I Skipped This One ABC Prompt: Day 29. Who’s your perfect partner?

It’s been two weeks since the 35 day Author Blog Challenge ended. I miss it. I got used to the regularity of posting every day. There were days I got ‘into a zone’ and wrote three blogs at one time. There were days I couldn’t think, and I was glad I had written ahead.

The only prompt that I couldn’t do was:   Who’s your perfect partner? I was stumped. Instead, I wrote about an off-topic idea (the Damn Sham books of ABookADay, discovered by accident when I ordered a book on Kindle that wasn’t what I thought it was!) because I simply couldn’t come up with an idea of who I could partner with for book sales.

In late March 2015, after my book Adoption: More Than By Chance was published, Kas Winters, a local publisher who has a catalogue of books that she offers through her website, contacted me about the possibility of listing my book with her. I remembered a caution in the Kindle contract about their exclusive link for 45 days and thought it likely there was something like that for CreateSpace, although I didn’t look it up.

Kas continued with her project of making a new catalogue of her books. I continued with Life.

Last week, Kas contacted me with renewed interest in listing my book for sale. I said Yes! And sent her a pdf of the cover along with some copy. Within an hour she had it posted! http://www.everythingfamily.net/AdoptionMoreThanByChance.htm

I have partnered with a purveyor of books on family issues with very little activity on my part! But I have no doubt that setting the intention via the blog that I didn’t write – but thought about a lot — helped this along!

I loved Kas’s personal comment on the page: Our family has a personal connection to the work she does and she has been helpful in getting us through some of the really tough aspects. I’ve added her book to my site, and I think those who are involved in any aspect of adoption would find it to be helpful.

Kas Winters also has authored several how-to books that help parents as well as activities for each holiday. Check out her full website: http://www.everythingfamily.net.

 

TO THE FUTURE

DAY 35  What are you going to do to keep the blogging momentum going? What plans do you have to continue your connection with other Author Blog Challenge participants and the new readers you’ve generated for your blog?

Looking at my posts from the first Author Blog Challenge in 2012, I feel like I was in kindergarten then, and now I’m at least in high school!  I’ve learned a lot since then, but I have a long stretch ahead of me, to get where I want to be. My decision to ‘Go Pro’ has made a difference, and I will continue to post an occasional entry about my ‘schooling’.

I want to keep the enthusiasm for blogging  that I feel now, and transfer that enthusiasm to writing my next book, Helping The Birth Mother You Know.

Re: my website. I want to transfer (or link) the blog pieces from my old wordpress site to my website. Re: Twitter. I want to look at the twitter contacts that came from the ABC. I want to see if there are people following me on Twitter that I need to connect with, and decide how to do it.

I’ll need some help for that. And I’ll not be afraid to ask until I get it!New Picture (1)

Thanks for a great experience, Laura and Marcie! See you soon!

 

CONFIDENCE BUILDER

DAY 34 What has been the best part of participating in the Author Blog Challenge? What are your suggestions for improving the next Author Blog Challenge?

I have learned a lot about my writer-self from participating in this blog. I’ve learned that I CAN hang in there for five weeks of (mostly) daily posts. I say ‘mostly’ because I’ve had to reverse-post on occasion when Life intervened, but I didn’t get discouraged by that and I didn’t drop out.

I’ve learned some technical things of value: how to ‘insert media’ in a post, how to Google search for images, how to simultaneously post on FB and Twitter at the same time as my website. I still use Word for the first draft, which I’ve saved. Now that they are all posted on the website, I have to decide if I’ll keep the word docx.

Not surprisingly, I’ve confirmed to myself that I write in spurts. I’ll find myself in the groove and want to keep on writing beyond the post-of-the-day and tomorrow. And I’ll occasionally lose momentum and need to drive myself to complete a post by the deadline.

I’ve experimented with ‘best time to write’ – is it early morning? Is it after the house is still when I’m the only one awake?  (Answer: Either way works, and I’m OK with that!)

I tried to do a shorter version (four weeks, instead of five) of Author Blog Challenge in 2012. I didn’t complete it; I didn’t make it for two weeks! Now I’ve confirmed to myself that I CAN make it through a  blog challenge.

What made the difference? When I look back to 2012, I simply wasn’t ready! I had a wordpress presence, but I wasn’t satisfied with it. I didn’t understand technically how to accomplish what I imagined. I made some national and international friends from that experience, people I still follow on FB.

Having my own website has made a difference; having published my first book made a difference, too. I noticed that, as the wind-down came for ABC, I’ve been putting other things off till it’s finished. I want to keep the enthusiasm for writing that I feel now, and transpose it to enthusiasm for writing my next book.

So, to answer the questions of the prompt: What has been the best part of participating in this ABC? Increase in self-knowledge. What suggestions do I have for improving the next ABC? Maybe add another week?

MY NEXT BOOK

The Day 33 prompt is: What is/will be the subject of your next book?

My next book is Helping the Birth Mother You Know. It’s my second book about adoption, and is written for birth mothers, their families, and friends.

When I first started working in adoption in 1979, I went to the Tucson Public Library and looked in their card catalogue for books on adoption. There were three. Today, a quick inspection of Tucson Public Library’s online books that reference adoption yields over 475. After subtracting the ones on animal adoptions (dogs and cats to rabbits, bats, penguins and parrots), adoption of governmental regulations and adoption of business practices in troubled times, I estimate there are 380 books on adoption.

Many are picture books for preschool children explaining adoption in simple language. Some of these are specifically written for the child adopted from another country and a few address transracial adoption, usually from the foster care system.

There are fictional YA books that have adoptee protagonists who search for birth parents. Most of these books seem, from the synopses, to be warnings that a search could have horrible endings!

Adoption is based on loss, and this can’t be ignored when writing for or to birth parents. How one handles grief – both immediate and long term – will be an important a part of the book. The adoptive parents (in most cases) have lost the ability to have a child. The adoptee loses the connection to the original family and is without genetic role models. And birth parents, their losses seem to me to be the hardest.

Some of the newer books are written from the perspective of the birth parent.  Lorraine Dusky’s gripping books:  Birthmark (published in 1979, but I didn’t find it until much later), and Hole in My Heart, published earlier this year, tell the story as only a birth mother can.  Other birth mother memoirs include Southern Arizona author Denise Roessle (Second Chance Mother) and actress Kate Mulgrew’s Born with Teeth, both memoirs that I’ve read this year.

Ann Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade, written in 2006, quickly became a classic. The book and movie Philomena brought the plight of birth mothers to the screen and thus, to a larger audience.

I’m eager to get busy writing this new book, Helping the Birth Mother You Know.

 

 

THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE: JUST DO IT!

Day 29 . October 11 – ( I am using the prompt for Day 31 that came after I’d written and posted Day 31 without a prompt. NOW I am using the prompt for day 31 to fill in for the one I’d missed on day 29. Confused?)

What is the single best piece of advice you’ve ever received about the publishing process and/or what advice would you offer to a first-time author? 

I can still hear the Cuban-accented voice of Eduardo Cervino: “Just do it!”

I had hit a wall of fear. I was about to drop out on my dream to publish my book in time for the Tucson Festival of Books. The writing was done, the editing was done; I had even talked to a local printer and I was ready to self-publish.  I felt overwhelmed.

I went to a book signing event at Dog Eared Pages, a community bookstore that spotlights local authors, where Eduardo and his wife Lesley Sudders were selling and signing books. “How much time is left? Three weeks? Plenty of time! You can use CreateSpace; it’s how we publish our books. Come over to see us and we will help you.” He handed me their business card with their email address.

I knew Eduardo and Lesley from several of the meetups.  I was surprised to find that they lived less than a mile from me, and even more surprised when they agreed to meet me; ‘Can you come over after dinner, about 7?” They were night owls, too! A good omen!

At this point I was hopeful I could make my deadline and have a box of books in time for the event in Tucson. Lesley began reviewing my manuscript, showing me how to format so the chapters all started on a right side page. Eduardo went to work on the cover. Over the weekend he had taken pictures of some twins in a twin-stroller, with the idea of putting them on the cover of my book! He proudly showed off the pictures as he told me: “You want people who want to adopt to buy your book! These are cute kids. They are perfect. . . Or if you have another idea, we can work with that.”

Although my target audience included prospective adopters, it also included birth mothers and birth fathers and adult adoptees and adoption professionals who might recommend the book to their clients. I opted for a neutral cover design based on the logo on my business card. Eduardo went to work on photoshop, working the magic of fitting the logo onto the book. By the next day, he had a cover roughed out that met my expectations.

On the back of the cover, we used my head shot that had been taken for this purpose by a photographer at the Holiday Book Event (sponsored by Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing meetup) in December, 2014.  We three worked together writing the copy for the back of the book, leaving space for the ISBN, and voila! The cover was ready.

I had followed Lesley’s directions to open an account with CreateSpace, and I crossed my fingers as we hit ‘send’. Less than 24 hours later I had a confirmation that the book was acceptable for printing. I ordered five DRAFT copies of the book to preview. Lesley helped me make a few changes, and I met the deadline!

Now, when I meet a new author who’s poised on that bubble of fear, I can say with confidence:  “JUST DO IT!”

SURPRISINGLY . . .

It’s the last week of the Author Blog Challenge, and I reviewed my ‘lineup’ today and found I am missing three posts!  So I’m filling in the blanks: Days 17, 23 and 29.. 

DAY 17 What has been the biggest surprise about writing/publishing your book? What has been the most enjoyable or most memorable aspect?

When I began my career in adoptions, I wanted to write a book about pregnancy for a woman planning an adoption. I remembered my first pregnancy, and my favorite book. I wore out the cover and thumbed the pages until they were marked in grime, especially the chapter that told about fetal development! And I gave it away, later, to someone else experiencing her first pregnancy.

I searched until I found a copy of that book (I think it was called Your Baby and You); I read it with my clients in mind. The book begins with the excitement of choosing a layette and painting the nursery – as a couple! It talked about attending childbirth classes with your husband! Yikes! That would only remind my clients of what she did not have! This would never do!

I was only a year into pregnancy counseling in 1980, when Jeanne Warren Lindsey’s book, Pregnant Too Soon came out. Jeanne was the teacher/principal of a teen pregnancy program in Los Cerritos, CA., and Pregnant Too Soon addressed the issue of teen mothers in a school-based program making an adoption plan for her baby. It was an attempt to de-vilify the few teens in the 1980s who chose adoption for their babies.

I wished I had written that book! I wrote to the author to tell her so, and Jeanne wrote back that it was her first fan letter. I even pitched my book to her publishing team, Morning Glory Press, for Jeanne was a pioneer in self-publishing. Although she encouraged me to address the issue, she wasn’t prepared to publish it.

I set aside my idea of writing a pregnancy book for someone planning adoption. Over the years there would be books written for pregnancy for single women who planned to parent. Every time I checked the index for those books, the word adoption did not appear.

I delayed publishing my book for years because I thought I had to:

  1. Convince a publisher to take a chance on me, an unknown writer.
  2. Set aside $5,000 to $20,000 to get it published, printed and distributed.

Then, in 2005 thanks to Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing Meetup, I learned about self-publishing, and the most surprising thing is: it isn’t hard or overly expensive to self-publish and print a book!

Most people who write have the computer skills necessary to get a book ready for printing; if not, they can hire someone to bring the book to that level. The costs of self-publishing are not prohibitive. You can form your own publishing company. You can purchase your own ISBN (the barcode number that identifies your book and your book alone), or the company that publishes your book will supply it.

So, if you have a book that you want to write, go for it! You’ll have to make decisions about how many copies you will print. The more you print, the less expensive the cost. But an advantage of self-publishing is that you can rewrite the book between printings.

But if someone wants to write a book of family stories to share with children and grandchildren, it’s not hard (or expensive) to do.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

The Day 32 prompt is: Time for some shout-outs. This may mimic your acknowledgement page, but whom would you like to publicly thank for their help in creating your book or completing it to the point where it is presently?

There aremegaphone many people who were important to the culmination of my dream: to publish a book of adoption stories. At his memorial service in 1994, I felt particularly sad that Bill Hurley,  a friend since college, died without publishing any of his writings. I vowed not to die with my song still inside me.

I took an early version of the manuscript with me to Texas in 1998 when my brother Larry Scott and sister-in-law Patricia Scott were also visiting. Pat is an English teacher and reads more books than just about anybody I know. She validated my distinctive voice that comes through in my stories.

I left a copy of the manuscript with my sister, Nita Ellerd. She called and suggested that the story ‘Amaryllis’ would be strengthened if I didn’t reveal until the end that the social worker who brought the baby from Texas was from Amarillo.

Linda Radke, owner of Five Star Publishing, is someone I knew from my adoption work. I took my book to her in 2001 for feedback. She connected me to Paul M. Howey, the first editor to read my manuscript. He identified the synchronicity inherent in many stories.

Each secretary for Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption at Catholic Social Service in Phoenix, read my manuscript and used their quick eyes for typos as well as content. I want to formally thank Diana Singer, Barbara Graham and Beverly Elias for their attention to detail.

My dear friends Ellen Sommers and Patricia Scott (same name but a different person from my sister-in-law) were always eager listeners for my adoption stories. I was trying to come up with a name for the book when Pat suggested “Adoption, It’s No Accident.” Changing that to the positive, the book became Adoption: More Than By Chance.

My absolute deadline for publishing was the week of March 12, 2015, so that I could participate in the Tucson Festival of Books. Two members of the Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing meetup, Lesley Sudders and Eduardo Cervino, said it was a reasonable goal and helped me through the tangled web of publishing via CreateSpace and Kindle. Amazingly, we were neighbors living less than a mile apart!

When I needed help with technology, I got assistance from my daughter, Heather Kozan.  Another meetup alum, Mary Verdier, referred me to Kastle Olson, for web design. In three months Kastle has worked with me from Phoenix, Colorado, New York and Mexico City, yet she’s only an email away.

Finally, I would not have accomplished the production of my book Adoption: More Than By Chance without faithful attendance at the meetup group Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing led by Laura Orsini. Laura willingly shares her knowledge with everyone. Her personal link to adoption gave me the necessary push to complete this book, and to go forth with my next book, Helping the Birth Mother You Know.

BEWARE: IT’S A TRICK, NOT A TREAT!

Day 31. No prompt, so I will make up my own.

I began to write about books that are calling me to read them; books I’ve set aside during this flurry of daily posts, but now I’ve stumbled onto something that supersedes that subject. I’m writing because I have ordered two books now, from Kindle, that are not what I thought I ordered.

Have you heard of aBookaDay? Evidently it’s a new Kindle product, published under the title of a particular book, but it is not THE book. It is a shortened version: a digital Cliff’s Notes so you don’t have to read the book. The first page has a Note to Readers: This is a Summary & Analysis of Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. You are encouraged to buy the full version. It didn’t cost anything, because it’s offered as a ‘library loan’.

I went back to the Kindle store to order the actual book by Atul Gawande, but I didn’t see it from my Kindle’s array of books to order. I did order from the thumbnail a copy of The Devil and the White City by Erik Larson. It appeared to be the same black-and-white cover that I’d seen of the book on the Amazon website. There was also a version in the same beige-colored aBookaDay format which I knew I wasn’t going to order. I should have known something was up when it was also a no-charge for book loan.

Tonight I opened my copy of The Devil and the White City. It’s a summary and analysis by the same ‘author’:  aBookaDay. I feel cheated!

(When I googled aBookaDay, I found a listing as though there is an author named aBookaDay, who has ‘written’ a lot of damn sham books. They are everywhere, even on GoodReads.)

HOLLYWOOD CALLING

DAY 30. If a Hollywood agent were to come knocking on your door with an offer to turn your book into a movie and told you that you could call all the shots, who would you have direct and star in it? 

Why, just last Tuesday I had a call from such an agent.

The son of the executive producer of the 1990s TV hit show Touched by an Angel is developing a new series for television. He wants to use adoption stories in the new version (Some of the most popular stories from Touched by an Angel were adoption stories, he assures me.) Someone gave him my book, Adoption: More Than By Chance, and he was impressed with the wide variety of stories – international adoption, older child adoption, infant adoption, step-parent adoption, interfamily adoption; the variety of characters from birth parents to adoptive parents and extended family members. He particularly mentioned reunion stories.

The agent was calling with some questions.  Do I have other stories about adoption that weren’t in the first book? Would I be interested in sending some material ‘on spec’ for consideration? He hinted that if things worked out, I might be hired as a script consultant, to ‘keep the characters honest.’

This producer is particularly interested in the issue of guilt, and how people adjust to living with guilt for decisions made long ago. That, say, a member of an infertile couple suspects earlier careless sexual experiences caused infertility, but suffers in silence rather than speak of it to a spouse. How, long term, people who start off feeling good about their choices but are guilted by society’s changing mores. He gave the example of a woman who was forced by her parents to relinquish a baby for adoption but now she feels she could have kept her child because  it’s acceptable to be a single parent, raising a baby with or without family support in this day and age.

I couldn’t sleep that night. What possibilities this might be! To explore transracial adoption – a family who doesn’t care about the ethnicity of the child but has no understanding of the issues the child will face in school. A family adopts a child from foster care believing ‘love is enough’ and finds out it’s really not enough. An adoptive mother  cannot sleep because her five year old cries herself to sleep every night longing for the missing parent that she’s never known.

Well, OK. This is only a fantasy; it didn’t happen. But look what could happen if given a chance!

 

Dissecting: Platform from Social Media

Day 28  – How are you using social media to promote your book? What aspect of social media would you like to learn more about? What are your next steps?

I fear I have conflated the terms “platform” and “social media.”  I wrote my last blog for ABC about what ‘platforms’ I’m using, but what is ‘social media’ if not different platforms? In my brain, the two are pretty close to the same thing.

To answer the direct questions above: I am using my website, facebook, twitter, and emails to promote my book. I would like to better understand how to utilize the interface of these. I know something about MailChimp, but I haven’t started using it yet.

Once the 35 day ABC blog ends (next Saturday, the 17th of October) I will continue on an episodic basis to notify my list of contacts of another blog piece on my website, when I’m speaking about or reading from my books, and when I publish something not related to adoption, for I have designs on writing more books that are not adoption related.

I have to admit that I am confused about how best to utilize the contacts on Twitter. Every day now, I open my email that’s linked to Twitter and discover 3 to 10 new followers. I’ve been told to maintain some contact or they will drop off. I’m not sure how to do this.

It is time to seek out potential publishers of my next book, Helping The Birth Mother You Know. My plan when I self-published Adoption: More Than By Chance, was to have a book that showcases my writing ability and to give validity to a publishing house. I want my second book to have a distribution track to adoption and counseling professionals, as well as directly to birth mothers; I believe this can be aided by having a publisher with a visibility in the mental health community.

I also have answered a couple of National Adoption Conferences when they publish a Call for Presentations. I haven’t been accepted to one yet, but I’m going to get there. How? One answer would be to sell more books, my greater goal.