NOTES FROM FRIDAY’S EXCELLENT MASTER CLASS SEGMENT LED BY SARAH KADES GRAHAM (AUTHOR) AND DETECTIVE DAVE SWEET (CALGARY POLICE SERVICE)

She writes eco-romance novels and had no previous exposure to law enforcement. He’s a homicide detective who, becasue of his work, wanted to translate Real Life to a Real Book – lessons to his children, such as:

Step 1: the Idea – life lessons – stay out of dark places; cash is king, etc. Along the way, it turned into much more.

Step 2 – the Why. This is your touchstone – keeps bringing you back to the essence, be flexible and stay mentally agile.

Step 3 – Support. Does your project need/benefit from others? In this case, Dave needed the synergy with Sarah’s knowledge and skills.

Dave had the idea but didn’t know the publishing sector, how to tell his story. His centre of normal is different from the most of the population – there is a beauty to innocence. The tone of the book has to be acceptable to everybody and respectful of the people whose lives were impacted by the incidents detailed in his story.

*** Find your temperate soul. Would you benefit for having someone else working with you? What do you need to tell your story? What does the story need – you wasn’t to tell the best possible story – are there other resources?

SHARED GOALS AND INVESTMENT IN THE PROJECT CREATE A STRONG TEAM

Vision – to share lessons, philosophies, etc. with a strong sense of social responsibility. It’s the same responsibility that a career in policing demands. “Shared vision for book, even though coming from different backgrounds was important. (FNG – f— new guy)

One of Dave’s key objectives learned as a rookie police officer - take the time to leave people in a better state than when you first encountered them

  • How can writing real life work when two different people collaborate – have to keep an open mind, understand the others focus, strengths and weaknesses
  • Tell the story accurately without revealing specific techniques or divulging sensitive information

Real Life to REAL BOOK
– hammer out the process – you must have a plan – state fluid and flexible
– identify the POV
– the collaborator has to keep in mind that it is not their story but the narrators – maintain tone and voice, terminology
– author collaboration contract (personality, approach, comfort zone, distribution of benefits)
– started with outline of planned chapters
– acquired appropriate approvals and diluting identifiable characteristics without losing the essence of the story

Editor – Adrian Kerr – life lessons, memoir, self-help?

How we originally migrated stories from Dave”s head to manuscript:

In the beginning, it made sense to use presentations as the method…that didn’t work as expected.
– Schedule
– There always seemed more to tell than the presentation covered
– Loss of Daves voice
– Or maybe more accurately Dave didn’t like his edgy presentation voice when written in black and white (context is critical)

So we switched it up…

Dave writes raw drafts and chapter concepts…Sarah crafts them…it works

“Don’t be afraid to try different approaches. Find what works for you.”

FIND YOUR PROCESS – FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO AND DO IT

Noteworthy:
– When collaborating on a memoir, you need the ability to let the narrator tell their story
– We have added grit after feedback to areas of the book where originally the thought was that we wouldn’t…but this opened up a pandora’s box effect (if he looks at old notebooks or newspaper clippings, he realizes there is more to tell)
– Dave drew on his five senses to provide the grit, those details, e.g., feel of child’s hand on pant leg, dead woman’s glasses all that was left to show where her face had been, the scent of pine air fresheners, etc.)
– Talk through disagreements – like a marriage

Pros for Dave
– Sarah’s understanding and variation of the publishing business, contacts
– Two heads are better than one
– The book covers sensitive materials. Dave has a high threshold, Sarah does not – adjust the manuscript accordingly
– Writing with someone who has social graces
– Turns out recounting a story is a nice outlet (can be healing or therapeutic)

Pros for Sarah
– An opportunity to write meaningful, socially responsible material without the cubicle
– Allows a safe, window-view of the world of law enforcement that is fascinating
– Access to Daves law enforcement and media connections no contacts
– Articulating stories and life lessons that are important to another and sharing them with others is a really cool job
– Different and rather nice to share tasks and decision-making on a book project with someone else

Cons –
exposure to the gritty, dangerous, sad parts of life
Logistics of their schedules (life, job, overtime, other writing projects)
Each person dependent on the other to complete their tasks
For the writer, its not just their message
Pick the hill you are prepared to die on

Debriefings – Those debriefings taught me about the risks of not learning about what the story-teller has in mind, emotional journey, facts, purpose.

How it’s played out this far:
– No knives in the back
– Trust between all involved
– Friendship
– Both will be proud of the finished product

IF WE DID IT AGAIN
– Clearly define expectations in the beginning – vision and author’s goal for the book
– Schedule – more defined and better set up, firm writing sessions, neutral meeting place
– We knew we had to be flexible

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