Sharing the insanity: Confessions of a self-published writer (Part 2 of 2)

November 14, 2011

In Confessions of a Self-Published Writer (Part 1), I talked about what it was like for me to self-publish in 2002 and how self-publishing has evolved in recent years. This year, I was presented with an opportunity to share what I’ve learned in the past decade or so to help someone else.

When Alia Azim Garcia came to talk to me about publishing her book, it never occurred to me to say no. She was charged with the task of writing a textbook for Human Resources (HR) students and professionals. She had the expertise to write the book and the support of her professional peers in the Human Resources Partnership Council at the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University. I had experience in publishing, technical writing, simple book design and marketing. We began to talk about how we could use our combined skill set to make her book a reality.

We rolled up our sleeves and got to work. For the past 18 months or so, a team of us have been working hard to edit, design and print her book. She worked with an editor at the university. I brought in experts in book printing that I have worked with on previous projects. All in all, our team consisted of about 15 people, some working locally and others who worked at a distance, who  each worked on different pieces of the project.

You Did What? AzimThe outcome was the successful publication of You Did What?! A Reality Check on Human Resources Practices. This book is a compilation of scenarios that Human Resource professionals are required to address on a regular basis and provides an excellent resource for training and discussion.

For me, working with a writer to help her publish her work successfully meant sharing my knowledge and expertise of almost a decade of experience publishing paperbacks and e-books to make someone else’s dream of publishing a book come true. I went from being a self-publisher to being a publisher.

As a result, Onate Press, was born. Officially, it is an imprint or a division of Eaton International Consulting Inc., the small business I’ve run for over a decade that’s dedicated to building, researching and delivering educational programs. In effect, I ended up creating a small “indie” (short for “independent”) press that publishes materials to support and are aligned with my values as a lifelong educator.

Self-publishing is fun and exhilarating. When you publish other people’s material, the idea is for them to feel the exhilaration and for you to take on the responsibility of ensuring that the details and logistics of the publication process run smoothly. I have learned that publishing other people’s work can be quite stressful, because you want the final product to be excellent quality for both you and them.

There were lighthearted aspects of the project, too. While the final print-ready copy of the book was in the hands of the printer, we had some fun and videotaped an interview to let people know about the book:

Mount Royal University and the Human Resources Partnership Council have been stellar partners in this process. They have arranged for the book to be officially launched at the 8th Annual HR Breakfast that takes place tomorrow. The breakfast, which is being held at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and is co-hosted by local TV personality, Gord Gillies of Global television, has sold out.

When you self-publish, there is a sense of solitude, of being a lone wolf in a world where others may not understand you or your vision or what you hope to achieve. Unless you are at the very top of your game (and very few self-published authors are), the idea of having your book launched at a local event hosted by a TV personality is simply not feasible. When you publish someone else’s work, working with a team of people are collectively dedicated to making the endeavour a success, the experience is completely different.

The book is now for sale as a paperback, as well as in Kindle editions through Amazon.com (U.S.A and Canada), Amazon.UK (United Kingdom), Amazon.FR (France) and Amazon.DE (Germany).

Alia is donating all of her royalites to the Human Resources Partnership Council Legacy Scholarship, which supports students studying human resources at Mount Royal University.

Doing it yourself is ruggedly exhilarating in a pioneering sort of way. Collaborating with a team brings a deeper sense of success, knowing that you have collectively worked together to achieve a bigger vision. I’m so proud of Alia… and thrilled to have been invited to play a role in her exciting launch into the world of being an author.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Modern Languages Experience Week helps students build confidence

November 12, 2011

In a small corner of Wales this week 200 students have been taking part in a commendable initiative designed to boost their interest and confidence in using foreign languages. The Modern Languages Experience Week is a joint initiative between Cardiff University’s School of European Studies and eleven local schools. The project brings students to the university for activities around language learning designed to increase their curiosity, practice their skills and increase their cultural awareness.

The Health Canal reports on the benefits of the initiative to the students sense of self-confidence and overall attitude.

This is a brilliant initiative, not only to increase students’ curiosity and awareness, but also to generate positive links between the school system and the post-secondary system, where the students are the ones benefitting.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Social Media Challenges at Work (CIRA Event)

November 10, 2011

If you’re in Calgary, join me on November 24 at the Village Park Inn for a dinner event hosted by the Southern Alberta Chapter of the Canadian Industrial Relations Association (CIRA):

“Social Media Challenges at Work”

Expert panelists: Sarah Eaton, John Moreau, Andy Robertson and Tom Hesse

An employee uses Facebook to malign her employer and harass co-workers. A manager regularly patrols the internet, “Googling” employees and monitoring their email. Where does the line get drawn between off-duty conduct, privacy, and the employer’s liability for the actions of its employees? What factors do adjudicators consider when analyzing social media cases? How can employers, unions and workers best protect themselves? Our panel of experts will address these and other thorny issues surrounding social media at work.

Join us for an enlightening conversation with Dr. Sarah Eaton, social media researcher and consultant; Arbitrator John Moreau; Andy Robertson, Partner, Macleod Dixon; and Tom Hesse, UFCW Negotiator and Executive Assistant to the President.

Cost: $40 for Non-CIRA members, $30 for members

To get your ticket, contact CIRA:

CIRA SOUTHERN ALBERTA CHAPTER

University of Lethbridge, Calgary Campus

Suite 1100 Rocky Mountain Plaza,

615 Macleod Trail SE, Calgary, Alberta T2G 4T8

Telephone: 571-3360 ext 4693 Fax: 403-261-2944

E-Mail: cira.alberta @ uleth.ca

View this document on Scribd

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


U.S. School district asks for public input on world language program

November 6, 2011

Andover public schools seek public inputThe Andover Public School board in Massachusetts, U.S.A. has established a World Language Task Force, reports the Andover Townsman. The purpose of the task force is to seek input from the community on what languages they would like to see taught in their schools and why. The task force is comprised of teachers, parents, community members, and administrators. The purpose of the task force is to:

Study the K-12 programming model and trends in world language teaching and learning.

Develop goals and strategies for a K-12 World Language program for inclusion in the Andover Public Schools Strategic Plan.

Produce recommendations relative to which one language will be taught on the elementary school level, which two languages will be taught on the middle school level, and which languages will be taught at Andover High School.

The task force is soliciting input from the public through a public online survey developed by the school board. The survey asks respondents to rank the importance of such factors as cultural competence, writing and testing skills in a first language and preparing students for global society. It also asks for input on what languages the board should offer, including popular languages such as Spanish and Chinese, as well as less popular languages such as Hmong, Khmer and Creolo Haitian.

I believe that this is a commendable initiative for a variety of reasons:

  1. Generating dialogue between school boards and the community promotes a culture of open communication. It gives a voice to parents, grandparents and even students about that is important to them. It gives a voice to the community.
  2. In addition to giving a voice to the community, it also seeks to uncover what is important to the community, digging deeper into the values, beliefs and opinions of those who live in the local area. Then, it would assume, the task force would consider these values as part of its criteria when it comes to making its decisions.
  3. It downplays the traditional authoritarian nature of school boards. Instead of propagating the ideas that “school boards know best”, it levels the playing field (at least in terms of the optics) and sends the message that “We’re here to serve you, not dictate to you.” This is a strategy that the Calgary Board of Education would have done well to employ when it arbitrarily decided to cut French programs without engaging the community in any dialogue about it.
  4. It generates community involvement and interest in language programs at the local schools. At a time when cutbacks to language programs, particularly in the United States, are mercilessly targeting world language programs, initiatives such as this will draw importance to language programs. After people have contributed to the discussion and have had some say into the decision-making process they are emotionally and psychologically invested in the outcome and are more likely to support foreign and world language programs in general.

One comment posted on the Andover news article pointed out that the survey is an imperfect tool, since respondents can answer as many times as they like, potentially skewing the results. This is relatively easy to overcome, depending on which survey tool is used. Nevertheless, the concept is brilliant. Opening up discussions about education and in particular, language learning, to the public and ultimately involving the community in the decision making process is innovative, respectful of the community and downright brilliant.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Vain, insane or free rein? Confessions of a self-published writer (Part 1 of 2)

November 3, 2011

Nine years ago I did something scandalous, something that caused many of my colleagues to balk and wrinkle their noses in disdain. I self-published a book.

I have worked in academia since 1994, where the pinnacle of respect comes from articles published in the most highly acclaimed peer-reviewed journals. Self-publishing anything, let alone a “how to” guide doesn’t really result in respect. In fact, it results in quiet whispers of, “Who does she think she is, publishing her own work? We’re scholars, not peddlers. It’s just so… vain!”

I remember one particularly stinging comment of a professor who said, “Anyone who self-publishes their own work clearly has more ego than intellect.” At least he had the courage to say it to my face… and I’ve never forgotten it.

I’ve always struggled with two seemingly disparate aspects of my character. One aspect is deeply curious, driven deep into research to the point of forgetting to eat, methodical and persistent, obsessed with learning, surrounded by books, and slightly susceptible to worshipping great teachers as heroes who have inspired me to be a voracious learner. That’s the scholar side.

The other side demonstrates all the classic personality traits of an entrepreneur: impulsive, headstrong, stubborn, relentless about progress and pushing the boundaries of new ways of doing things (often before I’ve considered all the risks), with a wildly creative spirit that flourishes in an environment where there are high levels of autonomy and self-determination.

When someone tells me that I can’t do something, my usual (though often unvoiced) reaction is, “Oh yeah? Watch me.”

Then I proceed to do it, come hell or high water.

I’ve run a marathon, gone “polar bearing” in Halifax harbour on New Year’s Day, done a Master’s degree in a language I didn’t really speak very well, then did a Ph.D. in a completely different field and started an educational consulting business. I’ve done these things despite the fact that at least one person told me I couldn’t do it… would never succeed. Or was it because someone told me I couldn’t do it? I’ve never really figured out which it was.

In 2002, I added “self-publishing” to that list. Very few people were self-publishing then. It was considered heinously poor form. The truth is, I couldn’t find a publisher for my book. I looked and looked. For months. No one was interested. “It won’t sell,” they said.

I didn’t want to let that stop me, so I hired an editor and a graphic designer to help me do it. Self-publishing taught me a great deal about the process of publishing a book. I still worked with an editor, a designer and a printer. My editor was relentless. Any ego I had before starting to work with her was undeniably and unapologetically crushed in the process. She reduced me to a pile of humble tired bones, pushing fingers forward on a keyboard. It was excellence or nothing. (She taught me that it’s free “rein” and not free “reign”, as I’d previously thought.) God, she was good.

I pushed myself to produce the very highest quality that I could and to learn not only about content, but also form, style and little details of the publishing process, right down to what kind of paper we would use and why.

The first edition of 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program ranked among DeMille’s Technical Books Top 10 Best sellers, reaching #1 on that Top 10 list on August 25, 2003. Now, being a best seller among technical books on a small list isn’t like being a #1 best seller on the New York Times or anything, but in its own way, it was a highlight of my career.

It was, however, a bittersweet victory. While I worked like a demon on the project, I often felt sheepish and ashamed in front of some my academic colleagues who found the whole prospect of self-publishing downright disdainful.

If you believe Wikipedia, then you might be as surprised as I was to learn that works by authors such as  e.e. cummings, Deepak Chopra, Benjamin Franklin, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Mark Twain were self-published. Though we need to be clear that there are thousands of people whose self-published work will never be elevated to such high regard. The fact remains that some pretty darn amazing writers went ahead and published their own work when no one else would.

Here we are in 2011, when there are 156 million public blogs in existence (as reported by  “BlogPulse”. The Nielsen Company. February 16, 2011). Today, people self-publish every day, in every corner of the world. Earlier this year, the New York Times published an article about the rise of self-published books. Publisher’s Weekly reported that in 2009, 764,448 new books were either self-published or micro-published.

Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone any more.

I still struggle, on an almost daily basis with being an “academic entrepreneur”. Most of the time, I feel like I don’t fit properly into either world, and with fierce determination, I push aside the feelings in order to push forward with the work. For me, doing the work — and doing it well — has always been more important than how I feel about the work, because I rarely feel good about the work I do. No matter how good it may be, I always want to be better. It keeps me up at night… most nights, in fact.

I don’t know if e.e. cummings really did self-publish, but I do love his quote, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” It takes courage to put yourself out there, to use your voice and do something a bit rash and a bit wild. People may sneer. (But then again… those same people would likely find something to sneer about anyway.)

Digital technology has democratized creativity and empowered anyone with a voice to use it. What have you done lately that is wildly creative (and even a little rebellious)? I’d love to hear your stories about how you’ve taken a creative risk and what you learned from it.

(Check out Part 2 of this post, where I talk about how I used what I’ve learned over the past nine years to help someone else launch into the world of becoming a published author.)

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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