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Jan 19 2016

On Keeping Projects Moving and Shifting Gears: an interview with Kelley “Frisky Sour” Gardiner

Writing a book is no small undertaking, and neither is being a parent. Kelley “Frisky Sour” Gardiner didn’t shy away from either of those things, though–she resolved to write and edit her first book throughout her pregnancy, and publish it before her little one’s due date! Now, she’s created Roller Derby for Beginners, a definitive roller derby resource book for new skaters that’s available as both a paperback and an e-book, and even maintained a companion web site of resources to go with it.

Now, that companion site is taking on a new life: RollerDerbyForBeginners.com has become an ongoing blog of tips, information, and resources for new roller derby skaters, “to help new skaters be better athletes, make sense of their new world, and get the reassurance that though their derby journey is their own, there’s a lot that we have in common.” It wasn’t the easiest decision to shift gears and find a new purpose to the site, but things are looking bright for the new site.

We checked in with Frisky to pick her brain on how to keep a long-term project moving, and on shifting gears and making changes to your original vision.

Kelley/Frisky, after the birth of her awesome roller derby resource book.
Kelley/Frisky, after the birth of her awesome roller derby resource book. (photo courtesy of author)

UPSWEPT: Roller Derby For Beginners was your first published book–what parts of creating and promoting it were the most important to you?

FRISKY: I think the most important aspect of me making a product was to make sure that it was worth buying. I mean, I’d rather make zero dollars and help someone than make a million dollars by bilking people $14.95 at a time. My volunteer early readers were absolutely essential to forming the book into something that was useful to all kinds of skaters with all kinds of experiences. I’m just me, and I skated for two leagues. Getting feedback from my beta readers and learning through their lenses was just as important as hiring good editors. (Hire good editors.)

UPSWEPT: Longer-term projects can be tough to manage. What did you do to keep the book project moving, and keep yourself motivated?

FRISKY: I had this kinda big deadline looming over me in the form of pregnancy. Then, I had a successful Kickstarter, so I HAD to finish, or else [I’d] be that jerk. Luckily for all those Kickstarter supporters, Baby Sour came a week after his due date, and I’d planned to take that time off anyway. I absolutely cannot recommend trying to figure out the finer points of formatting and page breaks in Word on four hours of sleep, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

UPSWEPT: Writing a book isn’t easy! What were some of the bigger challenges of creating and promoting your book?

FRISKY: What with the baby and all, my promotion plan became kind of helter skelter. I thought I’d have time to market after the kid was born, but, um, no. No one ever has more time later, least of all when they suddenly get a 24-hour on-call job.

Writing the thing was just work. I had a plan, and just chipped away at it slowly. People are impressed by that part, but it comes naturally to me as a writer to put words on a page, edit, edit, ask for help, and edit again. Knowing how to pitch this book and reach my very particular audience was the problem, especially with a pretty small marketing budget.

UPSWEPT: What made you decide to shift gears and turn your book companion site into an active blog? Is there anything that made the transition from book to blog difficult?

quotation_goal-settingFRISKY: It was a path that should have been obvious [to me] a few years ago, but it was hard to let go of my old roller derby blog. It didn’t even have a roller derby name or URL–it was personal blog that just sort of evolved to being about roller derby. It became a place to blog for beginning skaters, so it only made sense to kill off the old blog and really focus on making one site that served all those needs.

I still have to figure out a few details, like whether to transfer some old content to the new site. The only problem is that I’m learning more all the time that I wish could be in the book! That’s the beauty and the detriment of digital publishing. I hope I can just cover the basics in the book, get people rolling, and then bring them to the blog for the details. (Of course, I’m hoping to draw new [book] readers via the blog as well.)

The new blog concept is an experiment at this point, to see what kind of content people want. I want to keep putting out useful information and paying writers for it.

UPSWEPT: Do you have any advice for people who might want to publish or blog in the future?

FRISKY: I’m a professional blogger and writer, and the most common problem I see is starting without a clear goal or focus. Do you want to share your story? Sell a product? Get more exposure? Focus on a goal as early as possible, so you don’t spin your wheels in a million directions. But at the same time, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. There are just different strategies for accomplishing your goals and catching those dreams. Messing up and learning along the way is part of the deal.

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