Saturday, May 26, 2012


JOE KHATENA, the co-developer of several creativity assessment instruments, defined creativity in terms of "...the power of the imagination to break away from perceptual set so as to restructure or structure anew ideas, thoughts, and feelings into novel and associative bond" (Khatena & Torrance, 1973, p. 28)
Servol Chaguanas: My "Faith & Fiction - Finding the Hero in Me" Island Fiction slide show. Many of these young adults said they had never read a book in the lives. This was a Friday. After the weekend their teacher called to say many of them had read one IF! title and were swapping friends for another IF! title.
Consider the humble slide show as a simple tool to enhance your read aloud events. Or to create a new point of view for online marketing. Maybe a school that loves your work may build a sponsored fundraising event or paid workshop for teachers around you and your book(s). You in turn may lend your AUTHORity to help the school raise money - perhaps for a lap top and projector (if they don't already have one!) with which to present your slide show.

I create my own slide shows.

Or, once in a while I receive a really good anonymous forward that's been circulating the internet and I'll customize it.

Slideshows take a little time, but are well worth the effort particularly if you create ones that are conceptually strong and timeless. I use less text, as many original photos as I can, and then enhance where necessary with free stock photography and clip art. Audio cues, sound FX and music can help or hinder attention. If you will be speaking while the slides are up, use sparingly and wisely.

Create something that you will reuse frequently.

To tap in to universal appeal the compilation of slides should be high concept, not merely descriptive of what you are saying any way. Think in themes and metaphors.

Use strong titles and slogan-like catch phrases. Make unusual lists. Go for brevity and potency. Most importantly edit yourself deftly and stay on point.

Rather than just presenting your bio, or your book(s), consider an altogether different approach that will offer similar content.

I recently was accosted by an Island Fiction fan. A lovely teenaged girl. She has no access to computers but heard about the series when I presented my slide show, "Writing for a living? You must be mad!" at her school's annual career day workshops three months ago. She breathlessly explained that she had since read all six titles which she found in her library at school and "loved them aaalllll!"

I pressed her to choose a favorite and she reluctantly did. "Silk Cotton Forest," she exclaimed. I asked her if she knew it was written by a Trinidadian author. She shook her head, no. Well she does now.
( Thank  the Serendipity our paths crossed!)

Since it was an opportunity for career day, rather than simply present my work, I created my presentation from their point of view and of course caught their attention with the sincerity of the title.

Another important note: Our counterparts in the so-called First World get paid for appearances and workshops and we should too. Some times I do pro bono sessions, as this career day was, and especially for NGOs or if my gut feels its appropriate. But even charity and not-for-profit organizations find the money for a long list of needs and  "needs".  In my opinion Caribbean authors should value themselves and each other and monetize appearances and speaking fees.

The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org) with over 19,000 members worldwide supports this thinking.

A US counterpart may start at US$250. and others may add a few zeros to that per appearance, but of course this is all highly individualized and each person needs to assess what she can offer and what the market will support. It's like any other economic decision.

When I have organized events either for my children's books or for Island Fiction I include other local authors and budget about TT$500. per appearance. Why solicit opportunity for myself alone when I can contribute to  building an entire domain of creative expression?

Sometimes I refuse to make appearances. When big brand commercial sponsors are on board and the organizers have budgeted not even a gratuity for their children's book authors I do not allow myself to be used for free entertainment and baby sitting. Adults here spend $4. on a doubles and $20. on a smoothie and $45. to go into a movie without negotiating.

 Since my practice is to  expand a field of awareness and I have been able and willing to do so from my smaller, individual earnings, then I can see clearly the lack of professional courtesy and vision when it presents itself to me. I can say a guilt-free NO in such instances. I don't believe in running down opportunities or participating when there is a lack of mutuality; nothing degrades the creative soul more.

By playing in to the idea that your appearance alone will help you "sell books" is naive. A royalty share on a book will only benefit the author financially if sales are significant in the tens of thousands and consistently so year after year. This is not because we are Caribbean authors, or children's book authors, it is the business reality of publishing. Many unpublished writers and first time authors do not  invest in  understanding the field they're working in.

Even if you have self-published, it's likely you need to sell a good profit on a couple thousand just  to recoup your costs. In a market as small as the Caribbean reading-for-pleasure market is now, and you'll need to work hard to keep your books in stock and in store front which is challenge enough in your island base anyway. E-books and online sales only skyrocket when you get a good social media campaign going and this too requires investment of time and energy. Many dead and wounded self-publishers are just coming to terms with these realities. So creating speaking and appearance events is  a necessary way to move your work from happy hobby to creative clarity.

Of course, if you can get a sure foot in to any Ministry of Education anywhere, that's a different story.
Which is why most publishers for the Caribbean focus on text books. It's where the money is and most players, not sharing.

When I discovered The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators online in 2005, I found a wealth of networking and information. I had four published illustrated readers already and had spent seven years and significant amounts of money buying books, and meeting with copyright and intellectual property lawyers to educate myself. I really wish I had known about the SCBWI from the beginning and even after fourteen years, ten published stories and the Island Fiction series I am still L-EARNING anew. That's why I voluntarily founded a chapter for the South Caribbean - to which we will soon appoint a new Regional Advisor, (but that's another blog post).

In my slide show, "Writing for a living? You must be mad!" I speak about earning a loving - (not a typo). Most authors love what they do and love their work and that is something worth valuing and yet may not ever be fully monetized. This love should always be an intelligent love, not a 'chupidee' love. If you are still shy about asking for even a gratuity which will cover your gas and a meal for that day then may I highly recommend the ten week rehab course of Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way". I have been using it to heal and facilitate creativity in myself and others since 1994.

It is really vital to keep your book(s) in print by exploring ways to breathe new life into them. Making yourself available to schools serves a real need in the kids. Our Caribbean children cannot choose our  Caribbean work, if it's not on their media menu. And it's up to us to put it there!

Truly loving our creations means parenting them in the world. If your read aloud or meet the author appearance to teens lack that sizzle they're likely to pass on your book. Supplementing your presentation with a simple, well thought out slide show can add a sparkle that won't fizzle out after your audience leaves you. This means we can earn our fan's reading time and relinquish the old dutiful pressure of having to support local, or having to read because it's good for you!

Not all writers are extroverted dramatists, so the cleverly crafted visual presentation with an unusual twist, can be  useful.  Slide shows or videos  potentially ignite the cinematic quality of your fictitious world and characters. The way we see the world and communicate with each other is changing rapidly and keeping abreast of and employing electronic media is just another tool in your kit.

But remember: it should be creative and catchy, well, if you want to catch readers that is. 

It may make the difference - someone may click download IF! to a Kindle or iPad and another may just run off to the library and read your titles the old fashioned way. Any how you take it, you're connecting  with a fan who  just lll-aahh-ah-ah-vvvves you work!

Above All,
Happy Writing,
JJ



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