Author Interview: Pamela Burke – 20 Women Storytellers, Or Meetings With Media Mavens

June 17, 2021

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Author Pamela Burke is spotlighting 20 women storytellers who inspire and motivate many in her second anthology, 20 Women Storytellers: Taking Action with Powerful Words and Images . As the founder of The Women’s Eye (a women-focused platform, which includes a website, radio show and podcast), Pamela is dedicated to shining the light on women who are driven by their passion to make a difference with their words and photographs.


How do you know when an idea is worthy of developing into a book? With songs or other shorter formats, you can get to a point of knowing if something will work relatively soon but getting several thousand words into a manuscript and then deciding it’s a waste of time is far more frustrating.

I don’t know that you are ever completely certain. Because we are doing anthologies right now, we know what the content could be and what has struck a nerve, has had a good response, and is something we feel will fit into our vision. We put the pieces together and then plunge forward. Our books require solid, insightful interviews that verbalise the passion our changemakers feel about their projects and ideas. Once we have a good cross-section of interviews, we feel we have the foundation of a good book.


When you do decide that a theme or story is worth exploring, how do you go about unpacking that?

Our concentration is on people making a difference and changing the world in some positive way. Sometimes their contributions are huge, sometime small, but in some significant way they are making the world a better place. Our challenge is how to put their interviews into a compelling anthology. We interview all kinds of changemakers doing a wide variety of fascinating projects so we try to group according to type of contributors. Our first, 20 Women Changemakers, started us off with people who in general were taking positive action around the globe. Our second, 20 Women Storytellers, includes women in all types of media – documentarians, photographers, bloggers, journalists and broadcasters. Once we’ve gathered the people whom we can put into certain categories, we pick and choose the order, trying to make our choices as diverse and interesting as possible.

Research: how much do you do, and how detailed is it?

Our research is extensive. We research the backgrounds of our subjects in as many sources as possible and spend a lot of time finding just the right photographs to illustrate their stories and podcasts. Facts are important to us, so we double-check all our intros and interviews to make sure all info is as correct as we can make it.


How much planning do you do before you begin in earnest? Do you have to know where you’re going to end up before you start?

We do considerable planning before we lay a book out. We want to make sure we have a good selection of interviews, that the information is all correct, and that we have permissions from our subjects both for photos and words. We layout the book to make sure it flows well and has a good beginning, middle and end. We have a good idea always about how it will end. That’s important.


If the hundreds of memes about writing are to be believed, sitting down and actually putting words on a page is perhaps the toughest part of the job. What are the distractions you battle with the most when trying to work?

We write our introduction once the book is all laid out. Then we know best how to describe the book and the journey we’ve been on putting it together. That is an enjoyable task for us. One of our big issues is transposing our interviews into book form. Our podcasts run longer than the space we have in the book for interviews so they have to be edited down, which is no easy task. Once the book is laid out, one of the tough parts is checking for errors in spelling, facts and flow. We go over the content many times making sure we have caught all errors as it’s easy to miss them.


What’s the weirdest or craziest way you’ve found to avoid meeting a deadline?

We back up our schedule so we won’t miss our own deadlines. We try to lay out our schedule so that disaster doesn’t strike. Sometimes things come up that we can’t avoid like a printer not getting our files in time, or misprinting our book with another book, but those things are so out of our control that we try not to fret and move on.


Daily goals: what, for you, is an acceptable daily target, in terms of word count or the quality of what you complete, be it a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter?

Because many of our interviews come from podcasts and some from print interviews, we have developed a schedule that meets our needs for the anthologies. Our goal most importantly is to come up with inspiring content for our audience. Our books take one to two years and during that time we are working on whatever it takes to keep our website relevant.


What have you found are the best ways to get this done?

Once we have a set schedule, we make sure our small group is on board for getting their work done on time. If problems arise, we make sure that there is a backup person who can take over that duty.

If writing books is not your full-time job, how does completing a project fit in with your other duties?

We do podcasts and produce website content as we are putting together our anthologies. It all melds together, as the objective in everything is doing the best we can to spotlight our guests, and subjects of our interviews in the most interesting, compelling and comprehensive way we can.

Marketing new books – print or digital: what fresh ideas do you think could be introduced to the process to make new work more accessible and appealing to both new and established readers?

It’s difficult, as we all know, to market new content, especially in book or digital form if you are not a well-known author. We are finding that the podcast world is open and hungry for authors in a supportive way. They welcome authors and give them lots of time to explain their projects and put forth their content. We could use even more podcasts that spotlight authors and stories from them about their journeys to write books. It would be terrific if bookstores could give more time to lesser-known authors, both online and in store. They could introduce a new author to their audience at least once a week or have a “New Authors” night. Also, we could all work on promoting book clubs more, joining them and drawing attention to new books that we are reading, especially on social media.

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