Jumping Head First into Publishing

Guest Post by Bonnie  Rokke Tinnes

Several times during my life, especially after I graduated from Bemidji State University in Minnesota as an English and Russian teacher, I wanted to be a writer, but something always got in the way of the time and energy I needed to actually sit down and produce something of worth. I taught school for a while.  Then my husband and I were married and I worked on our farm.  We had children who took a lot of my time.  After my husband became ill, I returned to school, attaining a nursing degree from the University of North Dakota just in time to take over as breadwinner and caregiver.

We were lucky when I was given a job as a registered nurse in a Minnesota state hospital for mentally ill adults in the middle of lake country, which was the one thing that made moving and taking the job inviting.  The demanding job stressed and stretched my nerves and energy to their max so when I was home, I’d sit down at the computer and try to change my thoughts and mood by writing something of worth, something that was beautiful.  Writing had become a survival technique taking me away from the harsh realities of what seemed a cruel and heartless world.

Lucky me, I bought my first computer a couple of years after I moved here in 1995.  After I learned how to use it, I found it the best tool a writer could ever have.  It was easy to write, delete, cut, copy, and paste, quite different from sitting at the typewriter ruining paper with typos and other mistakes.

It was after retirement that I became more serious about writing.  Having a lot of time on my hands, I began organizing all those pages of thoughts I had worked on for years, many about my childhood and growing up in the middle fifties on a farm in northern Minnesota.

Book signing
Franklin Arts Center,
 Brainerd, Minnesota
I hired someone to edit my work and began writing Growing Up Margaret, a story about three sixth grade girls growing up in rural Minnesota in the mid- fifties who become best friends.  Following that, I wrote Margaret Inc, a story about the girls’ seventh grade year, which is my second book in a trilogy I plan about Margaret. These books appeal to anyone from middle school to those who grew up in the mid- fifties because they portray the culture, setting, and time in history realistically.

 During my lifetime, I had also written numerous poems and organized some of my nature poems into a book called Snow Presents and Poems.  I also plan to organize more of my poetry for future publication.

Not getting any younger and having all my poems and stories in my computer or on copy paper, I began to dream of having them published.  I knew that if I didn’t do something, all my work would be in vain if something happened to me, and I wanted to leave these stories to my grandsons.  If I wanted my dream, I needed to jump in myself and try something because I was finding it almost impossible to get my foot in the door of a publisher, and I didn’t have time to waste.

 During July, 2010, I attended a Highlights Foundation writers’ workshop at Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York. It was an educational and rewarding week, and I learned what I needed to improve my writing for publication. The manuscript I submitted at Chautauqua to my mentor, published children’s author Helen Hemphill from Tennessee, was Margaret Inc.  I was pleased and encouraged when she said that my writing was almost there and would just take some tweaking.  She also said that I had strong characters and plot.  What I needed was to use more dialogue and to show more and tell less what was taking place in the story.  Hemphill’s works include The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones, Runaround, and Long Gone Daddy

I probably rushed the submission to a publisher when I returned home.  It came back to me with a note that said that my writing was probably too Midwestern to sell nationally.  The editor suggested I publish it locally.

With the help of my editor, I continued to perfect my writing.  Since he was older, I also enlisted a younger reader for a second opinion.  Between the two of them, I was able to tweak and polish my writing, making it acceptable for publishing.

I studied published books and learned how to set up the title page, dedication page, and all the other introductory pages.  I learned how to set up page breaks so a new chapter began at the top of its own page. I even went to the internet for an ISBN number and also uploaded my manuscript to the Copyright Office, paying for the whole thing electronically.   I was learning and doing things I’d never done before and even enjoying it.

When I felt everything was ready, I uploaded my book to Amazon.com for Kindle, and it worked.  Once it was uploaded, I could see how it looked and make adjustments before I saved it for publishing.  It took a few times, but it was finally uploaded as I wanted it.  Next, I uploaded to Barnes and Noble for Nook.  And just like that, I was published.

It didn’t end there.  Some people wanted a hard copy, a book they could hold in their hands.  I am not an illustrator so I found a website, Dreamstime.com, and there I found photographs that I could pay very little for the right to use on a book cover.  I hunted through them until I found the perfect one for each book.  I searched the internet until I found a reasonably priced, good printer, DiggyPOD, in Michigan who would print as many books as I wanted at a time.

Before I ordered any printed books, I went to Facebook and to my email and asked my friends if they’d buy a book if I printed some.  I received enough monies to pay for the first printing.  They kept their word, and they also loved the books.

Tuesday, September 4, I had my first books signing right here in Brainerd, Minnesota, at the Franklin Arts Center.  It was thrilling to watch as people bought my book.  I also was featured in the Brainerd Dispatch’s magazine, HerVoice, 2012 fall issue

  A good friend once told me, “Everyone wants to be a writer, but no one wants to do the work.”  He should know because he teaches college writing.  I can tell you from experience that those words are true.  None of it was easy, but it was worthwhile.  It took jumping in head first and a lot of guts, but I am happy where I am today as a writer. I just told my husband that I am beginning to feel like an author.  

Please visit my website www.bonnierokketinnes.com.  There you will learn more about my writing and me and also how to get in touch with me.  I would love that.

--Bonnie Rokke Tinnes


Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Thanks for guest posting today Bonnie. Your journey is an inspiration to writer's trying to break into publishing.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Mary Jo, for this wonderful opportunity. I believe the most important thing in writing is to never give up. I hope I have inspired many writers today.

Karen Cioffi said...

Bonnie, thanks for sharing your writing journey. It's always helpful for newbies to learn how others break through.

Kathleen Moulton said...

Bonnie, you really encouraged me. I am a full-time homemaker/homeschooling mother and live on a "semi farm". I'm very busy.

I keep plugging away! But it's good to know I can be successful.



Unknown said...

I am happy that you find my article worthwhile and useful. You have made my day. Thanks to all of you.

I plan to keep working on this project and make it even more successful. Please go to my website and learn more about me. I have my blog there and another page about my poetry book that includes an original poem.

Unknown said...

Just to show you that sometimes you never have everything completely perfect. I left out a word in my poetry book title. Oh well. It's "Snow Presents and Other Poems."

Heidiwriter said...

Good for you, Bonnie! I wish you continued success and inspiration!

Debbie A Byrne said...

This is a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing and contratulations on your success!

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