Welcome to another of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author Bobbi Linkemer. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Bobbi. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based.
Bobbi: I have been a writer for forty-five years (seems impossible that it is that long!) in many capacities. During that time, I have always freelanced but also worked as a magazine writer and editor, corporate communicator, and marketing manager for twenty years. I went out on my own in 1989 and have done everything imaginable since then. If someone asked, “Can you do this?” I said yes and then figured out how to do it. I am based in St. Louis, Missouri, where I work out of my condo.
Morgen: I’ve heard a few times to say “yes” and worry about the “how” later. I think it kicks us into accepting and doing things we probably wouldn’t have done otherwise, and everything we do (in whatever profession) is something for the CV. How did you come to be a writer?
Bobbi: I was a thirty-year-old housewife and mother. I wasn’t looking for my destiny; I was just looking for a night school class. I signed up for Writing for Fun and Money, about which I remember nothing, except, of course, the words that changed my life. On the last night of class, as I approached the teacher to thank her, she grabbed my shoulders and gave them a good shake.
“Listen to me,” she said. “I know talent when I see it, and I see it in you. You’d better keep writing!” I had no idea what caused her to say that. We hadn’t shown her samples of our work or done any writing in class. But it really didn’t matter. She had said it, and I believed her. Her words affected me so profoundly that for forty-five years, “You’d better keep writing!” has remained a sustaining mantra.
Morgen: What a great teacher. I’m teaching eight courses for my local council (five creative writing, three I.T.) from January and maybe that’s the approach I need to take. 🙂 What have you had published to-date?
Bobbi: In more than four-and-a-half decades of full-time writing, I have filled fifteen large binders with published work, ranging from annual reports and hundreds of articles to marketing materials and websites. I have also written seventeen books of my own, plus those I have ghostwritten.
Morgen: Wow. I’ve been pretty busy since 2005 (eight novels, 400+ short stories) but most of those sitting (unpublished) in files. I’m terrible at submitting anywhere, although one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to have something in each month’s divide in my current submissions / competitions folders. Have you self-published? If so, what lead to you going your own way?
Bobbi: I have self-published my last several books, all of which are on writing. Up until 1998, I was published by traditional publishers, including Amacom Books and Amazon New Media (New York), Marshall Editions (London), and publically-funded agencies that provide services for adults with developmentally disabilities.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Bobbi: I have five books in e-book format with two more in the works. I have been a reader all my life but made an unbelievably smooth (and expensive) transition to e-books on the Kindle. If I put out a book in print, I also have it converted to digital and advise my clients to do the same.
Morgen: It’s a great idea. I was helping one of my writing group ladies, Monica, yesterday to put her children’s novella on Smashwords (which I always do first as they provide a free ISBN) and Kindle. It took most of the day (although I hadn’t designed the cover until I got there) but it’s up and she’s delighted. Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Bobbi: I have always been a reader, but as an adult, my role models were Gail Sheehy, Gloria Steinem, Jane Howard, Anna Quindlen, Letty Cottin Porebin, Judith Viorst, and Carolyn Byrd—all strong, talented women.
Morgen: I have to say they’re all new names to me (perhaps not my genre or nationality). Doing this blog has made me realise how many authors there are out there. As you know, you are my 696th and I’m sure that’s only the tip of the clichéd iceberg. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Bobbi: I have recently launched my first online course for aspiring writers, called How to Write, Publish, & Promote a Nonfiction Book, and am now writing seven short, individual courses on aspects of that subject. E-learning is a whole new ballgame, with SO much to learn. Now, I am marketing, marketing, marketing, which is even harder than writing the material and converting it to a format students can access and understand.
Morgen: One thing that Monica’s realised is that just putting the book online doesn’t mean automatic sales, so she’s signing up to Facebook, Twitter etc. That’s when the hard work really starts. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on, your writing is more fully-formed?
Bobbi: Writing is a natural process for me, and though it does seem to flow, I definitely do a lot of editing. By that I mean polishing, pruning, searching for better ways to say something, and replacing words with more expressive synonyms. If it is going to be published online or in print, I also have it copyedited by a professional. If it is designed and in layout, I have it read again by a proofreader. My sister, who is an editor, believes you can never have too much editing.
Morgen: Absolutely. I’m a freelance for (to-date) for fourteen clients and many of them have been surprised at things I’ve picked up that they’d not spotted or when I’ve come up with suggestions that hadn’t occurred to them. I have a great editor, Rachel, for my writing for exactly the same reason. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Bobbi: Oh, yes, many, especially in the early years as a feature writer. I once wallpapered an entire wall of my basement office with multi-colored rejection slips. Later, when I moved into the world of books, I had one or two proposals turned down flat. I wrote one of those books some years ago and self-published it. I have just rewritten it and had it redesigned. It is out in e-book format and soon to be released in print. It is on surviving and thriving as a freelance writer.
Morgen: A great idea. These days with so many opportunities available to us, advice like that is always so useful. You mentioned having to do a lot of marketing…
Bobbi: Yes, I do, which didn’t come naturally to me, but I have an excellent mentor, Bobette Kyle, who is a marketing guru. I have a very comprehensive website and blog, designed by Kenya Caldwell, and I am on several social-networking sites. My books on writing now have a recognizable brand, thanks to my wonderful designer, Peggy Nehmen, a partner in Nehment-Kodner. The little figure, which actually looks like me, has become my logo.
Morgen: The covers are nice and clear. I’ve seen some so fussy that it’s really hard to see what they’re all about. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Bobbi: My favorite aspect of being a book coach and ghostwriter is being able to help people tell their stories and convey their messages. My least-favorite aspect is when authors abandon their books after they’re finished and never do anything with them.
Morgen: Erm, yes. See earlier reference to not submitting. 🙂 To be fair, it’s a time thing with me and another NYR is to get my books re-edited then off to Rachel. If any of your books were audiobooked, whom would you have as the narrator(s)?
Bobbi: This is something I had not considered, and while it sounds terribly self-serving, I might narrate them. I don’t have a great speaking voice, but my writing style and speaking style are almost identical.
Morgen: How interesting. I record podcasts once a month and enjoy doing them. Most recently they’ve been the blog’s guest short stories, many of whom have been written by overseas authors who love my English accent. They’ve also said how interesting it is to hear someone else’s interpretation of their fiction. You’re a writing coach, what advice would you give aspiring writers?
Bobbi: The following lessons have helped me grow, learn, and reinvent myself when necessary. I think they are worth passing along. (They are excerpted from Words To Live By: Reflections on the writing life from a 40-year veteran)
- If you know what you want to do, don’t let anything or anyone stop you from doing it. With a little talent and a lot of moxie, you can be whatever you choose to be.
- Set attainable goals that stretch you; as you achieve each one, set another one immediately.
- Writing is not a competitive sport; don’t be threatened by other people’s success.
- Seek mentors; then become one.
- Be generous with your talent; remember that it’s a gift; pass it on.
- Know what your values are; let your writing reflect them.
- Don’t lose your sense of humor. When there’s a choice between laughing and crying, choose laughter.
- Ask yourself from time to time if there is something else you would rather do; if you can’t think of anything, keep writing.
- With a little tweaking, these lessons can apply to any dream, any career, any life.
Morgen: Yep, I’d agree with those. Especially the determination and not wanting to do anything else. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Bobbi: The heart of my “business” is coaching, editing, ghostwriting, teaching (online or in a classroom), and publishing my clients’ and my own books. I have just been appointed to the board of the St. Louis Publishers Association (SLPA), a local chapter of Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA).
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Bobbi: (All of these authors have websites, but I have just included links to their books.)
- The bible for nonfiction writers is On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser.
- For all aspects of self-publishing, the best resource is Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book
- For anyone who wants to publish with a traditional publisher, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2013 is an exhaustive library of who’s who in the publishing world.
- One of my favorites is 55 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Book on the Internet by Bob Baker.
- The acknowledged go-to book on marketing books is 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer.
Morgen: Thank you, Bobbi. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Bobbi: Where did you get this brilliant idea? I am truly awed by what is involved in the project and the work you have put into it. The questions are so well crafted that it takes real thought to answer every one of them. I applaud you for providing this platform for so many writers. Thank you for the opportunity to take part in this interview. I look forward to reading your blog and would love to get to know you better. You are truly inspirational.
Morgen: Ah, thank you very much, Bobbi. I started this blog back in March 2011 and it was going to be just my content but, although I can talk for England (as the cliché goes), it soon became apparent that I’d have to scrounge around for content. Very shortly afterwards, I was invited to do an interview then it dawned on me I could do the same (I was already on Facebook and Twitter). The interview questions have developed over the months and everything else grew from those humble beginnings, and we’re up to nearly 200,000 hits. Not bad if I say so myself. 🙂 Thank you for joining me today, Bobbi.
I then invited Bobbi to include an excerpt of her writing…
Write a New Story
It is never too late to start over. Never. Whether life forces you to change or you consciously decide to recreate your life, you have all the material you need to write your new story.
Life is unpredictable. It always has been, but we seem to be more aware of it than we used to be. Perhaps it is because communication is instantaneous. The minute something happens anywhere in the world it is on CNN or splashed across the Internet. Sometimes, the people involved are literally the last to know when their lives have been turned upside down by outside circumstances.
I knew the president of a major corporation who was about to unveil a new strategic plan when he read in The Wall Street Journal that his company was “in merger talks.” That little news item brought his proposed plan to a screeching halt and profoundly affected the careers of many people. Some remained with the newly formed organization; others found themselves superfluous and out of work.
The recent recession left millions of people among the ranks of the unemployed. Many of their jobs have ceased to exist and are unlikely to return. What did all these people do? How did they manage? What happened to them when their savings or unemployment compensation dried up? These are painful questions to contemplate because any one of us at any time could find ourselves in the same situation.
I saw a documentary recently that followed the lives of a several people of different ages and levels of experience who had been “laid off” (we used to call it fired) from advertising agencies. At first, they were stunned and devastated. They experienced all of the stages of grief that accompany the loss of a job. As they looked at the camera and shared their stories, I knew exactly how they felt because I had experienced the same feelings in my own life.
The movie was only thirty-six minutes long. Yet, I had no sense of time passing as I watched it. These were people I knew by the time it ended. I witnessed their struggles with loss and their triumphs over uncertainty and battered self-confidence. I wanted to cheer as each of them, in his or her own way, built a new career. Not one person sought a job with another advertising agency. Instead, they went in other directions. Some returned to work they had once loved but had abandoned along the way; others entered fields of endeavor they had never before considered; and a few identified needs in the marketplace and found innovative ways to fill them.
They had rewritten the stories of their lives to become, among other professions, a landscape artist of, a yoga teacher, a purveyor of fine coffees, a cinematographer, and the developer of a website for creative people who were out of work. At the end of the film, one of them summed up the experience this way: “I was laid off from my advertising agency, and it’s AWESOME.” The last thing I saw before the image on the screen faded was his big grin.
The name of the documentary was Lemonade. I highly recommend it for anyone who is thinking of rewriting his or her own story for any reason. To borrow a phrase from Nike, “Just do it.” Nothing is more satisfying.
and a synopsis of her latest book…
Writers who are contemplating the freelance life often envision it as glamorous, liberating, and creative. At the other extreme, many writers see freelancing as an uncertain and risky way to earn a living. If you are asking yourself if the freelance life is for you, here is what you will discover in Going Solo: How to Survive & Thrive as a Freelance Writer:
- What it takes to make it as a freelance writer—the strengths, skills, and characteristics that are necessary for success.
- How to carve out your niche as a freelance writer—choosing between trying to “do it all” and becoming known for a particular area of expertise
- How to play the many roles of a freelance writer—finding a balance among your business life, your personal life, and your inner life.
Bobbi Linkemer is a ghostwriter, editor, and writing coach, as well as the author of seventeen books under her own name. Her passion is helping writers at all levels convey their messages through books. In her forty-five-year career, she has written on hundreds of topics for magazines, individuals, and organizations in both the private and public sectors. Bobbi has been a magazine editor and journalist, a corporate communicator, and a book-writing teacher. Her courses and coaching services are based on her book, How To Write A Nonfiction Book: From planning to promotion in 6 simple steps. Her clients range from Fortune 100 companies to entrepreneurs who want to write nonfiction books in order to build their businesses or share their stories. Bobbi’s website is http://writeanonfictionbook.com.
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I welcome items for critique directly (see Editing & Critique) or for posting on the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
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