Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You want me to do what?

I'm delighted today to have as my guest B. Lynn Goodwin, WriterAdvice Managing Editor;
Small Press Review (Dustbooks) Reviewer; California Writers Club Columnist; and author of
You Want Me to Do What? -- Journaling for Caregivers. I've known Lynn for many years; she's a dedicated writer and generous member of my community. It's a pleasure to welcome her.

1. How long have you been writing, Lynn?

I balanced a piece of lined paper on the slanted oven door of my sister's toy stove when she was off at kindergarten, and I pretended to write a story, so I've been writing a long time. I wrote an article for Dramatics Magazine when I was on leave from my job teaching high school English and drama in the eighties. They scooped it up and when I proposed a series of nine more articles about acting exercises, written in diary format by one of the students in the class, they said yes to that too. Suddenly I believed I could write.

2. Tell us a little bit about your latest, "You Want Me To Do What?"

You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers encourages people to relieve stress by journaling, demonstrates an easy way to do it, and offers over 200 sentence starts to help anyone begin. Finish the sentence, write the next sentence, and you are journaling. Journal with others and you'll probably want to share and hear what works.

3. What motivated you to write this book at this time?

Over 10 years ago, I got a call from my mother, who said, "I was at the refrigerator, and then I was in the dining room, and then I was back in the kitchen, and I went back and forth, but my hand never left the refrigerator door. I think something's wrong. Can you come up?" I got in my Geo Prizm and drove to her condo. When I got there she was sitting on the sofa in her breakfast nook. "I've called an ambulance, and I need to go to the bathroom before they get here, but I can't walk," she whispered. "I think I could get there if I could hold onto your shoulders." I led her to the bathroom, with her hands balanced lightly on my shoulders, just as she said, and that was the beginning of six years of caregiving.

My mother was a proud, feisty, stubborn, beautiful woman who was dying one cell at a time. I did not know she had undiagnosed Alzheimer's until nearly six years had past. I grew frustrated, trying to help her and make the world conform to her expectations, and since I could not tell her, I turned to my journal. It let me vent, rant, analyze, process, and eventually figure out what I could and could not do. By writing, I found hope.

After she was gone, I realized that there were plenty of prompts for writers, but none for caregivers, who needed the relief that writing about a problem can bring. I knew everybody could journal if they had a little help, and I knew my sentence starts, two or three words that trigger thought, would be enough to get them going. They'd worked for my freewriting group, my tenth grade students, and they'd even helped my high school actors discover their character's inner thoughts. Once I got the idea, which came to me as a gift from the Universe, I ran with it.

4. Was it hard to find a publisher or distributor for this book?

The agents who expressed an interest in You Want Me to Do What? were either caregivers or relatives of caregivers. They loved the concept of a book and knew how valuable journaling would be for caregivers. Their bosses told them that the caregiver market is hard to reach and the book would be too difficult to market. After hearing this, I gave up searching for the right agent and began looking for a publisher that was open to unsolicited manuscripts. After talking with one of the executives at Tate Publishing, whose wife had been a caregiver for a father and a mother-in-law, I found a match.

I'm still exploring marketing strategies. My goal is to get this book into the hands of as many caregivers as possible, so I'm in touch with the Alzheimer's Association, the Hospices, the Stroke Foundation, the Cancer Associations, Parkinsons, groups that deal with autism and other special needs children, nurses, social workers, and more. Tate uses Ingram as their book distributor, and I believe Ingram has reordered more than once.

5. What kind of promotion do you find most effective?

The jury is still out on that. I reach out through e-mail, through the phone, and face-to-face. I write on other people's blogs. I've been a guest columnist on websites, shared articles, done radio interviews, joined Facebook and LinkedIn, and more. The opportunities are there if I keep my eyes and ears open. I'm proud when people I know buy copies for their friends, but that is a very low-tech marketing strategy. I'd love to have this book available at workshops on aging. Can you put me in touch with someone who needs this book?

6. Other than writing, how do you spend your time?

I walk the world's best Shih-Tzu, Mikko McPuppers. I read a great deal--sometimes for Writer Advice interviews and book reviews and sometimes for the joy of escaping into a world uncluttered by deadlines, errands and multi-tasking. I just finished directing an evening of monologues called WOMEN SPEAK OUT, a fund raiser for the Danville-Alamo Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). I'm also running Writer Advice's Fourth Annual Flash Prose Contest (deadline April 15). I like to travel, meet friends for lunch or movies, and play with my camera when I get the time.

7. Have you tried your hand at fiction?

I love a well-told tale that explores human behavior--whether it's fiction or memoir--and I love the joy that comes from writing them. I've explored the beginnings of fiction and memoir in a group called Temescal Writers, I've drafted a bunch of story starts in a private freewriting group I call the Berkeley Women, and I've had a few short pieces published. I have several drafts of a YA manuscript, currently called Talent, but after being in a Young Adult novel class this fall I realized I no longer enjoy the genre. Though I was strongly encouraged to keep going, I am grateful that I have moved on.

8. What's next for you?

Once I get caught up with promotion, the next issue of Writer Advice, and the Writer Advice Flash Prose Contest, I want to write more fiction and memoir. I got a few story ideas while directing WOMEN SPEAK OUT and this week I got one from being in a pool of jurors. Now I need time to write more than promotion for You Want Me to Do What? and once I have something drafted, I'll need to find writing partners to give me feedback.

9. Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

No one else can tell your story. Don't let your slice of human history get lost. If every freewrite is on the same subject, there is more to explore. Keep digging for the gold. And, in case you haven't heard it, write every day if possible and read in the genres you want to write.

10.Anything you would like to add?

1) Visit Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, to read author interviews, reviews, the latest contest and market info, and the pages about journaling for caregivers. Click on "Guidelines" if you want to submit your writing to us.
2) If you read this before April 15, 2009, consider entering Writer Advice's Flash Prose Contest. Guidelines are on the home page of Writer Advice.

Thank you for this opportunity, Camille. After 12 years of interviewing authors for Writer Advice, it's great fun to be the subject of an interview.


Anonymous said...

Awonderful interview, Camille, and an inspiring and beautiful message, Lynn. Thank you both.xoxox

Terri Thayer said...

Welcome to Killer Hobbies, Lynn. Yours is a story that resonates with so many. Congratulations.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

This is lovely, Lynn. I post sentence prompts--but I call them "journaling prompts" on twitter. I've seen the power of starting an idea and letting our juices take over. You've put this idea to a wonderful use.


Betty Hechtman said...

When my mother was dying and I sat in the hospital room alone, I wrote and wrote and wrote. It was someplace to put all those feelings. It made saying goodbye easier. I am sure it helps caregivers to journal. All those feelings need a place to go.

B. Lynn Goodwin said...

Thank you so much for your kind comments.

Terri, it's always encouraging to hear that my story resonates. I did not know that when I was a caregiver.

Joanna, I love the idea of posting sentence starts (prompts) and will try it on Facebook since I'm not on Twitter.

Betty, you understand exactly what the book is about from first-hand experience. I am glad to "meet" someone else who wrote in a hospital room. Do you still journal?

Camille, thanks so much for inviting me to share here.

B. Lynn Goodwin
Author of You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I reviewed You Want Me To Do What? and loved it. It's also been a wonderful benefit of networking that Lynn will be sharing a booth with me at the LA Times Festival of Books (Booth 610). We'd both love to see you there!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers

Lynn said...

Thanks so much for you posting, Carolyn. It will be fun to participate in the LA Times Book Festival. Maybe someday the opening scene of a mystery will be the UCLA campus on the day of the LA Times Book Festival.

Author of You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers