Welcome to AskALLi, the self-publishing advice podcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This week, it’s our monthly Writing Salon, where we discuss the craft of writing with author Dan Blank and ALLi Director Orna Ross. This week, Orna and Dan talk about collaboration.
For a writer, collaborations can come in many forms: co-writers, coaches, mentors, ghostwriters, editors and accountability partners. But is collaboration for you? And how do you choose the best writing partner?
Also, on Inspirational Indie Authors
Today’s interview is with Frankie Picasso, an author who just released a book called For Want of 40 Pounds: From Persecution to Perseverance, What Would You do For Freedom? It’s the story about her father, the patriarch of her family, who escaped the Holocaust and then went on to become a successful immigrant and entrepreneur.
Frankie says the book is about “resilience. independence, freedom, courage. It’s about being an immigrant, an entrepreneur, his rise and fall and rise again. It’s about love and family.”
The AskALLi podcasts are sponsored by Damonza: Books Made Awesome.
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
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About the Hosts
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers and artists share their stories and grow their audience. He is the author of the book “Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience.”
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last five years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a “book doctor” to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance business and technology writer. Find Howard on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Read the Transcripts
Orna: Hello, everyone, and here we are. Welcome to our Ask ALLi Creative Writing Salon. I’m here with Mr. Dan Blank. Hello, Dan.
Orna: And we are going to talk today about a subject that is very live in the indie community right now and that is collaboration. How to work with ghostwriters, other writers, mentors, coaches, whoever might be able to help you with your writing and improve your craft and improve your likelihood of communicating well, improve your likelihood of getting the writing finished, and all of those things. Collaborators can be really, really useful. So Dan, you’ve been thinking a lot about this topic, I believe.
Dan: Yeah, this has become an obsession of mine recently.
Orna: That’s really interesting. Does that have anything to do with the sorts of questions that are arising in the indie community around collaboration and ghost writing? Things like that or Is it a more personal thing?
Dan: No, to me it’s more personal. So something that, so the thing that pains me the most is when you talk to a writer and what you find is that they don’t write. And it’s not that they don’t write at all, it’s that, well, they’ve got a job and they’ve got kids and they have imposter syndrome and they’re busy working at this other thing they’re told they have to do where they don’t really have a writing practice. They are doing something with writing. They’ve got a book that they’re marketing or they’re planning something, but you find that they’re actually not getting the words on the page. They’re not getting the editing done. And that really pains me in the same way that you talk to someone who tells you that they want to get healthy more than anything in the world. Being healthy can look like many things, but then they give you the long list of things to get in the way and you’re like, “Well, this is a solvable problem.”
Dan: And a lot of times it means that the surest way to fail is to do it on your own. So just to answer your question, my interest in it has been partially from studying creators, successful writers, successful artists from the past and the present and how they create. And the other way in for me has been my total obsession of learning how to play guitar for the last year and four months. And for me, what I’ve looked at in all that research has just been minutes on guitar. How many minutes a day am I putting into practice? And I track it minute by minute. I’ve got charts and we can talk more about that. But picking up that new creative craft has taught me a lot about that beginner’s mindset. What holds me back, where do I get into a rut and how do I push through it? And it all comes down to creating
Orna: Really, really interesting. I’m interested in, you know, that you spoke about minutes spent. We kind of always say there are two containers. There’s time and space. So you measure yourself either in terms of, as you say, minutes spent, which I think is a very useful metric which maybe not enough writers use. Far more often we hear people talking about the number of words they’ve managed to do. So they set a set target of words for the day. And I think whether you prefer the time or the space thing, sometimes it’s directly connected to whether your book is a bit more literary and more, you know, what’s the word? You know, more exploratory, you’re more likely to be a pantser maybe, whereas it is the plotters and the planners and the more structured fiction, not to say genre, necessarily, but structured fiction, structured nonfiction, where people tend to go for the number of words, but of course it, it breaks down. It’s not that simple or straightforward. Nothing ever is in this community. But I guess the key point is that you’re measuring something, right?
Dan: Yeah. And I wonder if, to your point, it’s that Nanowrimo problem. And I have this problem myself where it’s easy for me to get words on the page, just as Nanowrimo proves to people, “Hey, you can write a novel in a month.” The problem I think people have is can they turn that mass of words into something that they want to publish or they feel is publishable? And I dunno about you, but for me, where I really get tripped up is in the editing, getting words on the pages is, I’ll say, easy, but getting to feel like, “Oh, this book has a narrative arc and this is what I want to say.” Like, that is much more subjective, and I think that that, I would imagine trips up other writers as well.
Orna: I think so. And I find with beginners and we talk about more advanced writers, more experienced writers and emerging writers in a moment but I think, particularly with beginners, they don’t even think of that process as writing. Whereas I think for me, certainly, just speaking personally, and I think for people who have written more books, really, I only think the writing is almost starting at that point. When I have that roof. It’s almost like you’re a sculptor and you have to find the right block of marble. And then only then can the sculpting begin kind of thing. I feel that way about the first draft, getting that part out and down. As you say, that’s easily measurable, but how do you measure in words the editing process and if you’ve been using words, you know, words on the page as your metric and as your measure for “This is me doing my writing” then when you move into, I mean, the draft is only the fourth stage in the writing process, there are three stages to go still after that. It’s how would you measure those if you only using words on a page as your metric? Any thoughts on that?
Dan: Yeah, I mean I think that’s where I got to time. So for me, I use time blocking for a lot of things. And the idea here is that I’ll show you on my calendar, block out times, you know, block out a chunk of time to write or to, in this case, practice guitar. And I think what I try, what I, the thing that I’ve picked up from a lot of other writers is if you can spend like 15 minutes even writing, for the next couple hours, it’s in the back of your head. Even that works with editing really well too.
Dan: So the idea of time blocking is that you spending time with the work, maybe it’s editing, maybe it’s proofreading, maybe it’s something else. But what it means is that every day you’re showing up for this. And so one, you’re removing all the guilt of the fact that you’re not editing or you have a way through the blocks, which is like, “Oh, I don’t know, I’m stuck editing chapter five and now I’m this or that.” It’s like, how do you work through that? I mean, so for me, again with the guitar example, you can’t really count notes as easily as you can count words, which is why I do time. But one thing I picked up, I follow a whole bunch of guitar instructors online and the thing that kept hitting me over the head like a sledgehammer was you follow these instructors and they’re inspiring and they’re helpful.
Dan: Every one of you when talk about their bio, their history, they get to a point and they say, “Yeah, I was able to practice a couple hours a day. But then I got serious and for a long time I was playing eight to 10 hours a day, every day for years.” And this is a very certain kind of person. Writers don’t need to write 10 hours a day, but it kind of hits you over the head about, “Oh, they’re not good at guitar because they got inspired. They’re not good at guitar because they worked in Saturdays, they went to the library for an hour, they got good at the guitar at a brute force.” And for me who has a job and who has a family and has a more balanced life than that, what I try to whittle down to is what’s the minimum I can practice my craft and what’s a reasonable goal?
Dan: And just to kick off the next section, for the first year of doing the guitar, it was at least a minute a day. And I did that every day for a year and often it was much more than a minute. And that was a gateway to prove to myself that I’m not a horrible hack who will never learn how to do it. And for year two I’m at 45 minutes a day. So it’s a dramatically more, and for writers, I think about it in terms of either word count or time. If you tell me, “Dan, I’m showing up to my craft 30 minutes a day, seven days a week,” I think you’re in the top couple of percentage of all writers out there because a lot of people aren’t able to do that.
Orna: Well, how does this feed into our theme, which is collaboration?
Dan: So the jump that I found, and I find this with writers too, is that when you’re doing it alone, every day is a whole new struggle because you’re self doubt, a block in the book is gonna is going to trip you up. So with a guitar example, for me, the thing for year two was investing in a coach. He calls himself a guitar teacher, but I think that most of what he does is coaching. He does teach me new things every single week. But the difference is that once I hired a coach, someone who I have to show up for once a week who is going to ask me how things are going, is going to talk through my self-doubt, who’s going to analyze my goals, who’s going to say “Maybe this week we work on that” is going to ask about progress. That is where I shot up from a few minutes a day to closer to an hour a day. That shifted everything for me. And when I talk to writers, I often find that those who are pros, or serious amateurs, they often have some kind of collaborator and we’ll talk about all the ways that can be. But I think the key is that when you’re alone with something every day you wake up and you can feel all kinds of self doubt and having a collaborator helps pull you out of that in a variety of ways.
Orna: Yeah. And I think even if it’s not self doubt, I mean, self-doubt is something that people in the community who suffer from self doubt talk a lot about. And definitely doubt, you know, is one of the, it just extinguishes the creative flame, doesn’t it? It’s just a, it really is a damper, a quencher. You have to find your way to dissolve it if you’re going to create. But there are lots of other ways I think that we can kind of, over busy-ness as another one. You know, whereby you just think you can’t get to your book because you’ve got this on or you’ve got that on. And where really what you’ve got there is a priority issue, not a busy-ness issue. And so on and so forth. There are many ways in which we can avoid getting the writing done.
Orna: And if we’re not meeting our measure, which is why we spent that bit of time at the beginning talking about the measures and in this show about collaboration, if we’re not meeting our own measures and you’re finding a week is going by, a month is going by, oh dear lord, a year has gone by and I haven’t done what I keep on saying I’m doing and I’m kind of doing and I’m turning up a bit and I’m making some progress, but I’m certainly not meeting, you know, the goal that I thought I would meet when I started off here. This is where you need to start thinking about “Would collaborator help me? What form would I like that collaboration to take? What form do I think would be most useful?” And this in itself is an exploration because you may think you need one kind of collaborator and you may in fact need a quite different ones. So do you want to go through a little bit the different types of collaboration that a writer might find useful and you know, let’s say the biggest benefit of that particular type of collaborator.
Dan: Yeah, and before I do that, I just want to tack onto something that you said before about you have this goal and you’re not meeting it. I think that when you have a collaborator of no matter what form we go into, two things that help is when you have a date on the calendar of when you’re meeting someone, any kind of collaborator, suddenly it becomes a priority because it’s on the calendar. And the example I love with that is when you hire a personal trainer at a gym, having a gym membership means no one at the gym cares if you show up and what happens if you’d stop showing up to the gym. So when I had a personal trainer, his name was Brad. And the thing about that is, like, “Brad is waiting for you” and I could care less about working out, about the gym, about throwing the money down the toilet, but you’re not going to piss off Brad.
Dan: Brad is waiting for you and Brad’s got muscles and you’re not going to let him down. And the other thing with that too is I think, I think paying helps. I think when you put money on the line, even if it’s a few bucks, I find that I treat responsibilities where I am paying money for, I treat them dramatically more seriously than when they’re free. And I see that even in the work that I do where I teach a lot of online programs, it’s a first free thing people treat it like, “Yeah, I’m going to try to show up for it.” When they pay, they show up. So I try to use money as a motivator for myself as well because I know where I put my money I’m going to put my focus.
Orna: Great. Right, let’s talk, you’ve touched off there and the most obvious one, you being a coach, you’ve touched off there. So let’s talk about coaching first. That’s a very straightforward sort of transaction. You find a good coach, you pay them some money. What’s the big advantage of coach?
Dan: So the coach, I think the big advantage there is one is that you’re paying them. Two is that their role as a coach is meant to move you through a process. So this is not an editor who’s going to say, well, you know, let’s talk about your story, which is, by the way, awesome. A coach, I think, is someone who understands your goals. They understand a place you want to get to. And I think that they’re really good at recognizing where people trip themselves up. And this is where I can see people who get stuck in a project and they keep reinventing it, and it’s like, well, they’re all editors, they’re all content creators, so they keep re-approaching it from scratch. Whereas I think a coach is not just maybe an expert in writing and editing, but they’re actually knowing how to move you through milestones.
Dan: And when something happens, you’re like, “Oh, this week was crazy, my kid was sick, whatever, whatever.” They see that with empathy, but they also say, “Oh, this is where you’re gonna get stuck because now you’re off track and you know, that sort of a thing. So I think with a coach, part of it is that you’re paying them, which I think really helps. And the other part is that hopefully they are understanding not just the writing process, the editing process, but the idea of how to move you through it, which I think is a special skill in and of itself.
Orna: Yeah. While some people listening might think the paying is a disadvantage rather than an advantage, I agree with you on that. I think what we invest in, we value and also what I have found with coaching over the years is those great questions that coaches always ask, you know, because coaching is essentially a series of questions really that as you find your answer is you kind of move and make your progress, those great searching questions. Cause sometimes when we get blocked in our writing, the reason we’re blocked is not necessarily a craft issue or you know, that we can’t do it or it’s often not the reason we’re feeding ourselves in our head about busy-ness or whatever. There’s some emotional block there that we need to kind of unravel a bit. I think coaches are highly trained in that and very experienced in that and can be very, very useful in moving you forward for that reason. How would you differentiate between coaching and mentoring?
Dan: A mentor to me is it’s very different in a way where a mentor doesn’t have quite as much skin in the game. So a mentor has been there and done that. They are willing to kind of get in the trenches with you on some regularity. And so they feel a part of your journey. They feel a kinship with you. They, you know, however you want to find that relationship and they’re giving you a sense of that. But it’s sort of up to you to kind of live up to it. A coach to me is like, you know, they’re on the field with you. They’re, it’s still, you’ve got to do the work, but they’re on the field, they’re getting sweaty, they’re like, they’re really actively working this plan. Whereas a mentor to me it seems like they are giving you information, they’re giving you insight, you won’t get anywhere else, but in the end they go back to their life and it’s sort of like, well, you live up to the mentorship thing by doing the hard work. You’re the one sweating away and you’re reporting back to them. So it seems to be a bit more of a remove and I think, um, yeah. So that’s how I would distinguish that.
Orna: They do have the advantage though. A lot of coaches don’t have, now, I know this, you are not one of these coaches in the sense that you have done the thing that you’re coaching but a lot of coaches haven’t. A lot of coaches are bringing people through process where there is a value, I think a different sort of value in working with somebody who has been there, done that and is successfully doing what you want to do and there’s a kind of shadowing process. It’s a different process but I think some people respond better to one or the other and it’s very difficult to say in advance which you’re going to respond best to. I think you have to kind of give it a go and see is it working for you? And maybe if one doesn’t work, try the other or whatever. What about writing buddies? Writing collaborators?
Dan: So I view that, I guess,. in two different levels there are people where you’re working on the same thing because you’re collaborating because you’re cowriting are coauthoring. But something I see a lot of writers I know have is, like you said, it’s a buddy. It’s someone who is working on a completely different work but they’re checking in with each other and they’re essentially accountability partners. They are people who are there to, you know, kind of cry on the shoulder of, it’s maybe more of accountability, like, “Have you shown up this week? I did.” It’s checkins, maybe on a weekly basis. It’s someone you can text in a moment’s notice when you’re having a celebration, when you’re having a breakdown and I think it’s a way to feel like you are not alone in that process and I think this even speaks to something I talk to a lot of people about is with social media is that we have so much access to other people now that one thing that happens is that we can scroll on our phone forever until we find a writer who’s doing really well. And that makes us feel bad. And then we feel worse about our own work. And I think that when you have real human being you communicate with as just a colleague, as a buddy, it helps you kind of both remind yourselves like, you know, play your own game here.
Orna: Absolutely. Yeah. There’s something about growing together as well that can be really nurturing and we definitely see in ALLi people who kind of buddy up with other writers in their own genre and learn more about, you know, just by watching somebody else’s and maybe swapping, you know, it goes up many different levels, it might just be the accountability thing where it’s you’re holding each other accountable for doing x amount of words or x amount of time or whatever your measure is, but it can go all the way into, you know, critiquing each other’s works, swapping doing, you know, swaps, swap reads and all that kind of stuff and promoting each other and backing each other’s books when it comes round to publishing time. So it can, and out of those relationships we have seen other kinds of collaboration happened whereby you actually truly get together to write the book, you know, one writes one chapter, one writes another or some other way of kind of doing that together. Have you had experience with maybe, ever coached anybody who worked as collaborators, ever coach more than one to one?
Dan: Not in the direct way because usually the person, you know, kind of, I’m working with them on their work. But I agree it’s a different thing when you’re both working on one piece of work because that requires all kinds of understanding about what you’re creating, ownership, creative process. A lot has to gel with that. Unless it’s a type of collaboration where you’re contributing a chapter, where it has to fit in, you know, to a much larger, or one short story into a much larger thing, where to fit into a theme and they might work with you on that. But the bottom line is your name’s gonna be on that chapter or that short story where it’s a little different. And I think a big part of that is personalities as well. I think a lot of people don’t have collaborators of any kind because they don’t look for it. But then I think that they don’t learn how to really suss it out. What could a collaboration look like? What do I need? And I think it’s a big responsibility too because you have to be open and you have to have a good communication style. You have to make room for it. You have to look at what you’re giving and not just what you’re taking. And that asks a lot of anyone and I think that’s really a skill to develop as well.
Orna: And a lot of the time writers feel, “I don’t have time for all.” You know, “I’m just going to get on with the writing.” But if you are kind of responding in that way and thinking, “No, it’s not for me. I’m getting one with the writing but you’re not actually getting your goals through.” Then do examine, you know, carefully you make a mistake. Whether it’s kind of more haste, less speed sort of setup. One form of collaboration which is getting a lot of attention in the indie world at the moment is ghostwriting. And I don’t know if you’re privy to the scandals that have been happening over the last little while. I’m not going to go into that now. Joanna Penn and I talked a bit about it in the last, ALLi Advanced Salon but there are increasingly also those who are hiring other writers to do writing for them under their brand, if you like.
Orna: So the writer is a writer for hire. It’s somebody who turns up and does some kind of writing. So of course ghostwriters have been part of the publishing business forever and some writers are really shocked to think that a writer would actually hire somebody else. You know, I’ve seen it on Twitter, “What? You call yourself a writer? What are you using a ghostwriter for?” It’s like, to them, absolutely a no, no.” And you’ve got people who feel very strongly about that on one side of the community. And then, of course, on the other side of the community you’ve got the people who do the ghostwriting, the people who hire them and who were very happy with that relationship and very happy. How it’s, you know, it’s meeting each person’s needs and often a ghostwriter doesn’t necessarily want to be a person who has the name on the cover. They’re not interested in that at all. There’s just a doing the job and getting paid for a job, the end, next job. So, any thoughts about all of that or ghostwriting generally?
Dan: No. I mean, I know people are ghost writers and I always think it’s amazing when there are new ways for writers to earn money through ghost writing and have a thriving business with that. I don’t have much more a view into it than that, though, partially because most of my work I’m working directly with someone who, you know, has something specific that they want to write and they’re building that skill. Although I can see how this could lead to lots of scandalous situations as you alluded to.
Orna: Yes, exactly.
Dan: But that’s another kind of almost like a business relationship in many ways. We have to find the right person. You have to, it’s a whole other ballgame in that way because there’s a lot going on.
Orna: Definitely. And I have experienced all of this quite a bit of when I worked as a literary agent. So you know, practically every book you see by the celebrity has been ghostwritten. It hasn’t actually been written by the person whose name is on the cover, but also big names in fiction, you would be surprised how much help sometimes people get along the way. So they might conceive of the idea, let’s say the character, the setting, know what they want to say, roughly thought out the narrative arc, but then, you know, a ghostwriter could go away and really put flesh on those bones. So it’s one step up from developmental editing in the sense that the words aren’t there to develop, you know, they’re actually laying down that text which some writers, we were talking earlier about that being the easy part, but for some writers that’s actually the hard part. Then if they get all of that text written by somebody else who has got the voice about right, then they can go in and do the edit and polish it off and thereby write an awful lot more books than they would otherwise. And we are also seeing in the Indie world where people are hiring lots of writers within their worlds. So this is happening a lot with the fantasy genre, but also in, you know, various other science fiction, crime as well. It tends to be genre fiction where the tropes are fairly standard and laid out so people can write into them with relative ease, and we’re seeing, you know, big teams of writers being commissioned so the books because there’s a lot of, if you’re a writer who’s working on the “sell another book” kind of business model, it’s a lot of pressure to get the next book out and the next book and the next book.
Orna: So, you know, we’re seeing a lot of writers doing that and yeah, some writers feel it’s most unfair, you know, call that person a collaborator, put their name on the cover of the book instead of having the ghost writing arrangements. So I suppose what I’m trying to get to here is in thinking about what kind of help you might need from a collaborator, be it a ghostwriter, a coach, a mentor, a co-writer, a writing buddy, whatever it might be, thinking very clearly about your end game, what you want out of it and how you will get most satisfaction. You know, if you’re the kind of person who would go off and hire somebody to do it and then feel the whole thing was just, you know, redundant. You didn’t write it and you’re kind of ashamed of the fact that you’ve got a ghostwriter, well then clearly that’s not for you. But there’s a lot of thinking to be done. I think about also your time, your money, your investment, you know, what you’re putting in and what you’re expecting to get back and getting clarity around that can be tricky do you think?
Dan: Yeah, I mean that’s, that’s the trick because we’re talking about a social thing. A lot of times it’s not as easy as saying, “I’m going to get a mentor” because you have to think about, well, who do I know? Who could I know? How do I go from that? I do think with a lot of collaborators, you know more people than you think, but you have to be open to, you have to open your eyes and look around and once you do that, it might take months, but what opportunities will come up? You’ll be like, “Oh, let me email that person back. I don’t know where it’s leading.” So some of it is very exploratory. I guess the thing I think a lot about is this idea of recognizing when you need help and trying to get help and for the goals, I don’t think people often know what the are. I always look at it from the angle of where people get stuck. And again, I said this is hot, but like when when a writer doesn’t write. And when that leads to all kinds of of things, whether it’s self doubt or something else. That’s sort of what pains me because I feel like that’s the foundation. Like you want to be creating, you have a vision and I think that the idea of getting help is something that we kind of resist a lot in, I’ll call, our culture. I don’t know what our culture even means, but that idea that if you have, if you’re having trouble with health, talk to someone, talk to a nutritionist, talk to a fitness coach. If you’re having trouble with money, talk to a financial advisor, talk to your uncle, talk to someone.
Dan: And the same thing with writing. If you’re having any kind of of issues, whether it’s finding time for it or finding inspiration or talk to other writers. Even just starting there. So many people either struggle alone because they’re too proud to admit to someone that they’re having issues or they have this false fantasy of, “Well, this is my vision and if I don’t do it alone, then suddenly I’ve sold out.” And I agree that ghost writing is one extreme of it. But you know, I have this wall of of successful creators here and when you look at how whoever your favorite musician or singer is, how they created an album, there are producers and engineers and even if that one person is actually writing the song, there is an engineer you’ll never know about who wrote a little guitar part for it and whose name you’ll never know. There is a producer who wrote half the music, but you don’t know that because the producer’s job is not to have their name on the cover. And that’s a possible way that someone can create an album. And it’s totally legit too.
Orna: Absolutely. And I think you see it as at its clearest in something like TV writing. So in the US there is a culture of team writing which has produced incredible TV over the last, say, 10 years and in the UK there’s always been this tradition of the single writer, which I think you know, you can see very clearly now as UK begins to adopt the team writing principles, you can actually see the level and the quality. So two minds coming together is actually multiplies things up exponentially. There’s an exponential improvement and I think we’ve overdone in the writing community, the lone solitary, creative genius who fires off stuff. It’s never like that. I read a lot of literary biography and the big names that have come down, you know in the Canon, when you actually look at how their work was put together, there was an editor, there’s writing friends, there’s writing circles. They go to the pub and meet in a group. You know, all of these, they are not the way the Canon presents it as this long solitary figure. So don’t be alone. People say writing’s the loneliest job in the word. It doesn’t have to be. I guess that’s our message for today.
Dan: I think the real message is go to the pub and talk about your writing cause that’s the ultimate writing hack.
Orna: Go to the pub, Dan Blank said so. Alright then, we are out of time and just finally to say of course all of this provides opportunities for you to be on the other side to where you are the service for. Maybe you start doing the ghostwriting, where maybe you start doing the coaching, the mentoring, training to do that sort of thing in a, you know, in a multiple streams of income business that can be very fruitful for writers. But we have no time to go into that today. Maybe another time. So thank you, Dan, very much as ever for your wisdom and thank you everybody for being with us and we will see you again next month for another Creative Writing Salon and we’ll see you next week for the Advanced Salon with Joanna Penn. Until then, happy writing and publishing.
Howard: I’m Howard Love and you are listening to Inspirational Indie Authors. Our guest on Inspirational Indie Authors today is Frankie Picasso, an author who just released a book called For One to 40 Pounds: From Persecution to Perseverance. What would you do for freedom? Coauthored by Peter Jennings. It’s the story of her father, the patriarch of our family who escaped the Holocaust. And I think it touches upon many reasons people self publish. Often it’s to preserve family memories before they’re lost forever. And it’s the kind of book that a mainstream publisher might not want it because there are unfortunately so many stories of this kind, but that does not make her family’s story any less significant than any others. Hello Frankie, and welcome to Inspirational Indie Authors.
Frankie: Thank you, Howard. So nice of you to have me here. I really appreciate it.
Howard: So before we get into your book, tell us a little more about yourself. I see from your website that you are an international socialpreneur, talk show host, champion for change, and also the first professional female kickboxing promoter in the world. And that all sounds very fascinating to me. So tell me a little more.
Frankie: Yeah. Well, like, I guess I’m a Jack, is it a Jill of all trades? I don’t know what’s culturally appropriate anymore. I’ve done a lot of things. Yes, I’m an author. This is my fourth book. All self help books generally or nonfiction I should say. I’m also an artist and also for socialpreneur impact activities. I really believe in helping to change the world in which ever way were we can do that possibly. So, I love to paint pets for people and that money goes to charities, like, mercy trips, for cleft palate surgery for children or things like that. What else can I tell you? I did manage a world kickboxing champion. Yes, I did. He was a 12 time champion.
Howard: That’s wonderful. Well, it sounds like you have a lot of separate books in there.
Frankie: I do.
Howard: So let’s focus on this one first though. So you told me that your book is about resilience, independence, freedom, courage, about being an immigrant and an entrepreneur and it’s about love and family. So what is it about, about your father, Bert Mann that that makes him worth a biography?
Frankie: You know, so many people had heard bits and pieces of my dad’s story and he never told the whole story and he’s 94 years old. He just turned 94 last week on March 18th. And he’s very future forward, a visionary I would say. But he never liked to revisit the past. And it got, last year, he said, “Okay, you know what? You can tell my story.” And that was really significant because for so long people had wanted him to tell his story. He was obviously, he’s an immigrant. He, I think the most fascinating thing really was at 13 years of age, his father was interred in a camp and their family store had been taken and their apartment, they’d been thrown out of their apartment by the Nazis and he couldn’t stand that his mother was living in a hovel because you know, she owned it. She had owned a store and they had lived in a beautiful place. And he said, “You know what, mom?” This was in Vienna.
Frankie: And he was a younger brother too, but he said to his mom, he goes, “I’m going to save you.” And he left. He left. He was 13 years old and he had no money. He had no food, he had no map, he had nothing but a compass. And he took off and he said, “I’m going to go save you” and in his mind he was going to go to England and England was the place where they were going to help him. So he grabbed a buddy to go with him and they took three months to walk from Vienna to Amsterdam because they had to avoid the Nazis through Germany and sympathizers. And so they, you know, they slept during the day and traveled at night and eventually they got to Amsterdam and he heard some sailor speaking in German, because that was the only language he spoke.
Frankie: And so he said, “Excuse me, I’m looking for a boat. And, you know, to go to England.” And he goes, “Well, do you have any money?” He goes, “Well, no, you know, I don’t,” and he goes, “Well, come back at midnight.” So they did. And the sailor got him aboard this ship and they stowed away on the boat. It’s just crossing the English Channel, you know? And when they got to England, you know, they were picked up and they said, “Okay, well”, they were put into a refugee camp and he saw some notices on, you know, a sign and all of the young men were being conscripted, the Englishman. So they needed farm workers. And he said, “Okay, I’m going to go work on a farm or else I stay in kind of jail.” So he went to work on a farm for a reverend in the MidlandsThat’s where he learned to speak English. That’s where he learned to talk and work and whatever. But a letter had come from his mom. A letter came from his mother and said, “We have, like, an opportunity, a very short window opportunity where Hitler is allowing, the Jews to pay their way out and he needed 45 pounds. And, he gave the letter to the reverend and he said, “Can you help?”
Howard: It sounds like an epic movie as well.
Frankie: Is it? Doesn’t it? I mean, it is crazy.
Howard: That’s an amazing story. So yeah. So you told me that he never really talked about his past.
Howard: Growing up, except snippets here and there, but what do you think he, you know, I mean, that happens a great deal if people who have experienced trauma and then come out the other side, often it takes years and years or decades to even want to talk about it because they want to put it behind them. Why do you think, he’s choosing now to, uh, to tell you about it and to ask you to write it down.
Frankie: Well, because there was three cousins left at the end of the war. And you know, my dad, the oldest is a hundred, he’ll be 106 May 25th. My dad’s 94 and the other one is, I think he’s 92 and he’s not in very good shape.
Howard: Longevity sure does run in your family though. They’ve lived a long life.
Frankie: Yeah and especially like, you know, those two had been in camps, had been in four of the camps. I mean crazy. I like the worst of the worst and they’re still alive to talk about. It’s amazing. But, yeah, I guess my dad just felt, you know, he’s got great grandchildren now and I’ve been hounding him and said, you know, we want to know your story before it’s too late. My mom had passed away in 2012 and I didn’t get to ask her everything and it really, you know, kind of weighed on me. I thought, we need to know our history, we need to know stuff. And I get that it’s painful, but you know, there comes a time if you don’t tell me now, you’ll never tell me.
Howard: Right. And I think especially, now, you know, when it comes to the Holocaust it is especially important to publish in detail everything that happened and-
Frankie: And all this stuff about immigrants too.
Howard: Right, right, right. And this is also very much an American story. And without getting into any kind of politics, we’re at a strange point in history right now where the value of immigrants is being questioned. Do you think this book kind of makes a statement about any current issues regarding immigration and the value of immigrants?
Frankie: You know, it really does. And he actually dedicated, he wrote the dedication of the book and he dedicated it to immigrants. You know, he did and you know, he just said that “This is for the children of the world who were forced to abandon their homes and their families due to war, famine, corrupt governments or other circumstances.” And he goes on to talk about it a little bit and just said, you know, “Welcome today’s immigrants with your open heart and an open door, to safe, you know, to safe shores” and everybody is an immigrant, really aren’t they? And whether you came 60 or 80 years ago, or you come today? I haven’t really met any immigrants who haven’t put their stamp on their new world and done the very best that they possibly could because they came from circumstances that were less than ideal that we don’t even know about really.
Frankie: You know? And I really think that we need to open our hearts more to immigrants. I mean, they built this country. I live in Canada, but my dad built, you know, like, he was part of that wave of immigrants. First there were the Polish and the Italians and him. And they’re the ones who were in the construction and built up the cities and built up, you know, the apartments and the organizations and all of that. So the infrastructure of the city was due to immigrants. And then the next wave comes and the next wave comes. And you know, now it was, next it was the Chinese and then the East Indians. But you can see how they all come in waves and what they all do. And I know that I have two brothers that my father adopted who were Vietnamese, came off the, you know, Vietnamese boat children. And within a year, within a year, I mean, they got two jobs within a year they had a house, they had a car, they had, you know, TV set, like were living the dream, right? And that’s because their work ethic is so hard and they’re so appreciative of the opportunity. So I really don’t think that people need to be afraid of immigrants. I think they should welcome immigrants.
Howard: So who do you think this book is for? I mean, did you set out to write more of a family heirloom or something that a larger audience will get a great deal out of.
Frankie: Yeah. I, you know, I really, I struggled with it a little bit and that’s why I had a coauthor Peter. Peter Jennings was the objective voice. He’s one who interviewed my family. I was kind of the other voice I guess, but we switched on and off every chapter. But Peter, you know, he wrote that objective story and we kept in mind like, you know, who else might be interested? Because my father is an entrepreneur. He was a very successful entrepreneur. And so we wanted to put the business in there. There is the business in there, there is, you know, a little bit of the family history, but there is a business side of him. And so I think anybody who’s looking for inspiration, anybody who’s looking, how do you run a company, how do you, you know, reinvent yourself and what happens when the worst things happen to you and the best things happen to you. That’s all there. I mean, it’s, the human experience in 94 years of living is all there.
Howard: Right, right, right. Absolutely. And I think that’s a lot of issues authors face, you know, they have a fascinating subject and maybe a family member or their own story and they’re wondering how to tell the story in a way that isn’t just about them but it makes it universal and it sounds like you have many universal themes in this book.
Frankie: Howard, I got to tell you that I think people are craving this kind of story and this kind of message, so if anybody out there wants write it. And the reason I say that was because the day I released the book, we were a bestseller in three countries. Like phenomenal, right? Yeah. Yeah. So I was very, very pleased about that.
Howard: Okay. Well thank you very much. Again, the book is-
Frankie: Thank you.
Howard: – Is called For one to 40 pounds From Persecution to Perseverance. What would you do for freedom? By Frankie Picasso and Peter Jennings. Thank you very much, Frankie. I appreciate you appearing today.
Frankie: I appreciate you asking me Howard, thank you.
Howard: Thanks. Bye.