Author: Evie McRae

One Story is not the whole story

One Story is not the whole story

If you have ever taken part in a workshop or perhaps even training at work you will be familiar with ice breaker sessions where you have to stand up and introduce yourself to the rest of the participants.

Love it or loathe it, I use this idea as an exercise to kick things off in my writing workshops. I introduce myself first and I generally use that time to outline some of my writing.  I then invite everyone to write down what they want to say about themselves giving them 100 words to play with. We then go around the room and generally find out why people have chosen to attend a Memoir Writing workshop – and the reasons vary enormously. Sounds straightforward enough I hear you say.

After people have shared their introduction – we then come back to my earlier – resume-style introduction – and I then explain why I introduced myself in such a sterile manner. I want to reassure the audience they are in safe hands, I’m qualified in what I do, I have the necessary experience and I can help them write their story too.

But do they really know me? Do they know my story (or stories)? They know about the one and only story I have presented to them – and at that early stage in our workshop that seems to suffice.

I then go on to share around 4 or 5 more ‘introductions’ that I could have presented, each more emotive, personal and layered than the last. It’s in the sharing of these alternative ‘stories’ that we as a group ‘connect’ – because these are the ‘real’ stories that are often buried or ignored in the quest to present a more ‘together’ and polished version of ourselves.

It’s a very simple exercise demonstrating the framing of a narrative. There is also another lesson here – about being brave and raw when writing Memoir – because these are our human experiences that connect us all.

If you have suffered trauma or injustice in your life, it can feel like you ARE that story – you ARE that ‘abused partner’. You ARE that ‘beaten child’ or you ARE that ‘rape victim’ or you are that nurse that couldn’t heal the person you desperately wanted to heal most.

Sometimes, without even realising it, we absorb the energy of that trauma, and we become that story. If we are abused we become the shame and the unworthiness. If we are a mother or nurse or doctor, then we should be able to heal. If we don’t – then we can absorb and become ‘failure’.

One of the first steps to healing – and rewriting your story – is to realise you are not the sum total of that one story. You are more than one story. You are not the problem. The emotion attached to that external problem that happened outside of you is the problem.

Do you have a story you keep repeating to yourself about yourself? What story do you tell others about yourself? Does that story differ when it comes to relating to friends or strangers? 

We all have more than one story. Sometimes we get caught up in ‘our old story’ to the point we forget or just don’t see our other magnificent and triumphant stories.

Perhaps if your mother was absent emotionally you could change your story from one of abandonment and rejection – to one of ‘resilience’ and ‘compassion’ – the tools you learned as a result of that thing that happened outside of yourself (that thing that isn’t you the human being).

This is the beauty of combining healing with writing – you can literally and figuratively rewrite your story – and it’s not necessarily a work of Fiction – the story is there – you just need to know where to look -or to have someone on your team skilled enough to help you identify it.

If you are interested in taking part in my upcoming ‘What’s your Story?’ Workshops which include Magical Memoir Writing and ‘Giving Trauma A Voice Through Writing’ do drop me a line so I can ensure you notified as soon as dates/venues are available.

evie@lightmygaia.com

Giving a voice to trauma through writing

Giving a voice to trauma through writing

What images does your mind conjure up when you hear the word ‘trauma’?

Trauma was not a word I truly understood until fairly recently – which considering my own ‘story’ is rather ironic. For me, the word trauma was a bit like the word ‘stress’. In my world, stress was bandied about with such frequency and was attributed to so many of our less desirable behaviours that I failed to realise the impact actual stress had on us as human beings.

It wasn’t until I began working on a health publication in the UK, many moons ago, that my education really began around what actually happens within the body when it’s flooded with stress chemicals. I was surprised to learn ‘stress’ is not just something in your head, nor is it just something to say when someone is red in the face with anger or exasperation. It affects your mental and physical health and, yes, it can be a killer left unchecked. Which brings me back to ‘trauma’.

If your mind brought forth images of limbs being lost through war, or horrific incidents or death-defying accidents you’re not alone. The sad reality is, while yes trauma does indeed happen in these scenarios, trauma can often begin at home.

Domestic violence, sexual abuse, mental and emotional cruelty or neglect, serious illness, the loss of a loved one and suicide are all forms of trauma within the home. It can be a one-off event, or it can happen over and over, again and again. Trauma can take the form of an extreme event or betrayal or lots of smaller more insidious occurrences.

Research now shows how damaging trauma can be. In fact, trauma fundamentally changes the brain’s structure and alters its functionalities. Up until I committed to my own trauma counselling – I had no idea how much my trauma had shaped me – even though I thought I’d spent most of my life making sure it didn’t!

Recognising that you have lived through trauma can take many years, let alone how long it may take you to be brave enough to actually turn up at a trauma counsellor’s appointment. However, that appointment is just what’s required if you are to take the necessary steps toward healing.

I wanted to help a friend who was having some challenges, so in between writing workshops and healing sessions I was doing a bit of extra reading. I happened to come across an article about stress and anxiety being a by-product of trauma.

The article drew me in and suddenly a wave of emotion swept over me with the realisation that I myself displayed and felt the whole range of ‘classic symptoms’. I read further and further until I realised, those things I’d put down to my sometimes ‘feisty’ personality or extreme PMT, were actually the hallmarks of Trauma.

I didn’t go to war – not in the conventional sense – but my home-life growing up was my very own personal warzone where I was constantly under attack of enemy fire. This childhood experience propelled me into further abuses and ‘traumatic’ experiences. As I got older I observed my own reactions seemed to veer chaotically between the manifestations of fight, flight, freeze and ‘befriend’.

So yes it can take a long time to acknowledge you are a survivor of trauma – particularly if you have never truly understood what the word encompassed. However, gradually, you begin to realise life isn’t meant to be lived this way- and the best bit is – if you are willing to do the work – you can change your life!

And here’s where it gets REALLY interesting!

Trauma lives in a place that can be very difficult to reach with normal words and language or description, and might only be accessed, initially at least, through the ‘symptoms’.

At best trauma can manifest in indescribable anxiety, a sick feeling or a heavy, empty ache … either quite randomly or as the result of a smell, a place – or even someone’s expression! At worst, trauma can meet you through uncontrollable rage, addiction or life-limiting behaviour. Sometimes all of this and more …

In order to reach the trauma – to give it a voice – you must find a safe way to express it. This is where ‘expressive arts’ can come in very useful. Without getting too deep into the detail here, a qualified expressive arts therapist will combine psychology and the creative process to promote emotional growth and healing.

This intermodal approach to psychotherapy and counselling utilises our inherent desire to create, as a therapeutic tool to help the desired shift occur. The difference between expressive arts therapy and art therapy is that expressive arts therapy draws from a variety of art forms, while art therapy tends to be based on one particular art form (such as writing, painting, music or dance).

Indeed, when I look at my own family I am astounded to realise we walk the ‘creative’ art side of the track (in terms of our professional life and our personal lives too).

My brother and my sister are artists and nowadays they work as teachers in Art & Design – my brother also plays music (another expressive art form). My daughter designs brand identities. Now admittedly, my whole family inherited their natural creative talent from my mother who was also a gifted and talented artist. However, co-incidentally, having lived in an orphanage with her brother from the age of 5, it’s fair to say my mother had her fair share of trauma too. And then there’s me – a writer and practitioner.

Had we naturally found the tool within to ‘save ourselves from our trauma’? After all, the 3 of us had experienced what it was like to live in an abusive household – albeit from very different perspectives. By following our collective creative dreams we had the means to access that gateway to healing!

Who knows, as a writer and a healer – perhaps I knew on some level that I had the tools within to make sense of the events in my life – and have made sense of them through a lifetime of writing and the appropriate counselling – brought these learnings into my healing practice to help others find their way back from their own trauma.

Perhaps we three siblings had a strong survival instinct and dug into our inner worlds to make sense of the outer world …we just didn’t know it at the time.

The wonderful news is – according to the research post-traumatic stress disorder is reversible. The human brain can be re-wired. The brain may be a finely-tuned instrument but it is heartening to know that the brain also has an amazing capacity to regenerate and heal.

Things are getting real folks

Things are getting real folks

The best thing happened the other day! My client sent me a photo on Messenger. It was a picture of him smiling from ear to ear, holding a preview copy of his new book. I can’t tell you how happy that picture made me. I felt genuine joy – for his joy!

It’s a strange thing to be a ghostwriter sometimes. You see there are different levels of ‘giving of yourself’ when it comes to the writing process, and for the most part, you do so in anonymity.

What you may not realise, however, is that while you may relinquish your name appearing on the masthead or strapline, you never quite relinquish the bit of you that went into the words themselves – or the silent pride you feel when you send that new creation out in the world.

As a business writer, report writer, tender writer, or copywriter you are trained to ‘give of yourself’ – you provide your knowledge of marketing and your knowledge of what words to put together to persuade, educate, motivate or engage. You weave the two together and you sprinkle just enough of your self to give the writing that edge – your touch.

Ultimately, of course, it’s not your writing to own. Your words belong to a faceless entity! And you, as the writer, are generally not visible to that entity – even though you ‘gave of yourself’. By the time any such writing hits the press or the website, your hard skin has generally grown a few more layers as creative concepts have had the living daylights shredded from within, but you give of yourself for the required time, and then you wave goodbye – already turning to the next campaign – all in exchange for a salary of course.

It’s an altogether different story when you ghostwrite a memoir. The process reminds me of setting kindling alight as you build a fire. You have to nurture those first sparks ever so gently, giving just the right amount of assistance, shielding the tiniest sparks and gradually building that fire piece by piece, before you step back to see what takes. I’ve never been able to explain my sense of pride when I finally get that fire going, other than it must surely ignite something within at the most primal level. It feels like a reward for such an investment in time, skill and a certain amount of nurturing and care. It feels like you gave of yourself completely in exchange for all that the fire provides. It goes straight to the heart of creation itself – the Divine Spark.

Throw human relationships into the mix and you can see it’s an altogether different scenario. For example, up until now, I have referred to the commissioner of the said book as Client A, for professional reasons and to help him keep his powder dry until the pre-ordained time. However, the fact of the matter is, working with the same person for over a year, hearing their stories and experiences, documenting emotions, thoughts and feelings – well – you get to know a person. We are not faceless entities to one another (even though the very term ghostwriter implies I am invisible). We are both well aware of what the other is bringing and entrusting to the process.

The fact that I felt joy in seeing that picture tells me something! I’m in the right ‘job’ (though it truly never feels like a job). And I’m doing that job for the right reasons.

In ghostwriting this memoir, I gave of myself because this is a person’s life, his hopes, dreams, ambition and future and he has trusted me with his story. And these aspirations are central to my story too …

To write books! To help dreamers become writers and to help writers become authors. To make a difference. To create books that help others. Words with meaning! For me – that’s what it’s all about. Between us – we created something that was not in the world until now – and who knows hopefully we both get the chance to help another person along the way. When you ask what the return is on the ‘giving of yourself’ and giving away of your name, you only have to look at the photo below to understand.

So here it is, his debut title Searching Spirit (by my client and my friend) Peter Williams.

Peter’s official launch is on 18th August, 2019 though the title is already available on online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all the usual suspects. Bookstores will begin to stock in the next fortnight so I’ll bring you all the news as it hits the shops.

In the meantime, if you’d like a wee sneak peak head on over to Amazon

Afraid someone might steal your story idea?

Afraid someone might steal your story idea?

evie-mcrae-butterfly-bureau-scared someone might steal your writing ideas

Can I be blunt here? Just to save a lot of time? No-one is going to steal your story idea. Generally speaking, people who think others are going to steal their idea, well they tend to be early-days, novice writers (if you catch my drift).

Writers fear many things of course … but they are normally things like running out of coffee,  endless rejection, fear of being misunderstood, fear that the changes you spent all day doing were suddenly lost in a freak technical glitch – or running out of coffee – and so on.

As a fellow writer myself, I know your idea will be very important to you. Something you have nurtured, nourished, protected with lioness-like claws and teeth – it’s your baby after all – but in its present form your idea is not that important to anyone else. Your idea is (a) just an idea – a thought in your head and (b) it’s yours … your voice, your thread, your concepts, your characters, your ‘treatment’, your point of view that bring that idea to life.

Even if someone was ‘inspired’ by your idea – they would mould the story in a very different fashion to you.

You can’t copyright an idea – copyright only covers ‘original works of authorship’. However, if you are worried by such things, once you have committed your idea to paper, then you have the beginnings of a paper trail.

Many newbie writers are scared to hand over their draft manuscript to others who have the expertise to provide advice and turn those draft notes into a great story with arcs and hooks and a profound take-away message. My advice to you, if you are one of these writers – let it go … let it go.

Rest assured if you hand your work over to a professional writer, ghostwriter, editor, proof reader, designer, publishing agent or anyone else in the whole world of publishing and word-related activities – they have their own file of their own ideas. They will have a bottom drawer full of their own languishing manuscripts, their own desires, their own belief that their manuscript is the next big thing. They certainly do not have the desire or the inclination to steal your ideas.

What they do have is a wealth of industry experience. Writing is not called a ‘craft’ for nothing. Writers are constantly learning, researching, studying, working endlessly to improve and convey and communicate their innermost thoughts and feelings. They have a wealth of knowledge about narrative arcs, plot arcs, rules of genre, rules that can be broken, industry requirements, marketing, tone of voice, points of view, character traits, orphans, widows and other such technicalities. And these people are WILLING to share what they have learned over the years – just to see another writer become an author – just to see a fellow human being achieve their writing ambitions.

So, if you are one of those writers scared someone will pinch your idea, don’t hold yourself back because of ‘fear’. Fear stifles creativity, it stifles action. Getting the right people involved in your idea and subsequent manuscript will elevate your story – perhaps beyond your immediate abilities, and certainly beyond your wildest dreams.

Save your fears and energies for something else – as a writer, you won’t have your troubles to seek … lol. Sorry if that was tough love – but I promise it did come from a place of love.

Celebrating the ‘we’ in reaching a Memoir Milestone

Celebrating the ‘we’ in reaching a Memoir Milestone

evie-mcrae-memoir milestone-yeah-celebration

Today we have reached a very exciting milestone. It was exactly a year ago to the day I met my then ‘potential client’ to discuss his book. He wanted to publish a memoir about ‘how he became a psychic/spirit medium’ so we discussed the possibility of me being his ‘ghostwriter’. (I’ve already made all the jokes possible about a medium having a ghostwriter …lol)

I say ‘we‘ because as you will discover reading through this blog – writing a book takes so much more than just one person to make a project like this happen. In fact, right from the very beginning, it was a mutual friend and former President of Gold Coast Writer’s Association Angelika Heurich who put us in touch. Thank you for that kind recommendation, Angelika. This was the first step in helping ‘client A’ towards his publishing aspirations.

So there we were – a year ago today – we met at the beautiful Bamboo Buddha to discuss what he had by way of notes and how far we needed to go to bring that project to a submission-ready manuscript – so it seems timely indeed that we should be hitting the ‘send’ button today.

Since that sunny day, it has taken hours of phone interviews to scratch below the surface of more than a decade of life, to find the emotion of the little moments. It’s taken a few more hours to transcribe those hours of interviews to pick through and find the diamonds in the dig. Structures, outlines, arcs, timelines, scene constructs, memoir mapping, themes, messages, quotes, research … and that was all before the drafting began.

Then there was the writing itself. As most writers know, this is the easy part. Slowly but surely we turned his head full of notes and a few thousand words into a 60,000-page body of work.

I do a lot of editing for clients, however, I knew I was just too close to edit this manuscript. So I wanted to personally thank Marian Gobraiel at wordsbymariangobraiel for stepping in to the breach with her professional editing services. It’s great to find an editor who really gets to grips with the brief very quickly – just makes life so much easier. Thank you Marian!

My ‘client A’ (as he will be called until after publication) also worked with a great design team taking care of photography and post-processing. Doing your own photography is a great way to keep control of your brand, look and feel especially in the early days when you are building your author platform.

The marketing has already begun. Yup I said that bad word. For those of you not familiar with my Blog – ‘You want me to what my book?”, check it out. It’s often a nasty shock for writers to realise they have to market their book too – luckily the Butterfly Bureau at McRae Comms can help you with that. It’s their thing.

We all have a book inside of us – but getting it out, onto paper and then out into the world is as much about perseverance and ‘process’ as it is about creativity. It is also about having a great team of professionals and supporters and family around you, willing you on to cross the finish line. For my part, there is something very satisfying about helping people become writers, and writers become authors. I truly love what I do.

Today all of that is done. We are now ready for submission! Yay for ‘client A’!

The difference between Autobiography, Biography and Memoir

The difference between Autobiography, Biography and Memoir

memoir-evie-mcrae-the-butterfly-bureau

If you are new to writing you may not have given too much thought to Genre at the start of your project. We’ve all been there. That great idea you have to get down on paper before you forget – or worse still – someone else pips you to the post.

Spending a few moments considering genre at the beginning will help in more ways than you can imagine, but none more so than when it comes to pitching your book idea.

I am often asked about the differences between memoir, autobiography and biography – the nuances in the modern age are often lost – particularly when you have the likes of Amazon lumping things in together … sigh.

An Autobiography is a self-written account of your own life. You write it – you tell the ‘whole’ story. I like to think of it as a ‘personal history’.

Autobiographies are generally chronological and require knowledge of lots of dates and facts from beginning to end. Out of all these facts a ‘theme’ may emerge and that is generally the more interesting stuff for the reader.  Many autobiographies are actually written by ghost-writers who are skilled in bringing the story out of content that may otherwise read with all the creativity of a police statement.

A biography is all of the above – written by someone else. An authorised biography is written with the permission, co-operation and sometimes participation of the subject.

A Memoir is about your truth and generally covers a much shorter period of time – say 10-15 years. A memoir is very much about starting in one place (whether it’s a point of view or something more literal) and ending up in another. So Memoir shows ‘change’ or ‘evolution’ or ‘transformation’. The structure of a memoir can vary depending on the story you wish to tell. If you want to tell a chronological story from point A to point B you will most likely use a Linear structure, however you may want to keep coming back to a pivotal scene or part in your story, in which case you would use a Circular style. The thing I love about memoir though is the takeaway message. The end of a memoir should leave the reader feeling they need to take action, or change their mind on something as a result of what they have read. As a writer that is the fun, creative part of the project in my opinion. As with autobiographies many ghost-writers make their living in this genre.

Feminist – Word of the Year

Feminist – Word of the Year

eviemcrae

If you thought you’d heard the last of Feminism in the 60s then have I got news for you. Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Year place the F word right on top of their top 10. Hmm … wonder if Feminism has soared as a result of that repugnant President who loves to grab em all by the pussy – you know what I’m talking about.

According to Merriam Webster, the word topped the searches in their online dictionary which means there has been a spike of interest in the word or the movement. The searches for the word correlate to various news reports and events.

Today’s definitions of feminism read: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”

 

 

Memorable words

Memorable words

eviemcraeI can’t think of many greater gifts than to teach and encourage your child to use a dictionary from a young age.

If I asked how to spell something my mother would always say, ‘Look it up’. I used to say how can I look it up if I don’t know how to spell it? After she’d given me a clip round the ear for my cheek, I’d dig out the dictionary. As I searched for the elusive word I’d find many more and so my vocabulary grew significantly.  Being a little smart ass I would try and find convoluted words and learn them so I could use them in a sentence. I always hoped to get one over on my mother so I could turn around to her and say ‘Look it up’. Alas, it never happened.

All joking aside when a child is learning it’s important to create a sense of fun, joy and achievement. There’s something about being independent and finding the answer for yourself. I find if you have to go and look something up, it sticks in your brain longer. You’ve put some effort in so you’re not going to forget so readily. I realise I’m probably quite old fashioned in that regard – largely due to the emotional /memory linked with my mother, books and reading in general. I wonder if children today will have such fond memories of ‘Google’.

Let’s not turn a deaf ear to the silence breakers

Let’s not turn a deaf ear to the silence breakers

eviemcrae

After the #MeToo campaign what’s next? We need to have an all-inclusive conversation that’s not just about who has the loudest voice or the highest profile. It has to be a cultural shift from the grassroots to the upper echelons and it has to happen now.  Cue the next hashtag?

It was around three years ago over casual afternoon drinks with my husband, my sister-in-law and her husband, I got as close as I’d ever got to admit I’d been sexually assaulted. As the conversation skirted around the subject, I bottled up what I really wanted to spill out, even though the first of these assaults happened over 30 years ago. Why after so long was I still keeping quiet? The honest answer. I don’t know. I suppose I still felt, as I had then, a level of shame or a feeling I caused them in some way.  So instead, I said it was my belief that the majority of women had experienced some form of sexual assault. I will never forget my brother-in-law’s look of surprise. “Seriously? You think MOST women have experienced sexual assault? That’s a big call,” he said with eyebrows raised. I nodded, aware the idea seemed a bit ‘out there’ – a bit of an exaggeration to him. After all, he was one of the decent men out there. Of course, it sounded a bit out there. My sister-in-law took a quiet sip of her wine.

It seems absurd to say I had goosebumps when the #metoo campaign hit social media, but I felt goosebumps along with a giddy excitement – something big was happening. The Harvey Weinsteins of the world were finally going to be brought to account. Even though I had remained silent, it was the vindication of something I had long since felt. A deep knowing that women around the world were dealing with sexually abusive behaviour (silently) every single day.

I knew it because I had experienced it myself.  I was nothing special. I wasn’t irresistible, I wasn’t a celebrity. I was just an ordinary girl, growing up in the 80s an ordinary town in the northern hemisphere – and yet the number of ‘unwanted’ experiences I’d had before I was even 20 seemed incredible. I couldn’t be the only one.

With all the dirty washing that’s being aired right now, I actually wonder if the men who sexually assaulted (or harassed) me over the years are quivering in their boots right now, wondering if I am about to ‘out’ them. Has it even registered with them that what they did was wrong and they put me in an uncomfortable position that made me question everything about myself? Do they see themselves as different to the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world?

Well, relax, I’m not going to out every single one of you, however, I am going to list just a few incidents so you can see what an ‘ordinary’ girl generally has to deal with growing up.  I had written about these events in great detail more as a cathartic exercise, but I’ve paired them down to provide a quick overview.

Age: 15 (still a minor)
Who: A Family Member
Situation: Lured/Tricked upstairs (he said the TV didn’t work). Held down. Unwanted sexual advances. I was terrified. I found an anger I didn’t know I had and managed to extricate myself from the situation.
Did I tell anyone? Only my best friend, and then my mother two years later

Age: 15 (still a minor)
Who: Cross Country Coach
Situation: ‘Tricked’ (encouraged) into running a longer alternative route. The coach stopped part way through and because I didn’t know the route I had to stop too. It was then I was pinned against a tree while his hands groped my whole body. He said, “You know what’s going on, you know you want it.” Shock gave way to anger and I pushed him off and ran back to the club to pick my stuff up and caught the bus home.
Did I tell anyone? No

Age 16
Who: Male gym teacher at school
Situation: There were 2 situations 1 day apart with the same gym teacher. Inappropriate/suggestive comments about ‘sexy bodies’ though he addressed these directly to me by name in front of gym class. The next day there was inappropriate touching (he used his finger to caress my hand in lunch queue). Seems innocuous but both incidents embarrassed me and were confusing because they were in public (made worse because he was one of the ‘hot’ gym teachers so who would believe me or feel I had suffered from the attention? I felt humiliated and confused.
Did I tell anyone? No

Late 20s
Who: would rather not say
Situation: Hard to define as the situation was complex. I had gone to a hypnotherapist to help with smoking cessation (which worked I’m pleased to say). While under hypnosis I divulged information about the incident. At the end of the session, the hypnotist suggested I get in touch with a Rape Counsellor. It was the first time I had heard that word in relation to what had happened. I still can’t openly discuss to this day.
Did I tell anyone? My (long-suffering) best friend. My husband 16 years after the event

In my 40s
Who: A visiting senior colleague
Situation: Social situation after work – normally a relaxed, safe and fun environment. However, on this occasion, a visiting senior member of staff persisted with unwanted lurid sexual talk. Even as I changed the subject he would change it back being more and more suggestive  After returning from the toilet I picked up my drink to go and sit elsewhere.  Shortly afterwards I felt ill. I had the awareness to leave the social situation completely when I realised people, noise and light seemed far off in the distance. I felt like I was in slow motion under water.  My significant other found me on a traffic island on the ground, totally disorientated in the middle of a busy highway. I cried and vomited on and off for hours. I was convinced my drink had been spiked and I wished I’d been able to go somewhere to be tested. That aside, the disgusting conversation was bad enough. Nothing ‘happened’ to me as such but I felt violated just the same.
Did I tell anyone? Not on an official basis. The whole team had been drinking so it was going to be too difficult to prove (a) I wasn’t just drunk/ill through alcohol (b) against a senior member of the company after the event

So there you have it. Moments in time that happened to an ordinary girl, living an ordinary life through the 80s, 90s and beyond. Those events happened on both sides of the world (the UK and Australia). You can see that sexual abuse or sexual assault, however, you coin it, hasn’t diminished in our so-called enlightened society. It doesn’t diminish with age, your looks or your weight.

You notice I don’t mention unwanted attention from guys in street – the wolf whistles walking past a building site to the ‘brave’ guys who hang out of car windows to shout something obscene. Whatever. I don’t class the latter as sexual ‘assault’ or harassment as such though it’s certainly embarrassing and unwanted.

As a woman your threshold to withstand these acts increase and to a point it all seems normal. We as women have normalised this behaviour to cope with it and then we do our best to shrug it off.

Even now, with all I have read and learned, I wonder, were all these incidents I experienced really ‘sexual assault’ or ‘just’ sexual harassment?  I know 100% none of these acts were invited or welcome – but ‘assault?’ – it’s such an aggressive word. And therein another problem.

You can see how completely different in nature each of those occurrences were. They affected me in wildly different ways, from covering up, to be being less ‘friendly’, being embarrassed and confused, to stopping going out on my own completely. You might think some of them are ‘nothing’ to get worked up about.  And perhaps that’s part of the issue too. We don’t really know what our red line is meant to be.

Take former INXS band member Kirk Pengilly’s comments about “loving the 60s and 70s when life was so simple and you could slap a woman the butt and it was taken as a compliment, not sexual harassment”. OK, so the boundaries have changed – things that were cool in the 60s and 70s are not cool now (if you really believe women didn’t mind back then) they’re not now.

Defining sexual assault and sexual harassment

Sexual Assault: According to the NSW Justice Department, sexual assault occurs when a person is forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts against their will or without their consent, or if a child or young person under 18 is exposed to sexual activities. (sexual acts being: forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape)

Sexual Harassment: (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

By those definitions the incidents I outlined above would be classed as sexual assault or sexual harassment. One thing in common with all of the incidents I’ve mentioned here is ‘power’. Each was in a position of power over me – whether it was someone I looked up to or was subordinate to in some way. Another thing in common being ‘consent’ – or lack of it. I was not enjoying or inviting this attention. It was being forced upon me regardless of my thoughts or wishes. The problem was, I was an outgoing, sociable type so when things began to happen to me I immediately blamed myself. I must be doing something to give men the wrong idea.  And now I know for sure I am not alone in these experiences.

So where are all the other ordinary, every day (silent) women? Are you reading this thinking ‘yes that all seems pretty familiar’? Have they been silently rejoicing for #metoo?

The aftermath of #metoo

So as we celebrate the voice the #metoo campaign gave to over a million women (myself included), it’s time to turn our attention to what comes next. While I’ve cheered my sisters on from the sidelines, admiring their bravery and to hell with the consequences, I do worry that this unique movement will suffer an ‘unforeseen’ setback to derail the amazing progress that’s been made or worse still just run out of steam like so many any other social media-driven campaigns. We can’t allow this movement to be derailed – so we need an action plan in the name of progress.  the hashtag ‘what next’ would be great – but it is so overused on Twitter. It still begs the question …

So what’s next?

  • extend the discussion around consent and what it means beyond sexual intercourse. The ‘cup of tea’ analogy is fantastic. Let’s build on that.
  • begin discussions at home about respect and equality. It starts at home and we as parents must take responsibility. It’s not just about teaching our boys that girls should be treated with respect, it’s about teaching each of our children that men and women are equal and should be treated with respect and kindness in equal measure. We have to show this in our own relationships with our significant other – children learn by example.
  • re-enforce that educational and cultural message in our schools. By coming down hard on incidents like ‘bra-pinging’ or ‘slut shaming’ and double standards between the sexes, children will soon learn that there is no room in a modern all-inclusive society for this sort of behaviour. School is also the place to re-enforce cultural expectations and eradicate sexist behaviour early on.
  • harness the potential of social media and the internet. I guess you could say let’s use its power for good not evil. The truly great thing about the internet/social media is the transparency it provides. It is possible for the many and the few to shine a light on wrongdoing, but it can also help educate and provide support, no matter who you are in society.
  • bring an end to society’s sycophantic sickness. This is probably one of the biggest afflictions in our society today. Until the likes of Trump, or the politicians, the A-List celebrity, or even Royalty are brought to account – we have a long way to go – on both sides of the #MeToo fence. Society needs to stop thinking celebrities, politicians and Royalty can do no wrong or that they are somehow untouchable. Trump’s rise to power has enraged women everywhere because of the way he has yielded his power. His ascent to the highest office despite those accusations has doubtless powered the #MeToo movement – in the US at least. So we need to go further and make sure no-one is above scrutiny.
  • find a way to define sexual assault and sexual harassment in the most simplistic terms so perpetrators can no longer hide behind blurred lines and victims know where they stand.
  • avoid a witch hunt. Let’s be careful here. Let’s not condemn every man/woman that looked at us in a way we don’t like. This will set awareness and education back in the dark ages and will stop the campaign/progress from being taken seriously. We want a fairer more open society, not a scared, paranoid society.
  • let’s not generalise. Sexual assault and harassment may be disproportionate with more men than women suffering, but men have reported sexual assault and same-sex sexual assault also exists. So let’s make sure #MeToo and #whatnext? are inclusive. Let’s talk about human beings and society rather than women versus men
  • stop with the excuses. Don’t tell me that men are now worried they can’t compliment a woman in case they get accused of sexual assault. There is a big difference, Unless you lack social awareness or emotional intelligence, you know the difference and you know there is a time and a place for your compliments. As mothers we must stop turning a blind eye to our children’s sexist behaviours – ‘boys will be boys’ is not helpful and at some point, boys have to be men. We must ensure our children do not grow up with a skewed sense of ‘entitlement’.  Remember Brock Turner?
  • build trust. The majority of women do not report assault (myself included) because they genuinely think ‘what’s the point?’ Some women are fearful of losing their own jobs, or not being believed. Alternatively, nothing will happen at all. Some women worry strangely enough, about the perpetrator losing their job or breaking up their family (particularly if they have been involved in a family setting). There are just too many variables about how any given situation could go. We need an open and transparent system that everyone can trust and framework for working together. We need to trust in what’s next.

eviemcraeAs 2017 comes to a close, I am sure there will be a million posts, hashtags and articles written on the subject of sexual abuse and sexual assault and this article will be consigned to the great computer ‘Trash’ icon in the sky. But before I sign off, indulge me for a moment longer. Just as the onset of the #MeToo campaign gave me goosebumps, so too did the latest front cover of Time magazine. Can you imagine the vindication I felt, even though I myself had never really been brave enough to break the silence? Can you imagine what that meant to a million of the silent?
So yes let’s celebrate the Silence Breakers but let’s not stop there. Let’s not turn a deaf ear to these voices when it all becomes old news. Because abuse never feels old.  Let’s be braver in those difficult conversations. Let’s not skirt around the subject and hide behind ‘other people’s experiences’ – because it’s happened to you. It’s happened to a woman you know. Let’s create real change and real social progress that’s inclusive, open and transparent. Let’s start now.

 

 

You want me to what my book? Market it? But I’m a writer…Help!

You want me to what my book? Market it? But I’m a writer…Help!

12644647_573459049472909_6388454191695536303_nSo your book is finally being published and you’re beside yourself with excitement. You’ve done it! You’ve achieved that lifelong dream! But guess what? That’s not the end of the hard work. Well – not unless you have secured a major publishing deal with one of the BIG FOUR.

Now you actually have to promote your book. I know it seems cruel to have to get your hands dirty in the murky world of marketing, but if you want anyone to read the fruits of your labour you’re going to have to spread the word.

Most people won’t have the budget necessary to engage a marketing or branding guru, so I’ll give you a few titbits of free advice about effective marketing tactics that may just help you boost your audience and help you create a buzz around your book.

FREE stuff you can do

My first piece of advice is what I tell all my clients, regardless of their product, business or service. If you don’t exist online – you don’t exist.

We live in a world where Google has become the background security check. If someone hears the name of a person, or a book or a company, generally the first thing they do is Google it to find out any available information. If they don’t find what they are looking for, they won’t search any further. You’ve already put your first barrier up to a possible sale and potential loyal customer.

Nowadays a simple WordPress site can provide an extremely professional shop front for your business. WordPress is a free and open source blogging tool and a content management system (CMS) and for the most part it’s excellent.  As far as I’m concerned this is a must have nowadays. When building an audience, your readers will want to know about you and the books you write and the website or WordPress platform is the ideal place for them to go. If you are not technically minded a WordPress site can seem rather daunting, but there are many simple themes and a plethora of teenagers out there only too willing to show off their skills. i won’t scare anyone by delving too deeply into this at the moment, but suffice to say I will cover this in greater detail in a subsequent post.

Social Media

As well as a website or WordPress platform you will need to ensure you are active on social media. Again, I only mention this because it’s FREE. My good friend and new author confessed she was a complete technophobe but she managed to navigate her way through the minor challenges and she was up and running with Twitter and Facebook in a matter of hours.  In the space of 24 hours she had over 100 Likes. Who knows where she’ll be in a few weeks when her book is out.

Brilliant. She exists as an author online now. But there’s more I can sneakily share with you – little learnings from the world of global product launching and brand building. If you are merrily posting on Facebook or Twitter, take a few moments to think about the quality of your posts. In the case of a a book launch it’s great to have little teasers from your book to give a flavour of what’s in store – but not too much. Apart from keeping some of your powder dry (and there may be some restrictions from your publisher), you have to remember how people read online. People scan, generally in an F shape and only small amounts. Indeed when I began to work more online on websites and social media I had to reverse all I had been taught about writing ‘the message’.

In addition to monitoring the length of post I would advise using Facebook and Twitter or whatever social interaction you use, to create what is affectionally known as, the  ‘Call to Action’. The Call to Action is very important in terms of selling or creating awareness. Think about what it is you actually want your reader to do? Just nod and move on? At that point you may have lost them. Perhaps you want them to buy your book? If this is the case, then add a link making it easy for the reader to find and buy your book. Normally a link to Amazon on your page will suffice. A good rule is to think about removing all possible barriers between you and the sale of your book. The more steps someone has to go to reach it, the more likely you are to lose them.

Depending on the genre of your book it may be useful to have a presence on Pinterest. Think about where your intended audience ‘meet’ online and go and pitch your stall there. For example, a community like Goodreads is a great place to get your book reviewed and exposed to potentially thousands of people. Be sure to research your target audience and then research where they discuss books such as yours.

Press Kits

I’ll write more about Press Kits in a later post but generally speaking here’s what you need to know. Press Kits are invaluable when your contacting people in the media for publicity or for sending out information in a hurry.  Your press kit may be requested by retailers, book bloggers, event planners, editors or anyone else who may be interested in you or your book. Include information as follows:

Author Bio and Contact Information

You should already have an author bio to hand. If not, start working on it now – published or not. You’ll need it for your blog or website, for guest posts or stories submitted to magazines. Your author bio should be about 200 words, and it should have things that make you sound interesting and professional. You should include your name, your place of birth or where you currently live, what you do (or used to do) for a living, what you’ve written, perhaps your education (if it’s relevant), quirky hobbies, or interesting travel experiences. Basically, anything that will make you stand out. If you’ve written non fiction, include something about what gives you the knowledge/credibility or experience to write the book.

Don’t forget to include your contact information, and your agent or other representatives if necessary.

A photograph

But not a cropped grainy shot with you in the background at your granny’s 80th birthday party. You should have hi-res (300 dpi) and lo-res (72 dpi) versions, 600 pixels wide at a minimum. Make sure that you provide horizontal options and vertical options, since different magazines and media have different layout preferences. Again, I won’t scare anyone by getting too technical here, but a well-lit digital photograph will do the job.

Press Release

A press release should focus on the unveiling of your new work. It should be brief and succinct; one page should do. Include information that is newsworthy about your book or about you as an author. If you have upcoming events, it might be a good idea to omit them from your press kit press release to keep the article timely a month or two down the road. There are a few tricks to writing a newsworthy press release over and above the release of your baby into the world. Drop me a line and I’ll share a few secrets.

Sample Author Q&A

Make a list of interview questions (and responses) about you and your book. This can include questions about your background, your inspiration for writing this book, your own favourite writers, future projects, etc. This section is particularly helpful for the interviewer and bloggers who want to help you promote your work, as it’s useful and ready content for them.

Specific Information on Your Book

So many books are published every week, every month, every year so you need to talk about what makes yours different. You can describe your book in terms of its unique features. Yes it’s special to you, but what makes it the ‘must read’ book for everyone else? Why did you write this book? Did you feel there was a gap in the market for this type of story? Does the book shed new light on a common issue? Is it a topic that a lot of people can easily relate to? As the author, do you have a unique background different from most other authors? You need to convince the person reading your press kit that your story is interesting enough for their audience.

  • Tip:Sometimes, when requesting your press kit, you may be asked to send in excerpts of your book as well. Ideally a few quotes or perhaps a sample chapter will do the trick. But remember, as I said before, to keep some of your powder dry.
  • You may also include things like:editorial reviews, testimonials, links to relevant media content like audio and video, any awards you’ve won, etc.

Remember, a press kit doesn’t have to be fancy

The people who are requesting it just want information that will help them. Keep it simple. If you’re putting one together for the first time, I’m sure you already have some of the materials needed. Start with the items you already have and then work on adding the others as you go along. You don’t want to create a press kit at the last minute because once something exists beyond your control it has a habit of popping up everywhere.

the above points are just a taste of what can be done to help promote your book. If you would like help in marketing your book, or would just like some further information, feel free to email me at info@eviemcrae.com or visit my other website create.eviemcrae.com