All posts by Sonja Hakala

I have been a professional writer since 1987. I've written for newspapers, magazines, worked in the book publishing industry, and published novels and non-fiction books. In addition, I've guided numerous authors through the process of independent publishing, and offer workshops in that same vein. I'm the founder of the Parkinson's Comfort Project and over the course of six years, we gathered and gave away over 500 handmade quilts to people with Parkinson's disease.

Center for Cartoon Studies

The Schulz Library (as in Charles Schulz) is one of the many assets of the Center for Cartoon Studies

I spent this morning at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction. Great place, the first of its kind in the U.S., dedicated to comics and the graphic novel.

The students listened to me jabber about independent publishing and why, as writers and artists, it’s good for them. They asked great questions, we learned from one another (as in comic book stores are all served by only one distributor—yikes!), and I hope I get to go back.

My morning visit was the result of one of those serendipitous series of connections that happen more often than we notice. It begins many years ago when I met a fellow Vermont author named Joe Citro at a conference put on by the League of Vermont Writers. We kept in touch.

Joe knows writer and cartoonist Steve Bissette who now teaches at CCS. When I published Your Book, Your Way last May, I asked Joe if he would read it and, if the spirit moved, to review it on Amazon. He did. He liked it.

And as luck would have it, Joe had been contemplating indie publishing for his own work for some time. He brought my book to Steve’s attention. That yielded a getting-to-know-you period that culminated with my morning visit with a group that sure draws a whole lot better than I do.

Now that’s a win-win-win, eh?

Sometimes, It Just Flows

I always write my first drafts of fiction by hand

Every writer I know has to learn the lessons taught by every other writer who comes before. The lessons, like the truest platitudes, are simple and direct. And yet, somehow, every newbie thinks they can be ignored.

Take diligence, for example. I’m talking about the diligence that comes from writing every day. The kind of diligence that gets to the last page of the book you’re writing. The kind of diligence that moves all the other crud out of the way so that you focus on your work.

At one point in my writing career, I spent time reading interviews with other writers, mostly in the Paris Review of Books (still the best, in my opinion). When asked, every single writer talked about the importance of regular writing habits. Every one of them echoed Carl Sandburg’s dictum that books are written “One word at a time.”

There’s no way around that in any creative endeavor from making soup to making a quilt, to constructing a building or drawing a picture of your cat. It’s one onion, one seam, one wall or one line at a time.

I’m coming around the corner on a novel. I can feel its last page on the horizon, like the sun at the moment before it crests over the mountains to our east. I’ve poked at this novel at least twice in the past, abandoning the effort after reams of paper have sacrificed themselves because I’d cornered myself in something that didn’t fit quite right. But when I started this time, the writing just flowed out of me.

Mind, I’ve had to adjust the arc of the story a bit to fit my time frame better, and spent time going back to assess what I’ve learned about my characters. But the writing flows. It’s become a need, an act that I must do like a ritual every morning before I can move onto anything else in my day. Yep, Sandburg was right—one word at a time, daily.

Eating with my Toes

No conversion should be this hard on a Mac.

I bought a new iMac in early December. Cool, I thought, learn a few new bells and whistles and away we go.

I wish.

Ever since I brought home my iMac with Lion OSX, my life has been one long session in technical hell.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the system. Nope, standard issue Mac reliability from Day One. The problem is the learning curve. Or, truth be told, the vertical learning line.

You see, Mac’s new operating system is so different from anything the company’s done before, using Lion requires all new software. In addition, Apple decided that it didn’t make enough money on its handy little website program, iWeb, or its handy little host for iWeb-made sites, Moblie Me.

Never mind that lots of us were happy with what we had. Nope, now we’ve been abandoned, and you’ve got to learn more new software to maintain the site you used to be able to do in your sleep.

Same with financial software. Quicken was never my favorite program but it did the basics well enough. Nope, Quicken doesn’t work on Lion so the answer is, obviously, NEW SOFTWARE.

So everything I used to do with a click or two now requires days and days of frustration looking for a needle in a haystack. Or, more correctly, looking for the haystack.

Imagine if someone told you that from this day forward, you had to eat all your meals with your toes because of all the supposedly much-easier-to-use utensils that someone just happened to have for sale. For your convenience.

Nope, so not happy with this. I promise you, once I finally make it to the other side of this endless conversion, I will never buy another computer. When this new iMac wears out or can’t handle the technology, it’s back to pen and paper for this woman.

Pen and paper, the leading technology for the past two thousand years. Works every time.