Friday, January 25, 2013

Interview with Sandra Bornstein

Why did you decide to write your memoir?
During my first trip to India, I started a private travel blog. I wanted to share my unusual experiences with a select group of friends and relatives. The positive feedback they provided made me wonder whether I should take my writing a step further. I contemplated a memoir, but knew that my story had to be more than a travelogue.

Shortly after returning to the US, I abruptly stopped writing my blog. I was deeply moved by my husband’s horrific accident and overwhelmed by the choices that I needed to make. I lost the desire to write.  After returning to India, I was tempted to write again.  I was confident that a blog about my international classroom would generate an audience, but I was reluctant to invade my students’ privacy.

After I returned to the US, I could not put the brakes on my writing anymore. The lessons that I had learned from my adventure needed to be shared. A memoir that chronicled my choice to live outside my comfort zone and my incredible teaching and traveling experiences needed to be written. I wanted to provide useful information to fellow teachers who are considering working abroad and teachers who work with diverse learners. It is my sincere hope that my words will resonate with people facing unusual challenges and others who need encouragement to take a special journey.

What message are you sharing with your readers?
There are multiple messages that I am sharing with my readers. The most prevalent lesson pertains to individual choices. People tend to be most comfortable living within their established comfort zone and rarely make daring decisions. Stepping outside a self-imposed boundary oftentimes creates unnecessary anxiety and irrational fear. When I decided to plunge into the pool of uncertainty, I let my emotions take control and felt unbalanced. Eventually, I overcame my fears and learned that stepping outside of my comfort zone can be an invigorating experience that enhances life.

After teaching at a highly regarded international school in Bangalore, India, what was your most memorable experience?
I will always remember the fifth grade jungle trip to Kabini River Lodge, a former hunting lodge for the maharaja of Mysore. In the U.S., 5th or 6th grade students usually attend an outdoor education program at a nearby rustic facility. My students took motor coaches without a restroom to this well-regarded accommodation. Seeing the jungle through the eyes of 5th graders was a unique experience. I also had the opportunity to interact with my students in a social setting.

Throughout your book you mention songs. What role did music play in your journey?
Music was my constant companion. I heard songs even when my Ipod and computer were not turned on. The lyrics from my youth prevailed. They added a level of comfort that helped me cope with my overwhelming feelings of loneliness. Being separated from my family for an extended period of time was challenging. I could always rely on my music to bring a smile to my face.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
I decided to go the self-publishing route because I wanted to maintain more control over my content, the book’s interior style, the book cover, and the price of the book. I knew that this would require a budget of upfront costs since I would need to hire experts to assist me. With the help of professional editors, I created the content and the pervasive threads, located my voice, and decided on my message. Additionally, I hired a design team and formatters to assist me. By being responsible for all of the decisions, I took complete ownership of my book.

I also wanted to publish my book in a timely manner so that I could move on to the next project. Had I not put myself into the driver’s seat, I might still be waiting for a literary agent to respond. I’d rather be moving forward than stuck in a holding pattern.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
I worked with several editors. The first editor was a developmental editor. After reading the book, he suggested that I begin at a more dramatic point of my journey and end with the lessons that I learned. With his assistance, I enhanced my writing style by taking a closer look at my voice and how I used dialogue to engage the reader.

I also hired a copyeditor to review my manuscript for word usage, consistencies in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and fact checking. Prior to publishing, a final professional edit was done.

Did you hire a graphic artist for your book cover? Were you actively involved in the creation of the cover?
Many people follow the adage “you can tell a book by its cover.” I knew that a cover design was important and realized that I did not have the required skills to design an appropriate cover.

Last spring when I launched my website, I hired a graphic artist. I accepted the book cover design and started to use it on my website. I started to have doubts about the design and also realized that the graphic artist should have included a spine and back cover design. If I used that design, I would either have to format the spine and back cover myself or hire another person.

As part of my contract negotiations with CreateSpace, I opted for a new cover design. CreateSpace provided two design options.  After making a few adjustments to the CreateSpace design that I liked more, I had a new cover that illustrated the gist of my story better than the original option.

What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
I learned to be patient. Everything took longer than I anticipated. I rarely completed a task within the anticipated timeframe. I realized that the quality of my book was more important than publishing the book quickly.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, Facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
Social media has become part of my daily routine. I have a multiple page website that includes information about my book, my background, a photo gallery, a press kit, events, and a blog. I post blogs on a regular basis.  I also take advantage of opportunities to be a guest blogger. I have accounts with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Goodreads. My video book trailer is posted on several sites. Even though it is a time consuming endeavor, I try to maintain an active presence on all levels of social media. I recently started my first virtual book tour.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Before starting the ball rolling for self-publishing I suggest the following:  Do not procrastinate. Accept the challenge and move forward. Create a proposed timeline and start finding ways to accomplish your goals.

I recommend thinking about the following things:
Has the manuscript been professionally edited? Are you hiring a professional editor? Is the editing being done by the self-publishing company?

Research your different publishing options. Connect with self-published authors and get their feedback about different companies. Decide which company meets your specific requirements. Read all of the fine print and make sure you understand all sections of the contract. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Make sure you check and recheck everything that needs to be approved. When in doubt ask a friend or family member to look over your work. Typos and extra spaces can mysteriously reappear without warning. A new set of eyes will usually find these lurking pests.

For years, I put my passion for writing on hold. As each year passed, I became more disappointed and angry with myself. I had one excuse after another.

Now, when holding my published book in my hand, I ask, “Why did I wait so long?”

Being able to publish, MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE was an amazing accomplishment.