#WIPChat, #WritingLife

WIP Chat: The inspiration behind my novel “Romka”.

My novel “Romka” grew out of a short story I wrote in November 2017. It was the first story I’d written after a three year hiatus, due to ill health. Going on this writing hiatus is the one thing I regret in my life and I’ve made some seriously dodgy choices – but I digress. It took me a little over a month to write and once finished, I put it away to rest until editing. Soon after though, I realised that the story of Romka’s disappearance, of her best friend Myriam and the campground she lives on, was far from told. I had moved on to another short story by then but I just went with my gut and got back to it – best decision I ever made, btw!

I was inspired to write this story by a picture on the cover of – wait for it! – Romka magazine, which sadly is in its last issue. I named my novel to pay tribute to my source of inspiration, fyi. On said cover was a young girl, an ordinary girl not a model, whose face and sly smile drew me in. I looked at her, wondering who she was and this wave of nostalgia swept over me. I started to think of myself at her age and about my friends then and how they’ve all disappeared from my life without warning and without a trace. From that point on the story unfolded in my mind, first it was just about this vague sense of losing someone who you were once so close to, you couldn’t imagine your life without them – eventually it mushroomed into a Coming-of-Age thriller and the embodiment of this sinking feeling you get, when you grow up the odd kid in a rural community, which tells you, you’ll never make it out of here (alive)…

There is a picture of a young girl on the screen, shoulder-length wispy hair, dark slanted eyes, Babushka cheeks, stubby nose, a shy smile exposing crooked teeth. (from Part 1 of “Romka”)

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The characters that populate the world of “Romka” are mostly inspired by people I knew when I was growing up. My grandparents, their friends, my friends and perhaps even me, a little or a lot. I can never tell how much of myself I put into my work but there’s always something or other I’m trying to work through between the pages. With this novel I stayed very close to home, both with the setting and the characters. I didn’t even bother changing any names. The people in question are either dead or out of my life and the characters I named after them don’t share many traits with their real life counterparts, physical or otherwise. So I’m pretty sure that I won’t get sued over this… 😉

A brief squabble ensues in which Jule brandishes his stick and Jaak uses his beer-belly as a weapon. (from Part 2 “Romka”)

The setting of “Romka” was inspired by the place I grew up in. Recently I moved back home and my writing went from urban to rural. The campground in question is an actual place, which makes it easy for me to trigger inspiration when I’m stuck – I just go over there and have a look around and in no time I’ll see my characters walking through the premises wreaking havoc and I’m back on track. The town adjacent to the campground is based on a nearby fishing town, almost exactly. I changed some of the infrastructure for ease of writing but whenever I reread those scenes during editing this 30k inhabitants town is what I see in my mind – perhaps my mind makes it a little grittier than it is in real life but that’s what happens to everything that inspires me. I plot and ponder over it and then I tease out the grunge…

The surface of the lake reflects stormy skies, black and blue like a battered bride on the verge of collapse. (from Part 2 of “Romka”)

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During my writing career so far, I have been inspired by lots of things, art, films and music – thin air on occasion 😉 – but never have I taken so much from memory as with this novel. “Romka” is the most autobiographical novel I have ever written. It may surprise you, once you read it but it is true. I don’t know what changed and made it possible for me to access these memories and turn them into fiction. Perhaps it was moving back to this place, if only for a while. Anyway, I’m glad my path brought me here – & thank you muses, for inspiring me!

If you’ve made it this far, I’ve a couple of questions for you, before you go…

What are you currently working on?

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Where do you get your inspiration from?

(This doesn’t just apply if you’re a writer, btw. Everyone is creative in their own right, whether you write or paint or cook or crochet, or whatever else is your jam – hey maybe you make jam?! – I want to hear from you!)


If this post has made you curious about my novel “Romka”, you can learn more about it right here on my website. Just click on the button below… 

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#Patreon, #WritingLife

So you want to start a Patreon page?! Here’s 5 things to watch out for…

Patreon is an effective and straight-forward way for creators from all walks of life to build a regular income, perhaps even make a living, from their work. But how to go about setting up a successful page and running a campaign that converts fans into patrons? As a writer and Patreon creator I know how overwhelming it can all seem at the very beginning and how many obstacles can stand between you and the successful launch of your Patreon campaign. Which is why I put together these five steps for you to follow and ensure that you know what you’re doing before, during and after the launch of your Patreon page.

1. Build a backlog… A Patreon page is like a houseplant; you need to tend it, you need to water it – otherwise it will die. That is especially true in the first year. So you want to make sure that you can feed this new page of yours with content regularly. The best way to do that is by building up a backlog of work, at least six months’ worth of content. Everyone knows life can get in the way of your creative work sometimes. This way you will not have to put out low-quality content, just to keep the lights on. The same thing goes for rewards by the way, especially if you chose something you have to prepare in advance. A well-prepared creator makes for happy patrons and low stress levels during the first few months of your campaign.

2. Build a platform… This is the number one way to ensure your Patreon page will be a success right out of the gate. Patreon does not take care of this for you, by the way. The site features a search function but it is not one of their strong points. Unless you are a top grossing creator your page will most likely go unnoticed by anyone browsing the website. So be aware that your largest source of traffic to your Patreon page will be your website or social media presence. This is the reason why you want to get started on building that audience now. Start a blog or vlog, release some free content. This may sound counter-intuitive to someone looking to make a living wage but it’s a great way of introducing people to your art and getting them hooked. So once your Patreon page goes online, your fans will be eager to put their money toward your campaign and create an income for you.

3. Determine your Why… Before you build your page, tell your platform where to find it and start publishing content, you should take a minute to think about the why of it all. What do you want to achieve with your page? Do you strive for a regular income, a group of devoted beta-readers for your novel or just a safe space to share your work with like-minded people who can tip you a buck, if they feel like it. These distinctions are important because they determine how you set up your page, what content you publish there and how you market it once it is online. Go on, grab a pen and get brainstorming!

4. Build your page… You’re in luck, Patreon has made this step of the process really easy for you – even if you don’t know how to code or have no idea how to go about setting up a website. I will explain the nuts and bolts of setting up a Patreon page in a later post – so watch this space! But for now I will tell you what you need to have at the ready to start a page that converts fans into patrons. You will need a couple of photos of yourself and your work, one for your profile picture and one for your page header, a video of you talking about the who, why and what of your Patreon campaign and a Q&A style essay for your About-section that answers roughly the same questions as your video. It is essential to have both a video and a written introduction to reach the maximum conversion rate of fans into patrons. And everything else is pretty much self-explanatory.

5. Set a schedule (& stick to it!)… If you want your Patreon page to be successful and attract lots of patrons, you need to consistently put out content. Especially in the beginning you need to prove yourself by showing up for your patrons and delivering content and rewards on time. This way you show that you are a reliable creator as well as a trust-worthy human being and not just a con-artist who will take their patrons’ money and disappear into the night. Beloved creators may be able to get away with an occasional month of down-time and missed rewards. But you are only at the very beginning of your Patreon journey, so try to stick to a publishing schedule as much as possible. Nobody is perfect and life happens, meaning you might end up having to miss or post-pone a content post or a reward delivery. In this case it is important that you keep the lines of communication open. Your patrons will show understanding for a struggling artist, but not for a flake.

I hope this post has managed to shine some light on the sometimes confusing process of starting a Patreon page. Put these five steps into action, take your time to complete each one and you will be fine. Don’t try to do it all at once, starting a Patreon page without a platform is a lonely road and trying to catch up with demand for content and rewards, while keeping a day-job and maintaining a social life, is a surefire way to suck all the fun out of sharing your art. Be prepared, ask for help when you need it and don’t forget to give yourself a break every once in a while. Remember, your Patreon page is supposed to be a rewarding, if not life-changing experience. Stick to these five steps and you will be well on your way to running a successful Patreon campaign.


If you found this post helpful, please leave a tip in my virtual Tip Jar. Just click on the image below. It will take you to my Patreon page, where you can sign up for a $1/month contribution. So that I can keep making these posts and help you on your journey as an independent creative. Thank you!

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#JustLife, #Patreon, #WritingLife

When the student is ready the teacher will appear…

So I spent the last few days listening to the audiobook-version of Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking”, trying to get some advice on how best to go about this whole Patreon thing. Artistically we’re very different, I’m a writer, she’s a musician but at the end of the day we both want to do the same thing – make art and use it to connect with people. Insofar her memoir has taught me a lot about being fearless, asking for help and accepting that the answer might be no. All of this seems daunting to me, putting myself out there for the trolls to devour in the hope of reaching through to a handful of people who get me and my work. What gave me a little confidence boost, however, is that even the “Queen of Crowd-sourcing” Amanda Palmer admits that she was not born this way that she’s just reached the other side of a years-long process, where finally being vulnerable and trusting others not to take advantage of that has become natural, for the most part.

I’m not gregarious, my personal history has taught me that generally people are shit and it seems close to impossible to rewrite this conditioning. But I will try nonetheless because I’ve also learned that the “people are shit” attitude may protect me from those this sentence actually describes but it also makes me miss the ones who get what I do and that’s a damn shame. Most people are generally alright I guess, it’s just that most of the time we’re not thinking, too preoccupied with our own shit to empathize – I’m like that too sometimes but I still get upset when it happens to me. I’ll never get naked in front of a crowd so they can draw on me that seems like an odd idea to have, let alone go through with but it works for Amanda Palmer – so live and let live. Still when it comes to her Patreon, her social media presence and general attitude towards the people who fund her art I could do worse than put into action the advice she’s given me in “The Art of Asking”. Because like I said in the end we both want the same thing – to make art and make a connection.

#Patreon

Caith Esra Ulvar is now on Patreon!

This post is jumping the gun a bit. In fact I’m well on my way to build my patreon page but it’s not quite launched yet. I’m estimating that it’ll take me at least another month to polish my fiction enough, so that I can publish some quality content right out of the gate. So bear with me for now… I’ll update this post as my launch date approaches. 

Update:

And then I didn’t. Yet somehow the big day is here and I’m a little overwhelmed to be honest. There’s so many things I need to do to get my page up and running. I want to publish my first story and the associated rewards today – so please bear with me as I hyperventilate…

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Okay, I’m good. Sort of.

Now that my patreon page is finally online I find myself in a weird place in which I am both afraid everything will change and that nothing does. Things have to change, though. I’ve spent too long working for the junk drawer. I’m sure Kafka was a top bloke but he is not a role model. The other side must be better. So I took the plunge. I’ll establish a new routine – give it a week and my adrenaline level will be back to normal and this whole patreon business will feel like same old, same old. Am I making sense here?

On the flipside I have told myself again and again to give it three years. Show up. Be consistent. Even if no one is watching. I have resolved to give it three years and possibly a lifetime. Or until the inevitable collapse of society and the internet. But then I’ll just tell my stories around a camp fire after an exciting day of hunting and gathering, possibly zombie dodging or whatever. I’m a good writer. I am passionate about my stories. And I am confident that they will find an audience. Eventually.

And here comes the inevitable sales pitch: Want to know if that’s you? You can head on over to my patreon page. It’s live now – did I mention that? There’s me, welcoming you with my whole heart, and stories and soon also a novel (March 05, everybody) and lots of perks for signing up and supporting me. Before you hop on over to patreon, don’t forget to share this with your people. Life is too short to hide what you’re passionate about. I have stopped hiding. It is scary. But I’m sure it’ll be worth it.

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By the way, is this button too big…?!