Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A deaf ghostwriter

Last week, a friend and I got to talking about the ghostwriting gig I landed not too long ago. For anyone who doesn’t know, a ghostwriter is someone who writes something (a blog post, article, book) and someone else, usually the one whose story it is or who came up with the idea, gets the author credit. Sometimes, the ghostwriter will be named on the cover with a "With" or "As Told To" byline. In some cases, a ghostwriter who has already been hired for a project may outsource the work to another writer, paying a smaller amount than he/she earns as the original ghostwriter. Well, as I was talking about this, I once again felt so grateful that I finally managed to make my dream of becoming a ghostwriter for books a reality. In the past, I ghostwrote blog posts and articles. I wanted to ghostwrite books. I finally made that happen and I am very happy about it.

But I thought of something else, too. Something that reminded me of how, being a deaf person, I once thought twice on whether or not I could ever be a ghostwriter at all.

Some time ago, when I was reading about the experiences of other ghostwriters, one common element I saw was how the ghostwriter often spent A LOT of time with their client. This was especially true if the client was a celebrity and the ghostwriter was writing his/her memoir. There was a lot of in-person talking involved, as well as phone calls.

And, being completely deaf, without a hearing aid, I started to wonder if this was going to be a problem in my attempts to become a ghostwriter too. The way I saw it, this was the only way a ghostwriter could even write the book, by spending all of their time with the client and communicating verbally. (Side note: I can talk, just not hear.)

But then I looked at how I felt the same way when I wanted to become a journalist. I wanted to write for a newspaper. That was my big goal. Sure, I wrote for the college paper and I did some unpaid articles for the local paper, but I wanted to BELONG to a newspaper as one of their staff writers. I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.

With my experiences working as a reporter for the college paper, I got a taste of what that was like. At that time, I was able to wear a hearing aid, so I used a tape recorder for the interviews. I interviewed A LOT of people in person for the articles and wrote a lot of things down in my notebook. I was also able to use the phone, though my ability to hear people on the phone even with the hearing aid was not perfect.

But then, later on, I lost what little hearing I had left and the hearing aid was useless to me. It didn’t help that it hurt to wear a hearing aid (after many years of wearing one!). When that happened, I pretty much thought I’d never be able to write for a real newspaper. I knew what the job of a reporter involved. There had to be phone calls, in-person interviews and quick Q&As at press conferences. So when I could no longer use the phone or rely on a tape recorder, I figured I wouldn’t be able to do the job of a newspaper reporter for a real paper. Well, I consoled myself, at least I got to write for the college paper! And I had some articles in the local paper, too. Sure, it was freelance, but I had those clips all the same.

Then something changed all that: The Internet. In my networking with other deaf writers, I was contacted by one who was involved in starting up a newspaper for the deaf. He asked me if I was interested in joining the writing team for this newspaper. Oh, was I! Of course I said yes and I was thrilled to become a newspaper reporter for a real newspaper – a national newspaper, at that. I finally made it happen. I still had to make phone calls, but using the relay service helped in that capacity. I used email to interview people and that worked out okay, too. I was still able to interview people for my articles without having to meet them in person.

So I thought about that when I was interested in becoming a ghostwriter. A deaf ghostwriter. Would I be able to pull it off even though I make phone calls a little bit differently than most folks and can’t talk with my client in person? (Well, unless the client knew sign language.) There just had to be another way. I worked as a journalist using unconventional methods. I could do the same as a ghostwriter, right?

Well, obviously, I have managed to do the same as a ghostwriter. Because I am officially a ghostwriter now. Last week, I finished writing the second book for my client and I got it all done without one single phone call with him. In fact, we’ve only communicated through email. It helps that he already has the kind of book he wants in mind and also that they are not personal stories like a memoir. He just gives me a list of books to write, I select one and after it’s all set up, I start writing. I don’t email him again until after I am done.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. I do all my research on the Internet, without any interviews or phone calls, and find all the information that I need right there. Then, when I finish, I use a file sharing site to upload everything and email my client to let him know I completed the project. And payment is sent through the job site I landed this job from.

So, yes, it IS possible to be a deaf ghostwriter. It can be done. I’m doing it. If a deaf writer out there has Internet access, email and knows how to use Internet relay, then that writer can do this kind of work, too.

It IS possible!

If I could go back to my old self who was wondering whether or not a deaf writer could be a deaf ghostwriter, I’d take her by the shoulders and tell her a resonant, “YES.” Yes, a deaf writer CAN be a deaf ghostwriter. The process of doing the work is a little bit different than the way most hearing ghostwriters do the job, but it’s doable. It works. It CAN be done. So don’t give up!

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Titling a poem before it's a poem

I am subscribed to this poetry newsletter in which I receive one poem to read each day. (I actually subscribe to two of these types of newsletters, so that’s two poems to read each day.) With one of the newsletters, it includes a poet’s comments about the poem. There was one poem I read last week which I found particularly enjoyable.  When I read the poet’s comment on her poem, she said that she had titled this poem first and that titling her poem first was “unusual for me.”

That made me think, this is unusual for a poet? I have done this before. It’s possible other poets have titled their poems before writing the poem.

I have done the same thing with my own poems quite a few times. Sometimes, it’s just a phrase that grabs me and I want to turn it into a poem. Or, other times, a newspaper article inspires a poem, and something from the article becomes the title. The first case happened with a poem in my WIP, a collection of general poems. The phrase caught my eye, but I had no idea what the poem would be about. That would come later. With the second instance, I was so moved by an article I read in the online edition of a newspaper, that I created a poem based on the article. The title, “Among the Dead,” came from the article. (This poem is in my poetry book, Remember the Soldier.)

As mentioned, sometimes I won’t know what the poem will be about, only that there is a title. So I’ll write this title down in my writing notebook then figure out the poem later. Or sometimes the poem will eventually come to me after I write down that title.

Figuring out the poem that should go with the title can be tricky. So I’ll ask myself, what does that title make me think of? What does it represent? What kind of images and feelings do I get from that title? All of this can help me create the poem. But failing that, it’s also helpful to just give the poem time to grow. I’ll figure it out at some point.

Then again, writing down the title without the poem doesn’t always mean I don’t have a poem to go with it. I may be too busy to write the poem but want to get that title down before I forget it. I’ll end up walking around with that poem stuck in my head until I finally have a chance to write it down.

There’s nothing wrong with creating a poem’s title before that actual poem. I imagine quite a few other poets do this, too. There’s some kind of “mystery” when you have a title for a poem before the actual poem. It can be an interesting challenge in figuring out just the right poem to go with that title. The right poem for that title is there and can be found; it's just a matter of working with the title and what it brings to mind. The above tactics have worked for me. Perhaps other poets out there have figured out their poems in some way or another, too.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remember the Soldier poem excerpt for Veterans Day

Today we are celebrating Veterans Day, a day in which we take the time to honor and remember the brave men and women who have served in the military.

It was a World War II veteran who promoted the idea of creating a day set aside to honor all veterans, and not just those who have died (as we do on Memorial Day). Until then, we had Armistice Day, which was set aside to remember those who served in World War I. The veteran who wanted Armistice Day to be expanded to Veterans Day was named Raymond Weeks. He hosted the first Veterans Day celebration in 1947 and the bill to dedicate November 11 as an official Veterans Day was not signed into law until 1954. Nowadays, Veterans Day is a day to remember all veterans, including those who have fought in other wars. You can read more about Veterans Day here.

I have never been in the military but I am still grateful to those who have served. I have family members and relatives who have served in the military and my poetry book, Remember the Soldier, was partly written as a way of honoring them, remembering them and thanking them for serving our country. Some of the poems in this book were also inspired by events concerning the military that I read about in the news. Some of it was good and some not so good. They all inspired poems. A picture of a young boy holding back tears as he is given the folded flag at his father’s funeral also inspired a poem in this book.

I am grateful to all of the men and women out there who have served our country and fought for us. Thank you for your service.

The Veteran

What’s a veteran?
It’s a question that takes some time for reply.
A veteran is so many things.
Because of veterans we can hold our flag high.

A veteran is someone who made the choice,
Perhaps the biggest sacrifice,
To serve our country and fight in wars.
Some have paid the ultimate price.

They are a brother, father, sister, friend.
Someone with a home and family
Who said goodbye to it all
So that they could fight for our country.

But some veterans never made it home.
They are the ones who will no longer be
Back with the people who love them so much
And this is why we say “freedom isn’t free.”

Some veterans paid with their lives for our country,
Fighting in some war.
Just as we cannot forget the veterans living,
These, too, are veterans we cannot ignore.

Fly the red, white and blue for our vets,
For every veteran who served.
Let us remember all of our veterans.
Their recognition is so very deserved.

(Excerpted from Remember the Soldier, a poetry book by Dawn Colclasure. Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved.)

Remember the Soldier blurb:

They have fought in wars, and they have fought on the frontlines. They are the soldiers who stepped up and risked it all to fight for our country. Remember the Soldier is a collection of poems honoring the men and women in uniform who have left behind their homes and families to bravely defend our country, as well as the veterans who served.

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Sunday, November 09, 2014

When including real people in your stories is a bad idea

When I was at the beginning of my journey as a writer, I wrote a lot of short stories that included people I knew as the main characters. I did this for fun mostly. It was interesting to see what kind of pseudo-adventures my friends and I could go on in these stories or to explore what life might be like at a future time. Some people do this kinda thing in their head but I did this kinda thing on paper. At this point, I was not interested in getting published. I was only interested in writing stories. They were fun to write. The stories just popped into my head and I wrote them.

I think a lot of writers do this when they are first starting out. They write stories with real people in them. It’s a fun diversion and it keeps the writer writing. Additionally, it instills the habit of writing, which will help the writer later on.

There are, however, a few things that can go wrong when writing these kinds of stories.

If a writer is going to write stories with their friends in them, then it’s a good idea to NOT get the stories published. If the story gets published and the writer has a fallout with the friend later on, then even if the friend was cool with the story before, then he/she can turn around and sue the writer. They’d be interested in getting a cut of what the writer earned for that story – and maybe even more. I know some people think “Well, this is my Best Friend! We’re BFF’s! She’ll NEVER sue me!” But, you never know. You don’t know what could happen later on down the road. Don’t risk it.

Another thing that can go wrong is losing the friendship entirely, even if the story never gets published. This is why I feel such stories should never be shared with the people they include. That person may not like the story or he/she may not approve of her actions in the story. Or maybe he/she won’t really care for those kinds of stories (the genre). So do keep these stories for your own enjoyment. It’s just best not to share them.

And, finally, if you write these stories, don’t write them in public or where you just might be in a position where someone you know who is in the story happens to pick it up and start reading it. Write them in the privacy of your own room or somewhere you can be alone. Writing them in public is too risky and if the wrong people read these stories, you can get into trouble or worse. So, write them in private.

These days, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to write stories with people you know in them, but I understand that writers do this. If modeling a character after someone you know, make that character VERY different. Or, if giving the character your friend's name, make that character VERY different from your friend. I may have characters in my GHOST Group stories who are named after my children, but my characters look and act differently than my kids do. (And they know this!) We call them “the other Jenny” and “the other Jesse.” It’s all in good fun. And that’s the spirit behind these stories, too. It’s just for fun. But other people may not see it that way. Other people may take offense over it or get all sensitive about it. Or they may take it way too seriously. This is especially true if they are not writers, because they don’t understand how writers are or how writers think, how we create. They only see a problem. So, if you do write such stories, don’t get them published, don’t share them with the people included, and don’t write them in public. There’s a lot less drama and legal nightmare to deal with that way.

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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Variety is the spice of a writer's life

Think of Stephen King and you might thing “horror novels.” Think of Quentin Tarantino and you might think “movies.” Think of Peter Bowerman and you might think “copywriting.” But when it comes to me? Well, I may have spent a lot of time writing about the paranormal. I may have made being a writing parent a Big Deal. And I may have spent years writing for a newspaper for the deaf. (And wrote a book on deaf parenting.) But I cannot be known for just one thing. I don’t think that, as a writer, I’ll ever be known for one thing.

I try to do different things with the writing. A lot of veteran writers may not approve of this. The thinking goes that a writer, or even an author, should stick with one thing. Become known for one thing. That one thing could be “copywriting” or “scriptwriting” or “novels.” But the truth is, I could never just do one thing or write one thing. For as long as I have been writing, I have written a variety of things. I’ve written short stories, poems, articles, essays, plays, books, etc. I can’t just write only one thing. And, yes, I’ve even done the copywriting thing – once. (Someone once asked me to write some copy for their campaign. I got a free T-shirt out of the deal.)

It’s actually kinda fun writing a variety of things. I love writing poetry, but I love writing fiction, too. A nonfiction book is always an interesting challenge, and because they are on a variety of subjects, I tend to learn something new as I write them.

Another thing I like about this set-up is that I can explore one of my interests or write a story based on something from my life. All of the books I write are a result of something from my life or something about me. I write about the paranormal because I have had experiences with ghosts and a haunted house. I write about writing because, well, I’m a writer, and something from my experiences as a writer will inspire a book. Almost all of my novels are based on something that happened – Shadow of Samhain from a dream experience; my forthcoming novel, Faded Reflections, from my own experiences as well as a song; another novel I’ve yet to send out based on a character my daughter created. All different types of books and all on a variety of topics that cannot really be grouped under one category. But they’re still books I want to write.

And also with the novels: Sometimes they are inspired by a dream or the story just pops into my head. I have written short stories that were based on dreams. And no matter how different the genres may be, even something that I don’t usually write (like romantic suspense), I’ll write them, anyway, because that desire to write the story will be too strong to ignore.

And as long as I write them, I'll keep sending them out. It's a nice surprise when there is a publisher who will accept the story or book. That's a pretty good sign that I managed to write this kind of book or story, etc., pretty well. And that's a great feeling.

The books and stories may all be of a different genre or a different topic, but they’re the things this writer wanted to write, anyway. I won’t be known for writing just one thing. I’ll be known for writing different things and different kinds of books. Why would I want to be like everybody else and only do one thing, anyway? Why would I want to write only one thing? I’ll do lots of things and write lots of things. Life is a little more interesting that way.

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