Post #155: Retreat!

Advice, Just For Fun, New Writing, The Writing Craft, Writing Advice

For the past two and a half days, I’ve been in the Northeast Kingdom, in the northernmost tip of Vermont, only a stone’s throw away from the Canadian border, on a writing retreat. As usual, I’ve been quite productive, accomplishing in only a few days what normally takes me weeks, or even months, to work through at home. None of it would be possible without the support of my wife, who 2-3 times a year, lets me leave home and completely unplug so I can get truly myopic and immerse myself in my writing with no boundaries or limitations. She’s pretty much my hero. I think she lets me go because she knows I’d be sort of miserable if I couldn’t, and because she loves me. And because we both know that, life, and also marriage, are at times like an airplane emergency. You should put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Caring properly for yourself makes you a better carer for others.

For creators, it’s hard to overestimate the value of creative retreat, which truly must happen away from home. It must happen away from work. Away from spouses. Away from children. Away from responsibility. Away from reality, really. For me, it must be done with a willingness to completely unplug and give myself over to and elevate the part of myself that is always a bit player in my normal life. That sidekick who wishes he had more stage time, but will always be seventh or eighth on the call sheet. If you’re a writer, musician, or any other kind of creative person, you know exactly what I’m talking about. At home, there’s never enough time. On retreat, there’s nothing but time.

What you come to realize, when you stop doing everything but writing is how much you actually DO in your day to day life. You realize that most days you spend in a blind frenzy, going from one thing to the other, deluding yourself into thinking you’re focused and present, when most of the time the sheer volume of tasks and requirements that each day hurls at your face has you in perpetual survival mode. This is especially true for people like me with school age children. When you strip everything away, when you stop measuring your minutes by how they connect to the next thing you have to do, your mind is freed to wander and dream in a way that’s hard to quantify, and truly rare. And it’s why I am always astounded by how much work I can get done in only a few days when there’s nothing else to do but put one word in front of the next.

For many years, I retreated alone. I’d book an AirBnB in the woods somewhere, or on the back part of somebody’s farm, and barely leave the house for three days on end. I’d be like a strange sort of word hermit, unshowered and talking to myself, delighted by my own strange company. But for the past couple years, I’ve been going on retreat with my writing group. At first, I worried that the distraction of others would compromise the purity of my retreat goals. I worried I wouldn’t be as productive. Amazingly this has not proven true. If you find the right company, people who want the same thing out of retreat as you do, which is mostly to be left the hell alone and wring the lemon out all the way, it can be wonderful. A lovely routine develops. We rise on the early side, meet up in the kitchen as we brew our coffee and tea, exchange a few morning greetings, then disappear to our individual hovels, mine always messy and strewn with books and piles of paper. Throughout the day, conversations might occasionally spring up, or we might have lunch together, but there’s an unspoken understanding that there’s no obligation to socialize or hang out. The work is everything, and not having to explain that to anyone, not having to justify your needs, is fabulously freeing. Then, in the evenings, there’s usually a shared meal and some beverages. Some retreats, when there’s 4-5 of us, we might play some music or read from what we’re working on and talk about it. Sometimes there’s none of that, and that’s fine too.

Life is difficult. Life is tiring. Life takes everything you have. It’s easy to fall into the habit of being a martyr. Of believing that always sublimating your own needs for whatever greater good (work, family, society) is akin to nobility and grace. And, of course, it’s important to be a good citizen, family member, etc. But I think that our society undervalues tending to one’s own garden. To nurturing one’s own health and spirit, which is strange because your own happiness literally depends on it. So, get out there and retreat in whatever form you can find it. Turn off your phone. Ignore social media. Sink gleefully and gluttonously and un-guiltily into whatever thing fills up your cup, and give yourself permission to stay there for a while.

You’ll come back better for it. At least, I always do.

Post #151: Listen to a FREE Audiobook Sample

Music, New Writing, publishing, Things You Should Be Reading, writing news

Click HERE to listen to Track 1 of Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze for FREE!

I love audiobooks. The immersive experience they provide, especially when in the company of a good narrator, creates a literary journey that’s second to none. I struggled for years to get through Moby Dick, that is, until I started listening to the audiobook narrated by the peerless Frank Muller, whose raspy voice sends the sea spray right into your eyes and makes the quarter deck slick with whale blubber. That’s what a good audiobook can do.

So, from the moment my debut novel was accepted for publication, even though my publisher doesn’t yet do much audio, I knew that an audiobook version of Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze was a must, even if much of the legwork fell on me.

The process wasn’t easy, but once I found my dream narrator in the amazing Nicola Fordwood, whose work ethic and friendship inspired and humbled me, I knew that we had a chance to create something special. A uniquely immersive way to experience the world of Rainey Cobb and her journey through being fifteen. Listening to the final audio files…well, let’s just say tears were shed. That’s how good Nicola is at making the words sing, at making you feel these characters all the way down to your tippy toes. It was almost like experiencing my book for the first time, or as if it had been written by someone else.

All this as a very long way of saying I’m beyond thrilled that the audiobook is now available and ready for your ears.

I’m so excited, in fact, that I want you to hear the first chapter right now. Click HERE to listen to Track 1 for FREE! Try not to get hooked.

Then, once you are hooked, click HERE to listen on Audible or purchase your copy today!

As always, thank you for being here and supporting me and my work.

Post #150: Blowin’ My Mind is now Available!!

New Writing, Things You Should Be Reading, writing news

Dear readers, this one is for you. My debut novel, Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze, is out now in paperback, e-book, and audiobook. To illustrate my excitement, I’m sharing this cheesy, somewhat embarrassing picture of me holding my book for the first time.

Now, let’s get a book in your hands!

Click HERE to purchase from Amazon.

Click HERE to purchase from Indiebound

Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze is about a girl named Rainey who’s like a lot of us, just trying to find her way through the chaos. Trying to figure out who she is. Where she fits. And why it’s sometimes so hard to know.

I can’t wait for you to meet her.

Thank you so much for being here and supporting what I do. As an independent artist on a small press, making meaningful connections matters so much. Word of mouth is my greatest asset in helping my work be seen, shared, and reviewed. So thank you, thank you for all the love. I’m so grateful.

Happy reading!

Post #148: The Waiting is the…(say it with me!)

New Writing, Parenting, publishing, Shaking My Head, Writing Advice

First off, have you pre-ordered Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze yet? Click HERE to pre-order your copy now–thank you! Also remember to add it on Goodreads HERE!

Now, to business.

After years (and years) of trying, my debut novel finally comes out next month, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of time, and how time gets soft and stretchy around moments of great expectation. Why is that? I hate to fly and in the days, hours, and minutes before I board an airplane, time seems to puff up, to press in on me. Minutes fall into quicksand and drag interminably. Similarly, as I await my book coming out, time has gotten labored and unreliable. I’m simultaneously wishing I could wind the clock forward to July 22nd and my moment of jubilation, but also trying with every shred of my being to savor the experience, to soak it up. To look around. Remember how I feel. But time has me in a strange grip as of late, and it won’t seem to let go.

Be in the moment, I tell myself. Be here now, I say. You’ll only publish your first book once, don’t try to race through it. But how exactly do you do that?

I have two sons, and when you’re a parent, you come to realize that parenting is a journey that makes one hyper aware of time. I remember when my first son, Felix, was perched in my lap, only a few days old, barely able to hold up his own head or make conscious facial expressions, totally unable to control his own bladder, and even then I was already thinking: won’t it be wonderful when he can walk? I was thinking: I can’t wait until he’s older and I can teach him to play tennis and take him to hear live music and share with him all of life’s wisdom. And then he’d smile quite by accident, the way babies do, and I’d be hurled back into the moment, feel his warm soft skin against mine and I’d kick myself for drifting, for not being as present as I would like to be. For not being right here, right now.

Does this happen to you? (Please say yes)

The strange thing is that it feels almost impossible to stop this from happening. Even if you gain momentary control over your sense of space and time, if you find yourself in a moment that you’re so deeply in that time ceases to exist, it’s fleeting. At least for me. Before long, I’m thrust back into the weigh station of anticipation. Thrown into a box with high walls and just enough air. Forced back into asking that perpetual question I will forever associate with The West Wing: What’s Next?

But still I try.

My book is currently in the hands of early readers and reviewers, some of whom I know but most of whom I do not. As a professional writer (my day job is as a copywriter), and soon to be published novelist, I dine out on feedback. Everything I write gets picked apart in one way or another. I’m used to it. I like it. My writing being critiqued is literally my life. And yet, awaiting the judgment of strangers on the relative quality of my novel is a uniquely out of body experience, the likes of which I’ve never known before. I’m genuinely proud of my book, and I know I did the best I could. My conscience is clear. I know even bad reviews won’t change that. Nor will good reviews. And yet…the goddamn waiting.

I hope you’re not over there rolling your eyes at me. I hope, at least in part, that you’re nodding your head just a little bit in understanding.

Time makes fools of us all.

Post #147: Book Trailer

New Writing, The Writing Craft, Things you should be watching, writing news

Before I share my book trailer, let me anticipate your question.

Yes, books have trailers. Well, some do. Okay, I’m not totally sure whether or not book trailers were ever a thing, are still a thing, will ever be a thing, or how they differ from the TikTok reels I see a lot of authors posting these days.

But my day job happens to be at a creative agency at which some amazingly talented people work, and when you have have access to world class talent that can help you create badass stuff for your debut, you better not waste it. Thus, I enlisted the help of my friend Sam Aprea, who’s an absolute wizard with video editing and animation, to put together this book trailer for Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze.

Enjoy some teaser stills from the trailer below, then click here to check it out!

I love how it came out and I hope you do too. After you enjoy it, please share it wherever things are shared!

I also hope you’ll consider pre-ordering Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze through one of the fine retailers below! Pre-orders help new books, especially those from small independent publishers, find more readers.

Phoenix Books (support indie!)

Barnes and Noble

Amazon (E-book)

Thanks for being along on this journey with me and supporting what I do. I’m so glad you’re here!

-Benjamin

Post # 146: Book Giveaway!

New Writing, Things You Should Be Reading, writing news

Would you like to read an advance copy of my debut novel, Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze, before it comes out on July 22nd? Of course you would! And I’m doing a giveaway just for followers of my blog to make it happen. Because I do love you so.

The rules are simple:

Be among the first 5 people to click HERE and send me a message saying you’re interested.

Then, I will send you a secure link where you can download the e-book to read on your Kindle, Nook, or e-reader of your choice. Or you can download the digital ARC (advance reader copy) version of the paperback.

Did I mention it’s FREE? Clink the link and let’s make this happen! Yay books.

Post #145: I Know a Writer Who Can Help With That

Editing Services, New Writing, The Writing Craft, writing news

Much like getting a golf ball to fly in the direction you intended it to go when you hit the damn thing, writing is way harder than it looks. That goes for whether you’re sweating your college admissions essay, or trying to get your novel’s opening to work a little better. And it’s why it helps to have an experienced guide along for the ride. Someone who can look at your writing from an honest distance, give you tips to hone your craft, and help you build confidence.

And, you’re in luck. I happen to know a guy.

I’m thrilled to be offering my services as a freelance editor, copywriter, writing coach, consultant, and spirit guide.

Why should you work with me?

With an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, twelve years of teaching experience, five years as a professional copywriter, a debut novel on the way, and around a billion hours polishing manuscripts until they shimmer and shine, I can help you see what’s working in your writing—and what needs work. 

Are you applying to college and need that college essay to really pop? I got you.

Need a gut check on your novel’s opening pages? I got you.

Looking for big picture feedback on your completed manuscript? I got you.

Need to improve the copy on your website or in consumer facing materials? I got you.

Just getting started and not sure how to move your story from your brain to the page? I got you.

I’m professional. I’m punctual. I’m supportive. I’m honest. I promise not to waste your time.

But mostly, I think you should work with me because I love words and stories more than anything in the world, and I genuinely believe my experience can help you accomplish your writing goals.

Click HERE to get learn more about the writing services I offer.

Or, simply go to my CONTACT page and send me a message.

Let’s get to work.

Post #144: So, What’s Your Book About?

ebooks, New Writing, Things You Should Be Reading, writing news

With my debut novel set to come out on July 22nd, it’s time to start telling you a little bit about it. I thought I’d start with the back cover blurb/teaser that I recently wrote. Have you ever tried to write one of these? I don’t recommend it. It’s really hard. When you write an entire book and then you sit down to try to summarize that book in a compelling way that piques someone’s interest, but in a way that doesn’t oversell or tell them too much, but also somewhat fits the tone and feel of the book inside, but without seeming too casual or annoying, it feels like someone has just asked you to juggle some flaming unicycles.

And yet, I’m proud of this blurb, and of the way it introduces my main character, Rainey Cobb, the girl on the cover. Readers, after all, will experience the blurb in conjunction with the cover art, and I wanted the teaser to establish Rainey as a person and bring her world and dilemmas to life in harmony with the cover. I love this character so much, and I hope readers love her too.

Fifteen-year-old Rainey Cobb never thought meeting someone could actually change her life. But, then again, she’s never met anyone like Juliet.

It’s 1995 and The Cobb Family Band, led by Rainey’s rock star parents, has arrived for a week-long gig at the Midwestern resort owned by Juliet’s family. Dazzled by Juliet’s carpe diem attitude, DIY tattoos, and passion for grunge, Rainey falls hard. And when Juliet gives Rainey a mixtape that unlocks her heart’s secret yearnings, Rainey starts seeing herself—and her vagabond, show-biz life—through new eyes.

If Rainey quits the band, her parents’ fading career might never recover. But if she doesn’t leap now, she might be stuck forever in a life she didn’t choose… and always wonder who she could have been.

Does that make you want to buy the book? Damn, I hope so. Pre-order links coming SOON!

Post #143: Cover Reveal

New Writing, The Writing Craft, Things You Should Be Reading, writing news

Friends, I’m so glad you’re here to see this. You’re looking at the cover of my debut novel, Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze, which comes out on paperback, e-book, and audiobook on July22nd on Deep Hearts YA. I’m revealing the cover on social media later this week, but you’ve been with me from the beginning, so I wanted you to be the very first ones to see it.

I love it so much, and I hope you do too. It so perfectly captures the essence of this book, and my main character, Rainey Cobb, who I can’t wait for you to meet soon.

I plan to do a deep dive into the story behind the cover art and my amazing cover designer, Chloe White, in the days and weeks to come. But for now, I’m beyond thrilled to able to put it in front of your eyes.

Thank you for being here and supporting me. This is just the beginning of so much awesomeness to come. Stay tuned.

By the way, if you’d like to keep up with me on a more frequent basis, I have a new Instagram account for my writing life: @benjaminroeschwrites

Give me a follow!

Post #141: In Light of Recent Events

Book Reviews, New Writing, The Writing Craft, writing news

One of the best things about being friends with other writers is celebrating their successes, and I’m so here to celebrate. My good friend Amy Klinger recently published her debut novel In Light of Recent Events, and it’s such a likable, lovable book. I can’t wait for you to read it. Here’s what it’s about (from the back cover):

In the 1990s American workplace, survival of the fittest is sometimes less about clawing your way to the top than developing good camouflage. And Audrey Rohmer is doing her very best to blend in as an undistinguished middle manager. Uninspired by her job and uneasy about her father’s new marriage, Audrey coasts through the work week leaning on her “partner in apathy” – an admin assistant named Pooter – to keep her relationship with the married head of her department from becoming water cooler gossip.

But when an old family friend-turned-Hollywood-superstar crashes on her doorstep in the midst of a publicity crisis, Audrey’s under-the-radar status quo gets upended, and the writing may literally be on the bathroom wall that secrets will find a way out.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Like the kind of book you really want to read? It is.

Amy’s prose is airy, witty, and packed with observations so crystalline they make you want to read them again and again.

Did I mention this book is funny? Like, laugh out loud funny. Amy also is fantastic at set pieces and situational comedy making for some fantastically awkward moments.

Perhaps my favorite thing is the way Amy is willing to gently upend our expectations, making this book more surprising than you expect it will be.

It’s also quietly a book about grieving and loss, about the very blurry line drawn in our lives between childhood and adulthood, and about how hard it is to be a good person, even when it seems like it should be the easiest thing in the world.

This book has a huge heart and it will make you giggle. What’s not to love?

Friends, put this one on your to-read list. You can pre-oder it here and help support local bookstores.

Then register HERE for Amy’s virtual book launch on March 22nd at 7pm EST. I’ll be playing MC and helping facilitate some Q & A with the author.