119 Mag Diamond
Author Mag Diamond began writing her book at the age of 11, she finished the manuscript just before her 70th birthday. On this episode of The Author Inside You, Mag reminds us that everyone has a story worth telling and whatever your age, now is the time to write a book.
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119 Mag Diamond
[00:00:00] Announcer: [00:00:00] you're listening to the author insides you podcast, a weekly podcast designed to motivate you to finish writing a book, choose a publisher, and build an audience. Keep listening if you're looking to get propelled into the next chapter of your life. And now it's the author inside you podcast.
[00:00:23] Matt: [00:00:23] Hello, I'm Matt Rafferty, Rafferty.
[00:00:25] Joining us today is author Meg diamond, the award winning author of bowing to elephants, tales of a travel junkie, which hit number one in five countries on the day it was launched and just won best indie biographies and memoirs from Kirkus. Welcome, Meg. Thanks for joining us.
[00:00:43] Mag Diamond: [00:00:43] You're welcome. Glad to be here.
[00:00:45] Well, mag. From looking at your website, it seems like you've lived a very adventurous life. That's right. That's why the book got written. I felt compelled at the advanced age of about 68 or whatever it was when I started [00:01:00] that. I said, it's now is the time to share. Um, you know, the, some of the experiences I've had.
[00:01:06] And, uh, and to put it out there and inspire people to go out and explore the world, you know, that was really the motivation initially. Wonderful.
[00:01:14] Matt: [00:01:14] Great. So can you give us a little synopsis of your book.
[00:01:17] Mag Diamond: [00:01:17] I had the original, the original idea was to make it a series of travel essays and to have HSA be distinct unto itself.
[00:01:26] So in other words, there'd be an essay about Italy and there would be an essay about France. I'd be an essay, and then I would explain my, uh, my adventures. I would talk about all the things that I had learned. I would talk everything from food to art to people, and all the rest of it. And as I started and I used all these journals that I had kept, uh, throughout my adventures.
[00:01:48] So I had good raw material. And as I started putting this together, literally members of my family started to show up in my head and, and wanted to be a part of the [00:02:00] picture. And I realized that I really had to talk about my past. I had to talk about. What had had influenced me even as a young child and young girl and led me to have this insatiable curiosity to travel.
[00:02:15] So it's like that told me that I had to make it more complicated. So instead of being a selection of travel essays, it became a travel narratives. Then interwoven. A backstory material that had everything to do with my childhood and my eccentric family, and all the difficulties that I endured through throughout my young years.
[00:02:39] Leah: [00:02:39] So I see that you were a writer too, before writing this book. So was this a difficult process for you? Well, you know, I've been writing all my life. I. First went to Europe, I was 11 or so when I was, when I first went, my mother, stepfather, and I went to Italy. I kept a journal. I, my stepfather, gave me a beautiful leather journal.
[00:02:59] I [00:03:00] started to write in it every day and I wrote about my, my, you know, my reflections, my thoughts, my complaints, you know, my, my anx and I developed this amazing habit of keeping a journal. I did, went through two journals and then. You know? And then I just kept on going. I, when I came back from living in Europe, I still kept a journal.
[00:03:20] And then later on in my life when I started, all my traveling. I always took a notebook with me. And, and due to fleet reported all the stuff that I was, that I was witnessing. Uh, so it became a, like a discipline of mine to, you know, get, keep this material intact. Because I knew I'd never remember all of it.
[00:03:41] Matt: [00:03:41] So you actually started writing the book when you were 11.
[00:03:46] Mag Diamond: [00:03:46] Well, that's, that's what I've told people, and I've done readings, you know, I'll tell them. I actually have my old journals from my childhood. I still amazingly, I still have have them in my possession and I, and I, and I've hold one, I hold [00:04:00] one up to the two, two people.
[00:04:01] And I say, this book was given to me when I was 11 years old, and this is the beginning of bowing to elephants. This is the beginning of it. Um, and, and because I believed in, I believed in the importance of the stuff I was recording that, you know, ultimately, uh, when I got the courage up and, you know, to.
[00:04:23] Makeup book. Um, I had all this wonderful material, so it was kind of great.
[00:04:29] Matt: [00:04:29] Right? So my parents used to travel a lot, and my mom always kept a journal of what their trip was. You know, who they ate lunch with, you know, the, the tour that they went on, the name of the tour guide. And it's amazing when you go back and read it.
[00:04:41] It's, it's unbelievable the, the whole story of their trip. And then I think back to trips that Leah and I have taken and we're like, remember that time we went to key West? Sort of, but not really. You know, we look at a couple of pictures. So it really is important to write down things that happened in your life.
[00:04:56] You forget them so quickly.
[00:04:58] Mag Diamond: [00:04:58] Yeah, you do. And [00:05:00] when I, when I was using this material, there was even. Still that difficulty I had when composing the book where I realized that I, that there were, there were more, there were more things in my experience that I knew I couldn't remember. Um, and so I had to kind of sit with this material and, and kind of travel back in time in my head in quietly and, and be able to conjure up the physical experiences.
[00:05:28] So that then. Uh, I could, um, remember more details, you know, so I could say, or, or in fact, actually invent details they were, that were consistent with, with the scene that had been set.
[00:05:43] Matt: [00:05:43] Right. It sounds like an interesting adventure of being able to sit down and look back at so much of your life.
[00:05:50] Mag Diamond: [00:05:50] Yeah, well it was, it was great.
[00:05:52] You know, I figured, um, you know, that did, it was about time that I have, I'm a Buddhist practitioner [00:06:00] and my, my teacher and I were talking one day, he and I are exactly the same age actually, and I was telling him about wanting to write a book, and he was talking about wanting to do something. And finally he said to me, you know.
[00:06:12] We're of an age where we've got to stop talking about doing things and actually do them because everything is uncertain in life. You know? Wait, we certainly know that at this moment in history more, you know, more vividly than anything. And so yeah, stop planning for it and just sit down and. Do it, and I made myself a promise that I would start the book and finish it.
[00:06:37] By the time I had my 70th birthday, which is actually exactly what I did, I was able to do that. Yeah. So how did you decide to do that? Did you allow yourself a certain
[00:06:48] Matt: [00:06:48] amount of hours per
[00:06:49] Mag Diamond: [00:06:49] day or did you just let it flow. Well, I, I had a hard time being disciplined with my, my time cause I, I wasn't working for a living, so I didn't have a lot of [00:07:00] structure that, as some people do who have, who have a job and various other things that they have to take care of.
[00:07:06] So when you, when you have a lot of free time, you did tend to not be very disciplined. However, I joined a group, right? This, this is what saved me and what helped the book, uh, emerge. And this is a group of people that I knew from when I lived in . On Northern New Mexico there, this two teachers of writing that I knew and they started a course and it's a long distance course.
[00:07:28] And so they carry it on, you know, over internet and light and all that. And it goes on for nine months and it's, the goal of the course is to help you finish a book. So. Uh, everybody that joins the course has a different project in mind, of course. And then we, and everybody works together. And there's all different ways that the people in the chorus interact with one another and also support one another in their efforts.
[00:07:55] So that was a great kind of container of support, um, [00:08:00] for, um, for the struggling writer, you know, for the writer who, who, you know. Didn't have a good sense of discipline about timing or, or got, or got scared when they sat down to write and think, Oh, this is all nonsense and nobody really cares, you know, which is, which is the typical sort of monster that, that dwells in the, in the, in the head of writers, you know?
[00:08:24] And, uh, so I took this course for two years, actually. I took it twice and at the end of, of taking it twice, I'd finished the book. Right? It's a great course, and I don't mind putting a plugin for that. It's called right to the finish. I like that name. Yeah, it's, it's, um, they're, they're two very, very smart young people who are writers.
[00:08:46] And talented in other ways, but they came up with an ingenious plan and they'd helped. They've done it for 15 years and they've helped, you know, numerous writers get their thing off the ground. And I was so [00:09:00] grateful and I, and I always want to mention them in public because I want people to know about them.
[00:09:04] Matt: [00:09:04] Right. That's great that they've been doing that for 15 years. We'll put a, we'll put a link to their webpage and
[00:09:10] Mag Diamond: [00:09:10] yeah, there is Sean Murphy and Tanya Cosell. But if you Googled right to the finish. You'd find it, you know, it would be, it would be online and they're very worthy of support and, um, they're hard, hardworking, young people who are like many people scrambling around trying to figure out all kinds of creative ways to make
[00:09:29] Matt: [00:09:29] a living,
[00:09:30] Mag Diamond: [00:09:30] you know, telling our
[00:09:31] Matt: [00:09:31] audience about them will mag.
[00:09:33] After you've finished the course, what was the next step to getting the book published?
[00:09:37] Mag Diamond: [00:09:37] Well, then I, then I, you know, I had, hadn't had enough of group interaction, so I took a course also. In marketing from them. And so I learned a little, they were running a course on marketing for, for writers who had actually finished their books.
[00:09:52] It didn't kind of catapult me into success, but it gave me some tips and gave me. Sort of the lay of the land about what the marketing world was [00:10:00] like. Uh, and I knew, you know, I knew from the beginning that my book was not, I was not going to be able to place my book with an agent that it was, it was too personal.
[00:10:09] It was, it was not a, it didn't have a blockbuster sort of subject matter. And in consultation with them, I figured out I had to go my own route and try to find an independent publisher to publish the book. Um, and then I spent a long time. Really a long time researching independent publishers, reaching out to them, you know, all kinds of things.
[00:10:30] And with very little kind of, um, you know, bubbling up of, of interest. And I encountered a woman at a . Writing conference in San Francisco where I live, and, um, she's the publisher of, she writes, she's, she writes press. They were doing a panel discussion about independent publishers and I listened to her and I listened to her presentation and I listened to some of the others and I really liked what she had to say.
[00:10:56] And their, what they call a hybrid publisher. It's sort of the cross [00:11:00] between self publishing and traditional publishing. I applied to have them publish my book and they took it right away. They were very happy to take it. The pluses for me, a, they allow you to take part in the design of your book, so in other words, you take part in how the book yet, how it's going to look.
[00:11:18] It's very hands on. You, the writer, and you have a project manager and all the rest of it. They have distribution. Capacity through Ingram publisher services. So you don't have to jump through all kinds of hoops to get your book distributed because it's distributed everywhere as an independently published book.
[00:11:36] The only thing they don't do is they don't do PR for you. They don't get out there and advertise you, you know? But that's okay. Um, but everything about the whole process of doing it was a, it was a great learning experience and, you know, and I. I felt I had control over what I was doing and what my book was going to look like.
[00:11:57] Matt: [00:11:57] That's wonderful. We can put a link to them in the [00:12:00] show notes too.
[00:12:00] Mag Diamond: [00:12:00] She writes press. Yeah, they're, they're a great organization. And they actually got an award, I think last year for best independent publisher in the country. Um, wow. So, so they've got a good reputation and, um, they have a very strong community of writers that, uh, all stay connected to one another.
[00:12:19] So I feel like I have. Tons of other fellow writers who know what I've been through, and we communicate through a Facebook page. We also, some of us have made friends. Let's talk about, well, that's the ugliest subject of all. Many people. Many authors say that.
[00:12:38] Matt: [00:12:38] Well, here, here's my question. How did you hit number one in five countries on the day your book was launched?
[00:12:43] Mag Diamond: [00:12:43] I went through a whole journey of, uh, of. Ms firings with publicists and I and I had two, two different publicists, turf traditional publicists that, uh, actually were, didn't really do their job properly. And then I landed with this fellow that I actually knew from [00:13:00] a past job experience who had. Developed a career in helping people market things, and he's very inventive and clever.
[00:13:08] So he started to work for me, uh, as a, as sort of my representative. He wouldn't call himself a publicist. He kind of called himself, you know, the marketing guy or whatever. So then he developed a strategy of how we were going to get this thing out there. There were clever ways to get to number one on . The day that your book has launched, and it has to do with giving it, giving it away for 24 hours.
[00:13:31] For starters, there's a strategy that you can use on Amazon where you do this for 24 hours and your numbers go way up because everybody loves something free and it got rated very highly and out of it. Yeah. You know, in foreign countries it got rated very highly in Europe and, and that's where it got, I think, the highest ratings as I remember, because of this campaign we did with Amazon, it was a bestseller for a very short period of time.
[00:13:56] It has been selling well since, and the things that I do [00:14:00] now. To help it are I, I'm doing a lot of interviews. I'm getting connections made for me with a lot of different people to keep speaking up about my book and it helps the sales of the book. I'm going to do a bunch of Facebook live things. I've done the whole social media campaign that has sort of, some of the time driven me crazy because.
[00:14:22] Because, you know, I'm sort of an old, an old style person who finds social media sometimes highly aggravating, but, um, but yes, it's a very useful vehicle. Yeah. As everybody knows, uh, I've done a bunch of readings. I, I made a point of going on a little bit of a book thing where I went to a number of different places and did it.
[00:14:43] You know, uh, live, you know, in person readings.
[00:14:47] Matt: [00:14:47] How did you decide where you were going to do the readings?
[00:14:49] Mag Diamond: [00:14:49] The was logical choice when I launched the book was to read in my home community. And so I live in San Francisco, so I, I chose a bookstore that was very [00:15:00] representative of the Bay area. It was called book passage, and we had our launch event, uh, at that bookstore.
[00:15:07] Um, and between them and myself, I managed to, uh, draw an audience for about 70, 75 people. So that was kind of exciting. Um, then I went and did a reading in Taos, New Mexico where I used to live and which I is mentioned in the book, uh, in places. And. Is Barry literary creative community, and I knew that people would really turn out for a reading there.
[00:15:34] And so I did that. I went to LA and did a reading down there at a Buddhist community, again, invited by the person who ran that community because there's a strong thread. In the book about my journey into Buddhism. And, um, so that made sense for me to share the book with, with people who are steeped in, in that, you know, in those teachings.
[00:15:57] So I, I did LA [00:16:00] and then, um, I did another one in . In the Callow in the Bay area, um, South of San Francisco at another bookstore. It takes time to get people to pay attention to you. You know, the cities are the places that have a lot of, you know, that have the possibility of independent bookstores anymore.
[00:16:16] I mean, there are the sprinkling of them in, in the less populated communities, but certainly cities are your best bet if you want or, you know, a choice. And, uh, and I really love the idea of supporting independent bookstores. You know, blowing the horn for them and saying, you know, these, this is where I want my book to be sold, right?
[00:16:36] I mean, I always will tell people they can get it on Amazon, but, but my first choice is always to say, you know, go to your independent bookstore and buy it there because the bookstore is need, need to support our small town in Ohio. Well start called the learner Dow, and they have been around for a long time and we're very proud that they're still here in our town [00:17:00] and selling books.
[00:17:01] I grew up in a day when there were many more of those kinds of bookstores, you know, and they were really places of community where people felt like they were coming together with one another. Our world is so fractured and so kind of chaotic that there's a lot of comfort to be, you know, had and I, and going into a bookstore and sitting down and listen to somebody read to you, you know,
[00:17:26] Matt: [00:17:26] this episode of the author inside your podcast is brought to you by scuba file.
[00:17:30] It's a great writing resource if you're looking for beta readers. So I'm part of a writer's group on Facebook, and one of the other members was asking about getting some beta readers for some of her work. So I naturally suggested a file and she had this to say,
[00:17:46] Mag Diamond: [00:17:46] I posted a story last night after gaining enough karma points by providing a critique and received my first critique on a creative nonfiction piece.
[00:17:56] Matt: [00:17:56] morning. Now I've had is fast. You sign up for at night, [00:18:00] you give a critique to somebody else's working, gain enough karma points. You upload one of your works and already you have a beta Rita that you're looking for. That's pretty cool.
[00:18:09] Mag Diamond: [00:18:09] You might be asking, what are karma points? Well, you earn them by critiquing other works or having members like and react to your critiques.
[00:18:18] If you leave a critique for a community member, you will gain karma points and then if other community members read your critique and think that you are doing a good job, they can react to it and you can earn even more karma points.
[00:18:32] Matt: [00:18:32] If you're looking for beta readers and a critique of your work, check out scribble file at dot com will mag.
[00:18:40] Do you have any advice that you could give somebody who's working on a book now and maybe they're not quite finished with it.
[00:18:45] Mag Diamond: [00:18:45] First of all, just know that you have a story worth telling. You know, just, just remind yourself that you have a story worth telling, that everybody has a story and you know the doubts you have are unreal.
[00:18:59] They're just [00:19:00] simply the busy-ness of your mind getting in the way, and you really need to set those, those difficulties aside and forge ahead. Because. There's nothing more satisfying than completing something that's your own creative project. It's a manifestation of who you are. It's a lonely business.
[00:19:20] And so I, I remind people that they need to share the experience with other writers and they need to maybe find a writing group or a writing community of some kind. I mean, I, you know, I sent it, I finished my book because I worked with these people over that period of time.
[00:19:36] Matt: [00:19:36] Right. What was the feeling like when your first book arrived and you were able to hold it like the very first edition that you got to see?
[00:19:45] Mag Diamond: [00:19:45] It was pretty exciting. I mean, I even got excited when I saw the advanced reader copy and you know, cause I got a whole box of those to give away and send to people and whatnot. And I was just, I couldn't believe it. It was like in the. I [00:20:00] just kept this box open in my living room and I just kept looking at it and thinking, my God, this, this is, this is, this is something I did, you know?
[00:20:11] And, um, and I gave it away to people. I've got periodically people that I, people that I really like.
[00:20:17] Matt: [00:20:17] Sure. That's very exciting to be able to hand the book to somebody and say, I wrote this.
[00:20:21] Mag Diamond: [00:20:21] And people are universally touched by that. You know, when you do that, when you. When you offer that up. I had my aunt who was dying, and I went to see her.
[00:20:31] That was last year in March, I believe. And uh, she had, I had the advanced reader copy for her and I gave it to her. She was a writer, uh, through her, throughout her life. And she was so thrilled to get the copy of the book.
[00:20:47] Matt: [00:20:47] Nice.
[00:20:48] Mag Diamond: [00:20:48] And, yeah, and then she, and then she called me up and left me this long, wonderful message about how touched she was to have read it.
[00:20:57] And, um. You're giving a piece [00:21:00] of yourself, you know, out. You're putting that out and into the, into the great unknown. But it's also, you have those wonderful occasions when you can do it personally, and actually just hand it off to somebody and say, Hey, I want you to have this.
[00:21:13] Matt: [00:21:13] But it's exciting when you see, I know somebody who's an author and they wrote this book and here it is on my coffee table.
[00:21:19] Mag Diamond: [00:21:19] Yeah. And then, and then, you know, you do that, you get that spread around enough. And then that, you know, then the word of mouth thing starts to happen. And. And then occasionally I get emails from people who mentioned who I, people I don't know, who've mentioned, you know, that they, that the book moved them or you know, touch them in, in, in a certain way.
[00:21:37] And that's a remarkable feeling. It's just some of them you've never laid eyes on to tell you that you've actually helped change their thinking or, you know, made them feel a certain way. When you're talking about the people who are writing and have, you don't know who you're going to touch. You don't know who.
[00:21:54] We'll read this and change their life. So it is various, yeah, it's all sort of mysterious because [00:22:00] you really don't know. You know, it's, it's an act of faith when you send it out into the world that it's going to reach a lot of people and it's going to mean something to a lot of people. And so, so far, you know, I feel their response has been really.
[00:22:14] Wonderful. And you know, I've given up wanting to, I mean, I never did want to be anybody who was famous, but, uh, I've given up caring about whether, you know about getting a New York times book review or anything like that. You know, it's, it's enough to get the kind of good trade reviews. I got. I mean, Curtis gave me a star when, you know, when the book, before the book was published, you know, they had reviewed it and that was a big boost for me.
[00:22:38] Matt: [00:22:38] Did you, did you send the book to them? How did, how did you get that review?
[00:22:42] Mag Diamond: [00:22:42] I sent it to them. Yeah. The, you know, our publishing company, she writes, they told us about how you can get advanced reviews. A list of, of trade journals in a sense, uh, who are known to give very intelligent, thoughtful reviews that people pay attention [00:23:00] to.
[00:23:00] And, you know, in most cases you have to pay something to get them to do it. And so I took a chance and sent it off to four different places, and I was lucky right now. I was happy. All the reviews I got were, were very positive. Some people feel like that it's, there's something not quite so right about paying people to review your book, but here's the thing, you know, if it helps you have exposure for the book down the line, then it's not a bad thing to do that.
[00:23:30] Matt: [00:23:30] Yeah.
[00:23:31] Mag Diamond: [00:23:31] It is marketing. So that in a sense isn't, you know, even though I hadn't thought of that originally, that it is also a marketing tool, is to get trade reviews. I mean, you have to, you have to, you know, hope and pray that you get good reviews. You're not going to, if you don't get a good review, you're not going to use it, of course.
[00:23:48] But I felt very, very fortunate that the reviews I got were, were very good. So it seems like you've done so many, done a lot of cool things. So congratulations. Thank you. [00:24:00] Yeah. It's fun to spread it around and then tell people about it and remind people that they can go out and have an adventure too. You know, I think the, the curious mind is it is a very, is a very great, a wonderful asset and a human being.
[00:24:13] And that's something my grandmother had. And it's something I've always had. And um, and it's, a lot of the travel happens because one is curious about. The rest of the world, you know? Sure. Right. Oh man,
[00:24:26] Matt: [00:24:26] that's a perfect place to end, so thank you very much for that advice. You've been a great guest.
[00:24:30] Mag Diamond: [00:24:30] Well, thank you.
[00:24:31] I'm very glad that I have had the chance to talk to you. We hope you enjoyed Mag's interview with much as we did,
[00:24:39] Matt: [00:24:39] and if you have a friend who might find it interesting, please share this episode with them. And until next time. Right on.
[00:24:46] Mag Diamond: [00:24:46] Thank you for listening to the author inside you podcast with your host, Leah and Matt Rafferty.