The first time I saw my name in print I was four years old.
I was standing on the beach at Mombasa, the damp sand between my toes, and my father had written my name in the sand to see if I could read it. Seeing the letters C-A-R-M-A spelled out before me, the ocean waves making attempts to lap it away, gave me a thrill that has never died.
Of course, I was much older before I saw my name in print again … except when I wrote it myself. But thanks to a stubborn streak and the encouragement of my fourth-grade teacher, I never let the dream of being a published writer die.
Ms. Proud was my fourth-grade teacher. I don’t really know what brought this on, or how my work compared to others in my class, but one day, after school was over and I was about to walk home, Ms. Proud stopped me. I remember standing on the steps outside the school. She was holding the door open. Maybe we had been discussing my homework or something because the school was pretty empty.
I remember her standing there, her brown hair in an up-do, holding the door open and saying, “Carma, you should be a writer. Your work is very good.”
Her words have gotten me through many a tough moment.
I’ve struggled with spelling … I have dyslexia. In fact, my parents on more than one occasion told me, “You’ll never be a writer if you can’t spell!” Back then we didn’t have spellchecker software — nor computers, for that matter.
I’ve struggled with confidence in my abilities, too.
But remembering that day in the fourth grade, Ms. Proud looking earnestly at me and telling me I should be a writer always helps me bounce back.
In High School, a couple of my poems got accepted into the school creative writing magazine. I barely remember that. In fact, the only reason I can tell you this now is because I recently found copies of them and was surprised to see my name in the Table of Contents.
Now, I like pulling them out on occasion and to see my name in courier font in the Table of Contents. Back then typesetting was done with a typewriter.
Of course, as life moved on and paying the rent became a compelling issue, I often let my writing slide away from me … at least the writing I was passionate about.
In college, while getting a degree in Biology, I discovered science writing and ended up making a career of it. I worked for more than 20 years in marketing communications, writing press releases and marketing collateral and patient education articles for a cancer center, then a health insurance company, and then a number of websites. Most of the time, what I wrote was anonymous. Much of the time I was listed as “editor” rather than “writer.”
They were my words, but I did not claim them.
I could see an empire built one book at a time. Each bringing in its own share of income every month. Like clockwork.
Your Perfect Pie followed the next year, but I haven’t put as much marketing effort behind that one, even though it is a far better book. I even started on the second edition of Bonkers … incorporating lessons I learned from publishing the first version. (That one is still in the works!)
Early in 2010, I published my first business book, Home Sweet Home Page. It is a quick read that empowers authors, speakers, and coaches to create more effective home pages for their websites. I launched it with much pomp and virtual circumstance and did pretty well with it. (I’m almost done with the second edition of that book and hope to release it in 2021.)
In 2013, I published 57 Secrets for Branding Yourself Online. It was part of a series that Logical Expressions was launching. I decided to go with a third-party publisher, rather than self-publish because I wanted at least one book that had third-party endorsement. It did OK, but the series didn’t take off so it is now out of print.
Then, in 2018, I published my most ambitious book to date. Public Speaking Super Powers uses the metaphor of the superhero to help people become better at speaking in public. I published it through Author Academy Elite, a hybrid publisher that taught me how to publish my first hardcover book. It is the book of which I’m most proud. I interviewed 89+ speakers to research the book and it is probably my best book to date.
I really enjoy being an independent author, despite all the work that goes into it. I write alone. I edit alone, occasionally hiring someone over the phone to proofread my work. I even design the covers and layout the interiors alone. If a book fails, its all my fault. But that’s O.K. Because when it succeeds it is all my credit, as well.
Being an independent author affords me the creative flexibility I crave. No one is telling me how to express my self … I do that. And sometimes what results is lucrative, and sometimes it isn’t. But it’s kind of like that saying about curiosity … “Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back!”
There is something powerful in being able to say, “I did that!” that goes with the territory of being an independent, self-published author. And, of course, the far better royalties are nice, too.
Is being an independent author the road to fame and fortune?
Ultimately, for me, it is the road back to Mombasa … recalling the little girl on the beach reading her name in the sand and seeing the pride in her father’s eyes when she read it all by herself.