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4 Twitter Hacks for Writers

Last night, I took a class called Making Twitter a Writer’s Best Friend with Richard Santos of the Writers’ League of Texas. It was fun and informational, and in case you’re a #badMillennial like myself who also doesn’t really know how to tweet effectively, here are the most helpful takeaways (for me) from the evening!

Follow agents and editors.

Agents and editors have always been the publishing industry gatekeepers, and until now, they’ve appeared perennially locked away in downtown Manhattan offices utterly impervious to the likes of little old me. Thanks to social media, however, these people (and yes, they really are just people!) are more accessible than ever before. They have public handles, and unless their accounts are locked, anyone can follow them to see what they have to say. Their daily postings might include a random assortment of writing advice, query letter tips, cat videos, and political jousts—and if you’re extra lucky, a little hashtag written as #MSWL.

Use hashtags the right way.

To be honest, I thought “using hashtags” meant just putting the pound sign in front of random words to make them turn blue. I knew you could search hashtags and find other people using those words, but I didn’t realize there was such an art to it. Two hashtags to search for and start following (and also using yourself, when appropriate) are #MSWL and #submishmash. MSWL stands for Manuscript Wish List. If an agent uses this hashtag, it means s/he is hoping that a book manuscript meeting a particular description (which they will then spell out) lands on their desk. Do you have a book like that? Then reply and let them know (in 280 characters or less) and follow up via the proper channels (whatever the submission guidelines on their website dictate). Use #submishmash to find journals currently accepting submissions via Submittable.

These Twitter hacks for writers make managing your social media platforms a breeze.

These Twitter hacks for writers make managing your social media platforms a breeze.

Participate in pitch contests.

A pitch contest is when writerly hopefuls ‘pitch’ their manuscript idea to an agent over Twitter on a specified day or days of the year. Go to this pitch contest calendar to find out when the contests are held every year, and how to participate. (Hint: it’s generally via a hashtag.) Hone and re-hone your pitch until you have something concrete, specific, and 280 characters or less. Finally, tweet your entry into the contest and see what happens!

Contribute more than you take.

If you’ve already published a book, don’t use Twitter strictly as another platform for promotion. The truth is, no one cares about your book unless you also have something more interesting to say! So, be honest, be genuine, be you—and occasionally plug your baby. Also plug other writers’ works, comment on trends in the industry, and be vulnerable or witty or sarcastic (if that’s your tone) about #thatwritinglife. 

Good luck!

Pixel-F*cking: Or The Fight to Stay Relevant

As a writer, I’m forever interested in the origins and multi-layered definitions of words—especially words I haven’t heard of before. “Pixel-fucking” is a term I just learned from a graphic designer friend. Apparently, it describes the way that clients will nitpick a drawing to an absurd degree, requesting that the designer move an element by half an inch, for example, or lighten a color by a single shade: considerations that don’t actually impact the overall effectiveness of a layout, but are nevertheless annoying and even offensive, as it means the client has zero respect for the designer’s time and creative ability. They can’t see the wood for the trees, as it were.

Ghostwriters don’t call this phenomenon pixel-fucking (we don’t generally work in pixels), but the same thing happens in our industry. It tends to present in the form of word choice or syntax—like when a client takes a beautifully constructed sentence that borders on poetry, and mangles it with the insertion of a different word or a run-on phrase that makes the sentence read awkwardly, and nothing at all like the sentences couching it. It’d be like someone dribbling black paint over Bob Ross’s happy little trees on live TV (were Bob Ross still around to grace us with his talent). Sure, the rest of the painting is still beautiful and skillfully rendered, but it’s really hard to appreciate that majestic mountain backdrop with such a glaring error in the middle of the otherwise peaceful stream.

I mean, whatever kind of work we’re talking, you hired a professional for a reason, right? Because you knew you couldn’t do it yourself, or at least not as well as the person you trusted to do it better than you. So let them do their job. Let us do our jobs.

There are so many reasons that pixel-fucking (and its extended family of black sheep cousins) rears its ugly head. Most of them are rooted in control—or a lack thereof. When money is involved, it does funny things to people. Clients think that they’re entitled to services beyond the scope of the clear and explicit contract they previously and in full consciousness signed. They’re unable to acknowledge the creative miracle that has occurred in just a few weeks’ time (that is, the birth of the very thing they said they wanted), when, without the creative professional, it wouldn’t exist at all.

“Pixel-fucking” and its related black sheep cousins are a kind of creative abuse that you should never inflict on your freelancer.

“Pixel-fucking” and its related black sheep cousins are a kind of creative abuse that you should never inflict on your freelancer.

And yes, I know it’s scary. You put your life story on paper, and suddenly it’s out there for the world to read. For the world to judge. But that’s what you wanted, because in an overpopulated world of flash consumerism, you’re fighting to stay relevant. To convince yourself that you matter—that your life has mattered—to anyone other than you.

Ghostwriters (and all other professional creatives) get that … because we want it, too.

Think of it this way. Each of us born with a certain set of gifts, no? Talents and skills, hidden or honed over years of conservatory training. You want a lasting testament to those gifts, for the benefit of everyone who comes after you. (In case you’re doubting, your readers DEFINITELY benefit. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from my war veteran clients about family and my housewife clients about sacrifice. Maybe you’re thinking those two should be switched. Nope. That’s one thing I’ve learned.) Anyway, we professionals have gifts, too—and we’ve chosen to exploit them for financial gain; i.e., “to make a living.” Our legacy is the work we do for you: the product mockups and the fashion designs and the webpage bones and the headshots and the books. It’s how we stay relevant: by making sure that you do.

So, won’t you help us help you? If you’ve hired a freelancer lately, and didn’t tip them upon completion of service, remember it’s never too late. If you’re looking to hire, for the love of pizza don’t quibble over pricing. No one is out to ‘scam’ you: we simply have skills we’ve spent lifetimes developing and we know what they’re worth. You want a high-quality product that makes you stand out—makes you unforgettable—captures you the way you’ve always wanted to be seen. We can do exactly that, provided you leave the black paint at home.

The Haunt and The Hunger: Writing to Heal PTSD

The Haunt and The Hunger

Just this week, I worked with a female soldier to share the story of her rape. It happened over a decade ago, but she’s still processing what her therapists call “non-combat-related PTSD.” As a physician in the army, today she helps patients just like herself come to terms with assault: both The Incident itself, and The Incident’s aftermath: STDs. Uncontrollable crying. A feeling like the world is caving in on you.

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Sexual trauma is not the only type of trauma, of course. Cider Spoon Stories also writes war veterans’ stories. I’ve worked with six Vietnam vets alone in the past two years. Mark my words: we’re about to see a flood of Vietnam stories on the market. These vets are getting older, and they’re ready to tell their side—some for the very first time.

One man I know never told his family anything, because he’d been met by Vietnam protestors when his plane landed stateside … protestors who spit on him and made him feel like the last year of his life had been meaningless … a hollow nightmare … and like his friends and comrades-in-arms had died in vain.

In March, I’ll start ghostwriting the life story of a former child soldier from Uganda. When we met, she asked me how I handled listening to, and writing about, trauma. I won’t pretend it’s easy, or that I don’t feel drained afterward. But that’s the point of doing the hard work: those stories live inside a body … until we can purge them to the page, and everyone can heal.

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No matter what’s happened to you, what you’ve witnessed, or what you’ve done, writing about it—and through it—can help you come out the other side. Sometimes release is found in the act of confession. For others, the book itself becomes a container, a safe space in which to deposit “the haunt and the hunger” (True Detective).

PTSD AND THE DSM-V

The DSM-V (the 5th and current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) was published in May 2013. It introduced many important changes to 2000’s DSM-IV-TR, including a long-overdue categorical shift that finally removed PTSD (Post-Traumautic Stress Disorder) from the list of anxiety disorders and reclassified it as a trauma disorder with origins in an etiological event (the traumatic stressor).

THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND PTSD

In Jungian terms, PTSD affects the ego, or that part of the person we call the Self. The ego is the center of consciousness; it orients us in time and space; and the ego wants to survive as long as possible with as little pain as possible. When confronted with pain, the ego defends itself with the only weapons it has: projection, idealization, and denial. All three of these defense mechanisms have as their corollary suppression and repression. Because the psyche is a closed system, repressed energy necessarily leaks out in other forms: anxiety and depression, for example. 

COPING WITH PTSD: EMPATHIC PRESENCE

No one “cure” has ever worked for every PTSD sufferer, but there are many suggestions for helping individuals learn to cope with high-level stress. The first is practicing empathic presence. Empathic presence occurs when the PTSD-afflicted individual meets with a qualified therapist who simply listens to the individual's story, over and over again … until such time as the story begins to lose its power. At that point, the story stops “owning” the individual.

There are many free or low-cost resources for people with PTSD (click here for a list of Austin’s veteran services, and here for a unique civilian service), but a good friend with a kind ear can also go a long way toward alleviating said suffering. To be an empathic presence for someone you know, practice being a “container” for story, where narratives may be received and treated as sacred. Friends and family members, even more so than therapists, are good about seeing the human being and not just his/her symptoms.

PTSD AND CIDER SPOON

When asked what war was like, a Vietnam veteran recently replied: 

War is 99% boring and 1% sheer terror.
— http://www.soulrepairtx.com

PTSD is commonly associated with veterans, but many non-veterans suffer from PTSD. Rape victims, abuse victims, and those who have lived through car accidents are just a few examples of afflicted sub-groups. While there are more PTSD services than ever before, the paradigm of trauma remains the same. Our vets and others are dealing with the same problems as 40 years ago, and still not feeling heard.

At Cider Spoon, my job is to listen to your story. No judgment, and no “therapy” in the licensed sense … but helping you make sense of your life all the same, through healing narratives.

How Intergenerational Narratives Inform Family Identity

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.
— Sue Monk Kidd

Research shows that narrative skills are largely shaped by habitual verbal interaction between parents and children. In other words, it is in talking to their parents (or other caregivers) that kids learn how to storytell. 

One large-scale longitudinal study (Pratt and Fiese 2004) found that kindergarten narrative skills significantly predicted fourth and seventh grade reading comprehension levels. The more elaborate the stories told by the parents, the more elaborate the narratives that children were able to articulate as early as preschool.

Duke and Fivush (2006) expanded on Pratt’s and Fiese’s theory of narrative development when they created the Do You Know scale. Their research indicates that kids who can confidently answer questions like “Do you know how your parents met?” are more likely to exhibit higher levels of self-esteem, an internal locus of control, lower levels of anxiety, and fewer behavioral problems.

Why? Intergenerational narratives (stories passed down from grandparents or parents to children) provide key information on what it means to be a member of a particular family, thereby forming a powerful sense of family identity. Not only does the storyteller get to experience the gratification of sharing their personal values with a younger member of the family, but the child hearing the story may receive information that helps them to understand the world or view the world from a different perspective.

In the classroom, teachers have demonstrated how incorporating family history into social studies teaching likewise leads to historical empathy—a direct result of connecting the student’s own family and life to historical events.

NOTES FROM A DISTINGUISHED LIFE is a workbook for kids that guides them through the oral storytelling process, helping them to capture in their own words the stories of family members and friends—stories that will shape the next generation.

Note: Special thanks to Ashley Smith for sharing her graduate school research with me for this entry.

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A Ghost Story

Innocence, well, it's belief in the goodness of things, I guess. Trusting that no matter how many times the world knocks you down, the next person to come along is going to help you up.

It's wearing a heart-shaped locket, with a silver clasp, only it's not a locket but your heart, and the clasp was broken a long time ago, and so your heart just hangs there, vulnerable and exposed, no protective metallic casing, and sometimes someone will hug you too hard and squish your heart between the two of you—this is a metaphor here—but that's innocence: risking weakness, heartache, unspeakable agony. And knowing no different. Because your vulnerability has never been abused.

For example. We were in the basement, sitting cross-legged around the Ouija board I'd gotten for my thirteenth birthday. It was cold down there; goose bumps prickled our bare arms and legs. Though we both sat as I'd instructed, with eyes closed, still the hot orange of candle flames on my inner eyelids. Still the shaky in-and-out of her chest whenever fear grabbed her. The room smelled wet yet from the last flood. And mold—black and thick as new asphalt. A crude oil cancer beneath the carpet, with sticky fingers to hold a body down.

Funny … the game had been my idea, and there I was succumbing to the power of my own suggestion. Invoking the spirit world boldly, as seen in movies, then shrinking inwardly, hoping nothing would actually happen. My little sister trusting me and hating me for it, because I made her believe anything.

Does fear have a taste? That night it was the battery acid in the pockets of my mouth: hot, metallic, dripping too much tar. I showed her how to place her hands on the glow-in-the-dark planchette. Her fingertips against mine still gummed with caramel apple. I told her she could ask the first question, that she better make it good. She asked what she was getting for Christmas.

That's innocence. 

Sometimes ghostwriting IS about ghosts.
— Jess Hagemann, Ghostwriter

Budding Genealogist? Start Here.

Like many American families, mine has a story about a great-great-great-great-grandmother who was full-blood Native American.
— Jess Hagemann, Cider Spoon Stories

... In this case, Choctaw. When I first heard this story, I was 16 and brimming with teenage angst. Feeling misunderstood and like I didn’t belong anywhere, I latched onto this family factoid with gusto. While all I knew for sure was that her name had been Syntha, I embellished—imagining her as a Choctaw princess, huntress, and warrior woman in one. In other words, someone to look up to, and be proud of.

Flash forward to 2018, when I submitted my saliva for DNA analysis to 23andMe. 6 weeks later, the results came back negative: 0% Native American heritage. In fact, very little of anything other than white European. Confused and admittedly a little crushed, I turned to ancestry.com, whereupon my clever boyfriend reconstructed my family tree. Lo and behold, there was Syntha! We even found a picture of her—and handwritten beneath the image, this caption: “1/2 Choctaw.” Okay, so not full-blood … but someone else at least had heard a similar story.

DNA analysis services like 23andMe can help solve long-standing family riddles.

DNA analysis services like 23andMe can help solve long-standing family riddles.

Where does that leave me? Well, I’m more inclined to believe the science rather than the hearsay. If my DNA shows no Choctaw lineage, then I have no right to claim one, regardless of passed-down stories. The only man I might have clarified things with—my maternal grandfather—is deceased now, so I guess it will remain a mystery.

Luckily, your story doesn’t have to end that way.

What have you always heard about your family history? Would you like to know more? Perhaps build a comprehensive genealogical tree? Take a DNA test?

Or maybe you were adopted, without a clue about where or how to start. 

No matter who you are or what you *think* your story is, here are two great resources in Austin for finding out more. Note: You don’t have to live in Austin to take advantage of their services!

 

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Twice a year, I teach a four-week memoir-writing class. During the second week, I invite staff from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to attend as guest lecturers and offer a mini-presentation on the research tools available through TSLAC. They have printed family and county histories, a variety of Texas government records, federal census schedules, and many other resources to help you compile your family history. Sign up for the class here (next session starts October 11!) or reach out to them directly for investigative help!

 

Lauren Gribble, Genealogist

Lauren Gribble, Family Genealogist

Lauren Gribble, Family Genealogist

Let’s say you pop into TSLAC and feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of old photographs, rolls of microfilm, and software programs on offer. You really just want someone to do the work for you. Lauren Gribble, an Austin-based genealogist and the owner of Find Your Branch Genealogy, works with individuals to build out family trees on ancestry.com and her rates are incredibly reasonable. She even offers a money-back guarantee if she can’t find the specific information you’re looking for.

Like me, Lauren first got into genealogy research because of a family story—or rather, the lack thereof. Her father was adopted as a baby, and didn’t know the first thing about his biological heritage. Through a combination of DNA analysis and artful combing of databases, Lauren was able to find her father’s (and therefore her own) direct ancestors, solving a long-time family riddle! 

 

Jess Hagemann, Ghostwriter

Once you have the *real* story nailed down, it’s time to commit it to paper, so that future generations don’t have to repeat your hard work all over again. That’s where a ghostwriter comes in. Tell the stories you now know for sure to Jess at Cider Spoon Stories, and she’ll write your family history for posterity … because legacy shouldn’t be a luxury!

How to Write and Publish e-Books

Over here at Cider Spoon Stories, Jess gets questions ALL. THE. TIME. about writing and publishing e-books. Here are three of the most common e-book inquiries she fields, and her best advice for maximizing the online writing and publishing processes.

Note: The following pointers apply to works of fiction and nonfiction published to your personal/business website or to Amazon Kindle only.

1. How long should my e-book be—and how the heck do I format the thing?

Compared to print books, would-be authors have a lot more flexibility when it comes to e-books. For example, word count restrictions don’t really apply. Want to make a short 5,000-word PDF available for instant download from your landing page? Done. Prefer to self-publish a 300,000-word monster through Amazon Kindle? Easy. There are no New York City gatekeepers patrolling the internet and dictating what the industry can and cannot support. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that, regardless of length, your book still has to be good if you want it to sell. That means picking a single and specific topic (that you ideally know enough about), creating an engaging through-line, or story, with a cohesive narrative arc, and hiring a professional editor to spitshine it for you. No typos or mismatched margins here!

Note: These rules may not apply to Nook, iBooks, and platforms other than Amazon Kindle.

Note: These rules may not apply to Nook, iBooks, and platforms other than Amazon Kindle.

Depending on whether you offer a reflowable e-book or a static PDF, layout may or may not be as intense as a print book’s considerations. With e-books, you can forget about headers, footers, page numbers, drop caps, and all other manner of fancy formatting, as chances are these won’t be supported by your e-reader platform of choice. If you’re going the PDF route, ask yourself: Is the information important enough—and in-demand enough—to stand alone? Or does it require (or might it be aided by) headers, graphics, brand colors, and the like? (In which case, you’ll want to hire a professional designer.)

2. Does my e-book need a cover design?

One thing you’ll still want to invest in, whether print, e-book, or PDF, is an eye-catching cover. Again, you can hire a designer to build it to spec, or use Kindle’s free cover creator tool to knock out something quickly and (relatively) painlessly. Can a discerning eye tell the difference between a homemade-with-stock-images and a professionally-designed cover? Well, yes. BUT: Decide what your budget can support and stick to it.

3. Does my e-book need an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s the barcode you find on print books that identifies them and allows them to be entered into (and ultimately sold through) bookstore databases. If you’re publishing digitally, you don’t need one, because you’re not being sold through a bookstore. (Duh.) PDFs are good to go with a copyright disclaimer in the first few pages. Amazon Kindle will assign your e-book what’s called an ASIN, or Amazon Standard Identification Number—and that’s all you need to collect every pretty penny from each book sale!

Mental Health, Romantic Relationships, Stigma, and Storytelling

Dr. Allison Sallee, founder of C2 Change: an Austin nonprofit offering free or-low cost mental healthcare services.

Dr. Allison Sallee, founder of C2 Change: an Austin nonprofit offering free or-low cost mental healthcare services.

Dually inspired by NAMI’s recent article on mental illness and relationships, and Cider Spoon’s own forthcoming book on romantic relationships of all stripes (both healthy and not-so-hot), this month’s blog entry is dedicated to overcoming the stigma of mental illness in romantic relationships, and exploring the role that storytelling can play.

Here, I’ve interviewed Dr. Allison Sallee of C2 Change to help us understand this nuanced issue. Dr. Sallee is a featured contributor to Of Tiny Threads (Forty Acres Press, June 2018). Proceeds from book sales benefit C2 Change’s Twogether in Texas curriculum.

***

What are two of the most common mental health issues prompting couples to seek out therapy today?

Couples most commonly come in requesting help with communication. Poor communication or miscommunication can lead to feelings of disconnection, further contributing to communication concerns.

Secondly, couples often come in regarding their children. They have questions about how best to parent; how to manage the grandparents and/or other extended family members who may be involved; and blended family issues.

How do people in romantic relationships say they have experienced stigma (in regard to their mental health) from their significant other?

Sometimes, one partner may view seeking help as “weak”—or may be scared that seeking help means that the relationship is doomed or in more serious trouble than they want to acknowledge. This fear can often shut down the one partner’s attempt to resolve issues. 

Significant others may also stigmatize their partner’s issues: criticizing them for a reaction to grief, for instance, or for being diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder.

How does storytelling, or sharing their stories, help partners cope with and/or better understand mental health issues?

Sharing stories is an essential human activity. It is one way we connect with others on both small and big levels. When partners share their stories, it can develop and foster empathy. In addition, it helps the other partner to stop making assumptions about the first partner’s behavior.

***

For twelve real-life stories from married couples (and one thruple!) in America—as well as more illuminating insights from C2 Change therapists Dr. Allison Sallee and Brendan Owens—order your copy of Of Tiny Threads today.

7 Ways to Edit Your Own Work

I always recommend hiring a professional editor; most writers are just ‘too close’ to their own work to catch typos, clunky sentence construction, or other mistakes that can create narrative confusion.

If you’re on a budget, however, or just plain stubborn, here are seven things to watch out for when polishing your manuscript for publication.

1. Double Spaces

Are you still typing double spaces after periods? This trend died with the typewriter. It may be hard to break old habits, but it’s worth it: continuing to use the space-space between sentences will instantly date your writing (since it’s not taught in schools anymore) and could make your publisher wonder just how ‘current’ you are on the literary scene.

2. Mis-Capitalization in Titles, Headers, and Subheads 

Four types of words should never be capitalized in your titles, headers, and subheads—unless, of course, they’re the first word. These are articles (like a, an, the); prepositions (think in, out, on); conjunctions (and, but) and be verbs (is, was).

3. Passive Voice 

Back to those be verbs (i.e., any form of the verb be): yes, they get your meaning across, but they’re pretty boring to read. All writing sounds better in the active voice. That means substituting action verbs for be verbs. Instead of falling back on “was” and “were” all the time, try more colorful verbs that bring to life the action on the page.

4. Commas 

Ask three different editors, and you’re bound to get three different opinions about the Oxford comma (the comma that follows every item in a list). I highly recommend using the Oxford comma, and here’s why. [What’s wrong with the following sentence?] “I like cooking my family and my pets.”

Commas also always go before the name of any person being addressed. EX: “Can I help you, Alex?”

5. Em-dashes 

An em-dash is two hyphens together with no space on either side, such as: “The boy said he was hungry—but really, he’d just eaten breakfast thirty minutes ago.” Em-dashes create a pause like a comma, but stronger, and will help clarify your meaning.

6. Ellipses 

One space should precede and follow each set of ellipses. EX: “ … ”

7. Italics 

The names of books, TV shows, and movies are always italicized. Song names can be indicated by double quotes.

EX: Katy Perry’s song “Firework” was featured in the show Glee.

Italics also indicate internal thoughts.

EX: My first thought was, This has got to be a joke.

Good luck! And when in doubt, hire an editor.

3 Gadgets You Need to Write Your Memoirs

So, you want to write your memoirs. (Or ghostwrite your mother’s.) You’re going to need some equipment.

1. Invest in a quality digital recorder.

If you struggle to put your thoughts to the page, try telling your stories instead. Out loud. Just like you do every week at bridge club or pilates. You can record yourself actually telling them to someone, or you can pretend like the recorder is your friend and speak to it.

The Yamaha Pocketrak 7: the only tool you need for crystal clear audio.

The Yamaha Pocketrak 7: the only tool you need for crystal clear audio.

The easiest and cheapest recording technology comes built into your phone. You can use any voice recording app—just make sure you have enough free storage space.

But what if you’re in a noisy place? Or you intend to turn the audio recordings into their own oral history archive? Then you’re going to want something better. I recommend anything in the Yamaha family

Personally, I use and have been delighted with the Yamaha Pocketrak PR7. It’s small, portable, easy to use, and I have over 160 hours of audio stored on mine currently—with no end of available space in sight! (Make sure you’re always backing it up on another device or cloud!) Best of all: I can be interviewing someone in the noisiest coffeeshop ever, and when the beans suddenly start whirring and grinding, you can still hear the subject clearly: thanks to those XY microphones.

2. Transcription software? Try transcribing it yourself.

Use Dragon Naturally Speaking to transcribe your audio files.

Use Dragon Naturally Speaking to transcribe your audio files.

Transcription is tedious. Unless you do it all the time, it’s a skill that can take a while to master. The last contractor I hired transcribed at a rate of 8:1, bless his heart. That is, 8 hours for every 1 hour of audio. Not efficient.

You might be tempted (understandably) to try a transcription software. Dragon Naturally Speaking is still the best on the market, but it sucks. It’s slow, and while it’s supposed to get ‘smarter’ with use (by learning your cadence and intonation), it never got any more proficient that I noticed.

Instead, hire a professional human transcriptionist (search for someone who can transcribe at a rate of at least 2:1, if not 1:1), or do it yourself! I am always surprised to find, upon listening to recorded footage, that I invariably come to a story that I don’t remember hearing. That’s because it’s human nature for the mind to wander. Half the joy is in re-listening to your recordings … and laughing (or weeping) all over again. Plus, if you’re ghostwriting, it’s a great opportunity to listen for vocal tics and vocab—the key contributors to narrative “voice.”

3. Pick the perfect word processor.

Adobe InDesign is the gold standard for creating book layouts.

Adobe InDesign is the gold standard for creating book layouts.

Whether you hire out your transcription or do it yourself, at some point you’re going to end up with a whole lot of text. It’s perfectly fine to work in Microsoft Word or Apple Pages—two of the most basic and user-friendly softwares on the market. You might also try upgrading to Scrivener. It’s a subscription service, but for your money you get a lot of cool features, like the ability to easily storyboard or rearrange story sections. Google docs can make it easy to share files with your editor or other contributing writers, and saves your precious work to the cloud (for free!)

When you’re ready to layout your book, play around with Adobe InDesign. It’s the premier book design platform, and can require some practice (or maybe an introductory class!) if you’re brand new to the Adobe suite. Check your local community college for affordable and informational Adobe suite classes.

Once you’ve done all this, you’re ready to self-publish!

WHISPERS: Healing & Triumph after Sexual Assault

Every July, Cider Spoon Stories (Austin's premier ghostwriting and editing company) publishes a collection of stories from central Texas that center around a particular theme. This summer we'll be publishing WHISPERS: HEALING & TRIUMPH AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT.

The book, which includes the inspiring true stories of ten survivors and survivor-advocates, will debut at a launch party in the Sharp Noggin shop-home space, on Tuesday, July 25, from 7:00-9:00 PM. There will be:

  • Complimentary food and drinks
  • Readings and giveaways
  • Free parking
  • Copies of WHISPERS available for sale for $15 + tax

A completely nonprofit event, a portion of the proceeds benefit SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone). The rest of the money will go toward producing Book III in the Untellable Tales series. Book I (POSTMARKS ON OUR FOREHEADS, July 2016) is also still available for sale here.

Everyone is welcome. Please join us for live contributor readings and free giveaways, and stay for the great food and drink. Look for us in Paggi Square park in the Mueller development, just 3 miles northeast of downtown.

While a limited number of copies will be available for purchase at the launch, you are encouraged to pre-order your copy at www.ciderspoonstories.com/shop.

Spotlight on: The Marchesa Theatre

This post is the first in a series of mini-historiographies that chronicle the power of PLACE in memoir. Some of the stories are great and inspiring; some are tragic and teachable; some are about the ordinary buildings you pass every day. Maybe after reading them, you’ll consider writing your memoirs about the places you moved and move through.

In an unassuming east-side strip mall, largely empty of other attractions, hides the recently renovated Marchesa Theatre: home of the Austin Film Society and several trademark east Austin events—including the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, an annual holiday art show that just wrapped up at the end of December.

The Austin Film Society at the Marchesa

Walking into the Marchesa takes you back to a time when cinema was really something special. Before the days of movie pirating and Netflix streaming, going to see a film was an event. The AFS makes sure it still is, by screening lots of foreign and independent flicks you won’t catch anywhere else, alongside hard-to-find classics. I’ve never seen a bad movie there, and many of the films that made the carefully-curated playlist have been downright incredible.

To give you an idea of the breadth and depth of the AFS’s inclusive offerings, in 2015 alone they screened Seven Chinese Brothers (2015), Particle Fever (2013), and Blind (2014). The first was directed by local Austin filmmaker Bob Byington and stars Hollywood darlings Jason Schwartzman and Olympia Dukakis. As part of the Science on Screen series, Particle Fever documents the first (unsuccessful) launch of the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland and follows several years of subsequent research and trials. Meanwhile, Blind is theextraordinary debut effort of Norwegian director Eskil Vogt—a rather skillfully-told, surreal story about a newly-blind woman who dances at all times between daytime and dreamtime.

The Austin Film Society’s affordable membership packages include complimentary tickets, free monthly screenings, discounts at the Alamo Drafthouse, and a host of other benefits that well outweigh the very fair package pricing.

The Blue Genie Art Bazaar at the Marchesa

Spanning the whole month of December, the Blue Genie Art Bazaar features the work of over 200 Texas artists every year, offering one-of-a-kind handmade gifts to fit every taste and budget. The Bazaar takes over the whole theatre lobby and large side halls, greeting both movie-goers and those who are just there to shop with lots of light and sparkle and good smells.

Knock-out products this year included Hemp360’s Raw Olive Lotion with Lemongrass, handmade in New Braunfels, Texas, and “Grandpa”-scented soy candles from Austin’s own The Burlap Bag. With a true “old-man aftershave” aroma, “Grandpa” definitely had me smiling and reminiscing about my grandfather! Beautiful jewelry for mom, soft unicorn headbands for the kiddos, stylishly screen-printed shirts, scarves, and tea towels for everyone, plus the requisite you-will-find-this-nowhere-else-novelty items rounded out an impressive showing from the Blue Genie.

http://shop.theburlapbag.com

http://shop.theburlapbag.com

In the event you get inspired to make your own crafts after seeing the wide variety on offer at the Marchesa, you’re in luck! The theatre butts up to Jerry’s Artarama, the east side’s most comprehensive discount art store with everything you need for DIY fun—including art classes and drop-in figure drawing for the budding enthusiast.

Other Events at the Marchesa

The Marchesa Theatre also rents out its facilities for conferences, expos, birthday parties, wedding receptions, performances, business meetings, etc. They offer a generous 15% discount for nonprofit fundraiser events! Additional services like table and chair setup, bartenders, PA systems, and event cleanup are also available.

Conclusion:

Whether checking out the next international film phenomenon through the AFS, shopping for the perfect gift at the Blue Genie, or celebrating a big life moment, remember to support the Marchesa Theatre. Your investment will be returned to you two-fold every time!

What’s the ghostwriting process like, you ask?

I’m so glad you’re interested!

It definitely varies from project to project. Are we talking full-length book? Chapbook? Grant proposal? A couple pages of web copy? The possibilities, and the appropriate approaches, are endless!

Let’s say you want to write your life story as a full book. I’ll ask you when it’s most convenient to meet for coffee. We’ll get together, you’ll tell me a little bit about what you have in mind, and I’ll direct the conversation with a couple pointed questions, to make sure we’re on the same page about everything.

At that point, you can decide whether you’re interested in pursuing the project with me. No obligations, and no questions asked if you just don’t feel like I’m the right vehicle. If you *do* want to proceed, however, I’ll slide you a contract to look over and we can talk terms: deadlines, payments, etc--all the “paperwork” we need to get out of the way once and then never worry about again.

Either the same day or later by phone, we’ll set up regular meetings for you to download to me your story. Can you meet once/week? Twice? Only twice a month? Doesn’t matter! I’m here to help you write your story on your schedule.

It’s easy. It’s low-pressure. It’s hopefully FUN!