When novelist Charlotte Watson Sherman realized that she might not get to finish her book--her passion project--if she didn't reach out for help, she challenged her old-school mindset and--with the help of strangers--fell in love with writing all over again.
I'm old-school. Not only am I old-school, but I'm aged enough that I need to type this with a 24 pt. font on my laptop. And not only am I old-school with failing eyesight, I'm an unapologetic introvert. So why in the world would I try a Kickstarter campaign?
Kickstarter is an online funding arcade where creative types can post a project they need supporters to back, and then interested types donate the bucks. You can raise money for any type of project you can imagine--from a graphic novel or photography book to a cycling trip around the world that will result in a memoir/cookbook (a daughter's classmate's project).
A filmmaker friend suggested I just say no to the old-school publishing model, create my own NEA/Guggenheim-type fellowship for the research and focused writing time necessary for my fourth novel, and try Kickstarter.
I balked. I was clueless about social media. Was suspicious of the notion of Facebook "friends." I love hash browns--but hashtags?
I've published several books but wouldn't know how to reach a single reader if I now chose the independent publishing path and needed to alert those possible supporters . . .
I had to be taken by the hand and forced to sit in front of a computer. Now, my laptop would be one of the first things I grabbed if my tiny cottage caught fire; and I once worked as a computer lab librarian, so I'm no technophobe. Still, I hesitated.
Kickstarter is heavily reliant on social networking. I couldn't imagine faceless "friends" giving me even $1, let alone donating half the amount of an old-school fellowship. Plus, I probably only had thirty Facebook connections . . .
Then, my unemployment comp ran out. After three years, I still didn't have a job, had already sold my house for less than I'd paid for it like millions of other Americans, had exchanged my 215,000-mile dying car for one I could live in if necessary, and had watched my savings dwindle to zero. I figured now was as good a time as any to start that campaign.
Once I hit "Launch this Project," I immediately wanted to retract it. And I'm so glad I didn't.
By then, we were nearing the end of a closely-watched presidential election. And Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, NANOWRIMO began, my daughter and son-in-law purchased their starter home, and my project (I couldn't even utter the word campaign) was set to end on Thanksgiving.
No, I told an incredulous friend, I didn't check the calendar; I was too busy wondering how on earth I was going to move into that car.
I spent the first two weeks battling demons--personal ones and those of other creatives.
Are you crazy . . . No one is going to give you their hard-earned money . . . What right do you have to ask for what you need . . . Who do you think you are . . . ?
I'm someone who loves to laugh, though you'd never guess that from the books I've written. Abandoned children. Women with HIV. Incest survivors. Things most people don't like to think about.
SuperSoul Sunday's Caroline Myss explains it like this: "Some are called to go into rooms where there is no light."
My project, God's Long Bones, is a novel about a 2004 alleged lynching in Mississippi. That hot button topic of race relations. But I want to write a new story about race. Not one filled with down-and-out black people and hateful rednecks, but a story illuminated with images of survival, healing, and hope, with an ending we've never seen before.
Because I swallowed my fear and pressed that button, I've come into contact with painters and musicians, writers and singers, strangers of all colors, who feel deeply about many of the same things I feel deeply about.
And after being woman-handled by the old-school publishing world over the years, I have a new feeling about my writing future: excitement.
I have to complete this book, a newly-discovered artist's work awaits the cover, a soundtrack I didn't even know was possible needs to be recorded, a movie perhaps, could be made.
And whether I reach the fundraising goal or not--only 7 days left and a huge gap to fill--this experience was just the kickstart I needed.
5 tips if you want to try Kickstarter:
Just 7 days left. If you can help, please act now; anything you can give will be deeply appreciated:
If you want to try this too, Lenore Norrgard has launched her film project, American Ubuntu, and a $250 donation gets you a course on operating a successful Kickstarter campaign.