Updated: Jan 14, 2022
"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.
"Let's call it Noteworthy."
Ah ha! There it was. Noteworthy: A place for people to share their Noteworthy stories. Could be about their life. Could be the life of a loved one.
These stories might turn into full length books (like Safe Landing). They might turn into a children's book. Or shorter books/magazine articles like these projects below.
But it might just be nice to have the audio. Have that backed up forever. Maybe the family will eventually pair the audio with some photos. Or do a video recording. Or find a way to turn the audio into a vinyl record. Who knows!
"Why" has a ton of ideas for where Noteworthy could go (and "How" is nervously sweating with a long list of questions). For now, we'll let "Why" keep dreaming big, but our immediate focus in 2022 is to create a fun and welcoming interview space for people to share Noteworthy stories. It's another "class" you can take via Long Overdue. We built a separate website for Noteworthy here.
September brought a happy interruption to the work. Caleb Thomas O'Brien was born on September 4th, and I shut my laptop for 4 weeks. I entered a new world of How vs. Why.
How can I be this happy AND this sleep-deprived at the same exact time?
Why does Caleb only start peeing when I'm the one changing the diaper? Is Ashley just that much faster with the diaper switcheroo?
A little over a year ago, Oh Mother How Funny was still in rough draft, idea land.
Fast forward to end of 2021, and the three of us have our own book + baby photos ready for the ol' Instagram. Talk about bringing a dream to life!
October got back into the swing of things. We published our first book that went through more of a structured program. T.C. Pendragon used Feedback Circle, Illustrated, and Final Draft to bring his first novel in the Martin Blackbriar series across the finish line.
Then we got an awesome email end of September/early October from one of our authors.
Quick background - last year we worked with Bishop David Todd Whittley, Senior Pastor of the Corinthian Temple Church of God in Christ in West Garfield Park (Chicago). We helped Bishop Whittley publish a short book of sermons he delivered during the first year of the Pandemic.
Now Bishop Whittley is working on a much larger project. The non-profit he leads, called United for Better Living Chicago, is spearheading the charge to build a brand new affordable housing project called C.A.R.E. Manor in West Garfield. The plan calls for a "four-story building with 43 apartments, with rents being based on what the average unit costs in the neighborhood."
On October 9th, it was time for the groundbreaking ceremony.
The Mayor of Chicago was there. A US Congressman. Illinois Secretary of State. At least three different news stations. Dozens of other city leaders and pastors. It was an incredible sight!
And as I'm reflecting on 2021, I'm thinking about all the cool things our authors are doing. Bishop Whittley with C.A.R.E Manor. Ahmet Ergun running Black & Caspian, now he's about to open his second restaurant called Black Barrel. Vicki and Kristie creating their own publishing house. Or the Buss family, re-launching their "Ice Cream Publishing" house, currently working with Annie Leue on designing five books (!).
This whole "Why" vs. "How" thing holds true for any creative endeavor. And I'm starting to think I haven't been dreaming big enough these last three years. Maybe books are just the beginning for Long Overdue.
Dreaming Bigger in 2022
With that in mind, here are 3 big dreams for 2022. Disclaimer - Our team is meeting in a few weeks, so this list will continue to grow, but hey, this at least kicks things off.
Help 50 Authors start and/or finish their book
Just like Netflix released a new movie every week in 2021, our goal is to release a new book every month in 2022. Would love to help 50 authors (or more!) with at least one of our creative writing classes.
Record 1,000 hours of Noteworthy stories
Here was my unscientific process: I thought 100 hours sounded like a reasonable goal... and then just added another 0. "Why" celebrated this new ambitious target. "How" immediately fainted.
Open a Physical Storefront
Thinking a pop-up shop around the holidays. Or maybe we create something like this.
Until then, we'll host events at local bars, bookstores, and restaurants. We'll have an event at Black Barrel in February (or March) for Ahmet's new cookbook. The bar "First Draft" in May for Melody, Jim, and Kim's public release of Safe Landing. And TBD in St. Paul/Minneapolis next summer (or fall) with Vicki and Kristie, plus Ice Cream Publishing.
Why do all this?
Because how cool to have celebrations when an author completes their first creative journey. And how exciting to have 50 authors on this path next year. And hundreds of people/families recording Noteworthy stories, dreaming up how to share these stories with loved ones.
To which "How" responds:
"Cool." (compiles a long list of bulletpoint questions)
"Why don't we get started?"
Keeping up with Long Overdue
Best place to keep up with all things Long Overdue is a tie between our monthly newsletter and our Instagram page (shoutout to Annie Cerovich!). If you enjoy this newsletter and know someone who might enjoy it as well, let us know, we'll make sure to add them to our subscriber list.
And check out our website - Long Overdue Books. Long Overdue Books is a community for creating books. It's a place for authors, readers, editors, artists, and designers to come together and move their stories from ideas to finished books.
Next newsletter - Aiming for either January 18th or the 19th. In the meantime if you have any questions, ideas, stories to tell, you can reach Cal the Librarian at - email@example.com