Will Alexander

“[Los Angeles is] part of an international community. The city has allowed tremendous growth for me, in terms of its cultural outlets, from libraries, great cinema, dance, orchestra, interesting mixes of people…. I see myself as a global citizen and a global writer.” Will Alexander, winner of the 2016 Jackson Poetry Prize, talks about the influence the city of Los Angeles has had on his relationship with language and writing.

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Author: bchau

How Meditation Can Inspire Your Next Story

As writers, it often seems we are channeling our stories more than creating them. So it should be no surprise to learn the tool of meditation can inspire your next story.

I have often thought of writing as something of a meditation. When we’re really in the zone, it can feel like an altered state. Especially when I was younger, inspiration would sometimes strike with such force I’d call it a story high. I could ride it for week sometimes—before experiencing story hangover!

As writers, our great love affair is with inspiration. Sometimes that relationship is on, and we are flooded with creative passion and more ideas than we know what to do with. At other times, we have to put in the work to court our inspiration. Most writing lives require a balance of both. One of the most profound lessons I have learned over the last decade is the importance of cultivating a lifestyle of creativity. This means not just observing what lifestyle patterns contribute to sustainable creativity over the long-term, but also seeking out specific tools that can help foster and boost creative patterns.

Turns out mediation can be one of those tools.

Accessing Subconscious Creativity Via Meditative States

Meditation has become increasingly popular in recent decades, mostly for its positive effects on mental health. For me, it has been a gamechanger in so many ways. I came to it several years ago during a difficult period in my life and have instituted a daily practice that has literally become my favorite time of the day. But before I was ever meditating “on purpose,” I was using this same brain space whenever I played with my stories. Whether I was daydreaming in the car, telling myself stories as I fell asleep, imagining my characters throughout the day, writing away on a story high, or purposefully journeying into what I came to call the “dreamzone”—I was unwittingly taking advantage of the profound benefits that meditative states can offer creativity.

Last week, I released six guided meditations that take writers on a journey through the primary archetypal character arcs of the life cycle. I’ve discussed all of these archetypes in-depth here on my site and in my latest book Writing Archetypal Character Arcs. But as I pondered what I project I wanted to work on next, I realized what most excited me was sharing the tools that have transformed my life and my creativity over the years. I wanted to create a tool that didn’t just tell writers about story techniques, but that helped them access and experience the stories for themselves.

Guided meditations are a helpful tool for easing us into a meditative state via gently narrated instructions. The narrator might invite you to visualize certain things or explore certain sensations or emotions in your body. A guided meditation provides a sort of guardrail you can hang onto as you descend into the boundlessness of your own subconscious. Guided meditations can be a fabulous tool for helping us let go of our conscious brain’s expectations of what we “should” be thinking about. Instead, we can use the prompts provided by the narrator to allow images, ideas, and emotions to arise freely in our brains. In my experience, the results can be profound and surprising.

However, guided meditations are only the tiniest tip of what is available to writers in using meditation to inspire story ideas. (More than that, I should state that I do not believe guided meditations are a replacement for a dedicated personal practice.) The aim is to access our subconscious creativity, to delve beneath the conscious and “logical” chatter of our ego brains, and to discover the resonant symbolism and profound originality within the deep reaches of our own imaginations.

5 Steps to Use Meditation to Inspire Your Next Story

My own personal favorite approach to using meditation to inspire my stories is what I call “dreamzoning.” It requires no guide, although I do set up my space with certain helpful cues (particularly music) to help prime the pump. For me, the experience of purposefully entering the dreamzone is both exhilarating and deeply restful. In contrast to consciously brainstorming a story, which is often an intense and even tiring experience, “dreamzoning” is like, well, dreaming. It’s like tuning in to a favorite program and just watching. For me, there’s also a deep sense of coming home. I never leave the dreamzone without at least one great idea for my story—and usually many, many ideas!

Whether you’re using a structured approach such as the Archetypal Character Guided Meditations or just freewheeling, here are the five steps I use to create a successful meditation for new story ideas or inspiration.

1. Set the Space

This could mean seeking privacy, shutting the door, turning off notifications. It might mean turning out the lights or waiting until evening. But it could also mean taking a walk or a ride in the car. The point is to create a physical container for the experience that will help you avoid distractions and allow you to turn off your “front brain” and settle in to your deep imagination.

2. Add a “Zone-Out” Aid

To help in tuning out the distractions and dropping in, you may find it helpful to add some sort of a visual aid as a focal point. At its simplest, you might just choose a spot on the wall and stare at it. But I always find it helpful if my visual aid offers gentle, rhythmic movement. My personal fave is fire. A fire pit at night is ideal, but I’ve also used candles. If you don’t have access to a fire, you could try streaming a fireplace video or a nature video. I’ve also found lava lamps particularly restful in a hypnotic sort of way.

3. Choose Music

Some people will find silence to be most helpful in sinking in, but you may also want to add music. For me, music takes it all to another level. Of itself, it creates a “guided” experience that allows you to use the cues (whether lyrics or just the emotional response to the music) to invite you deeper into your story. Choose your music carefully, since the wrong music can throw off everything (although I will say that sometimes music that doesn’t seem to fit can help you discover unexpected moments in your stories).

4. Treat It Like a Meditation (But Fun)

Some people hear the word “meditation” and think, Oh, that’s too boring and hard. I could never do that. Meditation of any sort does require discipline—to sit still, to be with one’s own body, to ignore insistent thought patterns, to concentrate, etc. However, in my experience, creative meditation is never anything but fun.

That said, to get the full benefit, you do have to treat it like a meditation, complete with the sitting still and the concentrating. If you find it difficult to sink in due to distracting thoughts or fidgets, just stick with it. This is where the music and visual aids can become helpful in distracting you from your distractions. But most of all, remember it’s fun. You get to be a kid again and just daydream and play in your own imagination. If it feels too much like work, then it may not be the right time for this particular tool.

5. Take Notes

In my younger years, I used to hold the belief that “the only idea worth writing is one I will remember.” Countless forgotten ideas down the road, I no longer believe that! Nowadays, I take conscientious notes. The dreaminess of meditative states can make it just as easy to forget your new ideas as it is to forget your nighttime dreams a few minutes after waking. Although you may not want to interrupt the meditation itself, keep a notebook handy so you can scribble down any ideas or images you want to remember. The vast majority of notes in my idea folder for any given story are ones I took during a dreamzoning session. So much good stuff!

6 Benefits of Using Meditation to Prep Your Story

The dreamzone is a place without rules. You can use it however feels most intuitive and helpful to you. But by its very nature, it can also feel a bit overwhelming. What do you do when you get there? Here are some of the things I focus on when I head into the dreamzone to play with my stories. You can use any or all of them to help you get the most out of your creative meditations.

1. Find the Big Scenes and Plot Points

Structuring Your Novel IPPY Award 165

Structuring Your Novel (Amazon affiliate link)

Often, the images and ideas that come to you in the dreamzone will be big ones. Especially if you’re using cinematic music for inspiration, you will likely find yourself swept away by what will become the biggest moments in your story. Unless you’re using a guided aid such as the Archetypal Character Guided Meditations, which walk you through the entire story arc and all the major plot points, you may want to keep a part of your brain alert to which scenes will make the most sense at different moments in your story’s structure.

For instance, when I was dreamzoning with my WIP Wildblood, I saw a scene in which one character seemed to die, was saved by another—and, in so doing, both of their magical powers and identities were revealed. Thanks to my awareness of story structure, I knew right away this was likely to end up being the First Plot Point in my story, and this helped me guide my imaginings from there.

2. Tap Into Organic Originality

The best thing about the dreamzone is that it offers a hotline to your subconscious creativity. This is the deepest part of you, and therefore the most original. This is a direct line of communication with the ideas and messages that are yours to speak in this life. Although what you see in the dreamzone will undoubtedly be influenced by all the images your mind has stored throughout your life, you will also have the capability to access images, characters, and scenarios you’ve never seen enacted in other people’s stories. Although it’s totally fine to play with tropes you enjoy, when something you’ve never seen before pops up, pay attention. Follow it down the rabbit hole and see if it leads you to surprising places your conscious brain may never have been able to dream up.

3. Go Deep to Discover Authentic Character Arcs

Creating Character Arcs (Amazon affiliate link)

The other cool thing about the subconscious is that it is steeped in archetypes. Just as our brains naturally understand the shape of story long before we start learning the technicalities of story structure, we also naturally understand the language of archetype and therefore character arc. In short, our subconscious brains are often much better storytellers than our conscious brains. For me, I always notice a depth of resonance to the character development I experience when in the dreamzone that is much harder to access simply through left-brain knowledge and technique.

More than that, playing with archetypes in the dreamzone (whether they arise naturally or whether you’re consciously drawing upon one, as I’ve done in the Archetypal Character Guided Meditations), can be personally transformative as well. After all, our characters are us. Anytime an archetypal character presents itself to our imagination, it represents a part of our own brains interacting with that deep symbolism.

4. Make Use of the Symbolism

Speaking of which, the symbolism itself can be a blast! Particularly if you’re a visual thinker, take note of the imagery. What colors are especially vibrant? What animals wander through the scene? You might see scenes or snippets from your story that don’t obviously impact the plot, but that offer insight into deeper meanings in your story.

For example, my first snippet of inspiration for Wildblood was a single image, of a woman dressed in severe Tudor black, standing in front of a single stone tower in a snowy landscape, with a raven overhead. At the time, I didn’t know anything about what these images meant, but I played with them until they revealed a depth of symbolism and meaning that eventually became a whole story!

A Midjourney rendering of my initial image of inspiration for my WIP Wildblood.

5. Get Unstuck

As a creative aid, meditation is unparalleled. Whenever your logical brain gets snarled up on a plot problem, take a ramble into the dreamzone and let your subconscious have a crack at it. Shifting from our “word brain” to our “picture brain” can bring in a whole host of new ideas and solutions that might never have occurred to us otherwise.

6. Remember the Wonder and Have Fun

Not only can meditation inspire your next story, but it can also serve to remind you and/or keep you in touch with the glory that is creative storytelling. If you ever find yourself taking your writing too seriously or feeling like you’ve lost the joy of the craft, giving yourself permission to simply daydream is the single best way I know to return to the wonder of storytelling. Although meditation, in all its many forms, can take you deep and initiate intense transformations, it is also fun. It offers a return to the simplicity of our own imaginations, such as we experienced in childhood, back when we walked the dreamzone all the time.


Most writers access meditative states without even realizing that’s what they’re doing. But if you’re feeling in need of a little extra wonder (let’s be honest, who isn’t!) or just want to consciously utilize the manifold benefits of using meditation as a creative aid, try setting aside some dedicated time to play in the dreamzone. If you want to start out with a guide that will help you explore specific archetypes and symbolism, as well as all the important structural beats, you can check out my new Archetypal Character Guided Meditations. But really, all you need is a little privacy and your own imagination. Who knows what you’ll find!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Do you think meditation can inspire your next story? Have you ever tried “dreamzoning” or some equivalent? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in Apple Podcast or Amazon Music).


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Author: K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

Adapting To Change With Jessie Kwak

As much as we try to plan for things, sometimes life happens and we have to adapt to a new situation. Jessie Kwak talks about adapting to life as a freelance writer and author after being injured, and her tips for managing work and energy.

In the intro, I mention Accessibility for All, the interview I did with Jeff Adams about how we can make our content more accessible to people with injuries and disabilities. You can also check out KWL Podcast episode on Accessibility for Authors. Plus, Writing the Shadow: Turn Your Inner Darkness Into Words is launching soon on Kickstarter, register your interest in the launch here.

kobo writing life

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors. 

Jessie Kwak is the author of gangster sci-fi supernatural thrillers and nonfiction for creatives. She’s also a ghostwriter and freelance marketing copywriter, and her books include From Big Idea to Book and From Chaos to Creativity.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Adapting to changing circumstances
  • When medical situations affect your author business
  • How changing appearances affects us at a deeper level
  • The importance of accessibility tools for authors
  • Prioritizing your use of energy when you only have a finite amount
  • Ways to future-proof your business
  • Healthcare costs for freelancers
  • The Author Alchemy Summit hosted by Jessie Kwak

You can find Jessie at JessieKwak.com and her upcoming summit at AuthorAlchemySummit.com.

Transcript of Interview with Jessie Kwak

Joanna: Jessie Kwak is the author of gangster sci-fi supernatural thrillers and nonfiction for creatives. She’s also a ghostwriter and freelance marketing copywriter, and her books include From Big Idea to Book and From Chaos to Creativity. So welcome back to the show, Jessie.

Jessie: Thank you for having me.

Joanna: It’s good to talk to you again. Now, you were last on the show in 2022, and this is just over a year later. So we’re gonna jump straight into the topic today, which is adapting to change even when it’s outside of your control.

Tell us what happened to you back in July?

Jessie: It’s been kind of a wild few months.

Back in July, I was selling books at a street fair with my friend Mark, and as we were leaving the fair, the car in front of us open fired into the street, and a bullet ricocheted through the windshield and into my eye.

So fortunately, we were super close to the hospital, so Mark was able to get me there really quick. For a writer, he was an amazing getaway driver.

Since then, I have had a couple of surgeries to reconstruct the eye and remove the bullet fragment, and it’s been a lot of healing since then.

I’m on a really good trajectory. My energy is mostly back and my right eye I can see perfectly well out of now, that was a little touch and go for a minute. But yeah, it brought everything to a screeching halt. We’ll just say that.

Joanna: I’m on your Facebook page, and your husband put a thing up, and it was so shocking. I know, obviously, you’re used to telling the story now. But there are people listening who are like, what you got shot?

And being in England, this is not very usual. I mean, we hear the news about America, and there always seems to be a lot of shooting, but this is a really big deal over here. It’s like holy crap, that is just crazy. I mean, so it’s a couple of months now, and there’s healing and everything, but the immediate shock and injury and trauma of this.

Did everything stop in your life?

Jessie: Yeah, of course.

I am always a go-go-go person, so it took me a minute to internalize that I wasn’t going to be able to go, go, go.

I do a monthly writers’ social at my house, and that was coming up on that Tuesday, this was a Saturday, and I remember being like, “Oh, this is going to be a crazy story to tell everyone on Tuesday.” Then my husband’s like, “You’re not hosting a social in a few days, what are you thinking? We have to cancel that.” And I was like, oh, you’re right, I’m going to have to cancel a lot of things. So it just took a while for that to sink in.

Joanna: And then of course, you’re a freelance writer and an author, and your sight is a necessary part of this.

I think this really freaked me out big time because I do have some risk factors for macular degeneration. So I thought a lot about what would happen if I lose my sight suddenly because that’s kind of how it how it happens.

How did you deal with the immediate effect of thinking, ‘how is this going to affect my business?’

Jessie: Yeah, well, so I have actually been dictating for quite a few years. So that’s a big part of my writing process now.

I was like, okay, I can keep dictating things. Editing is going to be a little harder, you know, you can get your computer to read to you, but it’s a different skill set, I guess.

I had a really good friend in college who was completely blind, and she was also an English major. So I was like, I know these tools are out there. Even 20 years ago, Erin was doing all this amazing stuff and completely able to read and write and do everything that I do for my job, but I hadn’t really used them.

So I was going from, okay, I have one eye that can look at the screen for just long enough to try to figure out how the screen reader works, and then I’d close my eyes and listen for a minute and be like, wait, where was that? How do I edit that?

The adaptability stuff was really kind of tough to access even though I had been dictating, so at least I had that skill set.

So I dictated a lot of emails and texts and stuff at first, especially on my phone. I have a Mac and an iPhone, and I found that the dictation software on iOS was a lot easier to work with than the dictation software just on the Mac.

So I ended up just mostly working on my phone, which wasn’t great for looking at the small screen. Of course, I bumped up all the text. I put it in like old lady mode. I just turned 40 this year and I’m like, well, I guess we’re doing old lady mode on the phone.

Joanna: Well, that’s really interesting. A few things to come back on here.

I mean, we’ve known each other quite a long time now, I guess since we met over in Oregon probably like a decade ago now. You’ve always been calm. When I think of you, I think of you as this calm person. But, I mean, was there any freaking out or were you afraid? Or—

Have you just been this calm person throughout?

Jessie: I have been, I guess, shockingly calm. I say shockingly, because even in my own mind, I feel like I could have been a little more freaked out.

But I knew almost immediately what had happened and that I’ve lost vision in that eye, and so my brain was almost immediately like, okay, well, you can’t go back from that, so what’s the next step? The next step is we drive to the hospital. The next step is we lay here nicely while people stitch us up.

So my brain was just like, okay, let’s just do the next thing, next thing, taking deep breaths. I remember at one point, I was asking—because there was the writer part of my brain that was like, “Oh, interesting, this is what it’s like to be in a hospital, this is what an emergency room was like,” and I was like, ‘shut up, I just got shot, I don’t need you cataloguing details.’

I was talking to one of the nurses as I was waiting to get a CAT scan, and I asked her what the beeping was. I thought it was probably the heart rate, but it seemed really slow. And she’s like, yeah, that’s your heart rate monitor, and it’s very slow, it’s very calm, that’s good.

And I was like, oh, that meditation I’ve been doing lately must be working. I had already told them that I was an author and had been selling books at the street fair, and she was like, well, if your book is about meditation, I’ll read it because I can’t believe you’re lying there so quietly.

Joanna: That is so interesting. And I mean, I have had laser eye surgery, and obviously completely different, but I was lying under the machine.

I’ll never forget it, I was lying under the machine and you look up at a laser, and there’s a smell of sort of burning, and I wrote a story about it, With A Demon’s Eye, and I put that kind of in that story.

But I know that sensation of being there, going with that writer half of your brain, going, “Oh, oh, this is going to be part of a book someday!” So I mean, but this is the thing, you must have been in shock. I mean, you had head trauma. You’ve been shot.

Was your husband freaking out far more than you, do you think?

Jessie: He was. So we only live about 10 minutes away from this hospital, so my friend called him as soon as he dropped me off, and Rob was there almost immediately. I remember just trying to tell the doctors, they’re like, “Your husband’s outside. Do you want him to come in?”

And I was like, “Yes. Tell him I’m okay. Make sure he knows I’m okay,” because I knew I was just covered in blood, but I also knew that I was okay, and I felt like I was still thinking very clearly.

At that point, they’d done the CAT scan, and they were like, okay, the bullet stopped in your eye, it didn’t go into your brain. I was like, thank god, because that could have been so much worse.

But I knew I did not look like I was okay, so I kept just being like, let him know I’m fine. But, of course, I couldn’t see what it looked like. My parents showed up later, and they live three hours away, so they drove down so they could be there before my surgery the next morning. The same thing, like my dad walked in the room and he was just like, “Do you mind if we cry?”

Joanna: Oh, I was gonna say they would’ve burst into tears to see you hurt.

Jessie: Yeah, and so then later, I finally saw myself in the mirror. I was like, oh, yeah, I look way worse than I thought I did even.

Joanna: I mean, I’m laughing about it in a kind of nervous way here. I mean, I know people listening are like why are you joking around? This is really serious. But I mean, are you wearing like an eyepatch? Do you have to wear anything specific now? Do you have like cool scars? Because we’re not on video here, we’re just doing audio. I mean—

Is it something that has changed your appearance?

Jessie: Yeah, so I mean, the pirate jokes started immediately.

My family has a long history of laughing our way through illnesses and injuries, so I come by that honestly.

Within days, I had gone on Etsy and found myself the coolest leather eyepatch that I could. Actually, it’s now a new hobby. I bought a bunch of leather working supplies, and I’ve made myself several more like really cool eye patches.

Ultimately, so they weren’t able to save my left eye. It’s healing up, so it does look a little more normal, but it’s like the iris doesn’t work anymore.

David Bowie had the two different colored eyes, but they weren’t different colored, it was just that he had an eye injury, and the darker one, it was just all pupil. So that’s essentially what I’ve got going on right now.

I’ll be able to get, theoretically, a prosthetic shell that they could paint to look like my other eye. Or they can paint them to look like whatever you want, so as a sci fi writer, I could have a galaxy, or a cat, or gold flake, or all sorts of fun stuff.

Joanna: It’s interesting. I mean,  so how is that? Because all of this is adapting, like we’re talking about adapting to change. So I mean, this is an alteration of a really important part of your body. How do you feel about it?

Are you going to make it a feature or is it something that you will hide?

Jessie: It’s something that I can’t really hide at this point. And at this point, because I’m so—I don’t want to say I’m a public figure, but I’ve got readers and I have friends on the internet.

I knew immediately, I was like, well, I can’t pretend this didn’t happen, otherwise, every time I see somebody for the next year or so they’re gonna see me and they’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, why are you wearing an eyepatch?” Or, “Why does your eye look weird?” And I’m gonna have to tell the story over and over.

So immediately, I was like, well, I need to get out in front of this and talk about it. I’ve also gone back and forth with wearing an eyepatch versus letting people see my weird eye, is what I started calling it.

I did post a picture on Instagram, finally, because I imagined people are seeing me with an eyepatch and thinking like, oh, it’s a ruined crater of monstrousness underneath that.

And I was like, it’s not actually that bad, but I look at myself without it, and it seems kind of sad and makes me feel almost like a victim. I guess I am a victim of gun violence, as we were talking about a little bit in the US, that is a label that more and more of us get.

Fortunately, I am one of the few that made it through to the other side and can tell that story. But wearing an eyepatch makes me feel like a badass, so that’s kind of where I’m falling, a little bit more on that spectrum right now.

Joanna: I have gone on your Instagram, and for people, it’s @KwakJessie. I’ll put a link in the show notes. I mean, I’ve always looked at you as someone who already looks like a badass, as in you’ve always been pretty funky in terms of your hair and everything. I’m looking at it now, and I can see what you mean. You do look just super badass.

Jessie: Thank you.

Joanna: Well, yeah, I mean, you look great, whatever. You always have. I find this interesting because —

As writers, we self-define by what’s in our mind and our brains, so much more than our physical bodies.

Do you know what I mean? It’s like we want people to read our books, and if people read our books, they almost know us a lot more than if they look at us.

This is something I’ve been thinking about—and it’s completely not at all in your area at all—but I’ve got a white streak now in my hair because my hair is going white, and I’m heading to 50.

I’ve been dyeing my hair dark for so long, and then there was just a day and I was like, you know what, I think I just have to let it be. It’s very strange, and I know it doesn’t compare at all, but it was that moment of—

How are people going to see me now, and does that matter?

I mean, does it? I don’t know. It’s really hard.

Jessie: Well, I think when your physical appearance starts to change, you do have to really reconcile it with how you see yourself and how you perceive other people seeing you. Which, of course, we never know. We’re always projecting what we think other people see.

I do a monthly giveaway in my newsletter where it’s normally books that are on my shelf that I’m like, oh, I loved this, and I want to give it away to somebody, and I always have done a selfie with the book in my newsletter and sent that out.

So the first one I did after the shooting was with me and an eyepatch, and I was just like, oh my gosh — 

My life is divided now between selfies that are old normal Jessie and new pirate mode Jessie. It was just this weird moment of like, oh my gosh.

So I talked about that a little bit in my newsletter, and I was like I am having some really deep feelings in regards to the selfie that I’m posting, but I’m posting it anyways. I got a lot of people responding and saying, “You look great. I love the eyepatch.” 

I also should tell this story. So I’ve been to more street fairs since this happened and been selling my books at more street fairs, and the last one that I was at, this guy came up and he was like—one of my books is called Ghost Pirate Gambit—and he’s like, “Well, I have to get the sci-fi pirate book. Obviously, you write about pirates because you wear an eyepatch.” I was like, no, the eyepatch is actually really new.

Joanna: Yeah, I mean, maybe people think it’s a prop, but now it’s not a prop. So I mean, this is so interesting. Coming back, you mentioned the iOS dictation app.

Can you just talk a bit more about the importance of accessibility?

Because there’ll be people listening who have problems with vision or hearing, and accessibility is so important for so many people. Everyone’s on a sort of spectrum of what they need in terms of accessibility.

Tell us a bit more about any other tips, like your tips for dictation, or how you’re managing the level of energy and that kind of thing.

make accessible content

Jessie: So, in terms of dictation, yeah, I really found that dictating to my phone was so much simpler.

I use Evernote, and I would just dictate drafts of things into Evernote and then copy them to whatever it was I was doing on my laptop, if I needed to send an email or if I was working on a newsletter or something like that.

Before this, I guess, I did a lot of going for a long walk and dictate a draft of something, whether it’s fiction or client project into my phone, just as a recorded file, and then upload it.

There’s a couple different programs that I’ve used. One is otter.ai, which is great, especially for transcribing interviews or things that have multiple people because it will say, oh, this was so and so speaking, this was so and so speaking, and so it kind of makes a really nice transcript.

Then the other one is a tool called writersvoice.ai, and it’s actually just in beta testing right now, a friend of mine is working on it. So I’ve been kind of using those two tools to transcribe these drafts. 

Yeah, as I said, you have to edit your dictated texts because it can be all over the place sometimes. That was the part that I really struggled with because I just couldn’t look at a screen for very long.

I was extremely light-sensitive at first, and so I have a pair of blue light glasses which helped a little bit.

Then I would make sure all my screens were kind of yellow-shifted, so at least that light was a little bit easier to look at.

But I was in Scrivener having it read a draft of a story to me that was pretty funny because there were a lot of swear words in it and ridiculous things, and having kind of the woman read it to you in her really flat voice was pretty hilarious. I found that was really helpful because I could follow along and be like, oh, no, that words wrong, stop it, and go in. So those were the two main accessibility things that I was using.

In terms of energy, that has been the hardest part for me.

I’m almost back up to normal, but I tire out pretty easily in the afternoons. So I was just listening to audiobooks, listening to audiobooks and taking naps, and just thinking, okay, what needs to get done?

What absolutely needs to get done? What is a nice to have? What is the most important thing?

So a lot of it for the last few months has been like administration and kind of triaging emails. I’m only just now kind of getting back to, alright, I’m going to write a story for fun.

Joanna: I think this is really interesting, the ‘what needs to get done.’

My only experience of this was when I had COVID, and there were a couple of weeks and then a couple of months where I just couldn’t do what I can normally do.

And it was the same, it was, okay, if I’ve only got an hour, what do I really have to do? I mean, obviously, as a freelance writer, you have to prioritize working for other clients.

Have you been able to continue doing [freelance writing] through this?

Jessie: Yeah, I’m at a really lucky stage of my business, where for years I was making my money mostly as a blogger and I had multiple clients that I had constant deadlines throughout the week, and I’ve slowly over the last couple of years moved to where I am ghostwriting business books for thought leader and coach types.

So I only work on one of those projects at a time. So I had just literally the day before signed a new client, he paid my deposit, and it was like great, we’ll set up a bunch of times next week to start the interview process So I had to email him and be like, “This is what happened…”

Joanna: I assume he let you off the hook there!

Jessie: Yeah, well, I was like, I am still really excited about this project, but I can’t start right yet.

But fortunately, being in the interview phase, I just was trying to get his story. So I could just turn the phone on, and record it, and talk to him for an hour and a half or whatever. I didn’t have to do much screen staring, so that that was easier to do. So it turned out to be really fortunate timing.

But yeah, it was just like, oh my gosh, okay, who do I need to send an email to? I need to talk to this person, tell them crazy things happened, like your project is going to be pushed back a little bit. 

I just had hired a virtual assistant like a week before because I was like, okay, I definitely need help with more things in my business. So that was also really good timing, except that you have to get a VA up to speed on everything.

She’d sent me some stuff on that Friday, and I was like, great, I’ll get you set up on this email account over the weekend, and I’ll send you these details over the weekend, and all this stuff. So I had to email her to and be like, so I’m gonna need you to be really proactive for a minute.

Joanna: I think it’s interesting. One of my Clifton Strengths is futurist, so I am always playing out scenarios in my head as to what I need to have in place for when things happen.

And again, when COVID hit, I mean, I could stop working, or if I died right now, things will carry on, I’ll still make money. I mean, it’s kind of crazy to think that way, and yet, when these things do happen, we worry.

So we’ve talked about dictation, a virtual assistant, you’ve got different streams of income, the audiobooks.

If you were winding back time to try and prepare for something like this happening, or things that people need to have in place, what are things that people should even think about to kind of future-proof?

Because at some point, we all are going to have to work less, or there might be an injury, or an illness, or something else in the family.

What do you think people should think about and have in place, just in case anything happens?

Jessie: I think documenting your systems and the ways that you do things. I really, really wish that I had done any of that because there were several times I was trying to do something in my newsletter program, and my husband’s like, “You have a VA now, can’t she do that?”

And I was like, I would need to explain I do this, then this, then this, and I should be writing it down now, but I’m not because I’m too tired.

So to be able to just like hand off like, here’s how I build out a new newsletter. Then I could have dictated the draft of something and just sent her the unedited file and be like, great, please make that happen. But yeah, I don’t have any of that documented. I’m slowly working on that. We are working on it together. She’s great.

That would be one of my number one tips for people is:

If you’re doing things over and over, write down all the steps.

Yeah, it’s in your head, and yeah, you’re the only one doing it right now, but what if you need to ask your husband to send an email for you, and he’s like, wait, where do I find this thing? Well, it’s if you go in this file, but over here on that file, which is not intuitive, it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s just how my brain has left it these years.

Joanna: I mean, I haven’t documented mine either. What’s so funny, it’s like you say, it’s on the list, but it always gets moved down the list because I’d much rather be doing something more interesting.

Jessie: It’s not that fun.

Joanna: No, exactly. I’m like, oh, no, I really just can’t do that. I mean, I still don’t even have like a book launch checklist or like a self-publishing checklist. Like seriously, I think I am quite chaotic.

I mean, you’ve got this book, From Chaos to Creativity, I think I’m creative and chaotic. I get things done. I mean, but yeah, exactly, you’re right. I mean, when things do happen, and you can’t do it, that’s when you need that list. So I’m sure lots of people listening haven’t done that yet.

Let’s also talk about health care because obviously you’re in the USA, you’re a freelancer, and that’s what a lot of people in the US worry about.

Now, your husband put up a GoFundMe to help with the immediate healthcare costs, and your community and your family obviously rallied around, but, you know, you don’t know what the healthcare costs are going to be over time.

So a lot of people listening are in the US. Any thoughts on that or tips, or is that just something that everyone has to find for themselves, some kind of healthcare situation?

Jessie: Yeah, I mean, the weird thing about the US healthcare system, I read an article recently about how GoFundMe is being used so much for healthcare, and the founder of GoFundMe was like, I really wish we weren’t. I mean, I’m glad we’re here as a service for people, but it was something like 70% of GoFundMe’s went towards health care. And the guy was like, yeah, that’s a statistic I wish was not associated with us, but I’m happy that we’re here to help.

It’s just, I mean, it’s such a mystery. The costs are such a mystery. You go in, and like, I was in one hospital, and then they took me by ambulance to another hospital that had the eye care center.

I’ve seen some really incredible specialists who know all sorts of things about all different parts of the eye over the last few months, and you’re like, I really want these people to be getting paid well. I have no idea what the overall cost is going to be, or how much is actually going to the awesome nurses who are taking care of me because, you know, especially in the US, nurses are so underpaid and overwhelmed. I have several friends who are nurses.

I know, in the end, this is probably going to be maybe $150,000-$200,000. Like, in my mind in the hospital, I was like, that could be the total amount of this. And is this person who’s making my life way more comfortable right now, is she getting a minimum wage and working 80 hours? Like, where’s that money going? 

We do have health insurance. My husband has an employer that has a pretty good package. Fortunately, I’m able to get on that.

But yeah, I think the frustrating thing is the mystery of it all, where you just don’t know where things are going to end. You’re like, what’s the final bill going to be to me? How am I going to manage that?

So it is nice to have that GoFundMe safety net of like, okay, that’ll take care of whatever random hopefully out-of-pocket costs that we’re gonna have, whatever insurance decides not to cover. I’ve been going back and forth with the insurance company, like sending them documentation to prove that the procedures were medically necessary, because it was medically necessary to remove a bullet for my eye!

Joanna: Yeah, you would have thought so!

Jessie: You would’ve thought so. That seems self-explanatory, but…

Joanna: Goodness. I mean, you’re used to it now, like talking about it, but I know people listening, and I’m just sitting here going, oh, my goodness, this is just so shocking.

And I mean, in a way, it could have been a lot worse, as we were saying before we started recording, I mean, if that bullet was just what a millimeter or two different, you’d have been dead, or you’d have been severely brain damaged, or that bullet could have stuck in your head. I mean—

Do you wake up in the middle of the night having like, ‘oh my god’ moments?

Jessie: Yeah, I mean, I definitely do.

I think because it could have been so much worse, and because I still have one perfectly good eye—well, I mean, it’s not a perfectly good eye, I’ve been wearing glasses since I was in third grade, but it’s a perfectly serviceable—it’s almost like it’s not like the glass is half full or half empty. It’s like maybe a tiny bit splashed out of the glass when I think about what could have happened.

So it’s been really, on that end, it’s been kind of easy to stay positive, and think, well, all right, I feel incredibly, incredibly lucky. I mean, yes, this was unlucky, but in the scheme of things all right.

Joanna: Yeah, like a close call.

For many people, it is a kind of clarion call to, okay, new life, going to just rev it up, and go ahead. And I mean, that’s what you’re doing.

You are running an Author Alchemy Summit in February 2024. Tell us about that.

Like, why the hell are you doing a summit? Where is it? And who might find it useful?

Jessie: Yeah, so the Author Alchemy Summit is a small conference that I’m running in Portland, Oregon, at the end of February 2024.

Essentially, I wanted to gather together a lot of smart brains in the industry and colleagues and other writers and have kind of education and conversation around how to connect with our readers, but also build connections and community as part of this conference.

We talked really briefly before we got started about why am I still putting it on. I know a lot of people when I reached out to them, and I was like, “Hey, this is still happening, just wanted to let you know. I hope you’re still on board to be my speakers.” They were like, okay, great, because they didn’t think it would once they heard the news. 

To me, building community is just so important, and providing space for a community to gather and make those connections.

I mean, every good thing that has happened in my writing career has been because of people that I have met at different conferences and people that I’ve built relationships with over the years.

So I was kind of weighing in my mind, like, I know I’m only going to have the time and energy for, you know, maybe one big project through the next six months. How does it feel to me to say no to the conference but yes to writing the next book, versus if I don’t get that next book written but I do put on the conference?

There’s just so much more loving and happiness and joy around the idea of putting my energy into building this community and giving back. So many people rallied around me when this happened, like, I really wanted to continue this conference where I was trying to give back to that community. You know, books will get written, but these relationships I just think are so important.

Joanna: So I mean, on the landing page for the Author Alchemy Summit, you say “the playbook is changing.”

And obviously, I mean, I’ve been talking a lot about this. But what do you mean by that?

“The playbook is changing.” What do you feel is changing in the industry?

Jessie: Well, I have a lot of friends that are indie, and a lot of friends who are trad, and I feel like it’s changing kind of on both sides.

In indie publishing, I guess the market is maturing more. It’s not that you can put a bunch of books out and that’s what makes you successful. You have to, for better words, try harder to make those connections with readers because the discoverability is just not as simple as it used to be.

It’s not a matter of putting a book out, readers are just inundated with more choice. Social media is just noisier, less effective, more dispersed. We used to all kind of go to one or two social media sites, and now it’s like everybody’s got their own Discord that you have to get invited to, or there’s 18 different new Twitter clones. 

Then on the traditional side of things, publishers are merging, and it’s a lot harder for midlist authors, who a lot of my friends either are or kind of would end up being once they get their agents, it’s a lot harder for them to actually make a living at writing, whereas they used to be able to.

So I mean, I end up having a lot more conversations lately with traditionally published friends who have maybe have three or four books out, and they’re like, “Hey, so my publisher, like I’m getting my rights back to this. And I have other stories that I want to tell in this universe, and they don’t want them. How do you do the self-publish thing?” I’m like, yes, I would love to talk to you about that.

So I think those are kind of the things. The discoverability, you can’t just write a book and expect that it will get out there and get noticed. That’s never really been true, I don’t think, but I feel like it’s becoming more and more about owning your own channels, in a way. You know, your own newsletter and your direct sales and things like that, which is why the conference is focused around this question of like, how do we connect directly with our readers?

Joanna: I mean, it’s a huge topic in a way because I feel like that it’s fragmented so much.

You know, when we first met, I even think that might have been before KU, before Kindle Unlimited.

In the early days, there was a very clear way to self-publish. There were only a few options for marketing.

Now, there are so many ways to self-publish, so many ways to market, and you have to find your way through that to what works for you.

That is why it’s great that you’re doing this, and it will be focused more on your angle of things, and other people will focus on other angles. Is it for new authors? Is it for experienced authors?

Who is the target market for this conference?

Jessie: I would say for authors who probably have a couple books out at least. Or if you are newer, if you’re kind of more of that marketing businessy mindset and you’re looking for, okay, I’m gonna start off, I’ve got a book that I’m about to publish, and I’m really thinking about how can I connect directly with my readers.

We’re not gonna be focusing at all on craft, or how to finish your book, or the agent hunt, or any of those sorts of things. If you’re really in that category, this might not be a great fit for you. But if you’re a business-minded author who is really trying to figure out, okay, I’ve got a book, it’s either published or ready to publish, and I want to figure out how to build a long-term sustainable career, as opposed to how am I going to make money off my first book, then this would definitely be for you.

Joanna: Fantastic.

Where can people find the Author Alchemy Summit, and also you and everything you do online?

Jessie: Yeah, so AuthorAlchemySummit.com and JessieKwak.com. Those are the two main hubs, and if you go to JessieKwak.com, you’ll also find links to the summit website.

Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Jessie. That was great.

Jessie: Yeah. Thank you, Joanna.

The post Adapting To Change With Jessie Kwak first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

Artist Sandra Mujinga on Science Fiction

“Science fiction is a reminder that not everyone had access to their history,” says Norwegian artist Sandra Mujinga who draws on science fiction in her artistic practice, which includes installation and video art, for this Louisiana Channel interview. “It’s so important to keep imagining other realities,” says Mujinga.

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Author: jkashiwabara

Young-Ha Kim

“The moment kids start to lie is the moment storytelling begins.” Young-Ha Kim delivers a TEDx Talk about all children beginning as artists, novel writing as a process of composing one sentence after another, and the value of a world in which everyone creates art, whether in public or in private. Kim’s story collection Diary of a Murderer (Mariner Books, 2019), translated from the Korean by Krys Lee, is featured in Page One in the May/June 2019 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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Author: bchau

First Encounters

“When I was twelve, I saw a terrible movie called Devil Girl From Mars. And I turned off the television and said to myself, I can write a better story than that. I sat down and began writing my first science fiction story,” says award-winning science fiction author Octavia E. Butler in a 1993 interview for BBC News. Butler, whose work has recently made a resurgence with multiple television and film adaptations, expanded and revolutionized the science fiction genre by writing from the perspective of a marginalized Black woman and celebrating her voice. Is there a film, book, or work of art that you encountered in your childhood that inspired you to start writing? Write an essay that reflects on the impact of this work. Whether through resistance or celebration, how can you trace the development of your artistry back to this first encounter?

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Author: Writing Prompter

The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Shortlist Announced

Hearty congratulations to the shortlisted authors of the Center for Fiction 2023 First Novel Prize. Chosen from a longlist of twenty-five debut novels published in the U.S. this calendar year, the seven titles (and authors!) listed below will be celebrated at the Center’s First Novel Fête on December 1. The winner will be announced on December 5 at the Center for Fiction’s Annual Awards Benefit.

Started in 2006 to honor exceptional debut fiction of the year and to help build literary careers, the Center’s First Novel Prize includes a $15,000 cash prize for the winner and $1,000 for each of the other shortlisted authors. The judges for this year’s award are Hannah Lillith Assadi, Ayana Mathis, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Deesha Philyaw. The Center for Fiction is a literary nonprofit “that brings diverse communities together to develop and share a passion for fiction.” Previous winners of this award include Raven Leilani (Luster), Noor Naga (If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English), and Kirstin Valdez Quade (The Five Wounds). Best of luck to this year’s First Novel Prize shortlisted writers!

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo
Ecco, August 2023

Lookout by Christine Byl
A Strange Object, March 2023

Pay As You Go by Eskor David Johnson
McSweeney’s, October 2023

Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks
Algonquin Books, January 2023

Night Wherever We Go by Tracey Rose Peyton
Ecco, January 2023

We Are a Haunting by Tyriek White
Astra House, April 2023

Y/N by Esther Yi
Astra House, March 2023

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Author: Prize Reporter

David Grossman

“Stories should not protect us, stories should expose us…” Israeli author David Grossman, who received the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for his novel A Horse Walks Into a Bar (Jonathan Cape, 2017) with his translator Jessica Cohen, talks about how all stories are multilayered and some can even trap us in this 92Y video.

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Author: bchau

Writing And Publishing A High Quality Photo Book With Jeremy Bassetti

How can you create a high-quality photo book and publish it on Kickstarter? How do you market a beautiful, high-value book? Jeremy Bassetti talks about his photo book project, Hill of the Skull.

In the intro, Slow release book strategies [ALLi]; Seth Godin on how he is using ChatGPT; Consultants using AI worked faster and produced higher quality results [Ethan Mollick]; DALL-E includes text and consistent characters [OpenAI, Examples on X]; More authors suing OpenAI [The Verge].

Plus, Writing the Shadow Kickstarter; Gold cover video; Wing of an Angel Kickstarter; Pics of Norway on Instagram @jfpennauthor


Today’s show is sponsored by Ingram Spark, which I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 40,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries, and more. It’s your content—do more with it through IngramSpark.com.

Jeremy Bassetti is a travel writer, editor, teacher, and author of historical fiction, as well as the host of the Travel Writing World Podcast. His latest project is The Hill of the Skull: A Photobook Memoir, launching on Kickstarter.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Tips for capturing travel experiences for later reference
  • Legal and ethical concerns in publishing photos of people
  • The multilayered editing process of a photo book
  • Sourcing a printer for high-quality books
  • Adding different levels and products to a Kickstarter campaign
  • Why Kickstarter vs. other publishing methods
  • The importance of marketing

You can find Jeremy at JeremyBassetti.com, his podcast at TravelWritingWorld.com, and his Kickstarter here.

Transcript of Interview with Jeremy Bassetti

Joanna: Jeremy Bassetti is a travel writer, editor, teacher, and author of historical fiction, as well as the host of the Travel Writing World Podcast.

His latest project is The Hill of the Skull: A Photobook Memoir, launching on Kickstarter. So welcome back to the show, Jeremy.

Jeremy: Thanks for having me. It’s good to hear your voice again.

Joanna: Absolutely. Now, you were on the show talking about the wider aspects of travel writing in September 2021. So we’re gonna just jump straight into your new project today.

The tagline for The Hill of the Skull is —

“A professor visits a sacred mountain in Bolivia and gets pulled into a world of ritual”

— which sounds super cool.

Tell us about the trip that inspired the book.

Jeremy: So in, I guess, the fall of 2022, I went on sabbatical from my work, I’m a professor by day. Part of the mission for me during my sabbatical was to do research on mountain cultures, and you know, how people around the world think about mountains.

Leading up to that trip, I read from Victoria Preston, somebody who I know you’ve spoken to before about pilgrimages. I read in her book many years before that something about a community and a pilgrimage in the Bolivian Andes, in some kind of remote region in a town that many people haven’t heard of. So I made it kind of my mission to go to this town during this pilgrimage to see what was going on there and to do research.

The name of the town is called Quillacollo, and it’s not a small town, but it’s a town that many people haven’t heard of.  There’s this kind of incredible festival there every August.

On the surface, it’s to celebrate the ascension of the Virgin Mary, but when you see what’s going on, in terms of the rituals and the ceremonies around this kind of sacred hill, you can see that there’s this incredible fusion of native Andean ideas and traditions and rituals blended and fused with Catholic.

So you have this kind of fusion of pagan and Catholic practices happening during this pilgrimage. It’s quite incredible. So that was the motivation for me to go to this corner of the world.

Joanna: I mean, it sounds very cool. But Bolivia, what’s your attraction to South America? Have you traveled there before? Because, obviously, there are pagan and Catholic rituals all over the world.

Why Bolivia?

Jeremy: Well, frankly, I had never been to South America. I’d studied about colonial Latin America and Bolivia in grad school, especially around silver, and Bolivia is the place when you’re talking about silver during the colonial era. So it’s always kind of been on my radar.

This place in particular was just so fascinating to me because, well, frankly, I’d never heard of it. There’s this big celebration, there’s a lot going on, there was just something that was kind of magical that pulled me in that direction. I wanted to go far field.

It was my sabbatical, so I wanted to go someplace that would be challenging for me to visit and something that would kind of tie into my larger research interests, which involves looking at the ideas of mountains around the world. So, Bolivia, of course, is like a mountainous region, right?

The city that I visited, Quillacollo, by no stretch is a low-lying city. It’s like 1500 feet. I come from Florida, right? It’s like zero feet, it’s like sea level. By Bolivian standards, 8,500 feet, I don’t know what that is in meters, maybe 2500 or something, that’s quite low. But for us, I mean, we really feel it. So Bolivia was a place that was on my radar, someplace that I just had to go, because mountains are so central and so important to this place. It’s a keystone to the research that I was doing, really.

Joanna: It’s interesting that you mentioned the silver there because on my Books and Travel Podcast, I had Shafik Meghji. I think you might have had him on your podcast talking about his book about Bolivia. And again, I learned all this stuff.

Like the silver that people might have, or certainly in their local museum, probably came from Bolivia. I mean, you’ve learned an awful lot about places, so I think that’s really interesting. But you’re not on the travel podcast today, you’re on the publishing podcast. So let’s get into that. So when you went on this sabbatical, and you went to this town—

Did you intend always to write a book or did the book emerge from the trip later?

Jeremy: Well, as I mentioned, this was part of my larger research goal and my larger research agenda. So I always imagined that this research would kind of factor into this work that I’m doing, this kind of writing this larger project that I’m working on, which I’m a bit hesitant to talk about. So it’s always been like a part of that work.

While I was there, this new story, this new quest, unfolded while I was there. So the product of this book that I’m releasing today, that I’m crowdfunding and Kickstarting, really just came out of out of being there. It wasn’t something that I had planned on doing.

Now, before I went, I did a pop-up newsletter that I called 30 Days in the Andes. This was just like a forcing function for me to think about, and to take photos, and to work while I was traveling, so I wouldn’t confuse Bolivia as like a holiday or something.

This would force me to stay rigorous, to stay on schedule, to produce work every night, to take photographs, to remind myself that this is why I’m here to do this kind of work.

I had like a couple of side quests for research while I was there, but really, the book that emerged was completely different, and it was completely unexpected. That’s probably why it’s been so hard, and it’s taken me over a year to put this book together because it really came out of the thin Andean air while I was there.

Joanna: Sounds fascinating.

Jeremy: I’m trying to sell it!

Joanna: Absolutely. What is interesting, I mean, obviously you don’t have to talk about that bigger work, but you have this research focus, almost like this great work that you have in mind, which is a future project, but this photo book came out of being there.

I mean, my Pilgrimage memoir was kind of similar in that I went with one intention, and the book—well, I guess the first book, let’s call it—comes out of something else and can be a bit of a surprise.

You mentioned there, this pop up newsletter, which I love the idea of, 30 Days in the Andes. You were taking photos and writing things at the time. For people who want to do something like this—

What are your tips for capturing the experience as it happens?

Jeremy: Well, I mean, what I was doing might be a little bit different from kind of just trying to capture the experience for personal use.

I was taking photographs and kind of writing things with the intention that possibly I would throw this out into the world in the pop up newsletter. That was a lot different from the personal notes and all the personal kind of data that I was collecting. So I mean, of course, I took photos. Like that was one of the kind of side quests of this trip, taking photos.

Photos from Instagram @jeremybassetti

Photos by Jeremy Bassetti

You’re asking, how do we make sure that we capture everything? Well, you know, every possible way. Photos, handwritten notes, I was using my iPhone.

So I don’t know if you use the Notes app on your iPhone, but if anybody has iPhones, you have a Notes app, but you also this app called Shortcuts, and you can set this button on your home screen, this little widget, that when you press it, it’ll automatically create a new note in your notes app, date it, and it will put all of like the geo-coordinates information, append that to the note, and then open up this dictation dialog so you can just start talking, and it’s speech to text.

It’s incredible how many words you can get down just by dictating what you’re seeing, what you’re feeling, and what you’re experiencing.

So in short, I mean, I was like a madman taking photographs, writing things down in a pocket book, taking notes, dictating into my phone. I was doing whatever it took to capture things.

Now one of the things that I regret not doing now is I didn’t take a lot of video, but I wished I had turned my phone sideways and captured more video. Yeah, notes, dictations, photographs, handwritten notes. It was intense for me.

Joanna: I was gonna say, it sounds quite busy for a sabbatical.

Jeremy: Yeah, sabbatical and rest and all of that. But I mean, this was a type of work that’s energizing. It’s not a type of work that feels like work.

Joanna: I agree with you. It’s interesting, you went with the sort of audio and you wish you had done video. I never do either.

I think there’s definitely something about speaking and sound that is different from writing, because when you’re writing, it’s much slower than your spoken word, so you almost think about what you’re writing before you write it down.

You weren’t even like dictating as such, you weren’t dictating what you’d written down, you were talking basically, right? You were just talking about what you were feeling. So I do like that. I mean, presumably, you went on your own and you had a room where you could do this alone. You weren’t wandering around doing it in public, right?

Jeremy: No, no, I was wandering around doing it in public. So there were occasions where I whipped out my field notes book, and I was taking notes by hand, and I would get these sideways classes. People were asking me, what are you doing? Like, are you a writer? It was kind of suspicious.

Very quickly, I realized that I didn’t want to draw that kind of attention. Not that I was doing anything wrong, like I wasn’t a spy or anything, right, but I just didn’t want to call that attention to myself

I realized very quickly that typing into a phone or speaking into the phone, nobody bats an eye at that. That’s what everyone is doing everywhere. So yeah, walking around in public, speaking into the phone, typing, yah, that was kind of this strange thing that I was gathering. 

With the audio, you mentioned, the good thing about audio is it’s not just recording the voice that you can later transcribe, but it’s also capturing the inflections in the voice, and the sounds that are going on in the background, and the voice, and the frustrations in your voice, and the high altitude panting.

All of this stuff like comes through in the audio that we’re not thinking about at the time, but that’s kind of key emotional. I hate to talk about it in such a cold way, but that’s like emotional data that we aren’t aware of that we can kind of draw on later as we’re putting the book together or writing about that.

Joanna: It’s a really good point. I mean, even doing the transcript for my interviews on this show, I’m aware sometimes that the text on the page does not reflect the emotion that we talked about. It’s so difficult, like, you’re completely correct there. It is really interesting.

One thing about taking photos, and especially publishing photos, is about photos of people. Now, could you talk a bit about that? Because people might feel like, well—

How can you take a photo of a Bolivian person in their village doing something religious and publish it in a book?

So what are your thoughts around that?

Jeremy: Well, I would just say that it’s country-dependent.

In terms of the law, it depends on what country you are in, every country and community has a different law around it. There are also ethical questions involved, and everyone that appears in this book, I spoke to, I talked to, I asked them if I can take pictures.

I got their phone numbers, and I got their names, and I told them that I’d send these photos to them. They asked me what I was doing, and I was honest and open with them about everything. So this wasn’t me kind of like going on a photo safari, snapping pictures and collecting trophies, so to speak. There was this kind of open communication between me and everyone I was shooting. I do see how this could kind of approach some, I don’t know, tricky gray areas in terms of ethics.

Joanna: Yes, I mean, my brother’s a photographer, and he says that there’s a lot of discussion around what counts as sort of modern colonialism when it comes to taking photos in more sort of indigenous settings.

Language is difficult around this, but I love what you did there. I think that’s actually a great way to do it. Although I think in most places, if somebody is out in public, doing something in public, then there aren’t any problems.

Jeremy: Right. There’s also this documentary aspect of it that is ultimately part of the conversation. This gets wrapped into the ethics as well, but this idea of documenting the world.

I know that there is that kind of colonial language and undertone to that idea, but there’s something interesting about documenting this world before these traditions and these things disappear. It’s tricky, it’s complicated, and it’s a case-by-case thing.

I know there’s like a lot of people that are interested in street photography, especially in the UK and in the United States.

If you’re out in public, there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy there, but you need to be, I think, respectful and treat people with dignity.

If you’re open, and you’re forthcoming, and you’re not trying to represent people in ways that might embarrass them or might get them into trouble, then I think that’s a good place to start.

Joanna: Absolutely. Okay, so you’ve got an absolute ton of material. You’ve got photos, and audio, and text, and just a whole load of stuff. So how did you wrestle that into submission to turn it into a book?

What was your editing process?

Because I know how much work that is. I mean, it’s even more work with images because, of course, with digital images, we take so many more than we would have done with normal film, and so you have a lot more to go through. So tell us about that process.

Photos from Instagram @jeremy.bassetti

Jeremy: It was a long process.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been working on this thing for a year, and it’s not a very big book. I mean, it’s a memoir, which was really difficult for me to get through because it’s so personal, but that’s only 7000 words.

It was 15,000 words, and I trimmed it back to 7000, but that took a long time. The images, as you mentioned, I walked away with thousands of images, and I had to kind of whittle that down to hundreds of images, and then whittle that down to tens of images.

These are two separate but kind of related processes, right, the writing and then the photo aspect.

This project is, by far, the most complicated project that I’ve ever done because of these two different parts of the project.

In terms of the photos, I mean, that was quite difficult because I pull all my images into the computer, and from the thousands, I had to just literally look at every single image and make a decision. Yes or no, yes or no, yes or no, going down several passes to like a long list, and then a shortlist.

When I had my short list of images, which was like 100-200 images, I printed all of those out on these small index card-sized work prints, you know, like a pack of cards, but my images, and I would tape them to the wall, I would carry them with me, shuffle them around.

I was trying to think about which set of images works best for the project, or the idea, or the concept of my book. That idea, that concept of the book, ultimately was the north star of my project. That was the thing that was guiding me, and was telling me to reject or keep.

So what’s the process?

It was just kind of getting honest with myself about what is this book about? What is the story here that I’m trying to tell?

Then I was making the tough decision.

Which image, or which part of the text, which part of the story, further advances that narrative and that story?

And if it doesn’t, axe it, delete it, get rid of it.

Joanna: That is so hard. I mean, obviously, I’m really interested in this.

I want to do a photo book, or maybe more than one photo book, and it’s so hard with images. I’m also like you, I have tens of thousands of photos from various travels.

I like that you’ve chosen one particular trip, whereas I’m really thinking about, for example, a gothic cathedral book or memento mori type book, so it would be multiple trips with maybe different essays, or I don’t even know.

I like what you’ve done, but I also think that just sounds like so much work, which is kind of crazy. So as we’re recording this—

Are you finished with your decision of what everything is? Is the book finished?

Jeremy: The book is 99% done. Yeah, yeah, the book is finished. You know how it is, like there’s always like this thing in the back of my mind. Like, I’m thinking about taking out an image or two or rearranging them, but this project is done, which is to say it’s done enough up until this point.

Joanna: That’s what it has to be. We’ll come to the deadline of a Kickstarter. But did you design it yourself then? Did you format it all yourself?

Jeremy: Yes, and that’s another kind of layer here of complication here because I’m inputting everything, I’m designing everything in InDesign.

I’m doing the typeface design, the book design, all of that I’m doing myself. Of course, I’m bringing in help as I need it, in terms of formatting or double-checking everything and editing, those types of things.

But yeah, all the heavy lifting, I’m doing. You know, I would love to just like put something through Vellum and do the print thing for me, but this is such a strange, unusual project that those tools aren’t cut out for, so to speak. I need to do it in InDesign because that’s the only way that I can do it, basically.

Joanna: I agree. Vellum is not for this kind of book. That’s not what it is for. So I totally agree with you.

Tell us a bit more about the physical product, the high-quality hardback book, and some of the book design choices. I mean, you’ve self-published books before and most listeners will have done basic paperbacks. I mean, I’ve done one special edition hardback, but I know we have to make a lot more decisions.

Tell us about this beautiful premium hardback book.

Jeremy: So I guess the star of the Kickstarter show, the star of the show, is this hardcover, special edition, executive size 7 by 10 inches. I don’t know that would be in metric, but it’s this nice-sized hardcover book with this kind of premium cloth covering to it.

There’s a hand silk-screened cover. The inside, the paper quality, it’s going to be this fine matte art paper.

It’s going to be printed, not digitally, but offset printed. So it’s a little bit better quality than digital prints. I’m going to have these beautiful endpapers, I’m going to have a map, it’s going to be a premium product.

The print run is going to be quite low just because of the costs associated with it, but I’m pulling out as many steps as I can to make this truly beautiful object, in and of itself, based on its materials.

Then hopefully, you know, the contents match the container. Hopefully, the story and the images are as compelling as the materials and the materiality of the project, as well.

Joanna: How did you find the printer that you’re using?

Because I feel like many people are like, oh, yeah, I’d love to do that, but how do I find someone to work with?

Jeremy: Just internet searching, really. Also, you would find that many of the kind of art books and the photo books now, if you look at the colophons and the credit pages of these books, they’ll reveal a lot of information about where the book was printed, who printed it, what typefaces were used, what kind of papers were used, like, there’s so much interesting information in the back of the books. So that was one of the sources that I tapped in order to find the printers.

I’ve sent emails all over the world to different manufacturers and suppliers, trying to price out this book and trying to find a fit.

So that’s yet another issue, you’ve got to communicate with the printers and the binderies for them to send you samples and get book dummies. There’s a lot of moving parts here.

This process started for me in September 2022 when I came back, when I knew I had something that I wanted to make. I began sending those emails out as early as possible. That’s kind of what I had to do, and that’s what I recommend everyone does to produce a book like this.

Joanna: And then you have to do some test printing. Like I’ve actually got right here, I’ve got the cover of Writing the Shadow, which is the next book I’ll be putting out.

I’m doing gold foil on the Kickstarter hardback, I’ve never done gold foil before, so I actually have here a sample of the gold foil on the cover. It’s awesome because it like reflects the sun and everything, but in order to do a gold foil on the cover, you have to send separate print files.

So this is a test print, I haven’t even finished the book yet as we’re recording. Like you said, when you’re doing a print product or a physical product of any kind, you have to do these kinds of samples. And we’re just really not used to doing that, are we, with digital or like basic print-on-demand. We kind of order one after it’s done.

Jeremy: Right, just to make sure everything looks good. Even, I know I do, and I’m sure many people do this too, like even if you do the POD print books, I don’t know, for me, I like always want to get an early copy, just a test copy, a proof, just to make sure that everything is dialed in and there aren’t any kind of surprises in the printing. I’m sure, like you, like you’ve done this enough, you don’t necessarily need to do that verification.

But on a book project, like the one that you’re working on, and I’m sure with your Pilgrimage book, and this book that I’m working on, like you can’t overlook that part of the process. You need to do that. There are too many moving parts, the stakes are way too high. You need to have that proof copy, or that dummy or that sample come in.

Joanna: Yes, I feel like this is all about us becoming better publishers. Like we spend a lot of time on the craft side and the marketing side, which we’ll talk about, but—

This is about being a better publisher and putting out a beautiful print book.

Jeremy: Putting out something cool, you know, something beautiful, something cool, something that feels good in the hand, something that’s this amazing material thing.

I’m sure we can do that print-on-demand, but this is raising the stakes. This is making, as you mentioned, a beautiful object. That is cool that we have within our reach the capabilities of doing those things.

Joanna: Yeah, it is cool. All right. So tell us—

Why Kickstarter for this project? What have been the challenges with it?

Jeremy: Oh, there’s so many. But why Kickstarter? Well, frankly, you know, the print-on-demand industry, I guess if you want to call it, it’s not really cut out to be able to produce a book of this quality.

You know, offset printed this bespoke fabric on the hardcover, this matte art paper, all of these kind of nuances, you don’t really have that sort of flexibility with print on demand companies. Now, it’s getting there. It’s approaching that with BookVault.app. They have a lot of interesting options, many of which aren’t available in the US, I might add, but it’s approaching that, but it’s not quite there yet, in terms of what I want to do.

The only route that I can go is to produce this myself, and to produce a book like this myself is expensive. I don’t have that money. I’m a teacher, I’m poor. So I need to crowdfund and Kickstarter to help offset those expenses, to help publish and produce this beautiful object according to the vision. So that’s kind of why Kickstarter is the only option for me.

That’s one of the benefits, but that’s also one of the challenges, too. It’s like to be beholden to only one publishing path or one vision, that’s a struggle. That’s something that’s been bothering me, I guess.

What are the challenges of Kickstarter? It’s a lot more difficult to do this launch, and to set a launch date, and then to do all of the marketing stuff in service of that launch date.

There’s high pressure, high stakes to meet your goal, and to meet all the stretch goals if you have them.

And of course, when we get to the end of the Kickstarter, if it’s successful, then we have to fulfill all the promises that we made. So there are so many challenges, from design, to marketing, to inventory, to setup, to calculating the costs and doing the shipping, and getting everything right and dialed in. You know, this is not for the weak, right?

Joanna: It is a challenge, for sure.

Jeremy: You know how it is.

Joanna: Oh, I do, and I’m about to do it again.

Kickstarter lessons learned

So I mean, I do feel like it’s worthwhile because, like you said, you had a vision of this project, and you can’t achieve that vision without doing it in some way. I mean, you have to get the funding somehow. I mean, you could have for example, you could have, I don’t know whether you did—

Did you pitch this to a traditional publisher? Did you even consider that?

Jeremy: No, no, I did not. This is kind of a hybrid project. This is a hybrid book. There are photobook publishers out there, and there are kind of traditional memoir publishers out there, and to put those together, it’s just such a weird thing. This hybrid monster beast that I know no one would touch, right, to produce it the way that I want to do it.

Yeah, not only is everything weird on the inside, but it’s like, okay, what is the vision to produce this high-quality book? You know, what do the profits look like for a book publisher for a book like this? You know, those numbers don’t look good. It’s too risky.

Joanna: Yes, I mean, I feel the same way about Pilgrimage. It’s half memoir, half travel book, with some photos. And like you say, it doesn’t necessarily fit.

Also, I feel like many memoir writers now choose to self-publish because it’s so personal, and if you license the rights to your own very personal writing and it doesn’t go the way you want it to, that can be pretty hardcore, you know, difficult.

So there’s pros and cons with doing a Kickstarter. Tell us, because you’ve mentioned this wonderful hardback edition, but I was the one, I think, who prompted you. I was like, hey, what about the fact that there’s an international market out there? In fact, I don’t even think you’re selling it in every country in the world.

Talk about the various other levels that you added to the project.

Jeremy: Okay, so I am selling it globally. I’m just not setting up the shipping for every country yet. I mean, that’s another challenge with Kickstarter, you need to figure out shipping stuff, and for me to dial in shipping for 200 countries would be just crazy.

But you looked at my preview page, and you’re like, hey, what about some other options? And thanks to you, I’ve included an audiobook version, an eBook and an audiobook version, and cheaper paperback book that’s leveraging the POD route that we spoke about with black and white photos. I’d say it’s an inexpensive reader copy, right?

If you just want to like read the story, you’re not that crazy about having this premium kind of tactile book in your hand, the paperback book is the route to go down.

Not only are these kind of set up to be delivered digitally, except for the paperback, the eBook and the audiobook are a lot cheaper, a lot more affordable than the premium limited edition hardback.

So there are multiple price points, which I think is a good Kickstarter strategy, multiple price points and multiple options for people to get involved to help support the larger vision of having this awesome, beautiful book.

Joanna: I think that’s great. You’ve mentioned the memoir section, which I know is gonna be personal. Some people are gonna be like, I want to listen too. Are you going to narrate that?

Jeremy: I am.

Joanna: Great. So to me, that’s almost a completely different product to a photo art book.

Jeremy: I will just say here that the book has a 7000-word very personal travel memoir. It’s not just about me, it’s also kind of describing and bringing you to this remote part of the Andes.

There’s these 50 or so beautiful images of the people and the pilgrims and the environment and the landscapes of this remote region.

There’s an afterword written by Pico Iyer in the book, and there’s a printed dialogue that I had with an award-winning British photographer, someone by the name of Alys Tomlinson, who’s produced beautiful photographic books on her own. So there’s a lot of stuff packed into this book, but the audiobook version is just going to be the memoir section, me reading that memoir only. It’s not gonna include the images because it’s an mp3, basically.

Joanna: I think this is the way with the Kickstarter. And I mean, as we record this, you don’t know what people are going to buy.

I think it’s fascinating to see at the end. I mean, you might sell a lot more volume of, say, eBooks, but you might still make more money on the big print book. So it’s a really interesting project for figuring out the different things that people actually want to buy.

Maybe I’ll have to give people an update. They can come to your blog, right, and you’ll probably do an after campaign thing about it.

Jeremy: And I must say, I’ve been kind of poking around your Pilgrimage campaign to see the rewards and how many contributors they are, just to get a sense of what might be the Goldilocks area in terms of rewards and pricing, and just trying to figure out all of those moving parts.

I mean, at the end of the day, the point of this Kickstarter is to produce this beautiful book, so I need to make that math work. So every project is going to be different, but I’ve been looking at your campaign, other people’s campaigns, seeing if there’s any kind of Goldilocks area in terms of volume of contributors and backers, but also, what price point is that?

Joanna: It’s tough. It’s really tough.

Jeremy: We’re not good at math. Give me words, not math.

Joanna: Exactly. I do think the shipping is the biggest thing that can definitely bankrupt you. So that’s the thing to get right, for sure, with these heavy books.

Before we finish, we’re almost out of time, but just also tell us a bit more about the marketing because, again, most authors are marketing after a book has come out, but—

With Kickstarter, we’re marketing beforehand. So how have you been doing this?

Jeremy: I’ve sent an email to my friend, Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn!

In all seriousness, like, just like this. Sending email pitches to podcasts, sending emails to friends and bloggers and people who have newsletters, sending emails to media contacts, posting stuff on my own newsletters and on social media.

There’s just so many people to contact and so many things to dial in here in terms of the marketing.

If I’m honest, it’s, for me, probably the hardest part of this all. I guess this is a common sentiment among writers, that the marketing and the promotional thing is the one that feels the weirdest to do. So I’m currently kind of struggling with that, but I just need to suck it up and send these emails out.

So yeah, podcasters, newsletters, bloggers, anyone, just begging people to help me spread the word, basically.

I’ve been also reaching out some of my writer friends, and I’ve been asking them to, if they read the book and liked the book, to offer me like blurbs and endorsements, so those have been coming in, which is nice to have. I don’t know if I’m going to do this yet, but Kickstarter allows you to place a Facebook pixel and kind of like the Google Analytics stuff. So I’m thinking whether or not I will dive into like Facebook ads for promotions, but I don’t have money, and the prospect of spending money is kind of scary.

Joanna: And time, remember? It takes time. I did notice you put a video, was it on Instagram?

Jeremy: Oh, yeah. Yesterday.

Joanna: So I mean, you are using those images, which I think is really good. Also, I mean, you have your podcast. I think putting out chapters of the audiobook during the campaign definitely worked for me, and I’ll be doing that again as well.

Jeremy: I saw you did that on SoundCloud, right?

Joanna: I did a sample on SoundCloud for the campaign itself, but also on this podcast and on my Books and Travel Podcast, I had chapters of the audiobook that went out to the audience because there are lots of people listening to this right now who do not subscribe to my email list, and who don’t follow me on social media, and don’t follow you on social media. So a lot of people listening, this is the way they hear about what we’re doing. So make sure you tap into your audio audience as well.

Jeremy: Another good idea. I don’t have all this time, Jo. But yeah, yeah, definitely, that sounds like a wonderful idea.

Joanna: Well, especially because you will have already recorded it. So it’s like, look, here’s a chapter. But yeah, the call to action stuff, even during the campaign as well, because of course, pre-campaign, we’re sending people to the pre-launch page, and then during the campaign, we want people to actually sign up.

Jeremy: What do you think was the single most important promotional marketing thing that you did for Pilgrimage?

Joanna: I can’t say what one thing was, to be honest. I mean, I do think that —

Having the pre-launch page up beforehand and getting as many people to sign up as possible is really important.

That’s because what happens when you click that button is Kickstarter tells everyone on that list that the campaign’s there, and that’s the point where if you have a reasonable goal and you exceed that goal quickly, so I exceeded it within like 10 minutes or something ridiculous because I put such a low number. That velocity, I got that Books We Love thing within 24 hours because of the velocity of the campaign.

I think doing as much as possible before it starts to get people to sign up is really important.

Then it’s literally doing something every day, or let’s say every two days, because you and I are hardly marketing fans, but every two days in the campaign period, putting something out. You have to plan that beforehand because it’s knackering.

I essentially had a little spreadsheet and most of it I scheduled. So I’d already recorded some videos, I scheduled social media stuff, and email. You have to email more than once, Jeremy! You have to email multiple times.

Jeremy: Taking notes here.

Joanna: Yes, and I mean, we hate that, right? I hate doing that, but it’s like, well, look, if you only have a two-week campaign, you have to do as much as you can. Otherwise, then what happens? It’s finished, and people are like, oh, well, I only just heard about this, what’s going on? So yeah, it is tough.

Also, I almost feel like we’re so used to marketing a book once it’s out, there’s an emotional difference between marketing something that’s already out, and marketing something that people can’t even see yet.

There’s no social proof, as in, there’s no reviews on it, or all of that kind of thing. Then I also think that’s part of the joy of Kickstarter is helping fund all these weird projects. So I know you’re busy with the semester and everything, but the weeks of the campaign, you do have to put in quite a lot of marketing effort then, too.

Jeremy: Thank you for that. That’s going to be helpful for me in these next days.

Joanna: And just so people know, I did an episode back in, I guess it would have been March or something like that, which was my Lessons Learned From the Kickstarter. People might find that useful, so I’ll link to that in the show notes.

More and more authors are doing this, and again, that benefits us all. I mean, selfishly, having you on a couple of weeks before my Kickstarter goes out means that I get a chance to talk about mine.

So we have more of an ecosystem of these beautiful print products and talking about each other’s products and each other’s campaigns. So I guess all that remains is to—

Tell people where they can find you, and the Kickstarter, and everything else you do online?

Jeremy: Well, the main place is my homepage, my website, which is JeremyBassetti.com. And if you go to JeremyBassetti.com/skull, as it’s spelled, that will take you directly to the Kickstarter campaign page.

I also have the podcast, Travel Writing World, and you can check some of that stuff out at TravelWritingWorld.com. I also have this 40-page guide to writing travel books, which is absolutely free, and you can sign up to receive that. I have newsletters and just everything at JeremyBassetti.com.

Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time, Jeremy. That was great.

Jeremy: Thank you, Jo.

The post Writing And Publishing A High Quality Photo Book With Jeremy Bassetti first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn


In an interview for the Yale Review, Elisa Gonzalez, author of the debut poetry collection, Grand Tour (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023), discusses her relationship with perfectionism as a young poet with senior editor Maggie Millner. “I believed that the book would present itself to me as a kind of perfect object, nothing like all these flawed poems I had lying around,” says Gonzalez. “The gap between the dreamed-of poem and the real poem is painful. It is also, sometimes anyway, a gorgeous private thing, which no one else can ever touch.” Inspired by this reflection of the writing process, write a story in which a burgeoning artist reckons with the kind of art they make. Does this spiritual conflict affect the way they see themselves? How far will they go to be the artist they dream of becoming?

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Author: Writing Prompter

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Watch the trailer for the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s short story “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” a short film directed by Wes Anderson. The Netlfix film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, and Ben Kingsley.

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Author: jkashiwabara

Announcing Archetypal Character Guided Meditations! (+Giveaway)

All this summer, I have been working hard on a secret project that combines two of my favorite things: archetypes and guided meditation. Today, I’m thrilled to announce I am releasing six Archetypal Character Guided Meditations!

Based on the six transformational character arcs that I shared in my book Writing Archetypal Character Arcs, these meditations are designed to help you access the deep symbolism of your own imaginations. While it’s true that reading about archetypes in a book or learning the structural beats of their arcs can be transformative, the true magic of archetypes is not found in reading someone else’s definitions, but in tapping the symbolism in your own mind.

These guided meditations will help you:

  • “Dreamstorm” new ideas for your stories.
  • Evoke the universal symbolism of archetypes.
  • Access your own unique relationship to all the archetypal arcs.
  • Journey through the structural beats of each archetypal journey.
  • Understand your characters at a deeper emotional level.
  • Intuitively create intertwined plots, characters, and themes.

In creating these meditations, I wanted to share with all of you what has been one of the most fantastic imaginative tools I’ve ever used. I call it the “dreamzone,” but basically it’s just doing what writers do best: zoning out and daydreaming about our stories. The difference is that we’re doing it consciously, and with the help of these Guided Meditations, you can access all the most important parts of each archetype from deep within your own imagination.

What to Expect in the Archetypal Character Meditations

  • 6 audio downloads of between 45–61 minutes in length, allowing you enough time to fully sink into the experience.
  • Each download offers one version with gentle background music to help you concentrate.
  • And another version without music, so you can listen without distraction or choose your own thematically appropriate playlist for inspiration.
  • A transcript of the audio recording, so you can reference the text and/or use its questions as a workbook for further brainstorming.
  • Links to free resources for further study on appropriate archetypes.
  • A 25% off coupon for the e-book Writing Archetypal Character Arcs (note: it is not necessary to read the book in order to use the meditations).

Each of the six meditations is sold separately, so you can choose which ones are most appropriate for your story. I’m also offering all six in a discounted bundle that gives you one free!


What are guided meditations?

Meditation is the practice of clearing your mind and focusing your attention. Some types of meditation focus on visualization with the intention of allowing ideas and images to arise from deep in one’s own mind. A guided meditation is one in which the process is directed by another party. Guided meditations often use a script, in which the narrator encourages the listener to visualize specific images. In this case, the goal is to help the listener (you!) visualize new story ideas within the framework of specific archetypal journeys.

What are archetypal character arcs?

Archetypes are symbols representing specific experiences that are recognized as culturally or even universally potent. Archetypal character arcs explore transformational periods within the human life. Specifically, I teach a cycle of six important archetypal character arcs, alternating between feminine and masculine and chronologically advancing through the human life. These archetypes are Maiden and Hero (the archetypal journeys of youth, concerned with individuation and independence), Queen and King (the archetypal journeys of maturity, concerned with power and responsibility), and Crone and Mage (the archetypal journeys of elderhood, concerned with the mysteries of life and death). Each archetypal journey represents a crucial initiation within the human experience.

Will these meditations be helpful if I’m a discovery writer (aka, pantser)?

Everyone’s mileage will vary, of course. But one of my beta testers, Ed Conway, preferred the discovery approach to writing. He said:

“I’m naturally a pantser or discovery writer. The guided meditations you’re offering are perfect for my writing approach. They have just the right amount of prompting, without demanding precision and nailing things down. I don’t know if you set out to make the perfect brainstorming aid for pantsers and discovery writers, but that is what you’ve accomplished.”

Will these meditations be helpful if I’m an outliner?

If you’re a regular around here, you know I’m a heavy-duty outliner myself, and I love using this meditative approach (obviously!). My process is to dive into the dreamzone for fresh right-brain ideas, then take them with me into the more left-brain space of plotting and piecing them all together into a cohesive whole. For me, a meditative exercise like this helps ensure my planning is never stale or overly mechanical. Ultimately, I want any story I write to be a partnership between my subconscious creativity and my conscious knowledge and logic. The Guided Meditations are designed specifically to help you accomplish this.

What if I’m not a visual thinker?

The meditations do focus on invitations to visualize your characters and story world. However, they also offer many questions that can be used as prompts without any need for visualization. Another of my beta testers was a non-visual thinker who found the experience successful in advancing his story.

Can I take the meditation for myself as well as my characters?

Absolutely! Although I’ve designed the meditations specifically to help writers envision their characters, they can also be used for personal growth work. Just in taking an archetypal journey on behalf of your characters, you are necessarily taking it for yourself at some level too. But you can certainly use the meditation specifically to access your own personal relationship to any of the archetypes. Marya Miller, another of my beta testers, told me:

“I liked the way you invited people to use the archetype meditation for themselves as well as their writing/story. One has to be diligent in improving oneself to do one’s characters justice! Meditation can provide epiphanies and insights that take that quest one step further. I can see it helping book and reader grow together.”

Start Your Archetypal Journey!

Archetypes can help you write stories that tap the depths of the human experience. More than that, any encounter with an archetype has the true potential to catalyze change and growth in your life. Whether you’re listening for your characters or yourself, this potent combination of archetypal wisdom and subconscious imagination can take everything you understand about stories (and life) to the next level.

Ready to start dancing with some archetypes? (Yaassss!)  Learn more about each archetype (and the bundle of 6) right here.

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Win a reMarkable 2 Tablet!

Of course, what would be a launch without a prize giveaway? Today, I am giving away a reMarkable 2 tablet* (value $279). According to their site:

Replace your notebooks and printouts with the only tablet that feels like paper. All your handwritten notes, to-dos, PDFs, and ebooks, perfectly organized and in one place.

I love this as a giveaway for this launch, since journaling all your brand-new ideas is the perfect next step after listening to the Archetypal Character Guided Meditations!

*The refurbished model, in support of circular economies.

To Enter

Winners will be announced Monday, October 2nd. Enter below! (Note: no purchase is necessary to enter.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Finally, I must send out a huge thank you to my beta testers: Joseph Nastanski; Ed Hrafnskald Conway; Marya Miller; Cain Gonzales; Usvaldo de Leon, Jr.; Beverly Goldfarb; and Kirstin Proffitt Olson. You were all invaluable in helping me prepare to share these meditations! Thank you for your keen eyes (and ears)!

Good luck to everyone in the drawing, have fun, and thank you for helping me celebrate the launch of the Archetypal Character Guided Meditations! Happy dreaming, happy writing!

The post Announcing Archetypal Character Guided Meditations! (+Giveaway) appeared first on Helping Writers Become Authors.

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Author: K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland