Your Brand Is Calling (Part 2 of 2)

BY MIKE LOOMIS--AUTHOR, GHOSTWRITER, BRANDING EXTRAORDINAIRE


Three ways brands are built:

  1. All the words you use in communication and web
  2. Every image you publish
  3. Every action you take (Books or resources you create, and events you produce)

Take a look at your current website, social media. Have you ever considered the connection between your calling and your brand? Are you challenged by these two concepts, as they apply to living your dream? 

Intentionally building a personal brand doesn’t have to feel like an exercise in arrogance. But the process can be uncomfortable because it involves putting yourself under a microscope.

First, Let’s talk about the “why” – our motivation for launching a brand. If you’re interested in launching your dream project, or dream life, it’s likely you’re motivated to make changes or start over at some level, right? You want to become a truer version of yourself. 

The desire to reflect your particular talents, and connect with others who value your gifts, is about more than money, isn’t it? So, what’s your why? Why do you want to launch a new brand, business, nonprofit, or career? Can you articulate the core desires that drive you?

Your future audience needs to know.

Will you believe?

The process of communicating your calling involves faith. Actually believing in the unique way God wired you affects not only your personal goals, but the daily choices you make and the risks you’re willing to take.

Do you desire to make a living by doing what you love? Are you interested in working with the people you’re energized to connect with? And live in the places you feel most alive?

All of us share one common calling – to be ourselves. But we often doubt how our personal weirdness and deep desires can really be connected to our work and our future. But they are.

Enter for a chance to win Mike's book! Use our contact form on this website or "Share" and "Like" our posts on social media.

Enter for a chance to win Mike's book! Use our contact form on this website or "Share" and "Like" our posts on social media.

If you believe, or simply have a hunch, you’re called to a certain line of work, you’ll invest time, energy, and resources to develop the skills necessary to attain your goal.

For example, if you are called to write, you’ll take steps to learn the craft, and at some point, let others know you’re a writer—even before you get paid to write!

We might not know everything about our calling, but we can articulate what we do know about the value we provide. Start articulating your unique value to the world, and build your personal brand.


Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. Since starting and selling two businesses, he has been strategic partner to bestselling authors, non-profits, publishers as well as startups, and aspiring messengers. He and his wife live in the mountains of Colorado with their pet moose. www.MikeLoomis.CO.

Your Brand is Calling (Part 1 of 2)

by Mike Loomis--author, ghostwriter, branding extraordinaire


“Branding” has become a buzzword. The term has been misused and distorted, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss the concept.  Branding is a force for personal expression and influence.

What is a brand? 

One of my favorite definitions of a brand is from Seth Godin:

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. Design is essential but design is not brand.    

Here’s what branding is not: 

Branding is not trying to please the masses, as in, “How can we be more relevant to this demographic?” or, “I need a cool logo.” Branding is not aspiring to a trendy vision to grab market share. This is fake, outside-driven, and gives branding a bad name.

My definition of personal branding is: The public expression of your calling.

Let the simplicity of that definition sink in.

The goal is to be intentional when creating your brand in the age we live in. One hundred years ago, if you were a boot maker, the sign outside your shop would have probably been a huge image of a boot. 

You love to make boots.

I want new boots.

I see your sign, and walk in!

Simple, right? Clearly defining what you offer, in a unique way is the essence of personal branding.

Two keys for a powerful brand - You must be both:

       1 – Authentic  

       2 – Persuasive

Enter for a chance to win Mike's book! Use our contact form on this website or "Share" and "Like" our posts on social media.

Enter for a chance to win Mike's book! Use our contact form on this website or "Share" and "Like" our posts on social media.

Most brands are one or the other. For example: “A blog about my life” may be authentic and true, but will anyone be interested?

Or: “The most amazing keynote speaker on the planet” might sound persuasive, but is it authentic?

A purely factual approach to branding will probably be boring. Hype that’s not grounded in truth will fizzle. An influential brand must be 100% Authentic and 100% persuasive. It’s possible, and essential, to express both.


Mike Loomis helps people launch their dream projects and books. Since starting and selling two businesses, he has been strategic partner to bestselling authors, non-profits, publishers as well as startups, and aspiring messengers. He and his wife live in the mountains of Colorado with their pet moose. www.MikeLoomis.CO.

Enter Mike Loomis . . .

Join us this week and throughout the month for a chance to win Mike's book Your Brand is Your Calling: Build a Personal Brand to Reflect and Connect.

All you have to do is either contact us using our website form or "Share" and "Like" our posts on FB, Instgram or Twitter to be entered to win. 

Best of luck!

Happy Monday!

Allow us to introduce Mike Loomis. Mike is a friend of EMoon and possesses vast knowledge on the topic of branding. He helps people launch their dream projects and books. Since starting and selling two businesses, he has been strategic partner to best-selling authors, non-profits, publishers as well as startups, and aspiring messengers.

And he will share a snippet with us during the month of June.

Publisher Q&A - April, 2017

By Laree Lindburg, owner of Emoon


In life, one thing we rarely lack are questions. What time is it? When is dinner? How long until we get there? When will my show come onto Netflix?

Book publishing tends to add to the mishmash. One inquiry, in particular, pops up more often than most: 

  • What is the difference between the various types of publishing?

Solid question. How do traditional publishing, self-publishing, indie publishing, and hybrid publishing differ? Which is best for you? Are some just like others only with varied names? My explanation may be slightly different than most given that the world of publishing has evolved more in the last decade+ than other industries. Definitions are constantly being redefined. Mediums are weekly being invented. 

All that said, here goes!

 

Traditional

The most common of the lot of publishing is traditional. These are your long-standing, old school publishing houses like the "Big Five:" Simon & Schuster, Macmillian, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Hachette Book Group. These dinosaurs are the Mt. Everest; many wish to summit. Some attempt. Fewer succeed. Traditional pubs offer contracts where the author's work is 'owned' by the house. Royalties go through the house and a hefty cut is taken before a quarterly/yearly check is sent to the author. Occasionally, though rarely anymore, authors are offered an advance against royalties. A typical traditional house will take 1-2 years to release a book. They market and promote their titles although reports from less famous authors tell me these publishing houses are putting most of their marketing dollars in their "A" list author baskets, leaving those with smaller, less Hollywood platforms to fend for themselves.

Due to the rampant changes in the publishing industry today, traditional publishers are beginning to offer alternative models, such as self-publishing . . .

 

Self-Publishing

Self-publishers traditionally require authors to purchase X number of copies in order to print their book. They care little or none for quality and content. They are not evil but serve their own purpose for larger quantity orders on titles that have already been proven or edited, or the occasional person who simply wants to see their book in print. The author pays for production.

 

Independent Publishing

Independent publishers work with indie authors (those who have decided to take the destiny of their book into their own hands) and help them from start to finish produce their book for the reading population. No quantity requirements. This can often be a cold interaction as many indie publishers do not work closely with authors but require them to do much online--independently. The author pays for production. This option is great for those who know their marketing strategy and already have a platform in place. Individuals who have a following, a going business or ministry and simply need a place to print paperbacks to sell at merch tables during speaking events can find this option financially beneficial.

 

Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid is a newer publishing model, which also has the most fluid definition. Hybrid publishing can be one of a very personal experience between author and publisher. Each are invested and want to see success for the title. Sometimes the publisher charges a fee per project (and retains no rights or royalties) and other times the publisher and author discuss options for payment such as a smaller fee with agreement to share royalties of book sales. This model of publishing is suited well for those who tend toward indie publishing, but who also would like a little more guidance. Indie publishing can be more involved and time consuming for the author, whereas a hybrid publisher shoulders the burden with the author.

 

Which model is Emoon?

Emoon's publishing model is hybrid and a bit independent. If you have had a chance to check out our website, you will notice we offer many services. Anyone can come and ask us for just one of those services, say, a cover design or an edit, and we will happily do so. No obligation to publish through us. We also work one-on-one with authors who desire to tackle the entire publishing package, i.e. cover, interior layout, editing, e-book pub, paperback publishing, distribution, and marketing. This does cost a fee (we do not offer a royalties sharing option), yet the author retains all of the rights and royalties to their work.

And Emoon sticks around to help them succeed. We are like a personal assistant to the indie author. Emoon markets books that we help along the publishing road by posting notices on our social media outlets and offering giveaways and marketing exchanges. We can also create a sales sheet to promote the author's work and will design custom banners for book signings. These amenities are included in full packages contracts, and can also be contracted a la carte.

All that said, Emoon does not accept just any author's manuscript like a self-publisher. The authors we work with us must prove their title of a high enough quality and meet other publishing requirements before we will agree to go into contract as their publishing partner. 

 

Conclusion

I hope this helped you navigate the murky waters of publishing a bit better. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to contact us through our website or at info@emoonpublishing.com.

Happy weekend to you!

Meet Author Kevin Shoemaker

Kevin Shoemaker published his first novel in 2015 through Electric Moon Publishing. Walk This Way, Walk His Way; Effectiveness Through the Greatest Commandment is a non-fiction biblical narrative encouraging Christians to live in the freedom and power of Jesus Christ. We will go more into that another day, today we would like to get to know Kevin.

Kevin attended Iowa State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. While attending ISU, he met his now wife Barb, on a blind date. They have created a beautiful grown family in Omaha, NE.

Through the writing process of Walk This Way, Kevin began a passion for a company that could nurture and grow the journey all Christians have started. And so was birthed Maker Ministries, an organization whose goal is to develop effective disciples of Jesus Christ. Kevin’s greatest want is to help people live freely in their faith. His answer to the debacle that many Christians encounter is in the Greatest Commandments:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NASB).

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31 NASB).

Through his novel, Kevin teaches us what exactly these two verses imply, and how to go about implementing them in our daily lives. He makes convincing and encouraging connections for new and aged Christians on what our walks are missing.

Walk This Way, Walk His Way is a great start on a deeper journey to becoming more Christ-like; every day and in every way. A study guide to the novel will be released this summer for bible study groups and individual studies.

The Nudge Part 3: Open Doors

By Jeannie McPherson, Emoon author


Have you heard the story about St. Peter closing certain doors in heaven, at least those labeled” missed opportunities”?  It seems the new resident to heaven did not pay much attention to the earthly nudges God was sending his way. 

I’ve heard many St. Peter jokes, but this one touched my heart when it was shared in church.  My pastor asked, “How many doors has God opened and how often have you turned away due to excuses like time, resources, or skill?”  Previous to this sermon, I gave momentary thought to offering to be a lay servant in an effort to give Pastor a long-needed break.  It likely was not just a coincidence in timing. 

Was God nudging me, yet again?

I casually acknowledged my willingness to the pastor, thinking he really would not take me up on the idea.  And, for Pete’s sake, he did.  What I discovered is writing a sermon is like writing a good story. And, I see myself as a good story writer. 

The Christmas following 9/11, I included a short story in my holiday cards about Olivia, a dove, who kept watch over the manger the night of Jesus’ birth.  She represented the peace that only Jesus can bring to us individually and globally.  It was written with the plea, “peace begins with me.”

The comments from friends were positive.  The next Christmas I wrote another story, different animal, different characteristic.  Eventually a pattern emerged and I began intertwining the animal characters with one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  My real horse, Charlie, a very big horse, is also called a Gentle Giant (English Shire). He represents gentleness.  Max and Maggie, Labrador dogs, were faithful until their call to eternity.  Eventually I had nine stories written about nine animals and nine fruits found in Galatians 5:22.

Periodically, I would feel a nudge to compile a child’s book with illustrations.  I considered self-publishing, but ran into roadblock after roadblock finding an illustrator.  The nudge grew stronger when I began attending Christian Writer’s Conferences, where I met Electric Moon Publishing.

Even during life stressors, the staff have been there to encourage, give me hope, andwait patiently (one of the short story titles) until I was financially and emotionally ready to put one foot in front of the other.  Even though I had been warned by other authors, I became bent out of shape by the editing process and have come to believe it is an expectation in the publishing world.

I’ve given this project over to the Lord to do something good with it.  He owns it.  I am only the messenger.  This means letting Emoon take leadership when I could not.  If all goes well, I will contribute at least half of the order to churches in high-poverty areas, where few children own even one book.  The remaining first publish run will also be used to serve Jesus, in programs like Samaritan’s Purses’ Operation Christmas Child.  Though only published in English, the illustrations can be understood in multiple languages. 

I don’t know what other earthly “opportunity” doors will open, but Luke 11:9 “….knock and the door will be opened to you” (NIV) is my guide.  From the Sunday I heard the St. Peter story, I made a vow there will be few missed-opportunity doors when I enter heaven.  Instead of looking at a project as work, I try really hard to look at it as a blessing 

The title is still a mystery, even to myself.  If any ideas, please give a shout-out!!! 

The Nudge Part 2: Master Nudger

By Jeannie McPherson, EMoon Author


With dreams, come nightmares. Not that we necessarily want them, realistically they happen. When God nudges us toward and through our dreams, we celebrate and express thankfulness. After many decades, I realize God also nudges through nightmares. After all, I don’t do a very good job thanking God when life is difficult.      

Test-taking was not just figuratively a nightmare for my young self, I had nightmares about the real thing. Writing was my academic salvation and more than once my letter grade went from a B to an A or even a C to a B when essays were a major component of a course. My first college English class was a disaster and no number of nudges were going to help me learn grammar, in all its confusing glory. In other academic areas, professors liked my unique way of expressing thoughts, facts, opinions, or positions. But, I still struggled through test taking.

My first graduate class required writing an essay question on why I would be a good school principal.  In no fewer than 10 rewrites, I shared my story precisely, concisely, and convincingly, to the extent the professor wrote, “You need to write and publish.” Writing was again the easy part.  In my career, I was typically successful writing grants, memos, and emails. In my personal life, I wrote Christmas letters and short stories and dabbled with a few manuscripts, but the word publish was as scary as test taking and nightmares. The word written on a note card was just… a nudge a long time ago.  

I found my career path, and soon started a family. I had fulfilled all the dreams I had conjured up, except for one; becoming a published writer. Retirement brought new opportunities but nothing that pushed me to attempt to concur the publishing world. For fun, I took a week-long writing class with a published author at my alma mater, the University of Nebraska. The writing I submitted brought me more positive compliments and assignments, like “write every day at least 550 words.” We discussed how to get an editor’s attention, thoughts on self-publishing, and lots of “stick with it, you can do it.” All these were nudges, but apparently, these were not enough to fulfill the dream of holding a book with the author’s name, Rogene McPherson.

In April 2015, God connected me with Rebecca, also a writer and survivor of personal tragedy. The complexity of this meeting could have only been organized by God and His angels. This nudge was not subtle. God definitely sent me a message that day. Then only a year later, God was at work, again at Christian Writer’s Conference in Omaha, when I met Laree Lindburg and her sister Erin with Electric Moon Publishing. I was immediately impressed by what Emoon could offer me:

  • Wide basis of technology without my becoming a techie, a valuable asset in the writing world
  • Multitude of services provided by Christian sisters including an editor and illustrator
  • Consistent support even when the proverbial nightmares interfered
  • Honest and educationally sound support when needed

I better stop before I sound like a marketing expert trying to get a job. I really only want to write. All of the Emoon Team providing the support indicated above have been like a gentle nudge. God in my world has a new name, Master Nudger. 

The Nudge Part 1: Little Pushes

By Jeannie McPherson, eMoon author


Dreams often begin with a nudge. One of my little pushes came during an eleventh grade English. It was likely a beautiful day outside, probably February, and one of the first signs spring was just around the corner.  It was 1967, nearly 50 years ago.  Some details have become vague, but the important parts are as vivid as if it happened yesterday.

One particular student had been giving the English teacher as much grief as anyone should tolerate in one day.  Just before the teacher’s meltdown, the teacher gave all of us an extra assignment.   I remember in my angst, going to the library, randomly choosing one of the 20 volumes in that year’s annual encyclopedia set. I flipped through a book and read the first page I came upon to get a possible idea for an essay topic. It must have been the “L” volume because I wrote an essay on one of Abraham Lincoln’s pearls of wisdom. 

The topic I chose was how to react when all suffer the consequences of someone’s poor choice(s).  My writing strength is to take a topic and figure out how to write a manuscript to fit the need. At sixteen, this strength was the last thing on my mind.  It was truly just my reaction to the teacher’s unfair discipline of one student. With my father on the school board, I knew better than to be outwardly disrespectful. So, I created a respectful and convincing essay.

I received an A , but the relevancy is the recognition I could write to express my feelings.  This is how I have often problem-solved difficult situations. At a minimum, writing has become an acceptable alternative to yelling. Has it always worked? No, but writing has likely made me a better person emotionally. 

That same disruptive student died in a car accident a few years after graduation. He knew nothing of my frustration nor my gratitude for this experience. I wish I could tell him how the Lord gave me some adult-life tools to cope with what was just the beginning of a life of trials, temptations, and tests. I wish I could thank him for what he didn’t know he had done for me.

Fast-forward to 2008.  It was Memorial Day weekend and the 40th anniversary of our class graduation. It was a simple gesture, but I placed a bouquet of flowers on his gravesite. I was still alive to honor those who need to be understood, to make something beautiful out of frustration, and most of all, glorify God in everything.  Did God nudge me to buy the flowers?  I know the answer. 

Now, I dream of the day I can officially call myself a published writer. I am counting the nudges I have had to make this dream come true.  God is good.  His nudges are gentle and kind.  

Beta Readers Love Me; They Love Me Not: Let It Go… Let It Go-ooo (Part 6 of 6)

By Moira Murphy, Emoon Author


There will come a time when you have to just… let go. Let go of your manuscript in more ways than one. I say that like it’s an easy thing to do, which I can attest that it is not. After a second round of beta readers (if you so choose) and many, many editing sessions late at night, you have to come to a consensus with yourself that it’s time to be done. I came to this point last week. I did my final rounds of skimming the pages, searching for any changes it should need, and had a feeling of completion.

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“I’m done.” I thought to myself. A year and a half after my little adventure began, I was finished. Can this be? Surely, there must be something I’ve missed or an improvement to make. Well, there probably is, but I think there will always be something to add or take away or change, and as an author you have to end it at some point. Your book will never be perfect—to you. I can assure you that even the greatest of writers, will take a look at their already published work and see something that could have made it better. That thought will never leave, years and years of rewrites will not change that.

After staring at Wiklow for over a year, it’s almost as if I can’t see what needs changing anymore. Even a simple comma or period escapes my eyes; I am blind to my own book. The story is complete and perfect in my head, but making the words equate to my imagination is impossible. All I can do is my best, and that is far from perfect.

So, last week I sent my manuscript off to the editors after an internal monologue of—what if I change that one part? I should switch the ending. That character needs more developing, etc. But, I came to a point where I knew I could do no more. I became blind to my own work. Therefore, I knew it was time to send it off to capable hands.

I want to thank you all for listening to me rant about the publishing process on Emoon’s website this last month or so. It’s been helpful to me and I hope it’s been helpful to you, too.

Beta Readers Love Me; They Love Me Not: Round Two! (Part 5 of 6)

By Moira Murphy, Emoon Author


After you have decided on what to keep and what to ignore from your beta readers, the next step presents itself.

Do you use a second round of beta readers?

Well, I suppose that would depend upon how much changed from the first draft to the second draft. For example, if the corrections you made were minuscule, then I’d suggest that your editor could probably finish off the last few steps. However, if the changes from the first to the second draft were a bit more drastic, you may want to consider finding a second round of beta readers. As for myself, the changes from my original manuscript to my second was beyond drastic, therefore I required a round two.  I changed the characters, part of the plot, and even the storyline.

So, if you find yourself in my position of needing a second go around with the beta readers, the question becomes; do you use the same group or find ‘fresh meat’? I feel like you can find out quite a bit about the beta readers editing style from the first round. Using that information will help determine whether a change is required. I kept two of the original beta readers, because of their beneficial comments the first round, but I also hired a few new ones. It really is up to you to determine who offered up valuable feedback, and sadly who did not.  And again, I must repeat the importance of finding the right type of person to read your manuscript: fan of your genre, ability to be firm and kind, willing to be bribed. The right beta reader can be the one thing to perfect your novel.

I’ve just received the final comments from my round two, and while the critiques were much scarcer than the first novel, I am struggling to finish!

After working over a year and a half on this dang book, the last few weeks have been the most difficult to push through. But, now that I have a book launch date (*cough* May 6th *cough*), I kind of have to forge ahead.

So persist, I must. And you must, too.

Beta Readers Love Me; They Love Me Not: Opinions Are Like Butts... (Part 4 of 6)

By Moira Murphy, Emoon Author


My Dad had a saying growing up, "Opinions are like butts; everyone has one, but that doesn't mean I want to hear it." Wow, Dad, thanks for that philosophy to carry with me. Sadly, it has stuck around into my adult life. 

However (number one), it didn't leave me with the traumatizing fear of flatulence that you'd think it would leave me with. I actually use it when it comes to beta readers. Yes, every one of my beta readers is entitled to their thoughts—I mean—I did ask them for it. But that doesn't mean I have to change my work based upon every single personal feeling.

There is always the creative license that writers have, it is your book, and ultimately your freedom to choose what ends up in the final work. If you choose to publish indie, as I am, it is you that has to feel content with the printed novel, so if you don't see eye to eye with all of your beta readers—that's okay. They aren't the ones who will have to look back at their novel in twenty years and wonder "what if I had left the book the way I wanted, would it have sold more copies? Would it have gotten better reviews?" That's you that has to deal with those crushing thoughts.

So, please be sure you agree with all the changes that are happening to your book. 

However (number two), you did hire these people. And if you read my article about how important it is to choose beta readers wisely, they do know what they are taking about. The main thing I consider when reviewing beta readers’ comments and critiques is whether there was a common theme among them. Did they all say the same thing about the same part in the book? If so, then it is something you should STRONGLY consider altering. 

I'm on my second round of beta readers now (which we will talk about next week), and I already have two of the beta readers’ comments back, and between the two of them there was only one commonality. So, now I need to take it upon myself to decide whether that part of the book they mentioned is something I need to change.

It's a hard thing to decide whether a few readers or your creative license is the route to take. My advice—which I should take right now—is to wait to hear back from all the beta readers before making a decision.

*GULP* I'll try, if you try.

Beta Readers Love Me; They Love Me Not: Beta Readers or Therapists? (part 3 of 6)

by Moira Murphy, eMoon Author


So, now you’ve received your feedback from the beta readers. Visualize it. You are sitting in your favorite green reading chair, okay so that might be just me… anyway, you’re sitting in your favorite reading spot. You have compiled all of the comments and critiques into a handy dandy manila folder.

therapy blocks

Take a deep breath.

Hold it in.

Release.

Now before you open that folder, I must warn you: you can never be fully prepared for comments on your work. You may think you are, but I promise, you are not. It’s going to hurt, even if the majority of the comments are positive, just one of the negative comments can destroy you. As mentioned in the previous blog; to creative types, our art is our soul. It is at our core, the deepest parts of our psyche, a part of us.  More than that; it IS us. And when someone has the slightest of constructive criticisms, it’s salt in the wound we didn’t know we had.

Okay, open the folder.

In my folder, I received all sorts of feedback; not in depth enough, too knit picky, just not into the genre, loved it, hated it, didn’t even bother to read it at all, etc. I got one of each, and the most helpful beta reader came from the person I was hesitant to ask.

We will call her… Sarah. Sarah is a very nice, very kind, good friend of mine. She loves to read, especially fiction. My one concern with Sarah is that she wouldn’t be able to be mean if necessary. After all, she didn’t have the smallest of mean bones in her body. Surprisingly, Sarah gave me the best feedback out of the group. She stayed away from grammar and punctuation edits, and gave me helpful suggestions, rather than offering unhelpful “this doesn’t work” comments. She went in-depth enough, yet she was kind in her criticisms. She had sticky notes, high lighter and red pen marks; it was ominous… and great!

I think the most helpful part of the whole experience was the physical meeting I had with a few of the beta readers. Being able to have a conversation about the manuscript was productive. Doing so helped to bring questions to ask them to my mind. I was able to examine the queries I had been wondering myself, but was too afraid to confront.

Being that open with someone, in person, about a piece of myself was absolutely terrifying and yet, so liberating and beneficial.

Who needs a therapist when you have beta readers critiquing the physical copy of your life?

Beta Readers Love Me; They Love Me Not: Bribing...Err...Finding Beta Readers (part 2 of 6)

By Moira Murphy, emoon author

Now that I’ve discussed the advantages of beta readers, and how great it is for writers, let’s discuss how to find beta readers. I was not going to simply stumble upon the perfect group of beta readers. Of course, it couldn’t be that simple. First, I had to create an internal checklist of qualities I’d appreciate in readers.

  1.  They must have a love of reading, and a love of the author’s specific genre. (I learned this along the way, as I mistakenly chose a beta reader who was not a fan of fictional works. He made me cry.)
  2. They must understand that, while I don’t want them to be completely aggressive, I do actually need criticism. I need to know what didn’t connect in the story and what characters didn’t seem authentic.
  3. But, they also don’t need to crush my soul. I need constructive criticism, not to be beaten to the ground with every comma I forgot. We call it a ‘content edit’ in the publishing world. I want an edit that is not about grammar and punctuation, but about plot, characters, and flow.  And as the author, you need to make that fact known to the beta readers.
  4. Lastly, they had to work for cheap, close to free. Which sounds greedy and mean, but I haven’t become a world-wide success, yet. I need to publish first. (It’s a joke. I’m not a narcissist. Calm down.)

So, I began my quest for proper beta readers.

I found a few beta readers from work and family friends, and I also asked two previous teachers I’d had. I expected an excited ‘yes!’ from everyone I asked. However, I did not receive these. Truth be told, I was asking a good chunk of time out of their lives to read and critique my manuscript. Hence, the bribery. I used Starbucks gift cards for a few of them, promises of signed copies of the final product for others, but for the most part those I asked were kind enough to offer their services as an effort to benefit the world of arts. They knew I was a poor starving artist, with nothing more than hope in my wallet and a pencil in hand, as most people who pursue their artistic dreams are. 

While I was disappointed that I didn’t hear an adamant “of course I will take time out of my busy life to help you perfect your craft” from everyone, those that did answer were very helpful. I talked about how great beta readers were in the part one of this blog, so I won’t go into it again. However, I do want to reiterate how important this experience is for those looking to publish. 

I can’t say give enough positive feedback on the benefits of beta readers… Do it. Do it. Seriously, do it. Do it. 

Continue to follow Moira Murphy through eMoon in her series "Beta Readers Love Me; They Love Me Not" on 1/13/2017: What Do You Do with Beta Reader Feedback?

Beta Readers Love Me; They Love Me Not: Publishing Fears

By Moira Murphy, eMoon author

I had no trouble deciding that I wanted to publish with Electric Moon Publishing, LLC., what I did have trouble with was when Laree told me it might be a good idea to find some beta readers. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that terminology, a beta reader is someone who reads an authors’ manuscript before they move along with publishing. The idea is to get the opinions and thoughts of a third party reader before the final steps of publishing. While this idea may not seem utterly terrifying to those who have yet to publish, let me tell you, as an author, it is.

Yes, I knew people would be reading my book, and I knew that some of them may not enjoy it as much as I hoped they would. Heck! Maybe, no one would like it! But, the idea of having to hear their comments, their dislikes, and their critiques on each of my pages was close to unbearable.  I told Laree, ‘no!’ with a scoff.   At least if they didn’t like it after publishing I wouldn’t know about it; I could avoid commentary on social media and I’d be perfectly content without reading the Amazon Reviews. But to see that dislike head on; that I could not handle.

But, Laree persisted. She promised me that it would be beneficial to my writing process; that it would change my book for the better. She promised that it would give me a point of view that I couldn’t see in my own writing. I caved. I hired five beta readers and lived in pure agony for a week while I awaited their critiques.  I waited by the computer, staring at my inbox, praying that one of them would get done early. And at the same time I prayed that they wouldn’t finish at all; could I handle the criticisms?

The truth is, Laree was right. I couldn’t believe it, and I’m reluctant to admit it, but everything she promised happened. While, I didn’t agree with all of the beta readers, for the most part it showed me aspects, storylines, and character developments that I had missed. It is so difficult to completely delve into every aspect of a piece of writing you’ve been working on for over a year. Your eyes begin to skim the pages, and you become numb to what it may be missing--because the story is alive in your head. The characters are real people in your mind; with personalities and quirks. The plot has depth and is woven perfectly together in your mind, the question is: did those characters and that plot translate to your pages? Because, as creative people, our imaginations tend to be extravagant and magical. However, with this amazing gift, it becomes horribly difficult to show other people what we see in our minds’ eye. It is our curse. And my beta readers helped me to see what I had difficulty translating to the page.

So, to Laree; thank you for gently shoving me out of my comfort zone. And to authors at any stage in writing; I whole-heartedly encourage you find a few beta readers. It is so worth it to get another pair of eyes on to your work.

Look for Electric Moon’s next blog post by Moira Murphy in her series "Beta Readers Love Me; They Love Me Not" on 12/30/2016: Bribing…err…Finding Beta Readers.

National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo)

by Dallas Beams, Electric Moon team member

Hello, again! It’s me, your favorite satirical, sarcastic, and awkward Electric Moon writer! And I have the honor of telling you that the month of November is National Novel Writing Month! For those of you who do not know what that means, National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to all current and aspiring authors. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in the span of a month; begin on November 1st and continue writing as feverishly as you can until midnight on November 30th. PHEW! Sounds impossible, right? Well, while it might be quite the feat, I know that you can do this. I know it might be hard, I know it might be 1,667 words per day. I know that you have a life, a job, a family, bills to pay, checks to write; I know all of this. But, isn’t fulfilling the dream of having your novel finished worth sacrificing for? I’m not saying don’t pay your bills for November, or to quit your job; what I am saying is it’s one month out of your life of full dedication to working with your talent and honing your craft. And that you CAN do.

There is even a website to help you along.

www.nanowrimo.org

This website provides a log for you to track your progress, an author profile, and even published authors to offer friendly advice and encouragement on your journey.

This may all sound like a bad case of ‘easier said than done’ coming from stranger online, who only edits the books of other people, having never written her own novel. On the contrary, my friend, I, like some of you, am also trying to pump out my first novel. I’ve been working on it for about a year, I’ve gone through four drafts, and just started my fifth. And on November 1st I signed up for the website. Let me tell you, it has pushed me to write each day. And you’re right, it is hard, it is a struggle most days. But, the pep talks from the staff are stimulating, and the badges you can earn from your progress are invigorating. Seriously, if you are struggling for inspiration, and trying to fight off writers’ block, I strongly urge you to take the challenge. It is so worth it, and I am saying that only three days into it.

And please document your successes, trials, and efforts with the #nanowrimo on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We hope that this rejuvenates your love of writing and we hope to see your novels coming into the Electric Moon office at the end of the challenge; which conveniently coincides with our Holiday Publishing Package. Yes, I am shamelessly plugging. But in all honesty it is a great deal that authors should take advantage of before the year is up!

So, where are you in your novel? Half way? Three quarters? Just started? Let us know in the comments below!

For the Love of Books: Reading Your Appetite (part 6 of 6)

by Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon


One of the tiresome things about having five children is that they eat. A lot. All the time. And it seems that just when a meal has been cleared, dishes loaded, kitchen floor scraped, counters de-crumbed… someone is hungry. So I’ve become someone who spends a lot of time prepping, cooking, and all around dealing with food.

I’ve found, through my attempts at meal-planning, that I’m an emotional eater. As in, “Even though I have everything in the pantry for spaghetti, I still don’t feel like eating spaghetti tonight.” I’ve learned to keep several meals on hand (and to be vague with my kids about what is coming for dinner!) in order to allow plenty of room for spontaneity. Because despite what the meal plan was, some nights feel like pizza nights. Some nights are soup nights. And then there are the nights where you just want to eat popcorn for dinner.

Interestingly enough, this is also how I read.

In fact, my food choices and my reading appetites aren’t so different. Here’s what I mean.

Non-fiction: the vegetables of the book world

I read non-fiction because I should. Because I am a responsible adult. Because I do things out of duty, tradition, and social pressure. These are also the exact same reasons I eat vegetables.

I know that vegetables can taste awesome. I’m a big believer in roasted broccoli with sea salt, potatoes in all forms, corn on the cob, and any veggie off the grill. However, it’s not my go-to. I’m not ever like, “Man, I could really go for some green beans right now.” Who is? (And don’t raise your hand if you eat your green beans covered in butter and bacon. That doesn’t count! And while I’m talking to vegetable people, why are you spreading rumors that mashed cauliflower tastes better than mashed potatoes? That’s like someone saying, “I stayed up all night to finish ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. No! It’s simply not true!)

As in eating vegetables, I read non-fiction for self-improvement. I have several titles on my kindle that hover around 20% read because, let’s face it, I only read them when I’m feeling particularly interested in a topic, curious about a popular book, or just feel like being a Super Adult today. And that only gets me so far, which is rarely half way in my case.

Chick Lit: the milk duds of literature

Some mornings are rough. Some afternoons never end. Some days drag on and on and on and when the kids are finally in bed, you reward yourself with chocolate covered caramel. Enter Chick Lit.

Chick Lit, also known as Women’s fiction, is your typical beach read. It’s a breezy storyline with well-told but uncomplicated plots. There’s usually romance, happy endings, and humor.

To me, these books can’t sustain a reading diet, much like milk duds are not a regular on the menu at my house. But it’s a good treat for the long days, and a nice break when you just want to relax and escape.

One box = perfection.

Too many at once = not loving it anymore.

Seasonal Reads: when the months determine the menu

Our family menu changes a bit with the seasons, partially due to ingredients, the weather outside, and the main cook’s strong sentiments towards what food feels seasonal.

Summer? Let’s grill out and eat ridiculous amounts of watermelon.

Fall? I will survive on pumpkin bread, thank you very much.

Winter? Beef stew and crusty French bread.

Strangely, there is a season to my reading as well.

In the summer, I like to read lighter things, so I tend more toward Chick Lit, shorter fiction, or memoir. And, because I first read Les Miserables in a college summer, I usually crack it open and reread it a bit.

The fall makes me want to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. (All of them, in order, preferably before December. Does anyone else still feel like another movie should be coming? I’m obviously in denial.)

As the days get shorter and the sunset starts during the dinner hour, I want big long books that will travel with me all winter. Winter is the time for classics, for contemporary fiction that rambles, for books that are savored with mugs of hot chocolate or a friendly pot of decaf. It doesn’t have to move fast, wrap up quickly, or have action-packed pages. It’s winter. I’ll be here awhile. Let’s just take our time.

The books you come back to: comfort foods on your shelf

There are some foods that always deliver. Sure, maybe they take a little time as the rich flavors simmer. Maybe they require more prep with all the fresh ingredients. Or maybe you love it because it reminds you of home, of summer, or of someone special. Some comfort foods at our place are pork tacos, beef stroganoff, fresh bread, homemade pizza, and cinnamon rolls (we’re carbavores, can you tell?)  Comfort foods never steer you wrong.  They taste like home, like grace, like rest. I know these foods, I think as I make them.

There’s a short list of authors that I would describe in the same way.  Sometimes it’s nostalgia, sometimes it’s the quality of the writing, and sometimes it speaks to something way down deep. I generally reach for these authors because I’m reaching for something intangible; and I don’t just escape, I come back filled. The authors that can tell a story that makes your heart soar, ache, hope, and yearn- those authors are simply my favorite.

Some of my comfort books are To Kill a Mockingbird, Jacob Have I Loved, any book in the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery, and Willa Cather’s My Antonia.

For my boys, the Percy Jackson adventures are some that they return to over and over. For my daughters, Judy Blume’s Fudge books, the Penderwicks series, and the Enchanted Forest Chronicles are well-loved and worn already. These books are familiar, safe, and comforting, like good books and good food should be.

There’s room for variety of appetites, in books and in food. I’m usually pleasantly surprised when I venture out into new genres, but I’m also at a place where my preferences are fairly predictable. With food, books, and life in general, I have a pretty big appetite. And I think that’s a good place to be.

With that thought, I’ll sign off. And with this post our ‘For the Love of Books’ series is ending as well. Thanks for reading along as we talked all things books. Happy reading, folks!

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

 

For the Love of Books: What Surprised Me Most about Trying to Write a Book (part 5 of 6)

by Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon

In July of 2011, I gave birth to my fourth child. At the time, my other kids were two, four, and six years old. As we hit the newborn rhythm and settled in to life with four, I found myself in a strange state of physical exhaustion and mental restlessness. Somehow, I was tired but bored.

That fall I heard murmurings of National Novel Writing Month, a community of writers that set a goal of writing 50,000 words in the month of November. The point of the writing was not the quality of the work but the quantity. Don’t edit. Don’t overthink it. Just write. I signed up with nothing but a vague novel premise and an excitement to stretch my writing muscles a bit.

November 1 came, and I wrote. Each night I found myself at the keyboard, steadily filling the hours of 9:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. with a slowly lengthening novel. At 11:00 I’d shut the laptop, feed the baby her last feeding of the day, and then we’d all go to bed.

In the end I made it to 47,000 words. I didn’t have a novel; I didn’t even really have a story with a point. All I had was a series of random scenes, one of which contained the longest and most-detailed Trivial Pursuit game ever recorded in a work of fiction. Not much promise in all that writing. But I did have a main character that I was getting to know and completely adored. So I scrapped the current manuscript, started over, and tried to write her story again. November had ended but novel-writing had just started.

The next version was better, with a vague hint of a plot, so I cut half of it and kept going.

Write, edit, salvage, repeat. This became the rhythm of my writing life.

Two years later, I finished that manuscript, a YA novel of 90,000 words.

That first book was an unexpected journey; it asked so much of me and taught me so much in the forming of it. I learned hard lessons in plot, conflict, pacing, and ending a story. I labored over dialogue and descriptions, fighting the details to not sound forced or contrived. I interviewed people with similar experiences, wrestled with language and dialect, ruthlessly cut adjectives and adverbs that clouded the writing. I even came to tears as I realized that my book was not going to have the happy ending I had hoped. The story had gotten away from me, the main character that I loved so much had outgrown my original plan, and in her growth she seemed to need a different end. Something harder. Something hopeful.

All of these lessons were invaluable. I came away with a wealth of knowledge not only about the process of writing a book, but also about my process as a writer. I met my main character, Macy, but I also met myself in many ways. I learned how I process information, how I plan, how I write best when I’m feeling my way through a story. I learned how the atmosphere of silence, darkness and talking aloud made the words increase exponentially. I created Macy and her world, but I met parts of me in the middle of it.

Yes, it was harder and more time consuming and more exhilarating and more draining than I had ever imagined. But of all the things I learned, there’s one lesson that surprised me the most. I thought the completion of the project would leave me feeling triumphant; I didn’t expect it to make me feel so vulnerable.

There’s something about creating art, pouring yourself out, digging deep into yourself and calling something out that truly matters to you- this is a terrifying thing to pass along to someone and casually say, “Tell me what you think.” It was a confusing reality because I was so excited to share my work and yet so reluctant to actually offer it to others. I was unprepared for how much that story would matter to me in the end. It was an achievement, not for the quality but for the act of pushing through, of finding my stride, of a few small moments in the story that resonated so deeply with things that matter to me.

In time I came to realize that the vulnerability was coming from many places; it came from the depth of the words, the unsureness of the outcome, the effort given in the pouring out. I knew it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was a sincere and hard-fought offering.

In the offering of something personal, there is a final stage to letting it go. There’s a moment where you actually have to pry your fingers off the work and set it down, knowing that other people are going to pick it up and treat it how they choose.  It was the moment of setting it down that ripped me raw. I expected to feel more like I was unveiling a painting; instead it felt like abandoning a child. But the setting it down, the walking away, the letting the story tell its own story—each hard part of the process was something I needed to experience.

As I reflect on that first attempt, there’s part of me that wants to “fix” that problem, master my own vulnerability, if you will. Surely I can write in such a way that doesn’t leave me feeling so exposed or produce a story that is so personal. But in the scope of creating and writing and building a story, I think that what we say should matter. It should resonate. It should feel like something significant is being offered in the telling. And all I know to write, all I have to really say, is an outpouring of things that deeply matter and move me.

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

 

For the Love of Books: Four Words that Book Lovers Have Got to Stop Saying (part 4 of 6)

By Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon

Join me in this scenario:

You’re at a social event (insert birthday party, holiday gathering, Bunko night) and somebody brings up the latest movie.  Someone raves, someone criticizes, someone shrugs and says they didn’t see it. But then there’s That Person, the Book Person who has to weigh in on the movie and say, “The book was better.”

           In the end, of course the book was better...

           In the end, of course the book was better...

Major eye rolls all around. 

Look, let me clarify a few things. I’m all about books. I’d rather read than watch a movie. And I almost always think the book was better than the movie. But this phrase has become cliché, and here’s a few reasons we should all stop saying it.

  1. Your fellow readers already know. We know the book was better. We get it. You aren’t bringing anything new to the table. Why not offer a comparison, a quip, a specific thought to feed the conversation instead of slamming the door.
  2.  Non-readers (a demographic I like to optimistically think of as “future book lovers”) get irritated.  In my quest to help all people love books as much as I do, you aren’t helping with your “the book was better” answers. It feels exclusive, smug, and maybe a teeny bit condescending.
  3. “The book was better!” Someone commented, shutting down all other opinions.

“Oh, really? I’m totally going to read that,” replied No One Ever.

So if we do outlaw the Four-Words-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, what can we offer instead? I’m all for an honest critique, and particularly enjoy when someone offers a viewpoint I’d never considered. How about a thoughtful comment, one that will intrigue non-readers or spark the conversation of others who have enjoyed the book? Here’s a few questions to consider that may help spark a conversation…

  • How did the movie differ from the book? Did those differences affect the plot or theme? Did the movie capture the heart of the book despite the differences?
  • What character was the most like you pictured in your head? Any casting WAY OFF from your imagination?
  • If the movie fell short, what was lacking?
  • Was there anything about the movie that enhanced the story for you?

That’s a start. Take those questions and run with them, folks. The next time the topic is books-turned-movies, you can feed the conversation and offer some food for thought.  Don’t be that cliché reader who only has one phrase; branch out! Defy stereotypes! Offer more than the obvious and you may be surprised when people meet that offering with their own observations.

In the end, of course the book was better. It’s a book, for goodness sake. I’ll always take a well-developed page turner over an action-packed screen adaption. But just for the sake of everyone who’s still on the fence, still not sure that all those hours of turning pages are worth it, let’s be good ambassadors. 

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

For the Love of Books: (Fantasy) Boy meets (Literary Fiction) Girl (part 3 of 6)

By Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon


Setting: May of 2000.

Scene: First date. Guy and girl both in late teens. Conversation about movie preferences.

Girl: I like the classics.

Guy: The classics. Like Die Hard?

Girl: (confused) No…like Casa Blanca.

Guy: Oh. You mean old movies. Why would you want to watch a black and white movie when there is color now?

Girl sits in stunned silence. Scene fades to black.

Yep. That was us. Stepping out on the unsure waters of a possible relationship and trying to figure out if this was all going to work. What? Old movies? You think Die Hard is a classic? And this was just the movies discussion; the book discussion was years ahead.

But we pushed through it. Through long distance dating, we figured some things out and eventually found an identity as a couple and at some point decided to make us a permanent thing.

Cue the wedding march.

Books played into things, at different times. We read some books together, me reading aloud on road trips and lazy afternoons and picnics. We read through the Chronicles of Narnia in our first year together. We tackled Til We Have Faces on a road trip one spring. We read a few biographies that interested us.

At some point we decided to read Pride and Prejudice together. I mean, after all, how could my life partner truly get me if he didn’t know Elizabeth and Darcy, couldn’t place Pemberley or Netherfield? By the end of the first chapter, my husband turned to me and said, “I don’t get it. What do they do all day?”

Girl sits in stunned silence. Scene fades to black.

Just kidding. I’m not sure what I said to that. But in the end, we decided to do something else, find something else that we could both enjoy more. And we found it, fell into the deep end, you could say, all by accident.

Our second year of marriage, we were prepping for a road trip to Chicago so I stopped by the library to grab an audio book. I was pregnant, so the extra motion sickness was making it hard for me to read out loud in the car. I was in a hurry and scanned my options quickly, settling on a random fantasy novel that looked kind of Lord-of-the-Rings-ish to me. It looked like something he would like, so I checked it out.

We set out on our trip, popping in disc 1 as we drove out of Omaha. We arrived in Chicago seven hours later. I don’t remember where we were in the story or if we had started discussing it yet, but I do remember that we pulled up to our hotel and neither of us wanted to get out of the car. We were completely hooked. The characters, the setting, the pace of the book- we just didn’t want it to end.

Well, lucky for us, we had stumbled on the prequel to The Wheel of Time. So there were years of books waiting for us in this epic fantasy series. We read on car trips, stretched out on the couch in our living room, by the light of the bedside lamp at night. We read in hospital rooms and hotels and airport terminals. We read and read and read. The characters of these books became part of our shared language, our common friends, as we slowly worked our way through the rest of the fourteen books. 

Then life moved on, babies kept coming, road trips happened regularly. Along the way, we found authors that appealed to both of us. We discovered Stephen Lawhead, a perfect literary union of beautiful language, rich world building, and classic re-tellings of timeless stories. Hood. Scarlet. Tuck. Books we both loved so much, and loved even more that we could love them together.

Sixteen years into marriage, we’ve grown towards each other in so many ways, but we’re still uniquely us. I’m still enamored by old books, still a sucker for clever dialogue and thick prose and characters that I feel like I’ve met. He’s pushing through things like Game of Thrones and still a hardcore fan of the epic fantasy novel (So. Much. World building.)  In books (and in marriage) we have found that we bring our own thing to this game.  But we’ve also learned that there’s overlap, that there are things in life and in books that we honestly enjoy together.

Those things unite us and remind us that we aren’t so crazy to be in this together. That we make sense. That we’re good for each other.

I’ll leave you with this last scene.

Setting: Ten years into marriage. Husband is proudly introducing Star Wars to his young boys. Wife is in and out of the room, folding laundry, kind of watching.

Episode III is playing. Padme is pregnant. Anakin is lured to the dark side. Obi-Wan fights Vader. Padme gives birth. Whole family watching is enthralled.

Wife: (yells in shock) What??? It’s twins???

Husband sits in stunned silence. Scene fades to black.

Yep. That was us. Still surprising each other. Still shaking our heads. Still glad we stepped out on those unsure waters and never looked back. 

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!

For the Love of Books: Why Memoirs Matter (part 2 of 6)

By Becky Swanberg, writer, teacher and friend of eMoon


I’m a fiction girl. When it comes to books, movies, TV shows, or even lectures- all I want is a good story.

Non-fiction reading? If I must.

Documentaries?  I’ll watch out of conscience but not interest. 

TED talks? For fun? Really?

This is just how I’m wired. The list of fiction I’ve stayed up all night to finish is tens times longer than the list of non-fiction I’ve ever cracked open. I want a story not a thesis. I want to be enthralled not informed. I want to meet people, go places, feel things.

Enter memoir.

Yes, personal memoir: the one genre of non-fiction that I can honestly say I enjoy and reread and excitedly pass on to others. These are not the non-fiction books I find lost under my bed, a post-it note marking my place in the early chapters. Oh, no. Memoirs are simply someone’s true story, and I can get into that.

There’s something about the good, the bad, and the ugly of someone else’s life that leaves me wide-eyed. It’s almost as though the stakes in the story are higher because it is real. It happened. All the people on these pages are…well, people. And this narrative that is being woven isn’t just a story; it’s actually someone’s story.

Around ten years ago I read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. In this true account, Nafisi tells of her time as a professor in Iran and recounts her relationships with her female students, their challenges amidst the political and religious restrictions, and her own personal journey to reconcile her inner and outer world. In the book, Professor Nafisi gathered a group of female students to secretly study the great novels of western literature, working through classics like Gatsby and Lolita. The result is a difficult and courageous story, one that I had no context for but wholly admired in the telling.

I could not relate to the specific experience of life in Iran. I had never taught college, had kids, lived in a culture with extreme restrictions towards women, or dealt with the family and societal expectations that reflected the culture. I had never had a dress code, hurried home by a state-enforced curfew, or seated myself in a “women-only” section of a restaurant. It almost read more like fiction; though I knew it to be true, it didn’t feel true to me.

Then I read this quote, a reflection of the main character as she processes her family’s decision to leave Iran.


“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

Then I set the book down and wept. As a military kid, I knew too well the experience of leaving. And never before had I been able to articulate how you truly say good-bye to part of yourself when you move. But Azir Nafisi had said it for me.

 I could not claim to have experienced her life, but I could relate to the emotions. That is what memoir has to offer us. Memoirs tell us that our experiences are unique but our emotions are universal. It’s those universal emotions that draw us in, but it is someone else’s perspective that can truly call us out.

From reading a memoir, we can push pause on our own life. In the pages of someone else’s childhood, we can begin to stop playing our own story on repeat. We can let walls down, prejudices fade, ignorance wither. With the help of a narrative, we can identify with another’s experience, and often more accurately interpret our own.

This is memoir: stories that inspire reflection, encourage empathy, and offer us another’s shoes to walk in for a bit.

Sometimes the journey wears us out. Sometimes we’re repulsed or heartbroken or simply weighed down by another’s truth. At the end of the day, a well-written memoir can widen our perspective and yet somehow draw us more closely to others. Memoir reminds us of the courage that is shown not only in the honest telling of a hard story, but in the living of a hard story.  

Memoirs offer us the chance to grow up again as someone else, to see the world from other eyes, to celebrate and mourn and carry the weight of an entirely other story. And in the journey, we can become stronger and kinder and more understanding.

Unique experiences. Shared emotions. Better people.

Thank you, memoir. 

Follow Becky's other amusing musings on her website at www.beckyswanberg.com. While you're at it, do us a solid and encourage her to publish those manuscripts!