Monthly Archives: June 2013

Decorating for Writing


In many ways, I’m like my cat, Diamond. She enjoys finding different places to nap; I enjoy finding different places to write, depending on my mood and need. After my husband died, I moved into a tiny one-bedroom apartment where I had the task of finding brand new writing spots and places to put all my writing gear.

The Small Space Challenge

In my old house I had five filing cabinets. I brought only two with me and put one of them in the bedroom closet. Now I have to move clothes aside in order to open a file drawer. I spent weeks tossing out papers. Amazing what you’re willing to get rid of when you have to.


This (above) is what it looked like when I moved in. I closed off the kitchen with Ikea bookcases and made the dining room into my office. I even managed to fit in my huge executive desk. I’d come within a hair of selling it at a garage sale, but it offers so much storage — three file drawers and three smaller drawers and enough room on top for my computer, two printers and all the little desk things I love, such as my “cat” Scotch tape holder and my “cat” cup for paper clips. As you may have guessed, I have a thing for cats.  ImageThis may be the world’s smallest office, but it’s cozy. I love cozy.

Secret Nooks and Crannies

Of course, creating an office left me without a dining room. But I figured something out! I hid a folded-up card table and folding chair behind the wood screen that I use as a room divider between the office and the living room. See?Image When I set up the card table, which is a little grungy, I pretty it up with a lace table cloth from the cabinet in the background. Then I can spread out for editing and moving papers around.  And it doubles as a dining room table.  Image

Most Decadent Writing Spot

One of my favorite places for writing (see below) is in bed with my bed tray. So decadent! Usually the cat snuggles up next to me and leans her head back for a neck scratch.  I use the little red laptop that my late husband gave me a few years ago, and I love it. So light and easily movable.  I’ll write drafts of blogs here and then email them to my desktop in my “office.” Image

Under the bedroom window, below, I have a small secretary desk. There is so little room between the desk and the bed, I can hardly squeeze in. On top of the desk, left side, I’ve placed a small footstool, the one that Diamond is napping on in the first picture above. It’s one of her favorite napping spots. Here’s where I do the kind of writing I just hate — writing out checks to pay bills.

Decorating for Writing 005

When I’m sitting here, Diamond and I watch squirrels and birds. The squirrels climb up to our floor, clinging onto the stucco, like tree bark, and peek their heads around to look at us through the glass. They chatter at Diamond and flip their tails at her. She flips her tail right back at ’em.

Out on the “Catio”

Finally, there’s the 4 ft. by 12 ft. patio which my very talented son-in-law screened in securely, giving us 48 square feet more space. (That math is right, right?) What a luxury that is! It’s like getting another room.  ImageYou can see Diamond enjoying the morning sun and taking a  more up-close and personal look at the birds and squirrels. I like the “catio” for coffee, looking through research notes, reading drafts and making necessary phone calls. And watching birds and squirrels when I should be concentrating on marketing my book!

There’s Always Starbucks

When I want to see actual human beings instead of birds and squirrels — and Diamond — I go to Starbucks.  No matter how many writing spots you can find in even the smallest of living spaces, you simply cannot be a writer, especially in LA., without an occasional outing to Starbucks. It’s a great place to watch other people getting their writing done.


The Dan Poynter Show

Publishing Guru Dan Poynter Presents Another Factoid-Filled and Fascinating Talk on Publishing -- Photo Credit: Sylvia Cary, LMFT

Publishing Guru Dan Poynter Presents Another Factoid-Filled and Fascinating Talk on Publishing  — Photo: Sylvia Cary

Whenever publishing guru Dan Poynter speaks within a thirty mile radius of Los Angeles, I’m there. Recently, he spoke at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Home (MPTF) in Woodland Hills (a retirement home for the movie industry), and I was there. The grounds are beautiful — fountains, flowers, flags and a huge statue of a Trombone Player.

Flags Welcome Visitors at the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF)

Flags Welcome Visitors to the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) — Photo: Sylvia Cary

Okay, so why am I a Dan Poynter groupie? Because Dan Poynter always has something new and interesting to say about one of my favorite topics, publishing. To date, he has made twenty-one trips around the world to speak on the subject, which puts him on the cutting edge of what’s new in publishing globally. I want to hear all about it. For example, during his talk at the MPTF, he mentioned that the Chicago Sun-Times had just laid off all their photographers, instructing their reporters to take their own photos and videos. This is just another example of the fact that newspapers are dying and can no longer afford their staffs. Keep in mind that I heard this bit of news from Poynter  a week before I read about it online, which tells you this man has his ear to the ground! In addition to giving his talks, Poynter always distributes a fabulous handout, a great resource in itself. And for those of you who don’t want to follow the man around, his free newsletter, Publishing Poynters, has 21,000 subscribers and is full of book marketing news, ideas, tips and opportunities. To sign up go to

Toot Your Own Horn -- Statue of Trombone Player outside the Katzenburg Pavilion at the Motion Picture & Television Fund

Toot Your Own Horn — Statue of Trombone Player outside the Katzenberg Pavilion at the Motion Picture & Television Fund — Photo: Sylvia Cary

“Discovery” Is the New Word for “Promotion”

According to Poynter, the latest term for book “promotion” is book “discovery,” a fresh word that lets writers know that it’s up to them to find ways for readers to “discover” their books: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” And since publishers no longer market your book for you, you have to do it — unless you’re Paris Hilton and you’re already a brand. I know I’m not a “brand,” so that means I have to keep on looking for ways my book can be “discovered.”

“Amazon is a Fact of Life”

There are authors out there who seem to relish putting down Amazon, but “Amazon is a fact of life,” Poynter says. Since 70-80% of all online book sales are through Amazon, learn how to take advantage of the site and all it offers that can benefit you and your book.  Join forums and groups. Improve your Amazon profile. Flesh out the Author Central page. Poynter adds, “Put different images of yourself on the site, including pictures of you at work, doing what you do, so when somebody goes to Google Images to look you up (perhaps for a review, blog or article), they’ll have a whole page of different  photos to pick from to go with whatever they are writing.”


“You must be on Wikipedia,” Poynter says. It’s not easy to get on the site. You have to follow the Wikipedia format. You can always look up Dan Poynter and use his page as a template. Wikipedia has become the place people check out when they are checking you out to see if you’re the real deal, so give it a shot.

“Bloggers are the New Book Reviewers”

Poynter has been saying this for years, and it’s even more true today: “Bloggers are the new book reviewers.” While it’s good to have a blog, you don’t have to have one. Instead, you can follow the blogs of others and, at an appropriate time, approach them to be a “guest blogger,” or ask if they’d be willing to review your book. He pointed out that publications such as the Library Journal have now started to charge money for book reviews – mostly because they’re getting fewer ads from publishers, so it helps them stay afloat. The downside is that their reviews no longer have the same credibility because they’re paid for. On the other hand, blogger reviews have come to mean more.

Two other Poynter tips from his MPTF talk: 1)  Put together a 2-minute “sizzle reel” (a lively demo reel about your book) and upload it to your website or YouTube; 2) Use your email program to create an “ad” for your book at the bottom of every email you send out. You can include your picture or a picture of your book cover – or both.

Check Dan Poynter’s website ( or look at the end of his newsletters to see “where in the world” he is speaking next — and maybe you, too, can be a Poynter groupie.

© Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press)