to Deal With Criticism

I’m feeling philosophical today, all about how to deal with criticism.

Everybody needs some strokes. The creative mind of authors, actors, musicians, and artists takes criticism so personally, a single sneer can quash the muse. I’m an author, actor, musician and artist, so maybe I got hit with a quadruple whammy. Dang gene pool . . .

Those who read this blog know that I’ve “Kindle-ized” my backlist. I’m excited that the Aging Cat book has sold very well, and lately, the print version has done even better. But along the way, all of my books get hit with a fair amount of bad reviews. Some of the Kindle books have even been “returned.”

Huh? What happened?! Didn’t they *sniff* like my book? Why not? *whimper* THEY HATE ME!

how to deal with criticismRejection Hurts, But Comes With the Territory

I suspect you’re like me, whether you’ve published, performed, created for years or just recently dipped toes into the creative abyss. Dozens of great reviews leave me with a temporary glow, but it only takes one blistering comment to negate all the positives.

And we LOOK for those negatives, don’t we? The reader who posts a modest review must not have liked the book all that well. The audience that didn’t whistle and guffaw at our jokes, or offer stomp-along standing O’s must have hated the performance. If the artwork failed to sell, gallery attendees hated the artist.

Realistically, book returns could be accidental purchases of the Ebook instead of print. I think. Hope. Hell, maybe they really do HATE ME! I’m gonna go eat worms and die.

Nothing’s Personal—Just Feels That Way

It must be in the definition of “artist” to question our own talent and worthiness, even without help from outsiders. Self sabotage destroys more careers than anyone can measure. Because it’s safest to do nothing—pull all the books from the shelves, never write again. To try and fail feels so painful, we’d rather close ourselves off and stop trying than risk the hurt. Again.

So how many of y’all have shut down the laptop, put away the viola, thrown out paints, or given up thespian aspirations? I’ve made that “decision” dozens of times. But it never stuck. Because this is who I am. It’s what I do.

Learning To Be Vulnerable

Years ago I attended an audition workshop with the brilliant Del Shores, who noted that many people have !!@#$%^! -loads of baggage. Nobody gets out of life without some bumps, bruises, and the scars can be visible, deep inside, or both.

Successful performers (and writers ARE performers!) learn to tap-dance into this wealth of virtual crappiocca, use it to create memorable damaged characters on stage, screen, canvas, music scores—and in our books, essays and other writing. Unblemished, perfect paintings, book characters, photos and music is freakin’ BORING!

how to deal with criticismPerfect People, Perfect Pets = BORING!

In dog and cat behavior (another of my worlds), the perfect pet is a stuffed toy that has no potty accidents, no cost to feed, no need to walk in the rain, and no chewed up shoes or clawed sofas. But real pets also have baggage, seen and unseen—baggage is normal, folks. It’s what makes them special, rather than cookie-cutter boring. On top of that, the old days of “punish the bad” have shifted to “reward the good.”

I counsel clients to ignore the bad, and instead catch their pet in the act…of doing something good, and then rewarding with praise, treat, a ball or whatever floats the pet’s boat. We’ve learned that constant brow-beating or (heaven forbid!) actual beating causes pets to shut down.

It shuts down people, too, and it flat-out murders the creative process. Here are some tips to deal with writer’s block.

What floats your boat? How do you reward yourself? You are worthy, ya know! Lift yourself up, and do the same for others. Helping others feeds your own muse!

You Are Enough

Del Shores is fond of saying, “You are enough,” to his actors. No extra bells and whistles required. It applies to all creative people. Lessons learned—and I hope they’ll help you, too:

  1. We’re all damaged goods. Use it. Mine the gold and let it resonate in your work.
  2. Ignore the bad. Reward the good.
  3. You. Are. Enough.

It’ll take practice for me to believe that. But I’m getting better. How about you?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Mamma Mia…Take A Chance cuz Here We Go Again!

I am over-the-moon delighted to once again perform with Sherman Community Players in the family-friendly musical MAMMA MIA. The stellar cast has all the dance moves, party songs you know from ABBA, and funny-poignant-laugh-out-loud moments we’ve ALL yearned for this past year.

Mamma MiaThis production, a community-wide effort, will perform at Austin College’s newly renovated Sally and Jim Nation Theatre June 4 – 27. Featuring more than twenty outstanding performers, I’m particularly fond of my Dynamo “sisters.” We do what best friends do–offer support (and laughs) for Donna as she prepares for her daughter’s wedding…and then three possible dads show up.

Mamma Mia Dynamos

L-R: Carissa Thompson as TANYA, Pam Sanza as DONNA, and Amy Shojai as ROSIE.

After casting the show last year, the rehearsals and performance were delayed due to COVID-19. The cast resumed rehearsals in late April 2021, practicing social distancing and wearing masks. Now that so many of us (and YOU) have been vaccinated, our cast can perform safely with each other (and for YOU!), and we can’t wait to share this fun experience.

Mamma Mia Reservations

Starting today, everyone may reserve tickets by calling 903-892-8818 or online at this link.

For those who can’t wait for opening night (or if you’re on a budget), plan to attend our “preview show” discounted performance ($10) on Thursday, June 3rd. I have no doubt many audience members will want to return and see this fun show more than once.

PARKING – Please do not park in Nation Theatre (Ida Green Center) Circle Drive. You may park in the Sid Rich parking lot, located to the southwest of Sally & Jim Nation Theatre (Ida Green) or the
Bryan Apartment parking lot. Or parking in front of the Adams Center. See the yellow highlighted area, on the map, above.

FOOD – Food and/or drink is not permitted in the Building (this includes the theatre, entire lobby and learning commons on the first floor).

ACCESSIBLE SEATING – For anyone needing seating accommodations please contact our box office at your earliest convenience. Accessible access to the theater can be found by following the sidewalk to the north side of the Sally & Jim Nation. For more information call 903-892-8818 or go online here.

Y’all come! And share this post with all the theatre lovers out there yearning for a live performance once again.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? 

NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

2021 New Year Goals–from the Pets

Each year, rather than making New Year resolutions, I plan for goals—and hope that the journey along the way proves equally rewarding. Rather than say, “lose weight” I instead want to strive for good health. All plans for 2020 sort of went out the window, though—but our family came out the other side a bit bruised, but far better off than many others. We have high hopes for 2021—and the hope shines strong in part because of the special pets of our past, our present, and sometimes the surprise pets that show up when you need them most.

New Year GoalsIt’s also become a tradition to take stock of the past year from a pets’-eye-view, and the year to come. Our 2020 began with fear over the virus, and then heartbreak with Bravo’s cancer diagnosis. But hope and joy returned as he not only survived his amputation and chemo but continued to thrive despite his challenges. He and Karma-Kat keep us laughing even through tears. And the Shadow-Pup, a surprise blessing, brings nonstop energy and wags that banish the sadness. So here are New Year Pet Goals from Karma, Bravo, Shadow, and a couple from the spirit of Magic and Seren, with commentary by Amy.

2021 New Year Goals–from Magic

New Year goalsMagical-Spirit: “I will remind my humans daily to cherish each joy, and remember me with smiles.”

Amy: He loved fetch clear up to his last day with us, and found joy in every sniff, sound, treat, touch or game. Bravo continues to dote on Magic’s favorite “big ball” toy. I take it as a message to us to lighten up…and even wrote a song about him (someday I’ll get it recorded). So my new year pet goals include being more like Magic and pay attention to everyday miracles of the touch of soft fur, smell of rain in the wind in my face, to find music in every brash or quiet sound, relish each taste whether tears or treats, and open my eyes to every glorious sunrise, storm cloud and rainbow in my life.

 

2021 New Year Goals–from Seren

Seren-Spirit: “I will remind my humans to ignore pesky aggravations like cat-brothers, stare down intimidating challenges (even if they’re 15 times your size like Magic), and find a sunny place in every situation.”

New year resolutionsAmy: Seren remained in charge, the Queen of the house, to her last breath. A bit of a curmudgeon despite her tiny size, Seren ran our house and hearts with a benevolent paw. Read about her Christmas gift here… She never let arthritis stand in the way of a smidge of chicken, constantly reminded Karma who held the sharpest claws, and taught Magic—and her humans—what aging gracefully means. My new year pet goals include living like Seren, focusing on goals rather than roadblocks, stop complaining about age (not everyone gets the blessing of a long life), and giving myself permission to turn off work and take a sun-puddle nap

2021 New Year Goals–from Bravo

bravo hope for 2021Bravo-Dawg: “I will finally catch the RED-DOT-DEMON and make sure Amy releases it from the drawer more often. And I will carry Big-Ball (that smells like the spirit of a German Shepherd Boy), all over the place and wrestle it into submission. I will play squash-the-Karma-Kat, and I will play bitey-face tooth-fencing with Shadow-Pup. And only stop for the TREATS word. Because that’s what I do.”

Amy: Bravo began the year at the 121-pound mark, and remains a gentle, goofy sweetheart despite losing 21 pounds (and his right front leg) due to cancer–he beat it! Now he’s full of boundless energy, still moves as fast with three legs as four, and never let anything stand in the way of a good time—especially lap-cuddling, chasing cats, or wresting the pup. He loves spending time outside, so my new year pet goals include more time outside with him helping me garden, more cuddling sessions—and just enjoying Bravo for as much time as we have left together. Paws crossed his next X-rays in January show continued good news!

2021 New Year Goals–from Karma

Karma-Kat: “I will stalk and tease and pounce on Amy’s feet, play “gravity experiments” on tabletops, take towel-surfing rides across the carpet, rattle window blinds, paw-dig at the TV screen, and constantly tease my dawg-brothers, what fun!”

Amy: Karma always loved her dog brothers–and was rescued by Magic. When he got sick, Karma worried over Bravo, snuggled down next to the big dawg’s painful shoulder, and stopped his teasing while Bravo recovered from his amputation. He didn’t appreciate Shadow-Pup at first but then decided if Bravo liked the pup, he must be okay—and now teases and wrestles both dogs I think to get them in trouble. Having a pair of rowdy dogs and curious cat zooming around the furniture offers treat entertainment for them. Bravo and Karma sleep together each evening. But Karma needs more one-on-one games, too, where he doesn’t need to compete with the two cat-food-stealing dawgs. More new year pet goals are to play interactive chase games with Karma each day, and add more bird feeders and baths by the windows for better cat-TV fun he craves and deserves.

2021 New Year Goals–from Shadow

Shadow-Pup: “I will play-play-play, shove toys in Bravo’s face to tease him, chase Karma up the cat tree, and run-run-run out the fence to zooooooooom around the grassy fields! And then I’ll do it again. And again. And …”

Amy: Shadow appeared, a dumped puppy, at our front gate on May 31st ten days after we found out about Bravo’s cancer. During a time of unrelenting fear and anxiety, this joyful puppy brought boundless joy into Bravo’s pain-filled world. And gave us all hope. Like most pups, he has no off-switch and his “escapes” have brought us some scary moments. So a long-procrastinated new year pet goal has already begun with refurbishing the back yard fence to create a safe play area for both dogs.

2021 New Year Goals–from Spirit-Pets

Magic-Spirit and Seren-Spirit: “We will train Amy there’s more to nine lives than paw-tapping and staring at a boxy computer-thing. Like catnip, and whisker-kisses, lap snuggles and ball-tug games. And we will train Amy that playing with pets is more fun than anything else. AND we will train Amy that there’s no such thing as too many treats. But time together—however long or short the time—is the best thing of all.”

Amy: My ultimate New Year pet goals are to listen to my furry muses. What about you?

PAST NEW YEAR POSTS:

I started to delete these, and then decided to save them here. After all, some of my furry muses commented on these posts.

New Year 2020

New Year 2019

New Year 2018

New Year 2016

New Year 2015

New Year 2014

New Year 2011

New Year 2010

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Merry Christmas Wishes!

MERRY CHRISTMAS

This Merry Christmas video was made in 2014 and is bittersweet since we no longer have Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty with us. But the sentiment remains —

May your dreams come true, your troubles be few, and all your Christmases be bright!

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!