In Part 1 of this interview, published last month, David addressed issues around writing the book. In Part 2, he gives us some insight into editing and publishing.
However, before I go any further, I'm delighted to announce that the book is now available! You can purchase a copy at the publisher's website now.
How many drafts of the book did you write? What advice do you have for others about rewriting and editing?
I sat on these chapters for years. In fact, I remember writing some early chapters that I went back to read and they were completely ridiculous—I mean, comically bad. I was shocked to know these words came out of me. But for the most part, when I completely focused on the book, it flowed out of me pretty easily because of how long I’d been writing it in my head.
As far as advice for writers goes, Anne Lamott hit the nail on the head when she said your first draft is, without a doubt, complete and utter shit. That’s why she calls it her “Shitty First Draft.” She convinced me to put my story down on paper, then I could lie to myself and call the rest “editing.” And in my opinion, editing (even very heavy editing) is much easier than writing my shitty first draft. But you aren’t big on cuss words, follow the wise advice of Annie Dillard: “One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now.”
Describe the publishing journey. What was frustrating, pleasing, surprising, satisfying?
Everyone was yelling at me to write this story, and I had contacts with great writing agents from earlier in my career. But first, I needed the confidence to get through writing my proposal because I was facing the struggle of how hard would be to write this book. After submitting my proposal and two chapters to my agent, Chris Ferebee, he sent it to publishers. I learned from a series of “No, thank yous,” I was writing a “gap” book. Too much honest “God” talk for secular publishers and too much “drunk” talk for Christians publishers. So I had the joy of writing my book the way it actually happened; from speaking in tongues to not speaking at all because I’ve drunkenly passed out. It’s pretty frustrating to learn that publishing companies are focused on making more money, rather than telling great stories. Nevertheless, go capitalism!
For kicks, here are a few responses from publishers:
Ultimately, you raised the money to publish the book via crowdfunding. Any tips for other memoirists on running a successful crowdfunding campaign?
Video. In fact, you need ridiculously amazing video. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the typical person is only swayed by video these days. Words only allow introductions with people, but telling your story in video form creates a vivid way for the public to remember and connect with you. I was lucky enough to work with Gorilla Films (wearegorilla.co) who did a marvelous job at retelling my life through a five-minute film.
HOWEVER, I must say, don’t go search for a great director or a production company. Go get a fantastic scriptwriter first. They carry the capacity to build and create the best script for a video no matter who the director or production company is. If you are having trouble finding a writer, call me!
Tell us about the cover design choices you made.
The actual design choice was simple due to what this image represents in my life, but the final design was a far cry from what I originally wanted. Currently, my book is covered with waves, lapping in and out of a sandy beach. It represents the fact that God always gives and God always takes, just like the eternal consistency of waves. To accept one without the other is absolutely ridiculous. There is no way one can appreciate the fullness of life if we haven’t also experienced the loss and pain of that same life.
My original idea—which wasn’t used—came from the concept I presented in the final chapter of my book. The music Boléro, by Maurice Ravel, was composed during the onset of a sickness in his brain, which later killed him. And years later, a doctor, obsessed with Ravel’s composition, led her to paint the music without knowing she also had the same sickness in her brain. Unfortunately, I have the same illness in the same part of my brain. But I won’t know if I have that disease until it progresses a little more. Nevertheless, Boléro and this painting have such wonderful starting and finishing moments. In fact, I love how it openly allows the listener to challenge whether or not they like the song or the painting. I would much rather be given a choice by the artist, than be told by others that this is “good” art or “bad” art. Is it good? Is it bad? Who knows? It’s truly up to you to decide.
If you had to go through the process again, what might you do differently?
If I were to live through this process again, I wouldn’t change the story at all, knowing full well I am living the best life I ever have. My first answer is to say I would change how I reacted to these events. I have spent far too much of my time being bitter, resentful, unappreciative, and angry. Those are the words that carry much more weight than cancer or divorce or unexpected pregnancies. It’s not about the actual events, but more so how I responded to them.
I could say that if I could changed my responses to these scenarios that I would be a better person, but in actuality, I think it was the actual physical, emotional, and spiritual battles that made my story (my life!) worthwhile. I feel that, despite what is wrong or right, I have learned so much from all of the love, loss of love, pain, glory, arguments, drunken nights, forgiveness, close friends, bruised bodies, sexual encounters, and crying babies, that I would never give them back.
In the end, all I can say is that it all happened in the most perfect way possible. I would change nothing.
Do you have another literary project in the works?
I do enjoy writing, but I enjoy speaking even more. In the speaking world, I want to focus much more on a relevant way to tell this story of disease, heartbreak, and redemption in one hour as opposed to the hours people would spend reading my book all the way through. I feel my message can reach many more people if I can spread this message to churches, universities, and conferences. In fact, if you are looking for a speaker who has experienced both the best and worst in this life, contact me!
However, I’ve also considered the idea of creating a book I would write for the rest of my long/short life. It would be the lessons I’ve learned, the struggles I’ve overcome, and essentially writing it until the moment I die: a complete life story featuring cancer, divorce, and a new family. But past that, I would love to dig further into spirituality, personal motivational habits, and an ongoing dedication to a purposeful life, and continue telling this story all the way to my deathbed. In fact, I already have the URL purchased :-)
Last year, I had the honor of copyediting and proofreading David’s powerful memoir, and I eagerly await its imminent publication (Mascot Books). To whet your appetite, too, I asked David to share his experience of writing his book, and this post is the first of a two-parter. The second part will be published when the book is available.
About the Book
After hitting his head during a kung fu play-fight and suffering a grand mal seizure, David discovered he had an inoperable brain tumor and was told he had 5 to 7 years left to live. That was 9 years ago.
Having defied the survival odds, David has written a memoir, Thank You Kung Fu—an unwaveringly honest, moving, and oftentimes funny account of his search for the meaning of life and the answer to why he had cancer. This quest ended David’s first marriage, but it also opened unexpected pathways that ultimately led to the discovery of inner peace and new purpose.
First, by way of an additional introduction, can you tell us your favorite “book with spine"?
The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. That might seem like a strange answer, but to me, he represents the creativity I see as such an important aspect of my life. If I were in a spot where I was not able to create, my body would start to immediately deteriorate. Just ask my wife!
I actually met Pressfield for breakfast one morning and was enamored with every move he made (such as ordering his meal with no salt, then burying his meal with salt when it arrived). He is an enigma with in-depth knowledge of writing on serious and lengthy topics like the history of war tactics, murder mysteries, or inspiring creativity while not giving a shit about what people think. He has become an authority (not an expert—a distinction I talk about in my own book) on sharing inspiring stories with anyone who chooses to read any of his work. And because of who he is, what he represents, and how much he has affected me, I gladly picked up our breakfast tab.
Many of the stories you tell in Thank You Kung Fu are harrowing to read, and they must have been harrowing to write. How did you deal with reopening old wounds? Do you have any advice for others who want to write about difficult life experiences?
It took me quite a while to trust that the only thing that moves any audience is vulnerability. I know I have written things in this book that will mocked by counselors, doctors, pastors, naturopaths, family members, and so on … and it was really hard to type out those stories. You can ask my wife (my second wife, who’ll you’ll meet if you read the book) about the times I would come home covered in tears over what I remembered or recorded that day. Telling your story is tough, but honestly, it’s worth it.
For future writers, I would say to begin with writing EVERYTHING. Your shaky tears and your shocking fears will blow you away, but THOSE writings are the true source of great stories. And when you come back to it a day or two later, your gut will tell you which parts are and aren’t needed. I imagine you will also have stories you don’t want to tell (I had many). But because of the power of expressing vulnerability, you have to tell them.
The feeling of releasing those stories to the public is scary as shit. In fact, it actually helped me that I have cancer and thinking, These words might be some of the last words I write, so I made sure they were accurate and true.
One of the biggest challenges for any storyteller is not what story to tell but how to tell it. How did the structure of your story come about? Were there some episodes in your experience you decided to omit, and why?
To my benefit, the structure of my story was pretty simple because I had three massive events happen in a row: cancer, divorce, and random pregnancy. And three’s a solid number, so I figured I should get this book printed before the fourth event shows up (actually it’s already happening with my new nonprofit for encouraging cancer survivors through my new nonprofit, Bent Not Broken: bentnotbroken.org).
I had multiple issues with length. Originally, my book was more than 125,000 words long, and I loved every single one of those words, so it was extremely difficult to cut them out of the manuscript. So, yeah, there were stories I hated to leave out. I left out the crazy moments from shooting the movie Election [in which David had a speaking role], like when I took Reese Witherspoon on a “date” and we slow danced at a bar after filming was done. And I skipped the story about attending a random concert in a janky restaurant with one of my favorite musicians of all time, Alfie Jurvanen (of Bahamas). At that time he had recently won the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy Award, and his agent suggested playing a show on his way back to Canada. Considering it was a late booking with zero promotion, nobody was at the show. I asked him out for a drink and, strangely enough, he was the first person I explained my divorce situation to in the back of a gritty bar.
There was another life-changing moment I had to omit, which was when I shared a dinner with my film team in Uganda. We met up with another organization who had just come across a scared young boy who had to piggy-back his dead younger brother across the extremely dangerous Congolese border. After dinner, when everyone was leaving, I called out his name and ran towards him. I couldn’t help but squeeze him so tight in the middle of a busy road. When I was packing up my things to go home, I couldn’t stand the fact that I had all of these “expensive and fancy” clothes, so I put them all in a big plastic bag and dropped them off where he was staying. I traveled home with an empty bag but with a heart full of love for him. So many of these unpublished stories have so much heartache, pain, fear, and love. But they also have too many words, so I had to leave them out.
Why did you want to write a book to convey your life story, rather than, say, a documentary film?
Interesting question. To be honest, a documentary seemed somewhat lifeless when telling my extremely emotional story. Ideally, I wanted people to be able to “press pause” with the book and think about these moments or concepts for themselves. I needed (for myself!) to provide intense explanations for the things I was feeling and felt I couldn’t do that through a film. By writing this book head on, I felt I could challenge and face those fears that have pursued me. Essentially, I wanted (as horrible as it sounds) to relive those years and work my way through the pain it brought, so that’s why I felt a memoir would work better for me. Also, I have been approached by numerous people who say they want to direct the movie for this book, and I am positive they are much better at doing that than I am.
What do you hope the book will achieve for you and do for the reader?
As far as what the book will achieve for me, and I hate to say this, but I have no hopes. I placed my best efforts into writing this book and I am now placing it in God’s hands. I’ll let him figure out what He wants to do with it; whether that leaves me with a New York Times Bestseller or a book that nine people read.
I see this strange balance similar to what I wrote in chapter three of the book, “Fuck Experts,” where I first learned the differences between experts and authorities. Experts want to attract everyone to their schtick, to their “bestseller,” and make as much money as possible. But an authority’s true motives are to complete projects for themselves and whoever else is interested. And history continues to show that by creating with true intent to reveal the honest truth, as authorities do, people are naturally drawn towards the work that is being done. For example, which interaction would you prefer? A person who signs your copy of his best selling book regarding global poverty? Or sitting down and sipping tea with Mother Teresa while listening to her personal stories?
I don’t want to be a best seller; I just want to share my story with you.
Part two of this interview will focus on the challenges of publishing a book with spine. In the meantime, find out more about David, his book, and his life's work at:
We all know the film industry would be nothing without books or short stories to adapt. On occasion, a film will be turned into a book ... though l doubt any of those books will win any Pulitzers. But what of the relationship of books to other forms of media? Lately, I've become interested in a new symbiosis that seems to be emerging between books and podcasts.
In the last few years, podcasting has exploded, leading some to declare the phenomenon "audio's second golden age." According to Forbes magazine, 67 million Americans listen to a podcast each month. Weird in this age of highly visual media, right? But the podcast is now considered THE way to communicate, and everybody who's anybody has one.
The literary world has embraced the podcast to the benefit of readers and writers. And the podcast boom is a boon to the self-publishing gurus out there. Of course, a lot of these podcasters are trying to sell you something, which is why I don't bother with most of them. Rather, I am interested in podcasts that transport me and expand my world view, and so I'm intrigued when a "podcast with spine" becomes a "book with spine."
If in the past, like me, you've been more likely to pick up a book than put in your earbuds, perhaps the following book suggestions might be your entry points into the wonderful world of podcasting.
1. All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown
This book is edited by Catherine Burns with a foreword by fantasy writer Neil Gaiman (an odd choice for nonfiction, but a smart choice for appealing to a broader audience). This book came out of the The Moth podcast, which gives everyday people an opportunity to tell a 10-minute true story live on air. A new story is put out every Tuesday. As a podcast, The Moth aims to connect human beings through storytelling (that gets my vote), and they tell you that when you support Moth with a donation, you "create a better world."
2. Adnan's Story: Murder, Justice, and the Case That Captivated a Nation
By Rabia Chaudry. This book followed the enormously popular podcast "Serial" that was produced by This American Life for PBS, and it explores in more detail the story of Adnan Syed, who was accused of and imprisoned for murder. Why is this a podcast/book with spine? Because it's a passion project of Chaudry who is convinced of Syed's innocence and sees his case as part of a bigger struggle for a fairer justice system in the US. A noble cause indeed.
3. Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast
By Marc Maron & Brendan McDonald. Marc Maron is a stand-up comedian, and his podcast is a series of interviews with great people and great artists. But why is this a podcast with spine? Well, this is where my bias comes in. In my not-so-humble opinion, stand-ups are some of our most important social commentators, and their unapologetic evisceration of politicians and other people of power is vital to democracy. This WTF book isn't a work of satire. However, it is described as, "A collection of intimate, hilarious and life-changing conversations," so count me in.
I'm excited about this emerging synergy between the spoken and written word. Podcasting isn't a threat to reading; it's most definitely an opportunity. Through podcasts, listeners are being introduced to new writers and new books, but more interestingly, the podcast can create meaningful literature that has a physical presence in the world that has a longer shelf-life (pun intended) than a digital audio file.
I owe my interest in mission-driven literature to the fact that I spent the first 15 years of my career working for nonprofit organizations in the UK and the US. At 35, I took a career break to return to my first love—literature—and write a novel, but when I had finished it and decided to launch my own writing and editing business, my first thought was, How can I use my skills to help nonprofits? Old habits die hard, for sure. This led to my creating the Embark Editorial Agency, which for two years (until major life stuff took over) helped new copyeditors build their professional experience by doing pro-bono work for nonprofits.
My enduring affinity with the nonprofit sector is why this post is a tip of the hat to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s current chief operating officer (although, in light of the recent Cambridge Analytica revelations, perhaps not for much longer ... ) and author of not one but TWO books that spawned nonprofit organizations that further her books' respective missions.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will To Lead
Lean In is essentially the story of how Sandberg came to understand workplace gender politics. It is less of a memoir, more of a treatise, and her central thesis is this: The world would be better with more women in power. But women can only attain this power by first changing their attitudes towards themselves. She states: “We move closer to the larger goal of true equality with each woman who leans in.”
This message alone and the justification for it that Sandberg provides would have been sufficient to admit Lean In to the canon of books with spine. But what makes the book even more exceptional is the author’s commitment to her mission post publication.
While many authors might write their book and move on to the next one, Sandberg set up a 501c(3), www.leanin.org, to support a global movement helping women achieve their ambitions. One of the main activities of the nonprofit is to support the 35,000 so-called Lean In Circles that have sprouted up worldwide. These are actual meetings of women, not online communities (ironic for the COO of the biggest social networking site on the planet). Many circles now exist within male-dominated corporations with the aim of enabling more women to be heard and move up the hierarchy. The nonprofit also engages in further research to discover the barriers for women and ways of overcoming them.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
Published in 2017, this second book is not about business. Sandberg was compelled to write Option B when her husband died suddenly and she had to deal with her loss while also helping her children through theirs. Sandberg offers her personal insights, while her cowriter on this project, Adam Grant, provides the research about resilience that makes this book more than a memoir of grief.
The success of the Lean In movement has clearly inspired Sandberg to go further. Her second book, Option B, adopts the same nonprofit strategy as the first (www.optionb.org) that offers readers three ways to take what they learned in the book and get involved:
1. Share their story of resilience with others
2. Connect with people who understand
3. Learn how to build resilience
If a reader has been affected by a book, they may wonder what to do next. Obviously, not every author will have Sandberg’s considerable resources and influence to be able to set up a global nonprofit to further the mission of their books and donate all the sales revenue to the mission. Nevertheless, authors of books with spine could—and arguably should—consider how they can enable readers to take meaningful action if they have been inspired or moved by what they’ve read. This can be something simple, such as directing readers to a donation page of a relevant established charity, or creating a social media space where readers can form a community around the issue and develop ways of addressing it in their local area.
I admire Sandberg for the commitment to her missions. She did not treat either book as the ultimate expression of her dedication to the causes she cares about: they were launchpads.
So, if you’re considering writing a mission-driven book, ask yourself whether the book is an end in itself or the means to an end. Does the power of your book lie solely within its pages? Or might there be a way its power can ripple outwards into the real world to create meaningful and lasting change?
When I am exploring a nonfiction book idea with a new client, one of the first things we discuss is the hook. What makes your book different from the hundreds of others that also deal with your topic? What can you do to grab the attention of the potential buyer? In all honesty, a lot of clients struggle in this conversation, and it goes back to the point I made about originality in an earlier post (Tony Robbins Doesn't Need Your Help): although you may not have a unique subject, you can be unique in how you address it.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a book with spine that struck me as truly different: Chapter One: You Have the Power to Change Stuff by Daniel Flynn (Thankyou Group, 2016). Flynn's business, thankyou., began by selling water to help alleviate the world's water crisis and now sells more than 55 products to support a campaign to end poverty. According to Flynn, he began his company with no business experience, only an awareness of global poverty and the simple question, "What if that were me?" Unlike many social enterprises, thankyou. gives 100 percent of its profit to its mission. Respect.
Flynn states that the purpose of Chapter One is to encourage readers to "Dream with us. Write with us. Change stuff with us." This book fits within the social entrepreneurship genre that will feature prominently in this blog (Walk a Mile in Blake Mycoskie's Shoes), but it takes a really interesting approach and has several "hooks" I've never seen before. If the company itself is half as innovative as the approach it took to this book, it could do amazing things for the world.
One. Unlike Mycoskie's book that was written when his business had become successful, Flynn's book is about his brand's beginnings ... hence the title, Chapter One. His idea is that he will write sequels (Chapter Two, Chapter Three, and so on, presumably), chronicling the fortunes of the company as it grows. It's a brave move, given the high failure rate of startups, but I like the idea that, over time, Flynn will create a complete business biography.
Two. There is no recommended retail price; instead, people pay what that want to. By asking purchasers, "How much are you willing to invest in an idea that could change history?", some people may pay a dollar, but others might pay thousands simply because they believe in the company's mission and want it to continue doing good work. The "pay what you like" approach was possible because, cleverly, the company pitched the idea to Australia's largest book retailer, which liked what the company was trying to do. I haven't seen the sales figures on this and can't say how effective the idea has been, but I'm impressed by Flynn's commitment to thinking differently about bookselling, a mindset which reflects his entire business ethos. (The downside, of course, is that selling via Amazon and other such platforms won't allow buyers to pay what they like.)
Three. The interior of the print edition is laid out horizontally. This is the most gimmicky aspect of Flynn's approach, which he spends some time justifying at the start of the book. Just as with the pay-whatever tactic, the purpose of the landscape layout is to challenge the reader to depart from the norm and think differently, however uncomfortable that may be. It's a great idea for the printed version, but readers of the ebook have to settle for imagining the reading experience that Flynn describes in the introduction.
Chapter One shows that you do not have to confine your "hook" to the content. There are other ways to differentiate a book from the crowded literary category you might be competing in. But beware: a hook can too easily become a gimmick if it's not done in the proper spirit. However, I believe Flynn gets away with the gimmicks because they fit squarely within thankyou.'s business model, which is founded in thinking outside the box, and I sincerely hope that the company is around long enough for us to find out what interesting ways Flynn can find to write Chapter Two and many more chapters thereafter.
Book Review: Start Something That Matters (Random House, 2011)
At the start of 2018, I made it my resolution to read one fiction and nonfiction book per month for pleasure. Now, that may not sound many, but I probably read at least two other books per week as part of my day job, so it’s a realistic goal rather than an ideal one.
In February, I chose Start Something That Matters, by the founder of the TOMS shoe brand, Blake Mycoskie. It's been in publication for seven years now, but I only came across it recently and was curious. I was interested in it because social entrepreneurship is such a growth area, and since TOMS launched, other “one-for-one” initiatives have sprung up. Did TOMS invent that model? Perhaps not, but it is certainly the highest profile example, and as such, it has undoubtedly inspired other for-profit companies that give one of whatever they sell to someone in need, including Warby Parker (eye glasses) and Smile Squared (toothbrushes).
Having worked in the nonprofit sector for 15 years and seen the struggle organizations have in raising funds, I LOVE the “conscious capitalism” movement. Companies like TOMS would never replace the not-for-profit sector, which often plays such a critical political role, but social entrepreneurs are adding something valuable to the philanthropic landscape. I have high hopes that, one day, giving will lie at the heart of every successful business and that corporations that don’t follow suit will simply not survive.
Mycoskie’s book is a clear attempt to influence people of his generation and younger to follow his lead. He says, “I feel a deep responsibility to share everything we have learned at TOMS, so that as many others as possible can start something important.” It could have been a straightforward business biography, with some advice thrown in, but in keeping with his view of the world, Mycoskie explores a range of other inspiring stories of mission-driven people with a simple idea who are making a difference.
“Simple” is a key message of the book. You cannot save the world yourself, but you CAN solve one of its problems. It’s a powerful point. Mycoskie had a lightbulb moment in 2002 while on a trip to Argentina. He liked to wear the locally made alpargata shoe and thought they would have a market in the United States. But then he discovered that local children were walking barefoot to school, and he realized how much easier and more comfortable the kids’ lives would be if only they had shoes, which is something we all take for granted in the affluent West. In 2006, TOMS carried out its first “shoe drop” of 10,000 pairs in Argentina and the brand was truly born.
The book is a useful guide and giver of inspiration. However, it’s not the most riveting read. My principal criticism of the book is that the writing is somewhat sterile, and I don’t get a clear impression of Mycoskie. He had a cowriter, which may explain this absence of voice. This is an issue for people who have something to say but need a cowriter or ghostwriter to say it for them, and even the best ghostwriter in the world will still act as a filter (perhaps unconsciously) that sifts out some of the nuance of an individual’s voice. But in this case, I doubt “voice” was Mycoskie’s main concern. He set out to honor his responsibility to share the TOMS experience, not blow his own trumpet, and he achieved it. And, if you yearn to start something that matters, you should definitely add this book to your reading list.
In June 2002, Kyra Oliver experienced the worst tragedy imaginable: the loss of a child. The death of Hayes, Kyra’s four-month-old son, as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), was a catastrophic event that prompted her to embark upon a personal healing journey focused on helping other parents understand SIDS and on her health and wellbeing.
The journey began with the Hayes Foundation, which Kyra established just a few months following Hayes’s passing, with monetary donations that she requested be given in place of floral tributes. Four years later came the “This Side Up” campaign that provided invaluable SIDS information for parents of new-borns. During this time, Kyra turned to extreme fitness as a way to find strength and community. She says, “I realized there was no way I was going to be able to handle this pain that I will have the rest of my life if I didn’t take care of myself. I feel so lucky that I saw this and felt it. I didn’t even realize just how amazing it could be at the time, but I did know that I had to take care of myself. I had to be healthy in order to survive.” This move toward physical health ultimately led Kyra to establish Your Own Utopia (y.o.u.), a business that focuses on helping individuals find the wellness approach the works best for them.
For about 10 years, Kyra had been working on a book about her experiences and insights. “I knew that I needed to get this information out, and it was kind of in my head for a while. Then finally I started writing stuff down and typing it up. It just kept nagging at me, ‘You’ve got to get this thing done, but how can I get this focus?’” While she struggled with her book, a friend had noticed some inspirational material that Kyra had been posting on Facebook and encouraged her to use them as the basis of a different book. And so, this shorter book became her first; however, the book she truly needed to write was still unfinished.
Finally, Kyra realized the way to get it done. “I work really, really well with deadlines,” Kyra says. “You give me a deadline, it gets done.” After this epiphany, she decided to set a release date for the book of June 11, 2018; the anniversary of her son’s death. Having the date to work towards gave her all the impetus she needed to complete the book: “I have a lot of work to do, but it’s going be released! It is called Lifestyle That Feels Good: Finding y.o.u. (Your Own Utopia).”
It is a book that pushes the message of wellness and how to achieve it based on what works best for individuals, including recipes and fitness suggestions, and positive mindset. The first book, entitled 8 Ways of Being: How To Motivate Yourself to Live Happy and Free Every Day, was released early this year, on January 23, which is another significant date because it’s Hayes’s birthday.
By using these key dates, Kyra found a way to not only make the books available but also make them part of Hayes’s story. Most importantly, though, her books are a gift that share a message of healing with other people. Kyra says, “While my growth has been huge—I’ve worked really hard at that growth—my intention is to give back and to try to create a better world.”
And books that are at once cathartic and generous are true books with spine.
(A digital version of Kyra's first book, 8 Ways of Being: How To Motivate Yourself to Live Happy and Free Every Day is available on Amazon now. The print version will be available on Amazon in March.)
Whenever a nonfiction manuscript arrives in my inbox for editing, I usually can’t wait to dive in: I’m excited not only to iron out any kinks in the prose but also to learn something. Recently, I’ve gained insights into living with dementia, alcoholism, and terminal cancer (and I should add that none of these books were miserable—they were all incredibly inspirational!). From a less emotional standpoint, I have learned about the craziness of being an HR specialist, the exploits of a nineteenth century American rogue, and working in the music industry.
But there is one kind of book I find it hard to muster much enthusiasm for: books about “financial freedom.” There a LOT of books on that subject around, it seems. It’s not the subject, per se (who doesn’t dream of financial freedom?); it’s the fact that the books I come across are all predictably similar. They all talk about setting goals, shifting one’s mind, and investing in real estate. It was interesting the first couple of times, but now it’s so rote that it’s deathly tedious.
To add some excitement to the process, I’ve begun to place little bets with myself as to what page range I might find the first reference to Tony Robbins or Robert Kyosaki. There are few others, too, but those dudes are the two most oft repeated names. A passing reference is irritating enough, but I am willing to let it slide. It’s a different matter, however, when I see whole passages given over to regurgitating the teachings of these “masters,” and I become incredibly hot under the collar.
So angry, Lorna! Chill, sister. Why do you care?
I guess this aggravates me for two reasons.
1. It shows a lack of original thought on the behalf of the writer. No “book with spine” relies too heavily on the wisdom and experience of other authors; it has its own contribution to make to the world. I don’t know much about Kyosaki, but after watching a documentary about Robbins, I know he has a uniquely powerful voice (in a literal sense, too; it’s as if he’s just finished smoking a 4-foot cigar), and any mention of him in your book will just make you sound like a follower, not a leader, and undermine your authority about your subject. After all, who was it said, “It is not the acolyte who sets the world alight”? Me. I said that. I just made it up as I typed. See? It’s easy to be original (if not especially profound...).
2. The likes of Robbins and Kyosaki DO NOT NEED HELP. They are more than capable of making their own book sales without free promotional support from unknown authors. According to Worth magazine’s 2016 “The Power 100,” Robbins is already worth $500 million and his many businesses generate $6 billion annual revenue. So, no, please don’t help him out. I think it’s safe to assume he wouldn’t do the same for you. I’m even annoyed I’m giving these guys some free publicity here! But I’m doing it to make a point, so I guess it's okay.
I’m not saying it is wrong to be inspired by people, and, let's face it, a completely original thought is a mythical creature that lives with the unicorns, but it is still possible to be endlessly original in the way you express those thoughts. So, put your own special spin on everything, and rid your writing of cliché and the likes of Tony Robbins forever! And if you get it right, you’ll be the one other authors can’t resist quoting … and then you know your message has set the world alight.
The business of all nonprofits, whatever their social or cultural mission, is publishing. From newsletters and blogs to reports and grant applications, nonprofits are having to continuously put out a range of publications in order to tell their stories and reach new audiences. Science Connected is the one nonprofit I've worked with that understood this perfectly, but that's because publishing is its core objective.
Science Connected – based in San Francisco – is the passion project of founder Kate Stone, who set out on a mission nearly a decade ago to make academic research more accessible to the general public. Becoming a nonprofit in 2016, Science Connected publishes Gotscience.org, an online science magazine (which I have had the honor of copyediting in the past), but the organization recently broadened its publishing remit to include downloadable teaching resources and now, for the first time, books.
I asked Kate to tell us about the first title to be released by Science Connected, Think Globally, Garden Locally, a book about pollinators and responsible horticulture.
(By the way, all profits from the sale of the book go to support Science Connected education programs, so CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE to get yourself a copy today!)
Lorna Walsh: Describe the book for us. Why is the topic so important?
Kate Stone: The book is about how to welcome pollinators into your garden, grow food without pesticides, explore the relationship between chemicals and bee deaths, and meet a scientist who became a beekeeper. Available in full-color paperback and Kindle e-book, this book includes an annotated bibliography of additional resources for readers who want to learn even more about sustainable food production and protecting our pollinators.
Thanks to the support of the Clif Bar Family Foundation, Science Connected is ensuring that all citizens can access science information and education, learn about the world we all share, and participate in meaningful discourse about science, nature, and environmental sustainability. Agriculture is adapting to changing environmental conditions and consumers want healthy, sustainable food options, so access to scientifically accurate and easy-to-read material can positively impact in the products we create, the food we grow and buy, and the way we treat our planet.
LW: What tools and resources did you use to create the book?
KS: Crucially, we received a grant from the Clif Bar Family Foundation, which enabled us to assemble a team of science communicators to research and write the first GotScience Magazine special series and book about urban gardening, sustainable agriculture, and healthy pollinators.
Our designers used Adobe InDesign to assemble the print version of the book and the latest Kindle Direct Publishing tools to build the Kindle version.
LW: As a first-time book publisher, what were the challenges involved in this project?
KS: In addition to our usual team of writers, editors, and web developers, we had to assemble a new team with experience in print and e-book development. There are many different e-book formats and tools currently in use, so we had many lengthy discussions about which ones to target in our first project. Also, since GotScience Magazine is published solely in digital form, image resolution is optimized for electronic delivery. To publish a print book, we had to replace images with print-quality versions.
This book took just over a year from concept to upload, so the project was a big time commitment. A book is also a financial commitment, and we invested about $5,000 its production.
A lot goes on behind the scenes of producing a book. Any nonprofit should consider if you want to do the publication work in-house or work with an established publisher. Educate yourselves about the details involved in each option!
LW: Science Connected has been publishing GotScience.org online for some time, so where does book publishing now fit within Science Connected’s strategy?
KS: We believe that cultivating an informed citizenry is vital to democracy, and the mission of Science Connected is to create equal access to scientific research and STEM education for all learners. Expanding our publishing efforts to include e-books and print books further supports our goal of providing widespread public access to the latest scientific research.
Book publishing will help us in our mission to build bridges between citizens and scientists thus expanding scientific knowledge for the benefit of people and the planet. Science Connected values lifelong learning, equal access, conservancy, and empowering others to make informed choices to support a healthy planet. Nearly 1,000 teachers and parents have downloaded our science education materials. (You can access those through our STEM Education Resource Center.)
Our team of science education experts also collaborates with other organizations to produce science education resources for parents and teachers worldwide. For example, we wrote the teaching guide that accompanies this new book from the Marie Curie Alumni Association: https://www.mariecuriealumni.eu/news/mcaas-my-super-science-heroes-book-series-coming-soon.
Welcome to the first ever Books with Spine Blog post!
I thought I'd better begin by explaining that “books with spine” is more than simply a play on words: it’s a genre.
In this blog, I’ll be talking about books written by authors who – whether or not they realized it at the time of writing – created something of social importance and inspired change. I will explore how books continue to touch our lives, looking at some of the most inspiring stories to be found in the field of mission-driven publishing, and my posts will fall into one or more of the following categories:
• Social enterprise
I’ll be mostly writing about nonfiction on this blog because, as a professional ghostwriter and editor, nonfiction is my bread and butter. However, that's not to say I don't recognize the awesome power of make-believe; you only have to read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple or George Orwell’s 1984 to appreciate the world-changing impact that fiction can have. Ultimately, whether rooted in fact or imagination, all great literature deals with truth, and the only difference is that nonfiction’s currency is real life and fiction’s is the lifelike (and, yes, even fantasy can be lifelike).
I hope you enjoy reading the blog and will recommend it to others. Oh, and if you have a story relevant to this blog, pitch it to me!