Tag Archive for authors

Client Success: Kathy Florence’s Novel Combines Tragedy, Atlanta History, and Southern Voice

“One particular childhood experience with my mother fueled my inspiration for Jaybird’s Song,” shared author Kathy Wilson Florence.   “My mother’s reaction to a singular event was the moment that the extent of motherhood became clear to me.  It’s a story I’ve told many times, I was anxious to write, and it appears early in my book.”

Jaybird’s Song intertwines tales of Atlanta native Josie Flint through her teen years in the mid-1960s with her as a businesswoman, wife, and mother 35 years later around the death of her beloved grandmother, Annie Jo.  In addition to the death of her cherished father, drama of sibling and matriarchal relationships, and the coming and going of best friends, an unsolved hate crime which happened at arm’s length from her family during the Civil Rights movement becomes more personal when details of the mystery resurface.

Kathy, who grew up in north Atlanta, has enjoyed writing since a very young age.  For 16 years, she wrote a weekly column for the Dunwoody Crier, and her first book, You’ve Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha, compiles her favorite columns.

“My goal for 2016 was to finish my book after 10 years. At the beginning of the year with about 55,000 words written, I joined Wayne’s Creative Writers’ Workshop.  I often submitted passages I had written years earlier to the weekly sessions, and the feedback gave me the confirmation I needed to give the story priority in my life. I would come home from each meeting jazzed to revise, and then I would either write more toward the end of the story or revisit another passage and edit. After about 5 months, I had completed my story to the point it was ready for editing.”

“I hired Wayne for a content edit on the arc of the story, as well as the direction and reveals of the plot lines. He made many great suggestions and I took them all, but the one that resonated the strongest with me was his suggestion to enhance the character of Grace, Josie’s daughter, to instill within her character the idea that the future of the family might someday be in her hands. It gives a sense of hope for the traditions and stories that are an integral part of this fictional family’s lives.”

A seasoned designer, Kathy designed the book’s interior and cover, polling Facebook friends with sample covers as part of the selection process.  Launched in February, she has sold approximately 125 copies and 100 e-books via Amazon, as well as 50 directly through appearances at Dunwoody’s Lemonade Days, various author events, and book clubs.  Her reviews remain strong and her sales consistent.

“I feel proud to have completed, released, and sold my first novel.”  Now, she’s underway on her new novel with the working title inspired by the Tarot—Temperance Reversed—a story of two women who share a huge secret that begins in the 1960s while their husbands are deployed in the Vietnam War.

Client Success: Eileen Cooley Guides Widows Through Relational Stress From Personal Experience

“After becoming a widow, I would come home from a social encounter or event feeling upset.  I found writing about these stressful experiences helped me manage them,” shared Eileen Cooley when discussing her personal essays.  “As I experienced social awkwardness, I realized that most of the other books on widowhood had failed to address these interpersonal stressors.”  A dozen essays in, she contacted me with the idea for the book.

Four years later, Newly Widowed, Now Socially Awkward: Facing Interpersonal Challenges After Loss includes 45 essays.  Utilizing her experience as both a widow and a licensed psychologist for over 25 years, each essay includes a subjective, first-person account of Eileen’s emotional response to a situation followed by her objective guidance in “What I Can Do For Myself.”

Divided into three sections which reflect changing needs and issues from the initial months through the first years, the book’s essays focus on specific topics.  For example, she found herself upset with others who offered “words of wisdom,” compared their prior losses to her own, and assumed she’d be back on her feet after a year.  She was also upset with herself for seeking too much sympathy, asking for help too often, and sharing the worst side of herself with friends.

“At first I thought my audience was focused solely on new widows.  However, based on the positive reactions I received from non-widows, I believe my audience is broader.  I now see the book as relevant to people experiencing any significant loss and to the folks who support them in their grief.”

The first in this expanded category was me.  I lost both my mother and brother back-to-back at the end of 2012 not long before Eileen and I began our work.  I found the essays’ guidance helped me understand my social discomfort at funerals and to other interactions beyond them.  When my father passed in 2015, I discovered I was more prepared to simultaneously handle my own grief as well as relate to the interactions with other mourners and supporters.  And in attending later funerals, Eileen’s advice to simply be present, and not feel forced to say something to those who suffered the loss, but, proved golden.

Having worked together in 2011 on Eileen’s first book, Why Do My Feet Say YES While My Head Says NO?, a children’s book published by Headline Books, we had an established rapport to build upon.  We easily communicated about the emotionality and gravity of the subject matter while keeping an eye on the audience experience.

“Wayne was my biggest encourager,” Eileen shared.  “Persistence is the key, and working with Wayne as a writing coach and editor helped me with feedback, direction, and commitment.”

Now as Eileen faces accolades and feedback, she is discovering a new awkwardness.  “It’s a little embarrassing to have some people read my book as it is very personal.  A few people have apologized for not being more sensitive to me after hearing my reactions to being newly widowed.”

Still, having the book published and out in the world is a big lift.  “It feels really great to complete a project.  Doing a project for myself that might be helpful to someone else is particularly satisfying.”

Client Success: Sheryl Parbhoo’s Novel Explores Love, Family and Healing in Intercultural Relationships

“Like my book’s character Jenny, I am a woman with deep southern roots,” Sheryl said.  “Unlike Jenny, I was raised by doting parents and learned to love the quirks and traditions of southern life.”

Sheryl Parbhoo’s first novel, The Unexpected Daughter, is a contemporary story about hard choices in love, family and personal healing.  Set within intercultural relationships in the southern US, Jenny, a Caucasian, and Roshan, an Indian, embark on a love forbidden by his traditional mother Esha, entangling all three in a web of betrayal, violence, and shame as they struggle for peace with the past in the new world of the present day.

“I met my Indian husband when I was 16 and fell in love with his exotic looks, world view, and extreme devotion to his loved ones. But while love is an amazing force, we also suffered through deep cultural differences in how our marriage should look and the role that our families should have in our lives. This became the initial inspiration to write the novel, a sort of catharsis for my feelings, a way to put myself in the cultural shoes of my loved ones, and a way to share the uniqueness and beauty of love that transcends culture and race.

“Because of this, readers may think the plot is my life.  It is not. Yes, the setting is Memphis and Atlanta where I have lived, and the characters are informed by many who I have met over the years.  My knowledge of Gujarati culture, as a perpetual outsider on the fringe of family, has also informed the plot and the characters’ struggles.  However, the characters have lives of their own with no basis in my life whatsoever.”

Sheryl got the idea for the book soon after the births of her twin sons.  “I was consumed with mothering my children, ages 5, 3, and the newborns, and spent many sleepless nights rocking babies and thinking about the unique relationships in my life.  The book slowly began to grow in my mind, becoming my precious little secret for a long time before I ever began writing.”

Sheryl wrote short stories with characters similar to those in the novel.  Eventually, she crafted the opening chapter, rewriting it five times over the next six months before joining my Creative Writers Workshop at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock.

“Wayne encouraged me to give myself permission to move past the imperfections of the first chapter and grow the entire book,” she said.  “He’s uplifting and motivating with a good sense of humor, and I loved that, but during those times when I wanted to give up, he was persistent in coaching me to finish and editing my novel for publication.

“The biggest lesson I learned from writing the book with his guidance is that nothing of value comes without very hard work and sacrifice. When the media features successful people, all we see is them reaping the rewards but nothing of the hard work it took to get there.  Now I know what hard work is.  And whether or not my novel becomes a commercial success, I already feel successful because I completed it.  That’s huge for me.”

The Unexpected Daughter in available in paperback or e-book format.

Visit Sheryl’s blog at www.sherylparbhoo.com

Join the Creative Writers Workshop where many writers have birthed their novels, memoirs, inspirational/self-help, and children’s books.

How A Good Editor Works

At a crucial juncture after the climactic scene when the subplot needed attention, his novel went in an unexpected direction.  As his editor, I suggested removing the newly-introduced subplot to naturally steer the protagonist to the crucial needs of the woman he loved, the only issue to be addressed for final resolution.  The author read my notes and heard my rationale, yet remained skeptical.

Weeks later during revisions, we chatted about a software challenge, and he brought up his continued attachment to the new subplot.  I further explained my emotional reaction and logical reasoning.  He stated his case from a different angle, and I could tell that it was not only important to him but also to the future of a brewing sequel.

red.100 - goodI felt an idea rise like a jolt of electricity, flashing up my spine to the top of my head.  I shared the basic premise of how the setup of the subplot could be incorporated earlier.  He responded encouragingly.  I shared the entire brainstorm.  He added his creativity to it, and the issue was suddenly a beautiful turning point, one that solved another plot issue too.

Delighted, we laughed, and then he said, “Maybe I’m naïve, but I’ve got to ask:  Is this the way a normal editor works?”

“In my opinion, yes.  A good one anyway.”

I explained good editors work differently.  After acknowledging my client’s work with editors on his other books—usually without contact beyond rote emails and corrections in the text, many of which were computer-generated—I shared about those who inspired me to do the work I’ve chosen to do.

I remembered when my high school English teacher made me editor of the yearbook.  I said, “But I don’t know how to do that,” and he confirmed, “Sure you do.  You’ll be great!”  And that was that.  I knew I could trust him for guidance.

In addition to new skills, he taught me a good editor has a fearlessness to encourage creativity’s experimentation and bold ideas in collaboration. My teacher recognized and affirmed the good, then build upon it.

Among college professors and editors for print media, corporate communications, and theatrical productions, my greatest mentor was a magazine editor who was clear in direction before I began my work and supportive in the process through revision.  Once she took her turn with my copy as she readied it for print, I was hard pressed to find her changes.

She taught me to build relationship on clear vision to encourage writers and to hone my editorial skills to enhance the writing, elevating both the writer’s voice and the final product’s intended message.

The best editing isn’t a one-way street where some unseen person puts their mark on a writer’s work.  From both editors and clients I’ve worked with, I’ve learned it’s imperative to have a friendly relationship with both the writing and the writer.  Don’t turn the process competitive or argumentative with ego.  The union of writer and editor is collaborative with clear communication, keen listening, and openness to discovery and growth.  Yes, editing is a science in the sense of the rules and formats to follow, but it’s also creative.

To the writer on the phone, I added, “This is how I work.  It works well for me and for many others too.”

He agreed, parting with the promise of a quick return of the revisions and a commitment to begin work on his next book while I edited the current one.

Creative Coaching and Editing