google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: May 2011

Want to Build a Family History Legacy Book

Tuesday's Tip - A Day to Day Journal of Your Life with No Effort!


As family historians, we all love those nostalgic little newspapers that demonstrate the small details of our ancestor’s life. You know those first quaint papers .....the ones that told us who sold their tractor to who, and who shared Sunday dinner together, and who had family to town for a  visit. Why do we love those papers? ..... because they reveal our ancestors as they really were, past their dry vital statistics, they demonstrated the small everyday moments in their lives.  

Today we have little to compare to those papers. Most small town papers are gone, and if they aren’t they are mostly filled with regurgitated material sent across the wires.  They certainly aren’t documenting how I celebrated the long weekend, or how my wisdom tooth surgery went last week (painfully). Then it occurred to me.... there is a medium that provides these daily doses of life....Facebook.

This brought me to thinking about those years of posts accumulated on Facebook. All those moments that make up a life.....bragging about your daughter getting accepted into University.... discussing your vacations plans..... or what colour you will paint the bathroom next week.  All great moments of a life captured on a Facebook page.  Facebook is actually journaling our day to day lives. That led me to wonder how we could preserve those posts for future generations.

You may not think that the bits of information we post on Facebook will be of little importance to your Great Grandchildren. Let’s think about this....how important would you think if your past Great-Grandmother had been sharing the up and downs of her everyday life in a journal. You would be mad to have that information in your hand. So how can we put this same information into our descendant’s hands?

I looked into it. Under account settings, click on Download your Information....This tool will assemble all your information for you in a zip file that you can download and simply search. This could take awhile. Once this is done, the Facebook people will send you an email requesting your password before they release it to you. Here is what they will provide you in your download.

§   Your profile information (e.g., your contact information, interests, groups)
§  Wall posts and content that you and your friends have posted to your profile
§  Photos and videos that you have uploaded to your account
§  Your friend list
§  Notes you have created
§  Events to which you have RSVP’d
§  Your sent and received messages
§  Any comments that you and your friends have made on your Wall posts, photos, and other profile content


Many people have memorialized a friend or family member’s facebook page after their death. This is a wonderful way to pay tribute to the passing of a family member or a friend. However, once a page is memorialized all posts are removed. That is a shame, because those posts are the windows into that person’s day-to-day life. Therefore, whether you plan to download your Facebook information for your future generations or grant a friend or family member your password, you may also want to leave instructions on whether you wish to have your page memorialized.

If your family chooses to turn a facebook page into a memorial page, you can request this by clicking here, you will lose all posts, I would suggest downloading the information prior to changing a Facebook page becoming a memorial.

Of course, we also don’t know how long Facebook will be around for, just as those quaint little newspapers have disappeared, Facebook will disappear or change at some point. What will it be replaced with?....and if so what will happen to your years of information?

Just know that each day you post the details of your life on your Facebook page, you are creating a journal online, so just be sure to download your zip file  for your future descendants. 

Monday Morning Mentions

Monday Morning Mentions at the Armchair Genealogists is an opportunity to reflect on what has been happening at the Armchair Genealogist this past week and give a nod to some of my peers who captured my attention in the blogging community.


If you want to see what ranked in my Google Reader this week click, The Armchair Genealogist's Google Reader Highlights 

You can also find me on Facebook. Stop by and leave a message. I often will link some great finds there as well. 


You can also follow me on twitter at @LynnPal or my twitter paper The Armchair Genealogist Journal. 

It was a light week for my own postings, having had oral surgery for a wisdom tooth, I was a little too overcome by medication to write anything coherent. However my down time allowed me the opportunity to do a lot of blog reading this week. 

At the Armchair Genealogist this week, posts included the following: 

From the Archives.......

Online Genealogy Job - Great Opportunity for a Genealogy Blogger - the job has been filled, Congrats Tami Glatz! 

Each week I’m choosing four blogs that deserve a shout out, they will be in the form of 4 categories, Internet Genealogy, Family History Writing, a New Blog and a blog that posted a great old-fashioned family recipe.

This week I'm adding a blog post I think is outstanding.... Seth really does think outside of the box. I think my genealogy friends would agree we are all a little worried about the future of our libraries and thus librarians. In Seth's Blog, his post  The future of the library ... gives me hope and perhaps a few librarians may sit up and take note.

Internet Genealogy – a great genealogy or internet tip that will benefit any armchair genealogist
This week’s mention:


Ancestral Wormhole offers this tip to turn your blogger static pages into pages displaying your pedigree charts in the post Changing the Style of Blogger Static Pages.


Susan at Long Lost Relatives posted a great article using Find A Grave.com to it fullest potential in  Are You Making Full Use of Find A Grave?  It's been awhile since I've been to Find A Grave. Thanks Susan for reminding us of what a great resource this website has become.


Writing Your Family History – great advice or information on writing your family history
This week’s mention:
I thought some of you who may not be sure just where to start with writing your family history and might find this post helpful. Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent offers  some tips in her post How Do You Learn to Write? at Rants and Ramblings


New Genealogy Blog – we will tip our hat to a newcomer who impresses us right out of the box
This week’s mention:  

Check out  the Misadventures of a Genealogist  by Cinamon Collins. She has learned her first lesson about organization in her opening post.  

Family Recipe - a blog that makes us want to eat, and offers up a great old-fashioned family recipe to share on Family Recipe Friday.
This week's mention: 


Check out this interesting recipe  Ã†bleskivers - a Danish pancake balls ....at Shaking Leaves: My Adventures in Genealogy. 
You can find more newcomers at Thomas' list of New Genealogy Blogs at Geneabloggers.  For other great reads, Randy at Genea-Musings offers the Best of the Genea-Blogs.  Greta does a great job at Greta’s Genealogy Bog, she offers the Follow Friday Newsletter each week, click here for this week’s edition. Elizabeth at Little Bytes of Life offers her Best Bytes for the week here.

Have a great genealogy week, keep searching and writing!

Online Genealogy Job - Great Opportunity for a Genealogy Blogger!

(This was recently posted by Chris Whitten of WikiTree. Could be a great opportunity for the right individual.)


WikiTree.com is seeking an experienced genealogist to be its official "Cousin Connector." This person will work from home approximately five hours a week introducing distant cousins to each other, helping them merge their ancestors, and facilitating their enjoyable, productive collaborations.

The full description is at Help Wanted and included below in plain text.

JOB DESCRIPTION

As WikiTree.com's Cousin Connector, you will help connect distant cousins and facilite their enjoyable, productive genealogy collaborations.

This WikiTree Honor Code will be your guide. You will be setting an example for what's best about WikiTree:
A generous, cooperative, community attitude ... a dedication to discovering and sharing genealogy ... an excitement about the grand goal of growing a single worldwide family tree.

You will be helping make sure that WikiTree really is a worldwide shared tree and not a collection of individual trees. Specifically, we anticipate that you will be spending a few hours a week browsing surname index pages and using our FindMatches tool to look for likely duplicates. From there, you'll be proposing merges.

You will also be improving the overall quality of merged ancestor profiles by demonstrating and explaining good genealogical methods (especially: citing sources). You'll be making research suggestions and answering questions by e-mail and our message boards.

Since disagreements are so common in collaborations, you will be helping diffuse conflicts and encourage a style of WikiTree usage that minimizes them (again, especially: citing sources). You'll be clicking a lot of "thank you" links to demonstrate how this feature can encourage people to make useful contributions and help maintain a friendly atmosphere through positive reinforcement.

QUALIFICATIONS

You should have prior experience helping people research genealogy, either as a volunteer or a professional.

You must be able to express yourself well in writing. You need to be able to show a smile in your electronic communication. :-)

Most importantly, you need to be genuinely excited about this as an opportunity to help other people with an interest in genealogy and our common mission. This needs to be what motivates you. The compensation is just what enables you to prioritize it.

HOURS

Approximately five hours a week to start. You can work whenever you want.

The only constraint is that if someone asks you a question you can't leave them for days without a response. If you're not going to be available you just have to let people know.

LOCATION

From your own computer, anywhere on the Internet.

COMPENSATION

We will negotiate a monthly rate that works for you, based on your experience and needs.

It won't be a lot of money. WikiTree is a free website; you'll be helping non-paying members with their genealogy. You'll be working alongside volunteers.

On the upside, if you also work as a free-lance professional genealogist, this will be great advertising. WikiTree gets thousands of visitors a day and is growing fast. You will be a highly-visible leader in the community. The job description is to be fun and helpful, so you will get a good reputation. Every person you help is a potential future client.

Plus, if you have a website or page elsewhere on the Internet the search engines will rank it more highly because of your visibility here.

TO APPLY

E-mail Chris Whitten at chris@wikitree.com.

A CV or resume isn't necessary if you don't have one handy. Just tell me about your relevant experience. In particular, are there discussion forums, blogs, or websites where I could see posts from you?

Let me know what you would need for compensation and ask any questions you might have about the position or WikiTree in general.

If haven't used WikiTree lately, be sure to spend some time using the site and browsing our Help Pages before contacting me so that we can have a more informed discussion.

You might also contact Elyse Doerflinger at elyse@wikitree.com.
She can tell you what it's like to work as part of our team.

You can also get a sense of our community through our  Facebook page.

From the Archives: Unlocking the Facts and Folklore Through Interviews-Part 2

How to Unlock the Facts and Folklore through Interviews - Part 2

 Steps to a Successful Family Interview 

As a family history researcher we spend much of our time at a computer screen, in archives or in cemeteries not deemed the most social of places.

However, if you want to be a genealogist, a keeper of the family’s stories, then you need to interview the living. In order to achieve this successfully, you need to address your social skills particularly your interviewing skills. I am not suggesting that genealogists are anti-social but when interviewing relatives  we need to have an awareness of our relative, the conditions of the interview, and the skills to get the most out of our subject.

1. Put your subjects at ease from the top of the interview, keep things relaxed and informal. The less your meeting appears as an interview the more likely your conversation will flow freely and the information will be generous.

2. Ask opened ended questions. An interview filled with questions that require a yes or no answer will end very quickly, with very little being revealed.

3. Have a prepared list of questions, but be flexible, don’t stick to a script. Allow the subject to wander from your questions. Your relative may offer information that you haven’t considered in your list of questions.

4. Be a good listener, let them talk. However, if your relative gets too far off topic, interject with a new question.

5. Do not push too hard on a sensitive subject; you will not be invited back. If there is reluctance or some sensitivity to answering a question, back off. Some memories can be very painful to discuss. Respect their decision not to discuss them.

6. You may not get everything you want. Some relatives may feel if you are younger, they may not want to confide in you data that they believe to be too sensitive for tender ears. Sometimes having another relative with you, whom they are close to will  help bridge some trust.

7. Plan your timing and the atomsphere of the interview. Allow for plenty of time so you not rushed, and your relative is not rushed. In addition, keep in mind the time of day, your elderly relative may tire easily. Make sure the environment will be void of all distractions like telephones, the tv and visitors.

8. Don’t be afraid to schedule your interview in two sessions, especially if there is a lot of ground to cover. If your interview lasts too long answers may become brief. Allowing time in between interviews gives the relative an opportunity to draw up some old memories in time for the second interview.

9. Protect the privacy and rights of your relatives. If you choose to tape-record your interview, never tape record secretly. Always be open about the process. Be forthcoming about how you intend to use the information you acquire in the interview.

Finally, understand that great interviews come from behind the scenes preparation while the interview itself should feel comfortable and effortless. This can only come from practice.

Related Reading in this Series 
How to Unlock the Facts and Folklore through Interviews- Part 1
Family History Interview Questions
Writing your Family History – Your How to Guide Starts Here
Step One in Creating Your Family History Book
How to Determine the Size and Scope of Your Family History Booking 
Determining a Budget for Your Family History Book

From the Archives: Unlocking the Facts and Folklore through Interviews- Part 1


In my past life, I was a manager and a trainer. Part of my job was interviewing potential employees and training other managers to do the same. It did not take me long to realize that I was using these same skills in my family history interviews that I had used as a manager. For sure, it was far less stressful interviewing complete strangers than it was interviewing family members, however, the same skills none the less.

In Part 1 of this series we will look at PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW and as promised, I will post a list of possible interview questions to get you started. Part 2 of this series, STEPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL INTERVIEW will follow same time, same place next week.

PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW
1. Whom Should You Start With?

If you are new to interviewing then I would suggest starting with a relative, one you feel the most comfortable with such as a parent, sibling or grandparent. Good interviewing takes practice and does not come without being prepared. The more prepared you are the more relaxed you will be. As you become more comfortable with interviewing you can progress to more difficult family members, non-relatives such as best friends and long-time neighbours. Other possible subjects include employers, household boarders and nannies.

At some point, you may want to try a group interview. Group interviews can be successful because they can spark memories encouraging one story to lead to another. However, group interviews can be hard to control, so I would suggest an individual interview to start.

Regardless of whomever you start with, you should ultimately try to start with the eldest of your ancestors. I am not trying to be insensitive, but you want to capture their memories before they pass. It is the reality of genealogy.

2. Meeting with Objections

Some of your relatives will meet with objections to the interview process. Often ancestors do not feel like they have anything to offer, or cannot contribute to your goal. Put their mind at ease that you simply want to reminisce about their childhood, parents, and grandparents. If they provide resistance make the interview low key, distract from the fact that he or she is being interviewed.

3. Do Your Research

Research your subject in advance. Ensure you have a timeline of their life’s events laid out, with any missing information you are seeking. Attempt to get these facts first, then you can focus on stories, childhood memories etc. Bring items such as pictures and documents to the interview that will help stimulate memories.

4. Bring the Proper Tools

Come prepared with your questions laid out ahead of time, along with a method of recording the answers. You can take notes or you can use a tape recorder. I prefer a tape recorder, it allows you to be present at the interview, and the presence of a tape recorder seems less intimidating then you with pen and paper in hand waiting to bounce on the answers. Subjects often forget about thetape recorder  very quickly. Test your tape recorder  in advance, no how it works, you don’t want any surprises at the end of a two hour interview.

Regardless of whether you are creating a family history book or interviewing family members to fill in some blanks in your pedigree chart the same process applies. Just as organization is key to genealogy, preparation is key to interviewing.

Related Reading
Writing your Family History – Your How to Guide Starts Here
Step One in Creating Your Family History Book
How to Determine the Size and Scope of Your Family History Book
A Lesson in Writing a Narrative Family History
Determing a Budget for Your Family History Book
Preserving Your Family History- The Options
Family History Interview Questions

Family Recipe Friday - Coffee Cake Supreme



This is another recipe from my Mother’s personal recipe book.  Again, she has been making this recipe for as long as I can remember. She often makes them in multiples and hands them out to us kids. If she is heading 
somewhere for a visit usually one of these cakes will accompany her as a hostess gift.

 Cakes have existed since biblical times, usually made from honey or dates and fruits. The French later developed “galettes", small round flat cakes. In medieval times, fruitcakes became the rage enjoyed around Christmas time.  Danish sweets and rolls meant to accompany a coffee or tea followed which eventually led to the coffee cake.

Around the 17th century in Europe, it became custom to enjoy a sweet and yeast type bread when drinking coffee.  Later the French, German, Dutch, and Scandinavian immigrants brought over the “coffee cake” to America as a breakfast bread recipe.

By 1875, coffee cakes became popular in America. Recipes appeared with brown sugar, streusel, cinnamon butter, sugar and spices, resembling the coffee cake we know today.

The hole in the center is a relatively new innovation, made popular in the 1950’s. The bundt pan was invented to allow heavier batters to get cooked all the way through. 

There are many combinations of coffee cakes; this one is my Mom’s and our favourite.  Hope you enjoy it.

Mom’s Coffee Cake Supreme
Cream together
2/3 cup butter, 1 cup of sugar, 2 eggs, 1 cup of sour milk (create sour milk by adding 1 tbsp of vinegar to the milk),  1 tsp of vanilla


Combine 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, and ¼ tsp salt
Add the cream mixture to dry ingredients.


Place ½ the batter mixture into a greased pan.


Combine ¼-cup brown sugar, ½ tsp cinnamon, and ½-cup raisins
Add half the topping to the top of batter; spread the rest of the batter and the remaining of the topping.
Bake at 300F for 45 minutes. 

Writing and Publishing Your Family Story - It's No Longer for Dreamers!


For many of us our family research will sit on hard drives and jump sticks and on bookshelves and in boxes for years to come. Passed on from one family member to the next, some will be cherished while others forgotten.  Many will organize their family research into a book and share it with their loved ones, creating a legacy for future generations from a culmination of years of research.  However, many family historians wish to push their story beyond the limits of their family to the outside world. For some their story resonates with them and they feel a wider audience will also fine meaning in their history.

Are you one of those family historians? Do have a passion to write your story for a larger audience? Turn your family’s journey into a novel?

 For many this is an overwhelming task.  We’ve discussed at great lengths creating that family keepsake book, but now it’s time to move forward and turn your family story into a novel.

Many have gone before us. A few great examples of family histories turned novel include, The Journey Takers by Leslie Albrecht Huber,  Oh Beautiful: A Portrait of an American Family in the 20th Century by John Paul Godges, Shaking the Family Tree,Blue Bloods, Black Sheep and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist by Buzzy Jackson and , 13 rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro. I will be reviewing each of them with you at a later date. 

In the coming weeks, I’ll share some writer’s tools to get you started on your path. Tips to help you sit down and get to the business at hand, create a timeline and a deadline and ultimately publish your novel....self-publishing to be exact, the only way to go in my opinion. 

For now, you only need to know that self-publishing your story is no longer for dreamers, no longer an elitist occupation. You no longer have to beg at the doorsteps of publishers and endure endless rejection letters.  The landscape of publishing has reached a tipping point.  Companies the like of Smashwords and Lightening Source and Amazon have provided the resources to place self-publishing in the hands of the author. No longer will publishers be the final word in what books are worthy of reading, that authority now lies in the hands of the reader.

Don’t get me wrong, writing and self-publishing your family history is work. It is not a get rich quick scheme.  Those of us in the genealogy industry are not immune to struggling for every dollar so this should come as no surprise. Regardless of whether you wish to write your story as a novel, or share your genealogy expertise in the form of a how to book, the time is now. Regardless of your motivation, whether for financial gain or for the creative experience or as salute to your ancestors, know that it can be done. 

I was just putting the final changes on this post when I was alerted on twitter to an article that was a must read. I was blown away. It speaks directly to what I am talking about today and it speaks volumes. Your only limitations are you.  Please read this post by Jon Morrow ...How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World.....You will not be disappointed.  Warning you’ll be craving a Pina Colada later.

In the coming weeks and months we will take an up-close and personal look at the writing and self-publishing world and how a genealogist can use this shift in the market to their advantage. Whether you wish to write your family story or share your particular brand of genealogy expertise there is no better time than the present.  It’s no longer for dreamers, it’s for doers.















Tuesday's Tip - How to Tweet with Klout!


 There is no question if you have become a social media fool like many of us or at least me, you need a system to help you manage your social networks. TweetDeck has been the vehicle of choice for many of us. However, last week someone put me on to Hootsuite. Well, it only took me a couple of days to become a loyal fan.

Here’s Why!

Hootsuite offers the ability to view lists as streams, it can create and organize your streams, reorder them and them filter. It offers themes and stats. It updates multiple steams/sites and accounts all at once. You can upload photos, schedule tweets and shrink links. 

The free version offers you up to 5 profiles, some basic analytics and 2 RSS feeds.

You can upgrade for $5.99 a month, offering you unlimited profiles and RSS feeds. For me at this point the free version works just fine.

For the most part TweetDeck and Hootesuite are identical tools but Hootesuite brings a few features to the equation that pushes it to the top of the list for me.

It provides statistics.

Hootesuite offers the option to monitor your tweets, including retweets and click-throughs. Do you tweet, send them out into cyperspace and wonder if anyone saw it. Of course, you can gauge it on some level by the number of retweets but if you really want to know how many actually clicked through to read the post, HooteSuite can offer you just this. Now I can actually measure how twittering is working for me.

It is also very easy to see who are the influencers in your Twitter Network and measure your own influence. Hootsuite uses KLOUT to give you a quick snapshot of a Twitter user’s influence.

The Klout score measures your online influence. The scores range from 1 to 100. Klout uses over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability and Network Score.

You can read more about how these are measured an evaluated at Klout.

For instance, my score analysis is 32; Klout says I am effectively using social media to influence my network. My network influencer is 46; meaning I am capturing the attention of influencers in my network. My amplification probability is 15, the probability that my content will be acted upon in the form of retweets, clicks through and comments, and my Reach score is 65, I have a small tightly interactive network. All these numbers gives me a picture of how I am utilizing Twitter. Overall Klout considers me an Explorer, meaning I am learning the lay of the land and making it work for me. I have to agree with them there. 

Information is knowledge and with HootSuite statistics, you now have the knowledge to leverage twitter to be more effective for you.

The other tool that I love is the tabs. The tabs make it very simple to organize your various streams as well as your various social networks. With tabbed browsing, you have multiple windows in one browsing screen. You get a lot of information on the screen at once allowing you to hide what you are not looking at. This allows HooteSuite to load faster, when you click on one of the tabs the new information loads.

If you have not chosen a tool for organizing your social network or if you have not taken Hootsuite for test drive I encourage you to do so. The learning curve is short and the benefits many.

Other related articles include:



Monday Morning Mentions

Monday Morning Mentions at the Armchair Genealogists is an opportunity to reflect on what has been happening at the Armchair Genealogist this past week and give a nod to some of my peers who captured my attention in the blogging community.


If you want to see what ranked in my Google Reader this week click, The Armchair Genealogist's Google Reader Highlights 

You can also find me on Facebook. Stop by and leave a message. I often will link some great finds there as well. 


You can also follow me on twitter at @LynnPal or my twitter paper The Armchair Genealogist Journal. 


At the Armchair Genealogist this week, posts included the following: 

Publishing and Platform an Interview with Christina Katz
Who is Buzzy Jackson? 

Each week I’m choosing four blogs that deserve a shout out, they will be in the form of 4 categories, Internet Genealogy, Family History Writing, a New Blog and a blog that posted a great old-fashioned family recipe.

Internet Genealogy – a great genealogy or internet tip that will benefit any armchair genealogist
This week’s mention:


Leaves for Trees, offers a great article....  Adding Source Information to Image File.  I really need to get on this. 


Lesson Learned: Back Up Your Blogs.....many of us learned this lesson this week. Lorine at Olive Tree Genealogy sums it up for us. There are also lots of suggestions in the comments on backing up your blog. 


Writing Your Family History – great advice or information on writing your family history
This week’s mention:

This week's mention goes to Linda at the Family Archaeologist.  Linda and I share a love of writing our family stories. I have been following her grandparents courtship on her blog.  This week's post If You Love Me.... expresses the anguish Josef feels trying to convince Lisi  to join him in America. This is like reading a novel online, a great way to share your family history. 


New Genealogy Blog – we will tip our hat to a newcomer who impresses us right out of the box
This week’s mention:  

No Descendants is a very moving and well thought out blog by Ancestor Detective. I encourage you to read her first post I have no Descendants, she starts with her autobiography written when she was 11 years old.  Her post to her Mother, The Plant Lady is also a great read. 

 
Family Recipe - a blog that makes us want to eat, and offers up a great old-fashioned family recipe to share on Family Recipe Friday.
This week's mention: 



Ah, Blueberry Cheescake is a standout recipe this week. Served up by My Ancestors and Me, this recipe comes with a wonderful memory as well. 
You can find more newcomers at Thomas' list of New Genealogy Blogs at Geneabloggers.  For other great reads Randy at Genea-Musings offers the Best of the Genea-Blogs.  Greta does a great job at Greta’s Genealogy Bog, she offers the Follow Friday Newsletter each week, click here for this week’s edition.

Have a great genealogy week, keep searching and writing!

Who is Buzzy Jackson?

On Wednesday morning, I opened up Tweet Deck and tuned into #ngs2011 hashtag to read the goings on at the National Genealogy Conference in Charleston, South Carolina.

It wasn't long before the praise was flowing for Buzzy Jackson. Buzzy Jackson was a keynote speaker in Wednesday's opening session. It seems many were very impressed.
The tweets proclaimed:

"great humorous speaker"

"funny and entertaining"

"great speaker"

"Great Talk. LOVE IT"

Clearly she caught a few people's attention. One of Jazzy's messages that came through loud and clear on twitter was "be your descendants favourite ancestor, write your story down"  Clearly a women after my own heart.

There were plenty of questions about her book?  Of course, I quickly googled Buzzy Jackson to see what all the fuss was about, and I was just as impressed as the tweeters this morning.

So if you haven't heard of Buzzy Jackson let me bring you up to speed.

Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental GenealogistBuzzy is an author, she holds a PhD in History at UC Berkeley. She currently holds a position as a Research Affiliate at the Center of the American West of the University of Colorado Boulder. She is the author of Shaking the Family Tree and A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them.
Buzzy is a self-described accidental genealogist. You can find her blog here.
She has assembled a charming two minute video about her book Shaking the Family Tree. I encourage you to take a look at it. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook as well. I'm sure after yesterday Jazzy has a few more followers and a few more book sales.

Publishing and Platform - An Interview with Christina Katz



I believe there is so much opportunity for family historians in the publishing world. Our research provides us with an immense amount of knowledge. However, our research has unearthed some amazing stories. Whether you wish to write a book about your research expertise or a book sharing your family's story, there is a huge learning curve when you enter the publishing world. Today, I would like to share with you an Interview with Christina Katz.  A couple of years ago Christina participated in an online discussion offering advice to aspiring writers, I was one of those writers. It was Christina who encouraged me to start blogging. 


Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids for Writer’s Digest Books. She has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, presents at literary and publishing events around the country, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. Katz publishes a weekly e-zine, The Prosperous Writer, and hosts The Northwest Author Series. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA from Dartmouth College. A “gentle taskmaster” to her hundred or so students each year, Katz channels over a decade of professional writing experience into success strategies that help writers get on track and get published.

Q: What is a platform?

CK: Long story short: Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform.

A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Get Known explains in plain English, without buzzwords, how any writer can stand out from the crowd of other writers and get the book deal. The book clears an easy-to-follow path through a formerly confusing forest of ideas so that even the most inexperienced platform-builder can get started building a solid platform.


Q: Why is platform development important for writers today?

CK: Learning about and working on a solid platform plan gives writers an edge in selling books. Agents and editors have known this for years and have been looking for platform-strong writers and getting them deals. But from the writer’s point-of-view, there has not been enough information on platform development to help unprepared writers put their best platform forward.

Now suddenly, there is a flood of information on platform, not all necessarily comprehensive, useful or well organized for folks who don’t have a platform yet. Writers can promote themselves in a gradual, grounded manner without feeling like they are selling out. I do it, I teach other writers to do it, I write about it on an ongoing basis, and I encourage all writers to heed the trend. And hopefully, I communicate how in a practical, step-by-step manner that can serve any writer. Something we never hear enough is that platform development is an inside job requiring concentration, thoughtfulness and a consideration of personal values.

Q: Why was a book on platform development needed?

CK: At every conference I presented, I took polls and found that about 50 percent of attendees expressed a desire for a clearer understanding of platform. Some were completely in the dark about it, even though they were attending a conference in hopes of landing a book deal. Writers often underestimate how important platform is and they often don’t leverage the platform they already have as much as they could. Since book deals are granted largely based on the impressiveness of a writer’s platform, I wanted to address the communication gap.

My intention was that Get Known would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference, and that it would increase any writer’s chances of landing a book deal whether they pitched in-person or by query. As I wrote the book, I saw how this type of information was being offered online as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can even ask your library to order it and read it for free.


Q: What is the key idea behind Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: Getting known doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take an understanding of platform, and the investment of time, skills and consistent effort to build one. Marketing experience and technological expertise are also not necessary. I show how to avoid the biggest time and money-waster, which is not understanding who your platform is for and why – and hopefully save writers from the confusion and inertia that can result from either information overload or not taking the big picture into account before they jump into writing for traditional publication.


Q: Why is there so much confusion about platform among writers?

Often writers with weak platforms are over-confident that they can impress agents and editors, while others with decent platforms are under-confident or aren’t stressing their platform-strength enough. Writers have to wear so many hats these days, we can use all the help we can get. Platform development is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Anyone can do it, but most don’t or won’t because they either don’t understand what is being asked for, or they haven’t overcome their own resistance to the idea. Get Known offers a concrete plan that can help any writer make gains in the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive publishing landscape.


Q: What is the structure of the book and why did you choose it?

CK: Get Known has three sections: section one is mostly stories and cautionary tales, section two has a lot of to-do lists any writer should be able to use, and section three is how to articulate your platform clearly and concisely so you won’t waste a single minute wondering if you are on the right track.

Most of the platform books already out there were for authors, not writers or aspiring authors. To make platform evolution easy to comprehend, I dialed the concepts back to the beginning and talked about what it’s like to try and find your place in the world as an author way before you’ve signed a contract, even before you’ve written a book proposal. No one had done that before in a book for writers. I felt writers needed a context in which to chart a course towards platform development that would not be completely overwhelming.


Q: At the front of Get Known, you discuss four phases of the authoring process. What are they?

CK: First comes the platform development and building phase. In this phase you are developing authority and trust. Second comes the book proposal development phase (or if you are writing fiction, the book-writing phase). In this phase, you are leveraging your expertise and your persuasive writing skills. Third, comes the actual writing of the book (for fiction writers this is likely the re-writing of the book). In this phase, you demonstrate that you are a skilled writer, who understands how to craft polished prose. And finally, once the book is published, comes the book marketing and promoting phase. In this final phase, you leverage all your existing influence and connect with as many readers as you can.

Many first-time authors scramble once they get a book deal if they haven’t done a thorough job on the platform development phase. Writers who already have a platform have influence with a fan base, and they can leverage that influence no matter what kind of book they write. Writing a book is a lot easier if you are not struggling to find readers for the book at the same time. Again, agents and editors have known this for a long time.


Q: What are some common platform mistakes writers make?

CK: Here are a few:

  • They don’t spend time clarifying who they are to others.
  • They don’t zoom in specifically on what they offer.
  • They confuse socializing with platform development.
  • They think about themselves too much and their audience not enough.
  • They don’t precisely articulate all they offer so others get it immediately.
  • They don’t create a plan before they jump online.
  • They undervalue the platform they already have.
  • They are overconfident and think they have a solid platform when they have only made a beginning.
  • They burn out from trying to figure out platform as they go.
  • They imitate “insider secrets” instead of trusting their own instincts.
  • They blog like crazy for six months and then look at their bank accounts and abandon the process as going nowhere.

Suffice it to say that many writers promise publishers they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver.


Q: You write, teach, speak and blog. What motivates you?

My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them. Get Known shows writers of every stripe how to become the writer who can not only land a book deal, but also influence future readers to plunk down ten or twenty bucks to purchase their book. It all starts with a little preparation and planning. The rest unfolds from there. But you’ve got to start working on your platform today, if you want to become an author some day. Get Known can help anyone get off to a solid start.


Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids for Writer’s Digest Books. She has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, presents at literary and publishing events around the country, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. Katz publishes a weekly e-zine, The Prosperous Writer, and hosts The Northwest Author Series. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA from Dartmouth College. A “gentle taskmaster” to her hundred or so students each year, Katz channels over a decade of professional writing experience into success strategies that help writers get on track and get published. Learn more at ChristinaKatz.com.