Is your pen at the ready at all times? In past blogs I’ve talked about examining your previous work as a writer. Not only does this allow you to measure your progress, it also provides a pool of sources for new directions in content and style. I am a member of the National Writers Union and the local chapter recently asked me to be their featured speaker at a monthly meeting. Often, their speakers read from current projects, but since I’d help to fill in the previous month with a reading of both the Prologue and Epilogue from PROSPECT FOR MURDER [the debut title of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries], I decided to give a talk on how I’ve recycled parts of past projects. While there’s nothing novel in this concept, I thought that in detailing how I’d used pieces I’d created during my years in Arizona, I might stimulate my listeners to consider the ways in which they might draw upon works in their own files…
Wordsmiths Don’t Fall into a Single Demographic Description
When you look around any gathering of writers, you’ll find that we’re: Young and old; formally educated and barely literate in the grammatical sense; gifted melodious speakers and hoarsely halting readers; technical prodigies and flawed yet persuasive explorers of every topic imaginable. The breadth and depth of our compositions are as varied as we are. And usually, if we’re old enough, such variety will be found spread throughout our individual bodies of work.
In projects of both fiction and non-fiction, I draw on a background in business, education, and the performing arts. As might be expected, there is no consistent pattern to my output—except for the decades of public relations, marketing, and design consultation I’ve performed for executives and their profit and non-profit entities.
Forms from the Past…
In preparing for my talk, I looked over previous work I had drawn upon for recent print, audio, and Internet projects. Not all were inspirational gems of form, content, or style, but each item I had chosen to re-purpose fulfilled a specific need. With every new project, I contemplate how the assignment fits within the scope of my professional history. Not only do I look for concepts, data, and text that may yield something I can reuse, but also the bits and pieces that should be moved to the recycle bin.
…Reshaping for Today and Beyond
This year’s springtime file pruning produced some of everything. I found business cards, ads, and brochures that could be used for marketing workshops. As I continued my file and closet clearing, I eyed posters and signage that could be augmented with a large artistic label for some future event. I quickly dismissed them as ineffective for a speech delivered from a podium. There was, however, one item I could share: a copy of Stephen Covey’s famous matrix of time and productivity management. The gist of this true jewel of philosophy is that if we focus on aspects of both our personal and professional lives that are important but not critical, we’ll be better prepared for challenges that may arise.
After a brief introduction of this principle to open my talk, I noted how elements of past writing had been folded into my writer’s blog [for samples, please visit https://www.Blog.ImaginingsWordpower.com]. From project inspiration to background research, through the phases of writing and editing, production, and marketing, I discussed how I select issues that may be of interest to other authors and artists. In addition to mentioning a few of those blog topics, I provided examples of material I’d chosen to use in recent book projects.
~ When I joined with five other authors to publish UNDER SONORAN SKIES, Prose and Poetry from the High Desert, I contributed both fiction and non-fiction. With new and as well as re-shaped pieces, we all expanded our repertoire. Knowing that publication of Prospect For Murder was approaching, I included its prologue. I also featured historical articles such as “The Holidays in Tucson, 1878,” which I read at the NWU meeting.
~ In Murder on Mokulua Drive [the second book of the mystery series], I’ve drawn on notes from my studies in history, plus a series of oral history interviews I conducted many years earlier. This has allowed me to mention the first woman registered to vote in the Territory of Hawai`i in 1920, and to place a major scene in the historic and ecologically significant site of Kawai Nui Marsh.
~ The compilation of the oral history interviews, Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox DeLima Farias has indeed proven to be an invaluable resource. Carol was a dear friend seeking to preserve her family’s history, library and other artifacts. Descended from Hawaiian nobility, her recollections of life in upcountry Maui in the early twentieth century and dancing hula in Waikīkī on December 6th, 1941, delight both readers and listeners. In reshaping the layout for a book of the seven interviews and an audio edition comprised of the original recordings, I described how this resurrected project is benefiting from the comprehensive glossaries I’ve constructed for the Hawaiian and other non-English vocabulary included in the Hawaiian mysteries.
~ Finally, I referred to the fourth mystery, A Yen For Murder, for which I examined promo materials I wrote for Highland Games and the Hilo International Festival on the island of Hawai`i during the 1970s. This led to having Natalie reminisce about hearing a remarkable young woman play the Japanese koto at the Festival…and decades later having that woman, then a Buddhist priestess, become the victim.
In the future, I anticipate giving talks on the authorship process, for which many of these examples will be useful. Of course, there will also be samples of flawed book covers, changing email addresses, and evolving reviews to reference. How does all this relate to your work? Well, I wonder what awaits you when you dive into your own files. Will you choose to build on your dramatic successes? Or will you determine that what was once viewed as a failed project may rise to the realization of full and positive fruition?
Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, consultant, and motivational speaker
To learn more about the award-winning Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards] and other projects, please drop in at my author’s website JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com. You’ll even find Island Recipes that might inspire your culinary creativity.
For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.