Good People, Cool Things
Good People, Cool Things

Episode 92 · 2 months ago

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 podcastfeature and conversations with entrepreneurs, writers, musicians and other creatives. Get inspiredby 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, isher debut novel drops the marching and a female focus story that takes an intimatelook at the reality of overcoming life's hardest obstacles. It's a novel inspired bytrue events, and those are always, I think those are always the bestkind of novels. There's so much going on in this episode. Alison dropin knowledge left and right. She's talking about her writing process, how acover gets designed, all of the marketing that goes into a book, whyit's important to have an editor, a design team and a whole team aroundyou really for building a book and taking it from the written page, whetheryou're writing with pain and Pencil and paper, which is very impressive if you're doingthat, or if you're typing. It just all kinds of other partsbesides the writing itself that go into putting a book together and getting it outinto the world all and I'm so proud and happy for Alison that her bookis out in the world. That's super cool, literally touching a copy rightnow here on the table as we're talking about it. So there's lots ofgoodies 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 lotof 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 liketo get in touch with good people cool things, you can reach out viafacebook, twitter or Instagram at GPCT podcast. Can also always send an email joeyat good people cool thingscom and, of course I always appreciate any supportfor 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 theshow by dropping a five star review on tools like apple podcast, pod chaseor 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 goodstuff and I want other people to hear it. Or just tell a friendsay hey, I've got a podcat. I don't know why you're starting everythingwith hey, but that's life now. It's like a horse and while we'reall munching on hey, let's lean back and relax and listen to this conversationwith Alison. For people who don't know who you are, can you giveus your elevator pitch, but can you also tell us the type of elevatorthat we're riding on? Oho? So the elevator would have to be probablyin a glass elevator at the embassy suites.

I love going up those elevators andseeing 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 TechCompany 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 ofhome. Her father emotionally abused her, sexually abused her, physically abused her. So, despite spending all of her time picking cotton and growing up inthis terrible home, she also wasn't allowed to go to school, so shenever learned how to read, her write and growing up seeing her overcome somany obstacles. It wasn't until the seventh grade where I had a teacher reallyhave a focus on what we want our careers to be. Like any seventhgrader does, they plan their future and the teacher had mentioned being a busdriver and all of the students laughed and I was so enraged, not becausethe students laughed, that was expected, but really what enraged me was thatthe teacher didn't take the opportunity to educate the class on if you're going tobe 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 canbe, and seeing my grandmother as a janitor, I thought that it wasa really big missed opportunity for that teacher. So I make it a mission inmy 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 grewup in Austin, Texas and, you know, little by little, I'mhoping to educate people on, you know, taking a moment to walk in someoneelse'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 topersevere 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, youare now a published author. How Insane? How would sand is that? I'mso excited. This has been such a beautiful journey and for people thatare 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 endit 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 peoplewho we're not listening to our conversation because it wasn't being recorded. I hopewhat was your reaction when you first got this, because I've got, likeI'm going through the pages M Some Asim Hell, yeah, moment, Imean 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 myhands was just such a moment of relief, but also just pure excitement, notjust for me but for the legacy of my grandma as well. Soit felt really fantastic. I did you know this was always something that youwanted to write? Like how did you go from that moment of it beingin 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 inelementary school we had these classes called quest which was for like talented kids increative thinking, and any time I wanted something with my parents, for example, I wanted a dog named spot, I would write a story to mymom to get her to buy me a dog like this is why I needa dog, because I'm going to take care of it and feed it andI will be great the end. So I was always telling stories. Butwhen 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. Sothat dream had always been there, like Oh, I want to tell stories, I want to write stories. But then I guess society or whatever theirparameters 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 PostCollege, I started realizing that, you know what, I want to makethis story happen and I want to put my biggest inspiration on paper and ifit 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 witha full time job, because I think a lot of people that do wantto 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 whyI 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. Soif 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 todo ten pages a week. How hard could it be to do ten pagesa week? Man, those first three weeks were brutal. It took meso long to get my first ten pages. But once I was able to createa like a rhythm and a routine for like what was working, Iknew that I needed to be in a quiet place, I had a soundtrackthat I listened to and I knew I just needed to do ten pages.And so, you know, the first fifty pages were brutal. I thoughtI was never going to finish, and then I got to seventy five pagesand I thought Shit, I've got so much more to go. But thenonce 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 anda half hours to write ten pages and even if I didn't love thoseten pages, I would keep going and...

...pushing through. So that was thestarting point for me. Or started in March of two thousand and twenty andI finished in December of two thousand and twenty. So you could call thismy covid project, if you will. But yeah, I started with tenpages a week and really, whether I loved it or hated it, Ihad to keep just pushing through the next ten pages and that was really myprocess love it. What was the soundtrack? Yeah, so the soundtrack was reallyfocused on songs that evoked the emotion that, you know, I feltI was writing this book. Is it has a dark place and it comesfrom a lot of trauma and abuse, and so I'm a naturally pretty happyperson, 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 silenceby marshmallow, I'd say, ahead of myself, by ex ambassadors, andI'd say go on, thieboutio by Andrea Bocelli, nice solt this it's agood Max. Yeah, it's all. I'm all over the place, butthose helped kind of evoke the emotions that I was trying to hone in onas I was writing play. And so after the writing, which I thinka lot of authors, I know I've quoted this before and I think Imake up the percentage every time, but it's like writing a book is tenpercent writing, ninety percent marketing and things like that. So once you wrotethe book, You said that you you weren't sure if you were going topublish it, if you were going to do anything with it. So whatchanged in December of two thousand and twenty? Finishing the book was so anti climatic. I just sat in my, you know, living room and Isaid 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 personalstory 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 andreading 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 andI want to make it work and honestly, putting this book together and seeing itcome to life was so fun. It beats the writing experienced times ofmillion. Working with, you know, brilliant minds like editors and designers andfor matters is just one of the coolest experiences. Yeah, I'm very thankfulfor book for matters and designers, because me trying to do a cover wouldjust be like a stick figure with a balloon. Maybe I knew what Iwanted, though I couldn't have put that into words, but I knew theemotion that I wanted to feel from it. I wanted it to feel softer,I wanted it to feel feminine and also conveying, you know, alittle 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 upthe cover in the show notes. But...

...was this, was this round oneof the covers, or did you have kind of different iterations that you wentthrough? Yeah, so I did it a contest on ninety nine designs,which I thought, what do I have to lose? It's affordable and Iget a bunch of mockups from a bunch of people, because designers, youknow, they do great work and they can be expensive. I thought thiscontest was a great starting point. I didn't think I would fall in lovewith something. And I had a submission and the design was actually like aburnt orange color and I had asked, okay, Yep, hooks and Ihad asked for it to be a blue and then once, once she changedthat blue color, I was sold. So it was a very straightforward processand I fell in love right away. I see, I think it's it'sso cool to think of something in your head and you're like, I'm notsure I could put this into words, and then when you see it andyou'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'sall that other element that goes into it, the editing, design work, formattingand all that, as well as the marketing side of things. Sohow have you been promoting your book? Yes, so I reached out tosome influencers. I've also reached out to reviewers from publications like blue ink andbook life to get, you know, trade publication reviews as well, andthat'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 thisfirst quarter of you know sales comes through, my big focus is going to beon submitting for awards and focusing on more, more pr but I reallywanted to get like a pulse check on how the book was being perceived byan audience before, you know, to if I needed to make tweaks,before, you know, investing more money. And so so far I've been reallypleased with the way it's being perceived and it really aligns with how Iwanted the book to be envisioned as well. So I think after this next quarterI'll start investing in awards as well as book tours. Do have anawards speech planned already here. Would that come from? I guess you don'treally 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'lljust 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 worksecret? You know, it's not a work secret anymore. You know Ispent 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 andmy story with work, but I try to keep the two separated as muchas I can. So it's always a good call, for sure. Andhave 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. Haveyou 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, Ishould maybe have a piece of paper so doesn't bleed through. That was thethe trick I learned. It's great. That's a good tip. I'll haveto 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 towhere 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 itover 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 questionsthat I like to ask, because I say that it's less work forme to do because I'm asking you to ask to give me a question thatyou wish you were asked more frequently, and for you it's how you canbetter serve the community. So how can we do it? Yeah, there'sso many times people ask me questions like why are you so busy, or, you know, how do you do all the things you do? Andone of the things that, like you mentioned, how can I better servethe community is just find an organization that you're passionate about. I think somany times we are focused on ourselves that we forget about the power of givingback and I think especially with with covid it's been really self focused and reallylooking in to protect yourself, your family and your health. There's just somany opportunities to keep giving back. So one of the organizations I always lovesharing about is make a wish. It's changed my life and if you're lookingfor a great organization to give back, to make a wish central Texas isphenomenal 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 perspectiveof somebody who's going I mentioned earlier, what it's like to walk in someoneelse's shoes and I think make a wish does that for me. It reallygives me the perspective of you know, I had a really hard day atwork and the project didn't hit the schedule I wanted it to hit. Goingfrom that mindset and having a tough day and being pouty about my life tointerviewing 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 worthwhileand 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 alsohow can their parents feel supported and cared for when, when you're a sickkid, those parents, their primary focus is that child and there's so manytimes in that community where they just feel so isolated and so alone. Andthe more parents that I talked to through the make a wish foundation, themore I realize like, you're not alone, there's a community of parents who arestruggling just like you, and to be able to instill that hope andsee those parents fill up with with peace is just something that is unexplainable andI 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 exudesfrom you and that like radiates outwards and more people see that. Oh,that's so cool. Absolutely, it's great to say. Now, you mentionedat 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 ahalf? I make the best cinnamon rolls ever. I should have brought yousome, I think. Yeah, I think you should have. I makesome 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 onthe list. I haven't so I've baked a ton. I haven't found agreat strawberry cupcake recipe, though, so that's one that I'm really trying tonail down. So if you've got one, let me know, but that's atough one for me and I do love a good strawberry cupcake. Sothat's when I'm really trying to to nail yeah, baking recipe is not myforte I cooking. I can give you some good some good stuff. Ilike the more experimental side of cooking because you know, if you're baking andyou accidentally put a little too much sugar in, that can ruin everything,whereas with cooking, Hey, I accidentally, you know, through like a gallonof 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 morejazz. 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 directand Staccato of baking, and that's music compared to food. Perfect,perfect job, perfect job by me all around. After this book, Doyou have a second book in you or what's next for you? I reallywant 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 onto the next. So I'm going to sit with this let it bake fora little bit longer. As my husband says, it's a marathon, nota sprint, and I do like to sprint from project to project, butfor 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 saysorry, I know I like that. I like that. Let's see howmany more you can drop it throughout the rest of the episode. All hasto be food respace. Goodness, I shouldn't. We should have been recordedus before dinner. Now I'm just thinking of all the great food. DurAl must off the hook, but we always like to wrap up with atop three and you, being Queen of Organization, can we can we giveyou the title? I do have a crown, yes, ground to therecording and are currently wearing it. And you are very a very organized person. I know even when we were working together, I was like, Alisonis always got great organization. Meanwhile Shelly and I are in like a cesspoolof just papers and smoking a cigarette. Papers everywhere. Yeah, we're not. I don't even smoke, but the somehow there was a cigarette. Justhappen at yeah, yeah, I know,...

...there's like wine on the floor.We weren't drinking wine, it was just there, just permanently on theground. It was great time. You were always very organized. So whatare your top three organizational tips for the slobs like me out there? ILove Organization. I'd say my first tip is to slow down. It's soeasy to just get on a roll and forget to take that extra step andfile 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 andthat'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 halfbecause I'm always, like Serio said, a reminder to you. Like Ialso use a sauna like nobody's business. So I just use tools as muchas I can to keep things top of mine. So slow down, beconsistent and use your tools and you'll be organized. Might need you to giveme 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 tomake a fart noise and then she'll do it and give you what kind ofFart it was. So it's like that was like a long, wet one, or like that was a short, quick one, and someone had tosomeone had to program that, and then the other I'm not paid to programthat. I know how would say this. It's so I love asking them totell a joke at that, like a serious tell me a joke andI'm she's not going off right now. But then after Alexa did a couplefarts, she's like, Oh, do you want more? Because you canbuy packs of farts that get added and I was just like, who ispaying money for this? Like it's a fun little gag for like a minuteand that's wow, like who's spending money on a dragon far it, whichI believe it is. Sometimes I wonder about my career choice decisions. Butwrite 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 thenext 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 acopy of the book, yeah, where can they find you, Alison Choppacom? I've got tons of information there. You can see all my social mediaas well as places to buy the book. Love it well, also, likeyou so much for hopping on the podcast. Thank you for having me, lovely and share. As we've starters got our brute. I love thatAsmr. We get a drink to get that. Can't do it. GlougludLug. Very delightful. So we'll end with our corny joke, as wealways do. You know, as a writer I love deadlines. I reallylike 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 fanof this episode, go ahead and hit that follow button. That helpsmore people here the show. You can...

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

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