Recently I received an email from Janis about my blog on mannerisms.

Janis asks:

In one of your blogs, you gave a list of the trite mannerisms you don’t like to see repeated in fiction (knitting of brows, lip biting, narrowing of eyes, etc.) In looking over the list, it seems to me that if the writer needs to show that the character is experiencing anxiety or some other emotion, describing facial expressions is a necessity. If the author refrains from using any of those, he or she would have to end up “telling” what the character is feeling, instead of showing it. He felt nervous, he was mad, etc. (I know that you did say you would allow it once, maybe twice, but no more after that.) So, are you saying that we need to avoid facial expressions in relaying the emotion a character is feeling? Sounds impossible without some repetition. There’s only so many facial expressions available.

My answer: Writers become too dependent on the same facial expressions, described in the same way. That’s part of my complaint. Too much repetition. Another part of my complaint is that it’s really unrealistic. I want you to watch the next several times someone either says yes or no to some question put to them. See if they actually nod yes or shake their head no. I hardly ever see it happen unless the person cannot give a verbal answer. Also, I’m going to disagree with your statement “there are only so many facial expressions available.” There are billions of faces on the planet and quite a few more available in the minds of all the writers out there. Those faces can and should have distinctives that make them unique. And the way any one of those faces may react to a given emotion should also vary.

To respond to another part of your question, telling the reader a character’s emotional reaction is not necessary either. Sometimes the reader will “get” the reaction without either telling or describing the reaction. It can be done. The adept writer will find fresh ways to convey meaning to the reader. It’s a sign of maturity in a writer to avoid clichéd words and actions in their characters. One option is the use of simile or metaphor. Off the top of my head, how about something like:

Joe’s head bobbled like a dashboard ornament. (Instead of Joe nodded).


Linda’s face was that of a woman in labor. (Instead of Linda’s eyes widened in pain).

Two crude examples, but I hope you see that there are more creative ways of showing characters’ reactions.

About a month ago (after my blog on this topic and before your email) I read a wonderful description wherein the author conveyed the perfect response in his character without resorting to the trite mannerisms under discussion. I wish now I could remember where I saw it. In the next few days, I’ll try to watch for specific examples and post them here.

Readers, consider this as an invitation for you to submit examples from your own writing or reading that effectively shows a character’s reaction without resorting to the stale mannerisms we usually see.

Wednesday, September 1, author BJ Hoff’s husband will undergo an eight-hour surgery. Pray for him. BJ too.

Yesterday I received a book in the mail that prompts today’s blog. The book is from an author I reluctantly rejected a few years ago. This happens occasionally and I’m always happy when someone I encouraged along the way finally does publish his or her book and sends me a copy. In this case the author, Judy Squier, published the book His Majesty Through Brokenness herself through Amazon’s The book is attractive and well done. She says, “My graphic designer daughter prepared the cover, the inside photos, the layout and prepared a pdf for them. So I paid $299 for the book to be printed; they sell it on Amazon for the price I chose ($9.99), give me a royalty per book, and I am able to purchase them on demand at an author’s price. We are more than pleased with the product.”

I am too! Very nicely done. There are, of course, many options for authors who choose the self-publishing route. I’ve mentioned some of them here before. My question to you is: In the face of repeated rejection, have you seriously considered self-publishing as your next and wisest move? You really should….if you believe your book will sell if given a chance.

True, you do have to do a lot promotion yourself, but that’s true even if you publish with a royalty publisher. The days when the publisher did all the marketing are past. Increasingly, it’s up to you to sell your book. We will help however we can, but for a book to be successful, it needs an author who believes in their book so fiercely, that author is eager to promote it.

In my recent series How to Succeed as a Christian Writer, step two was all about immersing yourself in the publishing industry. If you’ve been doing that, you must know that some popular authors are ditching their NYC publishers in favor of publishing their books themselves. One of them is Joe Konrath. See his website here. Notice that he says he’s making $500 a day self-publishing. Sure, he was an established author when he began his new venture, but so what? So you begin making far less per day, but work your way up by promoting and selling your book yourself.

There are some of you reading this who should stop the submission/rejection cycle and move to self-publishing now. Why wait another two years and six more rejections? Time’s a wasting.

BUT, to repeat, only self-publish if you:

a. believe fiercely in your book

b. are willing to demonstrate that belief by getting out there and promoting your book yourself. There are, by the way, several excellent books on how to promote your self-published book.

If neither of those two convictions is in place, then don’t self-publish. You will end up with a garage full of books. In my search of local thrift stores for used books to sell on Amazon, I frequently come across a pile of self-published books the author has finally decided to give up on.

Think it over. Pray about it. Talk to some of the reputable companies out there that specialize in self-publishing. And if you have an objection to self-publishing, I’d be interested in knowing what it is.

Now, please go please buy Judy’s book. At $9.99, it’s a bargain!

Pet peeve # 3221: Don’t attempt dialect in your fiction unless you’re really, really good at it. And most likely you’re not. “Cuz,” “wanna,” and “yer” does not constitute good dialect.

Pet peeve # 3222: Don’t send me five attachments for your proposal. Send me ONE attachment. I just printed out some new proposals I need to review. Several required me to open and print more than one document. One had FIVE separate attachments to open and print: a cover letter, a synopsis, a proposal, a prologue, and a sample chapter. Please help me be efficient with my time.

Right away I was not impressed with this potential author. You do not want an editor to start reading your proposal with a frown.

In my recent series, I mentioned the all-important aspect of continuing to learn about writing through reading books on the topic. Today I want to let my friend, Donna Goodrich, introduce you to her latest book, A Step in the Write Direction. My favorite memory of Donna is walking through a museum with her. Given her expertise with copyediting, she was quick to point out every error she found on the signs describing the museum’s many displays. Wow, she was good!

Here’s my interview with Donna:

Me: First, tell us a bit about yourself and your own writing journey.

Donna: I”m a native of Jackson, Michigan, and began writing around the age of 9. Sold my first poem for $1.40 to our denominational teen magazine when I was 14, and my first short story at 18. When I was 20, I obtained a dream job as secretary to the book editor at the Nazarene Publishing House. (He was an uncle by marriage to Jeannette Oke.) I learned so much at that job: entered manuscripts as they arrived, sent them to various members of the book committee around the country, kept track of them when they came back, and prepared folders for bi-monthly book committee meetings. Had the sad job of writing rejection letters for those that didn’t make it. (In fact, I actually wrote my own rejection letter for a book I had submitted before I got that job.) Those that were accepted, I checked permissions and, after my boss edited the manuscript, I retyped it and sent it to production. I also worked for the denominational magazine a half day a week. During the two years there, I began selling on a regular basis–poems, short stories, and articles.

Through a friend who worked at the publishing house and who lived in my apartment house, I met my future husband Gary. I typed his term paper, he asked me out a week later. We dated for two weeks, then became engaged. It must have been right as we just celebrated our 50th anniversary August 13th. We have one son, two daughters, a great pastor son-in-law, and two of the world’s most beautiful granddaughters.

I began the annual Arizona Christian Writers Conference in 1982 and led it for 7 years before turning it over to Reg Forder who now holds the American Christian Writers Conferences across the country.

I’ve taught one- and two-day conferences on my own in several states, helping to set up writers’ clubs wherever I go. I’ve also taught at the Masters’ Conference, Marlene’s Bagnull’s Philadelphia conference, St. David’s, Wheaton, one in Kansas and Colorado, and the Southwest Writers Conference in Tucson.

So far I’ve had 22 books published and over 700 articles, short stories, devotionals, poems, and book reviews. I’m also a free-lance editor and proofreader.

Me: Tell us about your book A Step in the Write Direction. Why did you write it?

Donna: This 356-page book is also a dream come true. Through the years I’ve had so many people call me and say, “I want to be a writer. How do I get started?” and I didn’t have anything to offer them. Hopefully, all the answers they need are contained in this book–from where to get ideas to income tax preparation. I’ve just finished a student edition which is basically the same except adapted for teens and it includes assignments in each chapter.

Me: Have you had responses so far you want to mention?

Donna: One reviewer said, “[It’s] my most valuable resource. Not only does it have the answers to almost any writing question, it provides great guidance, both spiritual and motivational, in my writing journey.”

Another said, “What an excellent manuscript! The writing was tight and skilled … and the information was comprehensive; nothing was left out. What a treasure this will be for all writers–beginning writers will have a great resource to help them get up to speed, and seasoned pros will come back again and again when they need a ‘refresher course’ for a particular need. A Step in the Write Direction should be on every writers’ must-have bookshelf.”

Me: With so many changes happening in the publishing industry, are you optimistic about a beginning writer’s chances of success?

Donna: Definitely! Editors are always looking for books with a message. Of course, it helps if you have a platform and are able to help market your own book.

Me: Any short, last minute tips or words of wisdom?

1) Stay close to God. Sally Stuart says you can’t write from an empty cup.

2) Join a critique group. Their encouragement and insights are valuable.

3) Know basic English skills and sentence structure. Take a night class if necessary. And, most important,

4) Use a dictionary!!

Me: Thanks Donna. The more good resources we have available—such as your book—the better. Visit Donna’s website and order her book.

First, I want to thank those who have commented on this series. Particularly those I didn’t respond to personally. I do appreciate your notes.

Today, I wrap up this present series on how to succeed as a Christian writer. I’m sure there could be several more intermediary steps, but I’m limiting it to five. And so we now come to that final fifth step…which is really just a synthesis of the previous four steps into what is essentially a writer’s lifestyle. In this lifestyle, the journey that began with step one continues until your final day on earth. You’ve developed a rhythm of sorts. You write, you read, you market, you learn, you go to conferences….and perhaps most important, you always think like a writer. You experience something and immediately you’re writing about it in your head, almost as a reporter might do for a news story. You learn to discern when something sounds wrong and you change it. For instance, in the previous sentence, I originally wrote:

You experience something and right away you’re writing about it in your head.

But notice how clunky it sounds to have “right” and “writing” so close to each other. So I changed the former word to “immediately.” Small things like that become instinctive as you adopt a writer’s lifestyle. You also learn what activities can trigger creativity for you. In my case, my mind is very creative while driving and while in the shower….neither of which, alas, allow for effective note taking. Fortunately, listening to certain genres of music also works for me. So does people-watching.

My writing lifestyle may not look like yours. You may be more creative surrounded by utter silence. Your triggers may be playing a round of golf or taking a long walk. The point is your entire creative life is that of a writer. Writing defines you, in a sense. You become (healthily) consumed by writing….and yet you also handle rejection and disappointment with grace. After all, the four previous steps are not part of your history; instead they remain part of your ongoing present. So step number one remains fully intact: God has called you to this life and the results of your writing are fully in His hands. This means He will give you the creativity and He will open doors. You just do you part and walk through those doors….which sometimes means taking chances. Above all else, you learn to persist. Somewhere yesterday I read a quote that went something like this: What do you call writers who persist? The answer is published. I wish I could remember which writer’s blog that came from, but since I read several each day (as I hope you do), I often forget the source of a quote. (Where’s my notebook?)

And as you go along, I do want to mention one final thing about your writing: AIM HIGH. While it’s usually necessary for authors to be willing to start small, it’s not necessary (unless God has called you to it) to remain small. Dream big for your writing. Take risks. Expect to change lives with your writing. Ask God to bring about the maximum results from your writing. Right now I believe God has implanted the notion in my head to approach a particular person about helping write her autobiography….and it boggles my mind to even think about it. I feel like David in front of Goliath. But, Lord willing, I’m going to step out and write a letter to the person in question. All I can get is a “no.” Or, even better, a “yes.” Most of the breakthroughs I’ve had in my writing came about by aiming big and taking reasonable risks.

Well, there you have it. Five steps to success. Naturally there is more to be said about writing, otherwise I could just close up my blog right now and spend more time on my own projects. But the truth is, I enjoying writing about writing. So stay tuned. There will more to come. My next entry will be an interview, hopefully before the weekend.

Well, I’m back in the saddle…briefly. The OCW conference is past, but next week is church family camp. I’m the director, so I’ll be focused on that all next week.

The conference was fine, as expected. I reconnected with several old friends, made a few new ones, and missed the several who weren’t there this year.

My debate with James Scott Bell (plot versus character) went well. I won, of course. (Just don’t ask Jim who he thought won).

The big news, though, is something that happened apart from the conference. The publishing committee at a large Christian publisher met on Wednesday to consider a proposal of mine. Although I was expecting a “yes,” I got a “no.” And yet I wasn’t horribly disappointed. The reason is that although the proposal was on a topic dear to my heart, it was also one I was a bit hesitant to pursue. So I left it in God’s hands….and He, working through the decision of the committee, obviously closed that door. The result is that I’ve asked my agent not to submit that proposal nor the two others that were on the same general topic to any other publishers. It’s somewhat painful to close the door on that topic, but I think it’s for the best. This all goes back to the first step in becoming a Christian writer—trusting God to open and close doors as He chooses. I now feel free in a way. And, hey, this now means there are only 52 projects (instead of 55) on my list of books I want to write. I’m being narrowed as a writer and that’s a good thing. I expect there will more narrowing ahead too. I know I certainly will never live long enough to write all the projects on my list. But having a vision for each of those books is important, even though it means a season of pain when some of these envisioned projects must be put away for good. As someone as once said, the delete button is a writer’s best friend.

The hardest part, really, is that once I knew the proposal was under consideration, my mind kicked into high gear in preparation for that particular project. Everything I saw, read, or thought somehow got sifted for material to use in the eventual book. Even now, hours after hearing the negative verdict, I’m having trouble shutting down that part of my mind that was becoming consumed with gathering material for the book. I imagine this will last at least another full week. Maybe longer.

Perhaps the week at family camp will quiet my mind a bit. We’ll see. In the meantime, if I don’t get the fifth and final step in how to succeed as a Christian writer posted before family camp, rest assured I’ll do it as soon as I’m home again.

Meanwhile, I want you to consider how God might need to narrow or expand your vision as a writer. Is it time to hit the delete button on some projects….or perhaps time to refresh your vision with something new and exciting?

Okay, you’re prayed up, you’ve educated yourself on the publishing industry, and you’ve worked on improving your craft. You’ve actually started writing seriously. Good! You’re well on your way.

But now comes a very tricky step number four. This step can vary from writer to writer, but generally it’s all about writing, revising, connecting, receiving rejections, and perhaps a few successes along the way. It’s really the step that both launches you and sustains you for the long haul. You’re planning what you’ll write, you’re writing, you’re connecting at conferences, and you’re patient.

Shall I remind you of the many famous authors who stuck it out during this crucial step four? Dr. Seuss, for example? His first book was rejected as “too different from other juveniles….” Popular mystery author Mary Higgins Clark’s first book was rejected with the words, “We found the heroine as boring as her husband had.” How about novelist Tony Hillerman who was told, “If you insist on rewriting this, get rid of all that Indian stuff.” I could go on and on, but you know the stories. Rejection is the way of the writing life. Get used to it. If you’re called to write, just keep at it and let God find the right publisher. As someone has said, consider each manuscript a package in search of the right editor and each rejection as simply a report that the editor you seek is not at that publishing house. Stay upbeat and optimistic. Keep going to conferences. Make friends of editors, agents, and other writers. Right now I could easily rattle off a dozen names of aspiring writers whom I greatly admire and believe they will be published elsewhere someday as their proposal was not a good fit for Harvest House. Some of these authors I’ll see next week at the Oregon Christian Writer’s conference. I’m anxious to check in with several of them and see how they’re doing. I’m always a bit sad when I hope to see someone at a conference and they’re not there because for one reason or another they’ve had to put their writing on the back burner.

A word of advice during this often protracted time: be willing to try appropriate bending of the “rules” when it seems right. I bent a rule in landing my first book contract. I sent a query letter to my six top publishers, basically saying, “Yoo-hoo! Here I am! I’m a writer. Want anything written?” Okay, I spruced it up a bit, but that was my basic message….and it resulted in my two best selling books to date. One of my favorite acquisitions as an editor was a book that was “over the transom,” sent in by an aspiring writer who didn’t know me from Adam. I’m not telling you to break the rules, only to discerningly bend them when you have nothing to lose. (Please, don’t anyone send me a letter saying “Yoo-hoo! Here I am! I’m a writer. Want anything written?” That’s just so predictable). Maybe I should say it this way: sometimes God opens doors a crack and we need notice the crack and try to open the door a bit wider. To be honest, I have no idea what situations might present themselves to you to bend a rule. Just watch and be aware.

During this phase, do what you can to build the dreaded “platform” from which to promote your books. I hate the fact that platforms are so necessary, but for the most part they are. If you abhor doing a lot of publicity, then write something that doesn’t require a platform. I certainly have no platform to speak of and yet I’ve done about eight books now. But I’ve written books that are more of an impulse item than tied to my name and “platform.”

Also during this phase, as you have the occasional success, you can start to consider when you should get an agent. Having an agent doesn’t absolve you from keeping alert about the marketplace, but it does help to have someone who can represent you while you tend to the writing. Also, a good agent can help you plan your career and give you honest feedback on your proposals.

Finally, part of this step involves keeping your antennae up. What’s happening in the world—or going to happen in the world that might affect the kinds of books people buy? One anecdote along this line I often tell is the story of hockey great Wayne Gretzky. During an interview he was asked the secret to his success. He said, “other players go where the puck is now. I go where the puck is going next.” That’s somewhat your assignment as a writer. What will people want to read two or three years from now? Is that something around which you can write a book? Amish fiction is hot now (still!), but what might be the next trend? Quakers? Sci-fi? Cat mysteries?

Next week I’ll be away at the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference. I’ll report on the conference when I return, and then conclude this series with the fifth and final step.

*Update. I wrote the above blog earlier this afternoon. Tonight I had an opportunity to bend a rule regarding my writing. I took that opportunity and I think it probably won’t succeed. No matter. I don’t regret the bend. Just be careful not to be obnoxious when you bend a rule. Be nice. Editors remember.

Okay, you’re prayed up, you’ve started to immerse yourself in the publishing industry….so what’s next in your pursuit of success as a writer?

The writing, of course! The praying and the educating yourself are very important (and need to continue throughout your career), but they really won’t do much good if you don’t actually write.

Here are some tips as you set about this third step:

1. Establish a set place to write. If you have an office, that’s great. If not, arrange a place where you can keep your writing life a part from all else in your life. I know many writers have no other place to write than the kitchen table, but that’s very impractical for the long term. Make your writing corner comfortable, quiet, and easily accessible (to YOU, not to the rest of the family).

2. As much as possible, set a specific time to write. This will surely be different for each person and largely dependent on your circumstances. I commented to a writer friend of mine in her seventies that it must be nice to have so much time to write. Her reply was that she actually had managed her writing time better when she had a houseful of kids (five!) underfoot. She said she got up early every morning before the rest of the family and wrote then. In order to write when you have other pressing duties, that’s all the more reason to make time—a specific time, if possible—to write.

3. Don’t insist that every writing session last an hour or more—unless you can really pull it off. For me, I simply tell myself that I MUST sit down and write, if only for five minutes. In a way, that’s a trick I play on myself, because I know I’ll never write for just five minutes. Those five minutes turn into ten minutes, then thirty, then before I know, an hour has passed. I’m a natural born procrastinator though. That’s why I need such tricks. If you’re not in that club, so much the better.

4. Although many writers insist on getting each paragraph, page, or chapter just perfect before they move on, I think it’s far wiser to blast through a first draft of just about any project—all the way to the end—and then come back and do the necessary rewrites. For one thing, the creative side of the brain is not the same side as the editorial side. So, for many of us, it’s best to let the creative side have its say without interruption and then when that first draft is finished, let the thing sit for a couple of days and then go over it critically, allowing the editorial side of the brain to do its thing. NEVER send an editor a first or second draft of anything. Revise it until it’s right.

5. Pay attention to triggers that help or hinder you in your writing. Some of these may be surprising. For me, sometimes some classic rock music from the sixties actually helps me creatively. At other times, utter silence is needed. Some writers need a window to look out of on occasion, others find it distracting. Even the presence of food can be a trigger for or against your creativity.

6. Just as keeping up on the publishing industry is an ongoing part of your job description as writer, so too will be your continuing efforts to improve as a writer. You are always going to be getting better as a writer. The more you write, the sooner you become better. There are several important ways you can improve your writing. For me, early on I took some creative writing classes at our local community college. This particular class was called “Imaginative Writing” and continued enrollment from quarter to quarter was encouraged. I took the class for five or six quarters (for no credit, which was cheaper). Many communities offer creative writing as a part of their local adult education program. Also, I began to read the various writers’ magazines such as The Writer, Writer’s Digest, and others. That led to reading many of the best books on writing. (After this series, I’ll blog about my favorites). Because I love writing, I love to read books about writing. I hope you do too. I love to discover the secrets that work for established writers. Some of the techniques seem bizarre (writing the final paragraph of your book first, for example), but that just confirms that writers are different and each one needs to find out what works best in his or her case.

7. If possible, join a critique group. I was part of a truly wonderful group for more than fifteen years. I credit that group with helping me immensely.

8. Be willing to start small. Your first effort doesn’t need to be Gone with the Wind, The Purpose Driven Life or a sale to Christianity Today. (Do consider articles as a great outlet for your writing).

9. When you face writer’s block, overcome it right away. Blast through. If necessary, take a book by your favorite author and just begin to type a few paragraphs. Sometimes this will jumpstart your writing by giving you a rhythm to your prose.

There are nine good tips for the actual writing phase of your career. I know ten would be a more complete number—but I also have been told that blog entries that are too long are seldom read….so I will stop here with the hope you’re still with me.

Watch for Part 4 in just a few days. Now, go write.

We’re in the early stages of a series on how to succeed as a Christian writer. First, let me add a note about my previous entry on the spiritual aspects of God’s calling as a writer. My friend, Brenda Scott, is right to remind me that not only should we pray about our writing, but we should also have some close friends around us who will pray for us. You might want to think about who those people are in your life and solicit their ongoing prayers.

Today, let’s look at factor number two.

2. Start learning about the publishing industry itself. This is a factor that really doesn’t have much to do with the actual writing. That will come as a later factor. Right now, especially if you’re early in your writing career, you really need to spend time understanding how it all works. Do you know the publishers who are currently publishing the sort of writing you want to do? Is that genre even popular right now? Which editors might be open to a proposal from you? That basic information, and much more, is crucial to your success. You need to follow the industry. Know which titles are on the bestseller lists each month. Know why those books are doing so well.

Not only do you need to learn about the industry, you need to enjoy learning about it. I want you to be excited about the latest bestseller list when it comes out. I want you to read with interest the reviews of new books being published. Salivate over the Christy Awards if you write fiction. Lean forward into both your writing and the world of writing and publishing. This is really not hard to do if you want to succeed. Most of you, I believe, already have an affinity for this knowledge.

When I was a teenager, I really loved the music of my generation. I subscribed to Billboard magazine and every Wednesday rushed home from school knowing the latest issue would be in the mailbox. I’d turn eagerly to the Hot 100 and gasp at what record had shot up the chart with a red bullet beside it. I’d lament the really great songs that never seemed to get the attraction they deserved. (No matter what anyone says, I still maintain James Brown’s version of “Night Train” was far better than his later, more popular hits!).

Now, of course, writing has supplanted music in my life. (And that’s good thing. I know far more about writing than I do about creating music). But that same interest I once had in Billboard magazine, I now have for Publisher’s Weekly, The Writer, The Christian Communicator, and other magazines popular in our industry.

Reading the magazines is one of the ways you’ll satisfy this craving to learn. Another is by reading popular blogs in our industry. I regularly search out the blogs of Chip MacGregor, Angela Hunt, BJ Hoff, Randy Ingermanson, Brandilyn Collins, and several others. I also read Publisher’s Weekly online and Publisher’s Marketplace. You can easily and quickly become educated in the industry by reading blogs and magazines. Also, while we’re on the topic of reading, you need to be a reader of good books yourself. And you need to be reading books on how to improve your craft. I almost always have a book on writing in my reading pile. There are MANY excellent books to choose from. I like the books on writing by Ray Bradbury, Lawrence Block, Ralph Keyes, James Scott Bell, and others. If you haven’t started your writing library yet, do so now. (And if reading about writing bores you, that may be another warning signal to you).

Finally, you really MUST attend at least one writer’s conference a year. There are plenty to choose from, no doubt some near where you live. At a conference, you will network with others who share your passion for writing. You’ll meet authors, agents, and other successful writers who will share their writing tips in workshops and small groups. Don’t tell me you can’t afford a conference. That, too, is not a good sign. There are partial scholarships to several of the good conferences. Save your money all year long and GO. Have a bake sale. Hold a car wash. Raid your kids’ piggy banks….whatever it takes….you need to be there. If you live in the northwest, we’re just a couple of weeks away from the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference. I count it as among the best I attend each year.

Bottom line: get hungry for knowledge about writing and the publishing industry. Then feed that hunger by magazines, blogs, books, conferences, and however else you can.