Betas and Bookfairs

The summer of 2017 I finished the first draft of what I was referring to as LESSONS FROM A LIBERTED LIFE. Scot hated that title. He wasn’t all into the women’s lib deal, and felt that the word carried too much baggage. I modified the title to KNOCKING ON DOORS. The Loft class, Finish that Book!, helped me see the ebb and flow of my journey, and how I could better string it all together. I finished the first draft.

I took the first big step of the author journey—sending drafts out to beta readers. I sent way too many copies of the draft, but the input was incredible.

I chose mostly people I knew ranging from ex-workmates from Cargill, to book club members, the facilitator of my Edina Writer’s group to my nephew who had tried breaking into screenwriting in Hollywood and was now working as a print talent and actor. Andy had graduated from University of Southern California film school with a master’s degree. This is one tough program to get into. Andy’s input was invaluable. We had a two-hour conversation while I was riding shotgun with my husband on a road trip across some part of the country. Andy taught me several lessons, but the key ones follow:

  1. It’s ok to be sexy. I laugh to myself every time I write or say this. I never tried to use sex to get ahead in my career. I worked at trying NOT to be sexy, without compromising looking as good as I could. As I write this, I realize how oxymoronic it sounds. But I wanted to be attractive, not sexy. I wore makeup and still do. But I shy away from low necklines, short skirts, short shorts or high heels. Not only is it not me, it didn’t fit with making farm calls.
  2. Sex sells. So, in spite of the above, with Andy’s encouragement, I described myself as I must have looked—attractive, athletic, fit, outgoing, humorous. I tried to be truthful at the same time looking at myself as others must have seen me, with all the exotic Asian woman ethnic stereotypes taped on.
  3. I am the hero of my journey. I didn’t know anything about story archetypes, and Andy introduced me to that whole area of study. I realized after talking to him that I WAS the hero of the story. I faced insurmountable odds, naively innocent, not understanding the dangers that lurked around the corners. His comments helped me reframe the story with edits and modifications that made the story stronger and more suspenseful.
  4. Story arcs are universal. I needed to identify my story arc and understand how the components/vignettes fit that arc or add components to further the arc.

The good news from my beta readers was that the basic story was sound, my grammar was good (!) and almost all of them read it from beginning to end. That was critical to me, as I am a chronic quitter when it comes to books that don’t hold my interest.

Then the rewriting began—again.

That same summer I attended the Twin Cities Book Fair where I met Gordon Fredrickson. He was compiling an anthology about putting up hay on farms. We began chatting about growing up on a farm and he asked me to write a story about haying. I became a contributing author for his book that is coming out in 2019. The Twin Cities Book Fair was an education in itself. People so engaged in the book and literary business in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area overwhelmed me.

I chose, through no intentional process, the perfect place to learn the writing business. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Not too big, not too small…Just right.


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