Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Changes in publishing and letting go while writing

 I have been living with Duffy Barkley in my head since my own sons were children playing on the beach and in the redwood forest with me, and I would tell them stories, based in part upon the places we found ourselves, so the world Duffy finds himself in, shares many details with the Redwood Coast where I raised my sons, and the Northwest Corner of Wyoming where my grandfather, my mom, and I all grew up.  But it also has a lot of details from out lives, blended with real and imaginary things from the books, movies and news of out time.  In short, when my Mom read my fiction, and told me that she could find me on every page, I was only surprised until I thought about it.

I realize there are only so many plots in the world, and it is how we take in the world around us, take it apart, mix it up and give it our own special twist that makes each storyteller still have something only we can share because only we have experienced our unique life.

So in Duffy's world, you can see the fact that I work with handicapped children and the fact that I love being out in nature far more than being in a city, and that I believe there is strength and joy in diversity.  The times have changed since I started telling these stories.   Even the way I write them and share them has evolved. My first manuscript was written on a typewriter, then when I got a computer, scanned page by page into it. Then I had to go through and change everything the scanner had misread, like g's turned into s, or worse.

Then I edited once on screen and printed it out and read it out loud to my husband and both sons, who were in Jr. high by then but went on long car trips with us when they were a captive audience.
Duffy's "first printing" and the "books" I wrote in grade school
While I read, I penned in changes and additions and corrections and then had to fix it on my computer, which by the way was still not online, then print out a copy and take it to the office supply store and have 4 copies printed (which cost over $100 dollars) and then mailed those around to editors and agents, paying postage and waiting months each time.
 When things finally started to change and books could be attached as a pdf file and sent with an email, it was a great relief for my dwindling savings and when I discovered createspace and print-on-demand I was thrilled and terrified.  Could publishing this way ever make sense?  Anyway, I could rough out a cover and get a proof copy from them and see my story as an actual book, for about $7, way less than the stack of loos photocopied pages.
The first proof copy

Even since I did print that novel in 2010, things keep changing, giving both authors and readers more options as time moves quickly in the book world now.  Kindle and Nook readers seemed incredible with their replica of the printed page at first, and now have kept evolving to come in color and interactive, have kept changing what can be done.  I'm slowly evolving and learning some of the new tricks like actually getting my hand drawn map into pic monkey and adding color, but there is so much more to learn, and the skills of other artists and authors and editors keep it exciting.

The most exciting thing of all to me though, is that once my books started finding readers, I had to realize they were not just mine anymore.  I might have given them to the world, but each reader adds their own interpretation, and takes away different things.  If I write that someone is in a house and I'm seeing a cabin, I can't always know how each reader will visualize the house unless I have been really specific, do they see a plank house, a trailer, an apartment?  I don't control Duffy and friends anymore, now they have slipped into the world as surely as my sons have done.

Princess SeaBee and Boo

Friday, March 6, 2015

Talking to book clubs about my book

I like to think of myself as a writer. Ever since I was a child that is one of the happier labels I have applied to myself.  When I was a child, a preschooler, I was a talker.  My Dad said I had been "vaccinated with a record needle and never stopped talking since."  Yet, as I started school, and learned that the other kids didn't like my non stop talking, and the fact that as an only child until just before I started school had created a child with no idea how to play well with others. I got slapped down hard, and rejected many times and it wasn't until the end of high school that I started to make friends and realize that I could both talk and listen.

So in school my best friends were the characters in books, and I have always considered myself an introvert.  It goes well with being the person who observes and records instead of interacting.  I curled up with my notebook, or hunched over a desk, and rarely made eye contact or had to speak.

Oddly enough though, when my brother was born with Down's syndrome and I learned to work with him, I also learned to be a teacher, and to work in front of large groups of children.  But that was separate.  I could talk to a class, and I could write - but I was too introverted to talk about my books out loud, so on-line I talked, in person I listened.  But Marketing books means you have to believe in them, AND you have to be their loudest, most vocal word of mouth advocate.  If I believed someone would love my story, nothing would happen until I would open my mouth and tell them why they would love my book.

Double Time On The Oregon Trail
So I wrote Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog, and very few people read it, even though I loved it, and the ones who did read it were positive.  Then I wrote Double Time on the Oregon Trail, and I started talking about it to 5th grade students who were studying the Oregon Trail, and then to a 5th grade teacher, who passed it to a School District Director of Curriculum who authorized the Instructional Media Center to order a class set of 38 copies. Then another 5th grade teacher convinced her book club to read it and asked me to come to their meeting and talk about it.  I was scared, but brought my handwritten draft, and some research, and some old storied I wrote in 5th grade myself and talked, and they listened and asked questions and it was fun.
 This year I am in a book club myself, and we read The Invention of Wings and ate dinner at one members house, and then read The Orphan Train and ate dinner at another members house, and it was my turn to be hostess, and I never invite people into my old house, decorated in Early American Yard Sale.  But I'm a good cook, so I said I can do it, and we chose my first book, Duffy Barkley and I cooked and they came over.
My old, chilly, very Green living room
 But what did I learn?  I learned you can't point out where the glasses and the garbage can are, and serve the food, and sit down and present about how you wrote a book, or ask the questions you want your readers to answer about what worked and where they loved, or hated my book.  Going into classes as an author presenter has been fun and satisfying.  Presenting in someone else's home as an author at their book club, I was focused and had planned ahead what to tell them and which questions to ask. In my home I kept wandering out of the conversation, and still missed a lot of what they said about my book
Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog
 So, when you want to market your book to book clubs, it is a good idea.  You do get a group of people willing to spend time and money on your book, but if you find yourself thinking about hosting the book club, find a partner, and focus for that evening, on being a speaker, speaking passionately about a book you really believe in.

 Amazon's Dixie Dawn Miller Goode Page - You can view it at:
Book Genre:  Fantasy/Young Adult/children's picture books