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.

 

THE AUTHOR RECYCLES

New Creations From Old Work

 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 meetingOften, 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 mystery series], 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 asThe 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 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.  For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com