Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guest Post: Alaska Author Mike Holloway Recounts Rigors of Publishing With Parkinson's Disease

Author Mike Holloway ventured into the world of publishing after Parkinson's Disease forced him out of his first career as a doctor. Below, he describes the measures he took to circumvent the constraints of Parkinson's while promoting his book following publication.

Mike Holloway with Kenneth Frank, grandson of Sarah and Johnny Franks, the subjects of his book "Dreaming Bears A Gwich’in Indian Storyteller, a Southern Doctor, a Wild Corner of Alaska."

A First Time Author and Parkinson’s

By Michael Holloway

The month of September 2001 is etched in my memory for the terrorist attack on our country that shocked the world and also the month that I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  I was an orthopedist, and within an hour of my diagnosis my surgical privileges were cancelled.

I loved orthopedics and was not ready to give it up, so I taught, usually for a month at a time, through Health Volunteers Overseas. Most of my work was in Africa. After eight years my PD progressed to the point that this was too difficult.

Some thirty-five years previously I had written the initial ten chapters of a book on my relationship with an elderly Athabaskan couple, Johnny and Sarah Frank, who lived a subsistence lifestyle above the Arctic Circle. They had a hard life – outliving only four of their fourteen children. Despite this they were always helpful to others, kind, and generous. They had a profound effect on my life, inspiring me to work to protect the unique Alaskan rural way of life and the habitat it depends on.

The book cover
I had always intended to write a book about them, and had even talked to Johnny about it.  No longer being able to do orthopedics gave me the time to write, and after considerable rewriting my book was accepted by Epicenter Press. It came out in May and is titled "Dreaming Bears, A Gwich’in Indian Storyteller, a Southern Doctor, a Wild Corner of Alaska."

I’d certainly read that writing was about rewriting but I thought my work would be over when the final manuscript was accepted by the publisher.  How wrong I was.

Small publishing companies depend on authors to promote their books. With so many books out there, the same is true with the big publishers unless you’re already famous. Epicenter had lots of ideas about how to promote my book. It was up to me to figure out what I could handle and how – with help from my wife Margie.

We had fifteen book events. I had no enthusiasm for public appearances. My voice is soft and I have difficulty speaking clearly. Attempting to do so wears me out. We had to carefully schedule events to conserve my limited energy so I could try to be at my best. At most of them, my wife did a reading from my book, and I saved my voice to answer questions from the audience afterwards.

I put together a slide show that ran in a loop throughout our presentation. Almost every bookstore had a microphone, so I only had to try and enunciate, not think shout. It worked well, and many people came up after an event to thank me.

People coming to book events want to get their book signed. I have good and bad writing days.  Even authors who have no trouble writing find having people lined up for their signature stressful. Marge designed a bookplate that I signed in advance on days when my writing was better.

Two of our events were at Costco, which is hard place to connect with people. Your publisher may want you at Costco because it gets your book there, but unless sales are steady it will not stay.

I did one live radio program, with Steve Heimel on Talk of Alaska. My PD did not faze Steve. It was challenging for me but went okay. Newspaper reporters were fine with asking questions through email.

Social media is a prominent part of book promotion these days that is worth emphasizing if you have PD. I have an author website and a Facebook page for my book. My wife does the design work and helps with emails when I need it.

Parkinson’s puts limits on some of the things you can do, but writing and promoting a book doesn’t have to be one of them.  If you’ve thinking about doing a book yourself, I encourage you to go for it.

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