Public Speaking II

All the World’s a Stage
The success of any branding program rests on harmonizing the look, sound, and feel of all of its elements!  That includes the setting in which an author appears. And while you may not be able to control every aspect of the physical environment of your presentations, you can enhance the positive impact of some aspects to boost the effectiveness of your overall book marketing program.

The Venue
If you have never spoken at the venue, you’ll be relying on the event’s organizers to provide the correct information regarding lighting, voice amplification, and projection of materials you’ll utilize to highlight your speaking points. In addition, they’ll be scheduling the podium, table, and/or chair from which you’ll speak.

If possible, visit the venue in advance of the event. While this may be easy in your home town, it can be impossible when you’re working in another city [let alone country]. Therefore, it’s good to arrive a day in advance of your presentation. If you’re lucky, you will be delivering your remarks at the hotel in which you are staying.  As this is seldom the case, travel with the basics you require to be effective.

From a Stage or…
Depending on your height and weight, and position in relation to the audience, you may need to modify your hair, clothing, shoes, and/or accessories to maximize your facial and overall visibility. Speaking engagements often occur in rooms with a stage that is at least a step above the floor on which the audience is seated. This enhances your visibility as a speaker, but it means you must look good from the top of your head to the bottoms of your shoes. And although many stages are carpeted, older wooden or tiled stages may have uneven surfaces, for which you will require sturdy and slip-resistant footwear.

Solo Performance
Sole presenters in a public venue usually have access to a podium. Free-standing or table top, it should offer sides that mask your script, notes, watch, and other items you may need to reference. Unless a free-standing podium is constructed of a tubular frame, it is probable that you’ll be visible only from your chest up. That gives you more flexibility in your stance and movement of your feet. If the podium is comprised of a hollow frame, or positioned on top of a table that has no tablecloth, you will not have that luxury.

Whispers to Screams
The quality of your natural speaking voice can be either an asset or detriment in public speaking. Depending on your audience, even the strongest of voices expressed in the wrong tonal range can be hard for some listeners to hear properly. Many podiums are set up with a microphone fixed in position. If you learn you’ll be using a hand-held mic, you may want to obtain a small stand in order to free your hands for gesturing, pointing to overhead projections, etc. Having said this, I must note some presenters like to speak off the cuff rather from written material and prefer a hand-held or wireless mic so they can roam freely—sometimes even moving within their audience.

Be aware that the effectiveness of the microphone you use [especially lavaliere or headsets] can depend on your neckline, arrangement of hair, and any chain or necklace you wear. Also consider that dangling earrings and loose watches or bracelets can interfere with sound projection.

Having a strong voice may lessen the need to provide your own electronic equipment. However, if you are embarking on a lengthy tour, you might consider acquiring sound equipment that can make you more independent of the facilities in which you appear—if it is compatible with the speakers to which your equipment will be connected. In making such a decision, you will want to seek the input of an electronics specialist.

Inviting Displays
Will you be able to set up a display that greets and enlivens your audience? At the minimum, you should be able to drape a banner over the front of a podium [using double sided tape, if nothing else]. I carry the banner from the release of Prospect for Murder, first of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries. I also travel with varied sizes of boxes on which I can place color-coordinated tablecloths to create heightened surfaces for displaying signage, products, and handouts. And I carry stands of varying proportions to maximize visibility across a room. Do be cautious about displaying valuable items which could disappear…

Enlargements of colorful book covers, pictures of previous appearances, and banners with both your image and the works you’re presenting make a wonderful background for highlighting sales sheets, future project descriptions, and business cards. Since Murder on Mokulua Drive has an embossed jacket front, I present it on a stand, as well as on the table top to invite people to pick it up.  If there is a theme to your work, you can add decorative items that reinforce that reference. As most of my work centers on Hawai`i, I display a shell lei or two, a golden fish business card holder, and tablecloths that harmonize with my book cover colors.

Ensuring You have What You Need
If you’re speaking in your home town and have checked out the venue, you’ll know what you need to carry with you. The one thing that may affect your preparations is a change in the size of your audience, thereby impacting the number of books and handouts required. When traveling to a long-distance destination, you may be able to send a box ahead to a friend, colleague, or the hotel in which you will be staying. Regardless of whether that is an option, strategize the items that you should carry personally, rather than check into a luggage compartment.

I recall my gratitude for arriving in Hilo (after flying back from the U.S. mainland) two days in advance of a performance of Scottish Highland Dancing, since my costumes remained in Honolulu by mistake. I now keep the following items with me personally when traveling to author appearances: memory sticks and a master copy of materials needed for display and distribution; one copy of pertinent books and project samples; one small tablecloth and a shell lei to personalize a display; one copy of a short biography; two 3 x 5 inch cards with an introduction of me and my presentation; a brass name badge and any pertinent professional badges; a beautiful artificial orchid for my hair; and, one elegant jacket to dress up even an emergency wardrobe purchase if my luggage does not arrive with me!

This is the second of three discussions of Public Speaking Engagements.My next blog will address the ways in which public speaking engagements can enhance your branding as an author, and will be featured at Hometown Reads .

Wishing you the best in your adventures as an author or other creative professional,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

Tips on research, composition, and marketing your work are available at Imaginingswordpower.com.

To learn more about my projects, please visit my author website at
JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

 

 

 

Public Speaking I

EFFECTIVE MATERIALS FOR PUBLIC SPEAKING

Today, I am using the phrase “Public speaking” to cover several means of communicating orally. First there are traditional public addresses, usually delivered from a podium. The Internet, radio, television, video, and other methods for presenting your image and words can also be included within this classification. Within a broader context, I believe it’s also appropriate to consider audio books and interviews.

 In my blog on Author Appearances , I summarized preparation for public readings of an author’s work.  My comments encompassed a few basics for evaluating, seeking, scheduling, and marketing potential engagements.  I also skimmed over aspects for preparing yourself visually and vocally.

Today’s blog offers suggestions for preparing materials you’ll need prior to and during speaking engagements as an author. Some of these items may be useful in garnering opportunities for public addresses; others for shaping a rapidly-arranged display; and, some for quick reference during Question and Answer moments. All of them will be subject to constant redesign, as pertinent text and images evolve over your writing career.

Aside from the free-flow of dialogues with interviewers, you should be able to control most aspects of oral presentations—with the understanding that the mechanism by which your words are captured and projected can affect the tone and quality of your voice…

Introductory and Promotional Materials
There are several support items you should have available for general marketing, as well as for your public appearances and speaking engagements. Some of these may be appropriate to share with the event organizers in advance of your talk. Depending on the venue, you may be able to set up a display, which I will discuss in Part III of this series, Public Speaking to Enhance Branding, to be featured on Hometown Reads in September, 2018.

~ Business Cards. Consider double-sided, or even folded cards, to promote multiple facets of your work. As the author of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries, I now utilize  a folding card that allows me to mention my authorship and marketing consultancy on the outer sides, and two published books on the inside.

~ Biographies. To meet a variety of needs, the length may range from a sentence to multiple pages. See a discussion of the need for biographies at imaginingswordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html

~ Résumés. Having résumés of varying lengths and types (sometimes on  letterhead stationery) is useful. As I periodically provide marketing advice to executives and their organizations, I have résumés that address that aspect of my work, as well as another offering information on my authorship. Go to imaginingswordpower.com/resume—career-tips.html to view résumé and career tips.

~ Handouts. Depending on your audience, these may range from key talking points to reference data. 

~ Fliers and Sales Sheets. These should feature specific books and other products you wish to promote. At this time, I am utilizing a double-sided flier. It features Prospect for Murder and Murder on Mokulua Drive. I also have one describing Conversations with Auntie Carol, an oral history project planned for publication as both an audio and print book.

~ Media Releases. I use a format highlighting the Ws of journalism–Who, What, When, and Where. View samples for both print and broadcast media outlets at imaginingswordpower.com/media-release-samples.html.

~ Photographs. Large and small, some should show you holding one of your books.

~ Posters and Banners. These can range from you and your current work to previous events.

To Script or Not to Script Your Delivery…
With regard to your actual presentation, let’s consider the text of your talk. Do you require a formally written speech in order to provide an effective performance? Before you answer, consider the environment in which you’ll be speaking and your audience, as well as your strengths and weaknesses as a speaker. Personally, I find that while I may wish to use a scripted opening and closing, I like to refer to a detailed outline during most of my talk. In addition, I prepare a list of key points and facts to reference during Question and Answer sessions.

I carefully prepare all text that must be read accurately. Knowing that electronic devices can fail during a performance, I always carry hardcopy of the material I will present. And, while some speakers choose to read directly from published materials, or manuscripts, I employ the following guidelines to maximize the flow of the reading from scripted text:

~ To minimize the number of pages, I use 1.5-line spacing and half-inch margins on 8.5 x 11-inch paper.

~ To maximize readability, I utilize 14-point fonts, with Underscore, Bold and All caps as needed, with Seraphed Fonts for general text [unless you have a vision problem] and Non-Seraphed for titles.

~ To enhance the flow of your reading, end pages with the completion of paragraphs and quotes.

~ Present character voices in colorized text. To facilitate pronunciation of regional accents and foreign words, insert ellipses, commas, hyphens between syllables, and/or other marks. For the Southern accented voice of Lieutenant John Dias in Prospect for Murder, I modified the text I read:

            Book:  Ariel will be coming to the apartment tomorrow.

            Script:  Ahr-iell will be com-n’ to the ap-ahrt-ment tom-mar-ah.

Organizing Scripted Pages

~ Insert single pages of your text in low-glare archival sleeves. This actually kills the rustling of paper.

~ Put sleeves within a solid colored three-ring binder. The front can feature one of your book jackets.

~ Position each sleeve uniformly on either the right or the left-hand side of the folder. This will minimize the movement of your head while turning pages. This will be less distracting to your audience and minimize variations in the sound quality at a podium microphone.  

~ Place clearly labeled dividers between sections. This will facilitate spur-of-the-moment shifts you may wish to make during your presentation and Q&A follow-up.

~ Convert softcover editions of your books to spiral binding for quick reference and reading in less formal settings. You can insert sticky notes or other markers for passages you wish to access.

In my next blog, we’ll consider aspects of space and equipment during your public appearance…

Wishing you the best in your adventures as an author or other creative professional,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

Tips on research, composition, and marketing your work are available at Imaginingswordpower.com.

To learn more about my projects, please visit my author website at
JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

 

Drawing on Sense Memories

Most of us think of the five physical senses as we are experiencing them. The toast looks and tastes all right, but it has a slightly burnt smell. I wish the kids would stop screaming, my ears are starting to hurt. I love this faux fabric, it almost feels like my cat’s fur…

The Creator’s Sensory Perception
As a writer, or other creative person, sensory perception can be an important element in preparing a stimulating picture via words or graphic images. One of the most effective devices for creating believable images is drawing on our own memories. This is because referencing something we’ve encountered personally provides a depth of authenticity to any work we are undertaking.

The Truth of One’s Experience
This does not mean that we have to reveal our personal circumstances in order to truthfully share a sensory experience…unless we are presenting a work that is a memoir or similar personal expression, for which we are obligated to reveal this aspect of our lives. The truth of our sensory experiences can be shared without revelation of the circumstances in which they occur.  In fact, isolating the experience from its original circumstances, can encourage us to revisit the specifics of what we saw, smelled, heard, touched, and/or tasted with greater accuracy.

For example, while we may wish to describe the beauty of a star-lit night from our honeymoon, we do not need to provide details of the circumstances in which we viewed it. Even when we need to describe something we have not experienced, it’s good to seek out the concrete memories of those who have. In describing Shanghai in the 1920’s for Prospect for Murder, I drew on images shared by people whose fascination with the city transcended the actual era in which they traveled. And despite their degree of positive or negative reactions, I was able to utilize their perspectives to provide images of the bustling streets and even the scents they encountered in their sojourns.

In Murders of Conveyance, the third book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries, my heroine overhears a conversation in Chinese from outside of the building in which she stands. I’m sure we can all think of times when we’ve  accidentally overheard a conversation, whether in a language we speak or not. When I moved to Honolulu at the beginning of the 1970s, there were many occasions in which I heard languages I couldn’t understand, nor even identify. Because I needed my heroine to feel connected to foreign dialogue, I inserted phonetic sounds that allowed Natalie to guess the speakers might be referencing someone she knew.

Stimulating Vocabulary
Sometimes we are fortunate to be able to utilize vocabulary or pictures that effectively mimics the images we wish to share.  I find the following words and phrases can bring clarity to a description, sometimes reaching beyond a single sense: wispy; screech; a snapping branch; wrinkled; razor’s edge; staccato; fragmented; shrunken; glassy; whispered; fiery.

The perception of other words often relies on those who read or hear them. Reference to an Upscale dining experience may arouse the taste and ambiance of a five-star restaurant to one person, and a fast-food joint to another. While the phrase Opulent jewelry signifies a strand of synthetic pearls with rhinestones to one reader, someone else may envision weighty crown jewels. Vintage clothing could generate a disco scene from the 1970s for a millennial, whereas someone my age may picture a flapper dress from the roaring twenties—the 1920’s that is. Similar variances can arise with an author or artist’s use of color and shape, as well as a composer’s insertion of pauses, changing rhythms, and escalating tones.

I’m fortunate that many of the images I wish to share in the O`ahu setting of the Natalie Seachrist mysteries practically write themselves: the sparkle and whooshing sound of incoming surf on a moonlit night; the stickiness of teriyaki sauce on a barbecued chicken thigh; the fresh fragrance of a flower lei, the stench of rotting plumeria blooms beneath an aging and neglected tree. But although I bring personal insight to such images, I must avoid cliché verbiage that will bore the veteran traveler. 

Your Target Audience
This brings us to a brief discussion of one’s audience…one’s target market. If you’re working within a recognized genre of literature, art, or music, there may be standards to which the majority of your audience will expect you to adhere. If you are striking out on your own to create a variant or wholly new artistic expression, you can move in any direction you wish…keeping in mind that you will need to attract some degree of a following in order to achieve any degree of success.

Accordingly, I sprinkle snippets of pan-Pacific and world history across my mystery plot-lines.  And while I present a fair number menu items within each book, I place actual recipes on my author website, rather than completely bogging down a story.  As to the cast of characters, folio art framing page numbers, chapter aphorisms, and linguistically and historically detailed glossaries, the reader can choose to appreciate or ignore them…

Wishing you the best on your own creative ventures,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

Tips on research, composition, and marketing your work are available at Imaginingswordpower.com.
To learn more about my projects, please visit my author website at
JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

 

MEA CULPA

Your book series is doing well!  This truly is an accomplishment to cherish!  What must you do to ensure your writing career continues on an upward trajectory?  Regardless of whether you have a publisher or self-publish, problems can arise during the complex process of production.

Publishing Errors

I’ve previously discussed issues an author faces in publishing a series—regardless of genre.  Fortunately, the process of publication is seldom the responsibility of a single person.  Of course, as the author, the quality of the final product reflects on you—for it is you who will be facing the public.

As a reader, as well as an author, I have not heard of a book that arrives in a reader’s lap without flaws of one type or another.  They may be barely perceptible, and actually may be a matter of choice rather than outright error.

Whose Fault?

In truth, no matter how much effort [and sometimes treasure] you invest in maintaining the quality of your work, unexpected flaws can emerge.  They can arise from both overt errors, as well as from actions you failed to take.  Most of my errors come from copying and pasting text and repeating favorite words.  Unless one closely and repeatedly reads the edited text, words may end up out of sequence, or can be wholly missing.

Discovering Flaws

The process of finding errors can be simple or complicated.  In writing a series, you probably have a written or mental list of flaws you’re prone to make.  As I prepare for the publication of Murders of Conveyance and work to complete Yen for Murder, I’ve found that the following errors appear frequently:

~  Repeated words and phrases
My favorites, myriad and R & R.

~  Overuse of prepositional phrases
Mine frequent the beginning of sentences. 

~  Complicated action
I’ve found scenes in which a character would need three hands to accomplish what I’ve described.  I’ve also struggled to explain how hidden compartments are accessed…

~  Character flaws
Misspellings of names, and their pronunciation in audio books can easily occur, and did in the audio edition of Prospect for Murder.  Titles of officials and their organizations can be misstated or may change over time.  Evidently my love of British police procedurals produced my mixing of the word detective with the ranks of police officers.  In actuality, most police forces in the U.S. [including Hawai`i], do not do that.  A sergeant with the Honolulu Police Department who becomes a detective is simply referred to as detective, with higher ranking officers being referred to by their rank.

Major Errors

You might think that writing fiction means that few errors unrelated to grammar will materialize.  But issues of consistency still need to be addressed.  My own inconsistencies have included changing the floor on which protagonist Natalie has a condo and the color of the truck of her boyfriend and detecting partner Keoni.  While regretting even these minor mistakes, at least they do not interfere with the reader’s ability to follow the story.  I’m not sure the same can be said for the two lines of crossed-through text in Murder on Mokulua Drive.

One thing that cannot be ignored or casually dismissed is the erroneous reporting of a historical fact.  I was particularly embarrassed to discover that in copying and pasting text in the Glossary of Prospect for Murder, I mistakenly dropped a sentence relating to Hawaiian Princess Ka`iulani into the description of Queen Kapi`olani. This is an obvious mistake to readers who are familiar with the lineage of Hawaiian royals and a serious detraction from my desire to share Hawaiian history with a global readership.

Making Corrections

Having determined the cause of a problem, you face correcting it.  This can be fairly easy with the publication of a digital book, and other on-line pieces…That is, if you are capable of altering the text within the template that generated it. If you cannot do so yourself, you may have to return to the typographical artist who originally laid out the book. If you are not able to reconnect with them, you will have to find a new source of help.  Fortunately, my publisher is working to correct the MOMD Ebook error regarding Queen Kapi`olani.

Matters are more complex in correcting flaws in printed editions. Unfortunately, the error regarding the Queen can only be corrected when further batches of the books are printed.  I wish I could send out errata labels to everyone who has a copy of the book…The one thing I have done is to publish a message of Mea Culpa on Facebook!

Avoiding Repetition of the Crime

Once you’ve pinpointed the sources of flaws, you can seek appropriate ways to dodge their recurrence. This challenge is exacerbated in the production of a series.  To keep my projects separate but harmonious, I’ve prepared and continually update detailed reference notes listing aspects of appearance, voice, attire, movement and behavior. I also have spreadsheets that pinpoint chapter elements [such as when Natalie has which vision] and the family trees of major characters.

I’m glad that most of my readers enjoy references to daily life in the Hawaiian Islands—especially food.  There are, however, some who would prefer little discussion of food, beverages, relationships, history and cats.  At this point, I don’t foresee removing these elements from my tales—nor would I detract from plot lines by inserting actual recipes.  However, recipes  that reflect Natalie’s life, local restaurants and menu items one might expect at an Island gathering, do appear on my author website.  This has necessitated my keeping records of the food and beverages I write about for review during the writing of each book.

Variations…Not Errors

As a series unfolds, it is to be expected that improvements in writing style and changes in book layout may occur.  This doesn’t mean that earlier editions of books are necessarily flawed.  Happily, my publisher opted to offer embossing on the vibrant cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive.  And, as I like reference material to be readily accessible, we are enlarging the font that introduces Glossary sections.  Similarly, we are inserting spaces before and after the hyphens between author birth and death dates in chapter aphorisms.

Fortunately, while outright flaws need to be addressed, developments in an author’s style of writing and the presentation of their work can be things of beauty!

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

Tips on research, composition, and marketing your work are available at ImaginingsWordpower.com

To learn more about my projects, please visit my author website at
JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

 

BOOK SERIES ADVENTURES

This blog first appeared on the Hometown Reads website [https://HometownReads.com], which I highly recommend to both readers and authors seeking to learn more about the art and business of publishing books!  Just click https://hometownauthors.com to view a variety of articles from member authors…

You’ve published a book series!  A true accomplishment, regardless of whether you planned it or not.  But while you were promised great things would emerge at this point in your writing career, you are facing a few challenges.  Allow me to tell you about issues I’ve confronted during publication of Murder on Mokulua Drive, the second Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery

Elemental Consistency
Beyond avoiding copyright violation in the chapter-opening quotes I use, I guard against repetition.  During pre-publication review of Murder on Mokulua Drive, I discovered I’d reused a quote from Prospect for Murder.  My records of aphorisms now indicate when and where a quote is used.

Character and locale Parity
Initially, I had a male protagonist.  Whoops…my writers’ salon found that “voice” more appropriate to a woman.
Names, their spellings, descriptions, and pronunciation must all be checked.  Imagine my chagrin in realizing I’d changed a name’s pronunciation mid-way through PFM’s audio edition!
While my protagonist thinks in whole words, she speaks with contractions.  I now begin each book by reviewing my chart of persons, places, and their characteristics. 

Plurality
Promotional text highlighting aspects of a single book must encompass each title in a series.  Having multiple titles often means having different editions.  For PFM, I had hardcover, softcover, Ebook, and physical and digital audio editions. MOMD is currently available in only hardcover and Ebook. Softcover and audio references (like “Audible.com”) are omitted when describing the second book.    

Presenting Yourself
If you have a publisher or literary agent, they may have guidelines for presenting yourself personally, online, and in traditional and social media. If you’ve never been in the public eye, you may be grateful for suggestions about wardrobe, hair, accessories, and makeup [yes, men sometimes require makeup].

What you say and how you relate it will shift depending on the media or venue.  I’m not suggesting you become a shape-shifting chameleon, but envisioning each audience helps you see yourself as they will.

Marketing Yourself
Regardless of who directs your marketing, examine media kit samples to see what you should prepare.  This will include bios, photos, sample media releases, and relatable stories, covering:
~  Background [family, education, career]
~  Daily Life [home, work, writing locale, pets, hobbies]
~  Writing Methodology [research, writing, editing]
~  Influential People [affecting your work and life]
~  Author Experiences
~  Changes in Your Writing

Describing Yourself
Were you initially described as a debut author? That’s no longer relevant.  What other life changes will impact your self-description.  Are you in a new professional position?  Where do you live, or travel for research, sales, and presentations?   

Elastic Promotional Text
Periodically (and in varying length), you’ll need to restructure text for:
~  Media releases about books, awards, appearances
~  Bios for ads, event programs, introductions
~  Submission of your work for reviews and contests
~  Website discussions of your life and authorship
~  Social media posts, comments, and event announcements

Welcoming Images
Gather images to stimulate the interest of colleagues, readers, listeners, and the general public including:
~  You and your surroundings
~  Events in which you participate
~  Images attracting your interest
~  Organizational and community involvement
~  Images relevant to characters, scenery, and activity in your writing

Designing Inviting Websites and Blogs
Working alone or with a web master, there are many aspects to consider.  First, you may have a website from before becoming an author. Some elements may be recyclable.  With bios, book synopses, and pertinent images available, much of your material is ready for upload.  You just need to weave it all together to appropriately reveal you and your work.  Consider:
~  Styles appealing to your target market [realism, art deco, country kitch…]
~  Colors [you like and wear; those describing your work]
~  Shapes reflecting your style and work [linear or curved]
~  Textures, natural or man-made [wood, silk, metal, stone, plastic]

Final thoughts?  Well, there’s nothing final about the process of writing…or of marketing your work.  As with your compositions, keeping electronic and hardcopy samples of your promotional material, will help you shape attractive representations of your unfolding life’s work! 

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

 

 

A Birthday Review

In checking the date of my last blog, I realize how long it’s been since my last one. With all that’s taken place in the last couple of years, the conclusion of 2017 and the arrival of 2018 inspired me to examine the process that brought me to my recent birthday. 

Birthday Milestones
Have you found that for most people, birthdays are either super important, or nothing at all?  I guess I fall into the latter category…with a few exceptions.  At age eight, my grandmother baked a cake with a beautiful doll embedded in the center.  At 21, I was treated to gourmet French cuisine by a young man on a limited budget. I was surprised on my fiftieth birthday with a party planned by friends, colleagues, and clients.  

Near the end of 2017, I was honored when Prospect for Murder won first place for 6 x 9-inch cover art and was a finalist in the mystery and suspense category of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.  At New Year’s, I was preparing for the publication of Murder on Mokulua Drive (the second Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery).  Almost daily, there were details of publishing that needed to be considered…The days passed quickly, and it seemed that I had barely signed my contract with Artemesia Publishing when the book arrived on my doorstep.  The colors of the cover were evocative and the texture of partial embossing delightful.

In my contemplation of how I have reached this point in my career as a writer, design consultant, and speaker, I focused much of my attention on one event…

An Opportunity for Public Speaking
In 2017, I was asked to read my work at a meeting of the local chapter of the National Writers Union [NWU].  However, I wanted to offer attendees ideas that might prove useful in their own work.  What would be the theme of my presentation?  I began by examining both completed and planned projects.

I soon recognized a pattern of recycling in much of my writing.  This reached beyond what was embodied in the anthology, Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry from the High Desert.  For this project, I joined fellow authors Bill Black, Susan Cosby-Patton, Kay Lesh, Patricia Noble, and the late Larry Sakin, in offering pieces spanning several decades.  Aside from serving as art director and indexer, my contributions included a series of historical articles on Tucson, Arizona, an essay of advice to entrepreneurs, and one poem.  The only thing that was wholly fresh, was the poem.

As I considered the Natalie Seachrist series, I saw the weaving of elements from the lives of people I have known, my own life experiences, pan-Pacific history, and the multi-culturalism of Hawai`i.  It may seem as though I’m speaking like an author with a dozen published books, so I should mention that the third book, Murders of Conveyance, is finished, and Yen for Murder is nearing completion.  Unfortunately, the publishing business almost always lags behind an author’s actual output…

Looking through articles I wrote for clients and non-profit organizations, I again found a fusion of aspects of fact and fiction.  Even the ads and commercials I have helped shape blended components from today and yesterday, as I sought to merge where we find ourselves today with our journey to arrive here.

Eventually, I opted to read selections of my work for the NWU, while sharing how each had developed from earlier pieces.   I also suggested that my listeners create electronic files with verbiage that had fallen to the cutting room floor during editing, as well as electronic and hardcopy folders with concepts for future projects.  This has helped me to outline several future adventures for Natalie and her colleagues to experience…

An Author of Non-Fiction as well as Fiction
At the juncture of 2017 and 2018, I was also working on a new book of non-fiction, Conversations with Auntie Carol.  This is a series of seven oral history interviews planned for presentation in both print and audio editions.  Dating from 25 years ago, Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox DeLima Farias told stories that delight audiences of many ages and backgrounds.  They range from episodes in her youth in `Ulupalakua, Maui, dancing hula awana in Waikīkī on December 6, 1941, and being a member of the family that includes Robert William Kalanihiapo Wilcox, a leader of the 1895 royalist rebellion to restore the sovereignty of Queen Lili`uokalani.

Becoming an Author
My birthday review began with remembering that NWU address, and then paused at the Auntie Carol and Natalie Seachrist projects.   Next, I moved on to a consideration of my overall life journey.  How had I reached the point of being an author of multiple books?  Today, students in college and even high school are urged to recognize that they will probably have multiple careers in life.  How does one plan for this?  Consider my own experiences.  I spent years in training, performance, and teaching in the performing arts.  I worked in marketing and public relations for decades.  I earned a bachelor’s degree and had advanced education in history.  How could I have planned a more appropriate background for eventually becoming an author?

What about you?  Serendipity may have played a role in your arrival at the point where you find yourself today, but careful analysis and planning can help you determine where you will go next…and where you may conclude your earthly sojourn.  What can you do to strengthen your chances of liking new directions?  Consider the following

~  Are there projects you need to complete?
~  Are there people with whom you should reconnect or disconnect?
~  Should you embark on a program of education and self-improvement?
[Are you aware that you can take college classes by audit rather than credit?]
~  Do you need to widen your daily experiences to enhance your well-being?

In closing, my recommendation is to give yourself credit for having arrived at the point where you are in life!  There is only one of you…and the world should be a better place by your very presence!!!

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about the first book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series, Conversations with Auntie Carol, and other projects, please visit my author’s website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com  For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: ImaginingsWordpower.com.

 

Dreaming Your Way to Success

Have you heard of lucid dreaming?  This is when a dreamer is fully cognizant of being in a dream state.  Some authors actually work at learning to control this form of dreaming as a means for shaping their projects, regardless of whether they are focused on fiction or non-fiction.

Dreamscaping or dream sculpting (as the process is sometimes called) allows the dreamer to actively contemplate the contents of a dream while asleep—and to question how these subjects may be relevant to their personal or professional living.

Dreamscaping Your Creative Project
Wordsmiths and artists are often encouraged to keep notebooks at hand for recording stray thoughts that can help them maximize future creativity.  This includes placing a pen and paper by your bed for capturing ideas that may materialize during the night. 

Regardless of your type of work, I’m rather certain that you have awakened on more than one morning (or the middle of a night) and thought, “Hmm, that was an interesting dream.  Now what was there about it that I wanted to remember?” 

For those of us relying on random ideas on which to build our shaping of words and images, it can be important to retain unexpected thoughts.  I can report that I have benefitted from vigorously striving to record the contents of potentially significant dreams.  And I’ve suffered the disappointment of having forgotten to have the implements for recording anything before falling back into a deep and dreamless state.  The mornings that have followed have been very frustrating.  Far worse than a simple hangover experienced by authors of yore!

My Methods of Directing the Dreaming Process
A simple Internet search will yield instructional resources for learning to implement Lucid Dreaming.  As I’m not a specialist in this field of study, I’ll merely share how I have approached the topic. 

After reading some background material, and discussing the concept with artists, I decided to delve into the process several years ago.  I began my sojourn in this endeavor by placing a retractable pen and small bound book for journaling on my bedside table.  Do note that having a pen without a lid has proven invaluable to my night-time note writing, since I’m rather clumsy and a bit befuddled when rising from a vivid dream.

Most evenings, I spend a few minutes before going to bed contemplating projects I wish to undertake the following day.  Often, this is while rocking in a chair and petting my cat, which I find soothing on several levels.  I then read a few pages of both meditative and mystery books.  After turning off my reading light, I review my to-do list.  I won’t claim that my contemplation of work goals is directly responsible for yielding inspirational ideas during the night.  However, these practices do serve as an off-switch for my overactive mind. 

As anyone attempting to call me in the a.m. will attest, I am not a morning person.  Some of my best work is born in the silence of nocturnal hours.  So prior to entering my pre-sleep routine, I’m already in a creative thinking mode.  The number of hours I spend in sleep varies, but when most people are rising to their own days of productivity, often I am entering my deepest dreams.  While most may seem unrelated to the work I envision undertaking, they are varied in topic and have a film-like quality. 

Results from My Dreamscaping
Having disciplined myself to interrupt the dreaming process, I can now report overall success in benefiting from dreaming with lucidity.  Records of some of my dreams make it into my journal.  Elements of others capture my attention sufficiently to be recalled for several hours after my waking. 

Perhaps the worst challenge that arises from the overall experience, is being forced to fold new concepts into work I may have considered complete.  Sometimes that means reprinting quite a number of pages of text due to a minor edit in their midst.  However, I’m thrilled to report that expanding a character’s role by having her play a bamboo flute has yielded a lovely audio element to that scene… and an interesting twist to the epilogue for Yen for Murder, Book Four in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series!

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about the first book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series (Prospect for Murder), Conversations with Auntie Carol, a series of Hawaiian Oral History Interviews and other projects, please visit my author’s website at www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, visit: www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

 

Interviews & Oral Histories: #4

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

You’ve done it!  Regardless of whether an interview is the first or the hundredth, I hope you will feel a sense of accomplishment while parting company with whomever you’ve interviewed! By this point, you should have an audio (if not visual) recording of the dialogue, plus notes you’ve composed prior to and during your conversation. You should also have a signed interviewee release that can allow you to draw from the experience indefinitely.

The Significance of Your Relationship with Your Subject
In my last discussion of general and oral history interviews, I noted that it is good to impress your subject positively.  Doing so includes: projecting a pleasing appearance and voice; demonstrating the level of your commitment, as shown by your research and organization of pertinent questions; and, your sensitivity to their physical, mental, and emotional circumstances.

That last issue is one that is often neglected by professional, as well as novice, interviewers.  Too often a sense of righteousness on the part of the interviewer as truth teller can prevent development of a significant rapport with the interviewee.  While it is important to maintain a professional relationship, the lack of a rapport with your subject may lead to a diminished level of trust and desire to reveal themselves fully.

Your Parting Words
As you prepare to depart from an interview, you will want to leave the door between you and your subject open to further communication.  After all, they’ve trusted you with a part of themselves and they want to know that you’ll value what they have shared with you. Even if you have not established a warm relationship, you will want to facilitate future communication and assure them that they will have an opportunity to view a transcript of the interview.

This does not mean you are relinquishing your role as the interviewer, nor does it imply you are going to change revealing the realities of your conversation. However, if errors are found by either of you, there should be a means for adding explanatory notes. This is especially useful in clarifying names, relationships, numbers, dates, and sequences, which may have been transposed or mistakenly described.   

Editorial Procedures
During the transcription and editorial process, you may need to communicate with your interviewee to gain clarity on numerous points. To maintain accurate records, it is good to receive replies to your questions by email or other written documentation

This is especially useful if there are conflicts regarding the meaning of a passage. After all, the interviewee is relaying answers to your questions through the lens of their point of view.  While you  may never agree with their explanation, the transcript and your notes will allow future readers and/or listeners to experience a close approximation of the event and draw their own conclusions.  This is why clear records of all your communication and notes are so important.

The method[s] of annotation you choose for your transcript can take several forms. This is where your creativity comes into play.   Personally, I try to avoid footnotes.  Instead, I employ bracketed statements for minor clarification and section endnotes for issues dealing with proper nouns and other facts that may stimulate a future reader to pursue answers to their own questions.

Although the interviewer should not remove actual dialogue, you can provide clarification of key points by including a glossary of foreign and specialized vocabulary, as well as an index. Some authors dislike the use of indices if they plan to publish via a downloadable vehicle that may render pagination inaccurate and irrelevant. However, readers of a work published on the Internet may be able to utilize a find/search tool to locate terms they wish to revisit and readers of a hardcopy edition will be pleased with the inclusion of an easy reference tool at the back of the work. 

Another means for heightening the usefulness of your final product is separating your transcript into sections. If the interview was conducted during multiple sessions, utilization of chapter breaks is quite logical. Even when the conversation was held on a single occasion, separating sequenced questions and answers provides natural breaks.

Such a layout should facilitate communication between you and your subject[s] as you review the nearly finished project. Once you have completed editing and annotating your transcript, you can proceed to shaping a final format to meet any requirements for publication. [See my previous blog, Interviews & Oral Histories #3, for the closing  discussion of interview publication.]

Future Interviews with The Subject
The potential for scheduling future interviews may depend on issues beyond a mutual desire to do so. For example, if the interview is part of a larger project controlled by someone else, you may be limited in continuing your relationship with your subject.  And, although the current publisher may express an interest in further interviews, shifts within their organization may preclude future publishing through them. Even when you are working on a wholly freelance basis, your ability to publish may depend on your finding a new source willing to take on the project. And if you decide to expand the initial work into a series of articles or even a book, the task may become even more challenging.

As I’ve noted before, planning, executing, and publishing an interview is a unique experience. Even without the permanency of the Cloud, an interview lives far beyond the event itself! The effort you put into researching your subject’s life and work may prove of interest to people far beyond your targeted readership.  The dialectical elements of the conversation, introductory remarks, annotations, and other explanations will serve not only to illuminate your subject, but also your own life’s work.

In my next blog about interviews, I will discuss the renewal and publication of oral history interviews I conducted more than 25 years ago with a dear Hawaiian auntie whose family history is very interesting…The title is, Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox DeLima Farias.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder,  Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox Delima Farias, and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website, ImaginingsWordpower.com.  

Acknowledging Mentors & Consultants, A Key Authoring Strategy

There are so many aspects to the art and science of writing that it is easy to lose focus of mechanical details while completing a project.  Empowering your words fully means having access to technical experts for fiction as well as non-fiction.  Sometimes when we think of the people who’ve advised us about our work—or regarding life in general—it’s difficult to remember them all.  But the demands of book publishing eventually require authors to compose an acknowledgments section, which can be a key authoring strategy in gaining the respect  of those who help you, as well as your readership.

In my own experience, I have learned that it is not good to wait until the end to begin documenting everyone who has contributed to your final product.  The simplest solution to this aspect of the editorial process is to keep notes on the people and organizations that are of assistance to us as a project develops As I have moved from Prospect for Murder to Murder on Mokulua Drive, and from Murders of Conveyance to Yen For Murder, I have copied the Notes and Acknowledgment portion from one manuscript into the next.  After removing references that are not pertinent to the current work, I continue to make quick notes as I progress through each book.  By the end of a project, I may not have beautifully composed text, but I have complete references that will allow me to polish the section. 

The easiest citations to track are for people connected to a library, institution, or government agency.  Of course, such organizations often have considerable turnover in staff.  That means you’ll need to verify whether a person remains in the job you’ve cited. Strategically inserting a phrase like “at the time” allows you to recognize a person’s help, even if you cannot verify their position as you go to press. 

During a professional writer’s research, some individuals will provide meaningful counsel for several years.  In my case, this category of advisers includes both generalists and specialists. Having described my protagonist Natalie Seachrist as the widow of a naval officer, I’m fortunate to have a husband who is a retired Lieutenant Commander.  When unexpected questions about ships and naval protocols have arisen, he’s been able to answer them quickly at unusual times.

There are also people whose contributions move beyond their specific area of expertise. For example, Kevin C. Horstman, PhD (specializing in geological sciences and digital image enhancement) has shared concise knowledge of the realm of geology.  In addition, he’s provided understanding of geographical features and general scientific terminology.  This invaluable input strengthens my ability to write descriptively, and has inspired writing of passages I had not foreseen.

Through appendices and footnotes, an author can reference the contributions of such technical, scientific, or artistic professionals in non-fiction pieces.  Unfortunately, this is not appropriate to most works of fiction.  However, fictional wordsmithing can utilize prefatory remarks, or dedication of a book or other major work to recognize such people.  For even if you do not realize it, a reader’s expectations usually includes a desire to gain insight into how you have researched and shaped the work you are presenting to them. This is particularly true in the case of a series in which you will hope to gain a following from one book to the next.

Audio books require additional levels of attention to enhance the sensory experience of listeners.  As I prepared to produce the audio recording of Prospect For Murder, I remained alert to aspects of production that could fulfill a listener’s expectations. A major consideration was providing precise chapter breaks, so that listeners know where they are within an audio book.  It was also important to provide a distinct voice for each character.  As someone trained in the theatre arts, I know it is easy for a solo performer to become confused in presentation of multiple characters. 

Fortunately, I work with Jim Waters of Waterworks Recording. His experience in audio production positioned him to serve effectively as my director, as well as my recording producer and engineer.  One of the best formatting tips he shared with me for preparing recording scripts was ensuring each page concluded with the end of a paragraph and/or an individual character’s voice.  In addition I utilized various formatting to indicate how each passage was to be read.

As this first book in the Natalie Seachrist series reached its release date at the end of July 2016, I prepared Internet announcements through Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com, plus a new author website, Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com and a Facebook page designed as a simple billboard for announcements.  For these and other purposes, I’ve needed a professional photograph to accompany cover art and promotional text.  This task seemed straight forward.  However, on the day of the shoot, the weather was muggy, the activity took place in a space using evaporative cooling rather than air conditioning, and I was definitely having a bad hair day.

Perhaps I should have paid a cancellation fee and rescheduled the event.  But with deadlines looming, I proceeded.  At the end of the shoot I learned that the digital photographic firm could make image enhancements…at $35 for each element they adjusted.  By the time I would have had them amend several parts of the picture I’d selected, I could have spent as much as for the shoot itself.  Fortunately, a friend’s daughter, Lindsey Burlingame, offers graphic art fixes at a reasonable hourly rate.  While this valuable service does not fall within a normal range of publishing credit, in the future she may become one of my advance readers, and I’ll be able to acknowledge her professional services in my notes section.

In summation, there are varied means by which you can thank and give credit to those who help you present your thoughts to the public!

Wishing you the best in your endeavors in the art of communication, 
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

To learn more about Prospect For Murder and my other writing projects, please visit my author’s website:  Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com

Taming a Writer’s Clutter: #1, Thinning the File Forrest

You may have stumbled into this blog without an apparent need to address the topic.  You may not be part of a group planning to generate an anthology.  And, regardless of whether you are an amateur or professional writer, you may not think you would ever wish to publish a collection of your individual pieces.  Yet over time, a number of works, large and small, may have accumulated in your electronic as well as hardcopy files. It’s simply part of the life of a wordsmith. And whether you realize it or not, handling your files is part of the editorial process!

Reviewing Previously Composed Works
It might be relatively simple to assemble a publishable collection of your work, if you find a repeating theme.  Sadly, it’s more likely that you’ll find disparate pieces lacking a common unifying thread.  In such cases, cobbling together a publishable piece may seem a remote idea. However, periodic and systematic review and notation of your existing materials may reveal something of publishing value.  You’ll never know unless you take the time and energy to explore the possibility.  Projects like this demonstrate the technical side of the art and science of effective writing and should be one element in your authoring strategies

Systematic Review of Your Files
Having a comprehensible writer’s filing system can prove to be invaluable.  As a wordsmith, there are many good reasons to revisit your electronic and hardcopy folders and files on a regular basis.  The first benefit is controlling clutter.  When you no longer recognize what a folder or file contains, it’s time to consider deleting it, or combining its contents with another.  Of course, it is not advisable to delete material, until you’ve looked at it closely to see if there are any hidden gems.  For if you discover something that generates an unexpected revenue stream, the entire process is justified, even if it means using creativity in your file naming After all facilitating communication should include you!

Another reason for looking over your work is to review your journey as a professional writer.  Like an artist moving through various media and periods in the body of their work, you may find definitive patterns in your creations.  And, the process may impress you with the distance you have traveled and the progress that you’ve made.  You may also find there are topics, choices in voice, vocabulary, and sensory detail that you would like to employ in the work you are currently generating…

Facilitating File Review
In order to examine your work effectively, you need a filing system that facilitates easy access. Regardless of whether you’re dealing with hardcopy or electronic form, you’ll want to organize folders and files in a way that will make sense to you in the remote future. That means ensuring that each one is both recognizable and trackable.

Formatting Tips For Hardcopy Folders
Being a visually oriented person, I use color coding, abbreviated naming, and alphabetical sorting for hardcopy materials—of course, that’s after designating separate file drawers by category.  For all reference materials I use the color yellow.  These folders include:

~  Historical Reference
~  Geographical Reference
~ Organizational Reference
~  Miscellaneous Reference

For easy separation, I use Burgundy colored filing materials to designate Imaginings’ operational information and records.  This section includes topics such as:  accounting; computer hardware and software reference information; current and past marketing materials; handouts for clients; public speaking information and tools; and, current and completed writing projects.

Current clients are differentiated by teal colored folders and files.  For ongoing organizational volunteer projects, I use blue filing materials.  The great thing about a hardcopy folder is that its name can be changed whenever necessary by simply changing removable labels.  And once I’ve completed a project, (or am no longer working for a client), I transform most files into categorical records stored in the Burgundy color I use for my own files

For example, when I was no longer writing historical pieces for Realtor X, I removed materials I deemed irrelevant to any future work with them, and placed samples of the work I’d performed for them into a general topic folder [in this example, Real Estate].  This allows quick examination of all materials I’ve written about land and real estate. And, by retaining electronic files regarding individual companies, I can revisit the particulars of my association with them when necessary.

Electronic Folders & Files
I find that creating and naming Folders is easy…since I base the process on titles composed of descriptive words and folder placement on alphabetical sequencing.  To prevent having excessive numbers of folders for related topics, I use subset folders.  For example, within a Chinese reference folder, I have subsets for Chinese art, funeral customs, history, jewelry, language and dialects, names, philosophy, and Shànghăi, And within each of these categories, there are further folders for specific topics such as dynastic history, types of jade, elements of Shànghăi deco artwork, and male and female names.

When I began the Natalie Seachrist series, I had one unnamed book and a nameless protagonist.  After a while, the original file named “Book” became “Prospect For Murder.”  By then, the protagonist was Natalie Seachrist, so some files in the PFM Folder bear her name in their titling.  Many other files begin with the abbreviation “PFM,” followed by descriptive words, and finally, a date—if the material is NOT reference information. And, as with hardcopy files, reference data for the three books I’ve completed have been migrated to a generic Folder labeled “NS Research.”

Aside from logical alphabetical abbreviations, I urge you to date electronic files that are not reference information.  This is because one of the most difficult aspects of being a writer is the number of re-writes required. I fought dating my files for many years, but after repeated difficulty in locating the files I sought, I have followed the example of more scientifically-oriented authors.  The dating format I use is two digits each for the current year, the month, and day For today’s Blog, I might title the file, I_Blog_Taming_Clutter_Pt_1_160421.

Other issues in naming electronic files are the use of capital letters and underscores between words or other elements In the past, techies insisted on never using capital letters and always using dashes or underscores—or simply cramming alpha-numeric elements together without spaces.  I haven’t noticed such definitive instructions recently.  So, I use cap letters for readability, with underscores between the elements of a file name, as in one I created for recording the audio version of Prospect for Murder, PFM_Chapt_1_Vision.

Determining Files to Delete or Save
I offer one cautionary note to all authors when it comes to the potential deletion of files:  Author know thyself! This is crucial for all of us to internalize in many areas of our work.  It is particularly important for writers noted for being too quick to delete something they may later need…as well as those tending to hoard every word they write, as if each were presented in a vision from a higher authority.

In general, I de-clutter files by removing as many as I can in both hardcopy and electronic formats.  However, I have mechanisms for saving favorite material: I maintain two hardcopy sample portfolios.  One is a master with published examples from my best work.  The second one is smaller, with basic promotional materials focused on me and the general scope of Imaginings WordPower and Design Consultation.  In the smaller binder, I’ve allowed space for inserting material from the master portfolio that might be appropriate to meeting with a specific person or organization.

For each major writing project, I create a file named “Unused Verbiage.”  It is the destination for words, phrases and passages that I decide are inappropriate to my current endeavors, but which might prove useful later or in another piece of writing.  These favored words can also facilitate your re-editing of a piece, such as when your editor or publisher requests insertion of some element you had deemed irrelevant. 

Through such files, I track snippets of my writing, without needing to save a large or duplicative file.  In addition, I rename files with differing presentations of material, such as PFM elements that were too detailed for inclusion, but contain potentially useful information, i.e. RMS_EmpressofBrit_Orig_Description or Pearl_Wong_Orig_Shanghai_Story. Both of these files reside beside the completed manuscript of Prospect for Murder.  I don’t know how they might help me achieve goals and objectives in the unpredictable future. Perhaps I might revisit those passages as I complete Pearl Wong’s story within the series’ fourth book, Yen for Murder. 

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com.

Author Appearances

Writers’ Guidelines
Regardless of whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you will need to consider elements of successful advertising and branding for authors.  The skills you have developed as a wordsmith will help you facilitate communication and networking with individuals and organizations that can help you increase your public visibility.

Author Appearances & Readings
You’ve completed a large project in fiction or non-fiction and it’s being published.  You’ve made great progress toward achieving goals and objectives.  As an author, you’ve reached a major milestone in practicing the art and science of writing: You may be thinking the heavy work was over.  You’re wrong.  Seriously wrong.  Neither your creative or editorial chores are complete.  You’ve simply turned the corner from building a product to marketing it in tandem with your publisher.  That is, unless you’re entering the world of independent publishing.  In that case, you’ll be responsible for self-marketing, and need to maximize a branding program that relies on dynamic but cost-effective authoring strategies and advertising messages. 

Regardless of how your work is being published, you’ll need to make promotional appearances.  That process should include opportunities for your readers to hear your words, as well as to ask you impromptu questions about yourself and your work.  Even if you do not have a strong voice or dynamic style of presentation, the public will want to get to know the mind and personality that has generated the material in which they are interested.

Venues for Author Appearances
In preparation for your work to the public personally, you can refine your oral reading skills by practicing with a voice recording device in front of a mirror.  You can also hone your skills at a writers’ group, where you could work on timing selected readings.  If you find yourself uncomfortable reading aloud, appearances at a small book club meeting may be ideal for warming up for larger audiences.  

Once you’re ready for general audiences, you’ll find there are many venues at which you might share your writing.  Some are directly related to publishing, such as book fairs and literary and artistic festivals.  Depending on your reputation as a writer, your local radio or television station may have programming featuring local writers.  This is especially true of public broadcasting in radio and television. 

Since your goal is to sell books in every form you are published—hard- or softcover print, Ebooks, audio books, or online websites and blog sites—libraries and bookstores [local and national chains]  are ideal for promoting current work and for attracting potential long-term followers.  Again, your personal reputation and the involvement of your publisher may determine the ease with which such appearances can be booked. 
Media Relations Dos and Don’ts
Expanding Media Relations
In previous blogs—and at https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com—I’ve discussed the importance of connectivity with the media.  With each public performance opportunity, I suggest you prepare an advertising message that can be adapted to public service announcement [PSA] messages.  These can be utilized promoting the non-profit organizations (i.e. schools and libraries) at which you might appear.  For while you may have expectations of selling copies of the work you’re promoting,
your authoring events may be deemed worthy of mention in the calendar of non-profit community activities within your local media outlets and platforms, as well as virtual communities.  They may also be of interest to followers of social media and blogs featuring interviews.
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Cost-Effective Media Relations
As you expand your community relations and get to know your media, you may be surprised by the amount of free media coverage you can obtain.  It all depends on your practice of the art of communication, and I don’t simply mean effective wordsmithing.  Hopefully your writer’s inspiration will aid you in establishing strategic media relations.  Much of this will rely on pithy PSAs prepared as broadcast, print, and On-line media releases [you can find samples at

https://www.imaginingswordpower.com/media-release-samples.html].  You should also be prepared to attend business, social and community activities that will introduce you to members of the media, whose own work you may have been enjoying for years.
Empowering Your Words
Enhancing the Listener’s Experience in Your Public Performance
Let me again state that you have one opportunity to make a good first impression.  Remember that each time you appear in public, you’re making a statement about yourself and your work.  And although your written work may be inspired and employ a rich palette of words, you must now present it to people who will be judging you on their sensory experience!

Where you present your work should direct your preparation.  Will you be speaking in a large or small room?  Will you be standing or seated?  How much of your body will be visible to the audience?  Will you have a microphone?  Will you be introducing yourself?  Will someone be monitoring the time you’ve been allotted for speaking?  Are you the featured speaker at the event, or one of a group of presenters?  And how will you handle stage fright?  I encourage you to remember that stage fright is not a phenomena experienced solely by actors

~  The quality of your voice.  Once you know the size of the room and whether you will be utilizing a microphone, consider how well your vocal quality matches the venue.  Remember that unless you are providing your own Audio Visual equipment, there’s no way you can be assured that the equipment provided will work as desired.  Therefore, think about whether you have the vocal strength to project your voice throughout the designated space if you end up without a sound system. 

Although no one wants to give a reading on a day when they are not feeling well, you may not be able to cancel an appearance.  If you are unable to read your material, you may need to take a friend or colleague to actually present your work, but it would still be good for you to show up (as long as you’re not contagious).   When in doubt about your condition, check with your healthcare provider.  If you just have a tickle in your throat, you can always try drinking warm tea or munching your favorite fruit to produce a clearer sounding voice.  

Your appearance.  Many artists and writers feel there’s no need to be concerned about their appearance or their behavior.  But if you want to be taken seriously, I believe you should demonstrate respect for yourself, your work, and for the public who awaits you.  What you wear may be dictated by where you’ll be speaking.  If you’re standing on a raised platform, consider how your legs and shoes will look from the audience.  Women may want to wear a longer skirt length than they normally do, or even a pantsuit to ensure they aren’t sending the wrong message.  And don’t forget that use of makeup is not limited to women.  Men, (especially those who are bald), are just as susceptible to having a glowing face that detracts whether they are on stage or on video.  Also, the eyes are key to projecting a performer’s personality.  A touch of eye liner below the lower eye lashes gives your audience a sense of being closer to you.

As to style, the casualness of ragged denim, faded hoodies and unshaven portions of one’s anatomy may seem representative of the artistic world.  But ask yourself whether they best represent the work you are introducing.  If you’re beyond the first two decades of life, consider more sophisticated choices in attire and overall self-presentation.  Personally, I usually top skirts and dresses I wear to public events with a vivid Asian style silk jacket.  Not only is this in keeping with my normal wardrobe, but since the Natalie Seachrist mysteries features references to Asian culture, this choice sets the stage for the stories that I will be addressing.

Introducing Yourself
You should have several empowering bios by the time you’re launching a book.  [You’ll find a summary for writing one on my website at https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html]  You should have brief versions in one or two paragraphs in both first and second person voices.  If you’re lucky, there’ll be an MC or other person to introduce you, and hopefully they’ll read your bio without inappropriate ad-libs.  However, regardless of your advance planning, there will be times when you must introduce yourself.  And while it is important to have a well-written bio, it is useful to be able to speak off-the-cuff without any notes. 

Your Performance
That’s right.  I said Performance.  That’s what an author’s appearance is.  You must present yourself so that you are memorable and believable as the author of the work you have produced And just as there are many styles of writing, there are many ways in which you can present your work.  In my opinion, the top rung of professionalism holds those rare authors who memorize portions of their work and perform it like a play…that is, sans script. 

One of the most likely venues in which you’ll see this type of performance is Cowboy Poetry.  One of my favorite entertainers in this genre is Bill Black, whose warm vocal tones are accented with more than a hint of North Carolina.  From the moment he steps onto a stage with his cowboy shirt, hat and bolo tie, the audience is wooed by both the stories he relates and his personage as their author.

At the next level are presenters who place text within a folder.  This is where I fall in terms of performance.  I try to avoid treating my audiences to the rustling and flopping of loose pages that can separate easily and cause the reader confusion.

A Single Performance Among Many
At some time, you may be charged with scheduling a group of authors to read.  At a recent gathering of writers, I found that despite instructions to “read for about five minutes,” there was great variety in the lengths of the readings.  Even when a presenter has timed their work in advance, the pressure of public performance can produce variations in the actual length of a reading I believe that setting a measurable standard (i.e. three to four pages, double spaced).  While some will read faster or slower, the overall time of the readings should even out.

Does an Event Warrant a Media Release?
Event organizers will normally generate media releases.  That’s wonderful, especially if they follow the details of a bio you submit.  But there’s nothing wrong with sending out your own media releases if you’re a featured participant.  You should include general information about the occasion, your role in it, and other newsworthy persons who are involved, so that your effort does not appear wholly self-serving.  In fact, the sponsors should welcome your boosting the likelihood of media coverage.  For information on this topic, see earlier blogs, as well as sample releases on my website at imaginingswordpower.com/media-release-samples.html.

 In addition, you can send our post cards, letters, fliers or other announcements.   Recipients should include people you expect to attend, as well as those who may not be able to participate but should be aware of your involvement.  If event is open to the general public, distribution of your promo information via mail, email, and social media may add to the number of attendees. 

No matter how well you think you have prepared for an event, something can happen to derail a public appearance.  Once it is over, hold your own private event autopsy, if the event organizers do not have one.  And don’t forget to send out a post-event media release.  Again, make a point of mentioning any noteworthy persons or historical context who are of general interest in your community.  Finally, upload a sample of the reading you gave at the event on your website or social media, even if you have to record it anew.

 Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors, 
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

 

Media Relations For Authors: #2, Media Releases

Strategic Media Relations Dos and Don’ts

As a professional wordsmith, your practice of the art and science of writing is only part of the equation in achieving the goals and objectives you set for your career.  Successful advertising and branding for an author rests on myriad authoring strategies, including positive relations with members of the media.  Like most aspects of your work, you will need to invest time, effort, and occasional infusions of money into researching, establishing, and maintaining good relations with the media.  As you think about preparing your outreach to the media, remember that you are moving into the realm of commercial writing, which requires you to employ concise verbiage that directly addresses the needs and interests of a specific audience.

Get to Know Your Media Outlets
A key element in any branding program is determining which media outlets [ranging across print, broadcast, and On-line platforms] are appropriate for shining a spotlight on the current project.  Once you’ve completed compiling notes of interest about each—including the demographics of their patrons—you will need to establish relationships with their journalists and perhaps one or more of their department heads.  Regardless of whether you’re going to contact staff or management, a personal salutation is always good.  After all, looking to the future, there’s no telling what a person’s next job may be…or how you might reconnect with them to your mutual benefit.
Expanding Your Media Relations
Networking with Media Contacts
With your background work complete, you’re ready to launch regular rounds of communication with media contacts.  Despite interaction you may have had in the past, you will need to follow up on any leads you’ve just uncovered.  Is there a department or individual journalist for whom your current or future work will be of particular interest? Is there a community event for which your work fits well?  Can you make a donation…or otherwise interact with a newsworthy non-profit or organization which may be participating in the event?  Can you send out a tasteful PSA focusing on the group while increasing your public visibility?

As an author, it’s easy to rely heavily on your effective writing rather than speaking skills when examining how to broaden your community involvement.  But when an opportunity arises to visit with a media specialist personally, you can broaden your talent in the genteel art of verbal communication.  Through such contact, you should be able to affirm the media’s awareness of you and glean new facts about their individual needs and desires.

Even if you haven’t had an opportunity to meet media representatives you plan to contact, you can begin sending out press releases highlighting your noteworthy work.  What constitutes a newsworthy announcement?  Chiefly, the topic you address must be appropriate to the specific media outlet and their concrete as well as virtual community.  For example, you wouldn’t send a notice about a program for elementary school children to a magazine for Seniors—unless that demographic is notably involved in the activity. 

Generating Timely Media Releases
If there is an element of time involved (such as a holiday event), it’s more likely the media outlet will grant you attention IF you’ve contacted them with sufficient lead time.  There are two simple ways to determine each media outlet’s deadlines:  Pay for a subscription to a detailed media list; or, build your own record for each of your preferred media outlets.  Even if you have an annual subscription to one or more media contact data bases, the information can quickly become outdated, so unless the provider of a list sends out updates, you’ll have to check with each media organization periodically. 

If you’re creating a media list yourself, you’ll need to gather the following information:  The names of each organization and their key personnel; a street address for drop-offs; a mailing address if it differs from the physical address; phone and fax numbers and email addresses for pertinent departments.  As you become acquainted with individuals within each organization, they may provide you with additional contact information. 

The creative process an author uses to facilitate communication with their audience must be dynamic.  Consider the following scenarios that can motivate you to communicate with local, regional, national, Internet, and even international media outlets:

Win a Contest, Award, or Scholarship?
Media outlets are always interested in stories of success, especially if they address a segment of their niche market.  Make sure you indicate the importance of the organization recognizing you with an award.

Participating in a Special Event?
Even if the organizers of an event are sending out media releases, you can submit your own in a distinctive format that highlights your particular contribution.
political campaigns
Awarded a Noteworthy Position, Contract, or Commission?
Send out a media release, including copy that demonstrates the stature of the individual, business or organization granting it to you.  You can also provide periodic releases reporting on significant stages of progress in your work Be sure to mention newsworthy persons who may have become involved in the project.  This could include a high profile woman or man whose image will be associated with your final product, be slated to read your text in an audio publication, or perform as the MC at an event you are managing personally.  By the way, this includes political, religious or volunteer activities in which you may be involved.

You may be wondering if there’s any way of ensuring your media release will receive positive attention and be acted upon as you desire.  The simple answer is no.  Admittedly, it helps to get your information released if you’re prominent in your field.  Your main concern should be avoiding being perceived as wasting a media professional’s time.  If your material and its content doesn’t appear relevant, not only will it minimize the possibility of coverage of your current plea for attention, but it also decreases the likelihood that your next outreach will be greeted with joy.

When selecting between two or more potential news items to promote, you should remember that the most popular topics for garnering media attention are connected to children, elders, or non-profit organizations That’s why it is beneficial to team up with such groups within your community on appropriate projects.   Not only will such associations gain media attention, but they will bring loyal followers to your future projects.… And word of mouth promotion is the most beneficial form of advertising!

Making a Good First Impression
Regardless of how important you view your message, you must consider how a media outlet will judge its potential value to their customers.  As a promotional consultant, I’ve often worked with writers and artists who view their work as being of the utmost significance.  They begin nearly every communication by speaking of themselves and their status.  This is in direct conflict with the media’s need to serve their patrons Rather than opening your plea for coverage with “I” (or even your name if the piece is written in the third person), begin with something that will appeal to your reader and encourage their interest in learning more about you.

Shaping a Strong Media Release 
Most of the media releases I see are one or two pages of single-spaced paragraphs headed, “For immediate release.”  These releases have no sectioning, no titling, and no use of bold or underscored text.  And if the opening of a long document is not auspicious, the recipient probably won’t finish reading it.

If you bore the recipient, how have you benefited from the effort…and cost, if you’ve mailed hardcopy?  Even if the release is read, there’s no guarantee that the recipient will act upon the information.  If you’re lucky the bare bones of your information will be published.  However, unless there’s a very slow news day (with a large “ news hole),” the full text of a long release is unlikely to be included.  If only part of your text is published, there’s no assurance that the details you deem pertinent will be included in the news piece.  

One way to short-circuit these problems is the use of the classic inverted pyramid for news writing. This means that the most important facts must be placed at the beginning of the release. With each succeeding paragraph, the importance and relevance of the information contained decreases.  Many editors are grateful to receive material they can merely drop into their layout.

 Sending Out Media Releases
You must, of course, follow the instructions a media outlet provides for sending press releases.  However, some organizations allow some flexibility in their instructions.  To increase the number of people who see my releases, I place a note at the end of emails stating that a FAX or even hardcopy will follow Since so few people bother with anything but emails today, there’s a good chance several people will read your copy when its sent in more than one form.  Of course, you cannot control how the media will respond.  Even if they decide to publish your message, you can’t be certain of how they will treat your copy, so keep in mind that providing less text gives an editor less to delete or re-sequence If they’re interested in learning more they’ll contact you.

And don’t forget to send out another media release when you’ve completed your current project.  Highlight the event’s outcome, mentioning any noteworthy person or historical context which will distinguish the activity as being of general interest in your community.  You can even send out subsequent releases to announce the results or consequences of your work.

The Benefits of Polishing Your Media Writing Skills
With careful research and repeated practice in writing media releases, you’ll enhance your ability to work efficiently with the media A successful program of media blitzing rests on gathering facts and then presenting them in a way that builds interest in your topic.  Many times your challenge is in establishing a rhythm to the words you use to present the facts you have carefully laid out. 

As __________’s youth face another summer seeking entertainment …
The enclosed image shows reality television personality _____ donating her time at…
Jane Smith, winner of the 2015 _____ award has been named presiding judge in the forthcoming spelling bee for elementary school children in the _____ School District. 

Remember that if you are involved in an event benefiting your community, you might be the ideal guest for an early morning drive time radio talk show—one of the best ways of getting a large number of people to become aware of via free media coverage.

Despite your best efforts to enhance your connectivity with the media, at some point you may be forced to invest in advertising.  To maximize the results, your branded message must be positively memorable.  From the words you use to the colors and shapes that accompany and frame them, you must strike an accord with your target market.  In today’s tough marketplace, you will need to look beyond traditional ads and commercials.  Appropriate saturation of social media outlets, YouTube videos, and even infomercials have all been used effectively by authors seeking improved community relations.  As you contemplate your options, you will have to evaluate whether you have the skill set to design and implement a branding program without the assistance of advertising professionals.

Wishing you the best in your wordsmithing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

For examples of concise print and broadcast media releases, please visit:  https://www.imaginingswordpower.com/media/media_release_samples.html.To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

Energizing Descriptive Writing

Regardless of whether you’re a professional or amateur writer, the most challenging part of a day of wordsmithing may be facing a blank piece of paper, or an empty page on your monitor’s screen 
Writing Tips
The Art and Science of Writing
It may be surprising to you, but despite our electronic age, there are still writers who begin each project with hardcopy composition.  If this authoring strategy produces effective prose, it’s hard to argue with their writing process.  It’s all a question of the results that come from one’s practice of the art of communication.  In both fiction and non-fiction, when the writer’s inspiration produces a rich palette of words that maximizes their reader’s experience, their methods have been successful!

Regardless of your wordsmithing process, on days when you feel lacking in creativity and even editorial direction, I suggest you begin by capturing the images that first come to your mind as you contemplate the scope and goals of your project.  Work without concern for the structure of language, correct grammar, or the sequence in which the words emerge.  Within a short while, you should find yourself producing an unstoppable stream of verbiage. 

As your pace slows, you can pause to write a brief outline of your work to that point.  Confident that you will not lose direction, glance over your creative output for patterns within the images, dialogue, and activity that you have produced.  You can then begin empowering your words by strengthening the connectivity of fragmented text.

You should then be able to move back and forth between the creative and editorial processes fairly easily.  I stress the first category—creativity—because writers often lose images they have glimpsed by becoming too absorbed in initial self-editing.  Remember, editing can always be accomplished at a future time.  But if you lose your inspired thoughts, they may never be retrieved…or built upon as you initially envisioned.

Experienced authors often have an established writer’s voice on which they can draw.  This is true whether they are writing the fourth book in a series, or constructing a non-fiction piece reflecting their true voice and personality.  Whether you are in this position, or creating a wholly new voice, you may wish to take a few moments and reflect on the tone, sophistication of vocabulary, structure of language that is most appropriate to the current work, and images that will enhance the sensory experience of your audience.  [Pease note that I am referring to your voice as the teller of facts or a story, not the voices of any characters you may be creating.]

With these elements in mind, you can enter the realm of refining the vocabulary and organization of your piece.  As usual, I suggest you begin with the most obvious edits.  Personally, I have a tendency to employ overly complex sentence structure that begs immediate trimming.  Another pattern that many of us face is the need to flip first and last clauses, sentences, and even paragraphs.  Like everything else, practice makes better, if not perfect, form.  By the time you’ve reached the end of a couple of sections, your structure should have tightened with increasing clarity.
Writer’s Guidelines
My Editorial Process
Sometimes in the midst of mundane edits, I have a sense of the truly impactful changes I wish to make.  If working in hardcopy (often late at night in the midst of classic films or predictable episodes of television mystery shows), I’ll make marginal notes regarding a character’s appearance, vocabulary, motivations, or inner thoughts regarding other characters.  [This has proven especially important when working on books subsequent to Prospect for Murder in the continuing Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series.] And when at the computer, I may utilize small sticky notes to record my ideas.

With obvious adjustments to structure complete, I move within the piece to maximize its overall flow and tone.  I usually begin by modifying nouns and adjectives.  In a previous blog on color theory [see Design Dilemmas for Authors, Part 3:  Color, May 30, 2015], I discussed various words that might be used in place of the word blue to enhance your color palette

Facilitating Communication
Likewise, consider how you might embellish a scene referring to a red sofa.  While inappropriate for a children’s picture book (and most contemporary fiction), the author of a dramatic historical novel might say, “The heroine entered the study nervously and perched on the garnet colored velvet chaise lounge.”  Here I wish the reader to feel wooed by the distinctive color, texture and shape of a piece of furniture. 

In my own writing, I frequently draw on the breadth of my writer’s palette to concisely depict the ambiance of a scene.  For example, “She heard the sharp sound of a gunshot” became “She was startled by the sharp report of a bullet slicing the air.”  Here I turned a matter-of-fact incident report to a description of my character’s response, which allows the reader to join in the heroine’s frightening experience which will enable your reader to feel they are present at the scene…and who knows how that may prove useful if your piece were to be converted to a script for a movie or television show.
Impactful Advertising Messages
Altering Punctuation
Consider the following examples of shifting vocabulary, word sequence, and punctuation that can alter a reader’s interpretation of a passage within commercial as well as fictional text:

Experience the unique luxury of a journey to the Orient aboard the majestic RMS Empress of Britain.  [Advertising copy similar to posters for the ship’s 1932 world cruise]

I journeyed from Hong Kong to Honolulu aboard the RMS Empress of Britain.  [A matter of fact statement appropriate for any type of writing]

Truly…I did enjoy my trip aboard the RMS Empress of Britain.  [A plea to be believed; perhaps for the dénouement of a murder mystery]

I immensely enjoyed my sojourn from Hong Kong to Honolulu aboard the luxurious RMS Empress of Britain.  [An elegant, almost fussy statement, appropriate to a romance novel]

There are many ways to strengthen your writer’s voice for each project you undertake.  Reading other works in the same genre by authors you like and dislike will provide examples to emulate, as well as to reject in your own work.  There are also reference materials that will broaden your ability to describe people and occurrences in an articulate manner appropriate to your genre.  You might begin by perusing your own reference library to ensure you have:  A couple of grammar-cramming style books such as The Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook, which are standards.  You will also want to have a thesaurus or two, and a few dictionaries, including ones for foreign words or phrases you might use. 

Rich Palette of Images
Beyond these basics, consider how you can use Internet search engines and other materials.  One of the most interesting sources I’ve found is obituaries [see Shopping for Characters, May 12, 2015].  This is a great place to find physical descriptions of people, and to discover comprehensive biographic images and sometimes even the settings through which men and women of past generations walked.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

The Value of an Index

Making Non-Fiction Text User Friendly

Empowering Your Words
In both fiction and non-fiction projects, there are many aspects of the art and science of writing that can go unnoticed in the creative phase of composition.  I heartily concur with the idea that as writers we need to focus initially on capturing our inspirational thoughts prior to addressing details of the editorial process.  Nevertheless, it is good to have the overall design of a literary project on the edge of our consciousness whenever putting pen to paper.  And, when we do don our editorial caps, writers need to be cognizant that that work empowers the words already set down.  Regardless of the target market, readers have expectations, and the skills of a wordsmith determine whether those expectations will be met.

During the publication of the anthology Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry of the High Desert, I was pleased to receive positive critical attention for my comprehensive index.  As the artistic director for the project, part of my authoring strategies was to ensure that future as well as current readers would find the work user-friendly, as well as an enjoyable read.  Despite my vision, some of my five co-authors have been less than enthusiastic about the value of indexing.  In fact, one of them was involved in another anthology for which an index was deemed irrelevant since including one would have reduced the number of pieces from one of the book’s prolific authors. 
Significance of The Lack of an Index
When I examined that book’s table of contents, I realized the work had frequent references to historical events and high-profile people.  Unfortunately, the lack of an index precluded a reader’s ability to analyze the work fully.  This was especially true if a reader wanted to compare text provided by multiple authors on a particular subject.  And, with the passage of time, even someone who has read the book and is familiar with its topics would find it difficult to re-access specific references—at least in hardcopy.  And it is true that reference searches in material in electronic format can be facilitated by utilizing a find or search command.  But to accomplish a comparison of various authors’ views, the reader would have to create a separate listing of those citations that pertained to their interests.

Since one can never know how a work will be used at a future time, I believe there is one simple argument for indices in non-fiction:  If it is logical that some reader may wish to locate a specific reference, there is a need for an index Even when a book’s contents are directed to a specific audience, future developments within the field under discussion—let alone the unfolding of history—may yield an unexpected group of readers for whom an index will be invaluable.

Structuring an index usually begins by listing proper nouns contained in the work—meaning all people, geographic locations, and events of sufficient worth to have been named.  Most word processing programs can help you gather and list such terms, even if they lack an actual indexing feature.  Another tactic for refining an index is analyzing terms included by other authors addressing a parallel subject.

As you delve into your indexing project, you may find topics requiring in-depth analysis.  In looking at the nouns you have initially listed, consider related names and topics that can be grouped under a general category.  For example, a discussion of lions, dogs and parrots suggests that a general topic of animals would be appropriate.  Of course, some words may not have such an obvious association.  One area of complexity is persons of varied professional accreditation.  If you lacked sufficient numbers of therapists, physicians and dentists to provide these individual categories, you might use a comprehensive term such as healthcare professionals.  Consider the terms highways, access ways, and trains.  While they do not all relate to forms of roadways, they might be listed under a general heading of transportation

If you tire during the indexing process, consider returning to your analysis of the work of colleagues.  For although you may have accessed the works of many authors during preliminary research, you may not have closely examined their indices.  This semi-final exercise may not only reveal an approach to indexing you have not considered, but it may also reveal gaps in topics or subtopics within the body of your own work.  Even if you decline to broaden the scope of your piece, you may wish to consider some additions to your afterword or bibliography.

Before I leave the topic of indexing, I should offer one cautionary note for avoiding a mammoth appendage to your actual composition:  When in doubt about including a general category, consider whether you have a minimum of three words to list within it…

The art of communicating with readers requires diligence in refining your skills.  It is as demanding an element in non-fiction as in a fine work of fiction.  So, beyond indexing, what other tools of wordsmithing could enhance your reader’s experience?

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn about Prospect for Murder [the first book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series] and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

Interviews & Oral Histories: No. 2, Research

Researching For Interviews 

The Art and Science of Writing
Today’s post is a recipe to help you prepare for any general or oral history interview you may conduct
.
  While the ingredients may prove dry for some of my readers, my intent is to simplify the process for those of you seeking to broaden your skills as a researcher, interviewer and writer.  For, like a piece of fine art, the strong interview will provide a complex layering of elements that leads to a deeper understanding of the interviewee’s life, their place within world events, and the experiences that have made them who they are. 

Relying on their charm and a heavy dose of luck, some interviewers claim that establishing a good rapport with one’s subject is all that is required for a strong interview.  But although creating a personal connection with your subject is definitely required, I urge you to consider that doing a bit of research will strengthen your credibility with the interviewee and boost your skills as a professional interviewer worthy of respect.

Although the following example falls under the category of art, it demonstrates how the lack of professional training can interfere with one’s work.  Many years ago, I met a gifted painter who employed the tiniest makeup brushes to create delicate lace, fine hairs on African wildlife, and complex patterns on silken fabrics.  Noticing flaws in the placement of shadows, proportion of objects, and the musculature of human bodies, I gently suggested she take classes in the foundations of art

When she responded that an art teacher had previously crushed her spirit, I suggested she study privately with an artist she could carefully select for compatibility.  Over the years she has achieved a measure of success, but the flaws I first noticed continue throughout the body of her work.  I can only imagine what the knowledge of an authoritative artist could have added to the depth of her art.

Where should you begin your research as an interviewer?  Like the ideal scientist, you will want to thoroughly research your interview subject, confirming basic facts you may have assumed were correct.  To establish a reliable foundation for the facts to be revealed in the interview (as well as to offer a concise expression of the interviewee’s viewpoint), you will need to conduct research that goes beyond the details of their résumé.  This work should be completed before formulating the questions you will ask in the interview. 

As you move through the process of gathering information, consider the following questions.  What is the purpose of the interview project?  What are the demographics of your target audience who will be accessing your work?  Also, what direction is suggested by the format and themes of the media outlet with which you are working

Regardless of the proposed thrust of an interview, information that the public may seek about the subject should be addressed.  In addition, if you wish to separate your interview from others the subject may have granted, I believe it is good to have at least one surprising fact revealed. 

Now comes what some will consider the boring work.  There’s no way around it, unless you want to rely on your great charm.  To organize the facts you have discovered effectively, I suggest you consider using several tools.

  1. Create a double-spaced copy of the interviewee’s résumé or curriculum vitae [CV].  Highlight each piece of information you need to verify.  Place a check mark beside each one you confirm.
  1. Working from either a list provided by the subject (or revealed in your research), examine the interviewee’s articles, books, previous interviews, and other expressions of their thoughts that may exist.
  1. As you proceed with your research, write out potential topics for your forthcoming dialogue.
  1. Create a timeline of the subject’s life.  Although you may be focused on their career and public persona, list highlights in both their professional and personal living as a guideline to help you respond to unexpected turns your dialogue may take.  Depending on what has made the person newsworthy, you may wish to look at a graph of historical events that intersect with their life.  

How will such timelines be useful?  If, for example, the interviewee was involved in the labor movement of the post-World War II era, the strikes of labor unions on the West Coast and in Hawai`i greatly impacted the general public as well as union members.  Consider also the arts.  If your subject is a composer of music or lyrics, you may find that their noteworthy pieces were created at times of considerable importance in history.  Sometimes their work will actually be named for such an occurrence or an entire era.  This was true of a symphony named for, and embodying the discordant notes of, the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  Depending on the flow of your interview, reference to an intersection of general history and your subject’s life may yield surprising insights about their career or personal living.  This can help you communicate with your subject, as well as with your readers or listeners.

  1. Prepare an interviewee survey.  Sequence your questions from the information they have provided to you.  You can simplify the process for your subject by filling in information you have been able to confirm through your research.  This could include:  Dates and descriptions of their degrees, certifications, accreditations, and other qualifications; institutions of affiliation; professional positions they have held; published works, community volunteerism and other involvement; names, ages, careers of spouse, partners, or children.  Remember that if you put in data you have not confirmed, you may be inviting errors—should their memory be flawed, or they actually wish to perpetuate dissemination of erroneous information.

To further your acquaintanceship—and to trigger your subject’s memories—you may want to offer blank space for them to fill in items such as:  Their nicknames; mentors and public figures who have impacted their life; programs and schools of thought that have shaped their perspective; adjunct and social organizations with which they may be associated; and, hobbies and interests.  Whether or not you wish to pursue topics such as political, philosophical or religious associations may depend on both what you have learned about your interviewee and the orientation of the media outlet with which you are working.

Despite the details I am suggesting you consider, keep the resulting survey as short and simple as possible.  I also recommend using a five-point Likert Scale for any questions you wish answered with a measurement of the subject’s agreement.  Hopefully, your subject will be able to provide you with a completed survey prior to the interview.  This will allow you to fold their responses into questions you are preparing for conducting the interview. 

If you do not receive a response to your survey, have a pleasant conversation with your interviewee about your preparation, so that they will want to participate fully in the process.  If necessary, try to reschedule the survey by a day or two to ensure you are fully prepared.  If you must conduct the interview without seeing your subject’s survey responses, you may want to take a few moments to try to write notes in the margins of your interview questions about issues you now feel you need to explore.

By the time you are nearing completion of your research, you should know whether or not the facts you have uncovered demonstrate your subject’s ability and desire to answer your questions fully and honestly.  In addition, you will have determined whether the facts revealed are in accord with the original goals of your project.  It is also important to determine whether the direction of the interview indeed fits within the thrust of the media outlet with which you may be working

It is possible that you will find there are fundamental conflicts within the facts revealed in your research, your initial perspective on the interviewee, and the boundaries of the planned interview.  If you are able to control publication of the information resulting from your interview, you are fortunate.  But if you are restricted by the media outlet’s direction, I sincerely hope you will discuss your concerns with their management team prior to conducting an interview that does not honor you or your interviewee.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors, 
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

 

The Fear of Losing Files

A Never Ending Dilemma

Authoring strategies include more than conceptualizing, writing, publishing, and promoting your creative ideas.  Being an effective writer demands honed organizational skills as well!

Are you old enough to remember life before computers?  I actually know some people who have only discovered the wonderful world of electronics in the last five years.  In each case, the revelation of Life Electronic was triggered by a pressing need to communicate with a person or organization that could not be accessed regularly by telephone or postal service.

Once you have joined the electronic age, there are many challenges to be faced. Some parallel those prior to the microcomputer.  The issue I’m addressing today is preventing the loss of files.  Electronic files that is.  If you have never encountered this dilemma, please let me know how you’ve been so fortunate. Each time I think I’ve solved the problem, a couple of years pass in relative peace.  Then I commit some new error and again face the potential loss of valuable information.

Let’s begin our discussion with a basic question:  To avoid losing information, how many files should I keep?  Unfortunately, there’s no single answer that will meet the needs of every person in every situation.  Some authors I know keep every electronic file they have ever created, as well as their hardcopy edits.  I cringe to think of the complex file naming they must employ.  Unfortunately, such people have been known to compare my past editorial remarks regarding the same text.  What they fail to realize is that just as their writing has evolved, so too have my knowledge and sense of style—as well as my awareness of developing trends in the world of publishing.

Another trigger for keeping multiple versions of copy is the fear of losing pleasing verbiage that has proven impractical for a project at hand.  When I find a need to remove favored words and phrases from a major writing project, I simply create files of unused verbiage named to pinpoint the topic and source. One example is a narrative passage from Prospect For Murder that I converted to dialogue.  The single archived file is named,  WongP_orig_speech_re_family.

Knowing I might forget a particular name, I convert both electronic and printed files named for past clients and projects to topical files.  This does NOT mean I keep everything I’ve ever created.  My concern is to prevent unnecessary research and writing in the future.  If I’ve addressed a topic three times, I may save only the last piece, if the layout and text are the most interesting.  This way I do not have to remember the client’s name, yet I can quickly access text by topic, such as the insurance industry, movies of the 1930s, or ocean liners plying the waters between Hawai`i and Asia.  To decrease file size in my electronic archives, I remove logos and other artwork…after verifying the imagaes are stored elsewhere.

As to forms of electronic backup, the technology is constantly changing and you will have to decide when to shift from one form to the next.  I must confess I’ve still got floppy disks [diskettes] and zip disks.  These disks are large enough to label with client or project names, yet small enough to store alphabetically in clear plastic containers for rapid access…another positive aspect to this old technology is the longevity of the disks, despite innumerable formats.  I also have CDs, DVDs [more fragile], and Universal Serial Bus [USB] flash, pen and thumb drives, which I use for large folders and art files.  Unfortunately, these drives are so small that they preclude easy labeling, but you can use colored markers to color code your choices of media to remember the general category of their contents…

In addition to being concerned about where you save your files, be cautious about how you save them.  While compiling Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry from the High Desert, my co-authors and I encountered problems with disappearing edits during manuscript preparation until we learned the difference between the file commands, Save and Save As.  When you specify “Save as,” you are creating a wholly new file, which usually precludes the possibility of multiple edits leading to a corrupted file.  So,unless I am writing a single-use document, I now use Save As for every file I re-edit—art, data or text. [To maintain high resolution, technical experts suggest editing art images in Tagged Image File Format [TIFF] prior to saving them in whatever format you require for publication.]

Regardless of the number of electronic files you keep, you will need a file naming system that is consistent and memorable.  Even though today’s technology allows long file names, minimizing the characters used simplifies future reference. Since Imaginings WordPower is a lot of characters, I simply use an “I” for the start of operational file names.  Thereafter, I may abbreviate the minimal words used in a title, underscoring between words.  I conclude the titling of files by dating them, with two-digits for the year, the month, and the day a file was created.

The resulting name for a business card might be “I_bus_card_150708.” To differentiate between files with similar names, I may insert “merged,” to note merged layers, “New” for a recent edit, or the name of the company that last printed it. Sometimes I also insert a Header in a document to mimic the source file’s name when I am setting up topical folders of samples of my work. That way I don’t have to wonder about the electronic file name for hard copies I’ve printed for my personal records.  The only thing to remember is that you may need to temporarily delete the header if you are printing the document for public viewing or distribution….

I hope these measures—and your own modifications—will help you avoid corrupting or losing files.  But what happens if you prematurely delete a file from a recycle bin?  The problem is easily resolved if you have not emptied the bin.  In such a situation, you can simply double click the bin, mark the file you wish to un-delete, and choose Restore to return it to its former location on the hard drive.

Unfortunately, restoring files that have been deleted from a recycle bin is not as simple or perfect a process. Again, you can choose to leave the bin overflowing with files; but if you need to restore one, you may find that recognizing the correct file is difficult if you do not have a recognizable file naming system.  In the midst of short projects, I try to avoid emptying the recycle bin.  But once I have completed a section or the entire project, I complete my housekeeping of files, emptying the recycle bin when I am confident that I have properly backed up every relevant file.

Recently I triggered the loss of a file for a potential sci-fi novel. I was lacking material for my writers’ salon, and had decided to share part of this story, which is a departure from recent work in the genre of mystery and suspense. I recall isolating the passage I wanted to use, and reformatting it to double line spacing to facilitate editing by my fellow authors. But when I returned to input the suggestions I had received, I could not find the file.

Knowing files can be mistakenly dragged into an incorrect folder, I systematically checked every subfolder within my creative writing folder. After that, I used the Search programs and files feature offered by MS Windows when you click on the Start button [usually in the lower left hand corner of your monitor screen]. When my inputting of several combinations of words failed to uncover the missing file, I downloaded a free program for recovery of files deleted from the Recycle Bin.

In retrospect, I probably should have paid for a more sophisticated program with additional features, because what I recovered was a mass of undated and unnamed files of multiple edits that had to be individually examined. This was a time consuming and frustrating activity. However, I not only retrieved the file I was seeking, but in reviewing other files, I gained ideas for blog posts and other writing projects. In short, the experience was the proverbial blessing in disguise…but this is not an activity I wish to repeat.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

To learn more about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, please visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  And for more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com

 

Media Relations For Authors

Part 1, Know Your Media

With today’s changing media, it’s nearly impossible to write a comprehensive and durable directive on the Dos and Don’ts of Media Relations for writers, or anyone. But with the intense competition for acquiring visibility in the public arena, it’s vital to make becoming a pro at your interaction with the media a vital element of your authoring strategies.

If you’re an effective wordsmith, you know the importance of both the written and spoken word.  Of course, in today’s electronically-driven world, a word is not necessarily a word.  With shortened forms of communication being perceived as ideal, varieties of abbreviations abound.  Unfortunately, these shortcuts can lead to confusion.  Not even acronyms can be relied on to carry identical meanings when used within the same language.  Consider AMA. While it is used for both the American Medical Association and the Arizona Medical Association, it also stands for Ask Me Anything.  Then there’s also COD, which in commerce means Cash on Delivery; in another context, it means Call of Duty.  So, when dealing with acronyms, you have to be clear about which meaning you are attributing to the abbreviation.

Regardless of whether you are writing fiction, non-fiction, or commercial text like ads and commercials, the key to effective communication can be found in determining the demographics of your target market.  Luckily, when we consider the demographics of media outlets, most are designed to appeal to a specific segment of the population.  This can save considerable time, energy, and money when you wish to gain the attention of a media outlet’s readers, viewers, and/or listeners.

In the twentieth century, media generally referred to newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and signage.  Today there are expanded versions of these media, as well as the Internet which has exploded across the globe with constantly evolving permutations.  Just examining today’s political campaigns demonstrates that effectively utilizing static, electronic and mobile vehicles of communication provides unlimited choices for embedding a branded messageas long as someone is willing to pay for message preparation, if not actual placement of the resulting advertisement or infomercial. 

But what alternatives are available to those who cannot afford to pay for research, graphic design, or advertising slots?  Fortunately, even an individual with limited resources can find opportunities for communicating with the public that are cost-effective, if not actually free of charge.  Today’s hottest communication outlets are in the realm of social media Like other media platforms, you must be savvy about your use of them…but we’ll leave that topic for another post.…

One of the simplest means of getting free media coverage lies in earning their attention After analyzing a media outlet’s format and demographics, you can shape text that will help meet their need to generate timely and noteworthy coverage of relevant persons and events.  Keep in mind that short and concise presentations of the facts and even articles receive preferential treatment.  If you capture their interest, a journalist can always request quotes and additional facts, but they will not want to edit material you send regarding a topic they may feel has little media value. 

When you’re not facing a promotional deadline, you can explore aspects of developing long-term relationships with your media contacts.  In short, you need to develop friendships that will prove beneficial to your marketing programs.  While this may seem simplistic, building bonds with the people who regularly communicate with the public continues to be a cost effective ways for writers and artists [as well as non-profit organizations] to stimulate awareness of their work.

If you meet someone in passing, you’ll want to make the most of the opportunity to get acquainted.  But when you have the time, you should perform at least cursory research of the person you desire to meetWhether they’re a columnist, commentator, or a department head within a media outlet, a brief Internet search should reveal details about where they attended school, organizations to which they belong, and personal interests you may share.  To maximize the results of your effort, you may wish to utilize more than one search engine.   Next, you can then strengthen your avenues of connectivity by researching their professional output:  Their articles, columns, or books; programs; videos, etc.

What is the current focus of their work?  What are their clients expecting?  Can you find a gap, current or recurring, in what they offer the public?  In newspapers, this is called the news hole If you’re lucky there will be a gap just waiting to be filled with your data.  If that is the case, your media contact will be truly grateful for your input and will welcome hearing from you in the future.

Once you have completed your background research, you can strategize meeting or expanding your relationships within the media outlets you are targeting.  If you’ll be attending the same function, consider sending notes or emails expressing your desire to see them.  Or, if you have just attended an event at which they spoke, you can send congratulatory messages commenting on your appreciation of their work.

The bottom line is that communicating directly with members of the media yields invaluable results:  Personal connectivity with people who may be able to quickly act upon information you share with them; opportunities for networking with outstanding members of your virtual or real community; potential for entering into partnerships that can help you achieve your goals and objectives.  And, by making the effort to demonstrate genuine care about their concerns regarding appropriate topics and meeting deadlines, you will not only attain increased public visibility, but you will end up participating in new and sometimes exciting events. 

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors, 
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

For examples of concise print and broadcast media releases, visit:  http://www.imaginingswordpower.com/media/media_release_samples.html
To learn about Prospect for Murder and other writing projects, visit my author’s website at Https://www.JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.  For ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit my website:  Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com