Monday, March 29, 2010

Pressed for time?

Time management is not easy, but it is simple, just like making a financial budget. Most people I know claim not to have time to do what they really want to. In fact, I have the exact same complaint. Throughout the years, however, I have learned to prioritize the things that are most important to me and I make the time for them. These are mainly running or practicing some form of exercise regularly and writing books, in addition to my free-lance writing and translating work. Raising my kids is weaved into everything else.
My “secret” to actually getting to do the things that are important to me is that I do not watch TV. I don´t mean that I don´t watch a lot of TV, it means I don´t watch it at all. My kids don´t watch TV at home either, so that has greatly contributed to their love of books and crafts. For news, I have the Internet, and if I want to watch a film, I rent a DVD, and even then I rarely indulge in that.
So, for those who complain about not having time to write a book, pursue a hobby or hit the gym, my first question would be: how much of your TV time are you willing to give up?

Friday, March 26, 2010

7 Strategies to get the Most out of Self-Help Books

If you are not evolving, then you are stuck. The self-disciplined and those who make personal evolution a way of life listen to audio-books, read self-help books and attend seminars. It´s relatively cheap and if you optimize your resources, they work. Don´t I know! I´ve been reading and writing self-help books for years! And by this I do not mean to imply that I am better than anybody else.
Unfortunately, there are many other people who do not take advantage of this type of book. With excuses such as “I already know that”, “they´re worthless” or “I don´t have time to read”, they close the doors on personal evolution and learning, which is the key to nearly everything. That´s why it occurred to me to write “7 Strategies to get the Most out of Self-Help Books”, which was published in 2009.
Writers mostly like to work on our own, but for this project I wanted an accomplice, and I found it in Raimón Samsó, who I had met years back, thanks to our respective books. Raimón is, besides the coauthor of our book “7 Strategies to get the Most out of Self-Help Books”, a professional and financial coach (I will soon post an article about him and his books). He is also a writer and motivational seminar leader. Besides that, he is a good friend, who is happy for his friends´ successes but also gives support during rocky rides.

A brief interview about our collaboration:

LCL – Why did you agree to write 7 Strategies with me?

RS – How could I not accept a proposal from such an admirable coauthor? (Here is where I blush, but I gracefully accept his compliment) Besides, I´ve always wanted to have the experience of collaborating with someone on a book. It was a professional challenge, a learning experience (For the record, I feel the same way!).

LCL – How do you feel about our collaboration?

RS – It was great, simple, fluid… Collaborating with a like-minded writer is the easiest thing in the world. You hardly have to talk. Everything is clear (He´s right, it was that easy).

LCL – What was the easiest and the most difficult aspect of writing that book?

RS – The easiest thing was to share the workload. The most difficult, as usual, to accept suggestions on changes to my writing. Although, I am easy to convince. (I have to say I´m a bit bossy when it comes to writing, and Raimon was very adaptable. Thank you, friend!)

LCL – How would you summarize the message of our book?

RS - Experiment, experiment, experiment… And act, act, act… It´s incredible that humanity continues to suffer, when there is so much knowledge available for thousands of years, waiting for us to put it in practice (I would add: even if you think something is not producing results, continue trying in different ways, and one day you will see the results).

To know more about Raimon Samsó -

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Latino Advantage

When I reviewed books for La Palma, of the Palm Beach Post, my editor sent me the book Help your Children Succeed in School, Special Guide for Latino Parents. The author, Mariela Dabbah, very graciously let me interview her and not only that, we met in person, became friends and even collaborated professionally. I helped her translate two of her subsequent titles, The Latino Advantage in the Workplace, coauthored with Arturo Poiré and Help your Children Succeed in High School and Go to College. Mariela is a dynamo and a born networker, always trying to connect likeminded people and professionals who can work together.
Mariela Dabbah arrived in NY city from her native country, Argentina, twenty years ago, with nothing but two suitcases. She worked for an education-based company for two years and when she realized it was going to file for bankruptcy, her husband and her bought it and turned it around. A few years later she decided to divorce and focus on what she loved most: writing, speaking, consulting and working in the media. She is successful in touching people´s lives and spreading much-needed information in the Latino community. Mariela has appeared in TV shows such as "Good Morning America" (ABC) "Today in New York" (NBC), "Despierta América" (Univision), "Al Punto con Jorge Ramos" (Univision) "Noticiero Univision con Jorge Ramos y Maria Elena Salinas"" (Univision), "Directo desde Estados Unidos" (CNN) and many other TV programs and radio shows.
“I believe that my success resides in having been able to create a new life for myself where my talent, passion and abilities are aligned and I get to do what I love the most,” says Mariela, who also has the virtue of perseverance.
“I also have other traits such as creativity, the ability to accept feedback from people who are experts or who know more than I do in a specific area, empathy, and the ability to always have a win-win approach in everything I do.”
She says she learns from everyone she comes into contact with. When she is in a slump, she does not isolate.
“I get on the phone and call everybody to hear their opinion on what’s happening to me and to seek advice and what I should do to overcome whatever I’m confronted with. Then, I put all those smart words, caring thoughts and feelings into my internal blender and I make a decision that feels right. Me being down, never really lasts that long.”
Mariela believes that action is the best antidote to feeling stuck.
“Because guess what, if you are able to “do” something, you are really not stuck, right?”

To know more about Mariela Dabbah, her books and work, go to:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Succesful freelancing

I´m a die-hard freelancer, and even though I bitch about crazy deadlines and juggling several projects at once or late payments, I would really never trade it for a 9-5 job. I´m probably just wired differently, the kind of person who has tried to have a “secure” job and has quit before they could even consider firing me! Just not cut out for that. I´m a professional gig-hustler and have been so for 27 years. Ouch!

I know uncertainty, high demands and sometimes poor pay, tight deadlines, sleepless nights and sleeping in. But freelancing has always given me the flexibility, especially since the Big Bang of this brave new world - the Internet - of taking my work wherever I go. I remember the days of couriers who delivered manuscripts to my home, where I started out translating and adapting scripts of TV sitcoms many a year ago. I would – get this – type the adaptation on a manual typewriter. Eek! If I made mistakes, I used white-out and sometimes had to re-type a whole page out AND use carbon paper for copies. When I was done, I would jump in the car, public transportation or walk to the production company with a box filled with hard copies of my work and hand over my invoice. If I survived that, freelancing in an Internet era is a walk in the park, really!

My point is you can make a living freelancing. Of course since this nice recession caught us all with our pants down, it´s been a tad challenging, and that´s a huge understatement. Yet, with a little help from my friends and family, big guts, and the disposition to be as flexible as a circus acrobat, I´ve managed to keep on truckin´ solo, which helps me be closer to my kids and feel happier than if I had to clock in at a job every day.

Some tips for others out there doing this freelancing dance:

- Underpromise and overdeliver. I used to be the one who met the craziest deadlines, and one day I realized I didn´t really HAVE to. I´m fast, but now I keep that a secret.

- Be willing to adapt your skills to new markets. I have translated scripts, adapted scripts, written articles for magazines, freelanced as a journalist, ghostwritten, coached people in writing, conducted writing workshops and seminars, worked as an interpreter, written blogs for pay, text for websites, you name it. If my skills allow for it and that´s what the market needs … I will do it.

- Before you are done with a project, let your clients know that you are about to be available. Do not assume they will call you when they need you. People forget. That kind of regular contact has procured me work.

- If you cannot or won´t do a certain gig, pass it on to a colleague. Your client will thank you and so will your colleague who will hopefully sometime return the favor. It usually happens that way, or at least in my case it does.

- Don´t undersell yourself (I´ve been guilty of that one, and lived to regret it). A job well done deserves to be well-paid. If you want to do a favor, fine, but don´t work yourself to death for peanuts. It really is not worth the drain, trust me. The energy you waste with this, you can put into finding better paid gigs or catching up on sleep!

- Give people a hand. Don´t put on airs, and don´t be cut-throat. There really is room for everyone and if you are good at what you do, it will show. Besides, if you are a nice person, you will get more work than those who will kill for a gig.

- Understand free-lancing is a lifestyle. You really have to be self-motivated and dig it. For me the alternative (a regular job) is so unpleasant, that I have no choice!

Any other ideas?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

But .. that´s SO hard!

“Oh, but... That´s SO hard!”

Have you ever said it as an excuse not to do something you would really like to?
A difficulty should not be an obstacle. Writers have to get used to “difficulty” and rejection if we want one day to enjoy an acceptance or even a request to write.
Not to brag, but I have fifteen books published. Not all of them were accepted the first time around, however. I Feel Fat received several rejections, because “nobody knows what bulimia is”, and because “it isn´t an interesting subject”. The Challenge of Writing and Publishing was rejected because “people who write think they know it all” and “who is going to read a book about how to write?” My novel Voice Mail received many rejections, and one publisher offered to take it as long as I made the main characters gay men instead of lesbians. I said no, and knocked on other doors. Then a better publishing house took it without my having to make any changes.
The positive side of rejection and of persistence, no matter how difficult it may seem, is that when rejection or difficulty happens again down the road, you know it is circumstantial. Then you take it in stride, because you know everything is not lost. All it takes is for one person or in my case, one publisher to say yes. Besides, now when I get a rejection I tell myself that when I have my own reality TV show, they will even want to publish my blogs. And of course, that would be really hard! Or then again … would it?

PS.- In the picture, with my kids at the Madrid Book Fair in 2006. I miss it!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What I got out of a lecture by Deepak Chopra at the Naples Philharmonic for the Arts

If you are in the habit of reading motivational books, you probably have read one of Deepak Chopra´s books at some point. It is difficult not to come across one, since he is the author of over 50 books, audio programs and DVDs. If you haven´t, visit his website or google him and you will come across countless articles about his persona and lists of all his publications.
Chopra is a medical doctor (although some argue he is not) who turned away from medicine and towards meditation and Ayurvedic practice, to become a money-making guru in the eyes of some, and an alternative medicine expert to others. Born in India in 1947, he arrived in the U.S. at 23 years of age, and hasn´t looked back.
He came to the city where I live in Florida to give a lecture four years ago and back then I missed it, but he returned last week. I attended his lecture two nights ago, in order to write an article about it for a local publication. I thought I would take notes, but then I decided against it. I wanted to experience the lecture from the point of view of a regular attendee.
When I sat down at the Naples Philharmonic for the Arts on Sunday night, I saw that the lady next to me had a book in her hands entitled: “Golf for Enlightenment,” and I winced. Ok, so he´s out there to make money, I thought. His lecture was to be on his latest book: “Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul.” I have only read two of his previous titles: “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” and another one, the title of which I do not remember. I have listened to a couple of his audio books and find his voice puts me to sleep, but maybe that’s a good thing.
You gotta give someone who’s a money-making machine credit for at least that! I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in that position! I know I wouldn’t mind!
Deepak Chopra walked onstage, and the first thing I noticed was his enormous belly. For a person who advocates taking care of the body as well as the soul, you would think he would try to at least be in some kind of good shape. But, maybe he is very healthy. Fitness and health are two different things even though they are related.
So he was witty and engaging despite walking across the stage non-stop so that it felt I was watching a tennis game. We even did a meditation exercise, which I welcomed, since I’ve been feeling a little stressed lately. Chopra explained the science behind intention, mood, spirituality and more, and that was very interesting. As all good speakers, he repeated the key concepts and phrases of his lecture, and as all good marketers he repeated that we could find it all in his book.

The key concepts I took with me from the lecture were the following:

- You are not in your body. Your body is in you.

- When you change the way you look at things, what you look at changes (Ghandi).

- I discovered I am a happy person! Happy people enjoy making others happy, delight in other people’s success, are able to feel love and compassion and they focus on happy memories and happy outcomes. They also prefer to spend their money on experiences and education instead of on inanimate objects. Ha! I have not always been that way (All I have to do is bring to mind my teens and 20’s), but it was an epiphany! That is why people tell me I have such good energy. Yay! Just that made attending the lecture worth it!

The quirk of self-help and motivational writers and speakers is the following: some may resonate with you more than others. You may have read a certain message over and over and it just did not click, because you were not ready to receive it. Then you listen to, say, Deepak Chopra pronounce it in his words with an Indian accent, and you feel like you heard it for the first time and it makes an impact! I must say that I am more aware of who I am after listening to Deepak Chopra live.
I know people who adore Chopra and hang on to his every word and others who write him off as a quack. I believe in the old adage of “take what you need and leave the rest.”
What book of Chopra’s, if any, has impacted you? If you do not like his work, why not?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Multi-tasking Myth

Multitasking is a myth, despite the fact that I take pride in being an efficient multi-tasker. The truth is, however, that the more I try to juggle at one given moment, the less I actually accomplish. It is the fastest way to lose focus and yet, for many people, especially if we are working parents, it seems like the only way to go. Well, it isn´t. If you are cooking dinner while supervising your kids´ homework, checking your e mail and trying to watch the evening news, you will most likely end up feeling frazzled. Dinner will burn, your kids will feel like they don´t have your full attention and you won´t register what you read on e-mail or what the breaking news was. Plus, you will feel exhausted within the hour. Been there, done that, no fun!
When we try to multitask we can in fact take longer to accomplish each task we are juggling than if we devoted our focused attention on each one individually. It takes time for the brain to switch from one activity to another and that time adds up. Focused periods of work reduce stress, don’t I know!
This is not rocket-science, nor have I reinvented the wheel, but I decided to give single-tasking a try this week, and, as a freelancing single mom, I ended up being a lot more productive and curtailing stress-levels.

- I close my e-mail and facebook windows while working. I only let myself check each one of them after I´ve completed a whole task (such as writing this blog entry). Sometimes a couple of hours go by and I don´t even realize it.

- When my phone rings, if in the middle of writing, working or having dinner with my kids, I do not answer. That´s what voice mail is for.

- When I go for a run or a walk I leave my BlackBerry behind or turn it off, so I can enjoy the moment. I´ve also stopped looking at my phone throughout the day compulsively and especially at red lights.

The result: I feel a lot more relaxed and have crossed off a bunch of items from my To Do list.
Any other ideas?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Being Deaf is not an Obstacle for Analía Camarda, Model and Artist.

Analía rarely calls me on the phone – she usually texts, but not for the reasons most people do. I met Analía Camarda on the set of the TV show En Casa con Martín Ycaza, at Telemundo43. Tall and beautiful, I took her to be a model, which she did turn out to be. One of the producers called out to her and she did not look up. He went up to her and patted her on the shoulder, and as he vocalized exaggeratedly when speaking to her up close, I realized Analía was deaf. She sat down next to the TV show host and answered his questions in front of the camera while I listened to her story, spoken in her distinctive voice. Impressed, when the program was over, I walked up to her and asked for her number.
Analía, now 28 years old, was born in Argentina, and moved to Florida with her mother and her brother, who is also deaf, a few years ago. Both siblings are deaf since childhood.
“At first I could not read people´s lips here because I did not understand or speak English”, she says. “Now I speak both English and Spanish.”
In Argentina she obtained a scholarship to study Psychology, but then she came to the United States. In the meantime she pursued her passion for modeling.
“Ever since I was a kid, I would go to casting-calls and I would be interviewed on television, to prove that even if you are deaf from a young age you can still learn how to speak. I even sang on a TV program with Xuxa,” she explains.
She is now working on producing a film about the hearing impaired. She is living her dream of being a model and participating in magazines and Latino TV shows and she recently got her diploma in Faux Finishes Art. In order to supplement her income in tough times, she works as a server in the restaurant of a hotel.
“My mother was responsible for my brother and me learning how to speak. It was a long process and we even had to relocate so that we could attend a special school. My mother taught me how to be independent and fight for my goals. She taught me how to be free, and I am very proud of her as a mother and as a person.”
Analía has also faced many challenges that are not related to being deaf, but she has no regrets.
“Suffering is good in the sense that it makes us value what we have. We can always start over. We all make mistakes, but that gives us experience and helps us be more cautious when making new decisions.”
Her advice to others who have dreams and want to turn them into goals is: “Make the best of every day. The solution is in your hands. Being deaf has not been a deterrent for me, and I have achieved more so far than many people with normal hearing. Do not let others rain on your parade. Show them you can do more than them, go farther than them!”

To get in touch with Analía Camarda -