Collaborating can open your brand and your mind (Part 1 of 2)
Published: July 5, 2011
When I first began to freelance, I shunned all thoughts of sharing a byline. In fact, I shunned thoughts of collaborating in general. Write long enough and you’ll learn to never say never.
Kay B. Day
A couple weeks ago a package arrived. When I opened it I found a mystery novel written by a friend. The cover art immediately grabbed my attention, but that wasn’t why I began to thumb eagerly through the pages. My poem was part of the novel Matanzas Bay, and I wanted to see how Victor DiGenti (writing as Parker Francis) worked it into the storyline.
I wasn’t disappointed—as a matter of fact, I learned something.
DiGenti didn’t start out by placing the complete poem on a page. He worked various parts of it into different scenes and actions involving the main characters, one of whom was expertly drawn as an academic poet whose ego was as full as the body of his work.
I told DiGenti I thought he worked the poem in seamlessly.
“Your poem perfectly captured the dark mood I was striving for in Matanzas Bay,” he said, “particularly for my character, the former [fictional] Florida poet laureate, Clayton Ford Henderson.”
said he had written about one-third of the novel, first in a series
featuring the main character Quint Mitchell, when he asked me to write a
poem tailored to the book. I knew DiGenti well, through numerous book
festivals and a publisher who had brought out our books. That was
important—you have to be assured whomever you’re collaborating with on
any level is a writer whose brand will complement your own.
I recall, I sent you excerpts describing the character and you crafted
two wonderful stanzas. I particularly liked the last line of the first
stanza, 'Hope drifted away like ashes.' After receiving ‘A Flash
of Silence,’ I worked it into the storyline, using parts of it to either
help define the character or to accentuate the action being depicted,”
DiGenti told me.
Our collaboration was a simple process,
but I learned a great deal in hindsight. For one thing, I was familiar
with the geographical setting of the mystery, in St. Augustine. I
realized every detail about the poet and the other characters as well as
the props and well-known historic sites had to ring true.
fiction is based on reality,” DiGenti said, “and the author needs to be
certain of his/her facts, including street names, weather conditions,
police procedures and so much more. If you get something wrong, and I’m
sure I did, rest assured a reader will call you on it.” The novelist
said he also researched various time periods in history in-depth.
DiGenti asked me to write the poem, I knew it would take place in
Florida and he’d provided details about the poet’s personality. That was
helpful; after all, I’ve met and/or interviewed many famous male poets
and the one thing I knew they all had in common was a conflict of ego
and frailty. Once I read Matanzas Bay, I viewed the plot in
reverse sequence and considered the poem I’d written. It was fairly
astonishing how well they meshed. There was a natural quality to it; I
think if we’d over-analyzed it to begin with, the poem wouldn’t have fit
|My small contribution to Matanzas Bay
was a mini-collaboration—very time-friendly yet challenging in the sense
that I wanted to get the tone and voice of the poem correct. Once I
finished reading the novel, I not only admired DiGenti’s writing, I took
pleasure in seeing my work become part of his story.|
that in mind, I’ve been collaborating on a more complex project, a
nonfiction work. I’ve already come to realize a few things.
Collaborating definitely opens your brand—my poem will be seen by lovers
of mystery novels and those readers might not be inclined to pick up a
book of poems or perhaps even to read poems.
learned about some new author-friendly websites that DiGenti said
“helped get the word out.” He said he used Goodreads.com and
BookTour.com as part of his marketing efforts. DiGenti has taken a
reverse approach overall, saying social media is “time-consuming,” so
he’s adhering to “the old-fashioned kind of marketing” and that enables
him to concentrate on his writing.
The biggest plus of
my exchange with DiGenti came as an education of sorts—analyzing how he
fit a simple two stanza poem into the plot and character of a novel and
seeing how they all work together as a unit. I realized I liked
collaborating, a complete reverse of my youthful mindset, and
reaffirmation of the golden rule of writing and life. Never say never.
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International, The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To learn more about Kay Day, see www.kayday.com. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.||