#GirlBoner Courage: Turning Gutlessness Into Gusto

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” – Meg Cabot

facing fear

The woman who moves across the globe alone to start anew, the man whose heart is broken but never gives up on love, anyone who bypasses high-paying or “stable” vocations in the name of artistry… I so admire folks who step up in courage. This week I’m trying my darndest to be one of them.

If you caught my post from a few months ago, Singing Naked: Honesty on Stage, you know that music means a lot to me. You also know that sharing my original tunes with others makes me anxious. It feels a bit like opening up my soul, flashing neon lights on my vulnerabilities and pouring my innermost thoughts out before Simon Cowell-like ears.

Once I stepped onto the stage after a lengthy respite at my paperback release party in March, my nervousness transformed into bliss. Rather than pee on the floor or obsess over imperfections as I’d anticipated, I savored every moment. Afterward, I felt like trading my place for a bus and going on tour! I settled for a less dramatic pursuit: a few gigs per year.

writing dreams

Then in a burst of post-show delusional hysteria courage, I decided to submit tunes to New York venues, requesting stage-time during the week of ThrillerFest. A groovy one panned out. This Wednesday, July 10th, I’ll perform a full set not only live on stage, but before the entire Facebook-universe, or whoever decides to visit my page and hit ‘play.’

If you'll be in the NYC area this week, I'd love to see you here! I won't puke on you or anything—promise.

If you’ll be in the NYC area this week, I’d love to see you here! I won’t nervous-puke on you or anything—promise.

Shortly after booking the show, the self-doubt goblin reared its ugly head again: Your songs are weird. You don’t play guitar “right.” You don’t even practice! What were you THINKING?!?

As with my first gig, I considered canceling. Or sending invitees to the wrong time and address—someplace with better entertainment. Then I plunked down with my guitar, closed my eyes and recalled why I’d written the songs. Regardless of how they’re played or perceived, I still believe in their stories and care deeply for the people behind them. I also sense that music means more to me than I can begin to comprehend. Being the gushy bohemian I am, I shed tears, commanding the SD goblin to GO STUFF IT.

It worked, mostly.

Now me and my gastro-butterflies are nervous, but eager. I’m not trying to become the next Joni Mitchell, or playing because I believe—or even wish—to be “good.” I’m performing because I promised myself long ago that I wouldn’t let fear or insecurity hold me back from anything I hold dear.

So what does this have to do with Girl Boner? A lot, actually. I’ll be singing naked (metaphorically), and performing a song I jokingly call “Girl Boner Beginnings.” But the real connection lies in the gusto it takes to pull ourselves up out of a place of insecurity to pursue passionate pursuits we fear. While fear holds an important place in our lives and psyche, it can also tinker big time with our happiness.

I could delve into the studies that show a tight link between female sexuality and happiness, of which there are numerous. But the message for today is this: being whole, emotionally fulfilled people makes way for happiness in a variety of ways—including sexually. While we can often find contentment in the comfortable, I think it takes daring and challenging ourselves to truly soar—even (or especially) when it’s terrifying. How else can we truly learn what we’re capable of?

I’m not suggesting that we all make “I’m Afraid Of” lists simply to have better sex (though talk about rad frosting). I do think, however, that if we let ourselves grow complacent in other life areas, we’re likely to be complacent in the bedroom—and vice versa. If we seek empowerment in one life department, on the other hand, we can expect to flourish in others. (This by far beats fixating on problems rather than nourishing joy, which often defeats the purpose.)

The takeaway, from a solely sexual standpoint: If you’re feeling stagnant sexually, why not dare yourself to dream bigger and go after those dreams with gusto? I’ve found that the reverse also works: Prioritizing sexual exploration, intimacy and adventurousness can rev up excitement in life. Both scenarios are win-wins, in my opinion, regardless of the results. If we fall flat, we typically still gain something. We’ll never have to wallow in “what ifs?” or regret, and many “falls” move us closer to success.

So yes, I plan to savor sexual perks in the weeks following my show—no matter what happens. Dream-seeking and challenge-facing can be seriously awesome foreplay! More so than that, I plan to continue dreaming and living larger, with faith that rewards of many kinds will follow.

With this topic in mind, I posted a question on Facebook last week: What’s something you did that terrified you, and are now so glad you did? The responses were crazy inspiring. Here are just a few that rocked:

FB screenshot

What scary thing have you done that you’re now grateful for? What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Have you noticed a link between overcoming fear and your sexual confidence? Can I look forward to seeing you at ThrillerFest? love hearing from you. ♥ 

To more Girl Boner chit chat, join me on Facebook and Twitter. If you’ve missed any Girl Boner posts, you can now find the whole shebang in list-form here. Thanks for reading, y’all. Have a beautiful week!

Pitching to Agents: Why A Little Sweat’s Okay

If you’re a writer, there’s a reasonable chance that you’ve had conferences on the brain. I’m heading to OWFI in Oklahoma this week, while many friends conference it up at DFW Con in Texas. Registration for ThrillerFest, Bouchercon, RWA and other fests are ongoing, all of which provide opportunities to mix, mingle and potentially pitch to literary agents.

As some of you know, I met my agent at AgentFest—the pitch portion of ThrillerFest, which takes place annually in New York City. My pitch was not polished, memorized or anywhere near perfect. I rambled a bit, stumbled over a word or 700 two, and probably spoke faster than ideal. But you know what? I had fun, relayed the gist of my novel, and my now agent saw something worth further considering.

While it’s awesome to prepare for pitches, and conferences in general, what seems most important to me is being ourselves while we’re there–whether we’re anxious, excited, shy, outgoing, blurty, loud or fill-in-the-blank.


An agent/author relationship is a close and valuable one. If we don’t mesh personality-wise, that’s a problem. Enthusiasm is a great thing, even if it makes us bumble around a bit. And no one is expecting the most eloquent speech ever recited. As my agent wisely said, it’s their (agents’) job to pitch stories to publishers; writers’ primary job is to write. Keeping that in mind might help remove some of the pressure. (I suppose I’m sharing what I wish someone had told me pre-pitch.;))

Most of all, I want to wish all of you who’ll be pitching this weekend or later on this year GOOD LUCK and heap loads of fun. If you are, you may find the following links helpful:

ThrillerFest.com: Something Did Happen (How I landed my agent)

Write It Sideways: How to Slam Dunk Your 90-Second Pitch, by Debra Eve

The Other Side of the Story with Janice Hardy: Is the Agent Pitch Session an Effective Tool or Could it use a Tweak?, by Guest Agent Sara Megibow

What writers’ conferences are you looking forward to? Heading to OWFI or DFW Con? Will you be pitching? Any tips or challenges to share?

Funny on a Plane and NYC Wonder

“Hey, people who travel with their bed pillow. You look insane.” — Jim Gaffigan, comedian

Travel can bring out the best, the worst and the flat-out funniest. My recent trip to ThrillerFest in New York City was no exception. After boarding the plane in Burbank, I settled into my seat, grateful to be yawning. Yes, I thought. I’m going to sleep like a baby. With the subtle rumble of the engine below, the beloved air-pillow I raved about in my travel post and my plush eye mask, how could I not? I felt no shame puffing air into the pillow. Passengers shooting me weird looks would soon be jealous, I figured. Or… not.

I was on my last puff when something snapped. A noise like nothing I’ve heard escaped my wonder-gadget—a loud, gaseous FWAAAAAPPPPPGGGHHHH!!!! The fuzzy mass whipped up in the air, nearly schwacked the woman next to me, then fizzled down into a limp, pitiful blob on my lap. So I did what felt reasonable at the time—acted like it was supposed to happen. (You haven’t heard of those fancy flat pillows? They’re oh-so-popular in Europe. Vogue-esque. Like sleeping on a down pillow, minus the…um…pillow.) I squished it into a lumpy ball, rested my head on it and pretended to sleep. Shortly later, a major neck cramp sent me upright. I spent most of the remaining flight watching late-night TV and daydreaming of the sleep I wasn’t getting.

I didn’t think much more about my flat-and-gaseous pillow episode until a cocktail mixer that night. I was walking around, chatting with authors when I spotted people I recognized. Minutes later, I was face-to-face with friends I’d formerly only known online. As we hugged and chatted, I felt as though I’d known them in-person all along. And when the proverbial “How was your flight?” question arose, I shared my exploding pillow story. Only then did I realize how darn funny it was.

Intermingling in-person makes online relationships fuller, and vice versa. 

Studies have shown that the way we present ourselves on social media tends to be realistic. (I’m sure there are exceptions—criminals who use alternate identities to manipulate others, for example.) And I believe that friends met online are real, not virtual. But if I hadn’t have met these blogging pals in person, I wouldn’t have heard Rachel Funk Heller‘s sing-song laugh, admired Amy Shojai‘s sparkly bling or Melinda VanLone‘s sweetness, exchanged knowing looks with Ingrid Schaffenburg who seems to understand, well, everything, or felt the tenseness in the room soften when during a serious discussion, Kristen Lamb said, “Today is the best time to be an author.” Running into Diane Capri and Lee Child on 42nd Street was another highlight; they are quite the handsome pair. 😉

Melinda, Me and Rachel

Connecting with others makes our lives fuller.  

My favorite thing about ThrillerFest boils down to one word—people. Not just any people, but spectacular people who seem to “get” one another. (If there are so many of us, how can we possibly be crazy??? ;)) If you have the chance to attend a conference with people who share your passion, I hope you’ll go for it. It’s stimulating in way that’s difficult to describe.

I also spent time with my brother and his girlfriend—terrific people and artists, made new friends, met with my awesome agent, got a new request for my manuscript from a publisher (WOOT!) and had the opportunity to thank several authors in person for writing books I adore. Unlike many Hollywood celebs, the ultra-famous authors were giving and approachable. We aren’t in competition with one another, a couple of speakers said. I think that’s largely because we choose not to be. There’s plenty of room on the book shelves—and e-shelves—for more books and authors. If we choose to build each other up, we all grow—and not at the sake of our own success. Valuable lessons for anyone.

So I’m back in L.A. with my deflated air-pillow, which I haven’t had the heart to throw away. I’m pretty tired, but far more grateful.  Unlike the air in my pillow, the memories are sure to last a lifetime. 😉

I’d love to hear from you. What’s your most hilarious travel experience? Have you made friends online, then met in person? What conference rocks your world?

As a reminder, I’m accepting “I’m a writer!” photos until July 21st. I’ve received some GREAT ones, and would love more. For basic information, visit The Freedom to Write

How I Met My Agent (And You Could, Too)

If you’re like many writers, the moment you stamped “complete” on your revised and polished manuscript, you dove into agent-seeking mode. By the time I did so, I’d asked numerous authors how they landed their agents. And wouldn’t you know, every darn story was different. Gregg Hurwitz met his through an internship. Chris Rice was born lucky. (And talented.) His mother is the renowned author, Anne Rice. Ernessa T. Carter got hers through a good ‘ol fashioned query letter. And Stacy O’Brien, via the Southern California Writers Conference. 

A multitude of options exist for writers seeking representation. I believe in taking advantage of all of them. So I sent out a slew of e-queries and signed up for several writers conferences. I’m happy to say that my efforts paid off last July at AgentFest–the “pitch session” portion of ThrillerFest–in NYC. The coordinators asked me to share some insight on my experience, which I was *thrilled* and eager to do. 😉 Here’s the story, which appears on their website:

Something Did Happen
By August McLaughlin

“So you’re going to fly across the country to one of the most expensive cities to attend a pricy conference? What if nothing happens?” a friend asked after I registered for AgentFest.

“I’m going. Something already is happening,” I replied, sensing that his skepticism was geared more toward his stay-in-Los Angeles plans than mine to attend.

I’d been to three other conferences since completing my novel, IN HER SHADOW. And although I benefited from every one, I’d met a grand total of twelve agents, several of whom did not represent thrillers. AgentFest provided an opportunity to “speed date” with rooms full of agents in my genre. (Can we say ‘heaven’???) Considering the stockpile of queries agents routinely receive, I figured any chance to stand out, demonstrate my commitment as an author and bypass the risks of accidental email deletions was worthwhile. Plus, what other opportunity do we have for immediate feedback?

It was costly, so I asked myself this: If you end up landing an agent at this conference, would the airfare, hotel and conference fees be worth it? Absolutely.

Lucky for me, that happened.

Before the two-and-a-half-hour pitch session, I stood in a long line of anxious writers, my heart pounding and palms sweating as though it really was an important first date. Thanks to a suggestion from the ThrillerFest website, I had my one-line, “What if . . .” statement prepared and an armful of information sheets with a synopsis of my novel and my name, photo and contact information.

I pitched to twelve agents and two editors. (Thankfully, my knees stopped shaking after my first.) Thirteen requested materials. About a month later, I received two emails requesting phone calls to discuss representation—one from John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. I knew as soon as I read John’s that I wanted to sign with him; he was my top choice of the twelve. We chatted by phone and I signed a contract the following day.

Even if I hadn’t gained representation, I would not have regretted attending. As writers, we often lead solitary lives. There’s little better than submersing ourselves in a community of others who “get” us—share similar passions and relate to the world through words and stories. You also get a gift bag of books and the opportunity to hear fantastic speakers. In this way, AgentFest beats most every conventional date I’ve been on.

I feel extremely blessed, both to have had the opportunity to attend AgentFest and to be working with agent John Rudolph.

As for my skeptical pal, he’s already signed up for next year.


ThrillerFest 2012 will take place July 11th – 14th in New York City. To learn more, visit ThrillerFest.com. Sign up now for an early bird discount!

For a database of literary agents and publishers, visit:
Query Tracker (Allows you to track queries sent and responses received–for free!)
Writer’s Market (Allows you to agent-seek and utilize plentiful writing/publishing resources for a modest monthly fee)
Agent Query (Super user-friendly “quick search” options – all free!)

To find writers conferences in your genre or geographical area, visit:
 Writers Conferences & Centers

What about you? Seeking an agent? Planning to pitch at a conference? Have an agent and willing to share your story? I’d love to hear from you!