Tag Archive for process

Client Success: Joan Kaplan’s Heartfelt Fare Blends Memoir and Recipes

The truth is Joan Kaplan is writing a novel. The commitment and the act of producing the drafts doesn’t shock her.

Joan Farbstein Kaplan at stove“What has surprised me,” Joan shared, “is my ability when I’m entrenched in writing to shut out other aspects of my life, like taking my dog out.”

She jests…somewhat. No need to call the ASPCA; her dog is very well cared for.

Yet while she steadily drafted the opening chapters of her first fiction book, she took a detour and left it all alone for a few months after one spring day at her weekly coaching session with me.

She arrived with a tattered pair of treasured recipe collections she had created, one 15 years ago and the other 8. She showed me one group and its intricate mailing package, then wrangled the other photocopied pages escaping the raffia that once decoratively corralled them. Both were fun family projects.

“For each recipe book I create, I combine my love of food, my passion for entertaining, and my desire to give a meaningful gift to friends, clients, and other supporters.” As I examined their uniqueness, she talked passionately about creating another, adding this time she wanted to produce more copies. Maybe 500.

I asked, “Do you want to hole-punch and tie raffia on 500 copies? Will your daughters really chip in?”

Joan looked dismayed, but not deterred. I continued, suggesting a professional layout, 4-color card-stock cover, and spiral binding for durability…and to save her time. She smiled.

“The purpose for this collection,” she added, “is to celebrate my 10th year in real estate.”

“Well, wouldn’t it be extra special if you added a story about where the recipe came from, when you serve it, and how it’s exceptional to you?”

She smiled brighter…and added even more, sharing the news that her family was starting a foundation to support four charities in her neighborhood of Oak Grove. Proceeds from donations gathered by the distribution of the cookbook would join contributions from her family each time she is involved in a real estate transaction to support Atlanta Hospital Hospitality House, Contribute2America, One Good Deed, and Ruffus Rescue.

“Why not combine all of them?” I recommended, and soon we were underway.

As she pulled together recipes and wrote stories, I coached her on content while organizing and editing, then I walked the project through the design and printing process.

Joan.Kaplan.Heartfelt.FareJoan self-published using a local artist, a local designer, and a local printer, sharing, “I believe wholeheartedly and ‘whole-financially’ in keeping things local and supporting the independent contractor.”

Ten weeks after that initial meeting, Heartfelt Fare: A Collection of Favorite Recipes from My Home to Yours was published. Thus far, after personal and mail deliveries, a rousing launch party at Vista Yoga featuring generous donations amongst fabulous bites and bevs from the book’s recipes, and then additional marketing from Joan, more than 700 are now at home in kitchens.

Fueled by the positive response to the recipe book, Joan returned to writing the novel with more gusto.

“By meeting with Wayne, I continue to grow confidence for my dream of sharing my writing in bigger ways,” she said. “One highlight of my otherwise very full life is meeting with him to talk about what I have written.”

I enjoy it too, but continue to wonder which Friday she’ll bring my favorite mouth-watering dessert from the book—a Lemon-Dream-Come-True! I am quite aware we would simply eat and get little done.

And the truth is I’ve got the recipe!

Photo of Joan by Karin Koser.

Client Success: Vanderyt Publishes Memoir Sequel “Obsidian Rose”

“My inspiration for writing Obsidian Rose was feeling like I had unfinished business,” Karen Vanderyt said about her sequel to 2012’s Afterglow. “My writing process was smoother, probably because I had a bit more confidence after editing and publishing my first book, but also because I had worked through a lot of things emotionally.”

Vanderyt.Obsidian.Rose.coverAfterglow: Remembering A Life Well Lived, her memoir about commitment and family, heartbreak and loss, was heralded a love story. This exercise in remembrance came soon after losing her husband of 39 years, Bill, to incurable brain cancer. She wrote to attempt to make sense of those swift three months from diagnosis until his passing.

Obsidian Rose: Reclaiming A Life After Loss shows her reality still full of memories and mourning, but how bringing a Lab puppy into her home while navigating everyday hills and valleys reinforced her determination to create a new life for herself. The pup became a touchpoint, and in turn, the title of the book. To all who know her, she’s lovingly called Siddie.

“Writing the sequel enabled me to be more proactive about doing something about the disease that Bill died of. I have worked through a lot of anger, and I want to feel as if I have made a contribution by supporting Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure and sharing with others my own healing process.” Karen donates all proceeds from both titles to ABC2 for their mission “to invest in research aimed at finding the fastest possible route to a cure.”

Shortly after publishing her first book, Karen began anew. “It was nice to take a break from the writing routine, but I found I missed it and started carving out a few mornings a week to write, and the process flowed.”

Her biggest encouragement came from family and friends, even strangers who identified with her grieving process. “There is a special bond that only another person who has suffered a similar loss can truly understand.”

kv.Kirby.Siddie.porch.back.cover With our ongoing creative relationship of 14 years, she credits our bond of trust and our lively concept meetings as the most fruitful part of her writing process. “They encouraged me to explore deeper levels of meaning,” Karen said. “You push writers to better themselves and their product.”

“Getting the book to print was challenging because there were several things going on at once: editing, proofing, website design, navigating social media, and traveling to visit my three grown children and my eight grands! Life does go on…” She also set a deadline to publish in May to coincide with Brain Tumor Awareness Month, which we achieved.

Currently, she is building a home in Oregon on land she and Bill bought decades ago, land where they planned to fulfill a dream of retirement, a dream she is realizing. “I’m giving myself permission to take a break from writing, and then, I’m going to explore writing a love story about my parent’s early years together based on the love letters my dad, Norm Van Brocklin, wrote to my mom, Gloria Schieve, during the special time in our nation’s history after WWII. And, either concurrently or after that, I’ll work on closing the trilogy of memoirs, writing about restoring life after loss. But I realize that requires living life for a while! And there is great fulfillment in saying ‘yes’ to life.”

And no doubt, Siddie will be right by her side.

Visit Karen’s website and order books in paperback and e-book formats.

Guest Post: The Charming Light Box and a Literary Fetus

This guest post by Creative Writer’s Workshop member Kim Chamberlain, who is steadily making excellent progress with her memoir. Kim is a music teacher, clarinetist and jazz singer with lots of great stories. Kim can be reached at chamberlaind@bellsouth.net.

My writing coach’s words from a month ago reverberate inside my head: “You have four long weeks to get a lot done.”

Now, my deadline looms at midnight. In my basement writing room, twenty-seven chapters, hiding inside 2 large binders, remind me that I’ve got Writer’s Block.

Light Box by Kim ChamberlainI can write. A lot. I can quickly churn out another chapter for my memoir, sending it on its way to Wayne’s Thursday night writers’ group.  I recall the ending of my group evaluation at our last meeting weeks ago:

“Consider choosing five chapters that anchor the plot best, and start building structure from there,” Wayne suggested.

Five. Yeah, right.

The glow from a nearby lamp radiating off the top of Wayne’s pate inspired me to ponder the reflective quality of human skin. My mind meanders down a trivial trail into a thicket of distraction.

His mouth continued to form words. “Why not start by identifying the setting, characters and theme?”

I wonder if Wayne’s crown feels silky or maybe a little bumpy. That Yul Brenner look requires a nicely shaped head like Wayne’s.

Ann, the first published author among us, chimed in. “It may be difficult to pick five, but I learned a lot by doing the same thing.”

Back from her year-long sabbatical, a time spent publishing her book, Ann has plunged into her second work while still finding the time to promote the first one. She manages to simultaneously write new material and present workshops requiring airline and hotel reservations.

Will I even get to the editing stage?

Ann flashed a wide grin. “Just spread the chapters all around on the floor like I did. You’ll figure it out.”

She had a point. I earned my Masters in Library Science in a maelstrom, broadcasting my handwritten notes, rough drafts, markers, and pens upon a wide table in the library. The debris always managed to write itself. But writing memoir was different.

I imagined a hurricane of papers scattered haphazardly on my already cluttered writing room floor. I pouted and replied, “Well, I’ve put all 27 chapters in 3-ring binders.”

Wayne’s timer trilled, and everyone folded up their notes on my work and passed them to me.

Wayne smiled, “Good work, Kim. Karen? You’re on.”

A masterful weaver of imagery, Karen often apologizes for not producing enough. Yet her book is organically forming itself.

“I didn’t get much done,“ she confessed, as I unfolded her 2000-word entry of the week and contemplated my commentary next to hot sauce stains that I’d added at lunch earlier in the day: “Brilliant as always! You’ve accomplished so much!”

Enjoying a mini-sabbatical herself, the soon-to-be online published Hana checked in through Wayne. We learned that while she drove her son to a soccer tournament, her characters frolicked in her mind, concocting the next plot twist.

Wayne wrapped it up. “See y’all next month! Do good work!”

Flanked by my fellow writers, I stumbled toward my Subaru, noticing one benevolent star at the far end of the plum-hued sky. It was a hopeful sign.

As soon as I pulled into the carport, I made a beeline for my basement writing room.

I’ll start tonight!

It wouldn’t take long for my chapters to come together and form an embryonic entity, the way primordial organs adjoin in utero. By July, there’d be a memoir, a literary fetus. At group, everyone would coo, “Look! You can see all of its parts, and there’s a cute little ending. How adorable!”

Still warm from group, I hole-punched the group’s notated papers and snapped them into Binder 2.

Better start fresh in the morning.

FullSizeRender 9That was a month ago.

I’ve gotten a lot done over break, but I haven’t touched my memoir.

First, Dave and I spent four days with our son at his future college. Exuberant student representatives plied us with window decals, plastic coffee cups, T-shirts, and brochures. Time had to be spent to sift through it all.

Next, I succumbed to my thrift store addiction. Rather than heed Wayne’s words, I made things from purchased wooden boxes, bric-a brac, knick-knacks and picture frames. Whenever I’d sit down at my writing table, my creative brain focused on crafting.

Hmm. If I remove the glass from that picture frame and put it inside that wooden box, I could make a nifty case for my clarinet reeds.

The hours ebbed into lost time, yielding unique folk-art masterpieces and charming light boxes.  My writing room is ablaze.

I did work on my memoir just a bit. One day I cleared a place at my long folding table, and I skimmed a few chapters from Volume 1. Jotting down the main characters, setting, plot, and themes onto index cards, I realized that some of my work belonged in the “reject” folder.

The next day, I slammed volume 2 onto the table with a thud. I froze. I fell asleep.

Hours dribbled into days until I had less than 72 hours left.

Volume 2 just sat there—a Stonehenge monolith—impenetrable, looming and impossible. Rather than turn to another craft project for diversion, I realized that worry and grief work just as well.  I was seriously nutting up.

Last Friday evening with three days left on the break, my husband and son found me plopped on the couch, as intractable as my binders.The Chamberlains, photo by Tom Marnell

“Do you want to come with us to a show in Marietta?”

“You guys go and have a good time. I’m going to work on my writing.”

I listened to the truck pull out of the driveway and reached for my son’s gaming remote. I turned on the TV and scrolled down to You Tube.

In the search bar, I typed in “The Illuminati and UFOs.”

Five more minutes and I’ll go down to the basement.

I scuttled deeper into the sofa.

Wow, I didn’t know that ex-Presidents are working for some new world order!

The television droned on. I dozed off then jolted awake to fuzzy images of naked billionaires sacrificing goats at secret rituals deep in the California woods.

Goosebumps erupted on my arms as a male voice warned, “Wake up, people! The signs are all around us!”

The weekend vanished with only hours left.

I heard Wayne’s voice in my head, “You have four weeks…”

Forget about the chapters. Write. Just Write.

That’s what I did.

Now at the deadline’s midnight hour, I finished this and emailed it to the group. On Thursday, they’ll tell me they still have faith in me. Then on Friday, I’ll fling twenty-seven chapters onto my writing room floor and see what happens.

Photos 1 and 2 courtesy of Kim and David Chamberlain.  Photo of the Chamberlains by Tom Marnell, mineeyeshavescene.com.

Author’s Focus Group Gives Clarity For Completion

“I was at that stage of feeling ‘this book is just embarrassing!’” Ann J. Temkin said after completing major revisions on her first book, Sight in the Sandstorm: Jesus in His World and Mine.

I suggested I facilitate a focus group. She agreed, adding, “My greatest fear Is not that they will hate it—which would mean it had impact—but that they would just find it uninteresting, not moving, not new—a waste of time and effort.”

Focus GroupIn the book, Jesus, profoundly human and Jewish, is viewed within the context of the world in which he lived. Stories with fleshed out biblical characters braid together with tales from the author’s life in a vivid, compelling account.

We ended up with a pair of focus groups. One included the three women she worked with as she developed the first draft in my Creative Writers’ Workshop. They represent different faith backgrounds from childhoods in the northeast and midwest regions of the US, as well as east Africa.

For the other group, we wanted people of different ages and genders who did not know her. Invited were a Jewish woman, a man in his 20s of conservative Christian faith, and another in his 60s raised in a Southern Baptist church who later left the church to combine his beliefs with new thought teachings. Ann was surprised when they all accepted.

The rough manuscript was delivered to members three weeks in advance with a list of questions, including: Is the book interesting? How did you react to the different exposition of gospel stories? Was there any confusion of time or place? Any inaccuracies? And did the braiding of historical tales and my life stories work?

“The experience was very good,” Ann said of the process. Though I facilitated both groups, she felt free to be active, even asking after much positive feedback, “Since a lot of effort, time, and money will be required for me to publish this book, is it worth it?” As she had through each two-hour meeting, Ann remain neutral, poised for the truth. She beamed as each group affirmed a passionate “Yes!”

After concluding both sessions in five days, I could sense her happiness, as well as the weight of the new input she received. As her coach and editor, I had no doubt she could handle it.

Ann deeply appreciated the generous gift of time and effort these busy individuals gave in preparing, contemplating and sharing, even writing insightful comments in their manuscripts. She took each person’s remarks very seriously.

“I’ve made quite a lot of changes to help flow and clarity, and I’ve completely rewritten two chapters that were too heavy on content without enough life to them.” And from their suggestions, she also created her title.

Now, there’s one more read-through for each of us, then perhaps minor revisions. While I copy edit for publication, Ann will complete work with designer Laura Nalesnik on the cover from a vision she received in meditation.

“I never get visions in meditation,” she exclaimed telling me of her cover idea.

And she’s never published a book, but now, with clear focus, she will…soon.

Sight in the Sandstorm: Jesus in His World and Mine by Ann J. Temkin is available in softcover and e-book.

Contact Wayne to facilitate a focus group for your book or writing project.