Welcome Carolyn! It is wonderful to interview such a talented photographer as well as poet. Your book, Opening the Gates of the Heart : A Journey of Healing is a beautiful hard covered piece of artwork! Carolyn CJ Jones is - Winner, Honorable Mention, Spirituality, New York 2010 Book Festival
- Winner, Honorable Mention, Photography, San Francisco 2010 Book Festival
- Winner, Poetry, Do-It-Yourself 2010 Book Festival
How did you begin discovering all the magnificent gates that you photographed?
Thank you so much! I am so pleased you recognize the artistic work in my book. The story of how I discovered the gates is a little unusual. I discovered the ones which appear in the book quite by accident in a small hilly community in the San Francisco Bay Area.
It was February of 2001, and I was sitting in the cockpit of the boat where I had lived until seven months earlier, when I left my marriage and the boat I called home. I had decided I needed to go on a road trip to “find myself,” and I was at the boat to say goodbye to my ex-husband.
As I sat in the cockpit, I looked at the hills around me and realized there was a neighborhood I had not visited. Thinking I would never return to the area, I went to visit, just out of curiosity, as I had heard of this community for years. There I discovered the most beautiful gates - old entrances to mansions. I fell in love with the designs of the gates, the way the light reflected off of them, the puzzles of brick and stone surrounding them, and the lush foliage.
After discovering the gates, I left on my road trip, vowing to photograph them if ever I returned to the area, because I am an avid photographer. I did return in February of 2004 and went to shoot them. They are the bulk of the gate photographs in my book. Incidentally, the photos are digitized from slides and a few from film. In other words, I did not shoot the gates with a digital camera.
I especially enjoy the profound and heartfelt prose poetry that you join so perfectly with a photo of each gate on every page. Did the process of the photography and prose poetry take quite a while?
Yes, it did. Once I returned to the Bay Area in 2004 and photographed the gates, it was nine months later that the realization came to me that I was creating a book. It then took six more years off and on for me to develop the book, and to get up the nerve to present it to the world.
The process of the prose poetry took much longer. I started journaling in 1999, in response to my confusion, while still married, about feelings I had developed for another man. That journaling became my touch with reality, with my sanity, both of which were shaky at the time.
I continued my journaling even after I injured my dominant wrist in July, 2002, while I was working at a boating store. As I could not stop journaling, and as it hurt too much to write with my right hand, I taught myself to write with my left hand. It was in November of 2004 that I discovered prose in my journals that described about one-half of the gates I had titled and was preparing to frame.
Tell us about your journaling and how it led to prose poetry and your photographs.
When I began journaling, it was in response to my feelings for a man, as I said above. I was only able to write about incidents, experiences, and events that occurred between this man and I, and my husband and I, as I attempted to figure out what was happening in my heart.
However, it was not until I started writing left-handed that my feelings began to surface in any type of manner, and surface they did! Deep thoughts kept coming up and frequently, I stopped after writing something profound and said out loud, “Where in the world did THAT come from?”
So, “over here,” I was journaling and “over there,” I had photographed these lovely gates that I began to title and frame, in anticipation of showing them in art galleries. These were two separate and distinct processes that were occurring at the same time.
One morning in late November, 2004, I wrote in my journal, words which described an image I had just named Webs of Fear. What I wrote was, “I have spent a lifetime of terror and shame spinning webs between the spires that stand as sentinels to my heart.” Bear in mind that I did not write these words for that, or any, gate.
I was flabbergasted because these words described my image, giving it voice far beyond the visual element. Once this happened, I searched all of my journals, looking for phrases and paragraphs that talked about my feelings, from despair to joy. I looked for anything that referenced ways to treat others and myself better, such as kindness and compassion, as well as good principles of living, such as tolerance, patience, and acceptance.
What I found was prose that gave voice to one-half of the titled photos I had, so about 22 of them out of 40 images. I was amazed, to say the least! It was at that point that I realized I was creating a book. In fact, just over one-half of the gates in the book have verses which came directly from my journals without any changes. Another quarter of my titled images matched with prose when I added a line or stanza to the writing. Over the next six years, I wrote verse specifically for the remaining one quarter of my titled images. These verses and the prose were placed in a poetry format for style in the book.
This is how the prose poetry and photographs came together in a book.
Wow Carolyn, that is an interesting story unto itself!
Tell us about your own personal journey of healing.
Having been through an unexpected divorce several years ago, I did find the book very to be perfect for anyone that needed healing.
An unexpected divorce is very difficult, regardless of which end you are on. It touches my heart that my book was useful to you.
My personal journey includes a history of trauma and abuse, which led to a very poor self-esteem and confidence level, much shame, fear of everyone, feelings of worthlessness, and often, deep despair. I choose not to talk more about this, because I have forgiven and enjoy a relationship with the perpetrators.
At any rate, I discovered alcohol and drugs as a way to numb my feelings of disappointment, hurt, discouragement, and so-forth, and I developed a 26 year career of drinking. I was quite serious about it and frequently drank and drugged myself into oblivion.
Finding myself in an unsatisfying, and often, verbally abusive marriage, I used my tried-and-true methods of numbing myself out. This added to a shaky marriage in a negative way, as you can well imagine.
My husband of 20 years and I spent a fair amount of time searching “out there” for happiness, not understanding that it comes from within. As a result, we decided to move from Colorado to California to live aboard a sailboat and one day go cruising. THAT would make us happy, we were sure.
Hence, the move to a sailboat in the Bay Area. Initially, it was pleasant, as we got involved in major renovation of the boat, a pastime which we both enjoyed, each with our own area of expertise. The newness wore off, however, and the unhappy marriage and arguments resumed.
Another boater suffered a tragedy on his boat, and, in an effort to be supportive, I started hanging around with this man. He was respectful, encouraging, and did not engage in verbal abuse of any kind. I began to develop love for this man. Thinking he reciprocated, I left my marriage, which is a whole other messy story, in order to make myself available to him.
I found out in a most humiliating manner that he, in fact, did not have romantic feelings for me. My response was devastation, as I thought I was reading him so well. I lost touch with reality, and spent the next two months drinking and crying. I could barely function; I couldn’t feed myself, for example. Heck of a weight-loss program…
Toward the end of that two months, I decided I needed a road trip. My plan was to go to San Diego and stay with an old friend whom I discovered was trying to quit drinking. So, I headed south to spend a couple of weeks with her and to “get a handle on my drinking.” One and one-quarter years later, I resumed my road trip, having spent my time in San Diego beginning to learn how to live as a sober person.
While there, I bought and renovated an old full-sized Dodge van, complete with refrig and oven/stove. This lovely place became my home off-and-on for the next three years. As I indicated above, I returned to the Bay Area to say hi and bye and hurt my wrist. Several months after the accident, it was determined I needed major reconstructive surgery.
My next two years were spent trying to locate affordable and appropriate (something other than the van) housing in which to live while I recouped from the surgery. Surgery did not happen in Washington because worker's comp required my return to the Bay Area.
Unable to find affordable housing in the Bay Area, I went to Washington State to housesit the home of one of my friends who lived in Colorado. While in Washington I discovered my book-in-the-making, as I described above.
After much frenzy and frantic searching for appropriate housing, I moved into an apartment in Marin County and had surgery, from which I spent the next year recovering. I was retrained as a photographer by the work comp system, and made valiant, yet, minimally successful, attempts to sell my framed gate images. These attempts continued for a couple of years, give or take.
During this time, I sought counseling for my continued depression, despair, and hopelessness. The biggest healing has occurred through my work in sobriety, and the major work in sobriety has been my book, my journals. Today, I am a happy and joyful person who delights in the world around her.
What is the most important thing you have learned in the process of creating your book?
The most important thing I have learned is how to become responsible for myself. This starts with keeping a running self-appraisal or assessment going, meaning, I constantly keep track of my actions, words, and thoughts. I consider my part in each and every encounter or experience I have.
Adopting this practice of self-inventory has led to much peace, both within and with those around me. It also has led to forgiveness for people who have hurt me. This has occurred because I realized I did the very thing to another that they did to me. Again, compassion came into play. From compassion I was able to forgive. That does not mean I condone the acts against me, only that I forgive the person.
I have learned to practice self-assessment through the creation of my book and during the course of learning to live as a sober person. Practicing self-assessment has brought me not only peace, but joy, as well, because I have learned to see life with joy. And this comes from one who spent a lifetime hurt or angry at others. What a blessing to have been able to grow and heal. It only gets better with time.
Tell us about your publishing adventure, how you went about publishing your wonderful book.
Ah, the publishing adventure! Yes, it has truly been an adventure and I have been loving it. I embrace the new challenges that surface, although I must admit they overwhelm me, especially when internet-related. I seem to go on overload.
My publishing career began because the traditional publisher, Chronicle Books, to whom I submitted my book and a proposal, turned me down. I was disappointed. The whole process to submit the proposal to them took me about a year or more because I had such a hard time preparing it; I was frightened to be candid about myself and to show myself and my words to the world, so I hired a coach for assistance. All the while I was preparing the proposal, I was getting a spiral-bound book made. This included getting it designed, photos digitized, and getting it printed at FedEx/Kinko’s. I even approached several famous people for endorsement of the book, including, and receiving one from actor, activist, and author Mike Farrell, and visionary author, Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
It took a long time to prepare the submission for Chronicle Books and then several months to get the rejection. I felt the book’s message was too ur-gent and that I could not let that potentially lengthy process occur again. Having been a member of the Bay Area Independent Publisher’s Association (BAIPA) for a couple of years, I had gleamed much of their generously given information. I made the decision to publish the book myself. You know the feeling, perhaps; when you want something done, sometimes you just have to do it yourself.
I officially became Gate Lady Publishing on January 1, 2011. I brought on board a book designer, a copy editor, and a publicist. In early March, I presented the book and dust cover files to a local print broker who dealt with Asian printers. I was told the book would be back in 2 months, so I planned a book launch/publication date, for May 1. I used a print-on-demand printer to have advance copies of the book made, both in hard and soft cover.
The hard covered book was sent to reviewers such as the Washington Post, New York Times, and Publishers Weekly. The soft covered was sent to 14 people to act as advance readers/editors. These people were phenomenal and their input hugely added to the quality and caliber of the book.
Difficulties with setting the launch date began to emerge. For example, all of those reviewers required, and still do, receipt of a book at least four month in advance of publication. I was only giving them two months. Meanwhile, problems with getting a high quality book from the Asian printer surfaced. I proceeded to delay the launch to June 1st and how appropriate that I was giving birth to my book on my own birthday?
The quality issues did not resolve with time and, finally, in August, the contract with the print broker was rescinded. I was free to go to another printer. Yet, the damage as far as requesting a review had been done. Now, I was looking at October to launch. As it turns out, that would have given the reviewers their required time, because the launch did happen October 8th. This has been a disappointment of mine, because I learned how crucial it is in the success of a book to have a review by a major reviewer.
Life always moves on, and there are always more experiences in which we find ourselves. This, then, was the case for me, as I proceeded to select another printer. This time, I searched for one in the US and found Josten’s Commercial Printers, who did a superb job on the book. I am so proud to be able to claim “made in the USA.”
My biggest challenge as a publisher is the marketing and distribution of my book. I am better at writing!
What marketing plans have you devised? I know you live in Marin but I saw your book on display at Copperfield’s in Healdsburg and I was quite impressed!
Why, thank you very much, Jeane! Yes, the book is in Healdsburg. I was excited when they accepted it; it is a very nice bookstore. Actually, all of the Copperfield’s Books are really nice, from their available selections to the ambiance.. As part of my marketing plan, which includes giving more author events and appearances, I will be doing a meeting and greeting of customers at the Petaluma Copperfield’s on April 2, from 1:30 - 3:30 pm.
Thus far, here are my internet related activities:
- developed ebook , initiated website with blog; blog 2-3 times a week
- involved in social media networking - Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn
- numerous videos on YouTube includes 42 videos of seniors talking about each topic in the book
- approached online by two book reviewers - offered reviews - received
My traditional media marketing has included and will include:
- appeared on Jill Lublin’s TV show, “Messages of Hope”
- Interviewed on 3 radio shows
- Interviewed on KUSP’s “Talk of the Bay” with Rick Kleffel in Santa Cruz, CA
- obtained list of 876 radio stations across US, including all contact info
and will continue to contact these stations requesting interviews
- approaches to local newspapers for interview - none granted
- will again request interview if award received or contest won
- article in www.12stepgazette.com - about book’s origin, my sobriety
Several other marketing strategies reached and planned are:
- collaborate with wrought-iron gate makers, blacksmiths,
- endorsements from authors Mike Farrell and Oriah Mountain Dreamer
- pursue endorsement from other authors and inspirational speakers
- hold author event in Marin libraries
- Civic Center and Belvedere-Tiburon libraries are scheduled
- continue to plan author speaking/signing events, locally and out-of-state
- presented author event at Boulder Bookstore, Boulder, CO - March 13th
- will present book/author talk at Allen Public Library, Allen, TX - April 28th
- plan event at Chester County Books and Music - West Chester, PA - June
- possible regional book tour in summer - SW
I have entered the book in the following contests and shows:
- 2010 San Francisco Book Festival - Honorable Mention for photography
- 2010 New York Book Festival - Honorable Mention for spirituality
- 2010 Do-It-Yourself Book Festival - Winner for poetry
- shown/show at Book Expo America, Frankfurt, London - 2010, 2011
- shown at regional bookseller shows in Denver, St. Paul, Oakland - 2010
- shown at Professional and American Library Association seminars - 2010
- submittal for Pulitzer Prize - “Words” category - 2010
The book has been marketed and sold to:
- hospital gift shops, drug and alcohol treatment programs, 12 Step Book-stores, libraries in Marin County, CA, as well as in Allen, TX
There is more. I only scratched the surface about my speaking events. I suspect you are beginning to see how involved the marketing is for a publisher.
I am totally amazed at your marketing skills and have left most of your list because I know writers can benefit from all this information!
This is your first book, have you been working on another?
Yes, I have been working on Gates of Grace. It just flows naturally that once someone has walked through the gates in their heart, that they live in grace. I plan for it to have images of graceful gates, titled with words describing grace, or reflecting grace.
Do you have a web site and where can your book be bought?
I do have a website, which is also my blog site, at www.gatelady.com
The book is available in many bookstores in California and out-of-state. Please see my website for further locations and you may call me at:
Thank you Carolyn for an extremely insightful interview. I hope our readers and writers learned as much as I did!
The winner of Frank Baumgardener's Yanks in the Redwoods is: Jeanne J. Congratulations!
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