How I Became A Writer:
Some people go to school and learn how to be a writer. However, that’s not what I did. I actually did my undergraduate degree in Psychology and English. For my graduate degree, I worked on my Masters of Science, but it was not science, per se. It was, in fact, Organizational Behavior and Industrial Relations, in the faculty of Commerce. I didn’t complete my thesis, because in one of life’s great ironies, I hated writing.
After that, I worked for the City of Calgary in Personnel and then moved to Vancouver, to work for a major trade union. While it is hard to believe, I was a negotiator and representative for one of the largest unions in B.C. I hated my job and thought there had to be a better way to spend my life.
So, I quit my job and the profession I had trained for to open up a toy store. In 1987, I created Einstein's the Science Center, Ltd, which was a toy, game and book store. As part of the store, I started teaching hands-on science in the classroom at the back of the store. Everyone loved the store and it became a Mecca of sorts for kids who loved science and cool toys. Einstein’s even won an international award from Playthings Magazine for store design. We also won a prize for putting the star of Young Einstein, Yahoo Serious, on a float in a parade.
And how did this make me a writer? Well, one of the book representatives dragged a head honcho of a publishing company into my store. This person asked what was good and bad about kids science books and I told her I could do better than most of the stuff on the market. Convinced by my bravado, her publishing company gave me my first book contract. The books I wrote won awards, and more publishers hired me to write books.
Where does Leslie fit in? Through Einstein’s I met a wonderful woman named Vicki Scudamore, who became my best friend. Her best friend was Leslie Johnstone. Vicki knew both Leslie and I loved science and she match made us as writing partners. Now I have two best friends with whom I can play and work.
I started freelance business writing because my other friend, Maurice Bridge, got tired of me phoning him about story leads. Finally he told me to just write the things myself and he gave me my own column in Business in Vancouver. This was a great monthly job for about four years.
The column got me a weekly noon hour segment on VTV, where I was the “consumer expert”. This was a nice way of saying “ a woman who shops way too much”. This segment lasted till the noon news was canceled.
Flash to 2006. I spend my time writing and designing science books and kits. I also love to speak to kids at libraries, and schools and to teachers at conventions. This is a great way to connect with my intended audience and discover if the activities we have designed are cool and fun.
So, you're thinking of becoming co-authors.
- know each other well?
- like and respect each other a lot?
- enjoy each other's company?
- trust each other?
- communicate easily and well together?
- have different strengths and weaknesses and complementary skills and abilities so that the product of your collaboration will be better than either of you could produce on your own?
- have compatible personalities and work habits?
- work well together?
- have similar writing styles? (If not, how will you mesh them?)
- have the same expectations of the time and effort involved and volume of work you'll create together?
- what your collaboration will look like: how you'll divide the work, whether you'll work together or apart.
- how you'll make creative and business decisions.
- how you'll resolve disagreements. Will one of you have the final say over anything?
- how you'll split the royalties. Include the percentage split in your contracts, and have publishers send individual royalty statements and checks to each of you.
- a time schedule (at least to start).
- leave your ego at the door. Be willing to put the project before yourself.
- don't sweat the small stuff.
- don't try to take ownership.
- it's a collaboration...that means give and take.
- have fun.
by Fiona Bayrock
About having a co-author?
It's kind of like doing the dishes. I've cooked this time, you clean. If you have a family, you know what I mean. You just work together. Give and take.