Transcripts

 

Taking Charge of Your Career with Jody Reale 6/5/03



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Hi, Jody! Welcome to Long Ridge! Tonight we're visiting with Jody Reale.

 

Although she's always considered herself an essayist, Jody Reale, a former high-tech entrepreneur and freelance consultant from her Rocky Mountain home, also calls herself a veteran of interesting times.

Those times, and the people in them, inspire all of her writings. Join me in welcoming this dynamic writer who will share some insights with us on taking charge of your writing career! Jody, welcome!

Jody Reale

Hi everybody. Thanks for inviting me.

 

I'm looking forward to learning and listening and giving whatever tidbits I can.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm looking forward to this too, and I hope our audience had a chance to go visit your website!

Jody Reale

Yeah... I've just updated lately which I've really missed, as I've been busy lately.

paja

Yes. It's a super website. I went to Amazon, too, and previewed her book. Both are very readable.

Mary Rosenblum

It's excellent. I'm always looking at websites with an eye to how well they promote the writer.

 

Yours clearly works well! Do you do it yourself?

Jody Reale

Thanks very much. I do it myself, including the design and all.

Mary Rosenblum

Okay, I should stop being so lazy and sit down with the html book!

Jody Reale

Actually, there are lots of solutions

 

out there that make it easy for the non-tech folks to produce professional sites.

Mary Rosenblum

Can you suggest a couple? I'm sure we have people in the audience who could use the advice, too! Like me!

Jody Reale

Sure.

 

Now that we've entered the next phase of Internet use, some companies have come a long way.

 

Front Page is a little more user-friendly than it used to be.

 

And now there are companies that make launching a site "like butter," as Barbara would say.

 

I've had great experiences with Dream Team Technologies (http://www.dreamteamtech.com)

 

They provide both hosting

 

and content management system, right down to look and feel

 

and selling your wares using an online catalog.

 

Very snazzy.

 

And even Network Solutions (http://www.netsol.com) can offer you html templates and email addresses.

 

It all just depends on how much time you want to spend learning a formatting language.

Mary Rosenblum

Wow, that's very valuable! Thank you, Jody!

paulplqn

How expensive are these sites to create & maintain?

Jody Reale

Paul, that's a good question, because writers work (usually) on such a tight budget.

 

There are three pieces to consider.

 

Your own domain name (for example, JodyReale.com) is anywhere from per year.

 

Keep in mind, you don't "own" that--it's a registration that must be renewed periodically if you want to keep it.

 

2. Then there's hosting.

 

You rent space on an Internet server from a host.

 

This can cost anywhere from nothing (if you don't want to use your own domain name, or if you don't mind

 

having ads all over your site) to many dollars a month. This is also a kind of rent, as you must renew your hosting every so often.

 

3. Then there's the time and money you'll spend on software, etc. that helps you design and/or format your site's look and feel.

 

Some of it's free.

 

For example, Paint Shop Pro is either a free or very inexpensive graphics software program.

 

PhotoShop is a high-end piece of software that costs several hundred dollars.

 

HotDog is a very cheap way to format your site's text; Microsoft FrontPage is maybe in the range.

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks very complete, Jody! Thanks. And I've used PhotoShop. It's excellent, but not real easy to use, in my opinion.

 

Is there one you prefer?

Jody Reale

PhotoShop is a nifty thing.

 

And a real bear for beginners.

Mary Rosenblum

Yup!

Jody Reale

I use PhotoShop for my graphics creation and editing

 

and FrontPage for my formatting, mostly.

 

I register my domain with Network Solutions, and my hosting is with Interland (but I don't necessarily endorse them).

paja

For a writer is it more important just to be online, with a website at a website host like Yahoo, or to have your own www. address?

Jody Reale

Paja, I'm glad you asked, because I have a pretty strong opinion on that.

 

If it's getting time for you to start pitching your work agressively, I think

 

you should absolutely, positively have your own domain, and host without advertisement,

 

and I say that for two big reasons.

 

1. You want to start building brand recognition ASAP

 

and your brand is you, right?

 

and 2

 

If there's one thing that, in my experience, it seems that agents and editors want,

 

it's professionalism.

 

And it's just plainly a demonstration of professionalism to have your own URL.

Mary Rosenblum

I agree, Jody.

 

It's also a matter of ease of discovery. If I hear a name and am curious about that author

 

I may go to Amazon and look for them, or just try www.author.com. Half the time, I find their webpage or Google suggests it.

Jody Reale

You absolutely want to be "searchable."

speckledorf

What about the free sites that are already on the web?

Jody Reale

Speckledorf, here's what I think about most free sites.

 

They are OK in the short-term, to help you get up and going, maybe.

 

But you usually end up paying some other price, besides dollars.

 

Like you may or you may not get good service

 

or you may subject your audience to ads,

 

or you may not be able to get the look and feel you want, or the space you need, or your own domain.

Mary Rosenblum

I have to say that if you are trying to impress editors and agents with your professionalism

 

pop up ads for sports drinks is NOT the way to do it!

Jody Reale

Or, God forbid--porn.

 

Unless, maybe you're a pornographer? I don’t know.

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding. There is a bit of a catch 22 benefit here

 

in that many professional organizations, such as Science Fiction Writers of America

 

offer web hosting. But of course, you have to become a member first...the catch 22.

paja

Should the site that hosts be the one that does the website?

Jody Reale

Paja, most hosts won't actually do the Website.

 

I'd say that if there's a fit between you, the host, and the designers there, then good.

senicynt

The other thing to consider is that many sites will only allow so many 'viewers' per day or they charge you extra. So, If you are promoting a popular book and get lots of hits, Your provider may close you down for the day.

 

APlusHosting.com has reasonable rates - month and if you get 6 months you can purchase your on domain for 1 dollar.

Jody Reale

Senicynt, good point. You want to have as much control as possible.

paja

If a writer has two by-lines because of differing genre, should both names be tied to one site?

Jody Reale

Paja, I'd say that if your markets are close, then yes. But if those audiences have

 

nothing to do with each other, you'd probably get more out of two separate domains.

Mary Rosenblum

If you write Christian Fiction and Erotica, tying them to one site is probably not a good career move!

 

But Sf and mystery for example...that's fine.

paja

What's the most important thing to know about yourself when you begin designing your website?

Jody Reale

Paja, site design is a huge, huge topic

 

and there are lots of experts who can help you better than I, but the answer is actually in your question.

 

When you begin designing your Website, you should know yourself

 

and of course, your audience. So that you can say during the design process,

 

do I want sharp lines, or fuzzy ones? Floral or Solid? Minimal or fancy?

 

I like what Philip Greenspun has to say about design. Start at http://www.arsdigita.com

 

and start paying attention to what you like about other sites out there.

 

And don't wait until you have something perfect to launch!

senicynt

I suggest that new web designers look at some sites that they like. Look at the source code and learn how it's done.

Jody Reale

Senicynt, I agree to a point, and here's where I draw a delineation.

 

Do you want to design Web sites, or do you want to write? Because it's all about

 

how you spend your precious time, right? Do you have some money to spend?

Jody Reale

Then you might be better served putting it toward having some work done by a designer who would appreciate the cash.

sweet_muse

What do you suggest for someone who is on the verge of being published..is promoting snippets of my work online a good move?

Mary Rosenblum

And is the website your best tool for self promotion, Jody?

Jody Reale

Sweet Muse, samples of your work online is key, as long as your not endangering

 

a publisher's first use of material.

 

Because you want your Web site--which is absolutely my best self-promotion tool--

 

to represent you. You can also, however, setup proprietary areas for folks in the business

 

so that you're not making everything public.

Mary Rosenblum

I do want to toss in a caveat here.

 

Not too long ago, e rights were not terribly important, but now they are

 

and you need to know if the publishers you hope to sell to will accept prepublishing on your website. Some won't.

Jody Reale

There's also something to be said

 

for good old-fashioned schmoozing. I tend to get lazy, because I can do so much

 

from my office. But getting out there and handing someone your card is still so valuable.

 

Of course, your card has your URL on it. :-)

Mary Rosenblum

Writers conferences and workshops are great places for this! The price of a lunch is very well spent!

paja

Proprietary areas = areas requiring a password ??

Jody Reale

Paja, you can restrict areas with a password; you could also create hidden pages that don't,

 

although these aren't totally hidden. If you really want to delve into

 

the aspects of serving certain users certain materials, there are, of course, technologies

 

that make this possible, but they tend to cost more.

paulplqn

Check out your local Vocational High Schools. They may be able to do the website work at a discount as a student project.

Jody Reale

Paul, good idea.

paulplqn

How safe is your work from "cut and paste" copying from the web site?

Jody Reale

Paul, if someone really wants to copy your work, they will.

 

You can make it a little harder on them by converting your work to .pdf format

 

or using Flash or javascript to disable the right mouse button, etc.

Mary Rosenblum

And if they simply copy it, pass it around, and tell a hundred people how great you are...well, it may be to your benefit.

doodledorry

If I set up my website using different colors and fonts,etc

 

will it affect other sites--have had trouble with this.

Mary Rosenblum

I gather that doodle

 

has had one operation affect other parts of her site.

Jody Reale

Doodle, this is possible, depending on what you use to format. Cascading style sheets come to mind.

chatty lady

pdf meaning??

paulplqn

pdf requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, right?

Jody Reale

Yup Chatty, .pdf--portable document format--is viewed with Adobe Acrobat, which is free

 

and I think ships with newer computers.

sweet_muse

Can you suggest any books or info on promoting yourself without endangering the publisher's rights?

Jody Reale

Sweet, no books, but each publisher should tell you, in the guidelines

 

exactly what they care about in terms of previously published material.

 

You might find

 

definitions, if that's what you're looking for, in a resource like Writers Market.

Mary Rosenblum

YOu need to read the 'rights purchased' part of the guidelines, sweet. If the publisher specifies electronic rights, then be careful about publishing an unsold story on your website...or one they've purchased!

chatty lady

Do all or some publishers publish in book form and website form? Which is better or are they equal?

Jody Reale

Chatty, some publishers are electronic publishers only, others are print-only, yet others are both.

 

What's better depends on what your objectives are.

 

If it's reach, and you're hot on electronic pubs, then Salon.com may be right up your alley.

 

If it's both, and you want a ton of clout, then it's Atlantic Monthly (for example).

 

if it's something completely different, it's This American Life on NPR, which broadcasts

 

its shows online with Real Media, and does national live tours.

Mary Rosenblum

This question came in from the audience. Want to tell us about the Santa Fe Writers competition and collection?

Jody Reale

I discovered Santa Fe Writers Project's annual competition in an arts newsletter from Boulder.

 

I hemmmed and hawwed because of the entry fee, which I considered hefty, but I asked around

 

and heard good things about the program, so I charged!

Jody Reale

At the time, I was doing a lot of women-centric, maybe even "feminist" essays.

 

One was about the year I discovered Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues.

 

I entitled that essay "Ask Me About My Vagina!" It played to such rave reviews among my tiny band

 

of writer friends, that I thought I would entitle the collection of personal essays Ask Me About My Vagina!

 

Then I went crazy.

 

I made tee shirts and hats and postcards, and you name it and started selling merchandise online.

Jody Reale

And Eve Ensler's office called me one day to ask me if I would donate some merchandise

 

for their "V-Day" fundraiser (V Day is a nonprofit that strives to end violence against women and girls around the world).

 

And of course I did.

 

And I attended the event in NYC. And met Eve Ensler, which was a crazy dream of mine for years and years.

 

I came in a finalist in Santa Fe's competition for two years running, which I was pretty happy about.

 

The end.

 

OK, not really

 

because now I'm a merchandise "whore" if you will. I really do love making merchandise, because I'm such a

 

slogan-y person. Maybe from watching Bewitched all those years as a young girl.

Mary Rosenblum

You know, I think our audience member was genuinely surprised by the title, but this is an excellent

 

example of a catchy title on steroids. Not only is it going to make people go 'say WHAT?", but because it tied into Ensler's very popular work

 

you ended up getting the attention of her fans. So it worked in many ways, and I suspect you gained more readers...way more..

 

than you lost when someone was offended or shocked. Nice job.

 

This is why titles matter!

Jody Reale

Right, this is where networking meets literature.

 

You can bet that if Eve Ensler

 

were to write the forward of that collection, it would catch an agent's attention post-haste, for example.

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding. This is an example of what I call the 'brass ring' factor is writing

 

where you catch that brass ring on the merry go round (dating myself seriously here!) and get a free ride. It worked!

Jody Reale

Right, and you also clue the potential audience in

 

to what they can expect. That kind of a title says, "Listen, y'all, I'm going to be using the word 'vagina' here

 

deal with it, or don't read this. Thanks."

paja

Your passion for the rights of women was behind your title and your work. Writing without passion is dull no matter the topic.

Jody Reale

Paja, one of my goals is to make the audience think, even if that thinking gets it panties all in a bunch.

Mary Rosenblum

Good goal, Jody! :-)

a.male

Oh, I get it - it's all about whatever sells in the market!

Jody Reale

Well A.M. I don't know.

 

I look at it this way.

 

If I'm looking to sell something to a publisher, I have to go in knowing that that publisher

 

is not in the publishing business to lose money. You have to get real about that.

 

They have to make money on your work, or it's a big pass. So you have to decide to either

 

make your work marketable, which is fine by me; or you have to be happy with showing it to your critique group, or putting it

 

on your Web site and calling it good. I don't really think it's up to anybody to decide

 

which one is the right one for anyone but himself.

Mary Rosenblum

I want to put my two cents in here, too. You can be the best writer in the world and the reality is

 

that if only six people read your book...well...six people have read it

 

and if 60,000 read it, you have a much greater impact. And there are a LOT of books out there. You need to make what YOU do and believe in visible and available...if you want to share it.

Jody Reale

Whether you're good and whether you're marketable are really two different things. Sometimes they happen to meet.

Mary Rosenblum

That's certainly true, Jody!

 

I have a couple of website rights questions that didn't get posted, and I'd like to bring them in.

paja

If on your website you only use material that has been published and to which you have copyright, you would not injure other articles. Correct?

Jody Reale

Paja, it depends on what rights the publisher bought. I have to say that I really suck at legal...

Jody Reale

issues, which is why I check http://www.uspto.gov often.

Mary Rosenblum

I do know something about rights, Paja. If you own your e rights and haven't sold them

Mary Rosenblum

and are not compromising a signed contract by posting the piece, then you're fine.

doodledorry

I have run into a site asking for pieces to publish. I question

 

whether or not this is good--especially if I want to submit somewhere else.

Jody Reale

Doodle, are you asking about simultaneous submissions?

Mary Rosenblum

I gather that this is an unpaid site?

 

There are always complications if you publish something...whether you get paid for it or not.

 

Many paper magazines want the rights to publish first ANYWHERE.

doodledorry

Isn't a lot of the key to success, writing to your audience?

Jody Reale

Doodle, there is the school that says don't write to an audience,

 

write what you want to write, and then worry about it finding an audience.

 

For me it's basically impossible for me to write to an audience.

 

I'm just not wired that way. I've tried, and it's always a disaster, so if you CAN do it

 

give it a shot. If not, you don't have much of a choice.

Mary Rosenblum

You write personal narrative, Jody,

 

do you have 'rules' about what you'll include and what you won't include?

Jody Reale

I take my inspiration from Anne LaMott on that one.

 

Anne says, "Your experiences belong to you." So, I ask myself if the information I want to use belongs to me or not.

 

If it doesn't I might call the person up, and ask if I can use it. When the information belongs to me...

 

I use the "nothing is sacred approach." That is, I try not to have too many rules about what I'll reveal and what I won't.

 

The main rule I will use, though, is, does it add value to the story I'm telling? Does it help the story be what it wants to be?

Mary Rosenblum

Could you give us an example of what belongs to you as opposed to information that belongs to someone else?

Jody Reale

Sure.

 

if I've had a relationship with someone--any kind of relationship--and things happened to me in the course

 

of that relationship, or if I had some thoughts or feelings because of that relationship,

 

those experiences belong to me. If someone tells me about something that happened to him or her,

 

or happened between him or her and someone else, then I ask if I can use that story. If I can use it

 

I ask if I should change names. If the story is mine, I hardly ever change names.

Mary Rosenblum

So the distinction is between something you experienced and something that you were not actually involved in?

Jody Reale

Right.

Mary Rosenblum

How much can you interpret events? Clearly personal narratives are not objective journalistic accounts! How much can you 'embroider'?

 

And is there an ethical boundary line between fiction and personal narrative?

Jody Reale

What we say in our workshop is that you're always lying at least a little whenever

 

you tell a story, because it's not a list of facts, it's not a police blotter, it's fiction, or

 

it's creative nonfiction, or whatever. So, for me, I do my best to tell a story the best

 

I remember it, and if I don't remember exactly, I'm honest about it.

janp

Like the size of last years fish.

Jody Reale

Pam Houston will come right out and tell you that it doesn't really matter to her whether people she talks to are real or not.

 

And my writing coach

 

has been known to say that he writes fiction from memory. It's a matter of personal style I suppose, but I will say

 

that the second I identify something in my mind as fiction when I start writing it, I choke.

Mary Rosenblum

This is a good point to bring in Doodledorry's question about plagiarism ..especially since it's been in the news lately!

 

As have the stories that various reporters made up and reported as fact!

senicynt

Dorry stated: there has been a lot lately about plagarism and I know there have been times when I have used statements or something I heard or read and I incorporate it in my writing."

Mary Rosenblum

I think she's worried about whether this could be plagiarism.

Jody Reale

Sure, even great, experienced writers grapple with the big P.

 

I don't have an exact answer besides, don't read the news.

 

OK, I'm joking.

 

I believe Doris Kearns Goodwin experienced some unintended messiness with plagerism.

speckledorf

What about items from the news? How can the info be used?

Jody Reale

I think that the lesson there is...

 

keep scrupulous notes if you're going to rely on outside sources and properly credit

 

everything using APA guidelines, for example.

paja

Personal narrative is something you can, and may have to, defend? And fiction is something you can say, "Hey, I made it up." Am I on the right track?

Jody Reale

Paja, I think you're right. maybe there are instances where lawyers must worry about

 

what someone may infer from a work of fiction, but it just that--something for the lawyers to worry about.

Mary Rosenblum

Jody, you've been a great guest and we've really asked you a lot of questions tonight.

Jody Reale

Great energy, everybody.

Mary Rosenblum

Before we end, do you have any particular truths about writing professionally

 

that every writer should know?

Jody Reale

Yes, absolutely.

 

It will usually take longer to succeed than you think--whatever your definition of success is

 

and what this means is that you have a very unique opportunity as a writer

 

to learn the elusive art of persevering in the face of patience. It's a paradox that seems to plague

 

those perusing excellence in the arts.

 

The longer you "stay in the room," as we say in workshop; the longer you can stick with it through

 

that awful first draft.

 

If you can just send that piece out 20 more times

 

and at the same time, wait, wait, wait,

 

the better your chances. Yikes.

Mary Rosenblum

Amen to that. It really is a tough balancing act between patience and aggressive stubbornness! One more question.

sweet_muse

Where do you get you inspirations from?

Jody Reale

Muse, I get them EVERYWHERE. Literally everywhere. Driving and showering

 

are particularly good times for me to process them, but I also happen to live

 

in the wonderful, ridiculous town where there's a story on every corner, block and house.

Mary Rosenblum

What, no PO Box in Cleveland? :-) So tell us about your collection!

Jody Reale

It's a collection of essays that is still in the sales stage. It's working title is A Broad's Eye View.

Mary Rosenblum

You do good titles. :-)

Jody Reale

It’s a title that lends itself to future spin-offs: A Broad's Eye View-- of Travel; A Broad's Eye View--of Marriage…

Mary Rosenblum

Spin Offs are good. :-)

Jody Reale

thanks--and so on. So I'm doing a lot of work along the proposal stage still.

 

and I'm working on giving it a shot in the larger marketplace, which is a ridiculous, interesting process.

Mary Rosenblum

Thank you for coming tonight. You have been a delightful guest and we all enjoyed talking with you!

Jody Reale

Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

Mary Rosenblum

I wish you great success with your book selling...it is a ridiculous and interesting process, isn't it?

janp

Thank you both very much!

Jody Reale

Agents: can't live with 'em, can't...well, never mind.

 

Come on by the site and check out the merchandise!

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, Jody, thank you for coming! We'll let go rest your fingers rest! Thanks so much for coming and I for one will definitely go look at the merchandise!

 

I'll have to ask you back to talk about merchandizing yourself one of these days!

Jody Reale

Love to. Bye everybody! Thanks for having me.

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks for coming! Good night!

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