an informal, unofficial blog and podcast about writing and writers on Whidbey Island
Author: Tom Trimbath
real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired
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and at my amazon author page:
Graphic novelist. There’s a term that can be mis-understood. Is that a novelist who is graphic? No. Luke Kruger-Howard is a graphic novelist from the cartoonist side of things. He considers himself an ambassador for cartooning. Cartooning stretches from doodles to Dilbert to the other end of the spectrum like anime and Maus. There’s a lot out there.
Luke talked about realities of being printed in the New Yorker, and what to do when their response is a rejection letter. Some of his work is single-panel, but much of it is longer form, hence, graphic novelist. He’s also modern enough that he doesn’t limit himself to the boundaries of a page. Hello, infinite scrolling online. Regardless he continues to have “a romantic relationship with the printed page.”
Creating the art is one thing, actually many things; but he also taught cartooning and book-making at the Center for Cartoon Studies. His move to Whidbey now means he gets to teach things like potty-training to two small humans, a temporary gig. While he is here he is interested in getting involved in art-making classes for kids. Hello, Whidbey’s schools and art organizations.
Throw in some philosophical work regarding the impact of money on creativity – and this description will fall short of the breadth and depth of Luke in this one hour conversation. Imagine if we talked for two.
Well, that didn’t go as planned; but it may have come out better. Don and I decided to book ourselves for the last interview of the year. Gaps in our schedules coincided, Coupeville Library was nice enough to let us use their meeting room, and the two of us sat down to talk about Don’s books and projects, and my books and projects. We did that, but the conversation drifted over to what life is like for authors in the shopping and selling season.
We also talked about the value of talking to other members of our writing community. Writing does not have to be a solo venture. Fellow writers can provide insights into how readers perceive a book. The author may have one intent, but readers may find something else that is not obvious to someone who wrote, edited, and repeatedly read the book before it was published. Bicycling books may appeal to RV owners. Travel books may appeal to people from countries that weren’t visited or even mentioned.
This podcast has become an unplanned, informal, yet possibly useful resource built from the contributions and interviews of dozens of members of Whidbey Island’s writing community. Book store owners can bring some reality to expectations. Librarians can point to overlooked resources for research or even funding. Writers from your genre undoubtedly have encountered surprises, the good ones the bad ones and the weird ones. Successful and failed campaigns are useful as long as we learn from them. And, of course, writers can support writers simply by listening to frustrations or understanding otherwise obscure celebrations. (You finally found the right font!)
Thanks to everyone who participates by listening, being interviewed, and sharing.
I hope you enjoy the podcast, and I hope your sales treat you well.
Just Keep Pedaling, a bicycle ride across America (one man’s failed attempt to lose weight, really) Twelve Months at Barclay Lake – from the wet side of Washington’s Cascades (party party) Twelve Months at Lake Valhalla – from the cold crest of the Cascades (frozen more than thawed) Twelve Months at Merritt Lake – from the dry side of the Cascades (with more than a whiff of smoke) Dream. Invest. Live. – personal finance for frugal folks (by request) Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland – but could’ve used more drinking Kettle Pot Cup – a light-hearted look at the way we really drink tea Firewatcher – book one of the Exodus/Genesis sci-fi series
Twelve Months at Cultus Bay Twelve Months at Deception Pass Twelve Months at Admiralty Head Twelve Months at Penn Cove Twelve Months at Double Bluff Twelve Months at Maxwelton Beach Twelve Months at Possession Beach Twelve Months at Possession Preserve Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay
Laugh into your lapel. Laugh into your lapel as if you were covering a cough or a sneeze, but laugh into your lapel because you don’t want to be embarrassed by laughing so hard, or at least she did. Our interview with Lauren Flake was fun; but maybe we were laughing as we tried to keep warm as the room heated up. Lauren was nice enough to meet us at South Whidbey Commons on a chilly Saturday morning to talk about her work developing a fantasy novel, as well as her efforts to start a writers group. Digressions and detours occurred.
Lauren may be at the resurgence of writers groups on the island. This blog/podcast has somehow been seen as a possible source of news about writers groups. Thanks, but that’s probably more from a lack of options rather than from any obvious expertise. Coincidentally, the previous two days also included renewed interest in writers groups, so naturally we took the hint and talked about what could happen, what might already be happening, and some of what has already happened. Without a writers association writers groups lost a repository or at least a directory of various groups. Maybe something could be coordinated with Sno-Isle (or maybe leveraging the Foundation Grants to Individuals (GTI) database) or Whidbey Island Arts Council (and joining WIAC does Not require an invitation.) Maybe all it takes is someone like Lauren. Listen in to hear about her approach using Facebook.
Naturally her main goal is to develop, finish, and publish her fantasy novel; which could also become a series. She talked about world building, inspirations, and progress. Books don’t have to be developed as a solid block of work with no preliminaries. She’s using short stories to explore her world and the characters within it. There are advantages to taking small bites.
Her work in progress is one motivation for finding or, if necessary, creating the right writers group because a writer develops their writing as they write; but that kind of development does not have to be done in isolation.
So where does the laughing into lapels happen? For that you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
Say the word ‘money’ and people either have their ears perk up or their eyes glaze over. How about if it is money for your projects? Sno-Isle Libraries’ Freeland Library has become one of the few homes for a database of grants, a source of people and organizations who want to fund people and organizations who have projects and ideas, but who don’t have the money they need. We were lucky enough to talk with Katrina Morse, an Adult Services Librarian who has the task of showing artists, creatives, and advocates how to use the Foundation Grants to Individuals (GTI) database. This is for individual people. Non-profits can benefit, too with the Foundation Directory Online. There are over 10,000 grantmakers on GTI, which is a good thing, but it is also why its best to have a guide like Katrina.
Believe it or not, if you have an idea there just might be someone out there who wants to fund people willing to work on that idea. Research a region? Organize a community? Develop a facility or resource? There’s no guarantee, but there is a possibility. Why say no to an idea until you’ve found out if someone has already said yes, at least to financing it?
Katrina did a great job of teaching Don and I about some aspect of the database tool then listening to us start playing with ideas. Could there be some way to travel to an area that’s going to be in your next book? Someone might care about that region, wherever it is. We’re hearing about writers seeking writers groups. That might be something to organize on more than a volunteer basis. Do we writers need a coworks or a sound studio or a meeting place? That might be handy, and maybe someone wants to encourage the arts in places that aren’t in ‘The Big City’. And maybe not. But maybe.
It is obvious that Katrina can get introduced to lots of passionate people, and funnel them to a source that is otherwise not readily available. This is something that has to be accessed onsite, a bit old-fashioned in that regard; but imagine what this service was like recently, when lots of it was bound and printed and only available by traveling to central locations like Seattle. To get access on Whidbey is a great improvement.
Listen in to what she has to say, and maybe contact her directly about how she can help. Imagine finding funding for organizing classes – or maybe even a writers conference. We won’t know until we ask.
Our workshop about self publishing is coming soon. October 15th we’ll be conducting an all-day (9AM-9PM) workshop: From Inspiration To Publication. In one day we’ll discuss topics from writing to editing to formatting to publishing to selling your book.
The previous time we made the presentation was at the local library (thank you, Sno-Isle Libraries and the Friends of Langley Library); and we covered as much as we could in under a couple of hours. It was a bit of a rush. (#massiveunderstatement) This time we’ll give each topic more time. We’re also hosting it in downtown Coupeville, at the Rec Hall, so the setting is sweet, again.
But what should you bring?
The good news is that you don’t need to bring much, but you can also bring a lot. Whatever way you prefer to take notes, laptop or paper, bring it. (Sorry, no recordings for privacy concerns.) You may just have an idea or you have a completed manuscript; either way there’s enough to get started with. Don’t be surprised if we ask you to describe your project in three sentences. Aside from that, Coupeville has the rest like plenty of restaurants. Park at the building. Pay that day. (check, cash, PayPal) Take breaks if you need to.
We’ll have wi-fi and presentations, of course, but we’ll also bring publishing and merchandising examples. The very nature of the presentation means we’ll also have the props and support ideas that we use when we present our books at readings and signings.
Don’t worry about signing up. We appreciate knowing how many people to expect, but this is an island thing. There’s no need to be formal.
We’ll start at 9AM, but should have the doors open before then. We’ll close at 9PM, but there will be breaks throughout the day. We have a schedule but will be flexible because we’ll try to emphasize what you want to work on.
There’s always more to say, but it may be best to hear your questions directly from you. (Contact)
What do you know about the natural cycle of salmon? What do you know about finding funding for storytelling? Amy Gulick is an islander who has stories to tell about salmon and about how she approached her mix of advocacy, community, and funding.
Amy had won enough awards for her photography and writing that the list would probably be longer than this post. She’s a writer, yes. She’s a photographer, obviously. But she identifies as a storyteller who has been telling stories in words and images since she was a child. Children tell stories. It isn’t until we’re adults that we apply labels like writer or photographer.
Her two main books are Salmon in the Trees and The Salmon Way. Not a surprise, she knows a lot about salmon, but has also witnessed how salmon return to their spawning grounds, but also their carcasses return nutrients to the plants and animals along those streams. She’s also witnessed the impact salmon have on communities, families, people.
Storytelling is an art. Storytelling for advocacy is a finer example of it because there are consequences to the story. Advocates advocate, so the telling of a story can hopefully encourage action directly, or at least awareness that can indirectly lead to action.
Her process may be useful, too, because there are many reasons and many topics for advocacy. Got something you want to advocate for? Listen in, and at hear from someone who can tell stories so well that it makes for an engaging interview.
In the words of co-host Don Scoby, learn how to; “Tell Your Own Damn Stories”.
Take one genre; there will be enough to talk about. Take a second genre and the same thing is true. Take two genres that are opposing, like fiction and non-fiction, then sometimes keep them separate and sometimes overlap them and the matrix of possibilities becomes multi-dimensional. So goes, or went, our conversation with Sarah McCarthy and Sarah Allen as we talked about her career steering through fiction titles and non-fiction titles, respectively. At least she kept the same first name for both.
Sarah has a degree in physics (impressive), has studied cognitive psychology (which would seem to help with characters), and now tutors physics students. And then on the fictional side of life;
“Fantasy novels are basically goal-oriented extended camping trips and magic is just alternate-reality physics, so this worked out well”
Good luck guessing which is what with titles like, Newton’s Laws: A Fairy Tale (approachable non-fiction) and The Eidolons of Myrefall (fiction for sure.) And in both cases, check out her cover designs.
She not only is working in more than one genre, but also has a tendency to work in, or on, series as a soloist and in collaborations.
Successful authors frequently are required to make the leap from introvert as a writer to extrovert as a business person. Sarah has managed to not so much leap as stretch from her introverted base to successfully conduct marketing and sales campaigns by using a few online tools very well. Her efficiency may also explain her productivity because a quick count of her titles suggests a publication rate of about one book per year, with hints that she may be able to do more.
And she’s not stopping. There are other series to write, and with each series it sounds like she is tutoring herself in how to become a career author.
Listen in. By the way, this podcast was recorded in a park with kids running around, parents on smartphones, and a gracious groundskeeper who saw our recording rig then steered away until we were done. Whidbey Island, a place where even landscapers support writers and authors.
Let’s see, topics included: National Lampoon (with a connection to Garrison Keillor), a dragon, the sister of Sherlock Holmes, a relative of Jack the Ripper, Sarah Susanka, Mary (yes, that one), casino mysteries, and a book temporarily titled Adultery And Other Alternatives To Suicide. One hour wasn’t enough for our interview with Melanie Bacon, but the company offering the free online conference call was heartless and cut us off at an hour. (But, hey, it was free.)
Interviews are easy when the interviewee is a comedian, as well as a story teller. Melanie has also had a fascinating journey in her career and in finding a place on Whidbey. From one of her bios;
“A few of the many trades she worked at but failed to master were cage cashier, employee relations manager, and legal affairs investigator at a large Minnesota Indian gaming casino. She has also been a farmwife, a signmaker, owned a bookstore and second-hand shop, chaired a city planning commission, and was once the international compensation manager for a Fortune 500 corporation.“
She has written several novels. Her current series is called The Detectorist. Book 1 is titled Dragon Ripper, which is an intriguing title. Book 2 in the series is done, but not published, yet. Considering her low-key, minimalist, surprisingly successful market approach to the first book (aka not over-working it), she may not need to do much this time, either. Of course, we fellow writers could help spread the word; which is the case for all of us.
The interview lasted an hour, but went by quickly. Laughter helps make that happen.
Listen in and enjoy, and stay tuned for when her next book gets published. There might be a line at the store when that happens.
Oh yeah, and if you can handle flashbacks, check out the links below. One is a hand-built web site from 1999 that we jokingly called, The Last of the HTMLs.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, except people do. Joe Menth has helped many of Whidbey’s writers by helping them fix their covers, polish the graphics inside, produce posters and cards and plenty of other marketing materials. Joe’s shop, Feather and Fox which is owned and operated by him and his wife, is in Langley, but if you follow local writers or local artists you’ve probably seen his work.
Writing On Whidbey Island is about the writing community, which previous episodes have shown to be about the support network that wraps around the writers. Librarians, booksellers, editors, publishers, etc. add to the unofficial community that already includes hundreds of writers, poets, and screenwriters. Some writers can do it all, but many of us call for help because we don’t have those skills, or are already so busy that hiring a professional for an hour can save a day’s (or a week’s) effort.
Joe talked with the two of us in a conversation that had to wander around what he does and what he’s asked to do because his skills are so varied. His skills are so varied that sometimes he has to be reminded of them. (Personal note: He’s helped me with at least ten books, so far. Insides, outsides, and marketing besides are demonstrations of more than hitting print.)
Welcome back to a virtual call because, as the pandemic has proved, sometimes the only way to get three busy schedules to align is by having everyone phone it in. Hopefully, you find the episode more engaging than that.