I suggest you write a book.
Because if you write a book, you might get a chance to work on your book on the first snowy day of the season, with a steaming cup of honeyed chai at your side.
And that, friends, is a magical thing.
I need to finish revising my book, so this will be quick. Here’s what just went down on Twitter:
An article on Atlantic Tech reviewing a new reading app rubbed me the wrong way, because apparently the writer thinks the marks of a good reading app are that it looks like a print book and allows for sharing.
— Kim Werker (@kpwerker) December 3, 2013
And then I couldn’t let it go. So instead I said a lot of things on Twitter. Here are some screenshots (read each image from bottom to top):
Specifically, the realm of instructional content could truly be revolutionized if done right:
Lest you think I’m only full of hot air:
A lot of people responded. I’ve spent pretty much the whole day talking with people about this, and I think three people even asked to be hired. I’m putting all this here partly as a reminder to myself that this is important to me, and also as a reminder to myself that it’s important to a lot of people who aren’t me. And also because I’d very much like to continue this conversation.
So tell me, do you buy instructional ebooks (cookbooks, crafts books, etc.)? Do they work for you? Could they work better?
Do you write instructional books? Do you publish them digitally? How’s that work for you? Could it be done better?
The only major task I have to complete before the winter holidays is the author review of my book. I’ve received the version of the manuscript that the project editor has gone through and the copy editor has worked her magic on (I try to always end sentences with a preposition when they’re about copy editors). It’s my last chance to make any substantial changes before the book goes into layout. (An author who makes major changes after her book goes into layout becomes persona non grata, which is not a role an author wants to inhabit.)
This book is fairly personal, and so working on it lends to an alarming amount of time spent staring at my own navel. Yesterday, while doing exactly that, I suddenly found myself at my high-school graduation.
Good gods, I hated high school. I don’t remember much about my graduation, except for one part: the delivery of awards. There was the usual fare, like highest marks and various kinds of recognition from clubs and associations. I did well in school and participated in a few clubs, but I was not what one might have considered an overachiever. I was too miserable to overachieve.
So imagine my surprise when I won an award. It was a faculty award, I think – at least, that’s the only way it makes sense to me now, looking back. It was the Eugene V. Debs award for something-or-other. Can’t remember who Eugene V. Debs was from your history textbook’s brief mention of him? I’ll let Wikipedia fill you in:
Eugene Victor “Gene” Debs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and several times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. Through his presidential candidacies, as well as his work with labor movements, Debs eventually became one of the best-known socialists living in the United States.
I snort out loud even now, reading this, imagining what the teachers who decided the award would think if they knew I’ve lived on the left coast of Canada for most of my adult life. Even though labour unions in Canada play a somewhat different role than in the U.S. to a fair degree because Canada has adopted a more socialist bent, I’m inclined always to side with them, even when I’m wrong. One of the reasons I was so uncomfortable living in the U.S. – as a born-and-raised American! – was that “socialist” is a horribly loaded idea there. But socialism is wonderful (when it’s done right, like anything)!
And so I’ve been smirking since yesterday about this. About how despite feeling entirely alienated and withdrawn throughout my high school experience, I had still managed somehow to convey enough of myself that by the time I graduated, my teachers had come to identify a very true part of me.
It’s something I’m going to try to remember – that even when I feel lost and alone and misunderstood, people might still manage to see me for who I am. If there’s anything more comforting than that, I don’t know what it is.
Last month was the second annual Knit City, Vancouver’s most splendid fibre festival. The weekend event was important to me for several reasons.
First, inspired by the responses people conveyed to me after I spoke at the kick-off party at last year’s event, I developed a new class and taught crochet for the first time in years. I usually avoid teaching crochet, because I find it the most stressful thing in my crafty career. There’s always the one student who refuses to believe they can do it – the therapy most teachers provide their students during a crafts class is truly amazing to me. I do not have the patience to do it while teaching a craft. I have infinite patience to talk about struggling and feelings in a Mighty Ugly workshop, which is why I like to do those as frequently as possible, but not when teaching a skill that is supposed to be done “right”.
Anyway, so I developed a class to teach crochet specifically to people who already know how to knit, and I loved teaching this class. It was a beginner class, but not for yarn beginners! I solved my teaching problem by avoiding having to start from scratch. And at least one of my students has gone on a bender making granny squares, so I think crochet was actually learned, without pain. I’m eager to teach this class again!
Second, Knit City is simply fun. Yarn-lovers from all over British Columbia (and beyond!) came for the weekend, and we all know that a few hundred yarn-lovers in a room is a guaranteed good time.
And third, I made took a class with Kim McBrien to make a duct-tape dress form! My friend Joanne and I got to know each other a lot more… intimately over the course of those three hours. I still haven’t finished my form (naturally), but I’m excited to use it, especially for sewing.
I had big plans for an epic recap of this event, but since it was a month ago, I’m going to do it quick. I already can’t wait for next year’s Knit City.
I fell head over heals in love with Sweet Fiber yarns. They are stunning. So much so that I deviated from my usual grey or greyish-purple fare and bought some of this green-brown yarn to make myself a sweater. Love love love.
And here I am in various stages of duct tape. In the end, that silver was WAY TOO SHINY. I’m doing the final layer of tape in a houndstooth tape, and it’s looking very snazzy. Pics to come when I’m done.
A week or two ago, I discovered that beloved children’s songster Raffi will be performing in concert here in Vancouver next spring. I didn’t grow up with Raffi’s music, but most of my Canadian friends did. So I bought tickets and set out to spend the next few months introducing Owen to all the songs so we’ll be able to sing along in the audience oh so many months from now.
How fascinating to watch Owen immediately adore this music. The kid’s always loved music, but for Raffi he was smitten in ways I hadn’t seen before. After just one evening of singing along, he was hooked and has asked for Raffi time every day since. And, building on his love of watching YouTube videos of every sort of vehicle imaginable, he started saying things like, “Mama, let’s search for a video with a whale with a polka-dot tail!” To which I replied, “Owen, why don’t we make our own pictures and stories about a whale with a polka-dot tail?”
So last weekend when he was miserable with a cold (that has managed to persist all week and drag Greg and me down with it), we newspapered the table, found some big pieces of paper, and took out the paints. And we both set out to paint a whale with a polka-dot tail.
Now, Owen’s not yet three, and all of his paintings look the same. So I knew that my goal for our painting activity was to make a discernible whale with a polka-dot-tail. Thing is, I’m no painter. I paint about as well as I draw, which is not at all well. But god-dammit, I was going to paint him a polka-dotted whale’s tail. I’d apologize for it later.
Kids are the best audience for shitty crafts, have you noticed? They don’t know good from bad, skilled from unskilled, pretty from ugly.
As I fell into my groove painting this beast of a thing, I found myself letting go of even caring that it’s “bad”. And good thing, too, because I had a lot of fun making it. And then, with a big smile on his face, Owen said he wanted to hang it up in his room. And so we did.
And so now I see that whale every day, and I’m not even remotely inclined to apologize for it. It makes me and Owen smile, which as far as I’m concerned makes it an indisputable win.
Even if you don’t have kids, you should make stuff with kids at every opportunity. They will love what you make, guaranteed.
Note from Kim: I wrote recently about how I think crafty self-publishers are coming around to the idea of hiring an editor, and mentioned how delighted I was that sewing designer Abby Glassenberg hired me to edit her new ebook. Here’s a guest post from Abby about her experience. I love how she points out that self-publishers are essentially their own publishing house, responsible for all aspects of book or ebook production. If you have a self-publishing project on the go (or in a fantasy stage) and want to discuss how I – or any editor – can help you make it outstanding, email me! Here’s Abby:
About a month ago I sat down to outline a new ebook I wanted to write. I already had a title: The Insider’s Guide to Starting an Online Sewing Pattern Business. From there, I began brainstorming all of the ideas I wanted to write about. The list was growing really long. There were topics and subtopics and sidebars. I knew I was interested in writing about this topic, but I didn’t realize at first how much I had to say!
Every morning after that brainstorming session I sat down to write and do research and every afternoon I got more excited about how this ebook was shaping up. I was pulling together all of the information I’d learned about selling sewing patterns online and I was really hopeful that this ebook would be like a road map, guiding people through every facet of beginning a digital pattern business.
I will admit, though, that whenever I would open the manuscript on my computer I would start to feel a little bit of dread. It was long. 45-pages single spaced. Even so I still had lists of areas I thought needed work.
I did my best to edit the manuscript myself. I would go in and cut stuff out, and rewrite. I spellchecked. I read the whole thing aloud and reorganized a bunch of paragraphs. I love to write and the manuscript was good, but I knew it could be amazing.
Having written two books for mainstream publishers, I’ve experienced first hand how valuable an editor can be. You hand them a sorta unwieldy thing, and they tighten your sentences, correct your grammar, take out all those extra commas, suggest ways to organize the text to make it flow, and so much more. Every piece of writing benefits from the work of an editor, and this ebook was no exception. I wanted all of those benefits. I wanted this ebook to be something I would be proud to promote.
I remembered seeing Kim tweet a few months ago that she was doing some freelance editing for crafters. I thought this was brilliant. As more and more of us get into digital self-publishing, we need to see ourselves as our own publishing houses, and as such we need to seek out our own editors. I asked Kim for her rates, which were totally reasonable, and the deal was done. A week after sending the manuscript to Kim, I had it back marked up with her edits. Here are some of the things Kim helped me with:
- Grouping like ideas together.
- Correcting tiny little grammatical errors (including a typo in my own URL).
- Challenging me to prove my point.
- Elimination one million extra commas.
- Rewriting the headings and subheadings so that they were consistent with one another.
- Asking me to elaborate on ideas I’d only touched upon.
- Suggesting additional resources to include.
Kim comes from the craft and design world so she totally got the concept of this ebook. But she isn’t a sewist so she was able to approach the text from the perspective of a newbie, which was fantastic. If she said, “Huh?” in a certain section then I knew I needed to write more clearly about a that topic. I could tell that she believed in the concept of this ebook and wanted it to be a success, just like I did. I helped to have her on as an enthusiastic teammate working with me to bring this project to completion.
I released my ebook a week ago. Within the first five hours I’d make up the cost of paying for editing. And because the text was really high-quality, I felt really proud sending it out to bigger blogs for review. This ebook has been my most successful self-publishing project thus far, earning over $1,000 in the first week of it’s release. I’m confident that it will continue to sell well because it’s a valuable tool for sewists looking to expand their business in a profitable new direction.
Just like you might hire pattern testers to test your new pattern, or a designer to help you redesign your blog, I highly recommend hiring an editor for your next self-published project. Make your words and ideas shine by having someone else help you polish them a bit first.
So, I’m an author. Not of fiction, which means I’m kind of invisible when it comes to author-related conversations. But I write books. And there’s this organization in the U.S. called the Author’s Guild, which represents what it considers to be the interests of authors. I am not a member.
Every time I read about the Author’s Guild weighing in on some or another author-related issue, I disagree with them. The Author’s Guild seems to be quite a reactionary group, and seems to value whatever it determines to be authors’ best interests over any other interests in every circumstance regardless of whether that position makes authors seem like assholes. I try very hard not to be an asshole.
Take the decision by a U.S. judge yesterday to dismiss the Author’s Guild’s lawsuit against Google for scanning books and making excerpts available online. I did a dance of joy when I read the news. I think Google Books provides an extraordinarily valuable service to the public. Extraordinarily valuable. And I have no reason to believe that I, as an author, am in any way harmed by it – also, I’m a human being who personally benefits from being able to search Google Books. I applaud the courts for doing what few government organizations seem to do these days: value the public’s easy access to information.
The Author’s Guild, however, said, “We disagree with and are disappointed by the court’s decision today. This case presents a fundamental challenge to copyright that merits review by a higher court. Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works.”
At the same time, the American Library Association applauded the decision. Since when is it cool for authors and libraries to be on opposing sides when it comes to access to books and information? I can’t seriously be alone in being inclined to side with libraries – like, all the time libraries.
I wish there were an organization that represented authors like me – authors who view limited copyright as a necessary aspect of the business of writing and creating, and who also value the public’s wide access to information and even the ability to riff off existing works to create new ones. I wish I could pay dues to an organization like that.
Is there such an organization that I just haven’t heard of? One that actually represents my needs and desires as an author? And am I the only author around who wishes for one? I sure hope I’m not.