How I Finished my Poetry Manuscript in 2 Weeks

I chose and gathered together the poems for Inside a Writer’s Head several months ago. I tried a few times after that to organize the collection to no avail.

Part of that was my own fault, for trying to organize the collection while choosing the poems, but I also had no idea where to start.

Cue the guiding hand of the Praxis program. I was only one week into Module one when I started thinking about my portfolio project for this month. I talked with Hannah Frankman, the module one advisor, about my goals for the program and how it played into my longer term goals. I initially wanted to finish and publish Inside a Writer’s Head for my project but was advised that a better project would be to market it.

I had my work cut out for me. It was hard at first, and I had to do some research to get some ideas.

To help eliminate the block I had created, I deleted all the section names I’d added. Then I started reading and moved poems around as I did so. I familiarized myself with the poems such that I got ideas for sequences and poems to put together. As I read through the collection more and moved the poems around more, it got easier.

I amazed myself by finishing the manuscript in one week instead of two.

In order to do this, I put my other projects on hold so the poetry collection would be ready for this month.

I also scrapped my initial plan of designing the cover myself. I knew it would take me more time than I had to play around with options and create a design I was happy with.

I reached out first to Alexandra Wagner, a Praxis participant in my cohort. She said she would be unable to complete it by the time I needed it. I asked for suggestions of who to work with and found Jacob Beman. He has a website where he sells clothes with designs he created, and I liked the style and nature of his work. He agreed to work with me and did a really great job on my book cover. I reviewed his work here.

Three things allowed me to have a self-publishing-ready poetry collection: Focused work, a deadline, and finding the right designer.

If you can focus on the project you intent to complete instead of jumping project to project you will surprise yourself how quickly you can complete it.

The deadline for completing the project seemed really tight and super hard to meet. I pushed myself to finish quickly and surprised myself with the speed of my work. If I hadn’t had the extra push to finish the collection before November, it would have taken me longer. If it had been less urgent, I wouldn’t have been as focused or as driven to complete it as quickly as I did.

Find a designer whose work you could see being a great fit for your vison of your book cover and who is excited to work with you. Both of those make for a great experience working with that person and lead to you getting a result you love.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. For $5 you get early access to part three of the Diary of Kaashif Sarwan and another post later this month as well. There are other rewards at every tier, so be sure to check it out!

First Day Back at Panera

I made the choice to return to Panera Bread and my old and new coworkers. Today was my first day back, in shiny new non-slip shoes.

A couple things changed since I was there last: The panini presses were replaced with stone grills similar to the toaster in Subway. But with fancy stone and pizza-oven-like paddles for pulling sandwiches out of them. New food items!

I was looking forward to my favorite sandwich from last fall, the turkey cranberry flatbread. I was so excited about getting to eat it again, only to find out that it isn’t on the menu! We do have a new ham sandwich and a new Cuban sandwich. I haven’t tried the ham sandwich yet. I had the Cuban sandwich with extra slices of the sweet and spicy pickles for dinner, and it was really good! The garlic mustard and the delayed effect of the pickles paired with ham, pulled pork, and Swiss cheese was delicious!

Talking about the menu items makes me think of an idea for a blog post or several. Working at Panera, I’ve learned the ins and outs of the ingredients as well as what flavor combinations pair well together, and delicious modifications to the regular items. If you’d like a guide to the menu, what I like, how I modify it and why, comment below! I’d love to know you’re interested.

I learned how to make the new sandwiches and use and clean the new grills. I also noticed problems with how some of the new people are doing their work and plan to set an example to work on improving things.

The problems:

(1) The mid-shifters weren’t flipping pans every day. We’re supposed to get new pans and move the ingredients from their current pans into the new pans and make sure they have a current label telling when they expire. I made sure all the pans were flipped today, and I will continue doing that everyday I work.

(2) No one marked when the grills were cleaned. After my coworker and I cleaned the grills, I wrote in the little box for Thursday “Both” so the closer tomorrow knows both grills were cleaned. The boxes for earlier in the week are all empty. Hopefully other people will start marking when and which grill they clean.

(3) No one else takes all the supports in the bars to be cleaned. When we close, we put all the pans in the bar into the pull-out refrigerated drawers beneath the bar. I take out all the supports, including the four on the outside edges, to the dishwasher to be cleaned. When I asked the dishwasher if he’d rinse the long bars for me, he said he could, but no one had ever done that before. I plan to suggest to the other workers that they do that as well to improve the cleanliness of the bars.

I had a great first day back at Panera, and I’m sure I’ll have a great day tomorrow too!

Comment below if you’d like a post about the Panera menu items and what your favorite menu item is!

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

Project Update, Week 1

The first week is not quite over, which is good because I still have some work to do to reach my goal.

I started the week off strong. Before November even started, I posted my project outline, which has since been edited a couple times. I planned to jump right into my project and work on it for four weeks instead of taking one to refine my plan and three to work on it.

I wanted to expand into Instagram, so I made an account, @alyssac.wright. I had gotten an idea for promoting my poetry collection while driving home one night. I could use an app like Vintage Font to put lines from poems in Inside a Writer’s Head on nature photos! So I spent about half an hour walking around my neighborhood taking pictures of trees, bushes, the cornfield, and a horse.

Since setting up my account, I posted an image every day promoting Inside a Writer’s Head. I also started thinking about ways to promote my blog on Instagram as well in addition to my poetry collection. I did that for the first time yesterday.

I ran into a roadblock after the excitement of jumping into Instagram and committing to post at least once a day. BookBaby didn’t get me my proofs until Monday, so I don’t have a sale page. Additionally, the proofs weren’t right, I found a couple mistakes, so that pushes the release back further. I don’t know when that will be resolved, and all I can do is wait.

I’ve been sharing the posts I made for Instagram to Facebook and Twitter as well. They get some likes on Facebook and Instagram, but nothing on Twitter. I need to rework my approach for promoting Inside a Writer’s Head on Twitter. I still want to share the photos, but I probably need to post more and learn more about the platform. I’m relatively new, and haven’t figured out how to tweet in such a way that people pay attention. That’s on the docket for the coming week, to tweet more and play around with different kinds of tweets to see what works.

I posted my two blog posts about organizing and formatting a poetry collection. I filmed the video on those subjects, and I’m in the middle of editing it now. I will update this post when it’s up on YouTube.

I filmed on Monday and started editing a little bit. I didn’t do a lot, though, and I realized yesterday that I should have spent more time on it. The main thing I did yesterday was edit the video, and I didn’t get very far. I spent most of today doing that too, and I’m not done yet. Now I know, though, to allocate lots of time for this process.

I spent a lot of time on my project so far in addition to everything else I did that wasn’t directly tied to it. I feel really good about what I’ve accomplished so far, and look forward to seeing how much more I can do next week.

Leave any questions or advice about my project or Inside a Writer’s Head in the comments below. I’d love to discuss with you.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

How Praxis Teaches Self-Directed Learning

Praxis, the one year educational bootcamp and apprenticeship program I’m in, encourages and guides self-directed learning.

Self-directed learning is exactly what it sounds like: Learning you pursue yourself.

In the one to two months of pre-program, Praxis participants build their website, LinkedIn, pitch deck, and professional email address. More detail on that here. This is a foundation to build on throughout the remainder of the bootcamp.

In Module/month 1, those pre-program deliverables are refined and further improved. More things are built, including some blog posts to give insight into who you are, how you work, and how you are growing. More on that here.

In Module/month 2, the self-directed learning really goes into full swing. Now participants think of, plan, and execute a month-long project to showcase existing skills or build a new skill. The project is self-directed with additional guidance and feedback from the program advisors and fellow participants.

This is as far as I’ve gotten in the program, but already I’ve taught myself the basics of making a pitch deck, telling my story on LinkedIn, making a pitch video, some video editing, and how to create and self-publish a poetry collection.

I had guidance and input, but I pursued these and the knowledge required for these on my own. I am being taught how to teach myself.

I’m developing my notetaking skills during the Wednseday calls, while reading books, and in the learning I pursue not directly tied to Praxis.

In all this, I’m being encouraged by my peers and advisors to lean in to my curiosity and seek out knowledge, and to showcase my capturing of that knowledge. That’s primarily on my blog, but I’m working to expand that to YouTube as well.

By doing projects and leaning outside of my comfort zone, I’m learning skills and expanding that comfort zone.

Based on my experience, I would say the best way to effectively master self-directed learning is this: Find or build a community of people who seek out knowledge, share that knowledge, and encourage each other in the pursuit of knowledge. Use what you learn. Do a project to learn something or to show the world you have learned it.

If you like reading this blog, please check out my Patreon. There’s some cool rewards available, just waiting for someone like you to claim them.

31 Days of Blogging

Today makes 31 straight days of blogging everyday. This isn’t the first time I made it a whole month, but it is the first time I paid attention in order to point it out.

I had a few days where I was unmotivated or uninspired. I didn’t know what to write or I didn’t feel like writing or both. Those days were hard.

I had a lot of help with blog ideas from the Praxis program, and wrote about what I was up to in the program in addition to the deliverables.

Finishing my poetry collection turned into a deliverable to prepare for month two, and I wrote about that as well.

Overall, I think I did really well putting out daily content and putting my thoughts and ideas on this virtual paper. Running this blog, maintaining daily posts has helped me build my writing skills, given me a place to share thoughts, ideas, and creative writing I’ve done or am doing. It’s building a huge volume of work to look back on in the future and signaling my progress, my dedication, and my hardwork.

It also happens to be setting me up for module 3, the 30 day blogging challenge month.

It’s been a great 30 days and soon it’ll be a great 30 more.

(Also, for those wondering if they should bug me about the video I promised, I’m editing it right now. It will be up either tonight or in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.)

Module 2 Project Outline

For my portfolio project, I am going to employ a variety of methods to market my poetry collection Inside a Writer’s Head. In my project ideas post, I had three ideas related to this. I want to combine these as best as possible to market my poetry collection in the most effective manner.

By the end of the month I want 500 people to have viewed a page where they can purchase the book or ebook and have sold at least 30 copies.

Week 1:

Write about choosing an organization method and formatting a poetry collection. 2 blog posts. Make a video discussing these two topics. Share the posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Create daily posts featuring short exerpts of poems in the collection or about the same topic. Have a link for the ebook and a link to pre-order a physical copy. Post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m thinking aesthetic text over a nature image or a plain colored background. Interact with anyone who interacts with the posts.

Week 2:

Write about choosing a self-publishing method/tool/service. Make a video to go with it. Share the posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Adjust my approach based on which posts get the most engagement and replicating that.

Continue the daily posts. Get creative based on engagement with posts on the different platforms.

Week 3:

Write a guide to self-publishing ebooks with BookBaby and make a video. Share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Further adjust based on which posts get the most engagement.

Repeat the daily posts.

Week 4:

Write a guide to self-publishing physical books with BookBaby and make a video. Share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Final adjustments based on the most engaging posts.

Repeat the daily posts.

Praxis Module 1

Today I submitted my final deliverables for Module 1 of Praxis. So it’s time for another program recap!

I have a post specifically about week 1.

As I mentioned in that post, for the first week we had orientation and two blog posts to write. The two posts were my Top Three Skills post and the Five People Experiment post. We gave feedback on each other’s deliverables as well. In addition to these activities, I went above and beyond by writing Recap posts for Episodes 9, 29, and 36 of the Forward Tilt Podcast.

Week two we revised our pre-program deliverables (more on that here) and talked about productivity. I wrote a post reviewing the workshops we watched, and as a result of those workshops, a few other members of my cohort and I made an accountability group. I also wrote my How I Work post. During the Praxis Wednesday call, we talked about how our website and LinkedIn tell people about us, and worked on refining how we are perceived. We also discussed productivity and habits and such.

Week three was the hardest week. I made my about me pitch video (also on my Home page) and a video discussing the two articles we read. I also wrote a Recap post about one of them. As hard as it was making the videos, especially the pitch video, I discovered that I enjoyed the process! I actually wrote two posts about making videos, The Difficulty of Video Making and What I Learned About Video Making. I also have plans for another video that I will make over the next few days. Instead of just “I want to make more videos,” I will make a video over the next few days. If I haven’t posted a video and shared it on the blog by Wednesday night feel free to call me out on it.

Week four, this last week, we finished the month by learning about the apprenticeship and planning our project for next month. We filled out a placement survey, took the DISC assesment and the MBTI personality test, and wrote a Project Ideas blog post. (I wrote about the MBTI here, because I find it fascinating though it is pseudoscience.)

It’s been a really busy month, and next month will be just as busy! I’ll be marketing my poetry collection, which I just finished! It will be releasing the first of November as an ebook and a physical copy will be available for pre-order until December. I will have a few exclusive signed copies available. Very few, so if you want one, email me as soon as possible at alyssachantelwright@gmail.com to secure yours now.