Growing Up Alzheimer’s 2: Blog to Book

This blog post is a series about my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women. This history is as I have experienced it, and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself (fingers crossed), but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder. So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, blog to memoir process. I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part.
For my second post, what do I do? What do I do!? DON’T PANIC. Like the big, friendly letters on the front of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy say. And I don’t have to panic, and you won’t have to either. If you look at my previous post about writing Memoirs and family Alzheimer’s the answer is right there. Step three of my process is write a list. I may or may not use chronology of history as my guide. Mostly I review the list and see what scene or story or remembered dialogue or image is begging to be written. Then I go with it. Just go with it. It was on the list so it must be done. God, I love lists.

Writing lists is my #3 step in my memoir writing process:
3.) Then I write a list of scenes, events, stories, snatches of dialogue, images, thoughts, worries, interactions.
For this step I am going to focus only on brainstorming for my Mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s:
  • How she was a hermit and possibly Asperger’s and our Google before Google 
  • The stories she told me about post part-em before they knew it was post part-em
  • Her walking that everyone noticed
  • The first signs we knew: Story about giant raccoons and laser beams
  • The coins she compulsively stacked up
  • The car accident
  • The first time she got lost
  • Getting POA and a will
  • The struggle between the sisters and the aunts
  • The 600 nuns study
  • The sushi picnic and the wasabi (see Mystery of Mom blog post)
  • Taking her to Madame Butterfly
  • The research we did of support and how that support has changed
  • The change of her personality to sweet and compliant
  • The garage sale and the lie from the difficult sister
  • The uninvolved brother who missed telling me about the NM book
  • The first home she lived in “this is a really great person”
  • The second home, “stealing” and tripping out on the flowered shirt
  • The man who wanted to escape together
  • The years and sister tension
  • The decline
  • Dentistry, bladder infections, operation
  • The decision at the end
  • The end scene , cold hands, staring, my sister’s cold comment and my aunt did not want to see her body
  • The wake, the dream the amazing night before

I can see from this that this is a lot of material. In fact, I suspect that 1-3 of those bullet points could constitute one blog post of probably 1000 words each.  Just to make it easier on myself and to give you and actual story to read I will reprint a portion of a previous post where the story of the sushi picnic was told.  Here it is from the Mystery of Mom post:

She was still living independently at the time, but we soon had care workers in for her and had her on the long waiting list for a care home. At this time we would frequently ask my mother questions cautiously and her answers would always be: “I know that!” and she’d look at us like we were crazy, when in fact we rather suspected the truth was she had no idea what we were talking about. We were all testing the waters at the time, unsure of what she really knew and didn’t know.

It was at this time, my two sisters and I decided to take her up to Capilano Dam one day to the picnic area. We had each brought a little something for the picnic including some prepared sushi we had picked up. My sister carefully explained to my mother that this was sushi, and in this dish was soya sauce, and this was wasabi (very hot horse-radish), and this is how you put them together. This was something she would have known before she started telling us stories about raccoons as big as men and laser beams bouncing through her apartment.

Inevitably she said, “I knew that,” as she grabbed the chopsticks and expertly started picking up the sushi. Okay, we all thought, and relaxed until we looked over moments later and saw the entire blob of green wasabi on the end of her chopsticks rapidly heading into her open mouth. We simultaneously let out a cry of warning and lunged across the picnic blanket to stop the impending mouth-burning culinary disaster in progress. She was rescued just in the nick of time, to her dumb founded looks and our relief and laughter.

And so part of my journey of my book of Growing Up Alzheimer’s is already on the way. But, on the journey of writing any one of these posts from the list above, I know I will undoubtedly remember more.

Next post step #4 and #5 in the writing process for a memoir… the art of transitions is EVERYTHING. But that comes later in the game. Now, blogging now, is about generating material.

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Should Writers Always Try to Entertain?

Origins and definitions of the word…ENTERTAIN (v.)

late 15c., “to keep up, maintain, to keep (someone) in a certain frame of mind,” from Middle French entretenir, from Old French entretenir“hold together, stick together, support” (12c.), from entre-“among” (from Latin inter; see inter-) + tenir “to hold” (from Latin tenere, from PIE root *ten- “to stretch”). – from the Online Etymology Dictionary
Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience, or gives pleasure and delight. It can be an idea or a task, but is more likely to be one of the activities or events that have developed over thousands of years specifically for the purpose of keeping an audience’s attention.  – ScienceDaily.com

Recently, I have been returning to my theatre roots a little more.  And, even more recently, I decided to try my hand at stand-up comedy again. And just when the world has gotten pretty seriously towards monumental problems, concerns and complete division this sense of humour thing is getting pretty interesting.

With the unusual Presidency of Donald Trump, when it is easy to say things have gone bat-shit crazy, I started noticing that I was getting some of my news from the comics of late night TV.

Most of the time they were just taking his tweets and analyzing them from a Say-What? sense of humour that underlines the ridiculousness of what was being said. Not to mention, the blatant lies. In short, they are having the easiest comedy writing times in recent history. But, they were also making quotes from other  sources, dare I say, more reliable sources and from reports and documents that the average person may never be aware of, let alone read (think Mueller Report, etc.)

Serious Comedy

So, the question I started to ponder is how important are these entertainers to focus on all of this serious stuff? And, what can we learn from making the serious entertaining? Should we always be gong for the laughs or entertainment as writers? Is there any sacred ground or not? What is the history of writing things for entertainment?


Whenever I do some serious pondering I go back to my word origins and definitions to see if I can glean any clues that are not always obvious (see above).

Aha! To entertain is to hold one’s attention. It also is to hold together. Given the world is being described as very divided these days, and also, lacking an attention span, to entertain may be a way to pull people together and at the very least keep their attention. But, no one is laughing if they (or their people) are the butt of a joke, they are, in fact, being shamed, but in politics that can be a positive too.  Lots of historical / political strides were made via political cartoons, humorist writings and humourous speeches. In Canada, suffragette Nelly McClung gave her famous speech, Why Men Should Not Be Allowed to Vote, to hilariously underline how ignorant arguments can easily be twisted both ways.

What I am saying is, you can use entertainment for writing about the serious as well as not so serious, and if you can do it well you can make your point better and more viral.  Or, if you can at least make half the room laugh,  you can make your point of view the fun side. James Comey said of Trump that he never saw the man laugh. He saw him smile, take delight, but never actually laugh and take pleasure in something he could see as humourous.  Perhaps the ability to laugh ( and laugh at yourself)may be the way to pick our leaders. And to entertain may be the best way to find happy followers who want to share the joy. But, should you be cautious in writing humour or forge ahead? It turns out humour can often reveal truth better and faster than any argument.

Can an off color joke be good?

Here is an actual example of two jokes in rapid succession. Please, please, remind yourself that these jokes are in poor taste on both sides and one is only in defense of the attack of  the other.  A group of four men are telling jokes with two women present. One says, “Do you know why men beat women? … Because they are so fucking stupid.” (Yes, this was considered funny and the men laughed, the women did not). The one woman asks the man who told the joke, “Do you know why women have two nostrils? … Because if she had only one, men would try to fuck that too.” The women laugh, the men are silent.

That was an example of fighting fire with fire that we might call the quick come back, or, playing offense versus defense.  I think the second joke just reveals how bad the first joke is by saying, you would say that, and find it funny, because you are people who are completely insensitive and being labeled is not much fun, is it? But did these jokes bring people together? Perhaps not. The women defended themselves and shamed the boorish men. The men may not have learned, but they got a mirror held up that was unflattering at just the right moment. The women were held together. Was either joke funny? No. They had underlying anger that is impossible to miss, but it was a case of a bully beating up the bully who picked on the little guy. It was just necessary.

Humour can be a powerful teacher and binder. Not everyone will get your idea of entertainment but  universality is not the big lesson here.

If you use humour to entertain it will be the quickest way to find your audience, your readers, and can be a powerful way to keep the attention on the truth of what is right. So, if it is your gift to have a sense of humor, keep working it and do like the comics do, hone it by sharing it. That is the only way to know for certain if it is resonating in that magical way that comedy can, laughter.

***

One ‘truth’ about our humanity may be how we feel rewarded by believing in the value of something – culture, knowledge, love of beauty – even if the Universe seems beautifully indifferent to us. I saw an old BBC ‘Face to Face’ interview from the 1950s I think, where Carl Jung in his old age was himself asked personal questions. At one point, the interviewer asked “Do you believe in life after death?”, and Jung replied something like: “The unconscious believes in life after death, so anyone who does not will become ill.”

The RhymeCatch Art Installation

This art installation was one I created in the early 1990s at Simon Fraser University where I studied second year visual arts. The location of it was in the campus area called the quadrangle.

In this installation, named “RhymeCatch,” I created three figures made from the plastic coated green wire, the kind they use in chain link fencing. Each figure has another element or two added to it.

Figure 1) Baby in the treetops, is a baby, with a soother in its mouth, laying in a see-through plastic cradle hung in a tree. This was referencing the nursery rhyme/lullaby:

“Rock a bye baby, on the treetops, when the wind blows the cradle will rock, when the wind blows the cradle will fall and down will come baby cradle and all.”

I always thought, as a child and even now, that this was a strange lullaby which puts a baby in harm’s way and lets it fall. Rather than thinking of it as the metaphor for falling asleep, instead, it haunts me as something I interpret as both frightening and prophetic, falling from innocence perhaps?

Figure 2) Little girl hiding, is identified by me as a girl, but in fact, the figure is androgynous and could be a little boy or little girl. In retrospect, I am probably identifying it as me. She is hiding behind a tree in her rubber boots, a child’s game and yet  a game with primordial roots. What do we do to survive? We hide and we seek. Yet, in our modern society, I would argue, to survive we also hide “ourselves” and then become seekers of our true selves.

 

Figure 3) Young girl reading, is a young adult (again, androgynous), reading a book for young adults from the 1950s that I found and covered in clear plastic glue so it would survive the weather and viewers could read over the shoulder of this figure the text. The day I took the photos of the installation some unknown person had left a plate with cookie crumbs by it as if the figure had just finished eating a cookie. I was thrilled at this interaction and addition!

The passage that the book starts with that the viewers could read starts with a dialogue between two young adult characters:
“Aren’t the Russians terrible?”
“They certainly seem to be making things as difficult as possible.”
“Sometimes I think that we should just drop the atomic bomb and have it over with.”
“Maybe they have an atomic bomb too.”
It goes on to wonder if Stalin is as bad as Hitler, etc. and is a capsule of the cold war era.

Like the baby in the treetop I was surprised to see a book for young adults with such frightening ideas in it but was also glad there was an open dialogue, whether you wanted to agree with the points of view in the book or not. I essentially included this book as I had been very active in the peace movement for the disarmament of nukes, but also, at the time of this installation, we were heading towards the first Gulf War (Canada did participate in this) and I would eventually create a collaborative theatre piece/video about that, and would decide I did not want to bring children into this world.

The installation as a whole really is about the threat to innocence. The loss of innocence and how human beings try to protect (their people) like crazy and in the process often bring about more harm. This is really a piece about our own craziness. Can it be solved by dialogue? We will find out, because we seem to be at that crossroads yet again.

I also want to say that I loved the aesthetics of this piece. Both the medium and the chosen site have a harmony that people responded to. Note that in the photos, when the sun came out, the shadows of the winter trees mimic the wire of the figures. Likewise, on the cloudy day, photos of the branches of the trees against a white sky mimic the wire of the baby figure that you can see through the plastic.

I was very satisfied with this piece and when I found these photos of it I realized I wanted to show people. I did not want this for my own ego as you might think, but because I could see that the ideas were timely in this Trump world which is now on the brink of more global disasters, this time climate change as well as nuclear war and distrusting our old cold war enemy, Russia. And, I realized that this theme of protecting innocence is still one I am working with to this day and may very well be important to reflect further on. So, I am adding it to my blog, which goes out to some via email and also will go out on social media. Maybe someone will get something out of it?

I am a writer and I don’t consider myself an artist, but I have long since loved to use visuals to help and inspire me to write. Whether it is to add photos and graphics to a blog post or to add elements in my book, like the Loteria cards depicted and created at the beginning of chapters in my book, The Happy Hammock.

I found the art installation photos because I am currently moving, and so scanning a lot of my older works, but I realized the subject is timely to not only what is going on in the world, now,  but thoughts and themes that I am now writing about.  There are coincidences that seem very serendipitous. Remembering this piece not only allowed me to see it with fresh eyes, but reminded me of the importance of innocence as a theme.

Blog to Memoir: Growing Up Alzheimer’s

Many people ask me if they can turn their blog posts into a book. Yes! I say, great idea.  Ultimately the book won’t and shouldn’t look like the blog post, but by God it can give you several chapters of raw to polished materials depending on how you like to write your blog posts. The great thing about blogs is you are often writing what is happening in the moment, so it is fresher, filled with details, feelings and passion that you may not get if you left it until later.  Certain parts of The Happy Hammock can be seen in past blog posts.

This blog post is going to be the first of a series that could be called learning by doing.  Ever since writing The Happy Hammockback which is really a memoir (although we called it a based on true story for a number of reasons), I have been helping others complete their memoirs more. Don’t think I don’t read other people’s teachings on how to write memoirs or go to their courses, I do. I am always researching. But, there is nothing like doing, as well as teaching, to make you feel like you can call yourself an expert.

While I am writing the second book of The Happy Hammock memoir, there is another aspect of my life that only those close to me know about. I want to write about it, and even need to write about it in the hopes it will help others. This is my family’s history of Alzheimer’s through three generations of women, as I have experienced it and continue to experience it. No, I have not been diagnosed with this disease myself, yet, but the signs have crept up to my eldest sister, nine years older than I, and tapped her on the shoulder.  So, this is the story I want to tell in these blog posts, as well as talking a little bit about the blog to book, or blog to memoir process.memoir-writing-process-steps-1-638

I am going to switch to italics for the memoir post part and stick to regular text for the writing process part. So, I am going to share my process, as far as I know it. This is how I often start, and how I started this time:

  1. I had an idea of writing about all three generations of women, my grandmother, mother and now, my eldest sister. This is painful because she is the sibling I am closest to and I am currently seeing her gradual sinking into the abyss that is Alzheimer’s as if it is the slowest of quick sand.
  2. I come up with a working title. Often I keep it but not always, but it does help keep me on track. The title for this: Growing Up Alzheimer’s.
  3. Then I write a list of scenes, events, stories, snatches of dialogue, images, thoughts, worries, interactions.
  4. I try to order the above in chronological order not because that is necessarily the way it will end up in a book form, but I need to know what order things come in. A memoir writer needs to pay attention to transitions for different periods in this the family history, and different stages of the writer’ awareness, and not confuse the reader.  Most people don’t realize that for books, or long-form anything (I started as a playwright), the art of transitions is EVERYTHING. But that comes later in the game. Now, blogging now, is about generating material.
  5. I start a scene that may or may not be the beginning of the book but is the beginning of a blog post. And so it begins…

Growing Up Alzheimer’s –  Post 1

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“Granny Horner is having a bird again.”

My eldest sister, age 14, almost a decade older than I, announces to us. My brother, second oldest, two years behind her, and my other sister, five years after him, and me, the baby, the unexpected love child, two years later, all rapidly exit the small lakeside house on Osoyoos Lake to stay out of the line of fire.  We love coming up to visit the lake, but Granny Horner, Marjorie, my mother’s mother, is sometimes hard to take, and Ralph, my grandfather, mostly blends into the background.

“Having a bird” as my siblings called it meant she was on a bitching rampage of unhappiness and blame. She can be loud and to me, at five years old, scary as hell. She’s skinny and doesn’t smile a lot. She is the opposite of “Nice Granny,” my father’s mother who we adore. Nice Granny is chubby-curvy, loving, generous, creative and everything you could want in a grandmother. Marjorie is not. And, I didn’t know her well. I remember in her lake house I found a beautiful colored tin, empty, probably once held fancy cookies. It had bright blues, reds and gold geometric and decorative designs like an Easter egg. And, it was a cylindrical tin with a dome top. Beautiful. My five year old self was attracted enough to pick it up and she caught me with my hands on it.

I was terrified that I was in trouble when she caught me handling the tin, afraid she was going to “have a bird,” but that didn’t happen. Instead she saw I was enamored with it and offered it to me. I took it home and for years kept all my tiny, shiny treasures in it, from thimbles to plastic animals to rhinestones that Nice Granny gave me. That was one of the few moments I remember Granny Horner distinctly, and thankfully it was a nice moment. She was then on the verge of Alzheimer’s, though we didn’t know it. 

husky gas osoyoosIt started when Ralph was moved, at the recommendation of his doctor, to a full care home. Ralph complained of pain in his legs and he had trouble walking.  After his death I would find several medals he had won for his long distance running.  I didn’t know, no one had told me he had once been an accomplished runner. Marjorie went to visit him every day. The problem was she would get lost driving there pretty much every time. My parents found this out later because the man at the gas station had to give her directions to the care home every day. Often, he had to do it more than once on the same day. My dad liked to tell the story how the gas station guy would send her off having showed her on the map and told her the turns only to see her minutes later driving back to the station in her old Ford still confounded.

Back then, they simply said, “She is losing her memory.” And so she was. I never heard anyone say the word Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t a common parlance then and this loss of memory wasn’t intensely studied. They just tried things out. When it was clear Marjorie also needed full time care they “tried things” on her too, namely electric shock treatment. Yes. Horrors. They did this to my Granny and my mother knew. They told her that after shock treatment she seemed to get better for a time and then reverted back.  How long she “got better” was not really discussed. This “treatment” was eventually abandoned. 

electroshockThe lake house had been long since sold, Ralph had passed away, and Granny was located in another town, at another long term care home closer to my aunt’s summer home.  It was many years before me and my second oldest sister T and I saw her at that summer cottage. She was in a wheelchair, having been taken from her home for the day by my aunts. Her hair was completely white, she had glasses and I wouldn’t have recognized her. At the adults coaxing, T and I went up and greeted her. We said, “Hello Granny,” as the adults told her, “These are your grandchildren.” To which she answered, “I remember you, you were all against me! You plotted against me!” We were quite mortified. Even when she was having a bird, she had never been paranoid or crazy sounding. We stayed away until they took her back to the home. She had clearly entered the dementia delusional phase, beyond memory loss which I would later find out can manifest as ugly or sweet, angry or docile, funny or tragic. 

This is my post for today. Any thoughts, comments, personal stories or questions, please speak up, I’d love to hear.

Flash Fiction Writing Prompt helps with Writing Procrastination, sort of.

Some people ask me, do you procrastinate on your writing?  The answer, sure all the time. I wrote a book, Writing with Cold Feet, on this and related subjects. But, I go through the procrastination phase quickly. One of the ways I procrastinate on my writing is doing other writing (than the stuff I’m supposed to be doing). I always get back to the stuff I’m supposed to be doing but sometimes I seem to need a break. Yesterday the other writing was my first forrage into Flash Fiction (how’s that for alliteration). I accepted the below Indies Unlimited challenge. Read below and if you have an interest, enter, soon (Tuesday April 10, 2018 deadline) or just go and see what I wrote and what others wrote… Then get back to your writing.

Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Little Dog – Big City

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below. There will be no…

via Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Little Dog – Big City — Indies Unlimited

Ten Ways to Grow Your Writing

Someone told me to check out this blog from a painter stating ways to grow yourself as an artist.  (https//chrisgallego.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/5-unusual-habits-to-keep-you-growing-artistically/). I decided much of this applied to writers as well but I added a few of my own thoughts and came up with ten ways to grow your writing, remembering that there is no way to separate the writer from the writing. If the writer grows, the writing can also grow.

1. Write Crap

Yes, give yourself permission to write crap. There is a reverse psychology in effect here. The freedom to not write well tends to give you permission to try things, to go on creative impulse versus trying for perfection. And as Annie Lamott observed everyone writes shitty first drafts. It is natural for any artist in any field to produce a body of work. Some or even a lot of it will be crap so that some or even a lot if it will be good and some may even be great, but keep writing. Also, I make my students do an exercise to consciously try to write badly.  Three things usually happen when they do this. They use clichés and repetition, and go so far over the top with it that it becomes good. They notice that it is not easy for them to write poorly and thus, prove to themselves that they are better than they thought at writing well. They produce a great piece of comedy.

2. Get in Over Your Head

If you feel you are over your head and in a mess with your writing project, you might be exactly where you need to be. Taking risks is brave and will make you grow. You do want to challenge yourself. You can’t do that without feeling over your head. You need to go through it. 99% of what you do as a writer is process not product. It is a messy process and often an overwhelming process if you are truly challenging yourself. It is also a temporal art. Unlike the painter we cannot see the current whole in one view, we have to read and reread, write and rewrite. Wholeness is difficult to grasp, so being over your head is allowing the process to be what it is, a process before it is “declared” a product.

3. Read Bad Writing as well as Good

Reading bad writing reminds you what makes writing good. You will notice more about things to both avoid and include in your own work when you read bad writing, more so than when you are perhaps overawed by good writers. A good writer can freeze you into feeling too small and imperfect. This is ego and in your head. But also, when you are judging bad writing as bad, test how much is your judgement, notice where there is craft even in what you considered bad writing. Notice that you may have the notes to make something better. If it is really bad, give yourself permission to not finish it but be forever grateful of the experience, and then used that saved time to work on your own writing, gratefully.1medium_writingadvice_writerswrite

4. Get Lazy

Writing can be work, hard work, but it needs to be half play too.  If it isn’t we burn out.  The muse likes your effort but if it is all effort and no play then the muse can get turned off too. Sometimes you need to walk away and get lazy.  Don’t, for god’s sake, tell yourself you are having writer’s block. If you have been trying and it is not coming together that’s not writer’s block that’s pushing too hard. Take a walk. Consider those wonderful “Ah ha” moments, they happen at some other moment when you are laughing with friends, or generally goofing off.

5. Rearrange Your Writing Space

Have you put any effort into your private writing space?  We cook in the kitchen. We sleep in the bedroom. We take care of our bathing and toiletries in that room. Do you have a writing space? Do you like it? Do you give yourself nice things to look at? Does it have light and a window? Writers need light as much as painters. Do you have some words that inspire posted in your writing place? Words that remind you of who you are? For years I had a question, “Do words change reality?” and a cartoon with a character that said, “If you want to say something smart, think of something really dumb and write the opposite.”  I hope one day in the future to have the courage to take my desk and plunk it down in the best spot in the apartment or house and I won’t care if it is the living room or dining room or in an alcove at the top of the stairs.

6. Write in Other Places

After number five, this may seem like a contradiction, but you sometimes need to write away from your special designated spot and sometimes you have to. Writing in other places can mean other cities, other situations, maybe with someone else sitting writing across from you. Or, yes, it can mean in your local cafe or the cafe across town, or the cafe you always dreamed of writing at in Paris. Does it change your writing? Are you more inspired or less? I like writing retreats. I have been trying to figure out why I like writing in Mexico for years and I have lots of answers and none of them need to be real, I just need to know that it is a good place for me, but not the only place either. You should be able to write everywhere, so prove it already.

7. Go to Beginner Writing Classes

There is a famous, talented actor I know that went repeatedly to beginning acting classes long after his success, because the basics of any craft need to be renewed. Once they are ingrained it gives you a lot more freedom and ability to write without fretting. But, believe it or not, we forget things. So, don’t take the attitude of thinking there is nothing more you can learn or relearn. It is okay to learn again, and for some of us it is fun to share in a group. We are so often distant in time from our readers, that it is nice to share immediately, hot off the press in a writing class.

8. Don’t Write Everyday

1_500I know lots of people say, write everyday. But, I bet even those people don’t. What they mean is have a writing discipline. Plan your writing days and your days off. When a project is getting to the wire, the deadline is nigh, or just when you are on a hot streak, you may well find yourself writing everyday to get it done. But not everyday, all the time. Know that this is true so that you don’t feel obsessively stupid, or not a writer when you are not writing. Remember you will have a process and a writing discipline. You can churn it out when you want to and need to.

9. List All Your Own Deepest, Darkest Fears

Especially when you are uninspired, go to your most vulnerable place. The places you don’t want to show the world. Peter Shaffer did not write Amadeus from the point of view of Mozart himself, but from his contemporary Salieri who was a mediocre composer. Shaffer said he did this because that was his deepest, darkest fear that he would just be a mediocre writer. Make a list of your own deepest darkest fears, about your writing, about your life, about anything and everything that makes you feel naked and vulnerable. Have you written anything about these yet?

10. Write Faster

I myself have come full circle, from writing fast so it was both practical and not fully finished, to slowing down and getting hung up on the details, to realizing that career writers need to write fast and edit (with help) later. Learning to write fast can be your best friend and it means you are not letting the perfectionist in you take the wheel but some other right brain gremlin that knows how to fly.  You can learn how to write fast and well, but only if you let yourself write fast.

My final note is from the original blog post that I referenced: “Quit killing yourself trying to become a great painter and work relentlessly on becoming a badass editor” After you have written fast, you and your editor can have fun polishing BUT I think what Chris Gallego means is that you learn, to begin with, not to put everything and the kitchen sink in your work, you will streamline and that should be the goal to make your writing process efficient.  If you focus on that, good will come, but you also need to focus on continually growing.

Let me know which ones serve you and how it goes.

LAUNCHING THE HAPPY HAMMOCK – .98 CENTS FOR LIMITED TIME ON KINDLE… CHECK IT OUT!

Happy Hammock – Book Launch Partay!

Really looking forward to launching my book, The Happy Hammock very soon and you are invited! Can’t come? You can find the paper book online at Amazon now (not the ebook yet).

If you like parties, come – it’s in Burnaby, BC, and some prizes involving Mexico for sure! Dec 3rd, 4:30, 1899 Rosser Ave in the cafe:

And:

 That’s right join us in Mexico for the Writing Retreat, &/or the launch there. More info here! Or contact me using the contact page or vswwriting at gmail dot com.

Kindle Scout Final Post… the results are in…

First of all, so sorry it took so long to do this final post. Lots to do in my life. And lots more to still do. When you are an author there is always more you can do.

The long and the short of it, Kindle Scout did not accept my book. BUT… they didn’t accept my book buddy Ben Muse’s book either –I talked about him previously, the author who had his Kindle Scout campaign simultaneous with mine. Ben’s book Matters of the Heart was in the Hot & Trending list almost every day. I thought he was a shoe-in. So, if you think you have a shoe-in, maybe not. We never know what goes on behind closed doors with publishers and we never have.

YET I REMIND YOU THE KS EXPERIENCE IS A WIN-WIN!!

I gained readers and a following and it forced me to market aggressively. And, I have yet to self pub and get the extra bonus of clicking the thank you letter button (see below). That is for later this month!

What was learned

For me, I knew I was sneaking in a non-fiction genre into a fiction pool, and so ended up like an under cover cop that was busted and thrown out of the biker bar. My sense is that Kindle Scout is looking for only books that…

a) fit a genre mold perfectly
b) are well written
c) have an author with some marketing savvy
d) have potential to be a series or are already planned as a series.

Not a series person? Amazon has other imprints that are looking for one-off novels, having just talked to an editor at Lake Union, their more literary imprint.

A QUICK REVIEW

Things that worked and I would recommend:

  • KBoards.com Writer’s Café see my previous post here that lists the posts to read etc.
  • Steve Vernon on Kboards who gives a shout to all to vote and will put your book on his list if you ask nicely! Lots of my votes came from Kboards
  • Your Email Signature see my previous post here that shows an example
  • Make your campaign link obvious on all your blog sites and VERY important list the link as both under graphics and in text form so they see the entire correct link – this is important for social media that automatically converts it to an image, you should add the link twice.
  • Facebook Groups for Book Promos
  • Develop mentors and relationships with those authors that are doing better than you. They will post it somewhere you don’t know about and may not have access to.
PLUS…Your Outgoing Thank You Message – and How it Works

These are two examples of outgoing messages from Ben Muse and then Me — Which do you think is more effective and why?

I think they both have merits but you decide. REMINDER:  They send this when you are not chosen AND a second time when you decide to self pub on Kindle BUT>>>>You have to actually click the button on your (old) KS campaign for it to send to all your voters. Yes your campaign page stays up for quite awhile after the campaign so don’t lose your account log-in.

FINALLY, MY Numbers

These are the figures and data that the Scout Campaign tracks for you. NOTE:  VIEWS, NOT VOTES are tabulated.  To understand some of my take on these numbers you can look at my previous posts or do your own analysis.

Would I do it all again. Yes, and better too.

Hope you learned something and if you did, please leave me a comment or subscribe or both!!

 

 

No News is Good News? Kindle Scout – In Review Limbo

This is Kindle Scout Campaign Info Post #6
Well the last day of my campaign was September 28th and we are now here in October 10th. I have heard of people getting decisions from Kindle three days after their campaign ended but they actually don’t give a stated time you will get a decision by. This means I am in Kindle Scout Review limbo.

Below is a screenshot of my nominations (yes I nominated my own book the same way a politician votes for themselves). I also nominated someone whose book went on campaign the same day mine did, Ben Muse’s Matters of the Heart. Why? I’ve never met Ben before, online or otherwise. But I nominated him because he asked me to and said he had nominated me (that’s a neat way to network and get nominations). I am happy to nominate other authors, especially if their work looks good and I am proud to stand beside them. Also, now I get to see if his decision will come through before mine or at the same time, etc.


As you can see Ben’s book is also in Review. Ben’s book was in Hot and Trending for his whole campaign so I think a shoe in and he certainly didn’t need my vote.  However, books are rejected that have been in H&T a great deal so not necessarily an absolute indicator. My mentor Martin Crosbie, in typical Martin fashion, was one of the first authors I know to try Kindle Scout with The Dead List when the program first came out two years ago.   He was accepted and you can see here how I was given a copy of his book, however, I just went ahead and bought it (’cause that’s what I like to do for friends). You can see another author’s book, Harvey Church, The Last Friend who was selected whose campaign was listed before mine and is now selected.  I also don’t know Harvey but like his campaign page and can tell he is an old hand at this. I have looked him up and sent a message but have not yet made a connection.

I said I was going to share my numbers and graphs but decided that it is best to do once after the decision is made.  That way you can say, okay that’s what a successful campaign looked like or an unsuccessful campaign.  I will also give a better review of what I will do next time having learned my lessons. Meanwhile I have to get the paperback of The Happy Hammock ready as even if I am offered a KS contract I can still be allowed to publish a paperback with full rights retained (KS just retains ebook and audio book rights).

It’s really time to get back to writing and editing. That should take a bulk of any writer’s time. So, until the word comes down, happy writing.

Hot and Trending! LAST DAY QUICKIE

I am on my LAST DAY OF KINDLE SCOUT CAMPAIGN and finally achieved the Hot & Trending List! Phew!
NOMINATE HERE: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H
In case you don’t know, this is what it looks like (you can click on the picture to take you there or use the link above):

 

Why did I get into the Hot & Trending now?

Two things I attribute to getting into H&T.

#1) Help from my mentor Martin Crosbie , already mentioned in previous posts. He remembered a closed site on Facebook that would be helpful, so posted it there. Big jump into H&T at that point.  It really helps to have people with influence who believe in you, especially ones with big networks and degrees in marketing. Dude, I owe you lunch/brunch/dinner etc.  You always make me realize that I have a lot more to learn about marketing books.

#2) The other factor is one I mentioned before and learned on kboards , that was that people troll Kindle Scout for new books but wait until the last few days on a campaign to nominate so they only have to wait a few days for their nomination to refill. They only have three nominations so if they are always nominating people at the end of campaigns, they can get more free books rather than waiting 30 days if they nominate at the beginning of a campaign.

Frankly, I believe it is number one that was the catalyst factor and number two is a by-product as the trollers only nominate people they think will win so they can get scout points (Scout Leadership Board) and also get your book and potentially other books free.

I will let you know if I received a contract or not, and in either case, take you through the numbers at the end of the campaign.  Also, I will go through all of what I learned too. What I would do again, what I wouldn’t do again, as well as what I should have done and didn’t (or should have done much sooner). In any case, my next campaign will be better!

Signing off!

K, a.k.a The Happy Hammock

NOMINATE HERE: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/6RZV8XHY3K9H