I met Brooke Hocker at the New York Writers Workshop and I was excited to test her book with our beta readers that came out of her TEDx talk and blogging for a year. She is a go getter and someone I expect to be publishing soon! Below is my interview with her about her process.
Jennifer Bowen: Your book of essays came out of writing a blog. Tell us about the blog, the inspiration and the construct.
Brooke Hocker: The blog (www.galswithgoals.com) was born out of a brainstorming session with my best friend. After we had adjusted to the rhythm of grown-up jobs, marriage, and the average thirty-something year old life routines – we were craving something challenging and exciting that we could do together. After an overpriced brunch and hours of talking, we decided we would get back together in a few weeks and we’d each bring a list of twelve goals. We agreed to each try a new goal every 30 days for an entire year. To document the madness, we committed to blogging about the experiences, fears, challenges, highs, and lows. At the conclusion of the year, we reflected on how full the year had been and the number of people who were following our stories; we decided to give the project one more go and continue with new goals into 2016. The blog has not only served as a great creative outlet for me and my writing, but the goals resulted me recording myself singing and posting it on YouTube (I am not a singer), winning a $20,000 jackpot in Las Vegas, writing thirty handwritten love letters to friends and family, traveling to New York City to pitch my first book, and so much more!
JB: When did you think you might have a book out of the blog entries?
BH: I have always dreamed of writing a book but never knew where to start. Because this was such a big goal in my life, and because I was starting a blog about trying new goals, my best friend (who is my partner in crime on the blog) suggested that I make one of my goals on the blog to write a book. Furthermore, she suggested I make it a goal in the fall/winter so I’d have a year full of blog adventures under my belt. As I used the blog as a regular outlet for writing, it quickly became apparent that non-fiction was my thing, and more specifically, short or humorous essays. After about 6 months of blogging, I felt like I could officially commit to writing a book.
JB: How did you go about editing the stories? On your own or in a writers group?
BH: Editing…ugh. Writing is one of my favorite things to do, but I’m learning very quickly that editing is not. Since this is my first book, I have been learning along the way. The approach I’ve taken so far has been to write, self-edit, have a friend (with an English degree) edit, and then self-edit again. This is one reason I chose to use BookHive Corp – I knew I needed to get some eyes on my work…specifically eyes that were not related to me or had been my best friend since kindergarten and knows my strong need for positive praise.
JB: I met you at the New York Writers Workshop. Tell us about your decision to attend and what you got out of it?
BH: As mentioned earlier, I had specifically set a goal to write a book towards the end of 2015 under the guise of a blog goal. In preparation for any goal, I always spend time researching way in advance. That research led me to the New York Writers Workshop which, ironically, was being held the month I would be blogging about writing a book. As soon as I found the information about the conference – I knew it was something I had to attend. I submitted a 100 word pitch (having written 0 words of an actual book) and was accepted. I spent the next 5 months putting together essays to at least have a partial manuscript in the works in case an agent or editor showed interest in my work. The conference itself was an experience I could not have received anywhere else. I am from Ohio…we don’t have large publishing houses and big named editors hanging around this area. The conference provided an opportunity to learn how to refine my book pitch, allowed me to hear the feedback others received and apply it to my own work, and provided time for me to pitch my book to 3 different editors. Additionally, the conference held an agent panel where we learned the ins and outs of pitching and working with a literary agent. It was one of the best experiences I had last year.
JB: What is your writing process like? Are you writing new essays or working on the existing ones?
BH: Now that I’m officially calling my book “complete,” I have started writing new essays in between blogging and pitching said book to agents. All of my essays are centered on life experiences that I feel others can relate to – some humorous, some serious. When an idea for an essay comes to mind, I find that I absolutely have to get it out on paper. It’s almost as if all of the words hit me at once and if I don’t type it them immediately…it will escape me later. If I have an idea that I’m in love with or feel has to get out – I will typically finish an essay in one sitting. I can’t leave a story in the middle or I lose my “flow” and end up hating what I had previously started because my creativity around it gets lost. I have found within the last year that it serves me well to dedicate time specifically for writing. With my career and commitments otherwise, I have found that Sunday afternoons are my best bet for a block of time.
JB: You spoke at a TEDx talk, talk about that and how that shaped the book if it did?
BH: I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to speak at Tedx Columbus. My talk was titled, “Raising Teen Parents,” and was focused on my experience as the child of teen parents. More specifically, I spoke about the stereotypes of teen parents and how my experience was very different than what most would expect. As a result of the talk, feedback I was getting on my blog, and my bias towards using humor in my writing; I decided to do a somewhat humorous take on the subject and write a book of essays that each start with a piece of sketchy advice my mother has given me along the way. While my talk was very series and I hope to inspire others who may find themselves in a teen parenting situation, I also wanted to highlight through my writing the humorous side of the advice my mother gave me and how it all proved to make sense later in life.
JB: Who would you like your book to reach, and what would you hope they take away after reading it?
BH: I would love if every thirty-something year old girl would pick up my book in an airport and read it on her flight to her next vacation or next business trip. My hope for this book is that it would both entertain and inspire others. Entertain through relatable stories and inspire others to set big goals and go for them.
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Jennifer Bowen, QueenBee (more fun than CEO), of BookHive Corp.