Updated: Jan 14
"How the elf did Santa figure this out?"
Quote of the Month
"And now that you don't have to be perfect,
you can be good."
- Lee, East of Eden
Learning to Dream Again
Way back in January, we wrote on the conflict between “Why” and “How.”
In short: "Why" is the dreamer. "How" is the reality check.
"Why" wants to create simply for the joy of creating. "How" trails behind like a chaperone at a dance, ruler in hand, asking questions: Mainly:
How in the WORLD will you actually DO this?
Eleven months ago, we thought "Why" and "How" were sworn enemies -- frenemies at best.
But now, heading into 2022, we've reached a surprising conclusion: "Why" and "How" are secretly on the same team. They just have two different approaches bringing dreams to life.
We started the year with a great "Why" up in Minnesota. First-time author, Vicki Toups Sheafer, wanted to turn a family lullaby (passed down for four generations) into a children's board book.
To have this moment with her first grandson, Jack:
But "How" chimed in right away with its long list of questions. (How likes to speak in bullet points).
How will you do the illustrations?
How will you print this? How many copies?
How do you sell a book without Amazon? How will payments work? Logistics?
Lucky for us, our Creative Director, Annie Leue, is a master at conquering the How.
For example, notice the photo above with baby Jack. Look at the cover there vs. these below.
It's a subtle detail, but it makes a huge difference.
But here's what's interesting, "Why" would've been totally fine with the first attempt. Hey, mission accomplished. But "How" wasn't satisfied.
How do we make this "bookstore ready" before we print and sell 500 copies? How can we make it a little bit better?
In the creative process, "Why" steers the ship at the beginning, providing motivation. But How takes over at the end, making sure the final book is the best it can possibly be.
"Being creative," originally we pictured this as dreaming, writing, drawing. But that's only half the picture. The printing, the shipping, the payments, the confirmation emails, the tax codes, that's all part of it too. Maybe "being creative" just means being part of the creative process. Some people are more in the Why camp. Others are more How. The magic, then, is when those two camps start working together.
And just like author Vicki reached her Why, later in the year Kristie had the same moment with her new granddaughter, Olivia.
Our next major project was working with siblings Kim Jockl, Jim Borchers, and Melody Smith on their incredible book called Safe Landing: A Family's Journey Following the Crash of American Airlines Flight 191. You can read more about their journey here and here.
Again, the "Why" came first. Kim, Jim, and Melody wanted to get all the details down in one place, share their stories, honor the lives of their parents (Bill and Nudy), and create a book so their family had all this history, for now and generations to come.
Then it was back to Annie Leue to design the book and check off all the important "How" questions.
Finishing the public book is slated for May of 2022, but the family book printed a few months ago. We loved seeing the photos of the family celebration.
On one of our team Zoom calls, Katie Palazzolo summed up our Why really well:
We're a group of people who love stories,
and love to help people create meaningful stories of their own.
The "Why" came easy for us. "How" was always the tricky part. But with each project and each team meeting over Zoom, the "How" started to make a little more sense. We didn't have to invent anything new, we just put some structure to what we were already doing.
What emerged was the Long Overdue Creative Writing Program. Looks something like this:
Once the author-to-be has a finished page, or1-page outline, now it's time to complete a first draft.
After that, it's time to assemble a "Feedback Circle." This is a group of 3-5 peers (could be strangers or blog subscribers too) who read the first draft and provide feedback. We help the author put together a list of questions and then organize the responses.
After this, the author can make changes, do any rewrites, and then have someone from Long Overdue read the updated manuscript, provide more feedback.
If it's a children's book, or the author wants to have illustrations, we offer a class/service called "Illustrated." We connect the author with an illustrator, just like how Vicki and Kristie teamed up for Oh Mother How Funny, or the current partnership between Harry Trumfio in Illinois and Dena Ackerman all the way over in Israel working on Dad, Our Own Candy Man.
With Feedback Circle complete and any illustrations created (if needed), there's only one step left. This is where the author works directly with an editor to finish up their manuscript.
From there, it's totally the author's call if they'd like to pitch their manuscript to agents or publishers, or self-publish. They can also work with Long Overdue to design, publish/print their book. Whatever makes most sense for each author's journey.
But we still had one idea that's been with us since the very beginning of Long Overdue. This is the "helping people tell family stories" concept. As 2021 went on, this idea felt like it was its own thing, ready to spinoff. Like Frasier after Cheers, or all the new Marvel shows on Disney+.
But we didn't have a name for it. Then one night, on one of our team calls, Annie Cerovich had the big lightbulb moment.