Forging Connections with Amanda Zieba
We all crave connections--real, meaningful person-to-person connections. It doesn't matter if we work in a solitary profession like writing or if we're in an occupation that just feels solitary. So when I saw Amanda Zieba's year-end post about her Word of the Year, CONNECTIONS, I immediately set aside time to read.
I loved her post so much, I am sharing the whole thing below with you (with Amanda's permission). But first, let me tell you a story (because that's what I do). Before I met Amanda, before I knew her word of the year was Connections, she reached out to me in May. She had heard about the Columbus Books & Beer book club (which I moderate) from another author who I met at a conference and was wondering if her book Champion Chocolatier might be a good fit for a December visit to our group. After reading her book and presenting it to our group, I got back to her with a unanimous yes that we'd love to extend an invite to her for our December gathering. (This makes a lot of sense when you realize her book is set during the holidays.) Finally, in September I met Amanda in person at the Wisconsin Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. Her visit to our Books & Beer night in December was a huge success. She brought with her the cutest gift boxes EVER that included her book and some sweet treats made by a baker from LaCrosse. (Another connection Amanada had made during 2017 was with LaCrosse area baker Jennifer Barney who recently won the Food Network's Holiday Baking Championship!) In 2018, Amanda and I are already planning to guest post on specific topics on each other's blogs and who knows what else!??
This all might seem rather serendipitous and sometimes connections are--but more often they are the result of purposeful effort to connect with others. It doesn't happen magically but it can feel like magic when those efforts pay off. So let me introduce you to Amanda.
She is an author, a teacher, a word nerd, a mom, a wife, and so much more. You can learn more about her writing adventures on her website at: http://amandazieba.com And she had a great year in 2017 making connections as you can read in her post below:
My 2017 Word of the Year... CONNECTIONS, a recap
By Amanda Zieba
December 27, 2017
Last year my writing club suggested trying something new. Instead of making a few New Year’s resolutions (that we will likely abandon by March) our leader encouraged us to select a word to represent the upcoming year. This word, once selected, would guide our thoughts and actions, goals and plans, interactions and reactions throughout the year.
I am usually pretty gung-ho about goals. In fact, I love them. A goal is like a to-do list on steroids. A goal is a big ol’ dream with a strategic plan that will take me from where I’m at to where I want to be. Thanks to a healthy dose of instilled discipline I learned from my uber-diligent parents… I’ve got some pretty good stick-to-it-tive-ness. Goals work for me. But hey, I’m up for trying something new every once and awhile… and you know I love words. So why not?
The first word that popped into my mind was MOMENTUM. At the end of 2016 things had started picking up in my writing world. Instead of being the one to reach out and ask to be included in the word-nerd world, sometimes, people were inviting (and paying!) me to attend and lead events. I had been selling more books. I’d found a supportive (and fun!) word-nerd tribe. I wanted more than anything for this to continue. I wanted to keep moving forward, and momentum felt like a good word to promote that.
But it also felt like this word had a single focus. Writing. Despite occupying a large chunk of my brain space - in both my waking and sleeping hours - writing is not the only important thing in my life. I had just moved my family back to my hometown. We had left the comfortable world we had known for a decade and traded it for new jobs, new schools, a new house, a new church… so much new. Momentum didn’t feel like the right word for my personal life. There was already so much movement. I wasn’t certain that adding more movement to an already chaotic time would make things better.
And so I came to my second word choice, CONNECTIONS. A focus on making connections… on a daily basis with my family, with new co-workers and neighbors, and with other word nerds would benefit my life in multiple areas.
Because I couldn’t totally abandon my type A personality ways of goal setting (and achieving!) I made a targeted plan to consistently work on connecting in 2017. While out Christmas shopping last year I stumbled upon the perfect tool to help me create a gateway for my future connection making endeavors. I purchased a page-a-day, motivational calendar and wrote up this simple note.
“I bought myself this calendar for Christmas. Something fun… and motivational. Each day as I looked at the quote, a person’s name popped into my mind and I decided to share these words of wisdom, power and momentum with others.
So today, I want YOU to know, that I thought of you. I hope you are happy, healthy and well, and that you are having a great year. I hope you are kicking ass in the world that you live in and working towards achieving your dreams.
All my love, Amanda”
Each morning as I sat down at my desk and tore off a new page of the calendar I asked myself, who does this remind me of? Who would appreciate these words? Who needs to hear this message? 85 times throughout the year someone specific came to mind. 85 times I mailed out a calendar page and my note. 85 times I wrote a person’s name on the calendar page and called out to them: I see you. I’m thinking of you. You rock. Keep fighting. Don’t give in. Shine bright! Be you. Be amazing. Celebrate!
Some of the people I sent notes to I see every day. Some I haven’t seen in months, maybe years. Some are people I’ve never met in person. I gave some notes to my students and some to my idols. Many were mailed out my family members. A few people were recurring recipients, but most were one time-ers. At times I would reverse the action… thinking to myself, who could use a pick-me up? Who is important in my life that hasn’t gotten a calendar page yet? Who would benefit from a connection this week?
Sure, there were days that I saw the quote and struggled to connect the thought to a particular person. Some days the quotes were just plain un-inspiring and therefore took up residence in my recycling bin. But 85 times I sent out these hugs in an envelope, these paper pep-talks.
These pages weren’t my only attempt to live out my word of CONNECTIONS. I also joined SCBWI this year and made some great new friends as well as a few professional connections at the state conference this fall. I spent three months in an online mastermind group and networked with some amazing creative professionals across the country, one of whom became a good, good friend. In 2017 I made connections to other local entrepreneurs through my business coach and reached out to many small businesses and writing organizations about possible partnerships. But the calendar pages remained the constant throughout the year. Each and every day, I came back to the calendar.
Do you know what happened?
41 times someone responded. With a Facebook message, a voicemail, a snapchat, a text. 41 times someone took the time to say, “I see you too”. And really, in my book, that’s pretty amazing… and in my opinion, what we need a little more of in our world.
I already have my new page-a-day calendar ready to go for 2018. I’m really excited to continue this daily ritual. I’m not sure what my 2018 word will be, but check back to the blog in early January and I’ll let you know.
Until then, I wish you all sorts of wonderful end of the year experiences… and all the words in the world to describe and record them. I’d also encourage you to think about your word for the year, and if you feel so inclined, share it with us in the comments below!
Happy holidays, happy reading and happy writing!
Submitted by Amanda Zieba (not verified) on January 3, 2018 - 5:31pm
Valerie, I am so glad that our paths crossed... multiple times this year! You were one of the favorite connections I made this year. :) Here's hoping for more great things in 2018! Happy writing! ~ Amanda
Submitted by Valerie Biel (not verified) on January 3, 2018 - 9:50pm
Amanda - Thanks so much for letting me share you wonderful post. - Valerie
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