Handling Criticism: Advice for Life

There have been a couple of very important people in my professional life who taught me the importance of not giving two craps about negativity that doesn’t offer any kind of insight into how you can improve. Here are the lessons I’ve learned. I hope they help you, too.

moving truckThe “Move On” Perspective

When I worked for a media outlet, I received all kinds of email messages and phone calls critiquing everything from the pitch of my voice to the way I pronounced certain words to the way I wrote my news stories. (My favorite phone call came from a guy who swore I was saying the word “inclement” incorrectly. He insisted I needed to put the emphasis on the second syllable instead of the first. Say it out loud that way. It sounds weird. For the record, both ways are correct.)

The fearless leader of our station advised me to listen to all the feedback I received, evaluate it, take anything that’s potentially helpful, and forget about the rest. What I like about this approach is that you give the other person the basic courtesy of listening to them. But the best part is possibly gleaning something useful from their critique, no matter how tactlessly it’s delivered. Taking this attitude instantly removes defensiveness. This approach allows you to view feedback as an opportunity to get better, discard anything that isn’t helpful, and move on.

shrugThe “You Can’t Please Everyone” Attitude

One time, a woman called our station. She complained to our fearless leader that we repeated some of our programming. Our leader’s response? Turn off the radio! I absolutely love this because it shows that one person’s gripe didn’t undermine our long-standing commitment to a broadcast schedule that aimed to serve our audience well and get the most bang for our programming buck. This one person’s habit of listening to the radio for hours at a time was unusual. We know from research that most people tune in and out of programs as they go through their day. So, we didn’t let this one person’s gripe cause us to change course. And I love how devoid of defensiveness the response is: don’t like what we’re doing? Go someplace else.

keytarThe “It’s Not a Commentary on You as a Person” Mentality

If someone doesn’t like your writing, your keytar playing in a field of horses, or anything else you do, remember that the critique is about that isolated thing, not you as a person. If their negative feedback is framed as a personal attack, then the problem is theirs, not yours. I’ve found the people who squawk the loudest in degrading others often have the lowest self-esteem.

Remember, you’ve accomplished something extraordinary: you’ve written a novel, composed a song, performed a role, or achieved some other feat that few others have. That, in and of itself, is enough to make you proud, regardless of what mud someone might sling at you. So, go ahead. Play the heck out of that keytar.

Top image via Flickr by xlordashx

Animated gifs via Giphy

RESOLVE New England Holds Walk of Hope for People Dealing with Infertility

When Patrick and I were going through infertility, one of the worst parts was feeling alone. We wanted to find others who knew how it felt to go from hope to heartache month after month. Though we eventually connected with two other couples in our city who were also struggling to conceive, there weren’t any support groups. I wish there had been one where we lived.

woh-logoEarlier this year, I had the opportunity to connect online with Kate LeBlanc, the executive director of RESOLVE New England. I’m so impressed with this organization.  The non-profit offers support group meetings, organizes conferences, and provides seminars. And now, for the first time ever, RESOLVE New England is preparing to host a Walk for Hope on September 27 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at Endicott Estate in Dedham, Massachusetts. (Registration is free!) The walk is presented through a partnership between RESOLVE New England and RESOLVE, the national infertility association.

Kate gave me a virtual introduction to the two co-chairs for the event: Delainna Burton and Kerri Kivolowitz. Both women experienced infertility before becoming mothers. They graciously agreed to open up about the emotional baggage that comes with infertility, the importance of hope, and what they want participants to gain from the Walk of Hope.

Tegan: It was very touching to read the story about why you will walk, Delainna. You mentioned that during your infertility, you struggled in silence due, in part, to feeling ashamed. I felt this, too, when I was on my journey. Why do you think some women feel ashamed that they’re not able to conceive?

baby feetDelainna: From an early age we are taught that one of the most fundamental aspects of being a woman is having children. So when we try to get pregnant and it doesn’t happen as easily as we believed, one can easily feel shame. Especially since it seems that at the same time you’re experiencing problems conceiving everyone around you is having children. One in eight couples in the U.S. experience problems with infertility. Once more people start to be open about their struggles, the feelings of shame will subside and be replaced with more communal tips and support.

Tegan: In what ways has organizing this event opened doors for you, Kerri, to talk about infertility to people who may not have firsthand experience with it.

Kerri: Co-chairing the “Walk of Hope” has allowed me to be completely open about my own struggles with infertility, whether speaking with someone who has experienced infertility or someone who hasn’t. Before working on this event, I shared my story with friends, family, and others I knew were struggling to conceive, but these days I am posting information about the Walk on my personal Facebook page, making phone calls to vendors and potential sponsors, and talking to relative strangers about the Walk and why it is important, so I would say I’m fully open now about my experiences with infertility. It’s a nice change, especially being able to use that openness to directly or indirectly help someone who may not be ready to speak about their experiences.

Tegan: For you personally, Kerri, what’s the significance of calling this event “The Walk of Hope?”

candle1Kerri: In my “Why I Walk” statement, I mentioned an “ever twinkling hope that this time it will be different…” that for me was the heart of my journey through infertility. My husband and I dealt with unexplained infertility, and each month that we didn’t conceive began to feel like an actual loss. I mourned, we mourned, over and over and over again. We mourned because we had so much hope each and every time we started a new cycle, and we believed each time that we had created a child…a child who was so real to us in our minds.

After going through that experience, I can never doubt the human capacity for optimism and hope. Hope can be the most painful thing, but it is also what drives us to keep going and what eventually leads us out of the woods. In the infertility community we speak a lot about hope, because it is something we all have in common…we hope, and that is what keeps us moving forward one step at a time.

Tegan: Hope was my emotional anchor during my journey to parenthood, so what you said, Kerri, really resonates with me. This idea of hope being such an important part of the infertility journey is something I explore in my novel, INCONCEIVABLE.

Delainna, you now consult others who are experiencing infertility. What advice do you give them for staying emotionally healthy during their journey to becoming parents?

Delainna: Through JumpStart Fertility I provide my clients with resources, support and guidance on starting a family. I pride myself on handling each client situation uniquely. However one piece of advice that I share with them all is to write a plan from the outset on how far they are willing to go on their fertility journey. It’s easy to continue to go through the motions, but at some point you must be able to envision the end. The end may be your own little bundle of joy or it may be the closure that you’ve reached as far as you are willing to go.

Tegan: What are the two biggest misconceptions about infertility would you like to see set straight once and for all, Delainna?

Delainna: That the reason for the inability to get pregnant is totally the woman’s fault. In actuality, the reason for infertility can be the woman, the man or a combination of the two… all almost equally.
That fertility treatments are too expensive and therefore only for rich people. This is not true.

couple holding handsTegan: For women and men who are going through infertility and join the Walk of Hope, what do you want them to take away from the experience?

Delainna: I want them to leave knowing that they are not alone and that there are numerous resources available to them. Through RESOLVE/RESOLVE New England, they have access to information, advocacy, and support. They can also connect with various fertility-related businesses like mine.  Through JumpStart Fertility, they will receive guidance and access to information on navigating through the confusing world of Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IVF, which can ultimately save them valuable time and money.

Kerri: I would like to see families at our event of every variety, built in all different ways, so that those dealing with infertility can meet them, socialize, and have fun. If I can see just one person experience a connection and be comforted by coming out on September 27th and walking with us, then I will feel we have really accomplished something.

To find out more about the Walk of Hope organized by RESOLVE New England, check out the official Facebook page for this event.

Top image via Flickr by jcookfisher.

Candle image via Flickr by Markus Grossalber.

Drum roll, please! Here’s the cover of INCONCEIVABLE!

All I can say is I adore this cover. It’s beautiful enough to be shelf candy, and it connects to my story so well. Leave me a note and tell me what you think.

Today also marks the official kick-off for pre-orders on Amazon. If you’re into e-books, go ahead and order yours now. If you prefer paperback, you’ll have to wait and place your order on November 16, the book’s release day.

If you love the cover, please consider sharing it (and the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Inconceivable-Tegan-Wren-ebook/dp/B014U6D2SQ) on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Thank you for being a part of this special celebration with me!

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Delayed Penalty: Hockey Romance, Anyone?

I’m thrilled today to host a new writer friend, Sophia Henry. I had the pleasure of reading her new novel, DELAYED PENALTY, a few weeks ago.

The world of hockey is quite new to me, so her book was intriguing on that level. But the story also had nice depth because it went well beyond the hockey aspects to look at the main character’s Russian heritage and difficult past. I’m posting my review below and all the fun ways you can connect with Sophia (who is a lovely person in addition to being a talented writer).

DELAYED PENALTYfive wrens1

Five Wrens for DELAYED PENALTY by Sophia Henry

Sophia Henry’s novel was a delicious escape for me. I don’t live in an area where hockey is a big deal, but it didn’t take long for me to feel like I could be a Pilots fan, specifically, a fan of Aleksandr Varenkov. I enjoyed having a front row seat to the romance between him and Auden. Both characters have depth and intriguing back stories. Because they’ve experienced similar past hurts, they have a special connection, one that extends well beyond the physical attraction they feel.

Auden’s adventures as a singer with a band and her involvement with a non-profit are nice additions to the story that give more insights into her character. I really liked the interplay between Auden and her grandparents. It reflected the tension, love, and complexities of their relationship.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it had lots of layers wrapped around the central romance. These aspects of the story gave it more depth and made it a really fun read. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys sports romances, and even to those who don’t because…hello? Hot Russian hockey players.

About DELAYED PENALTY:

She closed her heart long ago. He just wants to open her mind. For fans of Toni Aleo and Sawyer Bennett, the debut of Sophia Henry’s red-hot Detroit Pilots series introduces a hockey team full of complicated men who fight for love.

Auden Berezin is used to losing people: her father, her mother, her first love. Now, just when she believes those childhood wounds are finally healing, she loses something else: the soccer scholarship that was her ticket to college. Scrambling to earn tuition money, she’s relieved to find a gig translating for a Russian minor-league hockey player—until she realizes that he’s the same dangerously sexy jerk who propositioned her at the bar the night before.

Equal parts muscle and scar tissue, Aleksandr Varenkov knows about trauma. Maybe that’s what draws him to Auden. He also lost his family too young, and he channeled the pain into his passions: first hockey, then vodka and women. But all that seems to just melt away the instant he kisses Auden and feels a jolt of desire as sudden and surprising as a hard check on the ice.

After everything she’s been through, Auden can’t bring herself to trust any man, let alone a hot-headed puck jockey with a bad reputation. Aleksandr just hopes she’ll give him a chance—long enough to prove he’s finally met the one who makes him want to change.

You can buy DELAYED PENALTY through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

Connect with Sophia on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Check out the other stops on her Tasty Books Tour for more reviews.

Sophia HenrySophia Henry, a proud Detroit native, fell in love with reading, writing, and hockey all before she became a teenager. She did not, however, fall in love with snow. So after graduating with an English degree from Central Michigan University, she moved to North Carolina, where she spends her time writing books featuring hockey-playing heroes, chasing her two high-energy sons, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings, and rocking out at concerts with her husband.

Finding the Rainbow: Rachel McGrath on Miscarriages, Writing, and Staying Positive

One of the best parts of reading Finding the Rainbow by Rachel McGrath is feeling like you’re talking to an old friend. In her memoir about recurrent pregnancy loss, she shares her story with candor, humor, and truth, fully acknowledging the pain and hope that live in tension in the hearts of women who go through this kind of struggle.

In my review, I gave Rachel’s book five stars and recommend it highly (purchase links are at the bottom). Rachel kindly agreed to let me ask her some questions to find out more about her personal journey and her decision to write about it.

Tegan: What made you decide to write a book about your experiences?
Rachel: I actually didn’t start out with the intention to write a book What I do remember is writing down my experiences in the form of a journal as a way to help me through the hardest times (particularly the miscarriages). I remember sitting in bed for hours, trying not to feel sorry for myself. By writing about what had happened, it helped me find ways to look at the future differently, perhaps more optimistically and to always find a hopeful angle. I had kept it all on a Word document, and when I realised how much I had written, I started to play with the formatting and layout, thinking that perhaps if someone else read this story, it might help them feel less isolated throughout the experience.

Tegan: How did you decide what to share and what to keep private? I was touched by the level of detail you reveal in the book. It helped me connect to you and your story.
Rachel: Unfortunately (for me) I didn’t keep anything private – except names! It is all there, the warts and all, including the ‘almost break up’ with my now husband. I wanted my story to be honest and intimate, so it was important to take my readers through everything, regardless of the consequences. Some of the chapters also exposed some of the feelings, situations and experiences and whilst I did not name anyone, many have come to me after asking who I was referring to. Of course anonymity has been my primary focus for friends and family, but anyone who knows me well have made well calculated guesses. Nevertheless, I did have a few friends and family read it before it was published just to sense check my own sanity, and luckily there have been no friendship fall outs as a result!

Tegan: Society in general still struggles to feel comfortable with topics such as infertility and pregnancy loss. What impact do you hope your book will have on how the public views these topics?
Rachel: There are more and more blogs out there on this topic, and I am seeing more books developing/being published with personal stories. It is uncomfortable and even when I tell people about my book, some feel they need to apologise to me. It is not their fault of course, but it has been an interesting way of saying ‘congratulations’! I work in the corporate world and there has definitely been a mixed response to the fact that I wrote about my experiences, as most people would not even share that they are ‘trying’ until they have good news to share. I’m glad however that I have written about it, and I’m pleased with how it is being received. I hope that it helps other women feel comfortable to talk about it, if they want to.

Tegan: How have your friends and family reacted to reading your story?
Rachel: My friends, family and especially my husband have been incredibly supportive, from the first submission right through to my continuous blogging and sharing of my experiences. Many who have read it found it insightful to really understand my emotions, and have said that at times they had not realised how emotional the ride was. Many friends who have dealt with infertility have applauded my honesty and can empathise with much of the book; my husband finds reading the book difficult at times, as it really does bring you back through the pain and heartache in parts.

Tegan: Where are you on your journey to parenthood? (And I want to applaud you for writing the book even though your ultimate “happy ending” is yet to be decided.)
Rachel: I am still dealing with the ‘storm’ and hoping for a rainbow! Since my last miscarriage, I had some medical problems that have actually halted my ability to conceive. Currently I am seeking specialist help to overcome this, to give us that one last try. IVF is a potential possibility within the next twelve months, and we truly hope we will get there. Nonetheless, we are also open to alternative options for parenting in our future, so essentially our rainbow may show up in a slightly unexpected way!

Finding the Rainbow is available for purchase on Amazon U.S. and Amazon U.K.

Rachel McGrathRachel McGrath grew up by the seaside in Queensland, Australia, where she studied before moving to the United Kingdom in her early thirties. She currently lives near London in the United Kingdom. Rachel has always had a passion for writing both fiction and non-fiction and she has only recently published her first novel. Finding the Rainbow is an intimate memoir through her challenges with trying to conceive and recurrent miscarriage. Rachel has also started blogging, specifically on her own fertility journey, a subject she feels is not openly talked about and she is passionate to share with a wider audience.

Top image via Flickr by Cessna206

Pumpkins, Peace, and Preparation: Why I Heart Autumn

That quote from my debut novel, INCONCEIVABLE!, captures so much of what I love about the fall. (Yes, I know this whole post has a whiff of “basic white girl” but I don’t care. I’ve decided to embrace it.) Autumn is a time of peace, preparation for winter weather and the holidays, and a beautiful season of transition. Now that September is here, I’ve put together an Ode to Autumn . Hope you enjoy, and let me know what you love about this season.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!

porch pumpkin

Aside from the distinctive feel and smell of autumn’s air, pumpkins are the most obvious sign of the season’s arrival. I kind of love that these festive gourds pull double duty as both decor and a delicious ingredient. Because I’m all about easy when it comes to making food, I love whipping up a batch of pumpkin whip. It has very few calories, but is so delicious.

Peaceful evenings

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One of the reasons I love autumn is because there’s a sense of finding and embracing a routine. The hectic summer months are over, the kids are in school, and there’s a kind of turning: turning from busyness to a slower pace, turning from ridiculously hot weather to the calm cool of autumn’s afternoons, and turning from a palette of green to a palette of gold. Taking a stroll down the sidewalk, soaking up the colors of the last leaves lingering on the branches…it doesn’t get better than that.

Preparation for what’s to come

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Autumn is a time of transition, a few weeks to prepare for the next busy season and its demands on our time and wallets. Take a few moments to sit on the front porch with a pumpkin spice latte and meditate. Or listen to music. Or read a fabulous book. Just give yourself some quiet time. Admittedly, this is challenging for me with three wee ones running around. But it’s worth setting the goal to have this outside quiet time once a week…as long as the weather allows. Use these peaceful moments to rest and enter the coming season refreshed and ready to go.

What do you love most about this time of year?

Top image via Flickr by Nanagyei

Pumpkin on porch image via Flickr by John Loo

Fall lane via Flickr by joiseyshowaa