Author Interview: Jennifer Evans, Touching MSApr 07, 2021
This week, I’m sharing my interview with Jennifer Evans, a rock star copywriter and editor who loves crafting stories. In her self-published book, Touching MS: Poetic Expressions, she shares a collection of poetry she accumulated in collaboration with patients who have multiple sclerosis (MS) and their caregivers from around the world.
Rich: When and why did you decide to write your first book?
Jennifer: My first book, a poetry anthology, was a collaborative effort. I was diagnosed with MS in 1992 and was interested in helping others who live with the disease. I knew that a book would be a great format in which to do that. In 2013, I began researching MS organizations and invited people with MS to share their poems for inclusion in the book. The interest was amazing, and I ended up with approximately 80 poems from people around the world, including three of my own. My goal in publishing this book was to raise awareness of MS, broaden the MS community, and offer support to others living with the disease. Proceeds go to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Rich: How long did it take you to write, edit, and publish that book?
Jennifer: The book took approximately 4 months to write, collect poems, and self-publish. I leveraged social media to reach out to people asking them to contribute poems of various themes, including diagnosis, denial, humor, pain, acceptance, and more. As I received poems, I edited and organized them. Since I was new to the self-publishing arena, I hired a freelancer/friend to help me through the technical aspects of the process. The project was exciting, purposeful, and cathartic.
Rich: What part of the writing and publishing process was the most enjoyable, and what part was the least enjoyable?
Jennifer: I enjoyed having complete creative control with this project, as well as reading and editing the poems (spelling, grammar, etc.). The cover was created by a colleague of mine, an artist who manipulated a photograph I took to create an interesting look. I really enjoyed the self-publishing method as it put me in charge of choosing the themes and overall organization of the book, and it was quick. I enjoyed every part of the process.
Rich: Which parts of the writing and publishing process were easier or more difficult than you expected?
Jennifer: I contributed three poems to this book, so I did not do a majority of the writing. However, it was fun to compile the contributors’ notes in the back of the book. This involved interviewing the authors to learn about their backgrounds and interests. As with any writing project, the hardest part for me is knowing when to stop editing. As the writer, you become very close to your piece and at some point you need to step back and acknowledge that it’s done, or you end up going in circles. It is a tremendous help to have someone else critique it for you, as I did with my poems. As for the publishing process, this was my first time self-publishing, and I was not familiar with the process. I hired a freelancer who worked behind the scenes to put the book together.
Rich: What advice would you give to someone who is considering writing and publishing their first book?
Jennifer: Just do it! Make it a habit to write every day, for however long. Learn all you can about the different publishing methods and choose what is best for you. Reach out to other writers and learn from them. Do not expect to make a lot of money from your first published book. What’s important is the satisfaction that comes from seeing your writing in print. That in itself is worth millions!
Rich: Describe how you felt and who you told when you published your first book?
Jennifer: Publishing a book is a big deal. I spread the news on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn) and gave free copies to friends and family. Imagine handing your book out, with your name and your photo right there on the back cover. Oh, and did I mention your signature and personal note you can add to the inside front cover? It’s an accomplishment to be very proud of.
Rich: What other topics do you write about, and why?
Jennifer: I enjoy writing stories about real life issues and experiences I’ve had. The facts and emotions are already there and are easy to share. I think about what people would be interested in reading. For instance, I contributed a story to my city magazine highlighting a bike marathon I participated in. I’ve also volunteered to compose letters to parishioners of my church as part of an effort to reach out to the homebound during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rich: Have you written any other books? If so, how long has each book taken you to write, and do you have any advice for people who want to write their books more quickly?
Jennifer: I have written several books after I published my poetry anthology. I have written a children’s book on MS, a children’s poem that I want to turn into a picture book, and I am writing a memoir. The children’s book on MS is still in the works (I’m still editing it). The poem took a few weeks to write, including editing and critiquing. And, I am still writing my memoir and I expect that will take several more months to complete. If you want to write your books quickly, set goals and write a little bit every day. Keep at it and you’ll have a finished book in no time.
Rich: Is there anything else you’d like to tell anyone who is starting their journey to become a published author?
Jennifer: Read as many books and talk to other writers to learn everything there is to know about the craft of writing and publishing. Be sure to join a writer’s group in your area to meet like-minded people and get constructive feedback on your writing. The connections you’ll make are invaluable. Most of all, enjoy the process!
Rich: Thanks Jennifer. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with me and with other writers.
You can get your own copy of Jennifer’s book at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1492352845.
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