From the AlzAuthors Blog: Jessica Bryan Returns with “The Mighty Ant – An Anthology of Short Stories for Seniors”

_just like the little ant, whose size is disproportionate to its strength, so can stories have strong impact, regardless of their length._
By Jessica Bryan

I am an author of over 28 books who has always shared my stories with my mother. Sadly, Mom suffers from Alzheimer’s, and as the disease has progressed she no longer comprehends more intricate plots, nor can she focus on longer, more detailed stories.  As a consequence, I began reading short stories to her. I noticed that after reading something more easily comprehended, there was often something in the tale that sparked a memory and conversation.  “Do you remember gardening?” I asked her after reading about a gardener. It brought a sweet reminiscent moment that included smiles and even laughter. That spawned my idea for a book of short stories specifically dedicated to the elderly with cognitive issues and their caregivers who often search for activities that will provide quality time with their loved ones.

the mighty ant

Recently, I was involved in a project for the county to discuss the needs of aging communities. It was abundantly clear that caregiving services were needed without enough funding to provide these services. I thought that I could combine the idea of a book of short stories for seniors with a fundraiser for the Council on Aging.

I put out a call for submissions from authors who might be interested in participating, asking for a donation of short stories with a focus on brevity and simplicity.  The profits from the book sales would be given to North Carolina’s Chatham County Council on Aging.  The authors were more than happy to generously share their work with no thoughts of remuneration.  The results were submissions from all over the world. They were charming, memory and conversation-provoking stories from 33 authors.

Editing was difficult because of the 55 stories that were accepted there were so many others that were submitted. Late nights and reading aloud to my wonderful husband helped narrow down the choices. Not all the writers were authors. Many were people who simply wanted to participate and believed in the cause. Many had been or currently were caregivers themselves and could relate to the needs of caregivers and their loved ones for whom they were caring.

The title of the book came to me one day as I observed a little black ant carrying something large to its nest. I thought about the strength of an ant. Titling the anthology The Mighty Ant I explained on the cover, “Just like the little ant, whose size is disproportionate to its strength, so can stories have strong impact, regardless of their length.”

In addition to my own stories I wrote for the anthology, I’ve also written many other books ranging from fiction, Young Adult fiction, children’s books, to non-fiction (humor, self-help, and inspirational) books. My four-book series on caregiving has been described as books that should be required reading for those involved in caregiving because they are helpful, informative, raw, humorous, truthful, and real accounts of what a caregiver actually experiences.

Several AlzAuthors are featured in this anthology: Angela G. Gentile, Irene Olson, Marianne Sciucco, and Vicki Tapia.

Purchase The Mighty Ant

jessica bryanAbout the Author

Jessica Bryan lives in North Carolina where she is a real estate broker and an active advocate for caregivers and care receivers. Jessica has written all her life, but during the past few years she began writing full-length books, including fiction and non-fiction, books for young adults, and some wonderful Juvenile action-adventure books.  Her interest in writing about caregiving began when her mother came to live with her and her wonderful husband, Skip. Jessica loves to laugh and claims that her sense of humor shines though all of her books regardless of the subject matter.

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 For more extraordinary books about Alzheimer’s and dementia please visit the AlzAuthors Bookstore.

Reposted with permission of AlzAuthors, the global community of authors
and readers whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia.
I am a co-founder and admin.

The Writing Life: Author Collaborations – How to Make Friends and Find Readers

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This post was originally published on Books Go Social and is reprinted with permission.

By Marianne Sciucco

In 2013, when I published my first novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, I was like most new indie authors: I had no idea how to market it or find readers. My first efforts were disappointing, and I found myself struggling to find footing in an overcrowded book market. The fact that my book was a sort of niche book on a difficult subject added to my frustrations.

In addition to being a writer I am a registered nurse with no formal training, education, or work experience in publishing, business, or marketing. I learned all I could on my own by attending conferences (online and in person), reading books and blogs, and participating in webinars and online classes.

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Two years later my studies led me to the concept of Author Collaborations: Symbiotic relationships with authors writing in my genre to cross-promote our books and share each other’s audiences. It sounded interesting, so I decided to seek out authors of books about Alzheimer’s and dementia to build a marketing platform to serve all of us. Little did I know that three years later I’d be one of six daughters of dementia at the helm of a global community of 170+ authors known as AlzAuthors.

The Story Behind AlzAuthors

The first person I contacted was Jean Lee, author of Alzheimer’s Daughter, a memoir. She’d written to me months earlier to tell me how much she loved my book and to ask if I would read hers and give my opinion. I thought her book was excellent and encouraged her publishing endeavors. When I approached her with the idea of working together she jumped at the opportunity. I asked if she knew of anyone else and she recommended Vicki Tapia, author of Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia.

Vicki was a bit skeptical, wondering how it would benefit her to promote other authors’ books. Jean and I reasoned that caregivers need a variety of good books and other authors are not our competition. There’s strength in numbers, we said, and we could all support each other and our readers. Vicki decided to give us a chance, and the three of us embarked on a month-long campaign in June during the Alzheimer’s Association’s Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, piggybacking onto an established, national movement. We posted about it on our blogs and shared it on our social media, primarily Twitter and Facebook. We created our own hashtag, #AlzAuthors.

Our success at this encouraged us to join forces once again during National Caregiver Appreciation Month in November. We called it the “#AlzAuthors: Ending the Isolation of Alzheimer’s” campaign and again posted on our blogs each week, shared on Twitter, and hosted a Facebook event. This campaign also met with success, and we realized we were on to something. Plus, we enjoyed working together, sharing our stories and helping readers find our books.

How We’ve Grown

Our next endeavor in 2016 was much bolder. We launched our own AlzAuthors blog featuring a new author and book each weekday in June, Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. We also cross-blogged to our own personal blogs. It was a challenge to find 20 authors willing to post with us, an unknown entity, and to get the posts ready each day, but when the month ended we decided to continue, although on a once a week basis. Each new post is promoted on AlzAuthors’ own Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest feeds, and to our audience of authors and Friends of AlzAuthors via personalized emails. To date, we have featured more than 150 authors and are scheduled six months ahead. Authors now seek us out.

Since 2016 our management team has been joined by three more talented authors and daughters of dementia dedicated to Alzheimer’s awareness: Kathryn Harrison (Weeds in Nana’s Garden, children’s’ literature), Ann Campanella (Motherhood Lost and Found, memoir), and Irene Olson (Requiem for the Status Quo, fiction). Each of our admins brings special and much needed skills to the organization. Five of us hail from across the United States and Kathryn joins us from Canada. We communicate and manage AlzAuthors using email, Slack, Google Hangouts, Skype, text messages, and telephone calls. In November 2018 the full team met in person for the first time at the National Caregiving Conference in Chicago. Here we are wearing our exclusive AlzAuthors apparel with the beautiful logo Kathryn designed.

alzauthors admins

L to R: Ann Campanella, Marianne Sciucco, Kathryn Harrison, Jean Lee, Vicki Tapia, Irene Olson

More Growth

As the blog expanded we added the AlzAuthors Bookstore and became Amazon Affiliates to help raise funds to support our organization. We also developed a resource page of helpful organizations we partner with, and host group book sales at least twice a year. Other ventures include presenting our books and organization at conferences with local Alzheimer’s Association chapters, showcasing our members’ books on dementia-friendly cruises, publishing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Stories, an anthology of our first year’s posts, writing for the Huffington post and  Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and other dementia blogs and websites, and promoting Alzheimer’s awareness and AlzAuthors on podcasts.

What We Learned

Our collaboration has taught us a great deal about cross-promoting, our audience, and our authors.

From the start, Jean, Vicki, and I worked well together and were dedicated to our mission, but a few authors who agreed to collaborate with us on those early ventures did not or could not share our enthusiasm or stay active for long because of one reason or another: Personal issues, a high-powered job, an author’s own progressing Alzheimer’s. This led to our carrying the full load, and since this was a collaborative effort there was disappointment, and in some cases, hard feelings for those we felt let us down. We learned to choose our partners with care, and made our expectations known before taking on a new admin.

We also came to understand not all our authors are interested in becoming full-time authors or in writing new books (although many have.) Some are still on their caregiving journeys. Others are living with the disease themselves. Most wrote their books long after their dementia journeys ended and are ready to put their dementia years behind them and move on. Yet we maintain a core of authors who continue to write about dementia and caregiving or in other genres and want to promote their work and raise Alzheimer’s awareness. They are the driving force behind our success.

We also learned every dementia story is different and it’s important to respect those differences and feature books and blogs that speak to the experience of as many caregivers and families as possible. This sometimes leads to interesting discussions as to whether to take on a new book or author. Our authors are our greatest strength because they are not professional writers but ordinary people with compelling stories. Many are self-published. All are worthy of attention and have something of value to impart to readers.

Another important thing we’ve learned is our target audience is more than what we originally envisioned. When we were each living our own dementia stories we hungered for books and blogs to guide us and discovered a startling lack of resources. We each wrote the book we wanted to read. Recognizing that need, our mission has always been to help caregivers find written resources to support their caregiving needs, but our efforts have shown us they are often too consumed with their own daily difficulties and don’t have time to read. Some don’t want to read about a tough situation they are currently living. We shifted our focus to market not to just caregivers – we will never not address them – but to others involved with Alzheimer’s and dementia care: Medical and nursing professionals, social workers, elder law attorneys, financial planners, support organizations, and nursing home and assisted living personnel.

Where We Are Now

In three years, without realizing it, we created an organization that fills a void, a niche. We are entrepreneurs of a global community of authors writing about the most important disease of our generation. We support each other professionally and personally.  I experienced this myself when my stepfather was diagnosed with mixed dementia in late 2015 and I became his medical, legal, and financial representative. The support of my admin team was invaluable and much appreciated.

In 2019 we have some interesting plans, including becoming a 501 3c, participating in another dementia friendly cruise, publishing a second anthology, and much more.

If you would like to start your own author collaboration here are some tips.

13 Tips for Starting an Author Collaboration

  1. Choose your partners with care. You will work closely together on a shared mission.
  2. Brand your group. Come up with a catchy name, a mission statement, an easily recognized logo.
  3. Stick to your purpose so readers aren’t confused.
  4. Set a schedule and keep to it so readers know when to expect to hear from you.
  5. Establish a few guidelines for which authors/books to include. Evaluate books and authors critically. Analyze the writing, the reviews, and the author’s platform. Expect them to promote their involvement with your collaboration.
  6. Build social media pages for your group and post to them each day. Monitor and respond to feedback. Create your own hashtags and use them.
  7. Offer a convenient, private way for admins to communicate, i.e. Slack, Google Chats, Skype.
  8. Offer a convenient, private way for members to communicate, i.e. a Facebook group.
  9. Keep it fresh – run group book sales and other special promotions.
  10. Develop a mailing list and use it each time a new post is published.
  11. Reach out to others working in your field, i.e. book bloggers and reviewers, organizations, agencies, and cross-promote with them on their websites, blogs, and social media.
  12. Consider becoming an Amazon Affiliate to help raise funds to keep the collaboration alive.
  13. Understand it takes time – perhaps years – to build a following.

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From the AlzAuthors Blog: Meet Gincy Heins, Editor of “Before the Diagnosis – Stories of Life and Love Before Dementia”

gincy canva

By Gincy Heins

As I was texting a friend who would be meeting my family for the first time, I realized she would never know so many aspects of my husband, and I started to cry.

She would never know the person who talked easily and could captivate people with his stories about working at Disneyland. She would never know this man who could repair anything that needed fixing in our house and was called by other people to answer their home repair questions. Instead, she would see my husband as a rather quiet person who didn’t have a lot of confidence in his abilities and often couldn’t make a decision about the simplest things.

Wiping my tears, I thought of the many incredible people I now know who had Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. I got a glimpse of who they were through stories their spouses told, and I wanted other people to see how amazing all these people were. Whether they were amazing because they were highly respected in their career or they lovingly raised their family, I felt their stories should be told.

I emailed everyone I knew whose loved one had any type of dementia and told them I had an idea for a book sharing stories about who our loved ones were before they had a dementia diagnosis. I reached out through social media and I asked Alzheimer’s Orange County to help me spread the word. When being filmed for a MyAlzhemer’s video I invited the producer to share a story. I reached out to as many people as I could.

I had no idea if anyone would respond positively, or at all. I hoped for ten stories and was thrilled when I received 36 contributions! This was so much more than I dreamed of receiving!

gincy coverI enlisted two friends to help with the editing. Together we read through each contribution many times and edited for clarity, all the while trying to keep each person’s story in their voice. All authors approved the final version of their story.

Finding the perfect publishing option was a challenge, but I knew we would find the best way to publish this important work. Most publishers never responded. One was very interested in the concept, but didn’t want to deal with a book involving 36 authors. Self-publishing had too many considerations. A friend came to the rescue and handled that for me. Whew!

On March 12, 2018, Before the Diagnosis: Stories of Life and Love Before Dementia was published on lulu.com (and is now available there as well as from Amazon and Barnes & Noble). This anthology of 36 stories has been well-received and shows that people are not forgotten or unimportant because of their diagnosis.

As of the end of December, over 230 copies of the book in print and digital formats have been sold. Each of the 36 authors who participated in this book were given the option of donating their share of the earnings or retaining them. I am thrilled that over 90% of the revenue is being donated to one of four nonprofit organizations: Alzheimer’s Orange County, Alzheimer’s Association, Lewy Body Dementia Association and Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation.

Purchasing this book gives back to organizations that help us on this journey, benefitting all of us.

About the Author

Gincy Heins

Gincy Heins is the creator and editor of Before the Diagnosis: Stories of Life and Love Before Dementia and one of the co-authors of the 365 Caregiving Tips: Practical Tips from Everyday Caregivers series of books.

She teaches classes for older adults, is a Senior Commissioner for Cypress, CA, speaks at conferences and on panel discussions, and volunteers at the public library and with Alzheimer’s Orange County. She and her husband are the proud parents of one grown son.

Continue reading

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Meet Susan Cushman and Her Memoir “Tangles & Plaques”

cushman, susan

By Susan Cushman

My mother, Effie Johnson, was second generation Alzheimer’s. Her mother, Emma Sue (for whom I was named) died from Alzheimer’s when she was 87 years old in 1986, in the same nursing home in Jackson, Mississippi where my mother would spend the final eight years of her life. I remember watching my mother care for “Mamaw” and wondering what our future might bring.

Twenty years later, in 2006, I moved Mother into assisted living. My father had died of cancer in 1998, leaving Mother alone. After eight years of watching her gradual decline and taking on more of her day-to-day responsibilities, especially her finances, I offered first to move her in with us—which she declined—and second to move her to Memphis to an assisted living home. She begged me to let her stay in Jackson, which I did. This meant I would spend the next ten years making the 400-mile round trip to participate in her caregiving, although she did have help, first in assisted living, and finally in a nursing home. Continue reading

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Robyn Hollingworth and “My Mad Dad: The Diary of an Unraveling Mind”

My Mad Dad Canva

By Robyn Hollingworth

About ten years ago my life took a turn. I guess you would say it took a turn for the worse, but really, it just changed. I was in my mid-twenties, living in London and working in fashion. My father  was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his early 60s, and within the year, I had moved back to small-town south Wales to help my mum look after him.

His decline was swift, his actions included (at the start) repetition of stories, misplacing items, and accidentally putting on Mum’s cardigan to go to the shops – so far, standard! He had really mellowed and was fairly stoic and philosophical about the illness, often making jokes about his forgetfulness, even though it must have been terrifying for him. Then life took a turn for the “even worse.” Mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away just three months after I moved home. The effect this had on dad was profound and catastrophic. The seismic shift in the family dynamic tipped him right over the edge. By this point, my older brother was also in residence, but still we couldn’t give dad the level of care he needed. One day he mistook me for a burglar and came at me with a knife. It was at this point that we had to seek more help and Dad went into a care home. Continue reading

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Meet Vanessa Williams-Harvey, and “I Remember”

Harvey, Vanessa

by Vanessa Williams-Harvey

It took years of silence for me to come to terms and let it all out.  Everything came to an abrupt halt in August of 2015.  On that painful and dark day, our mother was ultimately placed in a nursing facility.  We continue to struggle with that painful decision.  My personal guilt, frustrations and regret plagued my soul to the point of endless days and restless nights.  I was able to find relief when I pulled out my tablet and began to jot down everything that had been swirling around in my head.

I started writing about the good times; there were a few. The more I wrote, the more I relaxed and I could finally exhale. I used words to breathe life into the dark reality I suppressed for far too long, finding a voice in writing that I wasn’t quite comfortable with verbalizing. I felt incapable of being accountable to myself, let alone anyone else.

I Remember Mockup“I Remember” is a candid and brutally honest glimpse of what my family and I experienced on our journey with Alzheimer’s.  My writing is a deep dive with frank details about some tough and challenging times, as we struggled to communicate and collaborate with one another.  It took a lot of time for me to realize that I wasn’t the only one hurting. The very same pain that was ripping at my heart and head was also wreaking havoc on each and every member of our family in a very distinctive way. Continue reading

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Meet Tracey Lawrence and “Dementia Sucks – A Caregiver’s Journey with Lessons Learned”

Tracey Lawrence Canva

By Tracey S. Lawrence

Dementia SucksOnce upon a time, I was a self-employed graphic arts professional. I designed stuff. I helped clients with their marketing and printing problems. My parents were living it up in southern Florida, and I believed in the Myth of Retirement:

  • Stop working
  • Spend money like you’re drunk
  • Spoil your kids and grandkids
  • Do all the stuff you always dreamed of
  • Eventually, gently, die in your bed at home
  • Cherubs lead you to heaven’s gate
  • Cue heavenly choir

In 2003, I learned about the harsh Reality of Post-Retirement. I went to visit my parents in Florida and realized Dad had been covering up his illnesses. He had a lot of issues. He was 75. My mother, who was 74, was very dependent on him.

After a test gone wrong, my father’s short term memory evaporated, and following many misdiagnoses, I realized he had vascular dementia. He knew it, too, and did not want to live that way. My brother and I supported his wish to avoid prolonging his life. My father died in July 2004 at the age of 76. Continue reading