Happy Birthday, Sylvia Beach!

Today marks the birthday of Sylvia Beach, the Paris bookseller who changed the world when she decided to publish the renegade novel Ulysses by James Joyce.

Sylvia Beach mural with author Cynthia Morris

Sylvia’s model of community, her passion for books and her tenacity that allowed her to carve out a life in Paris inspired me to write and publish my own book.

Chasing Sylvia Beach is the story of a young bookseller who longs for an adventurous life. She finds it in an unexpected trip back through time to Sylvia’s world in inter-war Paris.

To celebrate Sylvia’s birthday today, March 14th, 2013 I’m offering a deep discount on the Kindle version of Chasing Sylvia Beach. Get your copy today only for $4.99.

Pick up your Kindle copy of Chasing Sylvia Beach here.

Give the Gift of Paris

It’s that time of year again…gift-giving season! You may wish to give someone the gift of a trip to Paris. Alas, that’s not always in our budget! But a good book that keeps you up all night exploring the streets of the Lost Generation’s Paris? Totally affordable! Order the book here.

Last Chance to Win a Copy of Chasing Sylvia Beach on Goodreads!

Did you get a chance to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Chasing Sylvia Beach? The contest ends Friday, December 7. All you need to do is sign up here.

Chasing Sylvia Beach Literary Mashup Matchup Contest

By Cynthia Morris

I’ve taken opening and closing lines from famous novels and revised them slightly to create this Literary Mashup Matchup quiz.

Pair the mashup with the author and title and learn a little about my novel Chasing Sylvia Beach along the way!

Get all six correct and win a copy of Chasing Sylvia Beach. The first person to guess all answers correctly is the winner.

The winner will be announced on December 7 on Facebook. Good luck!

Mashups (An existing sentence that’s been tweaked to reflect an element of Chasing Sylvia Beach.)

1. Paris is Paris is Paris.

2. At Dusk she lay with her profile at that angle.

3. On an exceptionally hot evening in May a young woman came out of a bookstore.

4. Sylvia Beach was a middleweight champion of bookselling in Paris.

5. Yes, I said, yes, I will, yes, I’ll help you in your bookshop.

6. In my younger and more vulnerable years Sylvia Beach gave me some advice.

Authors and titles:

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Gertrude Stein, Geography and Plays

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

James Joyce, Ulysses

Stephen Spender, Daybreak

Not about the Money: Gains from Writing and Publishing a Novel

When I set out to write my novel Chasing Sylvia Beach, I had no idea that 13 years would pass before it came out into the world, with the surprising heft of an imagined thing made real.

I’ve been a writer for nearly twenty years and wanted to be one my whole life. I oriented myself early on to the notion that I probably wouldn’t make a lot of money or become famous for my writing.

With this in mind, I learned to love the process and to not bank on the result. As a coach, I believe that every project we work on works us, and that it’s our job to glean satisfaction from the process.

I published the book in late June, and it’s taken a few months to assess the boons. While I have seen my bank account grow, these benefits of writing the book far outweigh the money.

A sense of myself as a persistent person.

I am a person who finishes things. It took twelve years and seventeen drafts, but I did it. This ability to stay with a project despite setbacks and disappointments is a skill that will serve me again and again. I had finished other projects, another book and several e-books, but finishing this seemed like a bigger deal to me.

Integration of my personal and professional work.

A friend read a review copy of CSB. When she finished, she told me that she loved the book and felt inspired by it. She gushed about a new desire to write and was ready to pen her own stories.

I was surprised. Yes. my character wants to write and has her own turnaround to the page and the pen. But it wasn’t until readers got the novel that I saw I am transmitting the same beliefs that are core in my business:

  • Dare to live your own creative adventure.
  • Write your stories now. 

It’s odd how we can’t see what’s inside us until we put it into form. It’s even more amazing to see how the process of writing a novel was integrated into my business and personal life.

Of course, anything we write that is deeply considered will reflect our essence and the things we’re here to sort out. But it’s cool to see that reflected in our readers.

First-hand knowledge of what it takes to write a novel.

I’ve attempted almost every form of writing: play, screenplay, short story, essay, and poetry. I embarked on a novel because I love reading novels. When I started, I had no idea how to write a novel. I learned from doing it. Now I know much more about plotting, character development, pacing and the very nitty gritty of what to keep and what to leave out of a novel.

Deep, experiential understanding of the full arc of the creative process.

Writing this novel allowed me to test and test again the coaching solutions I provide for my clients. I have a deep knowledge of what it takes to overcome the inevitable roadblocks and distractions we all encounter in our writing and art making.

I know what works for me to get my creative work done and I know how to point clients to their best creative practices. This novel gave me a deep, experiential knowledge of what it takes to experience creative work in a healthy and sane way. Self-care, a solid support system, a physical practice and a deep connection to my motivation were all necessary to stay with it until the very end.

Understanding of the publishing and self-publishing industries.

To bring your work to the world, you have to know that world and its rules. When I was seeking publication for my book, I studied the publishing process: querying agents, preparing pitch materials, and of course, polishing my manuscript until it was perfect.

When I decided to self-publish, I had a lot of learning to do. Making a book includes dozens of decisions to be made and followed up on.

Self-publishing is one of the most dynamic and interesting fields you can be in these days. I’m far from abreast of everything that’s current, but I do follow a few writers who keep me in the loop:

What have I missed? What have you seen change in me from finishing this? What are some of your own boons from finishing your big projects? Share your experience in a comment below.

Collaborating on a Novel Across an Ocean

From November of 2010 to May of 2011, I woke almost every day excited to get to work on what I considered the last revision of my novel Chasing Sylvia Beach. On my main writing days – Friday through Monday – I’d make my cappuccino and eagerly log on to get started.

Now, I can’t say I approached all drafts of the novel with this much enthusiasm. Perhaps like me, you may have routinely experienced dread, fear and deep resentment of your project. I certainly didn’t want to do another draft.

I, like you, prefer to do something fun and hedonistic such as lie around the pool in my new swimsuit reading someone else’s work.

Instead, I found a way to write my novel that both challenged me to my creative edge and made my book better. What was the secret sauce that sparked me to leap out of bed every morning?

Writing across an ocean

I began collaborating. On the last revision of the book, I worked with a man near Paris to clear up some of the plot problems and to enhance the male characters.

It’s a long and juju-licious story how I found D and how we started working together. Suffice it to say, coming to terms with allowing someone so deeply into my project was not easy.

The language barrier was the least of our challenges. We spoke and wrote in French. I loved learning new vocabulary and practicing my French.

More challenging was his French disinclination to ever give any praise. Praise, for the French, is idle or intentional flattery that only makes the recipient soft and weak.

I also had to release my need to look good and open to suggestions and criticism.

But once I learned how to manage the emotional challenges, the play of collaborating became very fun.

The practical matters of collaborating

It took some time to get our stride with how we were going to work on the project together. A 100,000-word, thirty-three chapter novel is a big beast to manage. One big document, many chapters, hundreds of pages…how to keep it all straight?

1. Google docs We operated not only on different continents, but also on different operating systems. Him, Linux. Me, Mac.

D is a bit software obsessed and tried several different formats so each of us could share and work on the documents.

But the best solution turned out to be google docs. We were able to:

  • Share files in one consolidated place
  • See and retrieve all previous versions of the documents
  • View, edit and comment in full view of the other viewer
  • Comment in the sidebar to keep the manuscript itself cleaner
  • Easily organize and manage many files in shared folders

2. Gmail We communicated bigger conversations outside the documents easily using gmail. That’s no surprise but email was a major form of communication. I loved waking up to his notes about the book.

3. Dropbox Videos, songs, images and large written documents were all easy to share on our Dropbox folder. It’s free and easy to use.

4. Private site D built a site where he created a gallery of images. We tried to use the project management aspect of this site, but it turns out we didn’t need that. This was a great place to share a gallery of images and documents.

5. Skype We never used the video feature, but we were able to talk for hours (the longest session was nine hours). We could share links and files and look at the documents on google docs to make changes and discuss in real time.

Using these five valuable and free resources, we were able to work together across the ocean for ten months. He helped me develop the male French character in my novel, Paul. He also helped make the Nazi part a bit more menacing and exciting. He’d make suggestions, we’d brainstorm ideas, and I’d write scenes and get his feedback.


On May 16th, 2011, I woke up with my usual instinct: get up and see what D had sent during my sleep.

But no. We were done.

We are still friends and we stay in touch, but now that the project is complete, we aren’t in daily contact like we were as collaborators.

I learned so much about my writing and myself through this collaboration. The emotional challenges grew me as a person and the mechanics of partnering challenged me as a writer and businesswoman.

What about you?

There are plenty of collaboration tools out there. I’m not suggesting what we used is the best way; it’s what worked for us to drive the penultimate draft to completion.

You don’t have to be across the ocean from your collaborating partner. You could be in the next office, co-authoring a book that will push your work to a legacy state. It’s never been easier to work together to create something.

What indispensable and perhaps free tools do you use to collaborate with others? For other types of artists, what helps you collaborate with others?


My Sane Book Launch

A few years ago I submitted an essay to a Funds for Writers contest. The challenge was to plan an exciting year in the life of your project. I thought it would be fun to draft a dynamic marketing plan for Chasing Sylvia Beach. I figured if I had to do the work of promoting a book, I might as well make it as creative as possible.

With brio, I generated tons of ideas about how I would get the word out. It was fun to let my imagination run free. I didn’t win the contest, but I left with a larger-than-life vision for the promotion of my novel.

Over the years, I hyped up the project with the aim of hitting Amazon bestseller lists. Then social media marketing exploded, and so did the plans. Facebook! Twitter! I even conceived of a scintillating idea to give away a weekend trip to Paris.

My fun marketing plan was now a monster, and one I had no hope of controlling.

Owning my launch

For all creators, there’s this moment where the rubber meets the road. This is the place where we truly ‘get’ that there’s a real limit to what one can do with one’s time, energy and attention.

Sometimes when we’re daunted by the scope of our vision, we abandon it altogether. But learning how to scale back is vital. The dynamism of our ideas demands both structure and flexibility.

A few months out to launch, the more anxious I became. The more I realized I couldn’t possibly execute on all my great ideas.

A breakthrough session with my business mentor  helped me see where I could scale back. With more attention to my own agenda and goals for the book (not someone else’s), I was able to focus on what was important in this launch.

It was important to me to enjoy the process as much as possible. My intention was to be focused and open to the wonderful surprises awaiting me on the other side of publication.

More relieved than disappointed, I started to embrace a sane book launch.

Ongoing calibration

Even with this new and liberating perspective, I struggled to keep my focus on my own agenda.

I was still spending too much time trying to follow others’ leads. Any time I needed to do something – write a press release, write back cover copy, come up with a blog tour plan – I’d do copious research about the ‘best’ way to do it.

Every time, I’d spend 20 minutes researching and then abandoning the thread. Overwhelmed, confused, disheartened, I’d not only lose the connection to my own original impulse, I felt incapable of doing it the way I was supposed to.

A call with my mastermind partner helped re-orient me. She advised me to unplug, step away from all the advice and how-tos, and get clear on what was meaningful for me.

Relief washed over me. Within an hour of our call, I found a solution to a challenge I’d been stumped by, and it wasn’t about Facebook at all.

Finally in the groove

At a party the other night, sipping a Fat Tire and munching on tapas. Conversation turned toward me when someone asked, “What are you up to?”

“I’m launching my novel this summer!” I replied with enthusiasm. We talked about it for a little while and then the conversation moved on. A friend turned to me and said “You seem so calm, so Zen!”

I thought about how stressed out I had been in recent months. How much emotional churn I had gone through as the launch date approached. How twice a day unbidden, this thought lurches its way into my consciousness, “OH MY GOD IT’S X WEEKS AWAY!”

This is a visceral thought/fear/impulse that rises up and passes away. If I jump on it, I’ll start squirreling away with all the details. And then I’ll spend my time feeling fearful and stressed.

When I am anxious, my mind is desperate for control. I start sending up thought flares, ordering to-dos and schedules. But the more I fuel the emotional churn with mental churn, the more miserable I am. This is the ever-faster treadmill feeling of overwhelm we know all too well.

This was when I realized, at that well-earned Sunday evening party that this is the moment I’ve been building toward since I started writing this book in 1999.

This is the time of my life. I get to see the fruits of my creative labor meet my audience and have an impact.

This is it.

I’m not going to blow this precious time by making myself insane. I’m not gunning for the best-seller list. I’m not pushing to promote my book like mad in the first three months of its life. I’m not attached to how people will receive this book. (I will keep telling myself that until I believe it!)

My focus now is to enjoy the process of preparing my work for its debut. I consider it a gift I sincerely give to the world.

Chasing Sylvia Beach officially launches on June 22nd, 2012. The pre-sale Limited Edition is available from June 11th – 21st. Get your copy from the author here.

Chasing Sylvia Beach Limited Edition Available Now

It’s a very exciting day: today I share what’s special about the limited edition paperback of Chasing Sylvia Beach.

I’ll give you a hint: it’s art, that I made, to accompany the paperback. It’s guaranteed to delight lovers of paper and stamps and ink and books.

Find out what I’ve created for you.

I’m only selling a limited number of these through June 21st, so reserve your copy now.

Tell your friends…trust me, they’ll want to be in on this too.

Trouver Sa Voix – Find Your Voice

This is part of the Claim Your Authority series.

The French have an expression, ‘trouver sa voie’. I translate this as ‘ to find her path’. It can also be spelled ‘trouver sa voix’, which means ‘find her voice’.

When I set out to write a novel, I thought I was being clever. I thought writing about Sylvia Beach would allow me to avoid that first, autobiographical novel.

Writing from Sylvia’s perspective, I loved my lyrical passages where I tried to inhabit Sylvia’s world.

But after I came back from a week researching in Sylvia’s archives in Princeton, my enthusiasm for the novel ground to a halt. I could only go so far inventing Sylvia’s truths for myself. I respected her too much to try to push her gentle struggles into a sensationalistic spotlight. She would have hated that.

Shortly after my return from Princeton, I had a breakthrough. During a free writing session with my group, my pen lead me to engage Sylvia directly in a dialogue. Instantly the writing was electrified. Instantly I was closer not only to Sylvia but to something vital in myself.

I showed the pages to Carl and he said, Yes! Write more of that!

So I kept going with this me-like character and her interactions with Sylvia Beach, because it felt much better than trying to write Sylvia’s story. I had no idea how I was going to deal with what had effectively become a ‘time travel novel’, but I plunged forward anyway.

This character became Lily Heller. She made plucky choices that I wouldn’t have dared. As I wrote, I both met and grew myself. The story helped show me who I am and what is important to me.

Making this change put me solidly on my path. I became a witness both of Sylvia and myself. 

Here’s a truth I discovered that’s at the core of my coaching, teaching and my own creative quest: we need role models but those role models can only take us so far before we have to forge our own path.

With Sylvia as a distant guide and the novel as an intimate and challenging proving ground, I kept questing for my voice/path. Staying with this project forced me to see and understand insights I would have lost if I had skipped to other, simpler projects.

Finding your voice as a writer is one of the biggest challenges in writing. I’m still finding my voice. But writing and publishing this novel has taken me a long way toward discovering – and owning – my voie/voix.

What has helped you find your voice and path? What role models have taken you to the edge and forced you to find your own way?

Download a PDF of this article. 

Chasing Sylvia Beach News

I’m squirreling away at the Original Impulse office, preparing for the launch of my novel Chasing Sylvia Beach.

I feel kind of like the character in Mission Impossible. You know, how he’s working the touch screen, waving his hands here and there, manipulating all the pieces of his project.

It’s like that. Lots of pieces. Without the fancy technology.

I’m loving it, and want to make sure you know what’s going on. (But some of it’s still secret!) To answer some of your questions…

Where and when can I buy the book?

Thank you for asking! I’m beyond delighted that you’re ready, willing and able to read Chasing Sylvia Beach.

The official launch day for Chasing Sylvia Beach is June 22nd. On that date you can buy the paperback from online booksellers. You can also get the Kindle and the iBook versions if you prefer reading that way.

In late May, I will be offering a special limited edition for insiders at the Chasing Sylvia Beach web site. Sign up for the salon and get advance notice about special offers.

Be among the first to have access to the limited edition and other news about Chasing Sylvia Beach!

Is there a launch party?

Why, yes, there is! You don’t think I’d let more than twelve years’ labor go uncelebrated?

Join us at the Denver Woman’s Press Club on Friday, June 22nd, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, with a presentation by the author at 7:00 pm.

Details for the Chasing Sylvia Beach Denver launch party here. 

Is there a Paris launch?

Oo la la! I’ll be in Paris the first week of October, 2012. We’re planning some special events and readings – most of it free and open to the public.

In 2013 I’ll be leading a special writing workshop in Paris. Stay tuned for information about that.

When is the book signing tour?

I’m planning a super cool indie author book tour for 2013. Want me to come to your region? Drop me a note and let me know where you are and how you can help bring me there!

How can I help get the word out?

I’ll be doing a virtual salon this summer, starting in late June. Some people call this a blog tour, but I prefer the word salon. Yes, it’s the snobby francophile in me.

The focus of our conversation will be the themes in Chasing Sylvia Beach:

  • creative authenticity
  • the drive to express something meaningful
  • how our role models can influence our work and lives.

There’s a lot to say on these subjects!

To be part of the virtual salon, host me on your blog for:

  • Interview – written, podcast or video
  • Article by you about this subject, or a review of the novel
  • Guest post – we’ll look at how the themes of this novel relate to your readers.

Please contact me by May 18th to be part of the Chasing Sylvia Beach virtual salon this summer.

How can I spread the word if I don’t have a blog?

Here’s a brief blurb you can post to Facebook now if you want:

Author Cynthia Morris is getting ready to announce a limited edition (with art!) of her novel Chasing Sylvia Beach. Don’t miss it – join us in the members’ salon here: http://www.ChasingSylviaBeach.com

Or send out a tweet, if you’re that kind of person:

Cynthia Morris @originalimpulse to announce a limited edition of her Paris novel. Don’t miss it; join us in the members’ salon: http://www.ChasingSylviaBeach.com

Feel free to copy and share the cover of the novel you see in this post.

Thank you for all the support you give me for this project. it’s truly a labor of love done in community and for that I am grateful.