Your Career Forecast: February / March 2018

Your Career Forecast: February / March 2018

I work as a career and business strategist. But my secret passion is… astrology!

About once a month,  I post an overview of what’s happening in the cosmos and how it might influence your career. It’s called: Your Career Forecast.

Whether you’re job-hunting, running your own business, or wondering about the ideal time to ask for a raise or take a vacation, each Career Forecast will reveal the important dates and cosmic shifts that you need to know about.

I am joined by my dear friend, Heidi Rose Robbins, a master astrologer who will provide expert insight into what’s going on in the stars.

Let’s dive in!


OVERVIEW

What’s going on this month…

HEIDI: The Sun moves into Pisces on February 18th at 9:18 am Pacific time. Pisces is a water sign. It brings an ocean of sensitivity and compassion. Pisces rules endings, as it is the last sign in the zodiac. It rules letting go, release and surrender.

Under Pisces, the ocean washes up and erodes what has outlived its time. It also softens the more rigid or structured parts of ourselves, helping us to learn more about unconditional love in our lives.

On another note, Pisces rules the imagination and wakes up the dreamer in each of us. When the Sun is in Pisces, we are meant to steep in the dream. Music, film and poetry all fall under the domain of Pisces.

The Full Moon of Pisces falls on March 1st, amplifying the energy of Pisces. This is the most heightened time of the year for meditating upon compassion, love and uplifting one another through kindness and service. We can take time today to feel beyond ourselves and remember our capacity to positively impact and profoundly change and uplift the lives of others.

March 4th is an extra dreamy day as the Sun shares the same degree as Neptune in the heavens. This is a perfect day for artistry and love. It is a time to receive. The imagination is hugely stimulated. Always with Neptune, however, we must be sure we are seeing clearly. It is easy to let the dream subsume reality.

Mercury moves into Aries on March 5th. Mercury loves to be in Aries. This is a combination that brings bold ideas and forward progress. There may be a certain impatience that accompanies this duo, but sometimes it’s good to get a little impatient with ourselves so we finally take the action we need to take.

The very next day, March 6th, Venus moves into Aries and amps up the fire. These are days to begin again, to push forward, to brainstorm. These are days when the great ideas descend and we get excited to dive in.

Mars moves into Capricorn on March 17th which is the best energy to help implement those new ideas. Mars in Capricorn is the Warrior of Work, The Warrior of Determination, The Warrior of Leadership. You’ll get the work done—and done well—when Mars is in Capricorn.

There is also a New Moon in Pisces on March 17th which plants the seeds for the upcoming month. Plant seeds of self-compassion and compassion for Humanity! Imagine a better world and take your own tiny steps to make it so.


What does all of this mean for your career? Let’s look closer…

JOB HUNTING?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: Mercury moves into Aries on March 5th. It’s a day of bold ideas, forward momentum, and quite possibly, a feeling of urgency and impatience. You might think to yourself, “It feels like I’ve been job-hunting forever. Why is everything taking so long?” If you feel annoyed, that’s good! Take your irritation and use it as fuel. Channel all of that energy into your job-hunt.

Be bold. Be decisive. Call someone you’ve been meaning to call. Reach out to a recruiting expert. Contact five close friends and ask them to keep their eyes and ears open for you. Contact a company you love and give them your résumé—even if they’re not hiring right now—“just in case.” It certainly couldn’t hurt. A week or two from now, who knows… they might have an unexpected opening!

Bottom line: on March 5th and March 6th (which is another fiery, push-things-forward type of day) take whatever action step you’ve been hesitating on. Now is the time to act!

(Side note: if you’re feeling stuck with your job-hunt—like nothing’s moving forward—I recommend reading Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It’s one of my favorite books on how to map out your life and career with thoughtfulness and care. It might trigger several new ideas for you.)


ALREADY HAVE A JOB?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: The Sun moves into Pisces on February 18th. Here, we have an opportunity to wash away the past—and begin anew. As Heidi mentioned, Pisces is the final sign in the Zodiac and it’s associated with endings, release, and letting go.

Is there anything you’ve been “holding onto” at work? Maybe there’s a project from last year that didn’t pan out very successfully—and you’re still feeling embarrassed about it. Maybe you’re holding a grudge against a colleague who took credit for your hard work. Or that person who flaked out and left you with a huge mountain of extra tasks. Or that person who sends you passive-aggressive emails five times a day.

If there’s anything about your job that feels burdensome, it’s time to let it all go. After all, you don’t want to walk into the office feeling heavy and stressed!

During the time of Pisces, do whatever you need to do to release the heaviness of the past. Meditate. Exhale deeply. Put a quartz crystal—known for clearing away stale energy—or a healthy plant in your office. Create some kind of ritual or symbol to indicate to yourself, “The past is past. I’m moving on.”

About a month later, on March 17th, Mars moves into Capricorn. If there’s something at work that seriously needs to get done, today, the Universe is completely on your side! The word for today is: “Implement.” This is not a day for dreamy musing and meditating. It’s a day to buckle down and crunch the numbers, write the emails, make the calls, complete the designs, send out the invoices… go, go, go! Keep your nose to the grindstone. You’ll be stunned by how much you get done.


SELF-EMPLOYED OR RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: Not only is March 17th an excellent day for implementing and getting things done, it’s also the New Moon in Pisces. On this day, we’ve got a big, beautiful ocean of emotion—love, compassion, and hope for humanity. If you’re self-employed, ask yourself, “How could I use my position as an entrepreneur to improve the world?”

You don’t have to be “world famous” or a “billionaire philanthropist” in order to make a difference in people’s lives. Be imaginative. Come up with a project that you feel excited to do. The New Moon is an especially good day to begin a healing, world-changing project.

What type of project? Well, for example, you could host a fundraiser inside your shop. You could contribute a small percentage of your profits to charity. You could use your online platform to spread an important message. You could partner with a local school to create a special line of products featuring artwork from kids. You could do something really, really small—like mail one anonymous “thank you” letter to a fellow entrepreneur who inspires you. You could mentor young business owners, writers, or artists—perhaps you’ve got one, two, or ten years of hard-earned wisdom that you could share.

During the time of Pisces, especially on the powerful New Moon day, think beyond yourself—beyond your individual life and your individual ambitions.

How could you create a ripple of compassion that extends far, far, far beyond yourself? Take a step to make it so.


Famous Pisceans:

George Washington. America’s first President. His Presidency marked the end of a turbulent, violent war—and the dawn of a new country. Big, oceanic waves of change!

Albert Einstein. A scientist, a dreamer, an innovator. A prime example of Piscean imagination—seeing what might be possible, even if nobody else sees it yet.

Steve Jobs. Another highly creative, imaginative thinker who created massive ripples of change. Jobs’ creativity has awakened creativity in millions of people—people who now use his products to blog, podcast, make videos, and so much more.

Rihanna. Her new makeup company—Fenty Beauty—is a beautiful example of Piscean artistry and compassion. Her product line includes 40 different skin tones, and with this, Rihanna is sending a clear message to her customers: “Nobody is left out. Everyone is welcome here.”


OVERALL, THIS IS A GREAT MONTH FOR…

Dreaming and imagination. Your next big idea could be right around the corner.

Compassion and emotional depth. Dive deep inside your heart. Express. Make art.

Refilling your creative tank. Reading poetry, attending a film festival, or diving into an inspiring Netflix documentary.

Finding new ways to serve humanity. Creating positive ripples of change.

Shedding, creating closure, releasing the past. The time of Pisces is like “New Years Eve” all over again—an ending and a new beginning.


IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER…

February 18th – Sun moves into Pisces. (We enter a month-long period of dreamy, imaginative, artistic qualities.)

March 1st – Full Moon of Pisces. (Pisces qualities are amplified! Write a love letter today, a love poem, or a song. Let yourself be filled with sensitivity and compassion.)

March 4th – Neptune conjunct the Sun. (Imagination will be highly stimulated. Another great day for dreaming and creativity.)

March 5th – Mercury moves into Aries. (Determination and fire, maybe even a twinge of impatience. It’s time to implement and get things done!)

March 6th – Venus moves into Aries. (Another excellent day to push forward and get lots of things done.)

March 17th – Mars moves into Capricorn. (Yet ANOTHER day for implementation and getting things done! Stay focused. Go, go, go.)

March 17th – New Moon in Pisces. (An opportune moment to begin a new project—especially a project that’s related to artistry, love, and serving humanity.


CAREER MANTRA FOR THE MONTH

“Listen to your life…touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.” —Frederick Buechner

Pisces reminds us that there’s so much more to life than just… work.

Yes, it’s wonderful to have a career that you love. Everyone deserves to have meaningful work. Even so, we must remember that work is just one fraction of life—one shore, not the entire ocean.

Try not to let the pressures of work consume you. Don’t forget to dream… to touch, taste, and smell… to experience the full emotional spectrum of life. The tiny moments of joy. The scent of the ocean. The pleasure of discovering your new favorite song. All the precious, ephemeral moments that comprise a well-lived life.

During the time of Pisces, let your inner CEO take a backseat, and let your inner Artist lead the way.

Have an amazing month!

With love,

Ellen & Heidi


Learn more about my career & business coaching services here.

Learn more about Heidi and her astrological services here.

An Interview with Lauren Chiarello

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Lauren Chiarello

Whenever I meet someone who’s got a really cool job, who runs a thriving business, or who has completed an amazing project, I always want to know: “How did you do that?”

I’m always curious to hear the “behind-the-scenes story” — who they emailed, what they said, how they got their first client, how they got their foot in the door — the exact steps that they took to achieve their goal.

HOW DID YOU DO THAT? is an interview series where we get to hear the REAL story behind someone’s success—not the polished, neat and tidy version.

To see a complete list of all the interviews that have been completed to date, head over here.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Lauren Chiarello

Name: Lauren Chiarello
Location: New York
Profession: Fitness Instructor, Events Guru, 2x Cancer Survivor


Lauren, you’re a fitness instructor based in NYC, and you’re also a 2x cancer survivor. You’re involved in lots of fundraising efforts, you do event planning, and you’ve raised over $75,000 for cancer charities. You’re a strong, generous, and busy woman!

Can you walk us through a typical workday in your life? Are you by a computer? Riding the subway around town? Meeting with clients? At the gym? Describe a “day in the life” of Lauren Chiarello.

I’m up early every weekday – either teaching a group Pilates / TRX class at Flex Studios or Barre class at exhale or training my private clients. I also teach in a corporate setting – I have 3 groups that I see regularly. I try to stack my days as much as I can to reduce commuting around the city. I live uptown + sometimes I’ll need to commute twice in one day so that’ll add up to 2 – 2.5 hours a day. Not ideal! During my commuting time, I’m usually working from my phone — scheduling / answering emails / planning fitness events / charity work. Whenever I have an open time slot – I grab my own workout. I try to take class or run outside. The days can be quite long so over the past few years, I’ve tried to learn how to conserve my energy. It’s tricky but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.

Working in the fitness industry seems really fun! You get to move your body all day long, listen to energizing music… it sounds like a dream gig, especially for someone who loves helping people feel better. What’s your favorite part of your work? Also, what’s your least favorite part?

I adore meeting people. My students are the reason I teach. I’ve seen firsthand how movement can transform the body + mind. I teach to educate and my hope is that my students walk out learning something. It’s truly a gift to lead others and I never take it for granted when my rock star students carve out time to get stronger, both physically and mentally.

Working for myself, I wake up everyday unemployed. It’s been challenging to set boundaries. Teaching a lot of hours can put a strain on my body and voice. I try to listen to my body as much as I can so I can rest properly and continue to hold space for my students.

Do you have a morning routine? What is it?

Sorta! I build in time to drink hot water with lemon and eat something nourishing before starting the day. I also try to take time to sit with a clear mind. I have a full schedule (sometimes up to 8 different pieces of goodness per day!) and my brain wants to start darting in 897347 directions. It’s a practice to try to find stillness to start my day. Work in progress!

Have you ever had a project that didn’t go very well? A class that nobody attended, a fundraiser that didn’t raise much money, or something else? What happened? How did you feel? And how did you pick yourself up and convince yourself to keep trying?

Oh yes. Funny enough, I revel in the failures. Even though they’re tough, I always feel like there is so much to learn.

In 2016, I started an outdoor workout event series called #ChiChiSweatSesh. I love exercising outside and I was super stoked to bring community and connection into Central Park. I teamed up with a fellow fitness instructor to lead a combo workout, followed by a potluck picnic. My friend and fellow coach Rachel led a running workout, and then I taught a core class. Around 5 people signed up; all but one canceled last minute. We still had a truly lovely evening but I remember being so bummed about the attendance numbers. It’s a struggle to get people to come out for events – people in NYC have a lot of commitments! The lack of attendance lit a fire in me to figure out how to rally more people. I thought to myself, How can I make this event stand out?

I decided to start bringing in food and beverage partners to offer samples as well as a charity partner. I ask my teachers to select a cause that is meaningful to them and we invite the charity to participate. Last year, one #ChiChiSweatSesh supported a mental health organization, This is My Brave, and we had a participant perform a poem she wrote to kick off the evening.  It was the most memorable one of the year.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Lauren Chiarello

I’ve known many cancer survivors in my life. Nearly all of them have told me that—even though it’s scary and awful—cancer has also brought many positive lessons into their lives. Lessons about resilience, about being present and appreciating each moment, about going after your goals and not waiting for someday later, about mindfulness and gratitude, and more. I am curious to know… what kind of imprint has cancer left in your life? How has this illness shaped you into the person you are today?

Literally all of the above lessons you mentioned! I was recently on my friend Jill’s podcast, The Career Passport, talking about “How Gratitude Can Save Your Career (And Maybe Even Your Life).” Being grateful allows us to focus on a life of abundance. When we have a tough day, if we can bring a sense of gratitude into our minds, our energy and attitude have the potential to shift in a positive direction. I often say, no day but today.

I was quite young when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma — 23 years old, fresh out of college + ready to tackle life! I was completely sidelined when I learned I had cancer. I led a healthy lifestyle – grew up an athlete and have been a vegetarian since I was 14. Going through treatment at such a young age helped me to put life in perspective and changed the trajectory of my entire life. I doubt I would be a fitness instructor. I fell in love with movement after my treatments. About one year after my stem cell transplant, a friend introduced me to Barre classes. My teachers helped me discover strength I didn’t know I had.

My mantra is Yes. You. Can. I believe that everyone has the ability to lead his or her best lives. We must be relentless in the pursuit. Cancer taught me that.

Also, every day is a gift. I start all of my classes by saying “it’s a beautiful day to be alive.” Because, it just is.

You were recently nominated for Reebok’s Most Inspiring Trainer in America Award—and you became a finalist! Congratulations! How did this happen? Did you apply? Did a client submit your name for consideration? Tell us more about this wonderful achievement.

Thank you so much! The nomination was a true honor. Friends / clients / family submitted my name for consideration. My cousin made this amazing video which I feel helped me get noticed. Even though I didn’t win, it was a wonderful platform to share my story. In sharing my story, the hope is to help others feel less alone.

You have such a positive outlook on life. One of your favorite mantras is: “It’s a beautiful day to be alive.” But do you ever have moments in your everyday life where you feel discouraged or overwhelmed? When? And how do you pull yourself out of those moments?

I definitely have those moments – probably everyday. If I am feeling overwhelmed, I try to step away from whatever I am doing and look at it with a bird’s eye view. If I am feeling discouraged, I look to find tiny moments of joy that can lift my spirits.

I truly enjoy reading quotes + passages. One of my favorites is Ralph Marston’s The Daily Motivator. He writes about different life themes and they always seem to resonate with me at just the right time.

You’re obviously very passionate about health, fitness, and self-care. What are some ways that you take care of yourself, and invest in your own wellbeing? Do you have any favorite rituals, classes, products, or…?

This area had been lacking for a while as my schedule had gotten overloaded. Over the past few months, I’ve made active changes. I make my workouts a priority (Barre / Pilates / TRX / Running / Cycling / Yoga) … I like it all!

I was having constant pain in my SI joint + I decided to go for regular therapeutic massages. These have been super-helpful. I schedule them every other Friday and it’s a beautiful way to kick-off the weekend. Since I use my body for my work, I have to keep it healthy!

I love to travel. It expands my heart and mind. I truly enjoy learning about different cultures and immersing myself in new environments. My husband and I try to take lots of adventures when our schedule allows. On the deck in 2018: French Alps with Sharing Bali + Beyond.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Lauren Chiarello

3 THINGS

We always end each HOW DID YOU DO THAT? interview with helpful pieces of advice. Imagine someone, out there, who would love to work in the fitness industry… but isn’t sure how to begin. What are the first 3 steps this person could take? Any advice?

1. Find what excites you!

Do you love yoga, Zumba, HIIT, cycling? Find the one you’re most passionate about and start to build consistency. Try taking the class 3-4x/week and see how your body, mind and heart feel.

2. Build Relationships!

This one takes time. I was a Barre student at exhale for 5 years before I became a teacher. I fell in love with the method. I got to know the teachers and from there, it was a natural fit to train.

3. Start to investigate!

Ask your local gym / studio how you can become certified. You’ll also need to be CPR / AED certified which you can do through your local Red Cross. Most studios require a group exercise certification as well – I received mine through AFAA.

You can follow Lauren on Instagram at @chichilifenyc. For all you lucky people in New York City, she offers great classes and events.


ONE MORE THING…

Do you have “one more quick question” that you’d like to ask Lauren? Email me and tell me what you want to know! I might choose your question for my ONE MORE THING… Podcast (Coming soon!!!)


YOUR #1 CAREER GOAL: ACHIEVED

Do you need some encouragement to help you achieve a big, daunting career goal? Would you like to have a career coach/strategist in your corner—feeding you ideas that you’d never considered before, helping you figure out who to contact, and what to say, and checking in to make sure you don’t procrastinate? If so… click here to find out how we can work together. I’d love to coach you!

ELLEN_SIGNATURE

Photos: Foxes and Wolves

An Interview with Nicole Antoinette

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Nicole Antoinette
Whenever I meet someone who’s got a really cool job, who runs a thriving business, or who has completed an amazing project, I always want to know: “How did you do that?”

I’m always curious to hear the “behind-the-scenes story” — who they emailed, what they said, how they got their first client, how they got their foot in the door — the exact steps that they took to achieve their goal.

HOW DID YOU DO THAT? is an interview series where we get to hear the REAL story behind someone’s success—not the polished, neat and tidy version.

To see a complete list of all the interviews that have been completed to date, head over here.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Nicole Antoinette

Name: Nicole Antoinette
Location: Bend, Oregon
Profession: Writer, Podcaster, Athlete


Nicole, you run an amazing podcast called Real Talk Radio, where you have conversations with all kinds of people about all kinds of topics—alcoholism, debt, divorce, mental illness, and racial discrimination, for starters.

The purpose of the show is to have real, honest conversations about life—particularly the “messier” parts of life that many people struggle with but don’t discuss publicly.

When—and why—did you decide to create this podcast? Is it something you thought about doing for a long time? Did the idea hit you out-of-the-blue one day? Tell me about the origins of this show.

The first season of the show came out in August 2015, but through blogging and other mediums I’ve done honest personal story sharing online for over a decade. So while the podcast itself was a new creative project that began only a few years ago, the motivation for creating it (to give myself and others the space to talk honestly and openly about our real lives) is one that I’ve deeply valued for a long time now.

My “why” for creating this podcast had a lot to do with the personal burnout I felt from self-help fatigue. Everywhere I looked, someone was trying to sell me something to make my life better, and that constant messaging that you aren’t enough (but you will be if you buy another e-course or follow ten more life hacks!) was exhausting. So to be honest, I created the thing that I myself was craving: a space where folks could come together to share about their real lives in real time, to talk about fears and dreams and challenges and goals, to learn from each other’s lived experiences, and to discuss the messy truths of being a human in the world without an agenda and without needing to have any of the answers.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Nicole Antoinette

What’s your favorite thing about running a podcast?

Hosting an interview-style podcast is basically a secret weapon for making friends with all the incredible people whose work you admire! I’m beyond grateful for each of my guests, and for the fact that they give two hours of their time to get real on my show. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from my guests, and how their stories have shaped and changed and bettered my own life.

And I will also say that for me, with the listener-funded model of my show, the other best thing is the community that has formed around this collective vision of bringing more honesty into the world. Getting to know the people who listen to and financially support Real Talk Radio each season has been an indescribably rewarding experience.

What’s your least favorite thing about running a podcast? Are there any icky moments or challenges that happen behind the scenes—moments that, perhaps, your listeners don’t see or know about?

Well, on a practical tactical level my least favorite part is the editing work, which is why I’ve hired a sound engineer to edit and produce the show from the very beginning. Adam Day, the sound magician I work with, is talented and supportive and has been an integral part of the show’s success (and of my continued love of hosting it).

Other than that, I’d say the biggest challenge of hosting a podcast is facing the usual fears that come with lots of different types of creative work. Fears like: imposter syndrome (who am I to do this work?), general insecurity about not being liked and about not being good enough, fear of misspeaking or being misunderstood, frustration when you don’t feel like you’ve done your best on any given day, etc.

How do you prepare for each episode? Do you research the person you’re interviewing? Do you come up with a list of questions in advance? Do you just wing it? Tell me about your process.

I spend hours preparing for each episode. Since I release an entire eight-episode season all at once, my first preparation step is to map out which topics I want to cover in a given season, as well as which guests I most want to invite. I’m constantly making notes as I come across folks who are doing important and interesting work, and I’m grateful to the past guests and members of the community who often introduce me to folks whose work I might not have found on my own.

The next step of the process is sending out invitations to potential guests and getting their recording dates scheduled. By the time I send an invite, I’ve already done quite a bit of research about the person’s work and story, which is how I know for sure that I want to have them on the show in the first place. So once they’ve booked a recording time, that’s when the research and preparation gets much more specific, and I spend another hour or two creating an outline of the episode, the questions I most want to ask them, etc. Prior to recording, each guest also has the chance to tell me what they’re most interested in talking about, which is helpful in structuring the conversation around the topics that are most important to them.

But of course, even with a ton of preparation, I never know quite where each conversation will go once we’re recording. That’s part of the fun! I’m always open to discussing whatever comes up naturally, and I do my best to just stay curious and let the guest share the stories they’re most excited about.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Nicole Antoinette

Earlier in your life, you ran a successful web design agency. But then you decided to shut down that business. Tell me about that decision. Were you bored? Unhappy? Was it simply time to move onto other projects? How did you know, “It’s time to walk away”?

For almost four years I co-owned a boutique web design firm with my incredibly talented friend, Jamie Varon. She’s a designer, and I handled all of our business operations, which is something I enjoy and am intimately familiar with after five years of running a children’s summer day camp in my early 20s.

I loved working with Jamie, and yes, the business was successful and profitable. It still is in fact, since Jamie now runs it as a solo venture. But I left in July of 2013, not because anything was wrong but because there were other projects I had really gotten into and felt excited about, and I had taken those projects as far as I could while still being committed to our business. There’s only so much you can do part time, you know? And I was definitely scared to leave – it’s much harder to walk away from something that’s good but not great than it is to walk away from something awful – but it was time to make the leap. I had been saving money for months before I left, to give myself the mental comfort of a financial cushion during a time of transition and uncertainty, and that definitely helped to make the change possible.

As for how to know when it’s time to walk away, for me the key is to pay attention to how long it’s been since I first began to feel the pull to do so. If it’s only been a week, that’s usually not long enough for me to go ahead and make a change, because we all have slumps and dips from time to time, even with projects we truly love. But if I’ve been feeling the pull to change for multiple weeks or months, that’s when I know that it’s more than just a passing feeling, and that it’s time to take action, even by just doing one small thing to change course.

In addition to running your podcast, you’re also an athlete. You’ve completed several marathons and ultra-marathons. You’ve also completed two long-distance solo hiking treks through the wilderness. Your last trek was over 800 miles through the scorching hot desert! Incredible! How do you prepare for that kind of journey? Tell me about your training regime, both mental and physical.

I’ve actually never done an ultra-marathon, but yes I’ve done marathons and lots of other running races and am now deep into a love of long-distance hiking. In 2017 I thru-hiked the Arizona Trail, an 800-mile backcountry journey from Utah to Mexico, and my physical and mental preparation were a key piece of why I was able to complete the entire trail.

Physically, the best way to train for hiking is by hiking, so I did as many training hikes as possible, often with my weighted backpack, to just get used to spending hours on my feet while carrying a heavy load on my back.

Mentally, it helped to do in-depth research about the trail and the conditions and challenges I would likely face. I read the official guidebook, lots of blogs written by different hikers from previous years, as well as the information curated by the Arizona Trail Association. My biggest concern leading up to this hike was the lack of water – the Arizona Trail is very dry, especially in the fall, which is when I hiked – so a majority of my preparation and research had to do with the water sources on trail.

The majority of my preparation was similarly practical and logistical – planning a loose itinerary, figuring out which towns I’d need to stop in to resupply, putting my resupply boxes together, gathering and testing all my gear, etc. There’s a lot that goes into planning a long-distance solo hike, but luckily I really enjoy that aspect of it.

And then lastly, but perhaps most importantly, there’s the emotional preparation. Doing an 800-mile hike is physically challenging, no question about it, but success really comes down to how well you can handle the psychological side of the challenge. What are you most afraid of? What will you do if and when you need to face those fears? Who will you be when things get hard? Why are you doing this? What will it mean to you to complete it? How will you keep going when all you want to do is quit? I thought about those questions (and so many more) in the weeks leading up to this hike, and it helped enormously.

After completing your first solo hike, you recorded a special podcast episode to talk about your experiences. You explained that the journey was horrendously painful and terrifying, at times. You encountered a bear. Your feet got swollen and you had nonstop blisters. It was mentally and physically excruciating. And yet… about a year later, you decided to do another hike. This time, almost twice as long as the first one. Why? What compelled you to do it again?

Ha, that’s what my mother would like to know.

When I finished my first hike, the 460-mile Oregon section of the PCT, I was absolutely convinced that I would never do a hike like that again. For all the reasons that you mentioned and more, I finished that hike feeling broken and miserable.

And yet I have dear friends who love thru-hiking, and I wanted to love it too. In a lot of ways it seems like the right-fit activity/lifestyle for me. I don’t like a lot of material “stuff,” I genuinely love doing hard things and challenging myself, and I like to push the boundaries of what I believe is possible for myself and my life. I also love the idea of a pilgrimage type of journey, a quest, and I love being in nature. So I decided that I would try again, that I’d do one more long-distance hike to get a better sense of whether or not this is something that I could love the way I wanted to love it.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Nicole Antoinette

One of your personal mantras is: “You can do hard things.” Tell me about that phrase, and what it means for you.

For so long, I gave up when things got too challenging. If a project or physical activity felt hard, I automatically assumed that that meant I couldn’t complete it.

When I first started running, back in 2011, I had never been an athlete. I had never done anything even remotely athletic or outdoorsy in my entire life, and I could barely run for two consecutive minutes. Running was the first thing that I ever tried, found that I was terrible at, and didn’t quit. And that changed my life.

I learned that something can be hard, and that I can still do it. It can be raining or I can be tired or I can just generally not feel in the mood to run, and I can still run. I can feel afraid of the blank page, and I can still write. I can feel lonely in the wilderness by myself, and I can still hike. That might sound simple or obvious, but for me this deep belief that we can do hard things isn’t one that came naturally, and yet it has helped me grow and change in so many powerful ways.

Now, when something feels hard or scary or uncertain, I just remind myself that that’s okay. I am stronger than I think. I can do hard things.

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Nicole Antoinette

We always end each HOW DID YOU DO THAT? interview with helpful pieces of advice.

Imagine someone, out there, who’s mid-way through a big, difficult journey. Maybe he’s 200 miles into a 500-mile hike and he’s getting weary and thinking about giving up. Or maybe she’s been job-hunting for six weeks, but nothing has happened yet, and she’s feeling tired and discouraged.

Can you share some advice on how to get back on your feet and finish the journey, no matter what?

This might be an unpopular opinion, but I actually don’t value the philosophy that we need to finish something no matter what. I’ve quit plenty of things in my life – relationships, jobs, hobbies – if something truly isn’t the right fit any more, for any reason, it’s okay to make a change. So I think that’s my first piece of advice: remember that quitting is always an option, and that you are allowed to change your mind.

For those situations where you’re sure you don’t want to quit though, but when the task at hand feels excruciating, I’d share these two self-reflection questions:

1. What would the audience want you to do?

My friend Bryce asked me this once. She said, “Imagine that you are the heroine of a movie. In this moment, during this challenge, how would the audience want the heroine to act?” That might sound silly, but I find that I can often be braver if I’m able to get a little bit of distance and perspective on my situation. As the protagonist in a film, the audience would want me to keep hiking, or to apply for one more job, or whatever else it would take to honor the story. Because the structure of a good story is when a character wants something and has to overcome obstacles to get it, so if you’re the character and you’re facing an obstacle, you know that living a good story means doing whatever it takes to persevere.

2. What if this were simple?

I struggle a lot with over-thinking, and with making things more difficult and complicated than they need to be. When I’m in a rut of some kind, when I’m feeling tired and discouraged, I like to ask myself how I would move forward and what I would do next if this were simple. What if I stopped over-complicating things? What if I just chose the next right step and trusted that the path would become clear, one step at a time, from there? That reframe is often enough to get me moving again.


ONE MORE THING…

Do you have “one more quick question” that you’d like to ask Nicole? Email me and tell me what you want to know! I might choose your question for my ONE MORE THING… Podcast (Coming soon!!!)


YOUR #1 CAREER GOAL: ACHIEVED

Do you need some encouragement to help you achieve a big, daunting career goal? Would you like to have a career coach/strategist in your corner—feeding you ideas that you’d never considered before, helping you figure out who to contact, and what to say, and checking in to make sure you don’t procrastinate? If so… click here to find out how we can work together. I’d love to coach you!

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Photos: Foxes and Wolves

UNLOCKED Links: January 2018

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Links: January 2018

Once a month, I curate the best links on how to find work that you love, be excellent at what you do, and unlock any door that stands in your way. Mostly, I gather articles and podcasts that capture my attention because they make me think or laugh. Here is the link round-up for January 2018!

• It’s not just how good you are now, it’s how good you’re going to be that really matters. The way to get to the top of your game is to get a coach. Watch Atul Gawande’s TED talk.

• Remember that amazing job with the New York Times to be the 52 places traveler that got over 13,000 applications? Here is the lucky woman that got plucked for this plum job!

• To be sure, it is the era of the podcast. So many great ones, so little time. Here’s The Atlantic Magazine 50 top picks.

• But, really??! Some people listen to podcasts at 3 times the regular speed.

• The chairs around your dining room table are turning into valuable real estate! Quilt, a six-month-old start-up based in Los Angeles is a co-working space with a twist. Its members, which number around 1,000, work out of one another’s homes in four-hour sessions, and in lieu of annual dues, they pay per-session fees.

• It’s the year of the woman candidate. Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, the largest national organization devoted to electing female candidates, said that since the 2016 election, more than 22,000 women have contacted them to talk about running for office. Let’s get out the vote!

• In the 13 years since The New York Times Modern Love column began, over 80,000 submissions have rolled in. Bottom line (and no surprise): men and women write about love very differently.

Is your loneliness killing you? It might be. But here is a solution: multi-generational co-housing.

• On the other hand, you can just take this pill that will keep you feeling young!

Where do all the old magazines go? At a moment when the old titans like Condé Nast and Time Inc. are contracting, shape-shifting and anxiously hashtagging, there is a museum of real magazine making.

Happy reading and listening,

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Photo: Willie Franklin.

Your Career Forecast: January / February 2018

Your Career Forecast: January / February 2018

I work as a career and business strategist. But my secret passion is… astrology!

About once a month,  I post an overview of what’s happening in the cosmos and how it might influence your career. It’s called: Your Career Forecast.

Whether you’re job-hunting, running your own business, or wondering about the ideal time to ask for a raise or take a vacation, each Career Forecast will reveal the important dates and cosmic shifts that you need to know about.

I am joined by my dear friend, Heidi Rose Robbins, a master astrologer who will provide expert insight into what’s going on in the stars.

Let’s dive in!


OVERVIEW

What’s going on this month…

HEIDI: The Sun moves into Aquarius on January 19th at 7:10 pm Pacific time. Aquarius is an air sign. Under Aquarius, we are drawn to create together. This is the sign of the group. Aquarius wants us to gather to improve our world. It is innovative, improvisational and rules experimentation.

Aquarius asks us to break rules and color outside the lines. It is objective, clear thinking and service oriented. The phrase for Aquarius is beautiful: “Water of Life am I Poured Forth for Thirsty Men.” This is a month to jam, hold meetings, reinvent and perhaps most importantly, remember the spirit of democracy.

Mars moves into Sagittarius on January 26th. Mars is the warrior and Sagittarius is the risk-taker and adventurer. When Mars works in this sign, he becomes the warrior of freedom, the warrior of the big vision or the warrior of optimism. This is an unstoppable combination. Three words: Go for it.

There is a Lunar Eclipse (and Full Moon) on January 31st at 5:27 am Pacific time. This falls at 11 degrees Leo. If you know your chart well and have any planets in that degree or nearby, that planet will be activated and extra charged over the next 6 months. This eclipse (and Full Moon) may help to continue to break down old paradigms and old corporate structures that have outlived their time. Expect more darkness to come to light and expect group protests and gatherings to grow.

Mercury also moves into Aquarius on January 31st. The group voice is heard. And again, we are being asked to reinvent and think outside the usual paradigms. Mercury in Aquarius loves to solve problems with new and unconventional solutions.

Venus moves into Pisces on February 10th. This will bring a little love and sensitivity to the table. In our individual lives, this may create a need for a bit more solitude. We replenish in quiet ways when Venus is in Pisces. We need the spaciousness of music, poetry, film or meditation.

There is another eclipse—this time a Solar Eclipse—on February 15th. This eclipse falls at 27 degrees Aquarius. Again, if you have a major planet or your Rising Sign near that degree, it will activate that position for 6 months. Major world events occur under Solar Eclipses. It’s a powerful activating energy. This eclipse (and New Moon) is stimulating the group, democracy and the united power of the people.

Finally on February 17th, Mercury moves into Pisces. Again, this is a turn towards the internal. Aquarius brings an electric energy and Pisces brings the power and depth of the ocean. When Mercury is in Pisces, we communicate with feeling and sensitivity. We muse, meditate and imagine. Let’s use this energy to center ourselves so that we can communicate with love and compassion.

It’s a powerful, activating, change-it-up month. If your life needs an overhaul (or even just a boost), this may be just the energy you need to set things in motion.


What does all of this mean for your career? Let’s look closer…

JOB HUNTING?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: Mars moves into Sagittarius on January 26th. Mars is the warrior and Sagittarius is the adventurer. This is a “Go get it!” day—the perfect day to go after a new job, especially a job that feels like a bit of a “reach.” Take a risk, throw your hat in the ring, and go for it!

If you worry about “not being qualified enough” or “not having enough experience,” here’s a story to boost your courage…

I know a woman who landed a job at a top radio company. She wasn’t necessarily the most qualified person for the job. She’d never worked in radio before. In fact, she’d never even set foot inside a radio station! However, she’s an adventurous person and—a few years prior—she had gotten her helicopter pilot’s license.

She mentioned “Licensed Pilot” on her résumé—and that’s the one detail that grabbed her future employer’s attention. He thought, “I definitely want to interview this person. I like her spirit!” She ended up getting the job—even though there were plenty of other applicants who were technically much more “qualified” for the position.

Moral of the story: your résumé isn’t just a dry, boring list of credentials. At least, it doesn’t have to be. The details on your résumé should tell a story—a story about the type of person you are. The risks you’ve taken. The things you love most. The experiences that have shaped you.

If you’ve studied yoga for 15 years, mention that on your résumé. If you’ve traveled to 7 countries and taught English overseas, say so. If you volunteer at an animal shelter and you’ve helped over 100 dogs to find loving homes, mention that, too. Often, it’s those kinds of details that will grab a hiring manager’s attention and make them think, “This is somebody I definitely want to meet.”

Lastly, if you’re job-hunting, remember that the sign of Aquarius is all about group dynamics. The energy of many is greater than that of one. Think: “Collaboration.”

Rather than job-hunting all by yourself, meet up with friends. Host a dinner party, cocktail hour, or brunch. Ask questions like: “Do you happen to know anybody who works at {name of company}? Could you make an introduction for me?” “What do you think about your current workplace?” “Would you recommend working there? “Why or why not?”

More often than not, exciting job opportunities arise because of personal connections. To unlock all kinds of surprising doors, don’t isolate yourself. Turn to your community.


ALREADY HAVE A JOB?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: Mercury moves into Aquarius on January 31st. It’s time to reinvent old systems and think outside the box. At work, be the one to come forth with an unexpected solution. Don’t be afraid to make your voice heard.

You could start by asking yourself, “What’s one thing about my job that really doesn’t make sense?” Or… “One thing that’s really inefficient?” Or… “One thing that’s just not working smoothly?” Identify something about your job, department, or company that feels stuffy and outdated. Decide, “I’m going to propose a new way of approaching this.” Your innovative stance will be appreciated—and rewarded.

Venus moves into Pisces on February 10th. This is a loving, dreamy combination of energies. On this day, you might notice that you’re craving some alone-time. Ask your manager if you can work off-site. Even better, take a mental health day and spend your time resting, reading, visiting an art gallery, or connecting with nature. This is an excellent day to surround yourself with beauty and recharge.


SELF-EMPLOYED OR RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

Here’s what you need to know…

ELLEN: There’s a Solar Eclipse on February 15th. This particular eclipse brings a feeling of togetherness and activation. Use this powerful day to “rally the troops” and bring people together with a shared goal.

For example, you could invite your social media followers to join together and sign a pledge. You could encourage your customers to join a 7-day challenge—guide them through a fun, energizing experience, moving towards a specific end-result. You could start a private Facebook group where your clients can chat, brainstorm, and interact. The spirit of this eclipse is: “United we stand, divided we fall.” Bring people together and watch the sparks—and sales—fly!

On February 17th, Mercury moves into Pisces. Mercury rules communication. Pisces is all about emotional depth, imagination, and sensitivity. If you run a business, this is an excellent day to communicate with your clients and customers—especially if you’re sharing a tender, heartfelt message.

If you’re short on time, keep it brief. Think: a 1-minute video expressing your gratitude for every customer who made a purchase in the last year. Or record a 5-minute meditation and share it on your blog. Or send out a newsletter with a touching story about an experience that changed your life. You’ll be surprised by how many people respond to say, “Thank you. That was beautiful. I really needed to hear that today.”


Famous Aquarians:

Ellen DeGeneres. A classic Aquarian. She’s all about community, togetherness, and healing old, divisive wounds of the past—like homophobia. Every day, she’s uniting people through laughter, fun, and fresh ideas.

Oprah Winfrey. Her mission is to heal and serve humanity—and it shows in everything she does. A true Aquarian, she’s not afraid to reinvent herself over and over. TV host. Actress. Magazine creator. Philanthropist. Maybe one day… Politician? President? (Let us pray!)

Ronda Rousey. Aquarians love to innovate. They bring radical ideas to the table. Because of Ronda’s persistence, the UFC/Mixed Martial Arts sport now has a female division. Previously, only men were allowed to compete. Not anymore.


OVERALL, THIS IS A GREAT MONTH FOR…

• Thinking outside the box. Radical, disruptive ideas. Fresh solutions.

• Clearing away stuffy, stale energy. The old systems have got to go!

• Group activities. Think: pledges, petitions, marches, rallies, and brainstorming sessions.

• Celebrating the voice of the people. Think: articles, blog posts, performances, and other creative projects that bring many voices together.

• Risk-taking and reinvention. Rather than choosing from Option A or B, consider, “Could there be an Option C?”


IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER…

January 19th – Sun moves into Aquarius. (The sign of group dynamics. Let’s draw together and create together.)

January 26th – Mars moves into Sagittarius. (Take risks! Begin a new adventure! Don’t hold back.)

January 31st – Mercury moves into Aquarius. (An excellent day for communication and collaboration.)

January 31st – Lunar Eclipse and Full Moon of Aquarius. (Old structures are breaking down. Aquarian powers are at their peak.)

February 10th – Venus moves into Pisces. (Love, imagination, and emotional depth.)

February 15th – Solar Eclipse and New Moon of Aquarius. (Major events tend to happen on and around the Eclipse. Since it’s a New Moon, consider how you want the rest of 2018 to feel. Set new intentions.)

February 17th – Mercury moves into Pisces. (Communicate with love and compassion.)


CAREER MANTRA FOR THE MONTH

“We did not ask for this room or this music; we were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces toward the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty. We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance.” —Stephen King

Our world is far from perfect. The time of Aquarius is a time to shed the darkness of the past, create bold new systems, and come into the light.

And of course, we’ll move faster if we work collaboratively. One vote, one donation, one person marching is… just one person on the street. It certainly helps, because every little bit helps. But we need more than just one person—we need hundreds, thousands, millions—in order to tip the scales of history.

May we use the energy of Aquarius to unify, collaborate, and make magic happen—together.

With love,

Ellen & Heidi


Learn more about my career & business coaching services here.

Learn more about Heidi and her astrological services here.

An Interview with Linda Mercury

Ellen Fondiler | An Interview with Linda Mercury

Whenever I meet someone who’s got a really cool job, who runs a thriving business, or who has completed an amazing project, I always want to know: “How did you do that?”

I’m always curious to hear the “behind-the-scenes story” — who they emailed, what they said, how they got their first client, how they got their foot in the door — the exact steps that they took to achieve their goal.

HOW DID YOU DO THAT? is an interview series where we get to hear the REAL story behind someone’s success—not the polished, neat and tidy version.

To see a complete list of all the interviews that have been completed to date, head over here.

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Name: Linda Mercury
Location: Portland, Oregon
Profession: Author


Tell me about yourself. What made you decide to become a writer?

I’m a writer and creator of really unusual fictional worlds. More than anything, I care about compassion, connection, and intimacy. Prior to becoming a writer, I used to be a librarian, historian, and professional clown (but not all at once).

But then, something happened: September 11, 2001. After the attacks, I felt great sadness and even greater determination. I knew there had to be a better way to bring people together, make good times happen, and transmit the values of love and caring.

So I started my research. I read a lot, I wrote a lot. Now, seven books later….here I am.

Today, my life’s work is to share what I know about love, history, and passion with as many people as I possibly can. Sometimes, my work looks like very sexy paranormal romance novels. Other times, it is blog posts on history, feminism, and intercultural understanding.

Ultimately, all of my work is about coming together. Because life is way better when people tell each other the truth of who they are.

For many people, writing a book can feel like a daunting, impossible-feeling project. So many pages. So many details to keep straight in your mind. So overwhelming! But Linda, you’ve written not just one, not just two, but six novels! That’s quite a feat!

I am curious to know… When you’re writing a book, what is your process? Do you do a bunch of research before you start writing? Do you just start typing and see what comes out of your brain? Do you figure out the characters first, and then the plot, or vice versa? Walk us through your process.

I’m so thrilled you asked. My books usually start with a character, usually the heroine. For the Blood Wings series (Dracula’s Secret, Dracula’s Desires, and Dracula Unleashed), I realized that a lot of the myths and legends about Dracula would make perfect sense if this historical character had been born a woman and had to hide her gender her entire life. From this tiny thought, a whole person emerged.

For Curse of the Spider Woman, I thought about a woman who had nothing left to lose. Where would she go from there? How would she handle having someone put demands on her last days of life?

After I get a glimpse of the woman, I wonder what she wants. Who would love her? What kind of world does she live in? What are her secrets?

I usually hand-write while I brainstorm. I research as I go along, seeing what I need to know. I have an academic background in history and librarianship, so research is really second nature at this point. (Side note – if anyone needs tips on how to do research that makes your writing shine, contact me!)

I do write a synopsis to give myself a general idea of what has to happen, but I have learned that the story and the characters will change as I write along.

Every project has the same stages of fear, anxiety, and confusion, but as you write more and more, your process gets more efficient. Instead of worrying for months if what you have to say is worthwhile, you get it over with in a few days.

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You’re known for writing sexy, sensual stories with lots of risqué themes. When you say to people, “I write romance novels,” or “I write erotic fiction,” how do people react? Have you ever gotten any negative responses? Raised eyebrows? Shocked gasps? Unfriendly words?

Rarely! I tell people, “I write very sexy paranormal romance”, and they usually respond with a big smile. One time, I did have a gentleman make a crack about how I wrote porn/smut. I looked him right in the eye and politely said, “Nice try, but you can’t shame me.”

Because I refuse to feel shame for my writing, I will reframe comments on how a person prefers something more “substantial”. I ask them what they like to read. This leads to a fun conversation about books, reading, and literary themes. Once they realize I’m not going to call them a prude, they relax and we have a good time. Sometimes, they will then buy my books because they now know me and realize I write smart, feminist fiction.

I don’t take anyone else’s responses personally. Their thoughts about the suitability of romance or sexually honest books are not my responsibility.

Recently, you got invited to be a panelist at a writing conference in Oregon, where you live. There’s a stereotype that writers are quiet, solitary people who don’t enjoy speaking in public. Is that true for you… or not? How did it feel to be on that panel? Would you do it again?

Writers are quiet people- until you get them going on something they love! I was nervous before the presentation, but once I got up there and saw that people wanted to hear what I had to say, I was on fire. I would absolutely do it again.

I gave a presentation called, “From Arousal to Zipper: Writing the Best Sex of Your Life.” Much to my surprise, the room was packed. Everyone had something fabulous to say, especially about how much readers want love scenes that are emotional and integrated into the story. We had so much fun, a number of us ended up talking in the lobby of the hotel for an hour and a half after the lecture.

Do you ever get stuck with your projects? What do you do to bring yourself out of a creative slump?

Oh, boy, do I ever get stuck. It can be very painful, for upon that road lives the squalid houses of Despair, Depression, and Self-Loathing.

I have taken a long time to figure out that getting stuck is part of the process. It’s a sign that I need to go back to the beginning, read my character studies, look over my plot, and see where I have written myself in a corner. In addition, getting bogged down means I need to take a break to feed my imagination.

To get out of the slump, I must get some intellectual stimulation, if by traveling (even just over to the park), looking at art, or listening to different music. A rich life of the mind is not optional if you want to create or problem solve. Everything I take in gives my writing depth and power.

Don’t ever starve yourself of what your soul needs. I do it all too often and I always pay for it.

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Have you ever gotten a nasty review about one of your books? What did they say? How did that feel? Do you have any advice for someone who’s terrified of receiving criticism?

I have gotten truly nasty reviews. The very first two reviews on my very first book were mean. The first review left on GoodReads called my romance novel “Nazi Snuff Porn.” The first review on Amazon called it, “The worst book (she) had read that year.”

Those were a shock. My poor little book! Don’t we all want people to love our work and call it genius?

Fortunately, I had already read Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers. She had the best advice ever on dealing with rejection and bad reviews. Here’s a tiny taste of her smart, wonderful, compassionate, funny, and genuinely useful book:

It goes without saying that ever since you say your [rejection]…, you’ve been suffering the tortures of the damned. It’s as if every ion of your body has been reversed; as if you’ve literally been struck by lightning, as if your liver has ruptured and your spleen’s been set afire and your vision has blurred – is it just tears or a brain tumor? It’s going to last, this ghastly, terrible, unspeakable rejection, from a period of about two hours for the rest of your life….
There’s a better way. Remember the hypothesis that life (and writing) are like courtship, romance, even sex? Instead of thinking of rejection as a life-blighting event, make it into a dating game. (p. 88-89)

I applied her suggestions to my life and bad reviews don’t bother me much anymore. Also, living well truly is the best revenge. Keep writing, keep doing what you love, and the nasty stuff will be much less important.

How did you select your pen-name, Linda Mercury?

It wasn’t easy! I needed something with more pizzazz than my legal name, something that said fast-paced, sexy, thought-provoking.

My favorite band is Queen. I took Freddie Mercury’s last name for my pseudonym since he has inspired me since I was a young woman. His fearlessness, his willingness to be different, his stage presence, his unique soaring voice – all of his attributes have helped me be brave and honest in my writing.

Has there ever been a period of time where you got really frustrated with writing… or even wanted to quit all together? What happened? What changed your mind and helped you to keep going?

I had two major crises of faith in 2017. In the early part of the year, I got really down on myself because I wasn’t on best-seller lists after writing since 2001 and releasing six books. I had to take myself to the coast for a few days for journaling and re-affirming if writing was really what I wanted to do or if I was fooling myself.

I was fortunate. I was able to find compassion for myself. I had created the goal of being a “Best Seller” without putting together the framework of support that a writer needs to achieve that dream. I remembered that I loved writing; I loved moving people; and finding ways to create a better world. I had to start over with the tragedy of September 11, 2001 and what drove my passion.

Later in the year, my normally manageable chronic pain issues went nuts. I was on a merry-go-round of physical therapy, exercise, and depression. I had to completely rethink the way I worked – not just my physical writing space (I got a sit-stand desk, a new office chair, and other ergonomic fixes), but my emotional needs. I have amazing friends – they willingly gave me good advice and reminded me that I do write well.

So surround yourself with people who love you, want you to be happy, and tell you when you are doing a good job.

I highly recommend joining the Romance Writers of America. RWA is the best of the professional writer organizations out there. They work tirelessly to educate writers on the art, craft, and publishing aspects of writing. Finding a local chapter will go a long way to finding a support group.

Prior to becoming a novelist, you worked as a librarian! What was the best part about that job? What were the parts you didn’t particularly love?

I loved being a librarian! Helping people make their lives better is one of the best things in the world. Information literally is the lifeblood of a society and librarians are the heartbeat that keeps that blood moving. For example, I helped people find resources on landlord/tenant agreements, on life-threatening diseases, and especially on job-hunting.

The hard part? Knowing my career was at the mercy of funding measures. So vote for libraries!

I’ve heard a rumor that your next book will be a different genre than your previous books. You’re working on a YA (Young Adult) book featuring a teenage girl as the heroine. Can you reveal any info about this new project?

This new project is eating my brain! It’s been years since I’ve been either a teenager or a young adult. I am diving into research, learning what young people today care about and need from society.

Unlike my other books, this book, tentatively titled The Dream Factory, will not be a romance. Instead, it will be fantasy – a coming of age story about a young woman who revitalizes a depressed town with her new job in a costume shop.

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Imagine someone out there who dreams about writing a novel, but feels intimidated, or doesn’t know where to begin. Can you give 3 pieces of advice to that person?

Absolutely!

Far too many beginning authors never get started because they worry about what other people will think. Start small and write what makes you happy.

• Protect the Work

Too often, beginning writers get all excited about their story and show it too soon to people who have no idea how to give proper feedback. We share our passion with those whose approval we crave, with people who can hurt us like no others.

Second, once we do start writing, we shove it aside for everything else. We start refusing to take the time to do this thing that makes us happier than anything. It brings richness and joy, but we don’t guard the writing. Protect what makes you happy, protect what feeds your mind, protect yourself from unnecessary cruelty.

• Dare to be Average

Don’t be worried about writing deathless prose! I’ve had so many writers tell me they want to write books that will be studied in college for decades. Seriously, just start with writing a book. Write two or three or ten. Have fun with it. Learn. Play. If you don’t agonize, you will get so much more done.

Lower the stakes for yourself. Ease out of perfectionism and enjoy what you do. If you having trouble with perfectionism (and who doesn’t!), check out Chapter Fourteen of Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. I also recommend reading up on imposter syndrome.

I’m darn sure that once you embrace being average, you will find out that your writing is pretty fabulous.

• Feed your head.

Writing needs its writer to be immersed in life. Listen to music, look at both the visual and performance arts, watch a tree drink the water pooling at its base. Your brain takes in so much stimuli during the day – make sure you take in information that stimulates you, which makes you laugh, dance, and feel grateful. You don’t have to go on an expensive trip to experience magnificent food, get near water, or try something new. Read books on writing, hang out with your friends. Live your life zestfully and your writing will sing.

Good luck and keep writing!

If you have any questions for Linda, you can drop her a line at LindaMercuryRomance@gmail.com. All of her books are available on Amazon.com.


ONE MORE THING…

Do you have “one more quick question” that you’d like to ask Linda? Email me and tell me what you want to know! I might choose your question for my ONE MORE THING… Podcast (Coming soon!!!)


YOUR #1 CAREER GOAL: ACHIEVED

Do you need some encouragement to help you achieve a big, daunting career goal? Would you like to have a career coach/strategist in your corner—feeding you ideas that you’d never considered before, helping you figure out who to contact, and what to say, and checking in to make sure you don’t procrastinate? If so… click here to find out how we can work together. I’d love to coach you!

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