I read somewhere that a full-time novelist has to publish four moderately selling books every year just to live at the poverty line.
And I believe it.
So it’s important for the average career writer to have other sources of income. This week, “Introducing…” speaks to author Joan Marie Galat, who uses her other talents to further her writing career, and then uses her writing success to further her other talents.
1) You seem to be a unique hybrid of author, editor, teacher/trainer, and business consultant. How did you come to wear so many hats?
I always wanted to be an author but knew I needed to build up my credentials to improve the likelihood of becoming traditionally published. Working at radio stations taught me to write news, commercials, and features. I eventually made the leap to freelance journalism and worked my way from specialty to more mainstream publications and media. Constantly writing helped hone my skills and eventually achieve the publication of my first book: Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories in the Stars.
This title became a Canadian bestseller, and I built on this experience by increasing my repertoire to include work as an editor, trainer, speaker, and communications consultant. With the 2013 publication of Give Yourself a Pep Talk, I’ve expanded my presentations to include motivational keynotes. It takes multiple skills and flexibility to be self-employed!
2) Tell us about Moon Dot Media.
MoonDot Media is the business I established to encompass my freelance work. Although my favorite writing involves developing new ideas and creating books for children, I also enjoy freelance writing. It provides constant variety and fills the waiting time between writing a book and having that hard copy to share!
As a freelancer, every day is different and I’m never bored. In the same week, I might write a speech for a government official, edit a magazine article, or write educational materials for children. Freelance writing has provided opportunities to write museum text, cartoons, and web content.
3) Why are children are fascinated by your Dot to Dot in the Sky series during your school visits?
Children like the idea of staying up late to look for meteors, planets, satellites, and constellations! I think my school visits are popular because I’m able to share the excitement I feel when looking up at the night sky. It’s contagious! Kids like hearing about exploding stars and black holes and distant galaxies. Those living in cities are happy to learn that planets can be seen from cities as well as from darker countrysides.
When visiting schools, I tell stories about the characters in the night sky—as seen in celestial objects. These stories, first told by ancient cultures, provide listeners and readers with a connection to the stars, planets, and Moon. The night sky becomes the illustrations in a storybook that can be viewed every time you look up on a clear night. And stories are hard to resist at any age!
4) Can you share an experience where you inspired a child?
The most rewarding moments are when you realize you have inspired another person. Many young students have confided that they like to write too, and many have shared my enthusiasm for the night sky. I will always remember one particular high school student who stayed to chat after my author presentation.
The student knew a lot about space and we had a great talk about all things celestial. I was touched by his sincere manner and even more moved when a staff member later confided that this student rarely talked at school. I believe author presentations in schools and libraries have a more positive impact than we often realize.
5) You appear before students of all ages, including a session called “Writing as a Career” for aspiring writers in high school. What kind of advice do you give them?
I want students to know that regardless of what career they choose, they will need to be good writers and readers in order to succeed. With the predominance of communicating via email and text, it’s too easy to make written impressions that scream unprofessional, unknowledgeable, rude! With good writing skills, that same message can broadcast “Professional! Smart! Considerate!”
It’s important for students to understand that how they present themselves on paper or via electronic device will impact the quality of opportunities they encounter.
6) Who is Dr. Bufflehead?
One of my favorite ducks is the bufflehead, found where I live in Alberta. It’s a horizontally-striped, black and white diver with a stylish appearance, right down to its webbed feet—the color of pink bubblegum.
Dr. Bufflehead struck me as a great name for the mad scientist character in two of my children’s picture books. Both titles, published by Scholastic Canada, are classified as info-fiction fantasy, which means they impart facts through story. It’s important to note that story always comes first, with the science subtly blended into the text.
Dr. Bufflhead Explores Dirt is a picture book about soil types; Dr. Bufflehead Explores Energy looks at solar, thermal, wind, and other types of energy. And yes, the mad scientist is a duck.
7) You seem to have dedicated a good part of your time to inspiring people. Who, can you say, inspired you?
As well as family members who have always encouraged me, my inspiration comes from the books I read and the authors, illustrators, and editors I have been fortunate to spend time with or work alongside. Writing is a lonely sport but knowing other people who feel literacy is as important as you do is very encouraging.
8) Do you like running your own company? How do you balance your personal time with your varied career activities?
I’m very appreciate that I am able to maintain my own business and schedule my time in ways that suit me both personally and professionally. As a person who enjoys the night sky, I like to stay up late. I also find I can get a lot of writing accomplished at night because the phone stops ringing and no-one comes to the door. Because my clients are in different time zones, it can be beneficial to be on the computer outside the traditional work day.
Balancing personal and work time is a challenge when your home office is always close at hand. I manage by deliberately setting aside time for the things I like to do—walks with my bichon, reading, camping, swimming, and stilt walking! I’ve come to realize that taking breaks improves my writing.
9) What kind of new projects are you working on?
My next children’s book is called: Branching Out: How Trees are Part of Your World. It looks at how trees impact human, as well as animal lives. I’m reviewing the photos that will be included, planning a book trailer, and looking forward to sharing it with children. I’m also writing magazine articles relating to social work, and preparing emcee notes for a public speaker.
10) Where can people connect with you, your work, and your services?
It’s always a pleasure to connect. Please look for me online at:
I’d like to thank Joan for speaking with us today and sharing her entrepreneurial spirit.
See you out there!
If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!
Richard Todd is a novelist, screenplay writer, and Social Media guy. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.