Featured: How to Write a Book

Dear Friends,

So excited! I was just interviewed for Lisa Tener's blog on How-to-Write-a-Book.com. Lisa Tener is an Award-Winning Book-Writing and Publishing Coach with an amazing following full of writers and industry insiders. In this Q&A session, I share details of my book writing adventure and give an inside look on how I began to create and finish a project I've held dear to my heart for so long. 

Follow this link to read all about it.

And while you are there check out the right-hand margin, where you can sign up for Lisa's Inspired Author Support Kit--it's free. In addition to Lisa's author interviews on that site, feel free to search Lisa Tener's Writing Blog where she promises to answer your book writing and publishing questions! I know there are more of you out there who want to write a business book, story book or other project. Lisa is an amazing resource as she was to me in the writing of my book. I did it. You can too!


Do you have a sibling? It is National Siblings Day!

Today is National Siblings Day and I have three amazing siblings. Mine are all sisters and I can honestly say, I love having sisters. I have often said, “I cannot imagine life without them.” Being the youngest, I also have three talkative, “tell me what to do” sisters. They cheered me on even as they protected me. They were also the source of much information as I was growing up, as they are older and know more (which they still believe to this day). Case in point…

When I was about 12, I was on an evening walk with my sister, Kathy. The vast full moon was just rising above the horizon and had this beautiful orange sheen. “Wow, Kathy, look at the moon. I’ve never seen it such a pretty color,” gushed my young self.

“Oh that? That’s just the smog making it that color,” enlightened my factual, someday-to-be-scientist sister. I have never beheld an orangey moon in the same manner since.
Or the time when I was a lazy senior in high school. My eminently more hard-working sister, Donna, became worried I might not pass my classes and graduate. She drew a picture of a clock with the hands approaching noon, an owl in the center in graduation cap and gown, with the words around the clock face… Time will pass. Will you? Fortunately, I did.

Now I have embarked on the adventure of publishing a book about our mother. When I finished the manuscript recently, I sent it to my sisters. You can see by their responses how different they are and in keeping with how they were when growing up. Kathy, positive but matter-of-fact. Donna, wonderfully over-the-top. (Sadly, Barbara has been ill and has yet to read it. She will soon.)

“Wow Pam! I didn’t expect to receive this until after you finished your current job. Best wishes. Love, Kathy.”

“Hi Pam, I stayed up until 5am this morning finishing your book. I really, really, really enjoyed reading your book. It had a flow to it and it was connected to your life at DreamWorks. You did such a good job!!!! There were some very special stories in it. I couldn't put it down and I stayed up most of the night reading it. How talented you are Pam!!! What a great writer you are!!! I'm so proud of you. Love, always, Donna.”

It is so wonderful having siblings that keep me both grounded and help me to soar above the clouds. We are there for each other through thick and thin, even though we have often been separated by thousands of miles. In my book, I thanked my mom for my sisters. They were her greatest gift. And as this day dawns, I will not let it pass without thanking each one of them for being the best sisters… ever!

Do you have a sibling story you might like to share? I’d love to hear it below in the comments.

 Here is a picture of us in England.  My three older sisters are in their boarding school uniforms.  Barbara is the tall one on the left. Donna and I are in the middle. Kathy is in the right.

Here is a picture of us in England.

My three older sisters are in their boarding school uniforms.

Barbara is the tall one on the left. Donna and I are in the middle. Kathy is in the right.

 Here we are in Holland in local costume--Barbara, Donna, Kathy and Pam

Here we are in Holland in local costume--Barbara, Donna, Kathy and Pam

Everyone has a story.

March 14 is the first National Write Your Story Day. According to the web, it is also Celebrate Scientists Day (my sister is a scientist, I will celebrate her for sure), Crowdfunding Day, Genius Day (oh definitely my day LOL), International Ask a Question Day (my every day, I’m a curious person), National Children's Craft Day, National Learn About Butterflies Day (who doesn’t like a butterfly?), National Pi Day (too bad it’s not “pie” day, that I would have enjoyed), National Potato Chip Day (I might lose some weight if I only celebrated these by eating them one day a year), National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day and the list goes on. We celebrate everything it seems. But this is one that I think deserves special attention and a special thanks to Mitzy for championing a story day. 

Our stories give insights into who we are, where we have been and what’s important to us. If you are having difficulty thinking of something interesting to report today, then start with your mom. I bet she was fascinating… in some wonderful and perhaps, not so wonderful ways. Tell a story about her, or one about you and your mom or about her and her mom. You know that I am all about Moms! (smile)

I am on a crusade to have everyone collect their family stories in short story form. They will weave together in a tapestry that tells your family history in a way that ancestry and family trees cannot. It is great to search where you are from and map it all out. But if you want to know more than the name and vital statistics, then you will want to whip out those phones and begin to film individual vignettes, short scenes. 

Why am I suggesting you film short video takes, one story at a time? Because bite-sizable pieces are almost always easier. You can do them on the fly, in the moment. As family members answer your questions or report about an event, you will capture the sparkle in their eyes, the sound of their voice, the tilt of their head, their laugh, their frown. So much more than can be seen in a photo or read in a letter. Over time, you will gather an oral and visual history that can be organized and handed down from generation to generation. A treasure chest.

Where to begin? Begin with questions or ask about an event that happened. Maybe you ask your grandmother what her mother was like, what a favorite day was with her mom, the day of her quinceañera, how she looked, felt, etc. Ask your grandfather to describe the day your dad was born, when he decided he was in love and how he proposed. Maybe you ask your Dad about a time when he was afraid, a day when he was truly happy, or his most fun remembrance of you as a child. You get the idea.

We are preparing a booklet that will be available for free to download from PamelaLNewton.com within the next two weeks. It will give you tips on how to begin building and cataloging a visual family history. Watch this space for an announcement.

On this first National Write Your Story Day, a day set aside to tell your story in written form, I challenge you to tell a story below… or go beyond, and film a story. Send it to us or post it. You may be amazed at what you find, and we will all be richer if you share it. Use the hashtag #WriteYourStoryDay to share what you've gathered with likeminded individuals around the world. 

It took me more than 20 years to tell my mom story in my book A Candle for My Mother. Please don’t wait as long to tell your stories and those of your family. Dive into the unknown. Adventure awaits!

Can food be an adventure?

It certainly was an adventure for my mother. Any of you who know me well, know I am not much of a cook. I buy most of my meals out and am super excited when I am invited to a friend’s house for a home-cooked dinner. Since I am no chef, I find I am in awe of parents or individuals/couples who prepare the majority of their meals at home. You might find though, if you look and think about it, that much of what you construct contains elements that have been prepared (in some big or small ways). Perhaps that is why I am totally amazed at what my mom was able to accomplish cooking overseas in Iraq.

There were almost no accessible restaurants. One could only go to the company club to dine every so often (too expensive and repetitive). Nor were there grocery stores like we have today -- fully stocked with a wide variety of choices. There were many things that were simply not available at all. One either made those things, or one did without.

Imagine arranging a kids back-yard picnic party when you have no mayonnaise, pickle relish, hot dog or hamburger buns. You had to make all those. Plus, slice and cook the potato chips from scratch. Use an old-fashioned meat grinder to grind the chunks of beef by hand for hamburgers (one heck of a job, mom noted), and then open a can of something imported from Denmark that could pass for hot dogs. She made the potato salad by hand using the above mentioned made-from scratch mayonnaise and was delighted that she could buy baked beans in a can. The British love their baked beans.

She improvised a sort of pizza from a local flat bread called chapatis (sort of like pita bread only much larger), split open with tomato sauce, and cheese on top. The sugar was so course, it had to be rolled and pounded for your cakes and cookies to turn out right. The flour had to be sifted through a nylon to remove weevils. Fixing food for a family of seven was a full-time job even with the help of a houseboy.

This is one of the few recipes that Mom detailed in her stories…

“We were all trying to cook a roast, which was impossible. I have a recipe here from one of my friends, Verna, an older American woman who had been in the Middle East much longer than me. Verna’s recipe reads, ‘Put hunk of beef in large bowl to soak in this combination: ½ cup of vinegar, ½ cup of water, 1 large onion sliced, two bay leaves, three whole cloves, 2 teaspoons salt, pepper to taste. Cover and set aside from 24 hours to three days, turning at intervals.’ (And you’d better believe it better be three days or more to tenderize that hunk of beef.) ‘Brown beef and add vinegar mixture. Cook slowly for three hours or more.’ It was definitely more.”

Mom said the gravy from this was awful, the meat was not that tender and didn’t taste anything like a roast you could make in the States. “Hardly worth the effort,” she’d sigh.

Our favorite treat was ice cream. Our parents made it from scratch using canned cream (when it was available) and local fruit. The mixture had to be hand cranked for several hours surrounded by salt and ice. At least, it felt like hours to my young arms. We all took turns cranking the handle. When it was done, it was just about the best thing we ever tasted. We only had ice cream a couple of times a year which made it extra special. To this day, it remains a favorite treat amongst all us girls.

Even with all these difficulties, Mom wrote… “I didn’t think about the hardships, I just thought, this was all a great adventure.” I have a different take… to me the adventure is which restaurant I am going to try, what prepared food am I going to buy. I must say I feel so grateful for our modern conveniences and the easy availability of food. I spend little time thinking about it and experience great joy in consuming it.

I’d love to hear your food challenges, food favorites, memories growing up or things that are happening today. Please share your stories below.

Bon appétit, my dear friends and fun students! Pam. 

The Far-Reaching Effects of a Mother’s Love

A mother’s legacy of love and caring is so far reaching. It was brought home to me in a way I hadn’t realized until I was sick several weeks ago. I was quite ill from the flu that is going around, yet I still had to teach as there are no substitutes at my school. After coughing all night and talking all day, I lost my voice. Horrors! I came home that weekend one sick puppy, distressed over how I would be able to teach the next week. I was writing notes to my roommates, friends and church mates hoping to rest my voice enough where I could resume teaching on Tuesday.

Sunday, my friends, Tricia and Pete, followed me home from church to pick-up my crock pot. At 4:00, Tricia called to tell me her mother’s chicken soup was done and if I ate it for three days, it would make me well. Then one of my roommates, Dave, came home, collected a bunch of lemons from the tree in the garden (yes, we have lemons on our trees in December in California), and started making his mom’s fabled lemon-honey cure-all drink. It took a couple of hours of diligent effort in the kitchen. Wow.  Before bed, he presented me with a piping hot mug of his mom’s concoction guaranteed to fix what ailed me. Then came the text from my best friend with her Mom’s remedy of a hot shower, lots of blankets to sweat-it-out-from-your-body-in-your-sleep advice.

Each was accompanied by stories about how their moms cared for them when ill and here they were, not consciously aware, that they were doing the same thing with me. I felt very loved in that moment. But beyond that, it dawned on me, a mother’s love goes far beyond her own children. The love and caring she shares with us is the example by which we love and care for others.

I don’t know if it was the soup I ate, the secret honey-lemon drink, or the nights spent sweating under a stack of blankets that fixed me. But I do believe the love I felt, the care I received, made a difference. I wasn’t cured in a weekend, but I was able to teach the next week, scraggly voice and all. I made it through, understanding that we learn to care for others through our mothers’ recipes for healing. It is a legacy that we bring forward with our own family, friends and those in need.

It would be such fun to share our mother’s cure-all recipes, don’t you think? Were there foods and drinks she only made when you were sick? Did she rub your chest with Vicks Vapor Rub? Did she read to you or play games? How did your Mom care for you when you were ill or having a bad day? Please tell your stories below. I can’t wait to read them. 

Best, Pam.

A Look Behind The Marketing Curtain - #3

In writing this story about my mom, I realized it is truly a story about every mom. Everyone has that initial relationship with a mother whether it is good or bad, born or adopted. Mother is a universal language, a universal feeling. The ideal is warm and fuzzy, cookies and milk, tucked in and cared for. The reality is something more layered and nuanced with heartache, complications, and hopefully joy and love.

What if we could document this experience? And share our love, pain, triumph, and healing with each other? People crave connection and our stories are what connect us. We see this illustrated in the success of websites like Humans of New York. When we were cavemen and cavewomen, we sat around the campfire telling stories. We still desire that connection to each other today through our universal journey of life.

If you look around at some of the biggest brands, you will notice that they are often amazing storytellers. I quote Seth Godin (a marketing legend) often in my teaching, and he describes marketing as “the art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and then spreads.”
So how do we tell a story about mothers that will spread? We decided to put together a list of questions about mothers and invite people to answer selected questions on camera. Some of the participants were actors, but who were telling their personal stories. Some were students at the school and some were invited from our circle of friends. We procured a director and film crew, interviewers, a step and repeat as a backdrop, loads of volunteers to help it all run smoothly, and of course, craft services (food for the team working the shoot). Some pictures from the shoot are attached.

We filmed at The Los Angeles Film School (thank you, LA Film!). We had release forms, sign in sheets, and even directional bathroom signs. The director, camera man, and lighting were there to set-up early, so filming could begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. We had a waiting room and on-deck locations for the people to prepare. We had pre-interviews where an interviewer went through the questions the individual picked, and then discussed what it was going to be like in the filming room. It was a beautiful experience for people to share their stories with us on camera of their love and heartbreak for their mothers and mother figures. There was laughter and there were many, many tears. People were incredibly gracious and authentic in expressing their emotional stories. The logistics of the shoot were flawless. It was a day we will all remember.

So, what are we going to do with all this story telling film footage? It will be edited into short video pieces to use across social media and start a “Mom Story” dialogue. As this project is a book, my job, as its author, is to bring this story to life. As marketers, our job is to spread the word, create the excitement that will ultimately lead to a desire to purchase this book. In marketing circles, we call this the AIDA principal (Attention - Interest - Desire - Action). We are accomplishing this by telling our mom stories, both mine and the rest of our fans who choose to join us “around the campfire”. Only now our campfire’s soft glow is generated by our mobile phones, tablets and computers. This is where we gather today, and Stacey, me and the rest of the book team hope you will join us.

What stories have you told when launching your projects? How do you create connection in your community? Let’s share some ideas around the campfire below as we bring our projects to life.

Best, Pam, Author, and Stacey, Project Master. 

A Look Behind The Marketing Curtain - When Should Marketing Begin?

I just finished teaching my last Entertainment Marketing class of 2017. One of the things we spent a fair amount of time discussing this month was… How early should marketing begin? I believe we can take a clue from the big guys, the studios and the record labels. In my nineteen years at Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation, we found two years or more ideal, 18 months workable and one year doable, but a flat-out race. Studios and Labels begin marketing while the project is still being created, filmed and edited. They don’t wait until it is ready to launch. So, you can imagine my disappointment when a student brings in their completed album and asks to brainstorm some marketing ideas, and I must break the bad news. It is never hopeless, but it certainly limits what can be done.

In today’s world, there are essentially three phases (1) designing a living breathing nimble marketing plan that is written down, and collecting assets while creating your project (2) building your community and building Buzz (3) heavy marketing activity 6 to 8 weeks around the launch of your project. Building your community and building buzz have become even more important in today’s world. It is the authentic connection that fans and customers alike are looking for. What has worked in the past is not working as well today so we need to be constantly looking for and testing new ideas and new ways to connect.

The book marketing started late. We began only 14 months out building our team and capturing ideas in the marketing plan. It feels crazy busy and compressed, like there is not enough time and/or resources to do all the things we want to do. Never-the-less, I am constantly adding extra pages to the plan, sometimes it is just an idea at the top of a page to be developed more fully later. These ideas often come from things I read (I read a lot), from discussions with my students, or members of the team. It includes things like the filming we did last weekend that will be edited into shorts to use across social media and encourage a “Mom Story” dialogue.

As my project is a book, engaging with reviewers, bloggers and book clubs are vital. There is a huge travel element to the story so that opens another door. It is about one of the most influential people in our lives, Mom. That is another door. It is about connecting to where we came from, and genealogy is the second most popular hobby (behind gardening). That opens another door for partnerships, press and promotion. We are connecting the launch to a huge event, Mother’s Day. Again, another door.

The more you understand your project and dig deep for its value, the more unique marketing ideas you will find. Seth Godin, a marketing genius I use in my teaching, talks about being remarkable... as in “worth making a remark about”. In today’s world it is about what makes your project unique, astonishing, surprising, and any number of other adjectives, that sets the course for success.

Start marketing early. Time is your friend.            
What fun ideas have you tried when launching your projects? Do you have advice that has worked well? Let’s share some below so we can all help each other on our respective journeys to bring our projects to life. I think 2018 is going to be the most amazing year.