Confessions of an Aspiring Author

Some people feel like running marathons and completing triathlons, it seems what gets me going is the idea of writing a novel. But I think it’s high time that I actually complete this one this time.

That’s why I decided to add to the “About Me” portion of this site, a little sub-page called “C.T. Luna | Author“. I see it as a hopeful kick in the rear — something that tells me I need to put my money where my mouth/blog is.

So, here’s my confession.

I started writing novel about a year ago–actually, a little longer than a year ago. I also took an excellent online course with Hollis Gillespie, which helped me get the overall structure worked out.

I was trucking along for a couple months, writing on a daily basis, when about a third of the way into the story, an intern ended up dead in the office (of my story–not real life!).

You know how they say “write what you know”? Well, that’s when my nasty, little inner critic krept in and started niggling me with questions like, “what do you know about murders, and crime scenes, detectives and writing stories?” I spent days and days, which turned into weeks and weeks, googling things like: “crime scene investigations” and “when are crime scenes cleaned up”? Until I finally couldn’t care less about whether justice would be served for this character in my story. I turned my back on the story completely.

I threw in the towel sometime before Christmas and hoped to return to the story with fresh eyes in the New Year, but every time I thought about it, my stomach would churn at the thought of that innocent character whose life was offed for… what?

Then, I realised. My problem wasn’t my story: it was my genre! I had started a chic-lit murder mystery — not a police-beat, detective story. I started wondering how I could get things back on to the storyline about yuppie in stilettos making a wrong right. Columbo was for someone else!

I was the writer, author–nay, creator–of this story, and I could make it whatever I wanted it to be!

The Birth of CynNoWriMo

If you have flirted with the idea of writing a novel, you have definitely heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I am not one for group competitions, I am definitely one who prefers to compete against myself–to top my own bests. So…

So, I have a new goal of writing about 1,000 words a day. It’s manageable with my bite-off-more-than-I-can-chew lifestyle, and it also will bring me near (or past) the finish line by September 30.

So this is my version of CynNoWriMo. I won’t write on the blog all the time, but I will check in.

If you wish to follow this thread in the meantime, it would be a pleasure to know I have cheerleaders who are way more supportive than my inner critic.

On Vacation…

Aljezur, PortugalSo, when you’re in business for yourself, looking for work or clients or projects, or simply on the market for new employment — what exactly is the protocol for announcing your absence due to vacation? How far in advance do you share your plans to be away? How relevant is such an announcement when nothing  substantial has been established? Do you announce this sort of thing on your LinkedIn page?

I am in the last couple days of my almost two-week trip through France, Spain and Portugal,  and haven’t had reliable internet connection most of the time. While I haven’t really worried about it too much, I have wondered if some of my leads back home have noticed my absence,  or if they’ve been doing their thing and therefore have not even noticed. (I am inclined to think the latter.)

But I’m curious to know, what do you do?

New to Switzerland? Three Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Quest for the Perfect Job…

At the beginning of 2012, I was living in Atlanta with a nearly desperate and growing need to fulfill a lifelong dream of moving to Switzerland — my mother’s home country and my summer home throughout my childhood.

I had visited less than a year earlier to help move my grandmother out of her family home in Winterthur and into nursing care. And I could feel my connection to that part of my family and Switzerland quickly receding. At some point in April, I stumbled upon a lecturing job outside of Zürich. The hiring manager said sheepishly, “The position is only part-time,” and gave me a few days to think about it.

As a co-owner of a restaurant, I went straight to my life and business-partner who promptly replied, “You said if you landed a job in Switzerland, you would move. This sounds like your opportunity.”

We decided to give things one year. He would keep things going at the restaurant, perhaps find a potential buyer, and I would pursue a lifelong dream.

Thus began my quest to find meaningful, self-sustaining employment in Switzerland.

Since moving to the Zürich-area in August 2012, I have amassed a little bit of insight into the job search process in Switzerland. Here are three things I wish I had known from the get-go:

1. “Get your picture took”.

Coming from the states, the concept of putting one’s photo on one’s résumé — or CV (Curriculum Vitae), as they like to say on this side of the pond — is a little strange. When I first arrived, I was nervous about any of the multiple forms of discrimination one might be faced with, including gender and age discrimination. I learned relatively early on that there aren’t any laws restricting potential employers from asking candidates to include their photo with their application. I got around my initial reserve in this department by telling myself, I wouldn’t want to go to an interview with someone who may be turned off by, say, my curly hair — let alone be hired by a group of people who are curly-hair haters. 🙂

All that said, make sure your photo is on your application, make sure you look good (i.e., professional, or at least like you’re playing the part), and get over any angst about possibly being rejected. (Rejection is the name of the pavement-pounding game — ask any actor.)

2. Get Ready to Walk Down Memory Lane.

In the U.S., copies of degrees, certificates, letters of recommendation, are not usually shared at the outset of the application process. Here, I learned that applications (especially online ones) will be rejected if all these boxes aren’t ticked off. Human recruiters seem particularly keen to see these as well.

If not for the internet, I would have had to phone all my schools from nearly 20 years ago (or *gasp* write letters, get stamps and make my way to the post office) and ask them to send me those documents with stamps and seals, etc. (In the process, I realized I hadn’t really updated my connection with them — so I was able to revive long-lost contacts. Always a plus.)

Get your degrees, letters of recommendation and other certificates before leaving the States — and digitize them. You’ll be using them over and over again.

3. At the very least, remember you’re the one who’s different

Sometimes, having graduated from some university overseas is a bonus on one’s résumé, but for most people (and not just in Switzerland) qualifications like a degree from a school that hiring people understand, credentials from a business they recognize, a letter in a language they don’t need to translate, are more likely to remain in the memories of the folks reviewing your application.

I’ll see if I can make myself more clear with an illustration.

Shortly after I moved to Hawaii, I applied for a job working at a poster store in Lahaina. This wasn’t just any poster shop. The owner of this shop actually travelled the world looking for antique posters. He would buy them at auctions, or from vendors at flea markets, and then he’d have them shipped to Hawaii. He had an employee demonstrate how he wishes for the posters to be described. (He had a script!)

Briefly stated, the sales people had to mention at least three times that “these posters were printed back in [for example] Toulouse Lautrec’s day — they actually remained glued to the walls for decades before they were painstakingly removed and carefully shipped from Paris to here. Imagine, Toulouse might have personally glued this actual sheet of paper…”

My point is, the same message had to be repeated several times in different ways — just so a customer would get the drift and say, “You mean these were actually used to advertise acts at the Moulin Rouge back in the day?” That’s right. These aren’t just any posters, my friend.

And, you, dear reader, aren’t just any applicant. Hang in there, and remember: You’re beyond what any company would have imagined when it realized it opened a position to fill.

Well, it’s something

All these years, I have helped people get their businesses set up, provided strategic communications assistance and never along the way have I set up a website of my own — a professional page that puts my face on the internet alongside my work.

A few friends, contacts and acquaintances have asked me if they can have my website address, so they can refer friends of theirs to me — and each time I sheepishly had to refer them to my gmail address. (Embarrassing, I know!)

So, I finally decided to bite the bullet and do something.

And, if there’s only one thing I have learned during my squiggly-lined career, it’s this: it’s easier to work with something than with nothing at all.