Good People, Cool Things
Good People, Cool Things

Episode 92 · 1 year ago

92: Book Writing, Organization, and Cinnamon Rolls with Allyson Chapa


Allyson Chapa, author of The Marching Ant, gives us a real efficient how-to of putting a book out into the world. We're starting with writing it, telling stories, and exploring cover design, marketing and editing resources, and what all comes next now that the book is here. 

Plus, we dive into delicious quarantine hobbies, why the writing community is so wonderful, and drop effective tips for staying organized. Ain't nothing better than that!

Good people cool things as a podcast feature and conversations with entrepreneurs, writers, musicians and other creatives. Get inspired by their stories to do your own cool thing, and here's your host, Joey held. Allow, allow, allow, and welcome to good people cool things. Today's guest is Alice and CHOPPA, a former CO worker of mine. We go way back and, just like me, she's a recent author. In fact, today, the day we are recording this episode, is her debut novel drops the marching and a female focus story that takes an intimate look at the reality of overcoming life's hardest obstacles. It's a novel inspired by true events, and those are always, I think those are always the best kind of novels. There's so much going on in this episode. Alison drop in knowledge left and right. She's talking about her writing process, how a cover gets designed, all of the marketing that goes into a book, why it's important to have an editor, a design team and a whole team around you really for building a book and taking it from the written page, whether you're writing with pain and Pencil and paper, which is very impressive if you're doing that, or if you're typing. It just all kinds of other parts besides the writing itself that go into putting a book together and getting it out into the world all and I'm so proud and happy for Alison that her book is out in the world. That's super cool, literally touching a copy right now here on the table as we're talking about it. So there's lots of goodies in here. If you have any kind of inkling of writing a book, you definitely want to tune into this one. We're also covering a lot of other stuff as well. So even if you're like writing a book, not for me, definitely want to tune into everything here. If you like to get in touch with good people cool things, you can reach out via facebook, twitter or Instagram at GPCT podcast. Can also always send an email joey at good people cool thingscom and, of course I always appreciate any support for the show, whether it's through the good people, cool things merch shop, which you can get to on the website, or you can support the show by dropping a five star review on tools like apple podcast, pod chase or Stitcher, anywhere you can leave reviews. There are some places where you can, but anyone's that have reviews or ratings. Feel free to drop in, hopefully a five star one, because you're like hey, this is good stuff and I want other people to hear it. Or just tell a friend say hey, I've got a podcat. I don't know why you're starting everything with hey, but that's life now. It's like a horse and while we're all munching on hey, let's lean back and relax and listen to this conversation with Alison. For people who don't know who you are, can you give us your elevator pitch, but can you also tell us the type of elevator that we're riding on? Oho? So the elevator would have to be probably in a glass elevator at the embassy suites.

I love going up those elevators and seeing everything below me and just people watching in an elevator super fun. So that would be the kind of elevator. And who is Alison Chop up? HMM. So, project manager by day. I work at a Tech Company and by night I'm a dreamer. I'M A, you know, author. And really about me is my upbringing. I was really influenced by my grandmother. She grew up picking cotton and really grew up in an abuse of home. Her father emotionally abused her, sexually abused her, physically abused her. So, despite spending all of her time picking cotton and growing up in this terrible home, she also wasn't allowed to go to school, so she never learned how to read, her write and growing up seeing her overcome so many obstacles. It wasn't until the seventh grade where I had a teacher really have a focus on what we want our careers to be. Like any seventh grader does, they plan their future and the teacher had mentioned being a bus driver and all of the students laughed and I was so enraged, not because the students laughed, that was expected, but really what enraged me was that the teacher didn't take the opportunity to educate the class on if you're going to be a bus driver, be the best bus driver that you can be. If you're going to be a janitor, be the best janitor that you can be, and seeing my grandmother as a janitor, I thought that it was a really big missed opportunity for that teacher. So I make it a mission in my life to not only work hard, seeing how hard my grandmother worked, but also to kind of break the stereotypes that so many people have with, you know, education, being dyslexick, not being able to read a write, and also the kinds of jobs that people have. So I grew up in Austin, Texas and, you know, little by little, I'm hoping to educate people on, you know, taking a moment to walk in someone else's shoes and really just be grateful for the education that we have, in the opportunities that we have, and because my grandmother was so able to persevere and show, you know, not only her kids but also her grandkids, that you can achieve so much with a good attitude and hard work. Love it, love it and and as of today, this recording, you are now a published author. How Insane? How would sand is that? I'm so excited. This has been such a beautiful journey and for people that are on the cusp of wanting to write a book, just do it, just sit down and do it and make it happen, because in the end it is so worth it and I would do it a hundred times again. Lovely. So Tak us that we're talking about this beforehand. Bite for people who we're not listening to our conversation because it wasn't being recorded. I hope what was your reaction when you first got this, because I've got, like I'm going through the pages M Some Asim Hell, yeah, moment, I mean too. Like I said, I'm a dreamer, I'm a visionary, and so to see what I had envisioned...

...come to life and be in my hands was just such a moment of relief, but also just pure excitement, not just for me but for the legacy of my grandma as well. So it felt really fantastic. I did you know this was always something that you wanted to write? Like how did you go from that moment of it being in your head to like, I want to get this down? You know, it's so crazy. I was always a storyteller as a kid and in elementary school we had these classes called quest which was for like talented kids in creative thinking, and any time I wanted something with my parents, for example, I wanted a dog named spot, I would write a story to my mom to get her to buy me a dog like this is why I need a dog, because I'm going to take care of it and feed it and I will be great the end. So I was always telling stories. But when I I didn't make it into quest and I wasn't, you know, labeled as creative. I think it shut me down a little bit. So that dream had always been there, like Oh, I want to tell stories, I want to write stories. But then I guess society or whatever their parameters were for creative thinkers at eight years old, that I didn't qualify for. So I think as I started reading more in my college years and Post College, I started realizing that, you know what, I want to make this story happen and I want to put my biggest inspiration on paper and if it inspires one or two other people, that's all I can ask for. You said for people that want to write a book to just do it. Look it's a piece of cake. How how did you balance writing this with a full time job, because I think a lot of people that do want to write a book are like, you know, I'm working all day. Maybe I wake up I have six kids running around. I don't know why I picked six. They've gotten a lot of kids. Amount of kids. I'm one of. For so my parents always said for no more. So if you got six. Did they have rhymes for each number? Yeah, five, and still alive my own. I'm from a big Mexican family. You can't blame me. We've got lots of Cutry, not me. Yeah, exactly. So I would say how I really set a goal. So, like I said, in my day to day job I'm a project manager, so it was easy for me to say, okay, I want to do ten pages a week. How hard could it be to do ten pages a week? Man, those first three weeks were brutal. It took me so long to get my first ten pages. But once I was able to create a like a rhythm and a routine for like what was working, I knew that I needed to be in a quiet place, I had a soundtrack that I listened to and I knew I just needed to do ten pages. And so, you know, the first fifty pages were brutal. I thought I was never going to finish, and then I got to seventy five pages and I thought Shit, I've got so much more to go. But then once I hit a hundred pages, I started to kind of catch my stride. Of Okay, this is the routine. I know it takes me two and a half hours to write ten pages and even if I didn't love those ten pages, I would keep going and...

...pushing through. So that was the starting point for me. Or started in March of two thousand and twenty and I finished in December of two thousand and twenty. So you could call this my covid project, if you will. But yeah, I started with ten pages a week and really, whether I loved it or hated it, I had to keep just pushing through the next ten pages and that was really my process love it. What was the soundtrack? Yeah, so the soundtrack was really focused on songs that evoked the emotion that, you know, I felt I was writing this book. Is it has a dark place and it comes from a lot of trauma and abuse, and so I'm a naturally pretty happy person, and so to be in that place I had to, you know, use tools and music. So I'd say my top three songs were silence by marshmallow, I'd say, ahead of myself, by ex ambassadors, and I'd say go on, thieboutio by Andrea Bocelli, nice solt this it's a good Max. Yeah, it's all. I'm all over the place, but those helped kind of evoke the emotions that I was trying to hone in on as I was writing play. And so after the writing, which I think a lot of authors, I know I've quoted this before and I think I make up the percentage every time, but it's like writing a book is ten percent writing, ninety percent marketing and things like that. So once you wrote the book, You said that you you weren't sure if you were going to publish it, if you were going to do anything with it. So what changed in December of two thousand and twenty? Finishing the book was so anti climatic. I just sat in my, you know, living room and I said it's done, okay, great, and it felt so unfinished to me. And so I knew that I wanted this to stay a passion project. I knew that I wanted this to be fun for me and it's very personal story to me. So I wanted to kind of maintain that creative control. And so I started poking around the Internet and learning on sites like reads and reading other authors first time experience and comparing traditional publishing to, you know, indie publishing, and I thought, Hey, what do I have to lose? You know, this is my own story and I have a vision and I want to make it work and honestly, putting this book together and seeing it come to life was so fun. It beats the writing experienced times of million. Working with, you know, brilliant minds like editors and designers and for matters is just one of the coolest experiences. Yeah, I'm very thankful for book for matters and designers, because me trying to do a cover would just be like a stick figure with a balloon. Maybe I knew what I wanted, though I couldn't have put that into words, but I knew the emotion that I wanted to feel from it. I wanted it to feel softer, I wanted it to feel feminine and also conveying, you know, a little bit of my grandmother, but also a little bit of me as well. Awesome. Yeah, I think it's a very evocative cover of that. And was this the is great for an audio podcast, but we'll put up the cover in the show notes. But...

...was this, was this round one of the covers, or did you have kind of different iterations that you went through? Yeah, so I did it a contest on ninety nine designs, which I thought, what do I have to lose? It's affordable and I get a bunch of mockups from a bunch of people, because designers, you know, they do great work and they can be expensive. I thought this contest was a great starting point. I didn't think I would fall in love with something. And I had a submission and the design was actually like a burnt orange color and I had asked, okay, Yep, hooks and I had asked for it to be a blue and then once, once she changed that blue color, I was sold. So it was a very straightforward process and I fell in love right away. I see, I think it's it's so cool to think of something in your head and you're like, I'm not sure I could put this into words, and then when you see it and you're like, Oh, yes, that's it, absolutely. It's super cool. That's a will. So you've been, will say, done, quote unquote, with the book for close to a year. But again, there's all that other element that goes into it, the editing, design work, formatting and all that, as well as the marketing side of things. So how have you been promoting your book? Yes, so I reached out to some influencers. I've also reached out to reviewers from publications like blue ink and book life to get, you know, trade publication reviews as well, and that's really been the primary starting point, as well as social media advertisements. So those are really the sweet spots. And then, I know once this first quarter of you know sales comes through, my big focus is going to be on submitting for awards and focusing on more, more pr but I really wanted to get like a pulse check on how the book was being perceived by an audience before, you know, to if I needed to make tweaks, before, you know, investing more money. And so so far I've been really pleased with the way it's being perceived and it really aligns with how I wanted the book to be envisioned as well. So I think after this next quarter I'll start investing in awards as well as book tours. Do have an awards speech planned already here. Would that come from? I guess you don't really give speeches as much and a lot of these awards, but you could. Yeah, I talk a lot of work, so I feel like I'll just wing it and it'll be great. Hopefully. Has Everyone at work? I do they all know that you're an author, or is this a work secret? You know, it's not a work secret anymore. You know I spent a lot of time on it and it was a passion project for me. So it was fun to kind of share a little bit about me and my story with work, but I try to keep the two separated as much as I can. So it's always a good call, for sure. And have you been practicing? This is something I learned. I book signings, because you've got yours by the time this air is it will be after this, but as we're recording, you've got your coming up this weekend. Have you practiced the signature? Do you have it down? I've got it down. I feel good. I feel good. You've got a supply of pens? Yes, extra pay yes, that's it. It's it's a basic again. It's one of the things you don't...

...think of. It's like, I should maybe have a piece of paper so doesn't bleed through. That was the the trick I learned. It's great. That's a good tip. I'll have to keep that in mind. So we're here for we're not here to ruin. Ruin other pages as you can, and you've got to decide where to where to sign on to. Yeah, I haven't thought that far ahead. How do it differently for everyone has come to me. I hope do it over the text to make it very difficult for people to read a page. Could live it up all kinds of things. Yes, and one of the questions that I like to ask, because I say that it's less work for me to do because I'm asking you to ask to give me a question that you wish you were asked more frequently, and for you it's how you can better serve the community. So how can we do it? Yeah, there's so many times people ask me questions like why are you so busy, or, you know, how do you do all the things you do? And one of the things that, like you mentioned, how can I better serve the community is just find an organization that you're passionate about. I think so many times we are focused on ourselves that we forget about the power of giving back and I think especially with with covid it's been really self focused and really looking in to protect yourself, your family and your health. There's just so many opportunities to keep giving back. So one of the organizations I always love sharing about is make a wish. It's changed my life and if you're looking for a great organization to give back, to make a wish central Texas is phenomenal and I'd love to share more about that. Yeah, let's let's. Do you have more right now to share? You got? Yeah, sure, I think. For it's one of those organizations where, like I said, it's changed my life, but it's the opportunity to really give you perspective of somebody who's going I mentioned earlier, what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes and I think make a wish does that for me. It really gives me the perspective of you know, I had a really hard day at work and the project didn't hit the schedule I wanted it to hit. Going from that mindset and having a tough day and being pouty about my life to interviewing a twelve year old to struggling with cancer, there's nothing like that. And does it impact me? Yes, but at the end of the day, seeing that smile on their face when their wish comes true makes everything worthwhile and it's it's such a great shift in perspective from my day was bad, my day was hard, to how can I make someone else's day better? How can someone else who's struggling really feel loved and cared for? And also how can their parents feel supported and cared for when, when you're a sick kid, those parents, their primary focus is that child and there's so many times in that community where they just feel so isolated and so alone. And the more parents that I talked to through the make a wish foundation, the more I realize like, you're not alone, there's a community of parents who are struggling just like you, and to be able to instill that hope and see those parents fill up with with peace is just something that is unexplainable and I would just recommend it to anybody.

If there's something you're passionate about, pursue it, because there are people who could use your positivity in the world. Yeah, and I think when you are passionate about something, it exudes from you and that like radiates outwards and more people see that. Oh, that's so cool. Absolutely, it's great to say. Now, you mentioned at the beginning that you you kind of called this book your your covid project. Yeah, have you developed other quarantine hobbies over the past year and a half? I make the best cinnamon rolls ever. I should have brought you some, I think. Yeah, I think you should have. I make some great cinnamon rolls. I baked plenty of banana bread and you know, I'd say baking is in your back pocket now. I definitely love that. Is there anything you haven't baked that you're like, I need to it's on the list. I haven't so I've baked a ton. I haven't found a great strawberry cupcake recipe, though, so that's one that I'm really trying to nail down. So if you've got one, let me know, but that's a tough one for me and I do love a good strawberry cupcake. So that's when I'm really trying to to nail yeah, baking recipe is not my forte I cooking. I can give you some good some good stuff. I like the more experimental side of cooking because you know, if you're baking and you accidentally put a little too much sugar in, that can ruin everything, whereas with cooking, Hey, I accidentally, you know, through like a gallon of Paprica and instead of a teaspoon, I mean that would probably run it, but you know, you can, you can. It's like it's more jazz. I W jazz. Yeah, I'm paired day, non jazz. I don't know what's compared to pop, where it's very, very like direct and Staccato of baking, and that's music compared to food. Perfect, perfect job, perfect job by me all around. After this book, Do you have a second book in you or what's next for you? I really want to focus on two thousand and twenty two, doing the book tours, doing some marketing and figuring out what that process is like before I move on to the next. So I'm going to sit with this let it bake for a little bit longer. As my husband says, it's a marathon, not a sprint, and I do like to sprint from project to project, but for this one I want to let it simmer for a little while. Yeah, I think it's good. It's going on with the food theme to say sorry, I know I like that. I like that. Let's see how many more you can drop it throughout the rest of the episode. All has to be food respace. Goodness, I shouldn't. We should have been recorded us before dinner. Now I'm just thinking of all the great food. Dur Al must off the hook, but we always like to wrap up with a top three and you, being Queen of Organization, can we can we give you the title? I do have a crown, yes, ground to the recording and are currently wearing it. And you are very a very organized person. I know even when we were working together, I was like, Alison is always got great organization. Meanwhile Shelly and I are in like a cesspool of just papers and smoking a cigarette. Papers everywhere. Yeah, we're not. I don't even smoke, but the somehow there was a cigarette. Just happen at yeah, yeah, I know,...

...there's like wine on the floor. We weren't drinking wine, it was just there, just permanently on the ground. It was great time. You were always very organized. So what are your top three organizational tips for the slobs like me out there? I Love Organization. I'd say my first tip is to slow down. It's so easy to just get on a roll and forget to take that extra step and file a way that that email that keeps you organized. The second step, I would say, is to be consistent. If you have a really great Monday, keep it up on Tuesday and Wednesday all the way through Friday and that'll help. And then the third tip would be to use your tools. My brother hates hanging out with me for more than an hour and a half because I'm always, like Serio said, a reminder to you. Like I also use a sauna like nobody's business. So I just use tools as much as I can to keep things top of mine. So slow down, be consistent and use your tools and you'll be organized. Might need you to give me some Assuna tips because we use it and I am not a power user. I try to set a serial reminder to remind you to use this. I sery. I just recently learned that Alexa, you can ask her to make a fart noise and then she'll do it and give you what kind of Fart it was. So it's like that was like a long, wet one, or like that was a short, quick one, and someone had to someone had to program that, and then the other I'm not paid to program that. I know how would say this. It's so I love asking them to tell a joke at that, like a serious tell me a joke and I'm she's not going off right now. But then after Alexa did a couple farts, she's like, Oh, do you want more? Because you can buy packs of farts that get added and I was just like, who is paying money for this? Like it's a fun little gag for like a minute and that's wow, like who's spending money on a dragon far it, which I believe it is. Sometimes I wonder about my career choice decisions. But write a book or creative Fart. There's still time, there's still said, there's there's lots of things that are still on the horizon. So maybe the next book will just be types of arts by Alice and CHOPPA. Can't wait. Well, if people want to learn more about you or check out a copy of the book, yeah, where can they find you, Alison Choppacom? I've got tons of information there. You can see all my social media as well as places to buy the book. Love it well, also, like you so much for hopping on the podcast. Thank you for having me, lovely and share. As we've starters got our brute. I love that Asmr. We get a drink to get that. Can't do it. Glouglud Lug. Very delightful. So we'll end with our corny joke, as we always do. You know, as a writer I love deadlines. I really like the sound they make when they go whooshing by good after today people. Good people cool things is produced in Austin, Texas. If you were a fan of this episode, go ahead and hit that follow button. That helps more people here the show. You can...

...send me a message Joey, at good people, cool thingscom. Thank you to all of the guests who have been on good people cool things and check out all the old episodes via good people, cool thingscom. As always, thank you for listening and have a wonderful day.

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