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In January an unexpected email found my Inbox. Jen Gatien, Producer of a film in pre-production at Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, contacted me to discuss being a consultant on a movie about a young girl entering a convent.

I asked, “How did you find me in Florida?”

Her response, “I googled ‘Former nun Nashville.'”

My name was the only one to come up. After seeing my website and my book, Monastery to Matrimony, she contacted me to see if I would be the ‘nun consultant on set.  I was hired and within 24 hours they flew me to Nashville and I began work immediately. Though I was still recuperating from the accident, I couldn’t resist the opportunity for such a rare experience. I was on set long hours everyday advising from my own directors chair.

My marketing efforts brought me this gig. I had written a newspaper column when I lived in Spring Hill, wrote press releases announcing my book signings in the area, posted on my website, and publicized my book extensively on my Facebook Page and Amazon Central.

The film, Novitiate, is in post-production searching for a film festival. It may or may not see the dark of a movie theatre, but it was a great experience to add to my profile. I met wonderful people and learned the behind the scenes work of filming a movie. I now appreciate the long list of names in movie credits. The actors had impressive credits to their names. I am still in touch with the ‘Mother Superior’ actress Melissa Leo who has earned Oscar and Emmy nominations. Currently she is nominated for an Emmy for her part as Lady Bird Johnson in All the Way, a recent HBO movie. Watch for her in a new TV show to air in the fall on Showtime.

Marketing! Marketing! Marketing! You never know where marketing might take you.  JUST DO IT!



I’m Back!

It’s time to revive my dormant blog. It has been just over a year since I last posted. In my February, 2015 post, I was expounding on how great 2014 had been for me. My book, Monastery to Matrimony was published. I launched it with an “Out-of-the-Box” champagne party in my home. A successful book tour through Illinois and Tennessee followed. Life was exciting. I was rolling along as a new author.

In mid 2015, my day-to-day life came to an abrupt halt. All book business stopped. Writing on my next book was side-tracked. On a perfectly beautiful sunny Florida day, I was taking my regular early morning walk in the neighborhood and SLAM, everything changed. I was hit by a car.

Life changed. My new vocabulary included ER, hospital, doctors, x-rays, rehab, MRI, CT scan, physical therapy, and various electronic tests.

It’s been a year now and I am finally able to give my writing life some attention once again. An abundance of writing material was collected over the year, but I prefer to look forward, not back.

I can’t say I am back to normal by any means, but I am eternally grateful to God for the mobility I have. So perhaps you can look for a new post now and then.

Watch for it!



How did 2015 slip in when I wasn’t looking. My plan was to wrap up 2014 and write a BLOG on my plans for the New Year. So now it’s February and I am reflecting on writing  and sharing tips on marketing.


I couldn’t be happier with 2014. Mid-year my first book, a memoir, MONASTERY TO MATRIMONY, A WOMAN’S JOURNEY, was published by Balboa Press. After months and years working on it, it didn’t disappoint. It received a second place award at the October Florida Writers Association Conference in Lake Mary, FL.


And now, I find it is true. MARKETING IS THE HARDEST PART. Good thing I like marketing. It has been rewarding and fun to seek opportunities to talk about my book.


  • Don’t limit your marketing to book signings. Talk about your book. Hearing the author speak about the book draws more of a crowd than just signing.
  • Speak at libraries (though you may not be able to sell the book, it spreads the word and they will buy somewhere)
  • Be creative in launching your book. I did an “Opening the Box Party” inviting neighbors and friends to help me celebrate receiving the first box of books. A champagne toast helped. Your friends are as excited as you are. They brought flowers and wine. CELEBRATE!
  • Do a press release of special events such as the Opening the Box party. Get acquainted with a staff writer, create a relationship so they remember your name.
  • Speak at book clubs and organizations. Groups are always looking for monthly speakers.
  • Bill yourself as an author and a speaker.
  • Join writing groups that focus on promoting authors.
  • Join State writing organizations.
  • Go to conferences.
  • The more you get your name out, the better your sales at bookstore signings




Nearly every day I receive a picture, an email, or message about someone who is reading my memoir, Monastery to Matrimony.

Joan Buckles, a Board Member of COPE, Children of Pokot Education, sent a picture holding my book at the ICOM, International Conference on Missions in Columbus, OH. She was reading the book while working the COPE booth last weekend.  COPE was founded and is directed by Barb O’Donohue. Under her direction, COPE educates and feeds over 650 children.  Food is scarce. Books are shared. Donations are always welcome.

Ginger Manley sent a picture from England where she was reading Monastery to Matrimony.  Mike, from Impact Publishing in Wisconsin wrote that he enjoyed the book, commenting he learned more about nuns from my memoir than he ever learned from his 90-year old aunt who was a nun ’til she died. The book reveals what it was like behind convent walls in the 50s and 60s. Robin Spychalski sent a Florida beach picture where she enjoyed the read in August.  That book gets around.

Where are you as you read Monastery to Matrimony? Send pictures from far and near as you read about my journey.

Joan Buckles

Joan Buckles



What a novel idea! If you can’t write a whole novel, why not be part of writing a group novel. What’s a group novel? It is a novel written by several people.

One of the writing groups where I live – in The Villages, FL – have joined together several writers  to complete a novel where each individual contributes a chapter to the book.

Allen Watkins wrote the first chapter of a romance novel, but he never wrote the conclusion. No need, since there are 70 other authors from the area writing the rest of the book.

Watkins said, “It was interesting, because you’re writing in the blind. You don’t know what the person before or after you wrote. One person maps out the plot, writes character descriptions, and gives each author direction as to what their chapter is to do for the novel. Then he leaves the rest to them.

Chapters are read and feedback is given at the weekly meeting. Katie Lewis, a reporter for The Villages paper was excited to be invited to  join the group for her first novel-writing experience.

I see this as a perfect project for LWC, my previous writing group in Spring Hill, TN, an energetic creative group of serious writers. LWC could be the nucleus of writers while offering an invitation to other authors in the area. Of course, final editing would probably fall to Karen Aldridge, a professional editor and director of LWC.

What an interesting way to introduce writing prompts. It is a continuing exercise in following a plot and developing characters.

Let me know if you try this idea.





WRITE A BOOK IN A MONTH? Not in my lifetime. However, after reading the November/December issue of “Writer’s Digest,” I decided it was time I give this NaNoWriMo write-a-thon a try.

National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to writers to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month. Are you serious? That’s nearly 1700 words a day. Considering it took me about eight years to write my just published memoir, Monastery to Matrimony, (and that was my own life, something I knew well) how can I expect to write fiction for 30 days.

Well, of course, it is not meant to be a finished and edited manuscript. If I can get a very rough draft framed, I will be happy. I don’t do fiction easily.

This story has been tripping around my brain for a few years, but I have nary a key stroke to show for it. The story will be historical fiction, sort of a pre-prequel to my memoir. The setting is the same, St. Mary’s Convent in Nauvoo, Illinois. The time frame is 1872 to 1942, the lifespan of Sister Aloysia Beecher, an extroadinary woman whose family is said to have been closely related to Ward and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

The completed story will necessitate hours of period research, which I love to do. Obviously, the NaNoWriMo writing will not allow time for research. The bones of the book will come from an archived short story of the life of Sister Aloysia written by Mother Ricarda Gallivan in the mid 1970s.

Merely, writing this blog is a commitment to tackle thirty days of writing a skeleton story. I better get busy. The sun is setting on the second day of the month and the only thing I have written is a 286 word blog.

Feel free to respond and check on my progress.



FWA 2014 Conference


Talk about motivation! The 2014 Florida Writers Conference offered four days of workshops addressing the needs of over 400 writers from all over Florida and beyond who gathered at the Marriot Conference Center in Lake Mary, FL in October, 2014. A conference of this size involves months of planning and hundreds of volunteers.

Agenda Topics: Publishing a Book, Punctuation, Creativity, Editing, Outlining, Financials, Marketing, Contracts, Poetry, LGBT Character, and more.

Many took advantage of scheduling an appointment with one of the attending agents seeking new authors. Volunteers staffed the book store making members’ published books available for sale.


The culminating suspenseful event of the Conference began with a social hour and ended with cheers and jubilation when the results of the Royal Palm Literary Awards competition were announced on Saturday night after a chef’s special meal at a banquet for the hopeful Finalists.

Joy of Joys, I hear my name announced as the winner of a 2nd Place Award in my category of autobiography/memoir. I received a beautiful engraved acrylic plaque for my memoir, Monastery to Matrimony, A Woman’s Journey.

It took years of trial and error to pull this manuscript into an award winning book. Walking up on the stage and receiving the award from Chris Coward, director of my writing group and President of FWA made it all worthwhile.


The taste of success motivates me to sit at my computer and pull out the idea for an historical novel burning in my brain. Tune in to my BLOG next week to see if I have started it.

In the meantime, click on the link to hear an interview on Journey For Truth Radio Show with Tami Urbanek.






1425741_10204728174263956_566161260933187896_nWhen I look at Facebook and see a post of my neighbor Robin sitting at the beach with my memoir propped in her lap, I think, Who knew it would be a beach read.

Robin’s comment, “It was hard for me to put it down,” reminds me of why I pursued my dream of writing the story of my twenty years in the convent.

With many friends, business associates, and even strangers, who learned of my former life, I found a recurring curiosity about the convent. To a person, they were surprised that I would have been a nun. Guess I didn’t fit the image—maybe because they knew me as an interior designer. A litany of questions always followed: What was it like? How long were you there? And always ultimately, the tough question—Why did you leave?

Most questions were easy to answer, but the “Why did you leave?” question always left me hedging my response. It was a simple question, but it had a complex answer. One I couldn’t adequately explain in a sound bite. The answer is filled with emotions that needed to be put to rest. It called for soul searching if I was to get it right. I knew it was time for me to share my convent life experiences and address my own feelings about the occurrence that set me on the decision-making path to leave the convent. The answer would be as much for me as for others.

Thus the book was incubated.

Since the publication of Monastery to Matrimony  in July, 2014, I can now legitimately say, “The answer to that one is in the book.”



Publishing your book is just the first step. Next you must let people know about it. It does you no good to spend years writing a book only to order copies and keep them in your closet.

I began the promotion process by announcing the pending arrival of the book on Facebook. Preorders were taken and filled when the box of books ordered arrived. I held an “Opening-the-Box” party at my house for the neighbors who anticipated the book. They brought flowers and wine. We took pictures and toasted the event with champagne. Then I began a whirlwind of booksignings during a two-week tour through Tennessee and Illinois. Former writing groups hosted two of the signings, a third was hosted by a friend at a private house party. To announce the signings, I sent advance press releases to newspapers in the areas. In addition, the schedule of dates, times, and locations were announced on my website and on Facebook.

Back home again, I will continue looking for ways to promote the book at book stores, churches, clubs, or anywhere there is an interest. I generously hand out bookmarks, business cards, and post cards. I will utilize social media in everyway I possibly can. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @maweakley



I find find helpful tips on the blog info@daily writing . Some days I read it, but do not save the information. Other days it is spot-on with the exact answer I needed that day.

I belong to the Writers League of The Villages, FL — where I live. We often have great speakers. Recently I heard Rik Feeney of Orlando, FL give a talk on Editing: 11 Easy Steps to Improve Your Writing. Rik is a Book Coach, consulting with authors to write, publish and promote books. He has published numerous books and is a sought-after speaker.

Here are just some of his tips:

  • Take some time off, 48-hours to a week, to distance yourself from a freshly written piece. The edit the writing for clarity and competence.
  • Eliminate one word out of every ten . For example, words like “and, or, but, nor, so, and that” and almost every word ending in “-ly”
  • Remove excess “its.” Too many “its” can lead to confusion. Use the name or a noun instead.
  • Exterminate He’s and She’s and Him’s and Her’s. Replace with the proper name of the person. Instead of “He climbed the hill after her.” Try, “Jack raced up the hill after the girl of his dreams.”
  • Read your writing out loud. You will be amazed at the mistakes, or awkward phrasing you will find. It may have sounded right in your head, but doesn’t work on paper.
  • Use the five senses in your writing. Bring the story alive by incorporating the five senses. For example: Sight, add descriptions of color, lightness, darkness, speed of motion.

Rik says, “No book is perfect.” That is a comforting thought for me since my first book is being released in mid-July.


Watch for MONASTERY TO MATRIMONY, A WOMAN’S JOURNEY. Find it at Balboa Press bookstore , on, Barnes and Noble, and on Ebooks, and For a personally signed copy, contact me at Balboa Press is a division of Hay House Publishing in California.