On Episode 31, I chat with artist, musician, and self-published, Paul Bennett!
Joining me for the first time? Start at the beginning HERE!
Would you rather listen on the go? Go HERE!
RESOURCES We talk about
Fall in love with Paul’s children’s book HERE.
Learn more about Paul HERE
Find him on Facebook HERE.
A Little Bit About Paul
Laurie: Hello writers, welcome to another episode of the Writer’s Way Podcast, I’m here today with the fantastic Paul Bennett, welcome Paul.
Paul: Thank you, Laurie.
Laurie: Thanks so much for getting in touch and coming on, I’ve been reading about your background and you have a ton of things that you do. Can you share with everybody, all that is you?
Paul: Oh boy, well I know I always wanted to be an artist, since I was a little kid, since I was nine years old, and I just was fortunate enough to kind of stay on that path and have continued the rest of my life here, and hope that will continue, but I’ve also branched into other things, like this book has been a big project and writing the book and also learning ukulele in the last couple of years has been a big change, music coming into my life, and I sing in a choir, and I also work in an improv group too, so there’s a lot of theater in my life too. So a lot of the arts and some kind of happened by accident and others just, I think, maybe just out of boredom or just wanting to do something different or just feeling pulled in a certain direction, and needing something new to happen.
A Love For the Arts
Laurie: So you’ve always been very creative?
Paul: Well, you know my favorite people back in grade school, when you have to do a report on your favorite scientist or whatever. But mine were always inventors, whether they were artists or scientists. I just liked the idea of living an inventive life, and it just happens to be in the arts. I could see myself have things move differently in my life, it could have been in any field really, cause every field offers you that opportunity to be inventive. But the arts all through school gave me that opportunity to always be creative and it wasn’t just memorizing things, like so many of the other classes seemed to be, history, and math, and whatever. So I think early on, children love the idea of coming up with your own ideas and feeling like they’ve created something, there’s something very magical about making your first little clay sculpture or doing your first drawing, and it’s like being able to write your name, if you remember that excitement when you could first write your name, it’s very exciting.
Laurie: I don’t remember that, do you remember that?
Paul: I remember learning how to make letters, but it’s drawing, you know you’re basically drawing.
Laurie: Yeah, yeah.
Paul: Even though you’re writing. But it’s–
Paul: You’re learning shapes and lines.
Publishing His Book
Laurie: So when did you decide to write and publish a book, where did that come in?
Paul: Well, it’s just been in the last couple of years, and I’ve been doing this night sky theme in my work for the last 30 years, and it seems to sell well, so I made prints and greeting cards of it. But I’ve always kind of invented my stars. And it just seemed like it, when I go out and look at the night sky, that it just looks too complicated to learn about all those stars, I can see the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt, and that’s about it. And there was just seeing too much, but I was just wondering one day, how come I never really look at the stars, and I do have a background in Greek history, I lived in Greece for six years, and I studied Greek history and I was teaching art and art history at the time. So it seemed like, well I should really get to know these constellations because I have a background in that, and so I started to find some books that simplified studying the constellations and astronomy. And most of the books, I think are too complex and they want to tell you everything they know and so I found this book put out by the Smithsonian, and I think it was just called Star Guide or something like that. But it’s just beautifully done in how you start with the Big Dipper and that leads you to Polaris and you have the Little Dipper and that can lead you over to Cassiopeia and that will connect with Pegasus. And Perseus and that whole grouping there. And so, if you have places to start and access, the stars will guide you in these different directions, the handle will point in one way, the back of the bucket of the Big Dipper will point you in another way, and so you can either go up or down from that point, or you can use the distance between the stars, at the end of the Big Dipper for example, to count that distance, like five times will get you to Polaris, and five more times beyond will get you to Cassiopeia, so there are just these ways to measure in space without needing a telescope, and I have to keep going back to the books, looking at them again, and then I go out to the night sky, and from my front porch, I can see a lot of the constellations, and that’s one of the big advantages of living here in Sisters. That we live in a planetarium here, and with the night skies are as much an asset of this area as our mountains, and lakes, and rivers. So anyway, the book came about because of this fascination with constellations all of a sudden. It’s like, “Well, how come I’m not doing that?” So then I started working on all the zodiac constellations, and then I started including other constellations and before I knew it I had like 20 new paintings, and then I had all my other paintings that I’ve done over the years, so I thought, I should put these all together in a book, so I had it all, basically all the illustrations done, but it was like, well how do I write about all of this now?, So that was really the big challenge, so that took me the longest, and it was probably the most painful, because I kept changing, and changing, and changing things, and then eventually threw out everything I had started with, and totally started again.
The Uncertainty of Publishing a Book
Paul: And I still could change things, it was like working with a piece modeling clay, you just keep reshaping things and it’s exciting but at the same time, it’s like, “When is it gonna get there and what is there anyway?”
Laurie: Well yeah, I remember my first book, I wrote to my one friend that I knew at the time that was a writer, and I said I can’t stop editing. How do I know when it’s done, and he said, “You just need to get to a point where it’s good enough” because it’s never gonna be done, right? I edited for 10 years so.
Laurie: Yeah, a long time, so I took that advice, and that’s it, gotta do it.
Paul: Well, if you think about, well just like an iPhone, for example, how many times that has changed, and see you have an idea, and then you put it out there as best as you can for now, but you know it may change later. And it’s form, and information, and everything, so yeah at some point, it’s not ever gonna be this perfect thing that will never change afterwards. So I think, yeah, being able to say that’s enough, I can’t do anymore.
Laurie: Or I could but am I making it better at this point, so you ran a Kickstarter to get this book up and running and last week on the podcast, I actually talked to a crowdfunding expert, so can you share a bit about your experience with it?
Paul: Well, first of all, I have to say, I was surprised how stressful it was. Well, it’s like watching your lottery numbers come up, once every three days and you start to see that you’ve got this pattern there, but you’re waiting for the next three days for the next number, and you wonder if you’re gonna make it or not, and are you gonna win that big prize, so it’s exciting but it’s stressful with that too, because at the same time, you’re trying to market to everybody you know, and every little group of people , and so you’re sending cards and emails, and you have to keep reminding people too, that you’re doing this and you have a particular timed period to succeed. And you keep reshaping your award system too, cause maybe you can add another original here or maybe sell the idea of I’ll paint something just for you, so you keep expanding on it and learning, there’s a big learning curve there.
It Takes a Village
Paul: But really, it takes a village kind of thing, so you have to feel like you have a village out there.
Laurie: Yeah, and you obviously did, you had a big one.
Paul: I had, I don’t know, maybe 90 people or so behind me, but what really helped is that several people bought originals or bought the idea that I would paint something for them, so it was the big pieces that really moved that Kickstarter a lot, and with some people, they’re just selling this one item, so they need everybody to buy at least one book. As an artist, I could include prints, and greeting cards, and originals, so I had a lot of different things to sell, and as I said, my friend Dennis McGregor, who ran one earlier, gave me some help too with doing the Kickstarter because when you first start it, it’s just like, “How much information do I need to give?” And just put it out there and just wait, what do I do?
Laurie: Do this.
Paul: Right, you just have to work on it all the time during that month, and keep fine tuning it and you just never know where, out of the blue someone might suddenly buy 25 books or something, or ordering an original, but you just have to look at other people’s Kickstarters and see how they’ve set up, if you look at someone who has a Kickstarter for a CD, I mean if you scroll all the way down to their rewards, the last one might be, “For $5000 I will personally fly to wherever you live in the world and give you a private concert plus fix you dinner and write a song about you.”
Laurie: Oh my!
Paul: I mean so extreme, but it makes it funny to read, and that’s a certain entertainment.
Laurie: And did your awards have that, did you have some funny?
Paul: No, I didn’t do the funny thing, I should have, afterwards I was reading all this and I thought, “Oh, I should have done stuff.” I did start to include more of the original idea, that’d I do an original for you, and that really helped.
Laurie: I think I’d have to say, I won’t come and cook you dinner because I’m a horrible cook, so I won’t come for $5000, how about that, I’ll stay away from your kitchen.
Paul: But it helps to, those funny ones, they kind of help to sell your personality.
Laurie: Yeah, and I think that’s a big part of it, is that, showing you have a personality, right?
Paul: Right, absolutely.
Inside the Beautiful Book
Laurie: So you have a copy of your book there, can you show a little, maybe some of the inside and what it looks like.
Paul: Yes, well it’s a hardbound, 48 page book that I had printed in China.
Laurie: Oh okay.
Paul: You know, it’s beautifully colored, can you see all that? The colors came out really nice and mainly it’s just featuring a lot of the work I’d done over the years, and so the text really is of a poetic nature, so that you can turn just about anywhere in the book and it says, for example things like, “Inhale deeply and slowly exhale the Universe, embrace this beauty with a thousand arms, use your deeper senses to the forms of the landscapes caressed by moonlight, watch the light bounce upon the water circus, listen for the beat.” So that’s just one sentence for each one of these paintings.
It’s a Meditative Book
Laurie: It sounds very meditative.
Paul: Yes, well in looking over the body of my work, most of it has that quality of a contemplative nature, that you’re just in that state of wonder about the night sky, and that’s really the theme, not so much, I wanna tell the stories of the constellations but that I just want you to get out there and look at the night sky, and enjoy that sense of wonder because I think it’s a healthy thing
Laurie: Yeah, I agree.
Paul: Especially if you live where you can so easily see the sky but for thousands of years, we were connected with the night sky, it was our entertainment, those were our Marvel comic book characters up there, but it told us how to navigate and when to plant and it gave us a lot of information that we are disconnected from, now we look down at our phones all the time and I think just the act of looking up is a healthy act.
Laurie: Spend that time and look up, and have that sense of wonder, that brings us back a little back, and that we don’t have on a daily basis, I agree.
Paul: Yeah, the wonder and the mystery, and again you don’t have to know much about anything, I think it just kind of fills you with that sense of wonder, just like when you go to the ocean and you just stand of the beach there and there’s something that is energizing there, without having to understand every sea shell on the beach.
Laurie: Yeah, you just enjoy.
Paul: Enjoy, right.
What Have you Learned Through This Process?
Laurie: Fill the awe, but what have you learned, was there anything surprising or unexpected that you learned throughout the whole process of why don’t I put my paintings into a book, and here’s my book published, and ready, and gorgeous, and for sale, is there anything that surprised you, that you weren’t expecting?
Paul: Well, I wasn’t expecting it to be as stressful as it was, and I guess you never know, until that happens, it’s like being a parent.
Laurie: Let’s not go there.
Paul: I mean you might love it, but it’s just there are times when you are ready to fold.
Paul: So it’s a big project and if it takes up a lot of your time, and space, and energy, but as long as things feel like their moving forward, and it’s something you feel like you just want to do, it’s also very exciting too, I suppose it’s like anything that you really want to see happen, and let’s say you’re a downhill skier, and now you’re at the Olympics, how did I get this far, and you’re ready to run that course, and it’s kind of exciting, and stressful, and all those things, but it’s like, “Yes, I made it this far.” So just believing in yourself or I think at the beginning, there’s kind of a pretend, I’ll just tell people I’m writing a book, and if I say that enough, maybe I will write a book.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Laurie: I talk about real writers, they talk about me, yeah, I think it’s just that sense of what are we doing, fake it till you make it.
Paul: Right, well I was listening to an interview with James Taylor the other day, and he was saying, you pretend you’re a songwriter and you pretend you play the guitar, and before you know it, you’re actually doing it.
Laurie: And people are paying.
Paul: Right, so yeah, cause you haven’t done it, so you have to kind of go on that make believe and that’s a fun ride.
Laurie: Yeah, I like that, what advice would you give to people then, besides the whole, just keep doing until you can do it.
An Almost Dire Accident!
Paul: Well, I mean look at what others have done, and talk with others, so that you don’t waste a lot of time doing things that have been done by many others, over and over again, just how to successfully run a Kickstarter for example, if that’s what you wanna do, or any kind of fund sourcing, and just once you have the book, you gotta realize that it’s gonna fill up half your garage, so make sure you’ve got storage space, make sure you’ve got book shelves that can support a ton of books. And that they are gonna fall over on you from the top, which almost happened to me.
Laurie: Oh no!
Paul: Yeah, the wheels gave out, I thought I had these very clever, movable book shelves, and then the wheels just broke after I loaded the last box up on top. And I thought all of them were going to land on me, and I’d be killed, I’d be killed by own night skies, my night skies book would kill me. And I thought, it would be an interesting way to die as an artist, but anyway, they stopped, they leaned a bit, and then they stopped.
Laurie: Oh my goodness.
Paul: But then I quickly started taking them off.
Laurie: Oh wow.
So Many Books!
Paul: So anyway, you have to think about storage space and keeping things dry, you may have these around for the next couple of years. You know, when that truck backs up into your garage, and when the truck driver got out of the truck, she came over to me and she said, “Where’s your forklift”, and I’m supposed to have a forklift, I didn’t know that.
Laurie: Didn’t know that, it’s in the shop!
Paul: And so, little details like that are important to keep in mind, that that might happen. I think most of those trucks, they have a way to lower, but not that truck.
Laurie: Not that truck, okay yeah.
Paul: But things are heavy and they take up space, you know each one of these boxes weighed like 47 pounds.
Paul: So, there are 85 of them.
Laurie: How many did you order?
Laurie: Wow, that’s a commitment, that’s a space commitment.
Paul: I almost ordered 5,000, I thought, yeah, I’ll order 5,000 because then the books are only going to be X amount of money each.
Laurie: Yeah, so much cheaper.
Paul: I’ll make all this money, but then at the last minute, I thought, “No, I’ll just do 2,500.” Seemed like a small order compared to what I was going to order.
Laurie: Yeah, you would have no garage space.
Paul: No, nothing, and probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now.
Laurie: You’d be under the–
Where to Find His Book
Laurie: Where can people buy your book?
Paul: Well, there are a couple ways, my website, nightskiesbook.com is an easy way to remember that website, and then there’s paulalanbennett.com, is another way to get to the website, then if you live in Central Oregon at the planet, there’s several bookstores that carry book right now. Paulina Springs bookstore, Herringbone books in Redmond. The Roundabout books in Bend, Paulina Springs is in Sisters, Black Butte Ranch carries them. So that’s another thing to consider, is marketing, how do you get the books out and you have to give yourself plenty of time to know that you’re going to be spending quite a bit of your time, trying to market this item. And that really could be the hardest part, right now I’m enjoying it, so it doesn’t feel hard because I’ve got all these books that I’m trying to move out of my garage right now. So I’m happy with every box that disappears, I’ve got that much more space now in my garage. But you gotta think about that, it’s gonna take a while to market.
What is the Best Thing You’ve Bought so Far?
Laurie: I loved your answer for the best thing you bought.
Paul: Oh yes.
Laurie: Not quite a forklift.
Paul: Yes, well our lawnmower, the pull on the lawnmower, the rope pull broke and so I spent about seven hours trying to fix that one day last week. And I thought, that’s enough, that’s enough time. That it doesn’t make anymore sense to spend another minute on this, I’m gonna go buy a new lawnmower, and I felt, I had the money from the books, so I bought a real nice lawnmower.
Laurie: Oh, I love it.
Paul: Works great, and then I bought a new printer because my printer I had before would print in the middle of the night, or wouldn’t print at all, and it just had a mind of it’s own, this whole printer that was only a year old.
Paul: I just couldn’t stand it because I was again, I put so much time trying to get this to work, it seems to work, but only when it wants to. I’m happy with my printer right now, good printer.
Laurie: Giving it a little pet.
Paul: That’s right.
Bucket List: Learn the Ukulele
Laurie: Awesome, well I see a ukulele behind you and you had shared with me that you decided learning a new instrument was on your bucket list so I think everybody would love to hear.
Paul: Well, I think why I did this book too, was really so I could play my ukulele for people.
Laurie: Oh that’s cool. I’ll write and publish a book so that–
Paul: So if all comes down to ukulele. So I wrote several songs, when I turned 64, I asked myself, if I had a bucket list, and immediately it was really as if, someone yelled in my ear, learn a musical instrument and write your own songs. And so, there was like, do it now. And so, I started the next week, a neighbor of mine teaches ukulele and has little group, so she’d loan me a ukulele and there’s a group in Bend, 20 miles from where I live, and I go over there every week and play with them, and there are lots of teachers online, so I would go on YouTube and try to learn from everybody I could, with this singular goal of wanting to write my own song, I don’t know anybody else’s songs but mine. A lot of people get in these groups, and they memorize as many songs as they can, but I just wanna know how to play these different chords, so then I can write my own songs. And there’s a lot of songs that are really two or three chords.
Paul: So it’s like, well if that’s all there is to songwriting. Then I just gotta find the story and the words to fit.
Laurie: So simple.
Paul: Right, yes, pretty straightforward there. So I’ve written a lot of songs that dealt with Greek myths, so I was thinking about the Great Sphinx of Egypt one day, and I was thinking, well, what if all those mythological creatures actually exist, what if there was a sphinx, not a big sphinx, but just a normal size sphinx, like 150 pound cougar with a human head, that just kind of think of that. So there was an Egyptian sphinx, but there was also a Greek sphinx, and that sphinx was a woman and she had the body of the lion, the face of a woman, and the wings of an eagle. So I thought, what if those two got together, and if they had human faces, they probably had human voices, and if they had human voices, they probably could sing, if they sing, they probably could harmonize, and if they harmonized, they probably would wanna do what I’m doing now, is perform for people, so I imagine this couple of sphinx just traveling around Egypt and Greece, and entertaining people. So that’s what this song is about, are we ready, do we have any time left?
Laurie: Oh sure, for this? yes.
Paul: ♪ There once lived beast ♪ ♪ Like in old Egypt land ♪ ♪ With a body of a lion and the face of a man ♪ ♪ He loved a young lion with a womanly face ♪ ♪ She had the wings of an eagle ♪ ♪ And could fly with such grace ♪ ♪ A woman with wings, a woman with wings ♪ ♪ An enchanting creature, a woman with wings ♪ ♪ They both loved performing cross lands to the sea ♪ ♪ Entertaining their fans from Carnac to Delphi ♪ ♪ He’d sit on his platform, his voice clear and proud ♪ ♪ She’d carry the song flying over the crown ♪ ♪ She’d climb and then dive to the ground without fear ♪ ♪ And back on the stage, all the people would cheer ♪ ♪ A woman with wings, a woman with wings ♪ ♪ An enchanting creature, a women wings ♪ ♪ At the creature convention, they often were featured ♪ ♪ Where centaurs, and sagers, and sirens would dance ♪ ♪ The harpies and griffins would sing in a course ♪ ♪ The cyclops resided as archaic chants ♪ ♪ Om, om, om, om, om ♪ ♪ Medusa on harpsichord, scared to start ♪ ♪ The minotaur harmonized cello was part ♪ ♪ The unicorns pranced to the sounds of the springs ♪ ♪ And above them they hover ♪ ♪ A woman with wings, a woman with wings, a woman with wings ♪ ♪ An enchanting creature, a woman with wings ♪ ♪ But one day a hunter an arrow let fly ♪ ♪ At the strange, winged creature in the late summer sky ♪ ♪ It struck in her heart, and she crumbled down ♪ ♪ A lone, single feather from the heart to the ground ♪ ♪ Now the Great Sphinx of Egypt sits facing the East ♪ ♪ He grieves for his queen, this mythical beast ♪ ♪ And when the wind blows across the desert in spring ♪ ♪ It sounds like the voice of a woman with wings ♪ ♪ A woman with wings, a woman with wings ♪ ♪ An enchanting creature, a woman with wings ♪
Laurie: That was great! I can see that as a story book. That is your next project, you can paint your songs.
Paul: Or a movie, a two and a half hour Disney movie.
Laurie: Well, it’s got the death, and Disney, there always has to be some death
Paul: Right, have their little operatic moment there, yeah well, it’s a sad song, but it’s rich in it imagery and it’s about bringing in all of those characters. You know, we grow up hearing about all of these different things, so it’s nice, a song not only tells a story, but the music adds that emotional element. So it suddenly, this story you’ve made up is really touching people deeply, so I always have to follow that up with a happy song.
Laurie: That was great, thank you so much.
Paul: You bet.
Laurie: I really enjoyed to talking and I will be sharing where people can buy your book and get to know you a little bit better on your website, so thank you so much for coming on.
Paul: Well, thank you Laurie.
Laurie: You’re welcome, okay, bye for now Paul.