Category Archives: Blog Challenge 2015

Blog Challenge blah blahblah Finout more here at Laura Orsini’s page

COFFEE FANTASY

DAY 23 If you could meet one of your main characters or ideal reader anywhere in the world for coffee, drinks, dinner, or a caramel (tipping my hat to Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting), who would it be, where would you meet them, and why?

Since this is a fantasy and a suggested choice is ‘one of your main characters’ (and since I write non-fiction) I think I’ll invite Hollis and Esther, the two deceased birth mothers whose stories appear in the last chapter of my book, Adoption More Than By Chance. I’m asking these two to coffee, because I think they’d like a chance to sip coffee.

(This is not a spoiler alert, but if you want to find out, read the book!)  Hollis put a card into a box along with a cactus plant she sent her mother four years before that box returned to my office containing a present from Hollis’s dad to his grandson. I found the card, in Hollis’s handwriting: Hi Mom! Merry Xmas from Phoenix.  . . .

Me, after settling down with a cup of hazelnut coffee at Paradise Bakery (where else?):  Hollis, did you have anything to do with me finding the card you’d written to your mom that was in the box your dad sent to Jesse for Christmas?

Hollis, smiling: What do you think?

Me: I think you were the one who subtly guided me to open the bottom of the box.

Esther, interrupting: So, do YOU remember the question that got Wanda to meet me?

Me: You mean, “Are you a believer?”

Esther: Well, are you?

Me: I think you’ve both influenced my belief system, and I thank you!

 

NICHE MARKET?

DAY 21  Describe the market for your book – to the tiniest detail. Why that demographic? How do you connect with them to market to them?

I admit to writing to a niche market: Adoption, as seen as one way of family building. It includes people who are adoptive parents, adopted persons, or a birth mother or father who placed a child for adoption, as well as adoption professionals who work in the field of adoption as attorneys, adoption social workers, and counselors.

Adoptive parents  Prospective adoptive parents experiencing infertility – grieving the child they didn’t have;  Those in open adoption, and feeling uncertain about continued contact; Those with a failed adoption – grieving for the child they didn’t get;   International adoption – may have already raised children;  Foster care adoption – may have raised children before fostering;  Step parent adoption – whether formalized through the Court or informal, married or not;  Grandparents – who want or need education about adoption;  Transracial families – with unique issues

Birth parents   Pregnant, untimely pregnancy, considering adoption;   Placed, wondering about their child, grieving the loss;   Open adoption, frustrated with the level of promised vs real openness;   In reunion with adopted person; confused feelings – grieving loss of time;  Birth fathers, often intentionally left out

Adopted Persons  Late Discovery Adoptee – Did not learn of adoption until teen years or older;  Growing up with fantasies, wanting to know more;  Relationships with their own children – the first people who look like them;  In reunion unsure how to work out relationship; Sibling relationships from adopted family and birth family

Adoption professionals  Wanting to educate potential clients; Telling their own stories.

New Agers / Seekers of Truth  Wanting to read about synchronicities in Life

People who know me. Home town friends;  Family members, far and wide.

Now that I’ve examined all these potential source of readers for my book, I understand better the popularity of The Chicken Soup for the Soul books, as well as the reluctance of publishers to invest in initial books of this series. It just appears to be a niche market! It’s really everybody!

 So how do I expand the outreach to find these people? Get reviews on adoption blogs. Do interviews with online radio shows. Feature story in a magazine like Adoptive Families. Do workshops at adoption conferences. It starts with the niche market, but it can grow to include the big wide world.

Have you read my book? Would you write a review to post on Amazon? Or another venue? If you know of a radio station or a Sunday School class that accepts speaker, please write me!

 

BEGONE: PERFECTION !

DAY 16 – What has been the most challenging part of your book process: writing, building the book, printing, distributing, marketing, etc.? What do you wish you’d known before you began?

Q: What has been the most challenging part of my book process?

A: Fighting my old bug-a-boo: perfectionism. Long ago in therapy, I became aware that I have a big internal command to BE PERFECT.

Because I want my writing to be perfect, I procrastinate. I play with Facebook. I spend time ‘writing’ but not writing on my book. When writing a blog, I work and rework a sentence, a paragraph, a thought — until it meets my standards.

I also learned in therapy that the antidote for Be Perfect is Have the Courage to Be Imperfect.

My subject, Adoption, is a controversial topic. Consider just one example: the issue of Original Birth Certificates (OBC). Many people do not know that when an adoption occurs, an amended birth certificate is issued that lists the adopting parents as if they gave birth to the child. The OBC is “sealed” by the State and can rarely be released. Medical histories are just one reason that adopted people need to know who their original mother, their first mother, is. In many cases, learning who their father is can only be learned from the mother. Another recent and specific reason since 9-11, getting a passport is almost impossible without an Original Birth Certificate.

Birth mothers are the most misunderstood side of adoption. Historically they were silenced by those who judge. Birth mothers were blamed for their sexuality and resulting pregnancies (the ones who got caught) and they are used as the excuse to keep the Original Birth Certificates (OBC) from their children: We promised them confidentiality! No. There was and is no promise in the paperwork of adoption that promises confidentiality and secrecy.

Birth mothers who seek contact with their children often say they just want to know if the child is alive, is healthy, that s/he doesn’t hate their first mother for giving them away. Once they meet their son or daughter, many birth mothers want and need to give their pent-up love for their child.

And what of the children? The forever children who, when named in the legislation of adoption, are treated as children even though they are adults. It has to change. I can be an agent for change as I join in the fight for the rights of adults adopted as children to have their Original Birth Certificates.

I can’t wait to Be Perfect in my writing; I must have the Courage to be Imperfect and to work toward a better world for birth mothers, adopted persons and adoptive parents.

Sometimes I forget this.

START WITH THE COVER!

Describe your process for choosing and designing your book cover. Who created your cover? How did you find him/her? What do you love about your cover? What might you do differently next time?

‘Start with the cover’ is good advice that I’ve learned in Laura Orsini’s Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing Meetup group, but here I am with one book down and one on the work table, and the issue of book covers for either isn’t settled yet. Let me explain.

Three potential designers heard the title of the book Adoption: More Than By Chance and suggested cute kids for my book cover. That tells me what adoption means to many people, but it’s only a portion of what the book is about. My book is about the whole of adoption – birth mothers and birth fathers, adoptive parents, and adoptees throughout their lifetimes.

One option to address the multi-faceted work of adoption would be to build a montage of family pictures shared with me through the years, but I didn’t have time to gain permission from families whose pictures once graced my bulletin board. The deadline was nearing as I appealed for help to Meetup members Eduardo Cervino and Lesley Sudders, successful self-publishers of multiple books. And surprise! They live close by and graciously offered to help ready my book in time for the Tucson Festival of Books.

Another tenet of marketing (in addition to Start with the Cover) is Use Your Brand. A designer in California (Annie Holman at http://www.artgirl-design.com/) had produced the logo for my adoption counseling business.cropped-BK-Sq-logo-header-512x.png A former client explained what she saw in the flower design: “I see a group of people with you, the adopting family, and the birth parents.” Eduardo reformatted the design for use on the book cover, and a cover was born.

Another Meetup member, Mary Verdier, recommended local web designer Kastle Olson (KOConcepts.net) who developed a banner for my web page and twitter using the logo and furthering the brand. I love that I have a brand that has been worked into the design of my different projects.

Soon I’ll be ordering more copies of Adoption: More Than By Chance because the supply I first ordered is dwindling. With a self-published book, I can easily change the cover with the next order if I so decide.

When I’m working on my third book, I think I’ll Start with the Cover!

 

AN EDITOR? YES! BUT WHEN?

14 – Describe your editing process. Who edited/will edit your book? What was your relationship with your editor like? What could each of you have done to improve the process? What might you do differently in the future?

Early on in my book writing process I paid an editor to read my book, Adoption: More Than By Chance. It was a validating experience because he saw promise in the book. I saw role of the editor as a good English teacher, who would correct grammar and look at sentence structure, and make sure the book was cohesive.

Adoption has three sides: the adoptee, the adoptive parents and the birth parents. In sheer numbers of books written on adoption, most are written for the prospective adoptive parents to guide them through the process, to help them find a child to adopt and then teach them how to raise an emotionally healthy adopted child. Other prevalent adoption books are picture books written to help a child understand adoption.

On the birth parent’s side, fewer books are available. There are personal memoirs written by birth mothers and birth fathers, and there are books written about search and reunion experiences of adoptee and birth parents.

My next book, Helping the Birth Mother You Know, is for friends and families of birth mothers and birth fathers to help them be supportive, not just at the time of the adoption, but throughout the years. I hope to involve an editor who can help me hone my words to achieve education and support to birth parents.

PARTLY TRUTH AND PARTLY FICTION

DAY 12  If your book is fiction, how could you change it to make it a nonfiction book? If your book is nonfiction, what could you do to turn it into a story?

My primary writing genre is non-fiction. In March 2015 I self-published Adoption: More Than By Chance, stories of adoptions I witnessed over my lengthy career in the field of adoption. As I’ve written in an earlier blog, over the last two years I’ve read twice as many non-fiction books as fiction. I’ve had little interest in reading or writing fiction.

December 8, 2014 was the day I decided to Go Pro. I sat in the car, reading Steve Pressfield’s non-fiction book Turning Pro, which I highly recommend.

                         You will remember this day and the place you were and the feeling you had                                       when you decided to Go Pro.

On that Saturday I woke up remembering a dream. Because I couldn’t shake it, I wrote down the dream in my journal.  A teenage girl was in my counseling office, confused about life. She told me that when she got pregnant, ‘everyone’ insisted she keep her baby, but her truth was that the baby’s father and his family wanted her to get an abortion. Her older brother told her he would disown her if she aborted the baby. “I did the right thing, didn’t I? I kept my baby, and now no one wants to spend time with me.  I don’t have time for school, the baby takes all my time and life is no fun!”

Now as I decided to Go Pro, I realized I have at least one fiction book to write. It will be called: I Did The Right Thing. It will feature this girl. I know she will return and let me tell her story.

RESEARCH

DAY 11  Describe the research process for your book. Did you interview people? Travel? How prominent a role did the Internet play? If you didn’t do new research, how did you learn what you needed to know to write your book?

I didn’t need to do research for my first book (Adoption: More Than by Chance) a collection of stories that I was a party to.  However, for the book I’m working on now, Helping the Birth Mother You Know, I will prepare and send out a questionnaire to birth mothers to invite them to tell me:

  1. The approximate time-period of their adoption placement, whether they moved away from their home territory.
  2. Who helped them through that time of their life and beyond?
  3. What role did secrecy play in the years after placement?
  4. What helped them get through the rough times?
  5. Have they searched for their child? Have they been found by their child?
  6. What would they have done differently if they could do it over?
  7. What are their feelings about the ‘view of adoption’ in the media today?
  8. What rituals have they shared? What songs remind them of the adoption?
  9. What advice do they have to other women facing a decision to plan adoption for a child?

I expect the internet will play a big part in finding respondents for the questionnaire. I am gathering information and posts from birth mothers and birth fathers to help me in writing the book. I’m building a list of Beta Readers to comment and consult with as I write the book.

I activated a Twitter account this week, and already I’ve found birth mothers blogs. I will reach out to people I find in this way and hope to get a wider view from birth parents from all across the country and even the world.

Beth Kozan

 

WHEN ORGANIZING MEANS CUTTING FAVORITES

DAY 10 – Describe your process for outlining your book. What do you do to stay organized? Do you use a software like Scrivener? Index cards? Sticky notes? Giant posterboards taped to the wall? 

When I worked as an adoption social worker, I told some of the stories in Adoption: More Than By Chance to families I worked with in order to calm their fears of the unknown.  Many couples initially approached the agency as if they were running a race. They offered their fine homes and successful careers as proof they were worthy of winning the prize of a child to adopt. Many came expecting secrecy in adoption, and I used stories to illustrate how adoption has changed.

I also worked with pregnant women, some of whom considered adoption placement for their unborn babies. Their situations were isolating; they didn’t know who to turn to. Some hid their pregnancies from family and friends. A few were so successful at hiding their pregnancies that they arrived at a hospital in a pain of unknown origin, only to learn they were delivering a full term baby!  To ease their isolation, I told them about other situations I’d known of in my job as pregnancy counselor.

During a lull between adoption jobs, I joined Toastmasters to become more proficient as a public speaker. Of the first ten mandatory speeches, I built six speeches around the topic of adoption. My audience consisted of people who had no knowledge of a woman placing a child for adoption. They were surprised to hear she makes her decision out of love for her child; like many people, they assumed she does not care!

A few audience members had adoption stories of their own – either because they were adopted, someone in their family was adopted, or they had built their own families through adoption. They thanked me for giving voice to a part of their lives they seldom shared with others.

As I began assembling the stories for my book, I had too many stories.  When I saw the theme of synchronicity developing, I trimmed away all stories that didn’t involve that sense of ‘meant to be.’ It made for a more powerful book.

As I’m building my next book, Helping the Birth Mother You Know, I will use a different approach and will do research and interviews. I purchased Scrivener, a software package that promises easy organization, but I can’t get the tutorial to work. I am determined, however, to learn to use Scrivener!

 

Beth Kozan

 

Finding My Voice as a Writer

  1. What kinds of classes, programs, or workshops have you taken to hone your skill as a writer? What sorts of exercises did/do you use to improve? Have you ever taught a writing class or workshop?

Because I trained as a therapist, my writing training has been related to therapy. I knew the basics of writing – grammar, syntax, sentence structure – and what I have learned is that writing for me is a therapeutic outlet.

I’ve always journaled as a way to deal with life. That started in my teenage years and the privacy issue with my mother. With life events as prompts, I wrote on scraps of paper and stashed them away in the heart-shaped candy box. It made me feel better.

When the Tucson Public Library sponsored a weekend journal writing workshop that coincided with the end of my second marriage, I enrolled with a friend for a Saturday/ Sunday workshop for a small fee. At a Journal Workshop by Ira Progoff, was the teaching manual. We were given notebooks with dividers that were preprinted: Stepping Stones, Daily Journal, Fulfillment, Goals, Spirituality – were some of the titles, but there were blank ones that we could use to set up our own meaningful categories.

The leader would read a prompt: then we would write, in silence, for fifteen or twenty minutes. At the end, we would discuss what the experience was like – not what we wrote, but how it felt to write. My confidence rose. I felt strengthened. It didn’t matter if we shared aloud what we wrote or not.  This workshop came at the right time in my life, and I knew that I’d hit on a technique for surviving.

In my career working in the adoption field there were nights that I couldn’t sleep for mulling over my cases. I learned that I could get up and ‘write it out’ and then sleep peacefully.

I proposed a workshop to teach other adoption workers at a national adoption conference that technique of journaling. I called the workshop “Swimming with Alligators – When You Just Can’t Get It Off Your Mind. . . “  I practiced on my staff; I practiced on a group of other professionals. I was ready to go national. It was fun!

A few years ago I participated in a writing workshop led by Maggie Mears; it was held at a retirement center and I experienced more fun! There were some powerful short pieces that came out of that workshop, and I have reproduced a few of them on my facebook page.

Over the years, I have attended expensive weeklong workshops and I have attended ones that charged almost no fees. The value, I find, is never relative to the cost. The true value has more to do with the energy I put into the workshop.

Beth Kozan

Why I’m In (the Author Blog Challenge.2015)!

Today I set the intention to blog for 35 days! I participated in another Author Blog Challenge a few years back, and though I didn’t post every day, I hung in there more than I thought I would when I started. I’m ready! What did I get from the other blog challenge that invites me to repeat?

I met a whole group of people from around the world, most of whom were writing their first book and / or learning to market their book. This compelled me to complete my own book, Adoption: More Than By Chance, and to pursue it to publication. I learned that many strangers were within easy reach of my computer, and I heard some voices that I hope I’ll catch again! And there will be new people to meet!

I’m a book reader, too. I got leads on books of all genres to read! I learned the excitement of unique individuals and the different ways they write. There’s certainly no shortage of books out there, and one way to predict if you’ll like reading a book is by hearing the voices of bloggers who write books!

Because I write about adoption, and adoption is something universal in all parts of the world, I hope to ignite interest in readers to read my book and share it with friends and family members.

You don’t have to have an adoption in the family to read my book. The book is also about synchronicity, which is where the More Than By Chance part of the title comes in. People who’ve known me, and know that I work in adoption, have been surprised to learn of the quirky issues that came up in adoptions I’ve worked on, whether (in the jargon of adoption world) they were international adoptions, older child adoptions or domestic infant adoptions. In the book there are also stories of reunion when adopted people seek to find their roots and the waiting families are the birth families, hoping to hear from a part of the family that’s been missing.

Based on my 35 years in adoptions, the book shows changes in adoption over the arc of history. From young women sent away to maternity homes, cautioned to ‘forget about this’ and never to tell anyone of their baby (and who then thought something was wrong with them because they couldn’t forget) to the open adoption practice of recent placements, I describe the why’s for change in adoption practice.

I’m writing a second book now, and the regularity of blogging daily will help me grow that second book: working title, Helping the Birth Mother You Know.
Beth Kozan blogging from BethKozan.com.