Scary Monkeys & Author Platforms

Ina ZajacPersonal Please, Pretty Lights WritingScary Monkeys & Author Platforms



Scary Monkeys & Author Platforms

I’ve been a writer for more than 20 years, but am just now posting my first blog. Here’s a little backstory. It all started one morning back in the 1970s when a chimpanzee terrorized my neighborhood. I grew up in West Seattle by the way, not Africa. “Mommy, there’s a monkey in the yard!” She didn’t believe us, not until innocent blood was shed.

Karen was her name, just there to walk to school with my older sister. We tried to warn her by banging on the front window yelling, “MONKEY!” She was halfway up the walkway, oblivious. He reached her in two hops, latched on, and chomped a chunk out of her knee. She shrieked and hobbled back home, while he made himself cozy on our front porch. Seemingly victorious.
My siblings and I sat at the window, enthralled. I was just five years old, too young to ask “WTF?” But in my little mind I knew something special was going on. A police car pulled up, and then another. An animal control truck was next. Finally, a big white news van. The monkey stood its ground. Chimps are actually apes and not monkeys, but hey. I love the word monkey. Say it with me. Great word, right?
The air was filled with an urgent kind of static So exciting, so many questions. Where did this monkey come from? How many stitches was Karen going to need? Was she going to get some crazy monkey disease? I wanted answers. Just like the pretty reporter with the ice-cream-cone-shaped microphone. I’m thinking she was the inspiration for Anchorman’s Ms. Veronica Corningstone — “Stay classy Seattle.” That was the day I knew I had to get into the business of news. Things didn’t end well for our animal friend. A misguided (head-shot) dart meant to anesthetize, euthanized instead. So not cool. The highlight of the day came at lunchtime. It was the kill-me-now look on my mother’s face when the principal called about the obviously forged note my fifth-grade brother gave the attendance lady. “Please excuse Gil for being late today. We were trapped inside our home by an escapee monkey.”
“It will be on the 5 o’clock news,” she assurred the principal. And, it was. Mom told me truth was stranger than fiction because fiction had to make sense. I was all about “Dick and Jane” books at the time, still several years away from reading Mark Twain.
Fast forward to high school. “Ina, you should be a writer,” my teachers said. Nobody ever told me I should be a mathematician. Writing felt good. Praise felt good. It was the only subject that ever came easy. My college major was a no-brainer — journalism.
My first newspaper gig was in Ephrata, Washington. You know it? Of course you don’t. My computer was a Mac (so modern) and had a screen the size of a piece of toast. Back then, we printed our stories in column inches, cut them into strips, ran them through a hot glue machine, and slapped them on a light board. We only had so much room. If it didn’t fit then it didn’t run. Period. I watched and learned as my editors debated, swore, fought it out, and made tough decisions. Like the monkey, so exciting. The printing press was in the back of the building. In the afternoon, the paperboys would come and wait for papers to come hot off the presses. It was so cool watching them ride away on their bikes with canvas bags full of rolled-up newspapers slung over their shoulders.
And so, why has it taken me so long to write this very first blog? So many excuses over the years, but these have been my top three:
  1. I’m too busy writing to write a blog. Don’t you know I’m on deadline?
  2. Why would I ever want to write for free?
  3. What do I even have to say?
So why now? I’ll always be a news hound, and I’ve enjoyed event promotion and public relations too. But there’s someone new in my life. She’s fiction. I’ve always been interested in fiction writing, but the compulsion has grown stronger with each passing year. A year ago (Oct. 15th 2012 to be exact) I started working 30 hours a week with a stellar writing coach/editor named Caroline Allen (‘) who helped me focus on my first manuscript. PLEASE, PRETTY LIGHTS, is now an 88,000-word work of contemporary women’s (New Adult) fiction. I’m now completing final edits with the amazing Corbin Lewars (‘) and plotting another manuscript. A third is already crashing my dreams. I’ve never been so psyched about writing. I get to make up quotes now. How great is that? I can make my characters say whatever I want. I can twist and torture them, and not feel (too) guilty.
The two words that make me want to run screaming as fast as my little legs will carry me: author platform. Not quite as frightening as a random blood-thirsty monkey, but close. Until recently, social media for me has been just that — social. But, I’m in this for the long haul. I understand a strong author platform is part of what it means to be a successful author, and so I’m in.
Future posts will likely be half this long, if that. I will likely update every few weeks. Future topics:
  • Why WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron is rocking my world.
  • Why writing conferences are worth every penny.
  • The power of writing your own obit
  • What I’ve learned from naughty librarians.
  • And monkeys, probably more about monkeys.

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